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Free Barron's Booknotes-The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain
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CHAPTER 28

As he's going downstairs the next morning, Huck hears Mary Jane crying in her room. He goes in to console her and learns that she's still upset about the fate of the household slaves the king has sold.

The urge to make her feel better is so strong that he does something he can't explain to himself-he tells the truth. He assures her that the slaves will be back inside of two weeks.

He's so startled by his behavior that he interrupts the narrative to wonder over it. He's puzzled by the discovery that in a tight spot it could actually be better-safer even-to tell the truth than to lie. He promises himself to "lay it by in my mind, and think it over some time or other, it's so kind of strange and unregular."

And then, since he's already taken the plunge, he goes on and tells Mary Jane more of the truth. He doesn't tell her everything. For example, he holds back the grisly tale of where her money is hidden, preferring to give her that information in a note; and he refers only indirectly to the reason he's bound to stay with the thieves, not mentioning that he's helping a runaway slave.

But he tells her just about everything else, and gets her to promise that she'll take part in a plan he's devised to expose the thieves, to get her money back, and to get away safely himself. The most difficult part is that she isn't to share what he's told her with her sisters or anyone else.

When they have all the details worked out, and Mary Jane is ready to leave as the plan calls for, she says goodbye by promising to pray for Huck. Give a careful reading to his reaction to that.


He compares himself to Judas, the disciple who betrayed Christ and turned him over to the Roman soldiers. As harsh as that comparison is, it's in keeping with what we've seen over and over again of Huck's self-image. He thinks praying for him is a monumental task for a mere girl to take on, "but I bet she done it, just the same-she was just that kind."

After he says that, Huck tells us how he felt then-and still feels long afterward-about Mary Jane. More than anything else, it sounds as though Huck is telling us about the first (possibly the only) person he ever loved.

His next job is getting Mary Jane's sisters to cooperate- unwittingly-with his plan. Through some harmless lying and clever manipulating, he pulls it off pretty easily. "I judged I had done it pretty neat," he says after it's all set. "I reckoned Tom Sawyer couldn't a' done it no neater himself."

Unfortunately, these carefully laid plans are not going to work as smoothly as Huck expected. Just as the king and duke are selling off the last pieces of the family property, a crowd comes from the steamboat landing, loudly announcing the arrival of two other men who claim to be the brothers of the deceased Peter Wilks.

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