After realizing in Chapter 31 that Jim has been sold by the Dauphin to a man named Silas Phelps, Huck acknowledges that he loves Jim for his goodness and decides to go against social mores and rescue Jim.
All right then, I’ll go to hell!" and... "steal Jim out of slavery.”
Huck goes to the Phelps' home where Mrs. Sally Phelps mistakes him for Tom Sawyer, who is her nephew. When Tom does arrive after receiving Huck's note, he pretends to be his half-brother Sid because Aunt Sally mistakes Huck for him. Later in the evening, Tom tells Huck he has deduced where Jim is being kept. For, he has seen another black man take food and watermelon to a locked shed. Hearing this, Huck devises a simple plan to free Jim. Excited to be included in Huck's plan to free Jim, Tom, however, demurs, declaring,
WORK? Why, cert'nly it [Huck's plan] would work, like rats
a-fighting. But it's too blame' simple; there ain't
nothing TO it. What's the good of a plan that ain't no
more trouble than that?"
After Tom relates his plan, Huck comments,
I see in
a minute it was worth fifteen of mine for style, and
would make Jim just as free a man as mine would, and
maybe get us all killed besides. So I was satisfied, and
said we would waltz in on it.
That night Tom and Huck sneak down to the shed, discovering a large hole for a window. Huck tells Tom that Jim can just climb out this hole. However, Tom is appalled,
I should HOPE we can find a
way that's a little more complicated than THAT, Huck Finn.
Eager for a "mysterious, troublesome, and good" plan, and disappointed that the Phelps have taken few precautions, Tom devises more complex. First, instead of taking him out the door they have discovered, Tom says that they will dig Jim out. "It'll take a week." And, when he sees that Tom's chain is tied around the bed, instead of just lifting the bed, they will have to saw the leg of the bed.
As the boys return to the house, Huck merely enters through the door, but the "mysterious" Tom climbs the lightning rod, falling and hurting himself thrice before finally succeeding. At dawn they leave the house, go down and pet the dogs and wait until the man comes to feed Jim. As they talk with him, Jim recognizes the boys, but when the other slave asks if they know the chained man, they deny knowing him. Already afraid of ghosts, the slave thinks ghosts have spoken instead of Tom and Huck. Once he is gone, Tom complains how easy it will be to steal Jim. To complicate this escape, Jim must write on a tin plate and throw it out the window.
Why, dratit, Huck, it's the stupidest arrangement I ever see.You got to invent ALL the difficulties
we've got. Anyhow, there's one thing -- there's more
honor in getting him out through a lot of difficulties
and dangers, where there warn't one of them furnished
to you by the people who it was their duty to furnish
them, and you had to contrive them all out of your
As they devise their plan, Tom talks of a moat and the consideration of sawing off Jim's leg.
"Well, some of the best authorities has done it.
They couldn't get the chain off, so they just cut their
hand off and shoved. And a leg would be better still.
But we got to let that go. There ain't necessity
enough in this case; ...."
Instead of using the tools available, Tom says they will use mere knives to dig out Jim. This should take two years, and although they do not have the time, he explains, they can act as though it has been two years.