Last Updated on February 25, 2021, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1302
The Duke and the Dauphin appear not to be at all phased by the arrival of Peter Wilks’s real brothers, though Huck can see immediately that these men are the genuine article, as the pastor sounds as though he has been in England for many years, while the Dauphin’s attempt at an English accent is a crude approximation. Dr. Robinson, who initially suspected the Duke and the Dauphin of being frauds, takes it upon himself to investigate the matter. He asks where the gold is, and the Dauphin says it has been stolen. The Wilks family lawyer, Levi Bell, joins the investigation. He asks both the Dauphin and the new claimant calling himself Harvey Wilks to write a few lines, to compare them with letters he has from the real Harvey Wilks. Neither of the samples resembles Wilks’s handwriting, but the new claimant explains this by saying that William wrote the letters for him. He has injured his arm and cannot reproduce the writing.
The lawyer points out that, whatever the status of the new claimants, it is quite clear that the Duke and the Dauphin are not the brothers of Peter Wilks. The men try to come up with another way of proving who the true claimants are, if anyone is, and argue about what was tattooed on the dead man’s chest. Eventually they decide to dig him up, and when they do so, they are astonished to find the bag of gold in the coffin. Huck uses this distraction to escape and run back to the raft, where Jim is waiting for him. They cast off, delighted to be rid of the Duke and the Dauphin, but all too soon, they see the two men rowing toward them in a skiff.
The Dauphin is angry with Huck for having run away, but the Duke points out that they all did exactly the same thing to save themselves. The two men start to quarrel and suspect one another of having hidden the gold in the coffin. Eventually, however, they each start drinking, and before long, they are the best of friends again. The Duke and the Dauphin go to sleep, and Huck tells Jim all that has happened.
Huck, Jim, the Duke, and the Dauphin stay on the raft for several days, until the Duke and the Dauphin judge that they are safe from pursuit. At this point, they start running a wide variety of scams, but none of them succeed. One day, the Dauphin gets drunk in town, and while the Duke is shouting at him, Huck sees a chance to escape and runs back to the raft. When he arrives, however, Jim is nowhere to be found. He has been captured by a man called Silas Phelps. Huck once again feels guilty for helping Jim to escape. He considers that if Jim is to be a slave, it would be better for him to be Miss Watson’s slave in St. Petersburg than Silas Phelps’s slave in a place where he knows no one. He writes a note to Miss Watson but tears it up when he thinks of Jim’s simple trust in him. Huck then decides to try to help Jim himself, even if it is the wrong thing to do and he will burn in hell for it.
Huck finds Silas Phelps’s cotton plantation, a small place and very quiet. A middle-aged woman greets Huck with the words “It’s you, at last—ain’t it?” Huck agrees that it is before he has time to think what this might mean. The woman, who is Sally Phelps, wife of Silas, embraces him, and it soon becomes clear that she has mistaken him for her nephew, Tom. She starts asking awkward questions about his family, which Huck has no idea how to answer. However, his difficulties are eliminated when Silas returns and Sally introduces Huck as Tom Sawyer. Huck finds it easy to settle into this role and is only concerned that Tom will arrive and greet him by name before he can explain the situation.
Huck heads to town in a wagon, hoping to run into Tom and speak to him before he sees his aunt and uncle. He soon sees Tom in another wagon on the way to the plantation. When he has convinced Tom that he is not a ghost, Huck confesses that he has been helping Jim to escape. To his surprise, Tom agrees to help him. Huck returns to the Phelps plantation, and Tom soon arrives, saying that his name is William Thompson, from Hicksville, Ohio, and that he is looking for a man called Archibald Nichols, who lives three miles away. Sally and Silas invite him in for dinner, whereupon he assumes another false identity, as Tom’s younger brother, Sid.
That night, Huck and Tom go into town, where they see the Duke and the Dauphin, tarred and feathered, being run out of town on a rail. Despite the amount of trouble they have caused, Huck cannot help but feel sorry for them and reflects that people can be terribly cruel to one another.
This section of the story concludes the plot arc concerning the Duke and the Dauphin, the two most substantial of the characters Huck encounters on his journey and the most persistent in refusing to leave him alone. Other characters, such as the members of the Grangerford and Wilks families, are tied to the land. They stay in one place, and Huck, after a brief sojourn, leaves them behind. The two tricksters, like Huck and Jim, are drifters. Even their reasons for traveling are fairly similar. Huck and Jim are escaping, while the nature of the Duke and the Dauphin’s lifestyle makes it inevitable that they cannot stay in one place for long, either, and will always be running away from the victims of their most recent fraud.
The Duke and the Dauphin continue to play a villainous part, selling Jim back into slavery, yet Huck ends up feeling sorry for them, as they are tarred and feathered, and run out of town on a rail. The soundness of Huck’s moral instincts is put to a much more serious test in his second set of serious qualms about his role in helping Jim to escape from slavery. The doubts he had as they drew close to Cairo and the free states recur in a more serious form here. The irony is profound and biting as Huck prepares to betray Jim, announcing as he does so that he feels “good and all washed clean of sin for the first time.” It is when he is feeling such a paragon of virtue that he recalls images of the many days of camaraderie he has shared with Jim on the raft “a-floating along, talking and singing and laughing.” He remembers Jim’s absolute loyalty to him and the perfect confidence with which Jim has said that Huck is his best friend in the world. “All right, then, I’ll go to hell,” he tells himself, as he tears up the note he had written to Miss Watson.
Huck has grown up outside the respectable society of St. Petersburg, and he is also a more skeptical character than Tom, so it is a surprise as well as a relief when he finds that Tom does not share his scruples about “stealing” Jim. This may be principally because Tom thinks of stealing as a romantic adventure, the province of the buccaneers and brigands whom he pretends to be in his games. However, Huck retains a certain respect for Tom, which makes this validation important in beginning to persuade him that he is doing the right thing in helping Jim.
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