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CHAPTER SUMMARIES WITH NOTES
CHAPTER 11: They Are After Us!
When Huck knocks at the door, he is invited inside. The woman of the house looks at him carefully, asks his name, and from where he comes. Huck says that his name is Sarah Williams. He tells the woman that he is tired after his long walk and explains that his mother is sick and he has come to town to ask his uncle for help. She offers a bed for the night, but he declines, saying that he is in a hurry.
Huck succeeds in getting the woman to talk. She tells him about his murder and reveals that initially they had suspected that Pap had killed the boy to get his money. Now, however, Jim is suspected as the murderer since he disappeared the same night that Huck was killed. She also tells him there is a reward for news or information regarding Jim’s or Pap’s whereabouts, three hundred dollars for Jim and two hundred dollars for Pap.
The lady then tells Huck that people have noticed smoke coming from Jackson’s Island. Her husband is thinking of going over there, this same night, to investigate what the smoke is coming from. Huck becomes restless and uneasy when he hears this news. He picks up a needle from the table and starts to thread it, but his hands are trembling. The woman stops knitting and observes him with a curious look on her face. To cover up his nervousness, Huck says that he wishes his mother could have the reward money being offered for news of Jim or Pap, for they are badly in need of it. The woman continues to look at Huck curiously and again asks him his name. This time he says “Mary Williams.” The moment he says this, he realizes that he has made a mistake. After a seemingly long time, the woman says that she thought his name was Sarah Williams. Huck quickly recovers and says that his full name is Sarah Mary Williams. Huck is relieved that the woman accepts his explanations without any further questioning.
The woman continues to talk for some time, and Huck begins to relax. She tells him how she is being troubled by the rats, and seeing one peeping out of a hole; she picks up a lead ball and throws it at the rat. She misses it completely and picks up the ball. On her way back, she drops the ball into Huck’s lap. He catches it by clapping his legs together. A little later, she stops work and, looking Huck straight in the eye, asks him what his real name is. Huck is taken aback, but not for long. Although shaking with fear, he puts on a brave front and tells the woman not to make fun of a poor girl like him. When he realizes that the woman has seen through his disguises, he decides to change his story. He says that his parents are dead and he is bound to a farmer who is mean and beats him regularly. When he cannot put up with him anyone, he steals the daughter’s clothes and runs away. He has come here in hopes that his uncle will take him in.
Huck pretends that the town he has come to is Goshen, and when the woman says that it is not Goshen, he tells her he should hurry so that he can reach his uncle’s place by daylight. The woman puts together a snack for him to eat along the way. To convince herself whether Huck is telling the truth about his living on a farm, she asks him a few questions, which Huck answers correctly. She asks him what his real name is, and Huck replies, George Peters. She tells Huck that she has suspected from the beginning that he was a boy in disguise and tells him she was convinced of the fact when she sees him trying to thread the needle. She introduces herself as Mrs. Judith Loftus and sends him on his way.
Huck takes the path that would lead him to Goshen so as to not arouse the woman’s suspicions, but after going a few yards, he retraces his steps and rushes to the spot where he has hidden the canoe. He gets into it and starts paddling fast. On reaching his old landing place on Jackson’s Island, he starts a big fire so that the people would be misled when they came looking. He gets back into the canoe and goes to a spot from where he could reach the cave fast. He rouses Jim and tells him that they must leave as quickly as possible. Without wasting time, Jim and Huck load their belongings and start off on the raft.
Sarah Mary Williams is the first of several identities that Huck assumes in the book. Ironically, when he is in disguise, he can interact with society much better than when he is his “natural” self. Huck again shows his resourcefulness. When he is caught in his lies by Mrs. Loftus, he hides his nervousness and fear. He never loses his presence of mind but boldly lies his way through a second tale and successfully manages to escape without getting caught.
Mrs. Loftus gives Huck the news that he has come to find out. He realizes that both he and Jim are in danger of discovery since the townspeople have seen the smoke from their fires. The chapter title, “They Are After Us,” is inaccurate; they are really just after Jim, for they assume Huck is dead. Huck, however, totally identifies with Jim and sees the black man’s struggle as his own. It affirms the fact that their relationship is already a deep one.