"I am piling up manuscript in a really astonishing way,”
Mark Twain wrote his family in 1883. “I believe I shall complete, in
two months, a book which I have been fooling over for seven years. This
summer it is no more trouble to me to write than it is to lie.” The
book, published on February 18, 1885, turned out to be The Adventures of Huckleberry
Finn. Young Huck’s raft trip down the Mississippi River
with the runaway slave, Jim, remains one of the most captivating images
of freedom in American literature.
night we run between seven and eight hours, with a current that was
making over four mile an hour. We catched fish, and talked, and we
took a swim now and then to keep off sleepiness. It was kind of
solemn, drifting down the big still river, laying on our backs,
looking up at the stars, and we didn’t ever feel like talking loud,
and it warn’t often that we laughed, only a little kind of a low
chuckle. . . .
Every night we passed towns, some of them away up on black hillsides,
nothing but just a shiny bed of lights, not a house could you see.
The fifth night we passed St. Louis, and it was like the whole world
lit up. . . . I used to slip ashore, towards ten o’clock, at some
little village, and buy ten or fifteen cents’ worth of meal or bacon
or some other stuff to eat; and sometimes I lifted a chicken that
wasn’t roosting comfortable, and took him along. Pap always said,
take a chicken when you get a chance, because if you don’t want him
yourself you can easy find somebody that does, and a good deed ain’t
ever forgot. . . .
We shot waterfowl, now and then, that got up too early in the morning
or didn’t go to bed early enough in the evening. Take it all around,
we lived pretty high.