Study Guide

Adventures of Huckleberry Finn Chapter 20

By Mark Twain

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Chapter 20

  • Huck makes up a story to explain Jim's presence. He's not a runaway slave, he says, but since everyone thinks he is it's just easier for them to travel at night.
  • The conmen inspect the raft and decide that, being royalty and all, they deserve the best sleeping spots inside the makeshift wigwam.
  • That night there's a lightning storm, and Huck and Jim have to sit outside on the raft to keep watch while the "royalty" sleep.
  • Huck doesn't mind; he likes watching the storm.
  • And then the duke and the king start planning their con: a series of Shakespearean performances.
  • Why is it a con? Well, they don't know a thing about "play-actin'" (20.20)—especially the king.
  • No problem. The duke explains to him all about Romeo and Juliet, and they decide that the king will play Juliet and the duke Romeo.
  • The two cons head into town, telling Huck that they're going to set up a way for them to travel in the daylight without worrying about Jim.
  • Huck elects to go with them to keep an eye on things.
  • Not that these guys aren't trustworthy or anything.
  • The town is almost empty, and the men are informed that everyone is at a "camp-meeting" about two miles away.
  • Huck and the king leave the duke at a printing-office (which is part of the plan to help Jim) and head to this camp-meeting.
  • When they get there, the preacher is doing his thing with lots of "Amen!" and "Hallelujah!" responses.
  • The king simply can't resist. He begins preaching and shouting himself, and soon enough he's got everyone worked up in a religious frenzy and taking up a collection on his behalf (because he is a "reformed" and "changed" man, thanks to the Lord, etc., etc.).
  • And that's how the king returns to the raft with $87.75 , and a three-gallon jug of whisky. (To help for the reformation.)
  • The duke shows up and for three seconds is all proud of himself for conning about nine bucks–-until he sees the king's score.
  • But the duke has also printed up a bill for Jim that declares a $200 reward for him as a runaway slave. This way, he says, if anyone stops their raft, they can claim they've already captured him and are bringing him back to capture their reward.
  • Hey, pretty smart!
  • That night, Jim tells Huck he hopes they're not going to meet any more dukes or kings—he thinks two is plenty.
  • Turns out, he's been trying to get the king (of France, remember) to speak French. Unfortunately, "Louis XVII" has been in this country so long he plain old forgot his language.

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