In the night, Huck and Tom begin digging with their knives to rescue Jim, but after a while are tired, blistered, and realize they haven’t gotten hardly anywhere. The boys switch to digging with picks instead, but agree to pretend that those are knives.
It is to Tom’s credit that, when he realizes how absurdly impractical a given plan is, he switches to a more practical plan while pretending otherwise.
The next day, Huck and Tom steal a spoon and candlestick from the house for Jim to use as pens, as well as some plates for Jim to write messages on. Later, at night, the boys dig into the hut where Jim is imprisoned and wake him, much to Jim’s pleasant surprise. Jim asks the boys to help him cut the chain off his leg that he might escape immediately, but Tom explains to Jim his romantically stylish, time-consuming plan, which Jim accepts.
Though Tom is willing to pretend regarding some aspects of his plan, other aspects, like the message-writing, he is childishly stubborn about. Jim makes it clear that he understandably wants to be rescued as soon as possible, but with an unimaginative and racist disregard Tom persuades Jim to go along with his ridiculous plan.
Jim tells the boys that Uncle Silas comes into the hut once in a while to pray with him, and that Aunt Sally does likewise to make sure he’s comfortable. This gives Tom an idea: he wants to trick Nat, the slave who brings Jim food, into bringing Jim a rope-ladder that’s been baked into a pie. The boys talk with Jim for a while before leaving him. Tom says he is having the most fun of his life, and that he and Huck should keep their game up so for as long as possible, and even suggests that they leave Jim’s rescue up to their own children.
Uncle Silas and Aunt Sally clearly recognize that Jim has human needs, and yet remain oblivious to the fact that they are hypocritically violating those needs in keeping Jim in the first place. Tom is likewise a hypocrite: he knows Jim needs to be freed, but selfishly wishes he could draw out the rescue attempt for childish pleasure. Huck doesn’t buy into any of this, save insofar as he passively accepts it.
One night, dogs get into Jim’s hut. When Nat sees the dogs, he almost faints, thinking that witches are responsible. Tom tells Nat that, to appease the witches, he should make “a witch-pie.” Nat says he doesn’t know how, so Tom volunteers to bake the pie for him, as long as Nat promises not to look at or handle what Tom gives him. Nat promises.
Tom exploits Nat’s superstitions in playing out his romantic game of rescuing Jim. We wonder what’s worse: Huck stealing from the slave’s watermelon patch, or Tom playing on a person’s fears, to which there is a racial component, for the sake of personal pleasure.