Judith answers the door and asks Huck his name and where’s he’s from. Huck lies to the woman, giving a girl’s name. The woman is hospitable, and she begins to talk about herself and the goings-on in town, including Huck’s alleged murder. She says some people think that Pap murdered Huck, while others think that Jim murdered Huck. There is a reward for the capture of either. In fact, the woman’s husband went to Jackson’s Island to hunt for Jim, which makes Huck very uneasy. The woman begins to look at Huck curiously. She asks Huck’s name again, and Huck accidentally gives a different name from what he gave at first. The woman points out as much, so Huck comes up with another lie to account for his self-contradiction, wishing very badly to leave.
Huck is very good at lying and, though once in a while he contradicts himself, as when he identifies himself to Judith by two different names, his fibs are often effective. This is because Huck has an uncanny ability to put himself in other people’s shoes and imagine what life would be like from perspectives other than his own. That being said, Huck doesn’t lie for pleasure or even profit, but only practical reasons, as when he lies to Judith to get information so that he can protect his and Jim’s freedom.
Judith then tells Huck how hard times are for her and her family, how poor they are and how the rats “was as free as if they owned the place.” She’s right: there are rats everywhere. The woman shows lump of lead she uses to throw at rats and kill them. After throwing the lump, she invites Huck to do so. Huck throws the lump very well. Having retrieved the lump, and after talking for a bit, the woman drops the lump of lead in Huck’s lap. Huck claps his legs around the falling lump. The woman asks Huck, again, for his real name. She reveals that she knows he’s a boy, but promises not to hurt him or tell on him, thinking him a runaway apprentice whose master treated him badly. Huck plays along with the woman’s assumption, lying more.
Ms. Loftus reveals herself to be as clever as Huck in exposing Huck’s real identity, and also moral in protecting Huck from what she thinks is his master’s cruelty. Of course, she is really protecting Huck from a much more desperate condition, the loss of his freedom. It is sad that, although Judith is among the most moral characters in the novel, Huck does not trust her enough to give her his real name, reflecting his deep lack of trust in other people, which itself originates from Huck’s bad experiences with a broken society and people like the murderous Pap.
Judith gives Huck a snack and some advice. She tells him to remember his name next time, that he plays a girl poorly, though he might be able to fool men, and she gives him some pointers on acting like a girl. Judith also tells him to contact her if he gets into any trouble. Huck leaves Judith’s house, returns to his canoe, and paddles back to Jackson’s Island, where he tells Jim that people are hunting them. The pair rushes to load the raft and silently paddles into the darkness of the river.
Judith is very much like Huck, only female and more mature. She even coaches Huck in how to be better than he is in crossing boundaries, how to imagine what it’s like to be a woman even more vividly than he already does. While respecting Huck’s freedom, Judith also offers Huck a helping hand, which no other adult figure save Jim does for Huck in the novel.