The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn


Chapter 22 to Chapter 28

Chapter 22

The mob calls for the blood of Sherburn and Sherburn appears on the roof of his porch, calm and collected as ever, armed with a shotgun. He eyes the mob passively and no one is able to meet his stare and hold it. He tells the mob that they won’t dare lynch him in daylight, because there is not a man among them. He informs them that the best they have is half a man—Buck Harkness—whose idea it probably was to come lynch him. He says the problem with these people is that they think they are braver than they really are—but that they really are only cowards. He tells them they better disperse because he is a man and that they have not brought a man to challenge him, so they had either best find one and bring him back, or sneak up on him at night wearing their masks like the cowards he knows they are. The crowd slinks back and sulks away.

Huck sneaks into the circus and tent and thoroughly enjoys himself, calling it the best circus he has ever seen. One particular incident that he relates is when a drunken man runs into the ring and tries to ride the horses. Everyone tries to get him to leave, but he will not so, finally, the ringmaster shrugs and lets him try—and at first it appears that the poor man will be trampled, but gradually he begins to show his mastery and skill and before long he has revealed himself as one of the performers, much to everyone’s amusement. Huck admires these antics and then heads off for the duke and king’s show.

Their show, however, is a bust: only about a dozen townsfolk attend and they laugh at the performances, which insults the duke. The next day he writes on wrapping paper with black paint bills for a new show: “The Royal Nonesuch,” and in big letters states that women and children are not admitted. Then the duke declares that if that line alone does not bring them in, he does not know Arkansas.

In this chapter, Huck witnesses two acts: the first, the deadly serious performance of a man—Colonel Sherburn vs. the mob; the second,...

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