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In Ch.4 of "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn" the narrator Huckleberry spills some salt,
One morning I happened to turn over the salt-cellar at breakfast. I reached for some of it as quick as I could to throw over my left shoulder and keep off the bad luck, but Miss Watson was in ahead of me, and crossed me off.
and he fears that the superstition that if one spills salt something evil will happen to him will come true in his life. His fears are soon realized when he discovers his abusive and alcoholic father Pap's footprints on the snow.
He decides to take protective measure and contacts Jim the negro slave who is famous for predicting the future with a hair ball taken from the stomach of an ox. Huckleberry wants to know what his father's future plans are:
Jim, had a hair-ball as big as your fist, which had been took out of the fourth stomach of an ox, and he used to do magic with it. He said there was a spirit inside of it, and it knowed everything. So I went to him that night and told him pap was here again, for I found his tracks in the snow. What I wanted to know was, what he was going to do, and was he going to stay?
Jim begins to play upon Huckleberry's fears and after extracting some money from him, he concludes by saying,
You wants to keep 'way fum de water as much as you kin, en don't run no resk, 'kase it's down in de bills dat you's gwyne to git hung."
Jim confuses Huckleberry by cautioning him to stay clear off water, implying that he will be drowned and at the same time he tells Huckleberry that he need not fear death by drowning as he is predestined to meet his death by hanging.
The phrase, down in de bills in the Missouri negro dialect means 'predestined' that is 'foreordained by divine decree'
Needless to say, this only terrifies and confuses Huckleberry all the more.
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