Chapters 12 and 13 Summary and Analysis
Jim Turner: robber and potential informer on the Walter Scott
Bill and Jake Packard: robbers conspiring to kill Jim Turner
Captain: watchman of the ferryboat
After traveling all night, Huck and Jim tie up to a towhead on the Illinois side of the river. The towhead, a sandbar thick with cottonwood trees, is an ideal spot to hide during the day and watch the steamboats go up and down the river. Killing time until dark, Huck tells Jim all about his conversation with the woman on the shore. He explains that he had built the campfire to throw the woman’s husband off track, but Jim maintains that if her husband was as smart as she obviously was, he would have used dogs to track a runaway slave.
When they are sure it is dark, Jim builds a wigwam in the middle of the raft for protection from the hot sun and the rain. In the middle he builds a firebox in order to keep warm on cool nights. They also build an extra steering oar and a stick to hang a signal lantern for the steamboats coming downstream. Since the river is still in flood stage, the boats traveling upstream against the current are no problem to them. They are taking the easy water on the sides.
They travel for five nights, drifting with a strong four-mile-an-hour current before they come upon the brilliant lights of St. Louis. Huck goes ashore every night for supplies and buys staples such as bacon but he “lifts a chicken” and “borrows a watermelon.” They also shoot wildlife with their gun. All in all, they eat very well.
Five nights below St. Louis they run into a fierce thunderstorm. From their wigwam shelter they spot a wrecked steamboat in the glare of the lightning. Despite Jim’s warning to leave it alone, Huck has an itching desire to go aboard to see what he can find. Jim finally gives in, however, and soon they are groping in the dark toward the “texas” containing the pilothouse and officers’ quarters. When they see a light and hear voices, Jim is ready to go back, but Huck’s curiosity gets the best of him when he hears a loud voice cry out: “Oh, please don’t, boys; I swear I won’t ever tell!” A loud argument ensues, and, although Jim has already gone back to the raft, Huck reasons that Tom Sawyer wouldn’t go back now and neither will he. Huck creeps closer and sees two looters who are ready to kill their partner in crime, Jim Turner, because he has threatened to inform the authorities.
Seeing the seriousness of the situation, Huck backs away into a stateroom, but Bill and Jake Packard unknowingly follow him into the same room to discuss the matter. They decide to wait the two hours or so for the steamboat to break up and drown Jim Turner, saving them the trouble. As soon as Huck can get away he finds Jim to inform him that a “gang of murderers” is operating, and they need to cut their boat loose so that the murderers cannot get away. Jim then tells him the raft has broken loose during the storm.
They realize they need to find the robbers’ boat for themselves. Happily they find the “skiff,” but just as they are ready to climb in, Packard beats them to it. Luckily Huck and Jim escape detection. Packard and Bill are in the boat ready to take off when they get into an argument about the money left in Jim Turner’s pockets. They go back, and while they are gone, Huck and Jim move into the boat. They cut the rope, and the current takes them downstream.
A little while later Huck’s conscience begins to bother him, and he decides to get somebody to rescue the robbers. Huck and Jim catch up with their raft a few miles downstream. Jim boards the raft, and Huck stays in the skiff. He instructs Jim to take the raft two miles downstream while he finds someone who might help with the rescue. He finds a watchman on a ferryboat who is impressed with his sob story about his family, stuck on the wrecked Walter Scott , who will drown unless someone rescues them. Following a lead from the watchman, Huck convinces him that the niece of...
(The entire section is 1,191 words.)