How does Huck pacify the angry king and duke when they confront him?Mark Twain's The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The scam of the duke and the king falls apart with the arrival of Peter Wilks's true brothers, William and Harvey, although at first the gullible townspeople still rally around the shifty pair.  After much debate, Harvey Wilks asks the king, "Peraps this gentleman can tell me what was tatooed on his breast?"  When the king declares that an arrow is on the dead Peter Wilks's chest, the old gentlemen retorts that Wilks has a P--B--W on his chest, in truth.  Shouting ensues, but a lawyer orders the body exhumed.  As the coffin is opened, it is discovered that a bag of gold (which Huck placed in the coffin) lies on top of the body.  In the ensuing chaos, Huck flees and springs aboard the raft, urging Jim to "set her loose!  Glory be to goodness, we're shut of them!"

But, his freedom is short-lived because the king and the duke catch up to them in a skiff.  When they are aboard, the king grabs Huck and accuses him of "Tryin' to give us the slip."  Huck lies and tells the men that at the cemetery a man held his hand, and sorry "to see a boy in such a dangerous fix" when everyone was distracted by the gold, he let go of Huck, telling him to run or the people would hang him.  So, Huck says, he ran:

"So I never stopped running till I found the canoe; and when I got here I told Jim to hurry, or they'd catch me and hang me yet, and said I was afeard you and the duke wasn't alive, now, and I was awful sorry, and so was Jim, and was awful glad when we see you coming, you may ask Jim if I didn't."

Being the good friend and protector of Huck, Jim verifies the boy's claims.  Finally, the duke comes to Huck's defense, saying that the king was not concerned for Huck as they fled the mob, either.  Then, the duke and the king argue about who had hidden the gold, each accusing the other until the king says, "I own up!" when the duke chokes him.  This seems to settle the argument; they fall asleep and Huck informs Jim of all the past events.

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