Pap Finn becomes a new man


An excerpt from Chapter 5 of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain:

The judge and the widow went to law to get the
court to take me away from him and let one of them
be my guardian; but it was a new judge that had just
come, and he didn’t know the old man; so he said
courts mustn’t interfere and separate families if they
could help it; said he’d druther not take a child away
from its father. So Judge Thatcher and the widow
had to quit on the business.

That pleased the old man till he couldn’t rest. He
said he’d cowhide me till I was black and blue if I
didn’t raise some money for him. I borrowed three
dollars from Judge Thatcher, and pap took it and got
drunk, and went a-blowing around and cussing and
whooping and carrying on; and he kept it up all over
town, with a tin pan, till most midnight; then they
jailed him, and next day they had him before court,
and jailed him again for a week. But he said HE was
satisfied; said he was boss of his son, and he’d make
it warm for HIM.

When he got out the new judge said he was a-going
to make a man of him. So he took him to his
own house, and dressed him up clean and nice, and
had him to breakfast and dinner and supper with the
family, and was just old pie to him, so to speak. And
after supper he talked to him about temperance and
such things till the old man cried, and said he’d been a
fool, and fooled away his life; but now he was a-going
to turn over a new leaf and be a man nobody wouldn’t
be ashamed of, and he hoped the judge would help
him and not look down on him. The judge said he
could hug him for them words; so he cried, and his
wife she cried again; pap said he’d been a man that had
always been misunderstood before, and the judge said
he believed it. The old man said that what a man
wanted that was down was sympathy, and the judge
said it was so; so they cried again. And when it was
bedtime the old man rose up and held out his hand,
and says: “Look at it, gentlemen and ladies all; take a-hold
of it; shake it. There’s a hand that was the hand of
a hog; but it ain’t so no more; it’s the hand of a man
that’s started in on a new life, and’ll die before he’ll
go back. You mark them words — don’t forget I said
them. It’s a clean hand now; shake it — don’t be

So they shook it, one after the other, all around, and
cried. The judge’s wife she kissed it. Then the old
man he signed a pledge — made his mark. The judge
said it was the holiest time on record, or something
like that. Then they tucked the old man into a beauti-
ful room, which was the spare room, and in the night
some time he got powerful thirsty and clumb out on to
the porch-roof and slid down a stanchion and traded his
new coat for a jug of forty-rod, and clumb back again
and had a good old time; and towards daylight he
crawled out again, drunk as a fiddler, and rolled off
the porch and broke his left arm in two places, and
was most froze to death when somebody found him
after sun-up. And when they come to look at that
spare room they had to take soundings before they
could navigate it.

The judge he felt kind of sore. He said he reckoned
a body could reform the old man with a shotgun,
maybe, but he didn’t know no other way.


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