As Huck walks to town, he sees a wagon coming toward him, riding in which is Tom Sawyer. Huck stops the wagon, but Tom is afraid of Huck, thinking him a ghost. Huck tells Tom that he isn’t, and Tom, satisfied, begins to ask Huck about his recent adventures. Huck tells Tom that he’s at the Phelps’ farm to rescue Jim, and Tom, after thinking a bit, enthusiastically decides to help Huck rescue him. That Tom would help a black slave lowers Huck’s opinion of his friend, and he thinks Tom must be joking, but Tom assures Huck that he is serious.
Tom’s first explanation for Huck’s appearance is a superstitious one, but he is mature enough to accept Huck’s rational account of his adventures. Huck's reaction to Tom's willingness to help points again at society's hypocrisy: Huck thinks that Tom is a proper member of society, which is why he thinks less of Tom for being willing to break society's rules. Huck thinks of himself as a no-good rule-breaker, and so he is ok with himself breaking those rules. Huck does not yet clearly see that it is the rules themselves that are depraved.
Huck returns to the Phelps’ too quickly after meeting Tom, but Uncle Silas, whom Huck considers the “innocentest, best old soul,” and who is not only a farmer but also a preacher, is merely pleased that his mule could go to town and back so quickly. Soon after Huck, Tom arrives. He pretends to be looking for a different house, but, after being invited by the Phelpses to dinner, he accepts.
Uncle Silas is an upstanding member of society and a person whom Huck respects very much, and yet he thinks it acceptable, even moral, to hold Jim prisoner. It’s surprising that Huck still thinks he’s doing wrong by helping Jim, but, even so, he is much more morally free than Uncle Silas.
Over dinner, Tom chats and chats, lying very fluently, and at one point he goes so far as to kiss Aunt Sally on the mouth. Aunt Sally jumps up and scolds Tom, even picking up her spinning-stick as if to thwack him with it. Tom says that they told her to kiss her. Aunt Sally has no idea what Tom is talking about, but then he introduces himself as Sid Sawyer, Tom’s half-brother. Aunt Sally is delighted to see him.
As Aunt Sally pranked Uncle Silas about Tom’s arrival, so does Tom prank Aunt Sally. This sketch of a family shows how behaviors and beliefs are passed from one generation to the next, behaviors as benign as pulling pranks, and beliefs as perniciously serious as the inferiority of one race to another.
Later, one of the Phelps boys asks Uncle Silas if he can go to “‘the show’,” but Uncle Silas says that, according to the runaway slave (Jim) and another man, the show is scandalous. Huck, realizing that the show must be the duke and king’s, sneaks out of the house at night with Tom to warn the con men. As they’re walking, Huck sees a mob with the duke and king “astraddle of a rail,” tarred and feathered. Huck feels sick at how cruel people are to one another, and realizes that he couldn’t have a hard feeling toward the duke and king even if he wanted to.
Despite all the wrong they did him, Huck tries to save the duke and king from capture, revealing his commitment to freedom for all over even societal justice. Huck also wants to save the duke and king because he knows how disgustingly cruel people can be. Indeed, the nastiness of the punishment the townspeople inflict on the frauds—tarring and feathering—is a crime in itself. Huck, in his empathy, forgives the pitiful wretches.
As he and Tom walk back to the farm, Huck feels humble and somehow to blame for the duke and king’s fate, even though he knows he didn’t do anything. Huck supposes that, when it comes to conscience, it doesn’t matter whether we’ve done right or wrong, because our conscience will invariably make us feel bad. Tom Sawyer, Huck observes, says the same thing.
Huck’ s experience of the duke and king’s punishment enables him to once and for all grow out of his enslavement to socialized conscience, which he comes to think of as a bad gauge of whether or not we’re actually doing right or wrong. Free of conscience, Huck is better able to follow the intuitions of his heart.