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The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Complete
by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
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Title: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Complete
Author: Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Release Date: August 20, 2006 [EBook #74]
[Last updated: May 3, 2011]
Language: English
Produced by David Widger. The previous edition was updated by Jose
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
MOST of the adventures recorded in this book really occurred; one or
two were experiences of my own, the rest those of boys who were
schoolmates of mine. Huck Finn is drawn from life; Tom Sawyer also, but
not from an individual--he is a combination of the characteristics of
three boys whom I knew, and therefore belongs to the composite order of
The odd superstitions touched upon were all prevalent among children
and slaves in the West at the period of this story--that is to say,
thirty or forty years ago.
Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and
girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account,
for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what
they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked,
and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.
No answer.
No answer.
"What's gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!"
No answer.
The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the
room; then she put them up and looked out under them. She seldom or
never looked THROUGH them for so small a thing as a boy; they were her
state pair, the pride of her heart, and were built for "style," not
service--she could have seen through a pair of stove-lids just as well.
She looked perplexed for a moment, and then said, not fiercely, but
still loud enough for the furniture to hear:
"Well, I lay if I get hold of you I'll--"
She did not finish, for by this time she was bending down and punching
under the bed with the broom, and so she needed breath to punctuate the
punches with. She resurrected nothing but the cat.
"I never did see the beat of that boy!"
She went to the open door and stood in it and looked out among the
tomato vines and "jimpson" weeds that constituted the garden. No Tom.
So she lifted up her voice at an angle calculated for distance and
"Y-o-u-u TOM!"
There was a slight noise behind her and she turned just in time to
seize a small boy by the slack of his roundabout and arrest his flight.
"There! I might 'a' thought of that closet. What you been doing in
"Nothing! Look at your hands. And look at your mouth. What IS that
"I don't know, aunt."
"Well, I know. It's jam--that's what it is. Forty times I've said if
you didn't let that jam alone I'd skin you. Hand me that switch."
The switch hovered in the air--the peril was desperate--
"My! Look behind you, aunt!"
The old lady whirled round, and snatched her skirts out of danger. The
lad fled on the instant, scrambled up the high board-fence, and
disappeared over it.
His aunt Polly stood surprised a moment, and then broke into a gentle
"Hang the boy, can't I never learn anything? Ain't he played me tricks
enough like that for me to be looking out for him by this time? But old
fools is the biggest fools there is. Can't learn an old dog new tricks,
as the saying is. But my goodness, he never plays them alike, two days,
and how is a body to know what's coming? He 'pears to know just how
long he can torment me before I get my dander up, and he knows if he
can make out to put me off for a minute or make me laugh, it's all down
again and I can't hit him a lick. I ain't doing my duty by that boy,
and that's the Lord's truth, goodness knows. Spare the rod and spile
the child, as the Good Book says. I'm a laying up sin and suffering for
us both, I know. He's full of the Old Scratch, but laws-a-me! he's my
own dead sister's boy, poor thing, and I ain't got the heart to lash
him, somehow. Every time I let him off, my conscience does hurt me so,
and every time I hit him my old heart most breaks. Well-a-well, man
that is born of woman is of few days and full of trouble, as the
Scripture says, and I reckon it's so. He'll play hookey this evening, *
and [* Southwestern for "afternoon"] I'll just be obleeged to make him
work, to-morrow, to punish him. It's mighty hard to make him work
Saturdays, when all the boys is having holiday, but he hates work more
than he hates anything else, and I've GOT to do some of my duty by him,
or I'll be the ruination of the child."
Tom did play hookey, and he had a very good time. He got back home
barely in season to help Jim, the small colored boy, saw next-day's
wood and split the kindlings before supper--at least he was there in
time to tell his adventures to Jim while Jim did three-fourths of the
work. Tom's younger brother (or rather half-brother) Sid was already
through with his part of the work (picking up chips), for he was a
quiet boy, and had no adventurous, troublesome ways.
While Tom was eating his supper, and stealing sugar as opportunity
offered, Aunt Polly asked him questions that were full of guile, and
very deep--for she wanted to trap him into damaging revealments. Like
many other simple-hearted souls, it was her pet vanity to believe she
was endowed with a talent for dark and mysterious diplomacy, and she
loved to contemplate her most transparent devices as marvels of low
cunning. Said she:
"Tom, it was middling warm in school, warn't it?"
"Powerful warm, warn't it?"
"Didn't you want to go in a-swimming, Tom?"
A bit of a scare shot through Tom--a touch of uncomfortable suspicion.
He searched Aunt Polly's face, but it told him nothing. So he said:
"No'm--well, not very much."
The old lady reached out her hand and felt Tom's shirt, and said:
"But you ain't too warm now, though." And it flattered her to reflect
that she had discovered that the shirt was dry without anybody knowing
that that was what she had in her mind. But in spite of her, Tom knew
where the wind lay, now. So he forestalled what might be the next move:
"Some of us pumped on our heads--mine's damp yet. See?"
Aunt Polly was vexed to think she had overlooked that bit of
circumstantial evidence, and missed a trick. Then she had a new
"Tom, you didn't have to undo your shirt collar where I sewed it, to
pump on your head, did you? Unbutton your jacket!"
The trouble vanished out of Tom's face. He opened his jacket. His
shirt collar was securely sewed.
"Bother! Well, go 'long with you. I'd made sure you'd played hookey
and been a-swimming. But I forgive ye, Tom. I reckon you're a kind of a
singed cat, as the saying is--better'n you look. THIS time."
She was half sorry her sagacity had miscarried, and half glad that Tom
had stumbled into obedient conduct for once.
But Sidney said:
"Well, now, if I didn't think you sewed his collar with white thread,
but it's black."
"Why, I did sew it with white! Tom!"
But Tom did not wait for the rest. As he went out at the door he said:
"Siddy, I'll lick you for that."
In a safe place Tom examined two large needles which were thrust into
the lapels of his jacket, and had thread bound about them--one needle
carried white thread and the other black. He said:
"She'd never noticed if it hadn't been for Sid. Confound it! sometimes
she sews it with white, and sometimes she sews it with black. I wish to
geeminy she'd stick to one or t'other--I can't keep the run of 'em. But
I bet you I'll lam Sid for that. I'll learn him!"
He was not the Model Boy of the village. He knew the model boy very
well though--and loathed him.
Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles.
Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him
than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore
them down and drove them out of his mind for the time--just as men's
misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This
new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just
acquired from a negro, and he was suffering to practise it undisturbed.
It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble,
produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short
intervals in the midst of the music--the reader probably remembers how
to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave
him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full
of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an
astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet--no doubt, as far as
strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with
the boy, not the astronomer.
The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently Tom
checked his whistle. A stranger was before him--a boy a shade larger
than himself. A new-comer of any age or either sex was an impressive
curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy
was well dressed, too--well dressed on a week-day. This was simply
astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth
roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes
on--and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of
ribbon. He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The
more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his
nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed
to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved--but
only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all
the time. Finally Tom said:
"I can lick you!"
"I'd like to see you try it."
"Well, I can do it."
"No you can't, either."
"Yes I can."
"No you can't."
"I can."
"You can't."
An uncomfortable pause. Then Tom said:
"What's your name?"
"'Tisn't any of your business, maybe."
"Well I 'low I'll MAKE it my business."
"Well why don't you?"
"If you say much, I will."
"Much--much--MUCH. There now."
"Oh, you think you're mighty smart, DON'T you? I could lick you with
one hand tied behind me, if I wanted to."
"Well why don't you DO it? You SAY you can do it."
"Well I WILL, if you fool with me."
"Oh yes--I've seen whole families in the same fix."
"Smarty! You think you're SOME, now, DON'T you? Oh, what a hat!"
"You can lump that hat if you don't like it. I dare you to knock it
off--and anybody that'll take a dare will suck eggs."
"You're a liar!"
"You're another."
"You're a fighting liar and dasn't take it up."
"Aw--take a walk!"
"Say--if you give me much more of your sass I'll take and bounce a
rock off'n your head."
"Oh, of COURSE you will."
"Well I WILL."
"Well why don't you DO it then? What do you keep SAYING you will for?
Why don't you DO it? It's because you're afraid."
"I AIN'T afraid."
"You are."
"I ain't."
"You are."
Another pause, and more eying and sidling around each other. Presently
they were shoulder to shoulder. Tom said:
"Get away from here!"
"Go away yourself!"
"I won't."
"I won't either."
So they stood, each with a foot placed at an angle as a brace, and
both shoving with might and main, and glowering at each other with
hate. But neither could get an advantage. After struggling till both
were hot and flushed, each relaxed his strain with watchful caution,
and Tom said:
"You're a coward and a pup. I'll tell my big brother on you, and he
can thrash you with his little finger, and I'll make him do it, too."
"What do I care for your big brother? I've got a brother that's bigger
than he is--and what's more, he can throw him over that fence, too."
[Both brothers were imaginary.]
"That's a lie."
"YOUR saying so don't make it so."
Tom drew a line in the dust with his big toe, and said:
"I dare you to step over that, and I'll lick you till you can't stand
up. Anybody that'll take a dare will steal sheep."
The new boy stepped over promptly, and said:
"Now you said you'd do it, now let's see you do it."
"Don't you crowd me now; you better look out."
"Well, you SAID you'd do it--why don't you do it?"
"By jingo! for two cents I WILL do it."
The new boy took two broad coppers out of his pocket and held them out
with derision. Tom struck them to the ground. In an instant both boys
were rolling and tumbling in the dirt, gripped together like cats; and
for the space of a minute they tugged and tore at each other's hair and
clothes, punched and scratched each other's nose, and covered
themselves with dust and glory. Presently the confusion took form, and
through the fog of battle Tom appeared, seated astride the new boy, and
pounding him with his fists. "Holler 'nuff!" said he.
The boy only struggled to free himself. He was crying--mainly from rage.
"Holler 'nuff!"--and the pounding went on.
At last the stranger got out a smothered "'Nuff!" and Tom let him up
and said:
"Now that'll learn you. Better look out who you're fooling with next
The new boy went off brushing the dust from his clothes, sobbing,
snuffling, and occasionally looking back and shaking his head and
threatening what he would do to Tom the "next time he caught him out."
To which Tom responded with jeers, and started off in high feather, and
as soon as his back was turned the new boy snatched up a stone, threw
it and hit him between the shoulders and then turned tail and ran like
an antelope. Tom chased the traitor home, and thus found out where he
lived. He then held a position at the gate for some time, daring the
enemy to come outside, but the enemy only made faces at him through the
window and declined. At last the enemy's mother appeared, and called
Tom a bad, vicious, vulgar child, and ordered him away. So he went
away; but he said he "'lowed" to "lay" for that boy.
He got home pretty late that night, and when he climbed cautiously in
at the window, he uncovered an ambuscade, in the person of his aunt;
and when she saw the state his clothes were in her resolution to turn
his Saturday holiday into captivity at hard labor became adamantine in
its firmness.
SATURDAY morning was come, and all the summer world was bright and
fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every heart; and if
the heart was young the music issued at the lips. There was cheer in
every face and a spring in every step. The locust-trees were in bloom
and the fragrance of the blossoms filled the air. Cardiff Hill, beyond
the village and above it, was green with vegetation and it lay just far
enough away to seem a Delectable Land, dreamy, reposeful, and inviting.
Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a
long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and
a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board
fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a
burden. Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost
plank; repeated the operation; did it again; compared the insignificant
whitewashed streak with the far-reaching continent of unwhitewashed
fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged. Jim came skipping out at
the gate with a tin pail, and singing Buffalo Gals. Bringing water from
the town pump had always been hateful work in Tom's eyes, before, but
now it did not strike him so. He remembered that there was company at
the pump. White, mulatto, and negro boys and girls were always there
waiting their turns, resting, trading playthings, quarrelling,
fighting, skylarking. And he remembered that although the pump was only
a hundred and fifty yards off, Jim never got back with a bucket of
water under an hour--and even then somebody generally had to go after
him. Tom said:
"Say, Jim, I'll fetch the water if you'll whitewash some."
Jim shook his head and said:
"Can't, Mars Tom. Ole missis, she tole me I got to go an' git dis
water an' not stop foolin' roun' wid anybody. She say she spec' Mars
Tom gwine to ax me to whitewash, an' so she tole me go 'long an' 'tend
to my own business--she 'lowed SHE'D 'tend to de whitewashin'."
"Oh, never you mind what she said, Jim. That's the way she always
talks. Gimme the bucket--I won't be gone only a a minute. SHE won't
ever know."
"Oh, I dasn't, Mars Tom. Ole missis she'd take an' tar de head off'n
me. 'Deed she would."
"SHE! She never licks anybody--whacks 'em over the head with her
thimble--and who cares for that, I'd like to know. She talks awful, but
talk don't hurt--anyways it don't if she don't cry. Jim, I'll give you
a marvel. I'll give you a white alley!"
Jim began to waver.
"White alley, Jim! And it's a bully taw."
"My! Dat's a mighty gay marvel, I tell you! But Mars Tom I's powerful
'fraid ole missis--"
"And besides, if you will I'll show you my sore toe."
Jim was only human--this attraction was too much for him. He put down
his pail, took the white alley, and bent over the toe with absorbing
interest while the bandage was being unwound. In another moment he was
flying down the street with his pail and a tingling rear, Tom was
whitewashing with vigor, and Aunt Polly was retiring from the field
with a slipper in her hand and triumph in her eye.
But Tom's energy did not last. He began to think of the fun he had
planned for this day, and his sorrows multiplied. Soon the free boys
would come tripping along on all sorts of delicious expeditions, and
they would make a world of fun of him for having to work--the very
thought of it burnt him like fire. He got out his worldly wealth and
examined it--bits of toys, marbles, and trash; enough to buy an
exchange of WORK, maybe, but not half enough to buy so much as half an
hour of pure freedom. So he returned his straitened means to his
pocket, and gave up the idea of trying to buy the boys. At this dark
and hopeless moment an inspiration burst upon him! Nothing less than a
great, magnificent inspiration.
He took up his brush and went tranquilly to work. Ben Rogers hove in
sight presently--the very boy, of all boys, whose ridicule he had been
dreading. Ben's gait was the hop-skip-and-jump--proof enough that his
heart was light and his anticipations high. He was eating an apple, and
giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed by a deep-toned
ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a steamboat. As
he drew near, he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned
far over to starboard and rounded to ponderously and with laborious
pomp and circumstance--for he was personating the Big Missouri, and
considered himself to be drawing nine feet of water. He was boat and
captain and engine-bells combined, so he had to imagine himself
standing on his own hurricane-deck giving the orders and executing them:
"Stop her, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling!" The headway ran almost out, and he
drew up slowly toward the sidewalk.
"Ship up to back! Ting-a-ling-ling!" His arms straightened and
stiffened down his sides.
"Set her back on the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow! ch-chow-wow!
Chow!" His right hand, meantime, describing stately circles--for it was
representing a forty-foot wheel.
"Let her go back on the labboard! Ting-a-lingling! Chow-ch-chow-chow!"
The left hand began to describe circles.
"Stop the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Stop the labboard! Come ahead
on the stabboard! Stop her! Let your outside turn over slow!
Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow-ow-ow! Get out that head-line! LIVELY now!
Come--out with your spring-line--what're you about there! Take a turn
round that stump with the bight of it! Stand by that stage, now--let her
go! Done with the engines, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling! SH'T! S'H'T! SH'T!"
(trying the gauge-cocks).
Tom went on whitewashing--paid no attention to the steamboat. Ben
stared a moment and then said: "Hi-YI! YOU'RE up a stump, ain't you!"
No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an artist, then
he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the result, as
before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom's mouth watered for the
apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said:
"Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?"
Tom wheeled suddenly and said:
"Why, it's you, Ben! I warn't noticing."
"Say--I'm going in a-swimming, I am. Don't you wish you could? But of
course you'd druther WORK--wouldn't you? Course you would!"
Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:
"What do you call work?"
"Why, ain't THAT work?"
Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:
"Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain't. All I know, is, it suits Tom
"Oh come, now, you don't mean to let on that you LIKE it?"
The brush continued to move.
"Like it? Well, I don't see why I oughtn't to like it. Does a boy get
a chance to whitewash a fence every day?"
That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom
swept his brush daintily back and forth--stepped back to note the
effect--added a touch here and there--criticised the effect again--Ben
watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more
absorbed. Presently he said:
"Say, Tom, let ME whitewash a little."
Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:
"No--no--I reckon it wouldn't hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly's
awful particular about this fence--right here on the street, you know
--but if it was the back fence I wouldn't mind and SHE wouldn't. Yes,
she's awful particular about this fence; it's got to be done very
careful; I reckon there ain't one boy in a thousand, maybe two
thousand, that can do it the way it's got to be done."
"No--is that so? Oh come, now--lemme just try. Only just a little--I'd
let YOU, if you was me, Tom."
"Ben, I'd like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly--well, Jim wanted to
do it, but she wouldn't let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn't
let Sid. Now don't you see how I'm fixed? If you was to tackle this
fence and anything was to happen to it--"
"Oh, shucks, I'll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say--I'll give
you the core of my apple."
"Well, here--No, Ben, now don't. I'm afeard--"
"I'll give you ALL of it!"
Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity in his
heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri worked and sweated in
the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by,
dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more
innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every
little while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time
Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for
a kite, in good repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in
for a dead rat and a string to swing it with--and so on, and so on,
hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, from being
a poor poverty-stricken boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling
in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles,
part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to look through, a
spool cannon, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of chalk,
a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six
fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass doorknob, a
dog-collar--but no dog--the handle of a knife, four pieces of
orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.
He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while--plenty of company
--and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he hadn't run out
of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.
Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all. He
had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it--namely,
that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only
necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great
and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have
comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do,
and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And
this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers
or performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or
climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy gentlemen in
England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty or thirty miles
on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them
considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service,
that would turn it into work and then they would resign.
The boy mused awhile over the substantial change which had taken place
in his worldly circumstances, and then wended toward headquarters to
TOM presented himself before Aunt Polly, who was sitting by an open
window in a pleasant rearward apartment, which was bedroom,
breakfast-room, dining-room, and library, combined. The balmy summer
air, the restful quiet, the odor of the flowers, and the drowsing murmur
of the bees had had their effect, and she was nodding over her knitting
--for she had no company but the cat, and it was asleep in her lap. Her
spectacles were propped up on her gray head for safety. She had thought
that of course Tom had deserted long ago, and she wondered at seeing him
place himself in her power again in this intrepid way. He said: "Mayn't
I go and play now, aunt?"
"What, a'ready? How much have you done?"
"It's all done, aunt."
"Tom, don't lie to me--I can't bear it."
"I ain't, aunt; it IS all done."
Aunt Polly placed small trust in such evidence. She went out to see
for herself; and she would have been content to find twenty per cent.
of Tom's statement true. When she found the entire fence whitewashed,
and not only whitewashed but elaborately coated and recoated, and even
a streak added to the ground, her astonishment was almost unspeakable.
She said:
"Well, I never! There's no getting round it, you can work when you're
a mind to, Tom." And then she diluted the compliment by adding, "But
it's powerful seldom you're a mind to, I'm bound to say. Well, go 'long
and play; but mind you get back some time in a week, or I'll tan you."
She was so overcome by the splendor of his achievement that she took
him into the closet and selected a choice apple and delivered it to
him, along with an improving lecture upon the added value and flavor a
treat took to itself when it came without sin through virtuous effort.
And while she closed with a happy Scriptural flourish, he "hooked" a
Then he skipped out, and saw Sid just starting up the outside stairway
that led to the back rooms on the second floor. Clods were handy and
the air was full of them in a twinkling. They raged around Sid like a
hail-storm; and before Aunt Polly could collect her surprised faculties
and sally to the rescue, six or seven clods had taken personal effect,
and Tom was over the fence and gone. There was a gate, but as a general
thing he was too crowded for time to make use of it. His soul was at
peace, now that he had settled with Sid for calling attention to his
black thread and getting him into trouble.
Tom skirted the block, and came round into a muddy alley that led by
the back of his aunt's cow-stable. He presently got safely beyond the
reach of capture and punishment, and hastened toward the public square
of the village, where two "military" companies of boys had met for
conflict, according to previous appointment. Tom was General of one of
these armies, Joe Harper (a bosom friend) General of the other. These
two great commanders did not condescend to fight in person--that being
better suited to the still smaller fry--but sat together on an eminence
and conducted the field operations by orders delivered through
aides-de-camp. Tom's army won a great victory, after a long and
hard-fought battle. Then the dead were counted, prisoners exchanged,
the terms of the next disagreement agreed upon, and the day for the
necessary battle appointed; after which the armies fell into line and
marched away, and Tom turned homeward alone.
As he was passing by the house where Jeff Thatcher lived, he saw a new
girl in the garden--a lovely little blue-eyed creature with yellow hair
plaited into two long-tails, white summer frock and embroidered
pantalettes. The fresh-crowned hero fell without firing a shot. A
certain Amy Lawrence vanished out of his heart and left not even a
memory of herself behind. He had thought he loved her to distraction;
he had regarded his passion as adoration; and behold it was only a poor
little evanescent partiality. He had been months winning her; she had
confessed hardly a week ago; he had been the happiest and the proudest
boy in the world only seven short days, and here in one instant of time
she had gone out of his heart like a casual stranger whose visit is
He worshipped this new angel with furtive eye, till he saw that she
had discovered him; then he pretended he did not know she was present,
and began to "show off" in all sorts of absurd boyish ways, in order to
win her admiration. He kept up this grotesque foolishness for some
time; but by-and-by, while he was in the midst of some dangerous
gymnastic performances, he glanced aside and saw that the little girl
was wending her way toward the house. Tom came up to the fence and
leaned on it, grieving, and hoping she would tarry yet awhile longer.
She halted a moment on the steps and then moved toward the door. Tom
heaved a great sigh as she put her foot on the threshold. But his face
lit up, right away, for she tossed a pansy over the fence a moment
before she disappeared.
The boy ran around and stopped within a foot or two of the flower, and
then shaded his eyes with his hand and began to look down street as if
he had discovered something of interest going on in that direction.
Presently he picked up a straw and began trying to balance it on his
nose, with his head tilted far back; and as he moved from side to side,
in his efforts, he edged nearer and nearer toward the pansy; finally
his bare foot rested upon it, his pliant toes closed upon it, and he
hopped away with the treasure and disappeared round the corner. But
only for a minute--only while he could button the flower inside his
jacket, next his heart--or next his stomach, possibly, for he was not
much posted in anatomy, and not hypercritical, anyway.
He returned, now, and hung about the fence till nightfall, "showing
off," as before; but the girl never exhibited herself again, though Tom
comforted himself a little with the hope that she had been near some
window, meantime, and been aware of his attentions. Finally he strode
home reluctantly, with his poor head full of visions.
All through supper his spirits were so high that his aunt wondered
"what had got into the child." He took a good scolding about clodding
Sid, and did not seem to mind it in the least. He tried to steal sugar
under his aunt's very nose, and got his knuckles rapped for it. He said:
"Aunt, you don't whack Sid when he takes it."
"Well, Sid don't torment a body the way you do. You'd be always into
that sugar if I warn't watching you."
Presently she stepped into the kitchen, and Sid, happy in his
immunity, reached for the sugar-bowl--a sort of glorying over Tom which
was wellnigh unbearable. But Sid's fingers slipped and the bowl dropped
and broke. Tom was in ecstasies. In such ecstasies that he even
controlled his tongue and was silent. He said to himself that he would
not speak a word, even when his aunt came in, but would sit perfectly
still till she asked who did the mischief; and then he would tell, and
there would be nothing so good in the world as to see that pet model
"catch it." He was so brimful of exultation that he could hardly hold
himself when the old lady came back and stood above the wreck
discharging lightnings of wrath from over her spectacles. He said to
himself, "Now it's coming!" And the next instant he was sprawling on
the floor! The potent palm was uplifted to strike again when Tom cried
"Hold on, now, what 'er you belting ME for?--Sid broke it!"
Aunt Polly paused, perplexed, and Tom looked for healing pity. But
when she got her tongue again, she only said:
"Umf! Well, you didn't get a lick amiss, I reckon. You been into some
other audacious mischief when I wasn't around, like enough."
Then her conscience reproached her, and she yearned to say something
kind and loving; but she judged that this would be construed into a
confession that she had been in the wrong, and discipline forbade that.
So she kept silence, and went about her affairs with a troubled heart.
Tom sulked in a corner and exalted his woes. He knew that in her heart
his aunt was on her knees to him, and he was morosely gratified by the
consciousness of it. He would hang out no signals, he would take notice
of none. He knew that a yearning glance fell upon him, now and then,
through a film of tears, but he refused recognition of it. He pictured
himself lying sick unto death and his aunt bending over him beseeching
one little forgiving word, but he would turn his face to the wall, and
die with that word unsaid. Ah, how would she feel then? And he pictured
himself brought home from the river, dead, with his curls all wet, and
his sore heart at rest. How she would throw herself upon him, and how
her tears would fall like rain, and her lips pray God to give her back
her boy and she would never, never abuse him any more! But he would lie
there cold and white and make no sign--a poor little sufferer, whose
griefs were at an end. He so worked upon his feelings with the pathos
of these dreams, that he had to keep swallowing, he was so like to
choke; and his eyes swam in a blur of water, which overflowed when he
winked, and ran down and trickled from the end of his nose. And such a
luxury to him was this petting of his sorrows, that he could not bear
to have any worldly cheeriness or any grating delight intrude upon it;
it was too sacred for such contact; and so, presently, when his cousin
Mary danced in, all alive with the joy of seeing home again after an
age-long visit of one week to the country, he got up and moved in
clouds and darkness out at one door as she brought song and sunshine in
at the other.
He wandered far from the accustomed haunts of boys, and sought
desolate places that were in harmony with his spirit. A log raft in the
river invited him, and he seated himself on its outer edge and
contemplated the dreary vastness of the stream, wishing, the while,
that he could only be drowned, all at once and unconsciously, without
undergoing the uncomfortable routine devised by nature. Then he thought
of his flower. He got it out, rumpled and wilted, and it mightily
increased his dismal felicity. He wondered if she would pity him if she
knew? Would she cry, and wish that she had a right to put her arms
around his neck and comfort him? Or would she turn coldly away like all
the hollow world? This picture brought such an agony of pleasurable
suffering that he worked it over and over again in his mind and set it
up in new and varied lights, till he wore it threadbare. At last he
rose up sighing and departed in the darkness.
About half-past nine or ten o'clock he came along the deserted street
to where the Adored Unknown lived; he paused a moment; no sound fell
upon his listening ear; a candle was casting a dull glow upon the
curtain of a second-story window. Was the sacred presence there? He
climbed the fence, threaded his stealthy way through the plants, till
he stood under that window; he looked up at it long, and with emotion;
then he laid him down on the ground under it, disposing himself upon
his back, with his hands clasped upon his breast and holding his poor
wilted flower. And thus he would die--out in the cold world, with no
shelter over his homeless head, no friendly hand to wipe the
death-damps from his brow, no loving face to bend pityingly over him
when the great agony came. And thus SHE would see him when she looked
out upon the glad morning, and oh! would she drop one little tear upon
his poor, lifeless form, would she heave one little sigh to see a bright
young life so rudely blighted, so untimely cut down?
The window went up, a maid-servant's discordant voice profaned the
holy calm, and a deluge of water drenched the prone martyr's remains!
The strangling hero sprang up with a relieving snort. There was a whiz
as of a missile in the air, mingled with the murmur of a curse, a sound
as of shivering glass followed, and a small, vague form went over the
fence and shot away in the gloom.
Not long after, as Tom, all undressed for bed, was surveying his
drenched garments by the light of a tallow dip, Sid woke up; but if he
had any dim idea of making any "references to allusions," he thought
better of it and held his peace, for there was danger in Tom's eye.
Tom turned in without the added vexation of prayers, and Sid made
mental note of the omission.
THE sun rose upon a tranquil world, and beamed down upon the peaceful
village like a benediction. Breakfast over, Aunt Polly had family
worship: it began with a prayer built from the ground up of solid
courses of Scriptural quotations, welded together with a thin mortar of
originality; and from the summit of this she delivered a grim chapter
of the Mosaic Law, as from Sinai.
Then Tom girded up his loins, so to speak, and went to work to "get
his verses." Sid had learned his lesson days before. Tom bent all his
energies to the memorizing of five verses, and he chose part of the
Sermon on the Mount, because he could find no verses that were shorter.
At the end of half an hour Tom had a vague general idea of his lesson,
but no more, for his mind was traversing the whole field of human
thought, and his hands were busy with distracting recreations. Mary
took his book to hear him recite, and he tried to find his way through
the fog:
"Blessed are the--a--a--"
"Yes--poor; blessed are the poor--a--a--"
"In spirit--"
"In spirit; blessed are the poor in spirit, for they--they--"
"For THEIRS. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom
of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they--they--"
"For they--a--"
"S, H, A--"
"For they S, H--Oh, I don't know what it is!"
"Oh, SHALL! for they shall--for they shall--a--a--shall mourn--a--a--
blessed are they that shall--they that--a--they that shall mourn, for
they shall--a--shall WHAT? Why don't you tell me, Mary?--what do you
want to be so mean for?"
"Oh, Tom, you poor thick-headed thing, I'm not teasing you. I wouldn't
do that. You must go and learn it again. Don't you be discouraged, Tom,
you'll manage it--and if you do, I'll give you something ever so nice.
There, now, that's a good boy."
"All right! What is it, Mary, tell me what it is."
"Never you mind, Tom. You know if I say it's nice, it is nice."
"You bet you that's so, Mary. All right, I'll tackle it again."
And he did "tackle it again"--and under the double pressure of
curiosity and prospective gain he did it with such spirit that he
accomplished a shining success. Mary gave him a brand-new "Barlow"
knife worth twelve and a half cents; and the convulsion of delight that
swept his system shook him to his foundations. True, the knife would
not cut anything, but it was a "sure-enough" Barlow, and there was
inconceivable grandeur in that--though where the Western boys ever got
the idea that such a weapon could possibly be counterfeited to its
injury is an imposing mystery and will always remain so, perhaps. Tom
contrived to scarify the cupboard with it, and was arranging to begin
on the bureau, when he was called off to dress for Sunday-school.
Mary gave him a tin basin of water and a piece of soap, and he went
outside the door and set the basin on a little bench there; then he
dipped the soap in the water and laid it down; turned up his sleeves;
poured out the water on the ground, gently, and then entered the
kitchen and began to wipe his face diligently on the towel behind the
door. But Mary removed the towel and said:
"Now ain't you ashamed, Tom. You mustn't be so bad. Water won't hurt
Tom was a trifle disconcerted. The basin was refilled, and this time
he stood over it a little while, gathering resolution; took in a big
breath and began. When he entered the kitchen presently, with both eyes
shut and groping for the towel with his hands, an honorable testimony
of suds and water was dripping from his face. But when he emerged from
the towel, he was not yet satisfactory, for the clean territory stopped
short at his chin and his jaws, like a mask; below and beyond this line
there was a dark expanse of unirrigated soil that spread downward in
front and backward around his neck. Mary took him in hand, and when she
was done with him he was a man and a brother, without distinction of
color, and his saturated hair was neatly brushed, and its short curls
wrought into a dainty and symmetrical general effect. [He privately
smoothed out the curls, with labor and difficulty, and plastered his
hair close down to his head; for he held curls to be effeminate, and
his own filled his life with bitterness.] Then Mary got out a suit of
his clothing that had been used only on Sundays during two years--they
were simply called his "other clothes"--and so by that we know the
size of his wardrobe. The girl "put him to rights" after he had dressed
himself; she buttoned his neat roundabout up to his chin, turned his
vast shirt collar down over his shoulders, brushed him off and crowned
him with his speckled straw hat. He now looked exceedingly improved and
uncomfortable. He was fully as uncomfortable as he looked; for there
was a restraint about whole clothes and cleanliness that galled him. He
hoped that Mary would forget his shoes, but the hope was blighted; she
coated them thoroughly with tallow, as was the custom, and brought them
out. He lost his temper and said he was always being made to do
everything he didn't want to do. But Mary said, persuasively:
"Please, Tom--that's a good boy."
So he got into the shoes snarling. Mary was soon ready, and the three
children set out for Sunday-school--a place that Tom hated with his
whole heart; but Sid and Mary were fond of it.
Sabbath-school hours were from nine to half-past ten; and then church
service. Two of the children always remained for the sermon
voluntarily, and the other always remained too--for stronger reasons.
The church's high-backed, uncushioned pews would seat about three
hundred persons; the edifice was but a small, plain affair, with a sort
of pine board tree-box on top of it for a steeple. At the door Tom
dropped back a step and accosted a Sunday-dressed comrade:
"Say, Billy, got a yaller ticket?"
"What'll you take for her?"
"What'll you give?"
"Piece of lickrish and a fish-hook."
"Less see 'em."
Tom exhibited. They were satisfactory, and the property changed hands.
Then Tom traded a couple of white alleys for three red tickets, and
some small trifle or other for a couple of blue ones. He waylaid other
boys as they came, and went on buying tickets of various colors ten or
fifteen minutes longer. He entered the church, now, with a swarm of
clean and noisy boys and girls, proceeded to his seat and started a
quarrel with the first boy that came handy. The teacher, a grave,
elderly man, interfered; then turned his back a moment and Tom pulled a
boy's hair in the next bench, and was absorbed in his book when the boy
turned around; stuck a pin in another boy, presently, in order to hear
him say "Ouch!" and got a new reprimand from his teacher. Tom's whole
class were of a pattern--restless, noisy, and troublesome. When they
came to recite their lessons, not one of them knew his verses
perfectly, but had to be prompted all along. However, they worried
through, and each got his reward--in small blue tickets, each with a
passage of Scripture on it; each blue ticket was pay for two verses of
the recitation. Ten blue tickets equalled a red one, and could be
exchanged for it; ten red tickets equalled a yellow one; for ten yellow
tickets the superintendent gave a very plainly bound Bible (worth forty
cents in those easy times) to the pupil. How many of my readers would
have the industry and application to memorize two thousand verses, even
for a Dore Bible? And yet Mary had acquired two Bibles in this way--it
was the patient work of two years--and a boy of German parentage had
won four or five. He once recited three thousand verses without
stopping; but the strain upon his mental faculties was too great, and
he was little better than an idiot from that day forth--a grievous
misfortune for the school, for on great occasions, before company, the
superintendent (as Tom expressed it) had always made this boy come out
and "spread himself." Only the older pupils managed to keep their
tickets and stick to their tedious work long enough to get a Bible, and
so the delivery of one of these prizes was a rare and noteworthy
circumstance; the successful pupil was so great and conspicuous for
that day that on the spot every scholar's heart was fired with a fresh
ambition that often lasted a couple of weeks. It is possible that Tom's
mental stomach had never really hungered for one of those prizes, but
unquestionably his entire being had for many a day longed for the glory
and the eclat that came with it.
In due course the superintendent stood up in front of the pulpit, with
a closed hymn-book in his hand and his forefinger inserted between its
leaves, and commanded attention. When a Sunday-school superintendent
makes his customary little speech, a hymn-book in the hand is as
necessary as is the inevitable sheet of music in the hand of a singer
who stands forward on the platform and sings a solo at a concert
--though why, is a mystery: for neither the hymn-book nor the sheet of
music is ever referred to by the sufferer. This superintendent was a
slim creature of thirty-five, with a sandy goatee and short sandy hair;
he wore a stiff standing-collar whose upper edge almost reached his
ears and whose sharp points curved forward abreast the corners of his
mouth--a fence that compelled a straight lookout ahead, and a turning
of the whole body when a side view was required; his chin was propped
on a spreading cravat which was as broad and as long as a bank-note,
and had fringed ends; his boot toes were turned sharply up, in the
fashion of the day, like sleigh-runners--an effect patiently and
laboriously produced by the young men by sitting with their toes
pressed against a wall for hours together. Mr. Walters was very earnest
of mien, and very sincere and honest at heart; and he held sacred
things and places in such reverence, and so separated them from worldly
matters, that unconsciously to himself his Sunday-school voice had
acquired a peculiar intonation which was wholly absent on week-days. He
began after this fashion:
"Now, children, I want you all to sit up just as straight and pretty
as you can and give me all your attention for a minute or two. There
--that is it. That is the way good little boys and girls should do. I see
one little girl who is looking out of the window--I am afraid she
thinks I am out there somewhere--perhaps up in one of the trees making
a speech to the little birds. [Applausive titter.] I want to tell you
how good it makes me feel to see so many bright, clean little faces
assembled in a place like this, learning to do right and be good." And
so forth and so on. It is not necessary to set down the rest of the
oration. It was of a pattern which does not vary, and so it is familiar
to us all.
The latter third of the speech was marred by the resumption of fights
and other recreations among certain of the bad boys, and by fidgetings
and whisperings that extended far and wide, washing even to the bases
of isolated and incorruptible rocks like Sid and Mary. But now every
sound ceased suddenly, with the subsidence of Mr. Walters' voice, and
the conclusion of the speech was received with a burst of silent
A good part of the whispering had been occasioned by an event which
was more or less rare--the entrance of visitors: lawyer Thatcher,
accompanied by a very feeble and aged man; a fine, portly, middle-aged
gentleman with iron-gray hair; and a dignified lady who was doubtless
the latter's wife. The lady was leading a child. Tom had been restless
and full of chafings and repinings; conscience-smitten, too--he could
not meet Amy Lawrence's eye, he could not brook her loving gaze. But
when he saw this small new-comer his soul was all ablaze with bliss in
a moment. The next moment he was "showing off" with all his might
--cuffing boys, pulling hair, making faces--in a word, using every art
that seemed likely to fascinate a girl and win her applause. His
exaltation had but one alloy--the memory of his humiliation in this
angel's garden--and that record in sand was fast washing out, under
the waves of happiness that were sweeping over it now.
The visitors were given the highest seat of honor, and as soon as Mr.
Walters' speech was finished, he introduced them to the school. The
middle-aged man turned out to be a prodigious personage--no less a one
than the county judge--altogether the most august creation these
children had ever looked upon--and they wondered what kind of material
he was made of--and they half wanted to hear him roar, and were half
afraid he might, too. He was from Constantinople, twelve miles away--so
he had travelled, and seen the world--these very eyes had looked upon
the county court-house--which was said to have a tin roof. The awe
which these reflections inspired was attested by the impressive silence
and the ranks of staring eyes. This was the great Judge Thatcher,
brother of their own lawyer. Jeff Thatcher immediately went forward, to
be familiar with the great man and be envied by the school. It would
have been music to his soul to hear the whisperings:
"Look at him, Jim! He's a going up there. Say--look! he's a going to
shake hands with him--he IS shaking hands with him! By jings, don't you
wish you was Jeff?"
Mr. Walters fell to "showing off," with all sorts of official
bustlings and activities, giving orders, delivering judgments,
discharging directions here, there, everywhere that he could find a
target. The librarian "showed off"--running hither and thither with his
arms full of books and making a deal of the splutter and fuss that
insect authority delights in. The young lady teachers "showed off"
--bending sweetly over pupils that were lately being boxed, lifting
pretty warning fingers at bad little boys and patting good ones
lovingly. The young gentlemen teachers "showed off" with small
scoldings and other little displays of authority and fine attention to
discipline--and most of the teachers, of both sexes, found business up
at the library, by the pulpit; and it was business that frequently had
to be done over again two or three times (with much seeming vexation).
The little girls "showed off" in various ways, and the little boys
"showed off" with such diligence that the air was thick with paper wads
and the murmur of scufflings. And above it all the great man sat and
beamed a majestic judicial smile upon all the house, and warmed himself
in the sun of his own grandeur--for he was "showing off," too.
There was only one thing wanting to make Mr. Walters' ecstasy
complete, and that was a chance to deliver a Bible-prize and exhibit a
prodigy. Several pupils had a few yellow tickets, but none had enough
--he had been around among the star pupils inquiring. He would have given
worlds, now, to have that German lad back again with a sound mind.
And now at this moment, when hope was dead, Tom Sawyer came forward
with nine yellow tickets, nine red tickets, and ten blue ones, and
demanded a Bible. This was a thunderbolt out of a clear sky. Walters
was not expecting an application from this source for the next ten
years. But there was no getting around it--here were the certified
checks, and they were good for their face. Tom was therefore elevated
to a place with the Judge and the other elect, and the great news was
announced from headquarters. It was the most stunning surprise of the
decade, and so profound was the sensation that it lifted the new hero
up to the judicial one's altitude, and the school had two marvels to
gaze upon in place of one. The boys were all eaten up with envy--but
those that suffered the bitterest pangs were those who perceived too
late that they themselves had contributed to this hated splendor by
trading tickets to Tom for the wealth he had amassed in selling
whitewashing privileges. These despised themselves, as being the dupes
of a wily fraud, a guileful snake in the grass.
The prize was delivered to Tom with as much effusion as the
superintendent could pump up under the circumstances; but it lacked
somewhat of the true gush, for the poor fellow's instinct taught him
that there was a mystery here that could not well bear the light,
perhaps; it was simply preposterous that this boy had warehoused two
thousand sheaves of Scriptural wisdom on his premises--a dozen would
strain his capacity, without a doubt.
Amy Lawrence was proud and glad, and she tried to make Tom see it in
her face--but he wouldn't look. She wondered; then she was just a grain
troubled; next a dim suspicion came and went--came again; she watched;
a furtive glance told her worlds--and then her heart broke, and she was
jealous, and angry, and the tears came and she hated everybody. Tom
most of all (she thought).
Tom was introduced to the Judge; but his tongue was tied, his breath
would hardly come, his heart quaked--partly because of the awful
greatness of the man, but mainly because he was her parent. He would
have liked to fall down and worship him, if it were in the dark. The
Judge put his hand on Tom's head and called him a fine little man, and
asked him what his name was. The boy stammered, gasped, and got it out:
"Oh, no, not Tom--it is--"
"Ah, that's it. I thought there was more to it, maybe. That's very
well. But you've another one I daresay, and you'll tell it to me, won't
"Tell the gentleman your other name, Thomas," said Walters, "and say
sir. You mustn't forget your manners."
"Thomas Sawyer--sir."
"That's it! That's a good boy. Fine boy. Fine, manly little fellow.
Two thousand verses is a great many--very, very great many. And you
never can be sorry for the trouble you took to learn them; for
knowledge is worth more than anything there is in the world; it's what
makes great men and good men; you'll be a great man and a good man
yourself, some day, Thomas, and then you'll look back and say, It's all
owing to the precious Sunday-school privileges of my boyhood--it's all
owing to my dear teachers that taught me to learn--it's all owing to
the good superintendent, who encouraged me, and watched over me, and
gave me a beautiful Bible--a splendid elegant Bible--to keep and have
it all for my own, always--it's all owing to right bringing up! That is
what you will say, Thomas--and you wouldn't take any money for those
two thousand verses--no indeed you wouldn't. And now you wouldn't mind
telling me and this lady some of the things you've learned--no, I know
you wouldn't--for we are proud of little boys that learn. Now, no
doubt you know the names of all the twelve disciples. Won't you tell us
the names of the first two that were appointed?"
Tom was tugging at a button-hole and looking sheepish. He blushed,
now, and his eyes fell. Mr. Walters' heart sank within him. He said to
himself, it is not possible that the boy can answer the simplest
question--why DID the Judge ask him? Yet he felt obliged to speak up
and say:
"Answer the gentleman, Thomas--don't be afraid."
Tom still hung fire.
"Now I know you'll tell me," said the lady. "The names of the first
two disciples were--"
Let us draw the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene.
ABOUT half-past ten the cracked bell of the small church began to
ring, and presently the people began to gather for the morning sermon.
The Sunday-school children distributed themselves about the house and
occupied pews with their parents, so as to be under supervision. Aunt
Polly came, and Tom and Sid and Mary sat with her--Tom being placed
next the aisle, in order that he might be as far away from the open
window and the seductive outside summer scenes as possible. The crowd
filed up the aisles: the aged and needy postmaster, who had seen better
days; the mayor and his wife--for they had a mayor there, among other
unnecessaries; the justice of the peace; the widow Douglass, fair,
smart, and forty, a generous, good-hearted soul and well-to-do, her
hill mansion the only palace in the town, and the most hospitable and
much the most lavish in the matter of festivities that St. Petersburg
could boast; the bent and venerable Major and Mrs. Ward; lawyer
Riverson, the new notable from a distance; next the belle of the
village, followed by a troop of lawn-clad and ribbon-decked young
heart-breakers; then all the young clerks in town in a body--for they
had stood in the vestibule sucking their cane-heads, a circling wall of
oiled and simpering admirers, till the last girl had run their gantlet;
and last of all came the Model Boy, Willie Mufferson, taking as heedful
care of his mother as if she were cut glass. He always brought his
mother to church, and was the pride of all the matrons. The boys all
hated him, he was so good. And besides, he had been "thrown up to them"
so much. His white handkerchief was hanging out of his pocket behind, as
usual on Sundays--accidentally. Tom had no handkerchief, and he looked
upon boys who had as snobs.
The congregation being fully assembled, now, the bell rang once more,
to warn laggards and stragglers, and then a solemn hush fell upon the
church which was only broken by the tittering and whispering of the
choir in the gallery. The choir always tittered and whispered all
through service. There was once a church choir that was not ill-bred,
but I have forgotten where it was, now. It was a great many years ago,
and I can scarcely remember anything about it, but I think it was in
some foreign country.
The minister gave out the hymn, and read it through with a relish, in
a peculiar style which was much admired in that part of the country.
His voice began on a medium key and climbed steadily up till it reached
a certain point, where it bore with strong emphasis upon the topmost
word and then plunged down as if from a spring-board:
Shall I be car-ri-ed toe the skies, on flow'ry BEDS of ease,
Whilst others fight to win the prize, and sail thro' BLOODY seas?
He was regarded as a wonderful reader. At church "sociables" he was
always called upon to read poetry; and when he was through, the ladies
would lift up their hands and let them fall helplessly in their laps,
and "wall" their eyes, and shake their heads, as much as to say, "Words
cannot express it; it is too beautiful, TOO beautiful for this mortal
After the hymn had been sung, the Rev. Mr. Sprague turned himself into
a bulletin-board, and read off "notices" of meetings and societies and
things till it seemed that the list would stretch out to the crack of
doom--a queer custom which is still kept up in America, even in cities,
away here in this age of abundant newspapers. Often, the less there is
to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.
And now the minister prayed. A good, generous prayer it was, and went
into details: it pleaded for the church, and the little children of the
church; for the other churches of the village; for the village itself;
for the county; for the State; for the State officers; for the United
States; for the churches of the United States; for Congress; for the
President; for the officers of the Government; for poor sailors, tossed
by stormy seas; for the oppressed millions groaning under the heel of
European monarchies and Oriental despotisms; for such as have the light
and the good tidings, and yet have not eyes to see nor ears to hear
withal; for the heathen in the far islands of the sea; and closed with
a supplication that the words he was about to speak might find grace
and favor, and be as seed sown in fertile ground, yielding in time a
grateful harvest of good. Amen.
There was a rustling of dresses, and the standing congregation sat
down. The boy whose history this book relates did not enjoy the prayer,
he only endured it--if he even did that much. He was restive all
through it; he kept tally of the details of the prayer, unconsciously
--for he was not listening, but he knew the ground of old, and the
clergyman's regular route over it--and when a little trifle of new
matter was interlarded, his ear detected it and his whole nature
resented it; he considered additions unfair, and scoundrelly. In the
midst of the prayer a fly had lit on the back of the pew in front of
him and tortured his spirit by calmly rubbing its hands together,
embracing its head with its arms, and polishing it so vigorously that
it seemed to almost part company with the body, and the slender thread
of a neck was exposed to view; scraping its wings with its hind legs
and smoothing them to its body as if they had been coat-tails; going
through its whole toilet as tranquilly as if it knew it was perfectly
safe. As indeed it was; for as sorely as Tom's hands itched to grab for
it they did not dare--he believed his soul would be instantly destroyed
if he did such a thing while the prayer was going on. But with the
closing sentence his hand began to curve and steal forward; and the
instant the "Amen" was out the fly was a prisoner of war. His aunt
detected the act and made him let it go.
The minister gave out his text and droned along monotonously through
an argument that was so prosy that many a head by and by began to nod
--and yet it was an argument that dealt in limitless fire and brimstone
and thinned the predestined elect down to a company so small as to be
hardly worth the saving. Tom counted the pages of the sermon; after
church he always knew how many pages there had been, but he seldom knew
anything else about the discourse. However, this time he was really
interested for a little while. The minister made a grand and moving
picture of the assembling together of the world's hosts at the
millennium when the lion and the lamb should lie down together and a
little child should lead them. But the pathos, the lesson, the moral of
the great spectacle were lost upon the boy; he only thought of the
conspicuousness of the principal character before the on-looking
nations; his face lit with the thought, and he said to himself that he
wished he could be that child, if it was a tame lion.
Now he lapsed into suffering again, as the dry argument was resumed.
Presently he bethought him of a treasure he had and got it out. It was
a large black beetle with formidable jaws--a "pinchbug," he called it.
It was in a percussion-cap box. The first thing the beetle did was to
take him by the finger. A natural fillip followed, the beetle went
floundering into the aisle and lit on its back, and the hurt finger
went into the boy's mouth. The beetle lay there working its helpless
legs, unable to turn over. Tom eyed it, and longed for it; but it was
safe out of his reach. Other people uninterested in the sermon found
relief in the beetle, and they eyed it too. Presently a vagrant poodle
dog came idling along, sad at heart, lazy with the summer softness and
the quiet, weary of captivity, sighing for change. He spied the beetle;
the drooping tail lifted and wagged. He surveyed the prize; walked
around it; smelt at it from a safe distance; walked around it again;
grew bolder, and took a closer smell; then lifted his lip and made a
gingerly snatch at it, just missing it; made another, and another;
began to enjoy the diversion; subsided to his stomach with the beetle
between his paws, and continued his experiments; grew weary at last,
and then indifferent and absent-minded. His head nodded, and little by
little his chin descended and touched the enemy, who seized it. There
was a sharp yelp, a flirt of the poodle's head, and the beetle fell a
couple of yards away, and lit on its back once more. The neighboring
spectators shook with a gentle inward joy, several faces went behind
fans and handkerchiefs, and Tom was entirely happy. The dog looked
foolish, and probably felt so; but there was resentment in his heart,
too, and a craving for revenge. So he went to the beetle and began a
wary attack on it again; jumping at it from every point of a circle,
lighting with his fore-paws within an inch of the creature, making even
closer snatches at it with his teeth, and jerking his head till his
ears flapped again. But he grew tired once more, after a while; tried
to amuse himself with a fly but found no relief; followed an ant
around, with his nose close to the floor, and quickly wearied of that;
yawned, sighed, forgot the beetle entirely, and sat down on it. Then
there was a wild yelp of agony and the poodle went sailing up the
aisle; the yelps continued, and so did the dog; he crossed the house in
front of the altar; he flew down the other aisle; he crossed before the
doors; he clamored up the home-stretch; his anguish grew with his
progress, till presently he was but a woolly comet moving in its orbit
with the gleam and the speed of light. At last the frantic sufferer
sheered from its course, and sprang into its master's lap; he flung it
out of the window, and the voice of distress quickly thinned away and
died in the distance.
By this time the whole church was red-faced and suffocating with
suppressed laughter, and the sermon had come to a dead standstill. The
discourse was resumed presently, but it went lame and halting, all
possibility of impressiveness being at an end; for even the gravest
sentiments were constantly being received with a smothered burst of
unholy mirth, under cover of some remote pew-back, as if the poor
parson had said a rarely facetious thing. It was a genuine relief to
the whole congregation when the ordeal was over and the benediction
Tom Sawyer went home quite cheerful, thinking to himself that there
was some satisfaction about divine service when there was a bit of
variety in it. He had but one marring thought; he was willing that the
dog should play with his pinchbug, but he did not think it was upright
in him to carry it off.
MONDAY morning found Tom Sawyer miserable. Monday morning always found
him so--because it began another week's slow suffering in school. He
generally began that day with wishing he had had no intervening
holiday, it made the going into captivity and fetters again so much
more odious.
Tom lay thinking. Presently it occurred to him that he wished he was
sick; then he could stay home from school. Here was a vague
possibility. He canvassed his system. No ailment was found, and he
investigated again. This time he thought he could detect colicky
symptoms, and he began to encourage them with considerable hope. But
they soon grew feeble, and presently died wholly away. He reflected
further. Suddenly he discovered something. One of his upper front teeth
was loose. This was lucky; he was about to begin to groan, as a
"starter," as he called it, when it occurred to him that if he came
into court with that argument, his aunt would pull it out, and that
would hurt. So he thought he would hold the tooth in reserve for the
present, and seek further. Nothing offered for some little time, and
then he remembered hearing the doctor tell about a certain thing that
laid up a patient for two or three weeks and threatened to make him
lose a finger. So the boy eagerly drew his sore toe from under the
sheet and held it up for inspection. But now he did not know the
necessary symptoms. However, it seemed well worth while to chance it,
so he fell to groaning with considerable spirit.
But Sid slept on unconscious.
Tom groaned louder, and fancied that he began to feel pain in the toe.
No result from Sid.
Tom was panting with his exertions by this time. He took a rest and
then swelled himself up and fetched a succession of admirable groans.
Sid snored on.
Tom was aggravated. He said, "Sid, Sid!" and shook him. This course
worked well, and Tom began to groan again. Sid yawned, stretched, then
brought himself up on his elbow with a snort, and began to stare at
Tom. Tom went on groaning. Sid said:
"Tom! Say, Tom!" [No response.] "Here, Tom! TOM! What is the matter,
Tom?" And he shook him and looked in his face anxiously.
Tom moaned out:
"Oh, don't, Sid. Don't joggle me."
"Why, what's the matter, Tom? I must call auntie."
"No--never mind. It'll be over by and by, maybe. Don't call anybody."
"But I must! DON'T groan so, Tom, it's awful. How long you been this
"Hours. Ouch! Oh, don't stir so, Sid, you'll kill me."
"Tom, why didn't you wake me sooner? Oh, Tom, DON'T! It makes my
flesh crawl to hear you. Tom, what is the matter?"
"I forgive you everything, Sid. [Groan.] Everything you've ever done
to me. When I'm gone--"
"Oh, Tom, you ain't dying, are you? Don't, Tom--oh, don't. Maybe--"
"I forgive everybody, Sid. [Groan.] Tell 'em so, Sid. And Sid, you
give my window-sash and my cat with one eye to that new girl that's
come to town, and tell her--"
But Sid had snatched his clothes and gone. Tom was suffering in
reality, now, so handsomely was his imagination working, and so his
groans had gathered quite a genuine tone.
Sid flew down-stairs and said:
"Oh, Aunt Polly, come! Tom's dying!"
"Yes'm. Don't wait--come quick!"
"Rubbage! I don't believe it!"
But she fled up-stairs, nevertheless, with Sid and Mary at her heels.
And her face grew white, too, and her lip trembled. When she reached
the bedside she gasped out:
"You, Tom! Tom, what's the matter with you?"
"Oh, auntie, I'm--"
"What's the matter with you--what is the matter with you, child?"
"Oh, auntie, my sore toe's mortified!"
The old lady sank down into a chair and laughed a little, then cried a
little, then did both together. This restored her and she said:
"Tom, what a turn you did give me. Now you shut up that nonsense and
climb out of this."
The groans ceased and the pain vanished from the toe. The boy felt a
little foolish, and he said:
"Aunt Polly, it SEEMED mortified, and it hurt so I never minded my
tooth at all."
"Your tooth, indeed! What's the matter with your tooth?"
"One of them's loose, and it aches perfectly awful."
"There, there, now, don't begin that groaning again. Open your mouth.
Well--your tooth IS loose, but you're not going to die about that.
Mary, get me a silk thread, and a chunk of fire out of the kitchen."
Tom said:
"Oh, please, auntie, don't pull it out. It don't hurt any more. I wish
I may never stir if it does. Please don't, auntie. I don't want to stay
home from school."
"Oh, you don't, don't you? So all this row was because you thought
you'd get to stay home from school and go a-fishing? Tom, Tom, I love
you so, and you seem to try every way you can to break my old heart
with your outrageousness." By this time the dental instruments were
ready. The old lady made one end of the silk thread fast to Tom's tooth
with a loop and tied the other to the bedpost. Then she seized the
chunk of fire and suddenly thrust it almost into the boy's face. The
tooth hung dangling by the bedpost, now.
But all trials bring their compensations. As Tom wended to school
after breakfast, he was the envy of every boy he met because the gap in
his upper row of teeth enabled him to expectorate in a new and
admirable way. He gathered quite a following of lads interested in the
exhibition; and one that had cut his finger and had been a centre of
fascination and homage up to this time, now found himself suddenly
without an adherent, and shorn of his glory. His heart was heavy, and
he said with a disdain which he did not feel that it wasn't anything to
spit like Tom Sawyer; but another boy said, "Sour grapes!" and he
wandered away a dismantled hero.
Shortly Tom came upon the juvenile pariah of the village, Huckleberry
Finn, son of the town drunkard. Huckleberry was cordially hated and
dreaded by all the mothers of the town, because he was idle and lawless
and vulgar and bad--and because all their children admired him so, and
delighted in his forbidden society, and wished they dared to be like
him. Tom was like the rest of the respectable boys, in that he envied
Huckleberry his gaudy outcast condition, and was under strict orders
not to play with him. So he played with him every time he got a chance.
Huckleberry was always dressed in the cast-off clothes of full-grown
men, and they were in perennial bloom and fluttering with rags. His hat
was a vast ruin with a wide crescent lopped out of its brim; his coat,
when he wore one, hung nearly to his heels and had the rearward buttons
far down the back; but one suspender supported his trousers; the seat
of the trousers bagged low and contained nothing, the fringed legs
dragged in the dirt when not rolled up.
Huckleberry came and went, at his own free will. He slept on doorsteps
in fine weather and in empty hogsheads in wet; he did not have to go to
school or to church, or call any being master or obey anybody; he could
go fishing or swimming when and where he chose, and stay as long as it
suited him; nobody forbade him to fight; he could sit up as late as he
pleased; he was always the first boy that went barefoot in the spring
and the last to resume leather in the fall; he never had to wash, nor
put on clean clothes; he could swear wonderfully. In a word, everything
that goes to make life precious that boy had. So thought every
harassed, hampered, respectable boy in St. Petersburg.
Tom hailed the romantic outcast:
"Hello, Huckleberry!"
"Hello yourself, and see how you like it."
"What's that you got?"
"Dead cat."
"Lemme see him, Huck. My, he's pretty stiff. Where'd you get him?"
"Bought him off'n a boy."
"What did you give?"
"I give a blue ticket and a bladder that I got at the slaughter-house."
"Where'd you get the blue ticket?"
"Bought it off'n Ben Rogers two weeks ago for a hoop-stick."
"Say--what is dead cats good for, Huck?"
"Good for? Cure warts with."
"No! Is that so? I know something that's better."
"I bet you don't. What is it?"
"Why, spunk-water."
"Spunk-water! I wouldn't give a dern for spunk-water."
"You wouldn't, wouldn't you? D'you ever try it?"
"No, I hain't. But Bob Tanner did."
"Who told you so!"
"Why, he told Jeff Thatcher, and Jeff told Johnny Baker, and Johnny
told Jim Hollis, and Jim told Ben Rogers, and Ben told a nigger, and
the nigger told me. There now!"
"Well, what of it? They'll all lie. Leastways all but the nigger. I
don't know HIM. But I never see a nigger that WOULDN'T lie. Shucks! Now
you tell me how Bob Tanner done it, Huck."
"Why, he took and dipped his hand in a rotten stump where the
rain-water was."
"In the daytime?"
"With his face to the stump?"
"Yes. Least I reckon so."
"Did he say anything?"
"I don't reckon he did. I don't know."
"Aha! Talk about trying to cure warts with spunk-water such a blame
fool way as that! Why, that ain't a-going to do any good. You got to go
all by yourself, to the middle of the woods, where you know there's a
spunk-water stump, and just as it's midnight you back up against the
stump and jam your hand in and say:
'Barley-corn, barley-corn, injun-meal shorts,
Spunk-water, spunk-water, swaller these warts,'
and then walk away quick, eleven steps, with your eyes shut, and then
turn around three times and walk home without speaking to anybody.
Because if you speak the charm's busted."
"Well, that sounds like a good way; but that ain't the way Bob Tanner
"No, sir, you can bet he didn't, becuz he's the wartiest boy in this
town; and he wouldn't have a wart on him if he'd knowed how to work
spunk-water. I've took off thousands of warts off of my hands that way,
Huck. I play with frogs so much that I've always got considerable many
warts. Sometimes I take 'em off with a bean."
"Yes, bean's good. I've done that."
"Have you? What's your way?"
"You take and split the bean, and cut the wart so as to get some
blood, and then you put the blood on one piece of the bean and take and
dig a hole and bury it 'bout midnight at the crossroads in the dark of
the moon, and then you burn up the rest of the bean. You see that piece
that's got the blood on it will keep drawing and drawing, trying to
fetch the other piece to it, and so that helps the blood to draw the
wart, and pretty soon off she comes."
"Yes, that's it, Huck--that's it; though when you're burying it if you
say 'Down bean; off wart; come no more to bother me!' it's better.
That's the way Joe Harper does, and he's been nearly to Coonville and
most everywheres. But say--how do you cure 'em with dead cats?"
"Why, you take your cat and go and get in the graveyard 'long about
midnight when somebody that was wicked has been buried; and when it's
midnight a devil will come, or maybe two or three, but you can't see
'em, you can only hear something like the wind, or maybe hear 'em talk;
and when they're taking that feller away, you heave your cat after 'em
and say, 'Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow cat, I'm
done with ye!' That'll fetch ANY wart."
"Sounds right. D'you ever try it, Huck?"
"No, but old Mother Hopkins told me."
"Well, I reckon it's so, then. Becuz they say she's a witch."
"Say! Why, Tom, I KNOW she is. She witched pap. Pap says so his own
self. He come along one day, and he see she was a-witching him, so he
took up a rock, and if she hadn't dodged, he'd a got her. Well, that
very night he rolled off'n a shed wher' he was a layin drunk, and broke
his arm."
"Why, that's awful. How did he know she was a-witching him?"
"Lord, pap can tell, easy. Pap says when they keep looking at you
right stiddy, they're a-witching you. Specially if they mumble. Becuz
when they mumble they're saying the Lord's Prayer backards."
"Say, Hucky, when you going to try the cat?"
"To-night. I reckon they'll come after old Hoss Williams to-night."
"But they buried him Saturday. Didn't they get him Saturday night?"
"Why, how you talk! How could their charms work till midnight?--and
THEN it's Sunday. Devils don't slosh around much of a Sunday, I don't
"I never thought of that. That's so. Lemme go with you?"
"Of course--if you ain't afeard."
"Afeard! 'Tain't likely. Will you meow?"
"Yes--and you meow back, if you get a chance. Last time, you kep' me
a-meowing around till old Hays went to throwing rocks at me and says
'Dern that cat!' and so I hove a brick through his window--but don't
you tell."
"I won't. I couldn't meow that night, becuz auntie was watching me,
but I'll meow this time. Say--what's that?"
"Nothing but a tick."
"Where'd you get him?"
"Out in the woods."
"What'll you take for him?"
"I don't know. I don't want to sell him."
"All right. It's a mighty small tick, anyway."
"Oh, anybody can run a tick down that don't belong to them. I'm
satisfied with it. It's a good enough tick for me."
"Sho, there's ticks a plenty. I could have a thousand of 'em if I
wanted to."
"Well, why don't you? Becuz you know mighty well you can't. This is a
pretty early tick, I reckon. It's the first one I've seen this year."
"Say, Huck--I'll give you my tooth for him."
"Less see it."
Tom got out a bit of paper and carefully unrolled it. Huckleberry
viewed it wistfully. The temptation was very strong. At last he said:
"Is it genuwyne?"
Tom lifted his lip and showed the vacancy.
"Well, all right," said Huckleberry, "it's a trade."
Tom enclosed the tick in the percussion-cap box that had lately been
the pinchbug's prison, and the boys separated, each feeling wealthier
than before.
When Tom reached the little isolated frame schoolhouse, he strode in
briskly, with the manner of one who had come with all honest speed.
He hung his hat on a peg and flung himself into his seat with
business-like alacrity. The master, throned on high in his great
splint-bottom arm-chair, was dozing, lulled by the drowsy hum of study.
The interruption roused him.
"Thomas Sawyer!"
Tom knew that when his name was pronounced in full, it meant trouble.
"Come up here. Now, sir, why are you late again, as usual?"
Tom was about to take refuge in a lie, when he saw two long tails of
yellow hair hanging down a back that he recognized by the electric
sympathy of love; and by that form was THE ONLY VACANT PLACE on the
girls' side of the schoolhouse. He instantly said:
The master's pulse stood still, and he stared helplessly. The buzz of
study ceased. The pupils wondered if this foolhardy boy had lost his
mind. The master said:
"You--you did what?"
"Stopped to talk with Huckleberry Finn."
There was no mistaking the words.
"Thomas Sawyer, this is the most astounding confession I have ever
listened to. No mere ferule will answer for this offence. Take off your
The master's arm performed until it was tired and the stock of
switches notably diminished. Then the order followed:
"Now, sir, go and sit with the girls! And let this be a warning to you."
The titter that rippled around the room appeared to abash the boy, but
in reality that result was caused rather more by his worshipful awe of
his unknown idol and the dread pleasure that lay in his high good
fortune. He sat down upon the end of the pine bench and the girl
hitched herself away from him with a toss of her head. Nudges and winks
and whispers traversed the room, but Tom sat still, with his arms upon
the long, low desk before him, and seemed to study his book.
By and by attention ceased from him, and the accustomed school murmur
rose upon the dull air once more. Presently the boy began to steal
furtive glances at the girl. She observed it, "made a mouth" at him and
gave him the back of her head for the space of a minute. When she
cautiously faced around again, a peach lay before her. She thrust it
away. Tom gently put it back. She thrust it away again, but with less
animosity. Tom patiently returned it to its place. Then she let it
remain. Tom scrawled on his slate, "Please take it--I got more." The
girl glanced at the words, but made no sign. Now the boy began to draw
something on the slate, hiding his work with his left hand. For a time
the girl refused to notice; but her human curiosity presently began to
manifest itself by hardly perceptible signs. The boy worked on,
apparently unconscious. The girl made a sort of noncommittal attempt to
see, but the boy did not betray that he was aware of it. At last she
gave in and hesitatingly whispered:
"Let me see it."
Tom partly uncovered a dismal caricature of a house with two gable
ends to it and a corkscrew of smoke issuing from the chimney. Then the
girl's interest began to fasten itself upon the work and she forgot
everything else. When it was finished, she gazed a moment, then
"It's nice--make a man."
The artist erected a man in the front yard, that resembled a derrick.
He could have stepped over the house; but the girl was not
hypercritical; she was satisfied with the monster, and whispered:
"It's a beautiful man--now make me coming along."
Tom drew an hour-glass with a full moon and straw limbs to it and
armed the spreading fingers with a portentous fan. The girl said:
"It's ever so nice--I wish I could draw."
"It's easy," whispered Tom, "I'll learn you."
"Oh, will you? When?"
"At noon. Do you go home to dinner?"
"I'll stay if you will."
"Good--that's a whack. What's your name?"
"Becky Thatcher. What's yours? Oh, I know. It's Thomas Sawyer."
"That's the name they lick me by. I'm Tom when I'm good. You call me
Tom, will you?"
Now Tom began to scrawl something on the slate, hiding the words from
the girl. But she was not backward this time. She begged to see. Tom
"Oh, it ain't anything."
"Yes it is."
"No it ain't. You don't want to see."
"Yes I do, indeed I do. Please let me."
"You'll tell."
"No I won't--deed and deed and double deed won't."
"You won't tell anybody at all? Ever, as long as you live?"
"No, I won't ever tell ANYbody. Now let me."
"Oh, YOU don't want to see!"
"Now that you treat me so, I WILL see." And she put her small hand
upon his and a little scuffle ensued, Tom pretending to resist in
earnest but letting his hand slip by degrees till these words were
revealed: "I LOVE YOU."
"Oh, you bad thing!" And she hit his hand a smart rap, but reddened
and looked pleased, nevertheless.
Just at this juncture the boy felt a slow, fateful grip closing on his
ear, and a steady lifting impulse. In that wise he was borne across the
house and deposited in his own seat, under a peppering fire of giggles
from the whole school. Then the master stood over him during a few
awful moments, and finally moved away to his throne without saying a
word. But although Tom's ear tingled, his heart was jubilant.
As the school quieted down Tom made an honest effort to study, but the
turmoil within him was too great. In turn he took his place in the
reading class and made a botch of it; then in the geography class and
turned lakes into mountains, mountains into rivers, and rivers into
continents, till chaos was come again; then in the spelling class, and
got "turned down," by a succession of mere baby words, till he brought
up at the foot and yielded up the pewter medal which he had worn with
ostentation for months.
THE harder Tom tried to fasten his mind on his book, the more his
ideas wandered. So at last, with a sigh and a yawn, he gave it up. It
seemed to him that the noon recess would never come. The air was
utterly dead. There was not a breath stirring. It was the sleepiest of
sleepy days. The drowsing murmur of the five and twenty studying
scholars soothed the soul like the spell that is in the murmur of bees.
Away off in the flaming sunshine, Cardiff Hill lifted its soft green
sides through a shimmering veil of heat, tinted with the purple of
distance; a few birds floated on lazy wing high in the air; no other
living thing was visible but some cows, and they were asleep. Tom's
heart ached to be free, or else to have something of interest to do to
pass the dreary time. His hand wandered into his pocket and his face
lit up with a glow of gratitude that was prayer, though he did not know
it. Then furtively the percussion-cap box came out. He released the
tick and put him on the long flat desk. The creature probably glowed
with a gratitude that amounted to prayer, too, at this moment, but it
was premature: for when he started thankfully to travel off, Tom turned
him aside with a pin and made him take a new direction.
Tom's bosom friend sat next him, suffering just as Tom had been, and
now he was deeply and gratefully interested in this entertainment in an
instant. This bosom friend was Joe Harper. The two boys were sworn
friends all the week, and embattled enemies on Saturdays. Joe took a
pin out of his lapel and began to assist in exercising the prisoner.
The sport grew in interest momently. Soon Tom said that they were
interfering with each other, and neither getting the fullest benefit of
the tick. So he put Joe's slate on the desk and drew a line down the
middle of it from top to bottom.
"Now," said he, "as long as he is on your side you can stir him up and
I'll let him alone; but if you let him get away and get on my side,
you're to leave him alone as long as I can keep him from crossing over."
"All right, go ahead; start him up."
The tick escaped from Tom, presently, and crossed the equator. Joe
harassed him awhile, and then he got away and crossed back again. This
change of base occurred often. While one boy was worrying the tick with
absorbing interest, the other would look on with interest as strong,
the two heads bowed together over the slate, and the two souls dead to
all things else. At last luck seemed to settle and abide with Joe. The
tick tried this, that, and the other course, and got as excited and as
anxious as the boys themselves, but time and again just as he would
have victory in his very grasp, so to speak, and Tom's fingers would be
twitching to begin, Joe's pin would deftly head him off, and keep
possession. At last Tom could stand it no longer. The temptation was
too strong. So he reached out and lent a hand with his pin. Joe was
angry in a moment. Said he:
"Tom, you let him alone."
"I only just want to stir him up a little, Joe."
"No, sir, it ain't fair; you just let him alone."
"Blame it, I ain't going to stir him much."
"Let him alone, I tell you."
"I won't!"
"You shall--he's on my side of the line."
"Look here, Joe Harper, whose is that tick?"
"I don't care whose tick he is--he's on my side of the line, and you
sha'n't touch him."
"Well, I'll just bet I will, though. He's my tick and I'll do what I
blame please with him, or die!"
A tremendous whack came down on Tom's shoulders, and its duplicate on
Joe's; and for the space of two minutes the dust continued to fly from
the two jackets and the whole school to enjoy it. The boys had been too
absorbed to notice the hush that had stolen upon the school awhile
before when the master came tiptoeing down the room and stood over
them. He had contemplated a good part of the performance before he
contributed his bit of variety to it.
When school broke up at noon, Tom flew to Becky Thatcher, and
whispered in her ear:
"Put on your bonnet and let on you're going home; and when you get to
the corner, give the rest of 'em the slip, and turn down through the
lane and come back. I'll go the other way and come it over 'em the same
So the one went off with one group of scholars, and the other with
another. In a little while the two met at the bottom of the lane, and
when they reached the school they had it all to themselves. Then they
sat together, with a slate before them, and Tom gave Becky the pencil
and held her hand in his, guiding it, and so created another surprising
house. When the interest in art began to wane, the two fell to talking.
Tom was swimming in bliss. He said:
"Do you love rats?"
"No! I hate them!"
"Well, I do, too--LIVE ones. But I mean dead ones, to swing round your
head with a string."
"No, I don't care for rats much, anyway. What I like is chewing-gum."
"Oh, I should say so! I wish I had some now."
"Do you? I've got some. I'll let you chew it awhile, but you must give
it back to me."
That was agreeable, so they chewed it turn about, and dangled their
legs against the bench in excess of contentment.
"Was you ever at a circus?" said Tom.
"Yes, and my pa's going to take me again some time, if I'm good."
"I been to the circus three or four times--lots of times. Church ain't
shucks to a circus. There's things going on at a circus all the time.
I'm going to be a clown in a circus when I grow up."
"Oh, are you! That will be nice. They're so lovely, all spotted up."
"Yes, that's so. And they get slathers of money--most a dollar a day,
Ben Rogers says. Say, Becky, was you ever engaged?"
"What's that?"
"Why, engaged to be married."
"Would you like to?"
"I reckon so. I don't know. What is it like?"
"Like? Why it ain't like anything. You only just tell a boy you won't
ever have anybody but him, ever ever ever, and then you kiss and that's
all. Anybody can do it."
"Kiss? What do you kiss for?"
"Why, that, you know, is to--well, they always do that."
"Why, yes, everybody that's in love with each other. Do you remember
what I wrote on the slate?"
"What was it?"
"I sha'n't tell you."
"Shall I tell YOU?"
"Ye--yes--but some other time."
"No, now."
"No, not now--to-morrow."
"Oh, no, NOW. Please, Becky--I'll whisper it, I'll whisper it ever so
Becky hesitating, Tom took silence for consent, and passed his arm
about her waist and whispered the tale ever so softly, with his mouth
close to her ear. And then he added:
"Now you whisper it to me--just the same."
She resisted, for a while, and then said:
"You turn your face away so you can't see, and then I will. But you
mustn't ever tell anybody--WILL you, Tom? Now you won't, WILL you?"
"No, indeed, indeed I won't. Now, Becky."
He turned his face away. She bent timidly around till her breath
stirred his curls and whispered, "I--love--you!"
Then she sprang away and ran around and around the desks and benches,
with Tom after her, and took refuge in a corner at last, with her
little white apron to her face. Tom clasped her about her neck and
"Now, Becky, it's all done--all over but the kiss. Don't you be afraid
of that--it ain't anything at all. Please, Becky." And he tugged at her
apron and the hands.
By and by she gave up, and let her hands drop; her face, all glowing
with the struggle, came up and submitted. Tom kissed the red lips and
"Now it's all done, Becky. And always after this, you know, you ain't
ever to love anybody but me, and you ain't ever to marry anybody but
me, ever never and forever. Will you?"
"No, I'll never love anybody but you, Tom, and I'll never marry
anybody but you--and you ain't to ever marry anybody but me, either."
"Certainly. Of course. That's PART of it. And always coming to school
or when we're going home, you're to walk with me, when there ain't
anybody looking--and you choose me and I choose you at parties, because
that's the way you do when you're engaged."
"It's so nice. I never heard of it before."
"Oh, it's ever so gay! Why, me and Amy Lawrence--"
The big eyes told Tom his blunder and he stopped, confused.
"Oh, Tom! Then I ain't the first you've ever been engaged to!"
The child began to cry. Tom said:
"Oh, don't cry, Becky, I don't care for her any more."
"Yes, you do, Tom--you know you do."
Tom tried to put his arm about her neck, but she pushed him away and
turned her face to the wall, and went on crying. Tom tried again, with
soothing words in his mouth, and was repulsed again. Then his pride was
up, and he strode away and went outside. He stood about, restless and
uneasy, for a while, glancing at the door, every now and then, hoping
she would repent and come to find him. But she did not. Then he began
to feel badly and fear that he was in the wrong. It was a hard struggle
with him to make new advances, now, but he nerved himself to it and
entered. She was still standing back there in the corner, sobbing, with
her face to the wall. Tom's heart smote him. He went to her and stood a
moment, not knowing exactly how to proceed. Then he said hesitatingly:
"Becky, I--I don't care for anybody but you."
No reply--but sobs.
"Becky"--pleadingly. "Becky, won't you say something?"
More sobs.
Tom got out his chiefest jewel, a brass knob from the top of an
andiron, and passed it around her so that she could see it, and said:
"Please, Becky, won't you take it?"
She struck it to the floor. Then Tom marched out of the house and over
the hills and far away, to return to school no more that day. Presently
Becky began to suspect. She ran to the door; he was not in sight; she
flew around to the play-yard; he was not there. Then she called:
"Tom! Come back, Tom!"
She listened intently, but there was no answer. She had no companions
but silence and loneliness. So she sat down to cry again and upbraid
herself; and by this time the scholars began to gather again, and she
had to hide her griefs and still her broken heart and take up the cross
of a long, dreary, aching afternoon, with none among the strangers
about her to exchange sorrows with.
TOM dodged hither and thither through lanes until he was well out of
the track of returning scholars, and then fell into a moody jog. He
crossed a small "branch" two or three times, because of a prevailing
juvenile superstition that to cross water baffled pursuit. Half an hour
later he was disappearing behind the Douglas mansion on the summit of
Cardiff Hill, and the schoolhouse was hardly distinguishable away off
in the valley behind him. He entered a dense wood, picked his pathless
way to the centre of it, and sat down on a mossy spot under a spreading
oak. There was not even a zephyr stirring; the dead noonday heat had
even stilled the songs of the birds; nature lay in a trance that was
broken by no sound but the occasional far-off hammering of a
woodpecker, and this seemed to render the pervading silence and sense
of loneliness the more profound. The boy's soul was steeped in
melancholy; his feelings were in happy accord with his surroundings. He
sat long with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands,
meditating. It seemed to him that life was but a trouble, at best, and
he more than half envied Jimmy Hodges, so lately released; it must be
very peaceful, he thought, to lie and slumber and dream forever and
ever, with the wind whispering through the trees and caressing the
grass and the flowers over the grave, and nothing to bother and grieve
about, ever any more. If he only had a clean Sunday-school record he
could be willing to go, and be done with it all. Now as to this girl.
What had he done? Nothing. He had meant the best in the world, and been
treated like a dog--like a very dog. She would be sorry some day--maybe
when it was too late. Ah, if he could only die TEMPORARILY!
But the elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one
constrained shape long at a time. Tom presently began to drift
insensibly back into the concerns of this life again. What if he turned
his back, now, and disappeared mysteriously? What if he went away--ever
so far away, into unknown countries beyond the seas--and never came
back any more! How would she feel then! The idea of being a clown
recurred to him now, only to fill him with disgust. For frivolity and
jokes and spotted tights were an offense, when they intruded themselves
upon a spirit that was exalted into the vague august realm of the
romantic. No, he would be a soldier, and return after long years, all
war-worn and illustrious. No--better still, he would join the Indians,
and hunt buffaloes and go on the warpath in the mountain ranges and the
trackless great plains of the Far West, and away in the future come
back a great chief, bristling with feathers, hideous with paint, and
prance into Sunday-school, some drowsy summer morning, with a
bloodcurdling war-whoop, and sear the eyeballs of all his companions
with unappeasable envy. But no, there was something gaudier even than
this. He would be a pirate! That was it! NOW his future lay plain
before him, and glowing with unimaginable splendor. How his name would
fill the world, and make people shudder! How gloriously he would go
plowing the dancing seas, in his long, low, black-hulled racer, the
Spirit of the Storm, with his grisly flag flying at the fore! And at
the zenith of his fame, how he would suddenly appear at the old village
and stalk into church, brown and weather-beaten, in his black velvet
doublet and trunks, his great jack-boots, his crimson sash, his belt
bristling with horse-pistols, his crime-rusted cutlass at his side, his
slouch hat with waving plumes, his black flag unfurled, with the skull
and crossbones on it, and hear with swelling ecstasy the whisperings,
"It's Tom Sawyer the Pirate!--the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main!"
Yes, it was settled; his career was determined. He would run away from
home and enter upon it. He would start the very next morning. Therefore
he must now begin to get ready. He would collect his resources
together. He went to a rotten log near at hand and began to dig under
one end of it with his Barlow knife. He soon struck wood that sounded
hollow. He put his hand there and uttered this incantation impressively:
"What hasn't come here, come! What's here, stay here!"
Then he scraped away the dirt, and exposed a pine shingle. He took it
up and disclosed a shapely little treasure-house whose bottom and sides
were of shingles. In it lay a marble. Tom's astonishment was boundless!
He scratched his head with a perplexed air, and said:
"Well, that beats anything!"
Then he tossed the marble away pettishly, and stood cogitating. The
truth was, that a superstition of his had failed, here, which he and
all his comrades had always looked upon as infallible. If you buried a
marble with certain necessary incantations, and left it alone a
fortnight, and then opened the place with the incantation he had just
used, you would find that all the marbles you had ever lost had
gathered themselves together there, meantime, no matter how widely they
had been separated. But now, this thing had actually and unquestionably
failed. Tom's whole structure of faith was shaken to its foundations.
He had many a time heard of this thing succeeding but never of its
failing before. It did not occur to him that he had tried it several
times before, himself, but could never find the hiding-places
afterward. He puzzled over the matter some time, and finally decided
that some witch had interfered and broken the charm. He thought he
would satisfy himself on that point; so he searched around till he
found a small sandy spot with a little funnel-shaped depression in it.
He laid himself down and put his mouth close to this depression and
"Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know! Doodle-bug,
doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know!"
The sand began to work, and presently a small black bug appeared for a
second and then darted under again in a fright.
"He dasn't tell! So it WAS a witch that done it. I just knowed it."
He well knew the futility of trying to contend against witches, so he
gave up discouraged. But it occurred to him that he might as well have
the marble he had just thrown away, and therefore he went and made a
patient search for it. But he could not find it. Now he went back to
his treasure-house and carefully placed himself just as he had been
standing when he tossed the marble away; then he took another marble
from his pocket and tossed it in the same way, saying:
"Brother, go find your brother!"
He watched where it stopped, and went there and looked. But it must
have fallen short or gone too far; so he tried twice more. The last
repetition was successful. The two marbles lay within a foot of each
Just here the blast of a toy tin trumpet came faintly down the green
aisles of the forest. Tom flung off his jacket and trousers, turned a
suspender into a belt, raked away some brush behind the rotten log,
disclosing a rude bow and arrow, a lath sword and a tin trumpet, and in
a moment had seized these things and bounded away, barelegged, with
fluttering shirt. He presently halted under a great elm, blew an
answering blast, and then began to tiptoe and look warily out, this way
and that. He said cautiously--to an imaginary company:
"Hold, my merry men! Keep hid till I blow."
Now appeared Joe Harper, as airily clad and elaborately armed as Tom.
Tom called:
"Hold! Who comes here into Sherwood Forest without my pass?"
"Guy of Guisborne wants no man's pass. Who art thou that--that--"
"Dares to hold such language," said Tom, prompting--for they talked
"by the book," from memory.
"Who art thou that dares to hold such language?"
"I, indeed! I am Robin Hood, as thy caitiff carcase soon shall know."
"Then art thou indeed that famous outlaw? Right gladly will I dispute
with thee the passes of the merry wood. Have at thee!"
They took their lath swords, dumped their other traps on the ground,
struck a fencing attitude, foot to foot, and began a grave, careful
combat, "two up and two down." Presently Tom said:
"Now, if you've got the hang, go it lively!"
So they "went it lively," panting and perspiring with the work. By and
by Tom shouted:
"Fall! fall! Why don't you fall?"
"I sha'n't! Why don't you fall yourself? You're getting the worst of
"Why, that ain't anything. I can't fall; that ain't the way it is in
the book. The book says, 'Then with one back-handed stroke he slew poor
Guy of Guisborne.' You're to turn around and let me hit you in the
There was no getting around the authorities, so Joe turned, received
the whack and fell.
"Now," said Joe, getting up, "you got to let me kill YOU. That's fair."
"Why, I can't do that, it ain't in the book."
"Well, it's blamed mean--that's all."
"Well, say, Joe, you can be Friar Tuck or Much the miller's son, and
lam me with a quarter-staff; or I'll be the Sheriff of Nottingham and
you be Robin Hood a little while and kill me."
This was satisfactory, and so these adventures were carried out. Then
Tom became Robin Hood again, and was allowed by the treacherous nun to
bleed his strength away through his neglected wound. And at last Joe,
representing a whole tribe of weeping outlaws, dragged him sadly forth,
gave his bow into his feeble hands, and Tom said, "Where this arrow
falls, there bury poor Robin Hood under the greenwood tree." Then he
shot the arrow and fell back and would have died, but he lit on a
nettle and sprang up too gaily for a corpse.
The boys dressed themselves, hid their accoutrements, and went off
grieving that there were no outlaws any more, and wondering what modern
civilization could claim to have done to compensate for their loss.
They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than
President of the United States forever.
AT half-past nine, that night, Tom and Sid were sent to bed, as usual.
They said their prayers, and Sid was soon asleep. Tom lay awake and
waited, in restless impatience. When it seemed to him that it must be
nearly daylight, he heard the clock strike ten! This was despair. He
would have tossed and fidgeted, as his nerves demanded, but he was
afraid he might wake Sid. So he lay still, and stared up into the dark.
Everything was dismally still. By and by, out of the stillness, little,
scarcely perceptible noises began to emphasize themselves. The ticking
of the clock began to bring itself into notice. Old beams began to
crack mysteriously. The stairs creaked faintly. Evidently spirits were
abroad. A measured, muffled snore issued from Aunt Polly's chamber. And
now the tiresome chirping of a cricket that no human ingenuity could
locate, began. Next the ghastly ticking of a deathwatch in the wall at
the bed's head made Tom shudder--it meant that somebody's days were
numbered. Then the howl of a far-off dog rose on the night air, and was
answered by a fainter howl from a remoter distance. Tom was in an
agony. At last he was satisfied that time had ceased and eternity
begun; he began to doze, in spite of himself; the clock chimed eleven,
but he did not hear it. And then there came, mingling with his
half-formed dreams, a most melancholy caterwauling. The raising of a
neighboring window disturbed him. A cry of "Scat! you devil!" and the
crash of an empty bottle against the back of his aunt's woodshed
brought him wide awake, and a single minute later he was dressed and
out of the window and creeping along the roof of the "ell" on all
fours. He "meow'd" with caution once or twice, as he went; then jumped
to the roof of the woodshed and thence to the ground. Huckleberry Finn
was there, with his dead cat. The boys moved off and disappeared in the
gloom. At the end of half an hour they were wading through the tall
grass of the graveyard.
It was a graveyard of the old-fashioned Western kind. It was on a
hill, about a mile and a half from the village. It had a crazy board
fence around it, which leaned inward in places, and outward the rest of
the time, but stood upright nowhere. Grass and weeds grew rank over the
whole cemetery. All the old graves were sunken in, there was not a
tombstone on the place; round-topped, worm-eaten boards staggered over
the graves, leaning for support and finding none. "Sacred to the memory
of" So-and-So had been painted on them once, but it could no longer
have been read, on the most of them, now, even if there had been light.
A faint wind moaned through the trees, and Tom feared it might be the
spirits of the dead, complaining at being disturbed. The boys talked
little, and only under their breath, for the time and the place and the
pervading solemnity and silence oppressed their spirits. They found the
sharp new heap they were seeking, and ensconced themselves within the
protection of three great elms that grew in a bunch within a few feet
of the grave.
Then they waited in silence for what seemed a long time. The hooting
of a distant owl was all the sound that troubled the dead stillness.
Tom's reflections grew oppressive. He must force some talk. So he said
in a whisper:
"Hucky, do you believe the dead people like it for us to be here?"
Huckleberry whispered:
"I wisht I knowed. It's awful solemn like, AIN'T it?"
"I bet it is."
There was a considerable pause, while the boys canvassed this matter
inwardly. Then Tom whispered:
"Say, Hucky--do you reckon Hoss Williams hears us talking?"
"O' course he does. Least his sperrit does."
Tom, after a pause:
"I wish I'd said Mister Williams. But I never meant any harm.
Everybody calls him Hoss."
"A body can't be too partic'lar how they talk 'bout these-yer dead
people, Tom."
This was a damper, and conversation died again.
Presently Tom seized his comrade's arm and said:
"What is it, Tom?" And the two clung together with beating hearts.
"Sh! There 'tis again! Didn't you hear it?"
"There! Now you hear it."
"Lord, Tom, they're coming! They're coming, sure. What'll we do?"
"I dono. Think they'll see us?"
"Oh, Tom, they can see in the dark, same as cats. I wisht I hadn't
"Oh, don't be afeard. I don't believe they'll bother us. We ain't
doing any harm. If we keep perfectly still, maybe they won't notice us
at all."
"I'll try to, Tom, but, Lord, I'm all of a shiver."
The boys bent their heads together and scarcely breathed. A muffled
sound of voices floated up from the far end of the graveyard.
"Look! See there!" whispered Tom. "What is it?"
"It's devil-fire. Oh, Tom, this is awful."
Some vague figures approached through the gloom, swinging an
old-fashioned tin lantern that freckled the ground with innumerable
little spangles of light. Presently Huckleberry whispered with a
"It's the devils sure enough. Three of 'em! Lordy, Tom, we're goners!
Can you pray?"
"I'll try, but don't you be afeard. They ain't going to hurt us. 'Now
I lay me down to sleep, I--'"
"What is it, Huck?"
"They're HUMANS! One of 'em is, anyway. One of 'em's old Muff Potter's
"No--'tain't so, is it?"
"I bet I know it. Don't you stir nor budge. He ain't sharp enough to
notice us. Drunk, the same as usual, likely--blamed old rip!"
"All right, I'll keep still. Now they're stuck. Can't find it. Here
they come again. Now they're hot. Cold again. Hot again. Red hot!
They're p'inted right, this time. Say, Huck, I know another o' them
voices; it's Injun Joe."
"That's so--that murderin' half-breed! I'd druther they was devils a
dern sight. What kin they be up to?"
The whisper died wholly out, now, for the three men had reached the
grave and stood within a few feet of the boys' hiding-place.
"Here it is," said the third voice; and the owner of it held the
lantern up and revealed the face of young Doctor Robinson.
Potter and Injun Joe were carrying a handbarrow with a rope and a
couple of shovels on it. They cast down their load and began to open
the grave. The doctor put the lantern at the head of the grave and came
and sat down with his back against one of the elm trees. He was so
close the boys could have touched him.
"Hurry, men!" he said, in a low voice; "the moon might come out at any
They growled a response and went on digging. For some time there was
no noise but the grating sound of the spades discharging their freight
of mould and gravel. It was very monotonous. Finally a spade struck
upon the coffin with a dull woody accent, and within another minute or
two the men had hoisted it out on the ground. They pried off the lid
with their shovels, got out the body and dumped it rudely on the
ground. The moon drifted from behind the clouds and exposed the pallid
face. The barrow was got ready and the corpse placed on it, covered
with a blanket, and bound to its place with the rope. Potter took out a
large spring-knife and cut off the dangling end of the rope and then
"Now the cussed thing's ready, Sawbones, and you'll just out with
another five, or here she stays."
"That's the talk!" said Injun Joe.
"Look here, what does this mean?" said the doctor. "You required your
pay in advance, and I've paid you."
"Yes, and you done more than that," said Injun Joe, approaching the
doctor, who was now standing. "Five years ago you drove me away from
your father's kitchen one night, when I come to ask for something to
eat, and you said I warn't there for any good; and when I swore I'd get
even with you if it took a hundred years, your father had me jailed for
a vagrant. Did you think I'd forget? The Injun blood ain't in me for
nothing. And now I've GOT you, and you got to SETTLE, you know!"
He was threatening the doctor, with his fist in his face, by this
time. The doctor struck out suddenly and stretched the ruffian on the
ground. Potter dropped his knife, and exclaimed:
"Here, now, don't you hit my pard!" and the next moment he had
grappled with the doctor and the two were struggling with might and
main, trampling the grass and tearing the ground with their heels.
Injun Joe sprang to his feet, his eyes flaming with passion, snatched
up Potter's knife, and went creeping, catlike and stooping, round and
round about the combatants, seeking an opportunity. All at once the
doctor flung himself free, seized the heavy headboard of Williams'
grave and felled Potter to the earth with it--and in the same instant
the half-breed saw his chance and drove the knife to the hilt in the
young man's breast. He reeled and fell partly upon Potter, flooding him
with his blood, and in the same moment the clouds blotted out the
dreadful spectacle and the two frightened boys went speeding away in
the dark.
Presently, when the moon emerged again, Injun Joe was standing over
the two forms, contemplating them. The doctor murmured inarticulately,
gave a long gasp or two and was still. The half-breed muttered:
"THAT score is settled--damn you."
Then he robbed the body. After which he put the fatal knife in
Potter's open right hand, and sat down on the dismantled coffin. Three
--four--five minutes passed, and then Potter began to stir and moan. His
hand closed upon the knife; he raised it, glanced at it, and let it
fall, with a shudder. Then he sat up, pushing the body from him, and
gazed at it, and then around him, confusedly. His eyes met Joe's.
"Lord, how is this, Joe?" he said.
"It's a dirty business," said Joe, without moving.
"What did you do it for?"
"I! I never done it!"
"Look here! That kind of talk won't wash."
Potter trembled and grew white.
"I thought I'd got sober. I'd no business to drink to-night. But it's
in my head yet--worse'n when we started here. I'm all in a muddle;
can't recollect anything of it, hardly. Tell me, Joe--HONEST, now, old
feller--did I do it? Joe, I never meant to--'pon my soul and honor, I
never meant to, Joe. Tell me how it was, Joe. Oh, it's awful--and him
so young and promising."
"Why, you two was scuffling, and he fetched you one with the headboard
and you fell flat; and then up you come, all reeling and staggering
like, and snatched the knife and jammed it into him, just as he fetched
you another awful clip--and here you've laid, as dead as a wedge til
"Oh, I didn't know what I was a-doing. I wish I may die this minute if
I did. It was all on account of the whiskey and the excitement, I
reckon. I never used a weepon in my life before, Joe. I've fought, but
never with weepons. They'll all say that. Joe, don't tell! Say you
won't tell, Joe--that's a good feller. I always liked you, Joe, and
stood up for you, too. Don't you remember? You WON'T tell, WILL you,
Joe?" And the poor creature dropped on his knees before the stolid
murderer, and clasped his appealing hands.
"No, you've always been fair and square with me, Muff Potter, and I
won't go back on you. There, now, that's as fair as a man can say."
"Oh, Joe, you're an angel. I'll bless you for this the longest day I
live." And Potter began to cry.
"Come, now, that's enough of that. This ain't any time for blubbering.
You be off yonder way and I'll go this. Move, now, and don't leave any
tracks behind you."
Potter started on a trot that quickly increased to a run. The
half-breed stood looking after him. He muttered:
"If he's as much stunned with the lick and fuddled with the rum as he
had the look of being, he won't think of the knife till he's gone so
far he'll be afraid to come back after it to such a place by himself
Two or three minutes later the murdered man, the blanketed corpse, the
lidless coffin, and the open grave were under no inspection but the
moon's. The stillness was complete again, too.
THE two boys flew on and on, toward the village, speechless with
horror. They glanced backward over their shoulders from time to time,
apprehensively, as if they feared they might be followed. Every stump
that started up in their path seemed a man and an enemy, and made them
catch their breath; and as they sped by some outlying cottages that lay
near the village, the barking of the aroused watch-dogs seemed to give
wings to their feet.
"If we can only get to the old tannery before we break down!"
whispered Tom, in short catches between breaths. "I can't stand it much
Huckleberry's hard pantings were his only reply, and the boys fixed
their eyes on the goal of their hopes and bent to their work to win it.
They gained steadily on it, and at last, breast to breast, they burst
through the open door and fell grateful and exhausted in the sheltering
shadows beyond. By and by their pulses slowed down, and Tom whispered:
"Huckleberry, what do you reckon'll come of this?"
"If Doctor Robinson dies, I reckon hanging'll come of it."
"Do you though?"
"Why, I KNOW it, Tom."
Tom thought a while, then he said:
"Who'll tell? We?"
"What are you talking about? S'pose something happened and Injun Joe
DIDN'T hang? Why, he'd kill us some time or other, just as dead sure as
we're a laying here."
"That's just what I was thinking to myself, Huck."
"If anybody tells, let Muff Potter do it, if he's fool enough. He's
generally drunk enough."
Tom said nothing--went on thinking. Presently he whispered:
"Huck, Muff Potter don't know it. How can he tell?"
"What's the reason he don't know it?"
"Because he'd just got that whack when Injun Joe done it. D'you reckon
he could see anything? D'you reckon he knowed anything?"
"By hokey, that's so, Tom!"
"And besides, look-a-here--maybe that whack done for HIM!"
"No, 'taint likely, Tom. He had liquor in him; I could see that; and
besides, he always has. Well, when pap's full, you might take and belt
him over the head with a church and you couldn't phase him. He says so,
his own self. So it's the same with Muff Potter, of course. But if a
man was dead sober, I reckon maybe that whack might fetch him; I dono."
After another reflective silence, Tom said:
"Hucky, you sure you can keep mum?"
"Tom, we GOT to keep mum. You know that. That Injun devil wouldn't
make any more of drownding us than a couple of cats, if we was to
squeak 'bout this and they didn't hang him. Now, look-a-here, Tom, less
take and swear to one another--that's what we got to do--swear to keep
"I'm agreed. It's the best thing. Would you just hold hands and swear
that we--"
"Oh no, that wouldn't do for this. That's good enough for little
rubbishy common things--specially with gals, cuz THEY go back on you
anyway, and blab if they get in a huff--but there orter be writing
'bout a big thing like this. And blood."
Tom's whole being applauded this idea. It was deep, and dark, and
awful; the hour, the circumstances, the surroundings, were in keeping
with it. He picked up a clean pine shingle that lay in the moonlight,
took a little fragment of "red keel" out of his pocket, got the moon on
his work, and painfully scrawled these lines, emphasizing each slow
down-stroke by clamping his tongue between his teeth, and letting up
the pressure on the up-strokes. [See next page.]
"Huck Finn and
Tom Sawyer swears
they will keep mum
about This and They
wish They may Drop
down dead in Their
Tracks if They ever
Tell and Rot."
Huckleberry was filled with admiration of Tom's facility in writing,
and the sublimity of his language. He at once took a pin from his lapel
and was going to prick his flesh, but Tom said:
"Hold on! Don't do that. A pin's brass. It might have verdigrease on
"What's verdigrease?"
"It's p'ison. That's what it is. You just swaller some of it once
--you'll see."
So Tom unwound the thread from one of his needles, and each boy
pricked the ball of his thumb and squeezed out a drop of blood. In
time, after many squeezes, Tom managed to sign his initials, using the
ball of his little finger for a pen. Then he showed Huckleberry how to
make an H and an F, and the oath was complete. They buried the shingle
close to the wall, with some dismal ceremonies and incantations, and
the fetters that bound their tongues were considered to be locked and
the key thrown away.
A figure crept stealthily through a break in the other end of the
ruined building, now, but they did not notice it.
"Tom," whispered Huckleberry, "does this keep us from EVER telling
"Of course it does. It don't make any difference WHAT happens, we got
to keep mum. We'd drop down dead--don't YOU know that?"
"Yes, I reckon that's so."
They continued to whisper for some little time. Presently a dog set up
a long, lugubrious howl just outside--within ten feet of them. The boys
clasped each other suddenly, in an agony of fright.
"Which of us does he mean?" gasped Huckleberry.
"I dono--peep through the crack. Quick!"
"No, YOU, Tom!"
"I can't--I can't DO it, Huck!"
"Please, Tom. There 'tis again!"
"Oh, lordy, I'm thankful!" whispered Tom. "I know his voice. It's Bull
Harbison." *
[* If Mr. Harbison owned a slave named Bull, Tom would have spoken of
him as "Harbison's Bull," but a son or a dog of that name was "Bull
"Oh, that's good--I tell you, Tom, I was most scared to death; I'd a
bet anything it was a STRAY dog."
The dog howled again. The boys' hearts sank once more.
"Oh, my! that ain't no Bull Harbison!" whispered Huckleberry. "DO, Tom!"
Tom, quaking with fear, yielded, and put his eye to the crack. His
whisper was hardly audible when he said:
"Oh, Huck, IT S A STRAY DOG!"
"Quick, Tom, quick! Who does he mean?"
"Huck, he must mean us both--we're right together."
"Oh, Tom, I reckon we're goners. I reckon there ain't no mistake 'bout
where I'LL go to. I been so wicked."
"Dad fetch it! This comes of playing hookey and doing everything a
feller's told NOT to do. I might a been good, like Sid, if I'd a tried
--but no, I wouldn't, of course. But if ever I get off this time, I lay
I'll just WALLER in Sunday-schools!" And Tom began to snuffle a little.
"YOU bad!" and Huckleberry began to snuffle too. "Consound it, Tom
Sawyer, you're just old pie, 'longside o' what I am. Oh, LORDY, lordy,
lordy, I wisht I only had half your chance."
Tom choked off and whispered:
"Look, Hucky, look! He's got his BACK to us!"
Hucky looked, with joy in his heart.
"Well, he has, by jingoes! Did he before?"
"Yes, he did. But I, like a fool, never thought. Oh, this is bully,
you know. NOW who can he mean?"
The howling stopped. Tom pricked up his ears.
"Sh! What's that?" he whispered.
"Sounds like--like hogs grunting. No--it's somebody snoring, Tom."
"That IS it! Where 'bouts is it, Huck?"
"I bleeve it's down at 'tother end. Sounds so, anyway. Pap used to
sleep there, sometimes, 'long with the hogs, but laws bless you, he
just lifts things when HE snores. Besides, I reckon he ain't ever
coming back to this town any more."
The spirit of adventure rose in the boys' souls once more.
"Hucky, do you das't to go if I lead?"
"I don't like to, much. Tom, s'pose it's Injun Joe!"
Tom quailed. But presently the temptation rose up strong again and the
boys agreed to try, with the understanding that they would take to
their heels if the snoring stopped. So they went tiptoeing stealthily
down, the one behind the other. When they had got to within five steps
of the snorer, Tom stepped on a stick, and it broke with a sharp snap.
The man moaned, writhed a little, and his face came into the moonlight.
It was Muff Potter. The boys' hearts had stood still, and their hopes
too, when the man moved, but their fears passed away now. They tiptoed
out, through the broken weather-boarding, and stopped at a little
distance to exchange a parting word. That long, lugubrious howl rose on
the night air again! They turned and saw the strange dog standing
within a few feet of where Potter was lying, and FACING Potter, with
his nose pointing heavenward.
"Oh, geeminy, it's HIM!" exclaimed both boys, in a breath.
"Say, Tom--they say a stray dog come howling around Johnny Miller's
house, 'bout midnight, as much as two weeks ago; and a whippoorwill
come in and lit on the banisters and sung, the very same evening; and
there ain't anybody dead there yet."
"Well, I know that. And suppose there ain't. Didn't Gracie Miller fall
in the kitchen fire and burn herself terrible the very next Saturday?"
"Yes, but she ain't DEAD. And what's more, she's getting better, too."
"All right, you wait and see. She's a goner, just as dead sure as Muff
Potter's a goner. That's what the niggers say, and they know all about
these kind of things, Huck."
Then they separated, cogitating. When Tom crept in at his bedroom
window the night was almost spent. He undressed with excessive caution,
and fell asleep congratulating himself that nobody knew of his
escapade. He was not aware that the gently-snoring Sid was awake, and
had been so for an hour.
When Tom awoke, Sid was dressed and gone. There was a late look in the
light, a late sense in the atmosphere. He was startled. Why had he not
been called--persecuted till he was up, as usual? The thought filled
him with bodings. Within five minutes he was dressed and down-stairs,
feeling sore and drowsy. The family were still at table, but they had
finished breakfast. There was no voice of rebuke; but there were
averted eyes; there was a silence and an air of solemnity that struck a
chill to the culprit's heart. He sat down and tried to seem gay, but it
was up-hill work; it roused no smile, no response, and he lapsed into
silence and let his heart sink down to the depths.
After breakfast his aunt took him aside, and Tom almost brightened in
the hope that he was going to be flogged; but it was not so. His aunt
wept over him and asked him how he could go and break her old heart so;
and finally told him to go on, and ruin himself and bring her gray
hairs with sorrow to the grave, for it was no use for her to try any
more. This was worse than a thousand whippings, and Tom's heart was
sorer now than his body. He cried, he pleaded for forgiveness, promised
to reform over and over again, and then received his dismissal, feeling
that he had won but an imperfect forgiveness and established but a
feeble confidence.
He left the presence too miserable to even feel revengeful toward Sid;
and so the latter's prompt retreat through the back gate was
unnecessary. He moped to school gloomy and sad, and took his flogging,
along with Joe Harper, for playing hookey the day before, with the air
of one whose heart was busy with heavier woes and wholly dead to
trifles. Then he betook himself to his seat, rested his elbows on his
desk and his jaws in his hands, and stared at the wall with the stony
stare of suffering that has reached the limit and can no further go.
His elbow was pressing against some hard substance. After a long time
he slowly and sadly changed his position, and took up this object with
a sigh. It was in a paper. He unrolled it. A long, lingering, colossal
sigh followed, and his heart broke. It was his brass andiron knob!
This final feather broke the camel's back.
CLOSE upon the hour of noon the whole village was suddenly electrified
with the ghastly news. No need of the as yet undreamed-of telegraph;
the tale flew from man to man, from group to group, from house to
house, with little less than telegraphic speed. Of course the
schoolmaster gave holiday for that afternoon; the town would have
thought strangely of him if he had not.
A gory knife had been found close to the murdered man, and it had been
recognized by somebody as belonging to Muff Potter--so the story ran.
And it was said that a belated citizen had come upon Potter washing
himself in the "branch" about one or two o'clock in the morning, and
that Potter had at once sneaked off--suspicious circumstances,
especially the washing which was not a habit with Potter. It was also
said that the town had been ransacked for this "murderer" (the public
are not slow in the matter of sifting evidence and arriving at a
verdict), but that he could not be found. Horsemen had departed down
all the roads in every direction, and the Sheriff "was confident" that
he would be captured before night.
All the town was drifting toward the graveyard. Tom's heartbreak
vanished and he joined the procession, not because he would not a
thousand times rather go anywhere else, but because an awful,
unaccountable fascination drew him on. Arrived at the dreadful place,
he wormed his small body through the crowd and saw the dismal
spectacle. It seemed to him an age since he was there before. Somebody
pinched his arm. He turned, and his eyes met Huckleberry's. Then both
looked elsewhere at once, and wondered if anybody had noticed anything
in their mutual glance. But everybody was talking, and intent upon the
grisly spectacle before them.
"Poor fellow!" "Poor young fellow!" "This ought to be a lesson to
grave robbers!" "Muff Potter'll hang for this if they catch him!" This
was the drift of remark; and the minister said, "It was a judgment; His
hand is here."
Now Tom shivered from head to heel; for his eye fell upon the stolid
face of Injun Joe. At this moment the crowd began to sway and struggle,
and voices shouted, "It's him! it's him! he's coming himself!"
"Who? Who?" from twenty voices.
"Muff Potter!"
"Hallo, he's stopped!--Look out, he's turning! Don't let him get away!"
People in the branches of the trees over Tom's head said he wasn't
trying to get away--he only looked doubtful and perplexed.
"Infernal impudence!" said a bystander; "wanted to come and take a
quiet look at his work, I reckon--didn't expect any company."
The crowd fell apart, now, and the Sheriff came through,
ostentatiously leading Potter by the arm. The poor fellow's face was
haggard, and his eyes showed the fear that was upon him. When he stood
before the murdered man, he shook as with a palsy, and he put his face
in his hands and burst into tears.
"I didn't do it, friends," he sobbed; "'pon my word and honor I never
done it."
"Who's accused you?" shouted a voice.
This shot seemed to carry home. Potter lifted his face and looked
around him with a pathetic hopelessness in his eyes. He saw Injun Joe,
and exclaimed:
"Oh, Injun Joe, you promised me you'd never--"
"Is that your knife?" and it was thrust before him by the Sheriff.
Potter would have fallen if they had not caught him and eased him to
the ground. Then he said:
"Something told me 't if I didn't come back and get--" He shuddered;
then waved his nerveless hand with a vanquished gesture and said, "Tell
'em, Joe, tell 'em--it ain't any use any more."
Then Huckleberry and Tom stood dumb and staring, and heard the
stony-hearted liar reel off his serene statement, they expecting every
moment that the clear sky would deliver God's lightnings upon his head,
and wondering to see how long the stroke was delayed. And when he had
finished and still stood alive and whole, their wavering impulse to
break their oath and save the poor betrayed prisoner's life faded and
vanished away, for plainly this miscreant had sold himself to Satan and
it would be fatal to meddle with the property of such a power as that.
"Why didn't you leave? What did you want to come here for?" somebody
"I couldn't help it--I couldn't help it," Potter moaned. "I wanted to
run away, but I couldn't seem to come anywhere but here." And he fell
to sobbing again.
Injun Joe repeated his statement, just as calmly, a few minutes
afterward on the inquest, under oath; and the boys, seeing that the
lightnings were still withheld, were confirmed in their belief that Joe
had sold himself to the devil. He was now become, to them, the most
balefully interesting object they had ever looked upon, and they could
not take their fascinated eyes from his face.
They inwardly resolved to watch him nights, when opportunity should
offer, in the hope of getting a glimpse of his dread master.
Injun Joe helped to raise the body of the murdered man and put it in a
wagon for removal; and it was whispered through the shuddering crowd
that the wound bled a little! The boys thought that this happy
circumstance would turn suspicion in the right direction; but they were
disappointed, for more than one villager remarked:
"It was within three feet of Muff Potter when it done it."
Tom's fearful secret and gnawing conscience disturbed his sleep for as
much as a week after this; and at breakfast one morning Sid said:
"Tom, you pitch around and talk in your sleep so much that you keep me
awake half the time."
Tom blanched and dropped his eyes.
"It's a bad sign," said Aunt Polly, gravely. "What you got on your
mind, Tom?"
"Nothing. Nothing 't I know of." But the boy's hand shook so that he
spilled his coffee.
"And you do talk such stuff," Sid said. "Last night you said, 'It's
blood, it's blood, that's what it is!' You said that over and over. And
you said, 'Don't torment me so--I'll tell!' Tell WHAT? What is it
you'll tell?"
Everything was swimming before Tom. There is no telling what might
have happened, now, but luckily the concern passed out of Aunt Polly's
face and she came to Tom's relief without knowing it. She said:
"Sho! It's that dreadful murder. I dream about it most every night
myself. Sometimes I dream it's me that done it."
Mary said she had been affected much the same way. Sid seemed
satisfied. Tom got out of the presence as quick as he plausibly could,
and after that he complained of toothache for a week, and tied up his
jaws every night. He never knew that Sid lay nightly watching, and
frequently slipped the bandage free and then leaned on his elbow
listening a good while at a time, and afterward slipped the bandage
back to its place again. Tom's distress of mind wore off gradually and
the toothache grew irksome and was discarded. If Sid really managed to
make anything out of Tom's disjointed mutterings, he kept it to himself.
It seemed to Tom that his schoolmates never would get done holding
inquests on dead cats, and thus keeping his trouble present to his
mind. Sid noticed that Tom never was coroner at one of these inquiries,
though it had been his habit to take the lead in all new enterprises;
he noticed, too, that Tom never acted as a witness--and that was
strange; and Sid did not overlook the fact that Tom even showed a
marked aversion to these inquests, and always avoided them when he
could. Sid marvelled, but said nothing. However, even inquests went out
of vogue at last, and ceased to torture Tom's conscience.
Every day or two, during this time of sorrow, Tom watched his
opportunity and went to the little grated jail-window and smuggled such
small comforts through to the "murderer" as he could get hold of. The
jail was a trifling little brick den that stood in a marsh at the edge
of the village, and no guards were afforded for it; indeed, it was
seldom occupied. These offerings greatly helped to ease Tom's
The villagers had a strong desire to tar-and-feather Injun Joe and
ride him on a rail, for body-snatching, but so formidable was his
character that nobody could be found who was willing to take the lead
in the matter, so it was dropped. He had been careful to begin both of
his inquest-statements with the fight, without confessing the
grave-robbery that preceded it; therefore it was deemed wisest not
to try the case in the courts at present.
ONE of the reasons why Tom's mind had drifted away from its secret
troubles was, that it had found a new and weighty matter to interest
itself about. Becky Thatcher had stopped coming to school. Tom had
struggled with his pride a few days, and tried to "whistle her down the
wind," but failed. He began to find himself hanging around her father's
house, nights, and feeling very miserable. She was ill. What if she
should die! There was distraction in the thought. He no longer took an
interest in war, nor even in piracy. The charm of life was gone; there
was nothing but dreariness left. He put his hoop away, and his bat;
there was no joy in them any more. His aunt was concerned. She began to
try all manner of remedies on him. She was one of those people who are
infatuated with patent medicines and all new-fangled methods of
producing health or mending it. She was an inveterate experimenter in
these things. When something fresh in this line came out she was in a
fever, right away, to try it; not on herself, for she was never ailing,
but on anybody else that came handy. She was a subscriber for all the
"Health" periodicals and phrenological frauds; and the solemn ignorance
they were inflated with was breath to her nostrils. All the "rot" they
contained about ventilation, and how to go to bed, and how to get up,
and what to eat, and what to drink, and how much exercise to take, and
what frame of mind to keep one's self in, and what sort of clothing to
wear, was all gospel to her, and she never observed that her
health-journals of the current month customarily upset everything they
had recommended the month before. She was as simple-hearted and honest
as the day was long, and so she was an easy victim. She gathered
together her quack periodicals and her quack medicines, and thus armed
with death, went about on her pale horse, metaphorically speaking, with
"hell following after." But she never suspected that she was not an
angel of healing and the balm of Gilead in disguise, to the suffering
The water treatment was new, now, and Tom's low condition was a
windfall to her. She had him out at daylight every morning, stood him
up in the woodshed and drowned him with a deluge of cold water; then
she scrubbed him down with a towel like a file, and so brought him to;
then she rolled him up in a wet sheet and put him away under blankets
till she sweated his soul clean and "the yellow stains of it came
through his pores"--as Tom said.
Yet notwithstanding all this, the boy grew more and more melancholy
and pale and dejected. She added hot baths, sitz baths, shower baths,
and plunges. The boy remained as dismal as a hearse. She began to
assist the water with a slim oatmeal diet and blister-plasters. She
calculated his capacity as she would a jug's, and filled him up every
day with quack cure-alls.
Tom had become indifferent to persecution by this time. This phase
filled the old lady's heart with consternation. This indifference must
be broken up at any cost. Now she heard of Pain-killer for the first
time. She ordered a lot at once. She tasted it and was filled with
gratitude. It was simply fire in a liquid form. She dropped the water
treatment and everything else, and pinned her faith to Pain-killer. She
gave Tom a teaspoonful and watched with the deepest anxiety for the
result. Her troubles were instantly at rest, her soul at peace again;
for the "indifference" was broken up. The boy could not have shown a
wilder, heartier interest, if she had built a fire under him.
Tom felt that it was time to wake up; this sort of life might be
romantic enough, in his blighted condition, but it was getting to have
too little sentiment and too much distracting variety about it. So he
thought over various plans for relief, and finally hit pon that of
professing to be fond of Pain-killer. He asked for it so often that he
became a nuisance, and his aunt ended by telling him to help himself
and quit bothering her. If it had been Sid, she would have had no
misgivings to alloy her delight; but since it was Tom, she watched the
bottle clandestinely. She found that the medicine did really diminish,
but it did not occur to her that the boy was mending the health of a
crack in the sitting-room floor with it.
One day Tom was in the act of dosing the crack when his aunt's yellow
cat came along, purring, eying the teaspoon avariciously, and begging
for a taste. Tom said:
"Don't ask for it unless you want it, Peter."
But Peter signified that he did want it.
"You better make sure."
Peter was sure.
"Now you've asked for it, and I'll give it to you, because there ain't
anything mean about me; but if you find you don't like it, you mustn't
blame anybody but your own self."
Peter was agreeable. So Tom pried his mouth open and poured down the
Pain-killer. Peter sprang a couple of yards in the air, and then
delivered a war-whoop and set off round and round the room, banging
against furniture, upsetting flower-pots, and making general havoc.
Next he rose on his hind feet and pranced around, in a frenzy of
enjoyment, with his head over his shoulder and his voice proclaiming
his unappeasable happiness. Then he went tearing around the house again
spreading chaos and destruction in his path. Aunt Polly entered in time
to see him throw a few double summersets, deliver a final mighty
hurrah, and sail through the open window, carrying the rest of the
flower-pots with him. The old lady stood petrified with astonishment,
peering over her glasses; Tom lay on the floor expiring with laughter.
"Tom, what on earth ails that cat?"
"I don't know, aunt," gasped the boy.
"Why, I never see anything like it. What did make him act so?"
"Deed I don't know, Aunt Polly; cats always act so when they're having
a good time."
"They do, do they?" There was something in the tone that made Tom
"Yes'm. That is, I believe they do."
"You DO?"
The old lady was bending down, Tom watching, with interest emphasized
by anxiety. Too late he divined her "drift." The handle of the telltale
teaspoon was visible under the bed-valance. Aunt Polly took it, held it
up. Tom winced, and dropped his eyes. Aunt Polly raised him by the
usual handle--his ear--and cracked his head soundly with her thimble.
"Now, sir, what did you want to treat that poor dumb beast so, for?"
"I done it out of pity for him--because he hadn't any aunt."
"Hadn't any aunt!--you numskull. What has that got to do with it?"
"Heaps. Because if he'd had one she'd a burnt him out herself! She'd a
roasted his bowels out of him 'thout any more feeling than if he was a
Aunt Polly felt a sudden pang of remorse. This was putting the thing
in a new light; what was cruelty to a cat MIGHT be cruelty to a boy,
too. She began to soften; she felt sorry. Her eyes watered a little,
and she put her hand on Tom's head and said gently:
"I was meaning for the best, Tom. And, Tom, it DID do you good."
Tom looked up in her face with just a perceptible twinkle peeping
through his gravity.
"I know you was meaning for the best, aunty, and so was I with Peter.
It done HIM good, too. I never see him get around so since--"
"Oh, go 'long with you, Tom, before you aggravate me again. And you
try and see if you can't be a good boy, for once, and you needn't take
any more medicine."
Tom reached school ahead of time. It was noticed that this strange
thing had been occurring every day latterly. And now, as usual of late,
he hung about the gate of the schoolyard instead of playing with his
comrades. He was sick, he said, and he looked it. He tried to seem to
be looking everywhere but whither he really was looking--down the road.
Presently Jeff Thatcher hove in sight, and Tom's face lighted; he gazed
a moment, and then turned sorrowfully away. When Jeff arrived, Tom
accosted him; and "led up" warily to opportunities for remark about
Becky, but the giddy lad never could see the bait. Tom watched and
watched, hoping whenever a frisking frock came in sight, and hating the
owner of it as soon as he saw she was not the right one. At last frocks
ceased to appear, and he dropped hopelessly into the dumps; he entered
the empty schoolhouse and sat down to suffer. Then one more frock
passed in at the gate, and Tom's heart gave a great bound. The next
instant he was out, and "going on" like an Indian; yelling, laughing,
chasing boys, jumping over the fence at risk of life and limb, throwing
handsprings, standing on his head--doing all the heroic things he could
conceive of, and keeping a furtive eye out, all the while, to see if
Becky Thatcher was noticing. But she seemed to be unconscious of it
all; she never looked. Could it be possible that she was not aware that
he was there? He carried his exploits to her immediate vicinity; came
war-whooping around, snatched a boy's cap, hurled it to the roof of the
schoolhouse, broke through a group of boys, tumbling them in every
direction, and fell sprawling, himself, under Becky's nose, almost
upsetting her--and she turned, with her nose in the air, and he heard
her say: "Mf! some people think they're mighty smart--always showing
Tom's cheeks burned. He gathered himself up and sneaked off, crushed
and crestfallen.
TOM'S mind was made up now. He was gloomy and desperate. He was a
forsaken, friendless boy, he said; nobody loved him; when they found
out what they had driven him to, perhaps they would be sorry; he had
tried to do right and get along, but they would not let him; since
nothing would do them but to be rid of him, let it be so; and let them
blame HIM for the consequences--why shouldn't they? What right had the
friendless to complain? Yes, they had forced him to it at last: he
would lead a life of crime. There was no choice.
By this time he was far down Meadow Lane, and the bell for school to
"take up" tinkled faintly upon his ear. He sobbed, now, to think he
should never, never hear that old familiar sound any more--it was very
hard, but it was forced on him; since he was driven out into the cold
world, he must submit--but he forgave them. Then the sobs came thick
and fast.
Just at this point he met his soul's sworn comrade, Joe Harper
--hard-eyed, and with evidently a great and dismal purpose in his heart.
Plainly here were "two souls with but a single thought." Tom, wiping
his eyes with his sleeve, began to blubber out something about a
resolution to escape from hard usage and lack of sympathy at home by
roaming abroad into the great world never to return; and ended by
hoping that Joe would not forget him.
But it transpired that this was a request which Joe had just been
going to make of Tom, and had come to hunt him up for that purpose. His
mother had whipped him for drinking some cream which he had never
tasted and knew nothing about; it was plain that she was tired of him
and wished him to go; if she felt that way, there was nothing for him
to do but succumb; he hoped she would be happy, and never regret having
driven her poor boy out into the unfeeling world to suffer and die.
As the two boys walked sorrowing along, they made a new compact to
stand by each other and be brothers and never separate till death
relieved them of their troubles. Then they began to lay their plans.
Joe was for being a hermit, and living on crusts in a remote cave, and
dying, some time, of cold and want and grief; but after listening to
Tom, he conceded that there were some conspicuous advantages about a
life of crime, and so he consented to be a pirate.
Three miles below St. Petersburg, at a point where the Mississippi
River was a trifle over a mile wide, there was a long, narrow, wooded
island, with a shallow bar at the head of it, and this offered well as
a rendezvous. It was not inhabited; it lay far over toward the further
shore, abreast a dense and almost wholly unpeopled forest. So Jackson's
Island was chosen. Who were to be the subjects of their piracies was a
matter that did not occur to them. Then they hunted up Huckleberry
Finn, and he joined them promptly, for all careers were one to him; he
was indifferent. They presently separated to meet at a lonely spot on
the river-bank two miles above the village at the favorite hour--which
was midnight. There was a small log raft there which they meant to
capture. Each would bring hooks and lines, and such provision as he
could steal in the most dark and mysterious way--as became outlaws. And
before the afternoon was done, they had all managed to enjoy the sweet
glory of spreading the fact that pretty soon the town would "hear
something." All who got this vague hint were cautioned to "be mum and
About midnight Tom arrived with a boiled ham and a few trifles,
and stopped in a dense undergrowth on a small bluff overlooking the
meeting-place. It was starlight, and very still. The mighty river lay
like an ocean at rest. Tom listened a moment, but no sound disturbed the
quiet. Then he gave a low, distinct whistle. It was answered from under
the bluff. Tom whistled twice more; these signals were answered in the
same way. Then a guarded voice said:
"Who goes there?"
"Tom Sawyer, the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main. Name your names."
"Huck Finn the Red-Handed, and Joe Harper the Terror of the Seas." Tom
had furnished these titles, from his favorite literature.
"'Tis well. Give the countersign."
Two hoarse whispers delivered the same awful word simultaneously to
the brooding night:
Then Tom tumbled his ham over the bluff and let himself down after it,
tearing both skin and clothes to some extent in the effort. There was
an easy, comfortable path along the shore under the bluff, but it
lacked the advantages of difficulty and danger so valued by a pirate.
The Terror of the Seas had brought a side of bacon, and had about worn
himself out with getting it there. Finn the Red-Handed had stolen a
skillet and a quantity of half-cured leaf tobacco, and had also brought
a few corn-cobs to make pipes with. But none of the pirates smoked or
"chewed" but himself. The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main said it
would never do to start without some fire. That was a wise thought;
matches were hardly known there in that day. They saw a fire
smouldering upon a great raft a hundred yards above, and they went
stealthily thither and helped themselves to a chunk. They made an
imposing adventure of it, saying, "Hist!" every now and then, and
suddenly halting with finger on lip; moving with hands on imaginary
dagger-hilts; and giving orders in dismal whispers that if "the foe"
stirred, to "let him have it to the hilt," because "dead men tell no
tales." They knew well enough that the raftsmen were all down at the
village laying in stores or having a spree, but still that was no
excuse for their conducting this thing in an unpiratical way.
They shoved off, presently, Tom in command, Huck at the after oar and
Joe at the forward. Tom stood amidships, gloomy-browed, and with folded
arms, and gave his orders in a low, stern whisper:
"Luff, and bring her to the wind!"
"Aye-aye, sir!"
"Steady, steady-y-y-y!"
"Steady it is, sir!"
"Let her go off a point!"
"Point it is, sir!"
As the boys steadily and monotonously drove the raft toward mid-stream
it was no doubt understood that these orders were given only for
"style," and were not intended to mean anything in particular.
"What sail's she carrying?"
"Courses, tops'ls, and flying-jib, sir."
"Send the r'yals up! Lay out aloft, there, half a dozen of ye
--foretopmaststuns'l! Lively, now!"
"Aye-aye, sir!"
"Shake out that maintogalans'l! Sheets and braces! NOW my hearties!"
"Aye-aye, sir!"
"Hellum-a-lee--hard a port! Stand by to meet her when she comes! Port,
port! NOW, men! With a will! Stead-y-y-y!"
"Steady it is, sir!"
The raft drew beyond the middle of the river; the boys pointed her
head right, and then lay on their oars. The river was not high, so
there was not more than a two or three mile current. Hardly a word was
said during the next three-quarters of an hour. Now the raft was
passing before the distant town. Two or three glimmering lights showed
where it lay, peacefully sleeping, beyond the vague vast sweep of
star-gemmed water, unconscious of the tremendous event that was happening.
The Black Avenger stood still with folded arms, "looking his last" upon
the scene of his former joys and his later sufferings, and wishing
"she" could see him now, abroad on the wild sea, facing peril and death
with dauntless heart, going to his doom with a grim smile on his lips.
It was but a small strain on his imagination to remove Jackson's Island
beyond eyeshot of the village, and so he "looked his last" with a
broken and satisfied heart. The other pirates were looking their last,
too; and they all looked so long that they came near letting the
current drift them out of the range of the island. But they discovered
the danger in time, and made shift to avert it. About two o'clock in
the morning the raft grounded on the bar two hundred yards above the
head of the island, and they waded back and forth until they had landed
their freight. Part of the little raft's belongings consisted of an old
sail, and this they spread over a nook in the bushes for a tent to
shelter their provisions; but they themselves would sleep in the open
air in good weather, as became outlaws.
They built a fire against the side of a great log twenty or thirty
steps within the sombre depths of the forest, and then cooked some
bacon in the frying-pan for supper, and used up half of the corn "pone"
stock they had brought. It seemed glorious sport to be feasting in that
wild, free way in the virgin forest of an unexplored and uninhabited
island, far from the haunts of men, and they said they never would
return to civilization. The climbing fire lit up their faces and threw
its ruddy glare upon the pillared tree-trunks of their forest temple,
and upon the varnished foliage and festooning vines.
When the last crisp slice of bacon was gone, and the last allowance of
corn pone devoured, the boys stretched themselves out on the grass,
filled with contentment. They could have found a cooler place, but they
would not deny themselves such a romantic feature as the roasting
"AIN'T it gay?" said Joe.
"It's NUTS!" said Tom. "What would the boys say if they could see us?"
"Say? Well, they'd just die to be here--hey, Hucky!"
"I reckon so," said Huckleberry; "anyways, I'm suited. I don't want
nothing better'n this. I don't ever get enough to eat, gen'ally--and
here they can't come and pick at a feller and bullyrag him so."
"It's just the life for me," said Tom. "You don't have to get up,
mornings, and you don't have to go to school, and wash, and all that
blame foolishness. You see a pirate don't have to do ANYTHING, Joe,
when he's ashore, but a hermit HE has to be praying considerable, and
then he don't have any fun, anyway, all by himself that way."
"Oh yes, that's so," said Joe, "but I hadn't thought much about it,
you know. I'd a good deal rather be a pirate, now that I've tried it."
"You see," said Tom, "people don't go much on hermits, nowadays, like
they used to in old times, but a pirate's always respected. And a
hermit's got to sleep on the hardest place he can find, and put
sackcloth and ashes on his head, and stand out in the rain, and--"
"What does he put sackcloth and ashes on his head for?" inquired Huck.
"I dono. But they've GOT to do it. Hermits always do. You'd have to do
that if you was a hermit."
"Dern'd if I would," said Huck.
"Well, what would you do?"
"I dono. But I wouldn't do that."
"Why, Huck, you'd HAVE to. How'd you get around it?"
"Why, I just wouldn't stand it. I'd run away."
"Run away! Well, you WOULD be a nice old slouch of a hermit. You'd be
a disgrace."
The Red-Handed made no response, being better employed. He had
finished gouging out a cob, and now he fitted a weed stem to it, loaded
it with tobacco, and was pressing a coal to the charge and blowing a
cloud of fragrant smoke--he was in the full bloom of luxurious
contentment. The other pirates envied him this majestic vice, and
secretly resolved to acquire it shortly. Presently Huck said:
"What does pirates have to do?"
Tom said:
"Oh, they have just a bully time--take ships and burn them, and get
the money and bury it in awful places in their island where there's
ghosts and things to watch it, and kill everybody in the ships--make
'em walk a plank."
"And they carry the women to the island," said Joe; "they don't kill
the women."
"No," assented Tom, "they don't kill the women--they're too noble. And
the women's always beautiful, too.
"And don't they wear the bulliest clothes! Oh no! All gold and silver
and di'monds," said Joe, with enthusiasm.
"Who?" said Huck.
"Why, the pirates."
Huck scanned his own clothing forlornly.
"I reckon I ain't dressed fitten for a pirate," said he, with a
regretful pathos in his voice; "but I ain't got none but these."
But the other boys told him the fine clothes would come fast enough,
after they should have begun their adventures. They made him understand
that his poor rags would do to begin with, though it was customary for
wealthy pirates to start with a proper wardrobe.
Gradually their talk died out and drowsiness began to steal upon the
eyelids of the little waifs. The pipe dropped from the fingers of the
Red-Handed, and he slept the sleep of the conscience-free and the
weary. The Terror of the Seas and the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main
had more difficulty in getting to sleep. They said their prayers
inwardly, and lying down, since there was nobody there with authority
to make them kneel and recite aloud; in truth, they had a mind not to
say them at all, but they were afraid to proceed to such lengths as
that, lest they might call down a sudden and special thunderbolt from
heaven. Then at once they reached and hovered upon the imminent verge
of sleep--but an intruder came, now, that would not "down." It was
conscience. They began to feel a vague fear that they had been doing
wrong to run away; and next they thought of the stolen meat, and then
the real torture came. They tried to argue it away by reminding
conscience that they had purloined sweetmeats and apples scores of
times; but conscience was not to be appeased by such thin
plausibilities; it seemed to them, in the end, that there was no
getting around the stubborn fact that taking sweetmeats was only
"hooking," while taking bacon and hams and such valuables was plain
simple stealing--and there was a command against that in the Bible. So
they inwardly resolved that so long as they remained in the business,
their piracies should not again be sullied with the crime of stealing.
Then conscience granted a truce, and these curiously inconsistent
pirates fell peacefully to sleep.
WHEN Tom awoke in the morning, he wondered where he was. He sat up and
rubbed his eyes and looked around. Then he comprehended. It was the
cool gray dawn, and there was a delicious sense of repose and peace in
the deep pervading calm and silence of the woods. Not a leaf stirred;
not a sound obtruded upon great Nature's meditation. Beaded dewdrops
stood upon the leaves and grasses. A white layer of ashes covered the
fire, and a thin blue breath of smoke rose straight into the air. Joe
and Huck still slept.
Now, far away in the woods a bird called; another answered; presently
the hammering of a woodpecker was heard. Gradually the cool dim gray of
the morning whitened, and as gradually sounds multiplied and life
manifested itself. The marvel of Nature shaking off sleep and going to
work unfolded itself to the musing boy. A little green worm came
crawling over a dewy leaf, lifting two-thirds of his body into the air
from time to time and "sniffing around," then proceeding again--for he
was measuring, Tom said; and when the worm approached him, of its own
accord, he sat as still as a stone, with his hopes rising and falling,
by turns, as the creature still came toward him or seemed inclined to
go elsewhere; and when at last it considered a painful moment with its
curved body in the air and then came decisively down upon Tom's leg and
began a journey over him, his whole heart was glad--for that meant that
he was going to have a new suit of clothes--without the shadow of a
doubt a gaudy piratical uniform. Now a procession of ants appeared,
from nowhere in particular, and went about their labors; one struggled
manfully by with a dead spider five times as big as itself in its arms,
and lugged it straight up a tree-trunk. A brown spotted lady-bug
climbed the dizzy height of a grass blade, and Tom bent down close to
it and said, "Lady-bug, lady-bug, fly away home, your house is on fire,
your children's alone," and she took wing and went off to see about it
--which did not surprise the boy, for he knew of old that this insect was
credulous about conflagrations, and he had practised upon its
simplicity more than once. A tumblebug came next, heaving sturdily at
its ball, and Tom touched the creature, to see it shut its legs against
its body and pretend to be dead. The birds were fairly rioting by this
time. A catbird, the Northern mocker, lit in a tree over Tom's head,
and trilled out her imitations of her neighbors in a rapture of
enjoyment; then a shrill jay swept down, a flash of blue flame, and
stopped on a twig almost within the boy's reach, cocked his head to one
side and eyed the strangers with a consuming curiosity; a gray squirrel
and a big fellow of the "fox" kind came skurrying along, sitting up at
intervals to inspect and chatter at the boys, for the wild things had
probably never seen a human being before and scarcely knew whether to
be afraid or not. All Nature was wide awake and stirring, now; long
lances of sunlight pierced down through the dense foliage far and near,
and a few butterflies came fluttering upon the scene.
Tom stirred up the other pirates and they all clattered away with a
shout, and in a minute or two were stripped and chasing after and
tumbling over each other in the shallow limpid water of the white
sandbar. They felt no longing for the little village sleeping in the
distance beyond the majestic waste of water. A vagrant current or a
slight rise in the river had carried off their raft, but this only
gratified them, since its going was something like burning the bridge
between them and civilization.
They came back to camp wonderfully refreshed, glad-hearted, and
ravenous; and they soon had the camp-fire blazing up again. Huck found
a spring of clear cold water close by, and the boys made cups of broad
oak or hickory leaves, and felt that water, sweetened with such a
wildwood charm as that, would be a good enough substitute for coffee.
While Joe was slicing bacon for breakfast, Tom and Huck asked him to
hold on a minute; they stepped to a promising nook in the river-bank
and threw in their lines; almost immediately they had reward. Joe had
not had time to get impatient before they were back again with some
handsome bass, a couple of sun-perch and a small catfish--provisions
enough for quite a family. They fried the fish with the bacon, and were
astonished; for no fish had ever seemed so delicious before. They did
not know that the quicker a fresh-water fish is on the fire after he is
caught the better he is; and they reflected little upon what a sauce
open-air sleeping, open-air exercise, bathing, and a large ingredient
of hunger make, too.
They lay around in the shade, after breakfast, while Huck had a smoke,
and then went off through the woods on an exploring expedition. They
tramped gayly along, over decaying logs, through tangled underbrush,
among solemn monarchs of the forest, hung from their crowns to the
ground with a drooping regalia of grape-vines. Now and then they came
upon snug nooks carpeted with grass and jeweled with flowers.
They found plenty of things to be delighted with, but nothing to be
astonished at. They discovered that the island was about three miles
long and a quarter of a mile wide, and that the shore it lay closest to
was only separated from it by a narrow channel hardly two hundred yards
wide. They took a swim about every hour, so it was close upon the
middle of the afternoon when they got back to camp. They were too
hungry to stop to fish, but they fared sumptuously upon cold ham, and
then threw themselves down in the shade to talk. But the talk soon
began to drag, and then died. The stillness, the solemnity that brooded
in the woods, and the sense of loneliness, began to tell upon the
spirits of the boys. They fell to thinking. A sort of undefined longing
crept upon them. This took dim shape, presently--it was budding
homesickness. Even Finn the Red-Handed was dreaming of his doorsteps
and empty hogsheads. But they were all ashamed of their weakness, and
none was brave enough to speak his thought.
For some time, now, the boys had been dully conscious of a peculiar
sound in the distance, just as one sometimes is of the ticking of a
clock which he takes no distinct note of. But now this mysterious sound
became more pronounced, and forced a recognition. The boys started,
glanced at each other, and then each assumed a listening attitude.
There was a long silence, profound and unbroken; then a deep, sullen
boom came floating down out of the distance.
"What is it!" exclaimed Joe, under his breath.
"I wonder," said Tom in a whisper.
"'Tain't thunder," said Huckleberry, in an awed tone, "becuz thunder--"
"Hark!" said Tom. "Listen--don't talk."
They waited a time that seemed an age, and then the same muffled boom
troubled the solemn hush.
"Let's go and see."
They sprang to their feet and hurried to the shore toward the town.
They parted the bushes on the bank and peered out over the water. The
little steam ferryboat was about a mile below the village, drifting
with the current. Her broad deck seemed crowded with people. There were
a great many skiffs rowing about or floating with the stream in the
neighborhood of the ferryboat, but the boys could not determine what
the men in them were doing. Presently a great jet of white smoke burst
from the ferryboat's side, and as it expanded and rose in a lazy cloud,
that same dull throb of sound was borne to the listeners again.
"I know now!" exclaimed Tom; "somebody's drownded!"
"That's it!" said Huck; "they done that last summer, when Bill Turner
got drownded; they shoot a cannon over the water, and that makes him
come up to the top. Yes, and they take loaves of bread and put
quicksilver in 'em and set 'em afloat, and wherever there's anybody
that's drownded, they'll float right there and stop."
"Yes, I've heard about that," said Joe. "I wonder what makes the bread
do that."
"Oh, it ain't the bread, so much," said Tom; "I reckon it's mostly
what they SAY over it before they start it out."
"But they don't say anything over it," said Huck. "I've seen 'em and
they don't."
"Well, that's funny," said Tom. "But maybe they say it to themselves.
Of COURSE they do. Anybody might know that."
The other boys agreed that there was reason in what Tom said, because
an ignorant lump of bread, uninstructed by an incantation, could not be
expected to act very intelligently when set upon an errand of such
"By jings, I wish I was over there, now," said Joe.
"I do too" said Huck "I'd give heaps to know who it is."
The boys still listened and watched. Presently a revealing thought
flashed through Tom's mind, and he exclaimed:
"Boys, I know who's drownded--it's us!"
They felt like heroes in an instant. Here was a gorgeous triumph; they
were missed; they were mourned; hearts were breaking on their account;
tears were being shed; accusing memories of unkindness to these poor
lost lads were rising up, and unavailing regrets and remorse were being
indulged; and best of all, the departed were the talk of the whole
town, and the envy of all the boys, as far as this dazzling notoriety
was concerned. This was fine. It was worth while to be a pirate, after
As twilight drew on, the ferryboat went back to her accustomed
business and the skiffs disappeared. The pirates returned to camp. They
were jubilant with vanity over their new grandeur and the illustrious
trouble they were making. They caught fish, cooked supper and ate it,
and then fell to guessing at what the village was thinking and saying
about them; and the pictures they drew of the public distress on their
account were gratifying to look upon--from their point of view. But
when the shadows of night closed them in, they gradually ceased to
talk, and sat gazing into the fire, with their minds evidently
wandering elsewhere. The excitement was gone, now, and Tom and Joe
could not keep back thoughts of certain persons at home who were not
enjoying this fine frolic as much as they were. Misgivings came; they
grew troubled and unhappy; a sigh or two escaped, unawares. By and by
Joe timidly ventured upon a roundabout "feeler" as to how the others
might look upon a return to civilization--not right now, but--
Tom withered him with derision! Huck, being uncommitted as yet, joined
in with Tom, and the waverer quickly "explained," and was glad to get
out of the scrape with as little taint of chicken-hearted homesickness
clinging to his garments as he could. Mutiny was effectually laid to
rest for the moment.
As the night deepened, Huck began to nod, and presently to snore. Joe
followed next. Tom lay upon his elbow motionless, for some time,
watching the two intently. At last he got up cautiously, on his knees,
and went searching among the grass and the flickering reflections flung
by the camp-fire. He picked up and inspected several large
semi-cylinders of the thin white bark of a sycamore, and finally chose
two which seemed to suit him. Then he knelt by the fire and painfully
wrote something upon each of these with his "red keel"; one he rolled up
and put in his jacket pocket, and the other he put in Joe's hat and
removed it to a little distance from the owner. And he also put into the
hat certain schoolboy treasures of almost inestimable value--among them
a lump of chalk, an India-rubber ball, three fishhooks, and one of that
kind of marbles known as a "sure 'nough crystal." Then he tiptoed his
way cautiously among the trees till he felt that he was out of hearing,
and straightway broke into a keen run in the direction of the sandbar.
A FEW minutes later Tom was in the shoal water of the bar, wading
toward the Illinois shore. Before the depth reached his middle he was
half-way over; the current would permit no more wading, now, so he
struck out confidently to swim the remaining hundred yards. He swam
quartering upstream, but still was swept downward rather faster than he
had expected. However, he reached the shore finally, and drifted along
till he found a low place and drew himself out. He put his hand on his
jacket pocket, found his piece of bark safe, and then struck through
the woods, following the shore, with streaming garments. Shortly before
ten o'clock he came out into an open place opposite the village, and
saw the ferryboat lying in the shadow of the trees and the high bank.
Everything was quiet under the blinking stars. He crept down the bank,
watching with all his eyes, slipped into the water, swam three or four
strokes and climbed into the skiff that did "yawl" duty at the boat's
stern. He laid himself down under the thwarts and waited, panting.
Presently the cracked bell tapped and a voice gave the order to "cast
off." A minute or two later the skiff's head was standing high up,
against the boat's swell, and the voyage was begun. Tom felt happy in
his success, for he knew it was the boat's last trip for the night. At
the end of a long twelve or fifteen minutes the wheels stopped, and Tom
slipped overboard and swam ashore in the dusk, landing fifty yards
downstream, out of danger of possible stragglers.
He flew along unfrequented alleys, and shortly found himself at his
aunt's back fence. He climbed over, approached the "ell," and looked in
at the sitting-room window, for a light was burning there. There sat
Aunt Polly, Sid, Mary, and Joe Harper's mother, grouped together,
talking. They were by the bed, and the bed was between them and the
door. Tom went to the door and began to softly lift the latch; then he
pressed gently and the door yielded a crack; he continued pushing
cautiously, and quaking every time it creaked, till he judged he might
squeeze through on his knees; so he put his head through and began,
"What makes the candle blow so?" said Aunt Polly. Tom hurried up.
"Why, that door's open, I believe. Why, of course it is. No end of
strange things now. Go 'long and shut it, Sid."
Tom disappeared under the bed just in time. He lay and "breathed"
himself for a time, and then crept to where he could almost touch his
aunt's foot.
"But as I was saying," said Aunt Polly, "he warn't BAD, so to say
--only mischEEvous. Only just giddy, and harum-scarum, you know. He
warn't any more responsible than a colt. HE never meant any harm, and
he was the best-hearted boy that ever was"--and she began to cry.
"It was just so with my Joe--always full of his devilment, and up to
every kind of mischief, but he was just as unselfish and kind as he
could be--and laws bless me, to think I went and whipped him for taking
that cream, never once recollecting that I throwed it out myself
because it was sour, and I never to see him again in this world, never,
never, never, poor abused boy!" And Mrs. Harper sobbed as if her heart
would break.
"I hope Tom's better off where he is," said Sid, "but if he'd been
better in some ways--"
"SID!" Tom felt the glare of the old lady's eye, though he could not
see it. "Not a word against my Tom, now that he's gone! God'll take
care of HIM--never you trouble YOURself, sir! Oh, Mrs. Harper, I don't
know how to give him up! I don't know how to give him up! He was such a
comfort to me, although he tormented my old heart out of me, 'most."
"The Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken away--Blessed be the name of
the Lord! But it's so hard--Oh, it's so hard! Only last Saturday my
Joe busted a firecracker right under my nose and I knocked him
sprawling. Little did I know then, how soon--Oh, if it was to do over
again I'd hug him and bless him for it."
"Yes, yes, yes, I know just how you feel, Mrs. Harper, I know just
exactly how you feel. No longer ago than yesterday noon, my Tom took
and filled the cat full of Pain-killer, and I did think the cretur
would tear the house down. And God forgive me, I cracked Tom's head
with my thimble, poor boy, poor dead boy. But he's out of all his
troubles now. And the last words I ever heard him say was to reproach--"
But this memory was too much for the old lady, and she broke entirely
down. Tom was snuffling, now, himself--and more in pity of himself than
anybody else. He could hear Mary crying, and putting in a kindly word
for him from time to time. He began to have a nobler opinion of himself
than ever before. Still, he was sufficiently touched by his aunt's
grief to long to rush out from under the bed and overwhelm her with
joy--and the theatrical gorgeousness of the thing appealed strongly to
his nature, too, but he resisted and lay still.
He went on listening, and gathered by odds and ends that it was
conjectured at first that the boys had got drowned while taking a swim;
then the small raft had been missed; next, certain boys said the
missing lads had promised that the village should "hear something"
soon; the wise-heads had "put this and that together" and decided that
the lads had gone off on that raft and would turn up at the next town
below, presently; but toward noon the raft had been found, lodged
against the Missouri shore some five or six miles below the village
--and then hope perished; they must be drowned, else hunger would have
driven them home by nightfall if not sooner. It was believed that the
search for the bodies had been a fruitless effort merely because the
drowning must have occurred in mid-channel, since the boys, being good
swimmers, would otherwise have escaped to shore. This was Wednesday
night. If the bodies continued missing until Sunday, all hope would be
given over, and the funerals would be preached on that morning. Tom
Mrs. Harper gave a sobbing good-night and turned to go. Then with a
mutual impulse the two bereaved women flung themselves into each
other's arms and had a good, consoling cry, and then parted. Aunt Polly
was tender far beyond her wont, in her good-night to Sid and Mary. Sid
snuffled a bit and Mary went off crying with all her heart.
Aunt Polly knelt down and prayed for Tom so touchingly, so
appealingly, and with such measureless love in her words and her old
trembling voice, that he was weltering in tears again, long before she
was through.
He had to keep still long after she went to bed, for she kept making
broken-hearted ejaculations from time to time, tossing unrestfully, and
turning over. But at last she was still, only moaning a little in her
sleep. Now the boy stole out, rose gradually by the bedside, shaded the
candle-light with his hand, and stood regarding her. His heart was full
of pity for her. He took out his sycamore scroll and placed it by the
candle. But something occurred to him, and he lingered considering. His
face lighted with a happy solution of his thought; he put the bark
hastily in his pocket. Then he bent over and kissed the faded lips, and
straightway made his stealthy exit, latching the door behind him.
He threaded his way back to the ferry landing, found nobody at large
there, and walked boldly on board the boat, for he knew she was
tenantless except that there was a watchman, who always turned in and
slept like a graven image. He untied the skiff at the stern, slipped
into it, and was soon rowing cautiously upstream. When he had pulled a
mile above the village, he started quartering across and bent himself
stoutly to his work. He hit the landing on the other side neatly, for
this was a familiar bit of work to him. He was moved to capture the
skiff, arguing that it might be considered a ship and therefore
legitimate prey for a pirate, but he knew a thorough search would be
made for it and that might end in revelations. So he stepped ashore and
entered the woods.
He sat down and took a long rest, torturing himself meanwhile to keep
awake, and then started warily down the home-stretch. The night was far
spent. It was broad daylight before he found himself fairly abreast the
island bar. He rested again until the sun was well up and gilding the
great river with its splendor, and then he plunged into the stream. A
little later he paused, dripping, upon the threshold of the camp, and
heard Joe say:
"No, Tom's true-blue, Huck, and he'll come back. He won't desert. He
knows that would be a disgrace to a pirate, and Tom's too proud for
that sort of thing. He's up to something or other. Now I wonder what?"
"Well, the things is ours, anyway, ain't they?"
"Pretty near, but not yet, Huck. The writing says they are if he ain't
back here to breakfast."
"Which he is!" exclaimed Tom, with fine dramatic effect, stepping
grandly into camp.
A sumptuous breakfast of bacon and fish was shortly provided, and as
the boys set to work upon it, Tom recounted (and adorned) his
adventures. They were a vain and boastful company of heroes when the
tale was done. Then Tom hid himself away in a shady nook to sleep till
noon, and the other pirates got ready to fish and explore.
AFTER dinner all the gang turned out to hunt for turtle eggs on the
bar. They went about poking sticks into the sand, and when they found a
soft place they went down on their knees and dug with their hands.
Sometimes they would take fifty or sixty eggs out of one hole. They
were perfectly round white things a trifle smaller than an English
walnut. They had a famous fried-egg feast that night, and another on
Friday morning.
After breakfast they went whooping and prancing out on the bar, and
chased each other round and round, shedding clothes as they went, until
they were naked, and then continued the frolic far away up the shoal
water of the bar, against the stiff current, which latter tripped their
legs from under them from time to time and greatly increased the fun.
And now and then they stooped in a group and splashed water in each
other's faces with their palms, gradually approaching each other, with
averted faces to avoid the strangling sprays, and finally gripping and
struggling till the best man ducked his neighbor, and then they all
went under in a tangle of white legs and arms and came up blowing,
sputtering, laughing, and gasping for breath at one and the same time.
When they were well exhausted, they would run out and sprawl on the
dry, hot sand, and lie there and cover themselves up with it, and by
and by break for the water again and go through the original
performance once more. Finally it occurred to them that their naked
skin represented flesh-colored "tights" very fairly; so they drew a
ring in the sand and had a circus--with three clowns in it, for none
would yield this proudest post to his neighbor.
Next they got their marbles and played "knucks" and "ring-taw" and
"keeps" till that amusement grew stale. Then Joe and Huck had another
swim, but Tom would not venture, because he found that in kicking off
his trousers he had kicked his string of rattlesnake rattles off his
ankle, and he wondered how he had escaped cramp so long without the
protection of this mysterious charm. He did not venture again until he
had found it, and by that time the other boys were tired and ready to
rest. They gradually wandered apart, dropped into the "dumps," and fell
to gazing longingly across the wide river to where the village lay
drowsing in the sun. Tom found himself writing "BECKY" in the sand with
his big toe; he scratched it out, and was angry with himself for his
weakness. But he wrote it again, nevertheless; he could not help it. He
erased it once more and then took himself out of temptation by driving
the other boys together and joining them.
But Joe's spirits had gone down almost beyond resurrection. He was so
homesick that he could hardly endure the misery of it. The tears lay
very near the surface. Huck was melancholy, too. Tom was downhearted,
but tried hard not to show it. He had a secret which he was not ready
to tell, yet, but if this mutinous depression was not broken up soon,
he would have to bring it out. He said, with a great show of
"I bet there's been pirates on this island before, boys. We'll explore
it again. They've hid treasures here somewhere. How'd you feel to light
on a rotten chest full of gold and silver--hey?"
But it roused only faint enthusiasm, which faded out, with no reply.
Tom tried one or two other seductions; but they failed, too. It was
discouraging work. Joe sat poking up the sand with a stick and looking
very gloomy. Finally he said:
"Oh, boys, let's give it up. I want to go home. It's so lonesome."
"Oh no, Joe, you'll feel better by and by," said Tom. "Just think of
the fishing that's here."
"I don't care for fishing. I want to go home."
"But, Joe, there ain't such another swimming-place anywhere."
"Swimming's no good. I don't seem to care for it, somehow, when there
ain't anybody to say I sha'n't go in. I mean to go home."
"Oh, shucks! Baby! You want to see your mother, I reckon."
"Yes, I DO want to see my mother--and you would, too, if you had one.
I ain't any more baby than you are." And Joe snuffled a little.
"Well, we'll let the cry-baby go home to his mother, won't we, Huck?
Poor thing--does it want to see its mother? And so it shall. You like
it here, don't you, Huck? We'll stay, won't we?"
Huck said, "Y-e-s"--without any heart in it.
"I'll never speak to you again as long as I live," said Joe, rising.
"There now!" And he moved moodily away and began to dress himself.
"Who cares!" said Tom. "Nobody wants you to. Go 'long home and get
laughed at. Oh, you're a nice pirate. Huck and me ain't cry-babies.
We'll stay, won't we, Huck? Let him go if he wants to. I reckon we can
get along without him, per'aps."
But Tom was uneasy, nevertheless, and was alarmed to see Joe go
sullenly on with his dressing. And then it was discomforting to see
Huck eying Joe's preparations so wistfully, and keeping up such an
ominous silence. Presently, without a parting word, Joe began to wade
off toward the Illinois shore. Tom's heart began to sink. He glanced at
Huck. Huck could not bear the look, and dropped his eyes. Then he said:
"I want to go, too, Tom. It was getting so lonesome anyway, and now
it'll be worse. Let's us go, too, Tom."
"I won't! You can all go, if you want to. I mean to stay."
"Tom, I better go."
"Well, go 'long--who's hendering you."
Huck began to pick up his scattered clothes. He said:
"Tom, I wisht you'd come, too. Now you think it over. We'll wait for
you when we get to shore."
"Well, you'll wait a blame long time, that's all."
Huck started sorrowfully away, and Tom stood looking after him, with a
strong desire tugging at his heart to yield his pride and go along too.
He hoped the boys would stop, but they still waded slowly on. It
suddenly dawned on Tom that it was become very lonely and still. He
made one final struggle with his pride, and then darted after his
comrades, yelling:
"Wait! Wait! I want to tell you something!"
They presently stopped and turned around. When he got to where they
were, he began unfolding his secret, and they listened moodily till at
last they saw the "point" he was driving at, and then they set up a
war-whoop of applause and said it was "splendid!" and said if he had
told them at first, they wouldn't have started away. He made a plausible
excuse; but his real reason had been the fear that not even the secret
would keep them with him any very great length of time, and so he had
meant to hold it in reserve as a last seduction.
The lads came gayly back and went at their sports again with a will,