THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
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 architecture.
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.
"What's gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!"
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 shouted:
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,
tomorrow, 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, trouble-some 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
gee-miny 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 un-disturbed. 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
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 im-pressive
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 as
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."
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 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."
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 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
"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
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
"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,
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, mean-time, describing stately circles--for it was
representing a forty-foot wheel.
"Let her go back on the labboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! 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
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 door-knob, 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 white-washed, and
not only whitewashed but elaborately coated and recoated, and even a
streak added to the ground, her astonishment was almost unspeakable. She
"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
pan-talettes. 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
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 out:
"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
"Blessed are the--a--a--"
"Yes--poor; blessed are the poor--a--a--"
"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--"
"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
"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 gratitude.
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 newcomer 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 you?"
"Tell the gentleman your other name, Thomas," said Walters, "and say
sir. You mustn't forget your manners."
"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
"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
"_David And Goliah!_"
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' _blood_-y 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
hand-kerchiefs, 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 pronounced.
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
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 downstairs 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 upstairs, 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."
"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
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 yourself, and see how you like it."
"What's that you got?"
"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?"
"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
"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 grave-yard '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
"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
"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
"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
When Tom reached the little isolated frame school-house, 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.
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 school-house. He instantly said:
"_I stopped to talk with Huckleberry Finn!_"
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 non-committal 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 whispered:
"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."
"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 _any_body. 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."
"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?"
"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, 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 pleaded:
"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?"
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 school-house 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 wood-pecker, 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
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 blood-curdling 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
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 bound-less!
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 called--
"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.
"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 back."
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
"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 death-watch 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
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
"Hucky, do you believe the dead people like it for us to be here?"
"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
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
"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
"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 said:
"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
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 longer."
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 mum."
"I'm agreed. It's the best thing. Would you just hold hands and swear
"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 moon-light, 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
"It's p'ison. That's what it is. You just swaller some of it once--you'll
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
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_
"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
[* 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, quaking with fear, yielded, and put his eye to the crack. His
whisper was hardly audible when he said:
"Oh, Huck, _its 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
"_You_ bad!" and Huckleberry began to snuffle too. "Consound it, Tom
Sawyer, you're just old pie, 'long-side 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 tip-toed 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
"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
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
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 un-dreamed-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
holi-day 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
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
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.
"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
"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
"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
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,
"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
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
wood-shed 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
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 upon 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, eyeing 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
"They do, do they?" There was something in the tone that made Tom
"Yes'm. That is, I believe they 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
tea-spoon 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
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 off!"
Tom's cheeks burned. He gathered himself up and sneaked off, crushed and
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
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 wait."
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
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!"
"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!"
"Shake out that maintogalans'l! Sheets and braces! _now_ my hearties!"
"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
eye-shot 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
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
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?"
"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
"And they carry the women to the island," said Joe; "they don't kill the
"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
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
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 ferry-boat 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
"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
"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 all.
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 home-sickness
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 campfire. 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 halfway
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
"But as I was saying," said Aunt Polly, "he warn't _bad_, so to say--only
misch_ee_vous. 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
"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 _your_self, 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 shuddered.
Mrs. Harper gave a sobbing goodnight 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 goodnight 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 "ringtaw" 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 cheerfulness:
"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 crybaby 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 crybabies. 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,
"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
warwhoop 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,
chattering all the time about Tom's stupendous plan and admiring the
genius of it. After a dainty egg and fish dinner, Tom said he wanted to
learn to smoke, now. Joe caught at the idea and said he would like to
try, too. So Huck made pipes and filled them. These novices had never
smoked anything before but cigars made of grapevine, and they "bit" the
tongue, and were not considered manly anyway.
Now they stretched themselves out on their elbows and began to puff,
charily, and with slender confidence. The smoke had an unpleasant taste,
and they gagged a little, but Tom said:
"Why, it's just as easy! If I'd a knowed this was all, I'd a learnt long
"So would I," said Joe. "It's just nothing."
"Why, many a time I've looked at people smoking, and thought well I wish
I could do that; but I never thought I could," said Tom.
"That's just the way with me, hain't it, Huck? You've heard me talk just
that way--haven't you, Huck? I'll leave it to Huck if I haven't."
"Yes--heaps of times," said Huck.
"Well, I have too," said Tom; "oh, hundreds of times. Once down by the
slaughter-house. Don't you remember, Huck? Bob Tanner was there, and
Johnny Miller, and Jeff Thatcher, when I said it. Don't you remember,
Huck, 'bout me saying that?"
"Yes, that's so," said Huck. "That was the day after I lost a white
alley. No, 'twas the day before."
"There--I told you so," said Tom. "Huck recollects it."
"I bleeve I could smoke this pipe all day," said Joe. "I don't feel
"Neither do I," said Tom. "I could smoke it all day. But I bet you Jeff
"Jeff Thatcher! Why, he'd keel over just with two draws. Just let him
try it once. _He'd_ see!"
"I bet he would. And Johnny Miller--I wish could see Johnny Miller tackle
"Oh, don't I!" said Joe. "Why, I bet you Johnny Miller couldn't any more
do this than nothing. Just one little snifter would fetch _him_."
"'Deed it would, Joe. Say--I wish the boys could see us now."
"So do I."
"Say--boys, don't say anything about it, and some time when they're
around, I'll come up to you and say, 'Joe, got a pipe? I want a smoke.'
And you'll say, kind of careless like, as if it warn't anything, you'll
say, 'Yes, I got my _old_ pipe, and another one, but my tobacker ain't
very good.' And I'll say, 'Oh, that's all right, if it's _strong_
enough.' And then you'll out with the pipes, and we'll light up just as
ca'm, and then just see 'em look!"
"By jings, that'll be gay, Tom! I wish it was _now_!"
"So do I! And when we tell 'em we learned when we was off pirating,
won't they wish they'd been along?"
"Oh, I reckon not! I'll just _bet_ they will!"
So the talk ran on. But presently it began to flag a trifle, and
grow disjointed. The silences widened; the expectoration marvellously
increased. Every pore inside the boys' cheeks became a spouting
fountain; they could scarcely bail out the cellars under their tongues
fast enough to prevent an inundation; little overflowings down their
throats occurred in spite of all they could do, and sudden retchings
followed every time. Both boys were looking very pale and miserable,
now. Joe's pipe dropped from his nerveless fingers. Tom's followed. Both
fountains were going furiously and both pumps bailing with might and
main. Joe said feebly:
"I've lost my knife. I reckon I better go and find it."
Tom said, with quivering lips and halting utterance:
"I'll help you. You go over that way and I'll hunt around by the spring.
No, you needn't come, Huck--we can find it."
So Huck sat down again, and waited an hour. Then he found it lonesome,
and went to find his comrades. They were wide apart in the woods, both
very pale, both fast asleep. But something informed him that if they had
had any trouble they had got rid of it.
They were not talkative at supper that night. They had a humble look,
and when Huck prepared his pipe after the meal and was going to prepare
theirs, they said no, they were not feeling very well--something they ate
at dinner had disagreed with them.
About midnight Joe awoke, and called the boys. There was a brooding
oppressiveness in the air that seemed to bode something. The boys
huddled themselves together and sought the friendly companionship of
the fire, though the dull dead heat of the breathless atmosphere was
stifling. They sat still, intent and waiting. The solemn hush continued.
Beyond the light of the fire everything was swallowed up in the
blackness of darkness. Presently there came a quivering glow that
vaguely revealed the foliage for a moment and then vanished. By and by
another came, a little stronger. Then another. Then a faint moan came
sighing through the branches of the forest and the boys felt a fleeting
breath upon their cheeks, and shuddered with the fancy that the Spirit
of the Night had gone by. There was a pause. Now a weird flash turned
night into day and showed every little grassblade, separate and
distinct, that grew about their feet. And it showed three white,
startled faces, too. A deep peal of thunder went rolling and tumbling
down the heavens and lost itself in sullen rumblings in the distance. A
sweep of chilly air passed by, rustling all the leaves and snowing the
flaky ashes broadcast about the fire. Another fierce glare lit up the
forest and an instant crash followed that seemed to rend the treetops
right over the boys' heads. They clung together in terror, in the thick
gloom that followed. A few big raindrops fell pattering upon the leaves.
"Quick! boys, go for the tent!" exclaimed Tom.
They sprang away, stumbling over roots and among vines in the dark, no
two plunging in the same direction. A furious blast roared through
the trees, making everything sing as it went. One blinding flash after
another came, and peal on peal of deafening thunder. And now a drenching
rain poured down and the rising hurricane drove it in sheets along the
ground. The boys cried out to each other, but the roaring wind and the
booming thunderblasts drowned their voices utterly. However, one by one
they straggled in at last and took shelter under the tent, cold, scared,
and streaming with water; but to have company in misery seemed something
to be grateful for. They could not talk, the old sail flapped so
furiously, even if the other noises would have allowed them. The tempest
rose higher and higher, and presently the sail tore loose from its
fastenings and went winging away on the blast. The boys seized each
others' hands and fled, with many tumblings and bruises, to the shelter
of a great oak that stood upon the riverbank. Now the battle was at its
highest. Under the ceaseless conflagration of lightning that flamed
in the skies, everything below stood out in cleancut and shadowless
distinctness: the bending trees, the billowy river, white with foam, the
driving spray of spumeflakes, the dim outlines of the high bluffs on
the other side, glimpsed through the drifting cloudrack and the slanting
veil of rain. Every little while some giant tree yielded the fight
and fell crashing through the younger growth; and the unflagging
thunderpeals came now in ear-splitting explosive bursts, keen and sharp,
and unspeakably appalling. The storm culminated in one matchless effort
that seemed likely to tear the island to pieces, burn it up, drown it to
the treetops, blow it away, and deafen every creature in it, all at one
and the same moment. It was a wild night for homeless young heads to be
But at last the battle was done, and the forces retired with weaker and
weaker threatenings and grumblings, and peace resumed her sway. The
boys went back to camp, a good deal awed; but they found there was still
something to be thankful for, because the great sycamore, the shelter
of their beds, was a ruin, now, blasted by the lightnings, and they were
not under it when the catastrophe happened.
Everything in camp was drenched, the campfire as well; for they were but
heedless lads, like their generation, and had made no provision against
rain. Here was matter for dismay, for they were soaked through and
chilled. They were eloquent in their distress; but they presently
discovered that the fire had eaten so far up under the great log it had
been built against (where it curved upward and separated itself from
the ground), that a handbreadth or so of it had escaped wetting; so they
patiently wrought until, with shreds and bark gathered from the under
sides of sheltered logs, they coaxed the fire to burn again. Then they
piled on great dead boughs till they had a roaring furnace, and were
gladhearted once more. They dried their boiled ham and had a feast,
and after that they sat by the fire and expanded and glorified their
midnight adventure until morning, for there was not a dry spot to sleep
on, anywhere around.
As the sun began to steal in upon the boys, drowsiness came over
them, and they went out on the sandbar and lay down to sleep. They got
scorched out by and by, and drearily set about getting breakfast. After
the meal they felt rusty, and stiff-jointed, and a little homesick once
more. Tom saw the signs, and fell to cheering up the pirates as well as
he could. But they cared nothing for marbles, or circus, or swimming, or
anything. He reminded them of the imposing secret, and raised a ray of
cheer. While it lasted, he got them interested in a new device. This was
to knock off being pirates, for a while, and be Indians for a change.
They were attracted by this idea; so it was not long before they were
stripped, and striped from head to heel with black mud, like so many
zebras--all of them chiefs, of course--and then they went tearing through
the woods to attack an English settlement.
By and by they separated into three hostile tribes, and darted upon each
other from ambush with dreadful warwhoops, and killed and scalped each
other by thousands. It was a gory day. Consequently it was an extremely
They assembled in camp toward suppertime, hungry and happy; but now
a difficulty arose--hostile Indians could not break the bread of
hospitality together without first making peace, and this was a simple
impossibility without smoking a pipe of peace. There was no other
process that ever they had heard of. Two of the savages almost wished
they had remained pirates. However, there was no other way; so with such
show of cheerfulness as they could muster they called for the pipe and
took their whiff as it passed, in due form.
And behold, they were glad they had gone into savagery, for they had
gained something; they found that they could now smoke a little without
having to go and hunt for a lost knife; they did not get sick enough to
be seriously uncomfortable. They were not likely to fool away this high
promise for lack of effort. No, they practised cautiously, after supper,
with right fair success, and so they spent a jubilant evening. They were
prouder and happier in their new acquirement than they would have been
in the scalping and skinning of the Six Nations. We will leave them to
smoke and chatter and brag, since we have no further use for them at
BUT there was no hilarity in the little town that same tranquil Saturday
afternoon. The Harpers, and Aunt Polly's family, were being put into
mourning, with great grief and many tears. An unusual quiet possessed
the village, although it was ordinarily quiet enough, in all conscience.
The villagers conducted their concerns with an absent air, and talked
little; but they sighed often. The Saturday holiday seemed a burden to
the children. They had no heart in their sports, and gradually gave them
In the afternoon Becky Thatcher found herself moping about the deserted
schoolhouse yard, and feeling very melancholy. But she found nothing
there to comfort her. She soliloquized:
"Oh, if I only had a brass andiron-knob again! But I haven't got
anything now to remember him by." And she choked back a little sob.
Presently she stopped, and said to herself:
"It was right here. Oh, if it was to do over again, I wouldn't say
that--I wouldn't say it for the whole world. But he's gone now; I'll
never, never, never see him any more."
This thought broke her down, and she wandered away, with tears rolling
down her cheeks. Then quite a group of boys and girls--playmates of Tom's
and Joe's--came by, and stood looking over the paling fence and talking
in reverent tones of how Tom did so-and-so the last time they saw
him, and how Joe said this and that small trifle (pregnant with awful
prophecy, as they could easily see now!)--and each speaker pointed out
the exact spot where the lost lads stood at the time, and then added
something like "and I was a-standing just so--just as I am now, and as if
you was him--I was as close as that--and he smiled, just this way--and then
something seemed to go all over me, like--awful, you know--and I never
thought what it meant, of course, but I can see now!"
Then there was a dispute about who saw the dead boys last in life, and
many claimed that dismal distinction, and offered evidences, more or
less tampered with by the witness; and when it was ultimately decided
who _did_ see the departed last, and exchanged the last words with them,
the lucky parties took upon themselves a sort of sacred importance,
and were gaped at and envied by all the rest. One poor chap, who had
no other grandeur to offer, said with tolerably manifest pride in the
"Well, Tom Sawyer he licked me once."
But that bid for glory was a failure. Most of the boys could say that,
and so that cheapened the distinction too much. The group loitered away,
still recalling memories of the lost heroes, in awed voices.
When the Sunday-school hour was finished, the next morning, the bell
began to toll, instead of ringing in the usual way. It was a very still
Sabbath, and the mournful sound seemed in keeping with the musing hush
that lay upon nature. The villagers began to gather, loitering a moment
in the vestibule to converse in whispers about the sad event. But there
was no whispering in the house; only the funereal rustling of dresses
as the women gathered to their seats disturbed the silence there. None
could remember when the little church had been so full before. There
was finally a waiting pause, an expectant dumbness, and then Aunt Polly
entered, followed by Sid and Mary, and they by the Harper family, all in
deep black, and the whole congregation, the old minister as well, rose
reverently and stood until the mourners were seated in the front pew.
There was another communing silence, broken at intervals by muffled
sobs, and then the minister spread his hands abroad and prayed. A moving
hymn was sung, and the text followed: "I am the Resurrection and the
As the service proceeded, the clergyman drew such pictures of the
graces, the winning ways, and the rare promise of the lost lads that
every soul there, thinking he recognized these pictures, felt a pang
in remembering that he had persistently blinded himself to them always
before, and had as persistently seen only faults and flaws in the poor
boys. The minister related many a touching incident in the lives of the
departed, too, which illustrated their sweet, generous natures, and the
people could easily see, now, how noble and beautiful those episodes
were, and remembered with grief that at the time they occurred they had
seemed rank rascalities, well deserving of the cowhide. The congregation
became more and more moved, as the pathetic tale went on, till at last
the whole company broke down and joined the weeping mourners in a chorus
of anguished sobs, the preacher himself giving way to his feelings, and
crying in the pulpit.
There was a rustle in the gallery, which nobody noticed; a moment later
the church door creaked; the minister raised his streaming eyes above
his handkerchief, and stood transfixed! First one and then another pair
of eyes followed the minister's, and then almost with one impulse the
congregation rose and stared while the three dead boys came marching up
the aisle, Tom in the lead, Joe next, and Huck, a ruin of drooping rags,
sneaking sheepishly in the rear! They had been hid in the unused gallery
listening to their own funeral sermon!
Aunt Polly, Mary, and the Harpers threw themselves upon their restored
ones, smothered them with kisses and poured out thanksgivings, while
poor Huck stood abashed and uncomfortable, not knowing exactly what
to do or where to hide from so many unwelcoming eyes. He wavered, and
started to slink away, but Tom seized him and said:
"Aunt Polly, it ain't fair. Somebody's got to be glad to see Huck."
"And so they shall. I'm glad to see him, poor motherless thing!" And
the loving attentions Aunt Polly lavished upon him were the one thing
capable of making him more uncomfortable than he was before.
Suddenly the minister shouted at the top of his voice: "Praise God from
whom all blessings flow--_sing_!--and put your hearts in it!"
And they did. Old Hundred swelled up with a triumphant burst, and
while it shook the rafters Tom Sawyer the Pirate looked around upon the
envying juveniles about him and confessed in his heart that this was the
proudest moment of his life.
As the "sold" congregation trooped out they said they would almost be
willing to be made ridiculous again to hear Old Hundred sung like that
Tom got more cuffs and kisses that day--according to Aunt Polly's varying
moods--than he had earned before in a year; and he hardly knew which
expressed the most gratefulness to God and affection for himself.
THAT was Tom's great secret--the scheme to return home with his brother
pirates and attend their own funerals. They had paddled over to the
Missouri shore on a log, at dusk on Saturday, landing five or six miles
below the village; they had slept in the woods at the edge of the town
till nearly daylight, and had then crept through back lanes and alleys
and finished their sleep in the gallery of the church among a chaos of
At breakfast, Monday morning, Aunt Polly and Mary were very loving to
Tom, and very attentive to his wants. There was an unusual amount of
talk. In the course of it Aunt Polly said:
"Well, I don't say it wasn't a fine joke, Tom, to keep everybody
suffering 'most a week so you boys had a good time, but it is a pity you
could be so hard-hearted as to let me suffer so. If you could come over
on a log to go to your funeral, you could have come over and give me a
hint some way that you warn't dead, but only run off."
"Yes, you could have done that, Tom," said Mary; "and I believe you
would if you had thought of it."
"Would you, Tom?" said Aunt Polly, her face lighting wistfully. "Say,
now, would you, if you'd thought of it?"
"I--well, I don't know. 'Twould 'a' spoiled everything."
"Tom, I hoped you loved me that much," said Aunt Polly, with a grieved
tone that discomforted the boy. "It would have been something if you'd
cared enough to _think_ of it, even if you didn't _do_ it."
"Now, auntie, that ain't any harm," pleaded Mary; "it's only Tom's giddy
way--he is always in such a rush that he never thinks of anything."
"More's the pity. Sid would have thought. And Sid would have come and
_done_ it, too. Tom, you'll look back, some day, when it's too late,
and wish you'd cared a little more for me when it would have cost you so
"Now, auntie, you know I do care for you," said Tom.
"I'd know it better if you acted more like it."
"I wish now I'd thought," said Tom, with a repentant tone; "but I dreamt
about you, anyway. That's something, ain't it?"
"It ain't much--a cat does that much--but it's better than nothing. What
did you dream?"
"Why, Wednesday night I dreamt that you was sitting over there by the
bed, and Sid was sitting by the woodbox, and Mary next to him."
"Well, so we did. So we always do. I'm glad your dreams could take even
that much trouble about us."
"And I dreamt that Joe Harper's mother was here."
"Why, she was here! Did you dream any more?"
"Oh, lots. But it's so dim, now."
"Well, try to recollect--can't you?"
"Somehow it seems to me that the wind--the wind blowed the--the--"
"Try harder, Tom! The wind did blow something. Come!"
Tom pressed his fingers on his forehead an anxious minute, and then
"I've got it now! I've got it now! It blowed the candle!"
"Mercy on us! Go on, Tom--go on!"
"And it seems to me that you said, 'Why, I believe that that door--'"
"Go _on_, Tom!"
"Just let me study a moment--just a moment. Oh, yes--you said you believed
the door was open."
"As I'm sitting here, I did! Didn't I, Mary! Go on!"
"And then--and then--well I won't be certain, but it seems like as if you
made Sid go and--and--"
"Well? Well? What did I make him do, Tom? What did I make him do?"
"You made him--you--Oh, you made him shut it."
"Well, for the land's sake! I never heard the beat of that in all my
days! Don't tell _me_ there ain't anything in dreams, any more. Sereny
Harper shall know of this before I'm an hour older. I'd like to see her
get around _this_ with her rubbage 'bout superstition. Go on, Tom!"
"Oh, it's all getting just as bright as day, now. Next you said I warn't
_bad_, only mischeevous and harum-scarum, and not any more responsible
than--than--I think it was a colt, or something."
"And so it was! Well, goodness gracious! Go on, Tom!"
"And then you began to cry."
"So I did. So I did. Not the first time, neither. And then--"
"Then Mrs. Harper she began to cry, and said Joe was just the same, and
she wished she hadn't whipped him for taking cream when she'd throwed it
out her own self--"
"Tom! The sperrit was upon you! You was a prophesying--that's what you
was doing! Land alive, go on, Tom!"
"Then Sid he said--he said--"
"I don't think I said anything," said Sid.
"Yes you did, Sid," said Mary.
"Shut your heads and let Tom go on! What did he say, Tom?"
"He said--I _think_ he said he hoped I was better off where I was gone
to, but if I'd been better sometimes--"
"_There_, d'you hear that! It was his very words!"
"And you shut him up sharp."
"I lay I did! There must 'a' been an angel there. There _was_ an angel
"And Mrs. Harper told about Joe scaring her with a firecracker, and you
told about Peter and the Pain-killer--"
"Just as true as I live!"
"And then there was a whole lot of talk 'bout dragging the river for us,
and 'bout having the funeral Sunday, and then you and old Miss Harper
hugged and cried, and she went."
"It happened just so! It happened just so, as sure as I'm a-sitting in
these very tracks. Tom, you couldn't told it more like if you'd 'a' seen
it! And then what? Go on, Tom!"
"Then I thought you prayed for me--and I could see you and hear every
word you said. And you went to bed, and I was so sorry that I took and
wrote on a piece of sycamore bark, 'We ain't dead--we are only off being
pirates,' and put it on the table by the candle; and then you looked
so good, laying there asleep, that I thought I went and leaned over and
kissed you on the lips."
"Did you, Tom, _did_ you! I just forgive you everything for that!" And
she seized the boy in a crushing embrace that made him feel like the
guiltiest of villains.
"It was very kind, even though it was only a--dream," Sid soliloquized
"Shut up, Sid! A body does just the same in a dream as he'd do if he was
awake. Here's a big Milum apple I've been saving for you, Tom, if you
was ever found again--now go 'long to school. I'm thankful to the good
God and Father of us all I've got you back, that's long-suffering and
merciful to them that believe on Him and keep His word, though goodness
knows I'm unworthy of it, but if only the worthy ones got His blessings
and had His hand to help them over the rough places, there's few enough
would smile here or ever enter into His rest when the long night comes.
Go 'long Sid, Mary, Tom--take yourselves off--you've hendered me long
The children left for school, and the old lady to call on Mrs. Harper
and vanquish her realism with Tom's marvellous dream. Sid had better
judgment than to utter the thought that was in his mind as he left the
house. It was this: "Pretty thin--as long a dream as that, without any
mistakes in it!"
What a hero Tom was become, now! He did not go skipping and prancing,
but moved with a dignified swagger as became a pirate who felt that the
public eye was on him. And indeed it was; he tried not to seem to see
the looks or hear the remarks as he passed along, but they were food and
drink to him. Smaller boys than himself flocked at his heels, as proud
to be seen with him, and tolerated by him, as if he had been the drummer
at the head of a procession or the elephant leading a menagerie into
town. Boys of his own size pretended not to know he had been away at
all; but they were consuming with envy, nevertheless. They would have
given anything to have that swarthy sun-tanned skin of his, and his
glittering notoriety; and Tom would not have parted with either for a
At school the children made so much of him and of Joe, and delivered
such eloquent admiration from their eyes, that the two heroes were
not long in becoming insufferably "stuck-up." They began to tell their
adventures to hungry listeners--but they only began; it was not a
thing likely to have an end, with imaginations like theirs to furnish
material. And finally, when they got out their pipes and went serenely
puffing around, the very summit of glory was reached.
Tom decided that he could be independent of Becky Thatcher now. Glory
was sufficient. He would live for glory. Now that he was distinguished,
maybe she would be wanting to "make up." Well, let her--she should see
that he could be as indifferent as some other people. Presently she
arrived. Tom pretended not to see her. He moved away and joined a group
of boys and girls and began to talk. Soon he observed that she was
tripping gayly back and forth with flushed face and dancing eyes,
pretending to be busy chasing schoolmates, and screaming with laughter
when she made a capture; but he noticed that she always made her
captures in his vicinity, and that she seemed to cast a conscious eye
in his direction at such times, too. It gratified all the vicious vanity
that was in him; and so, instead of winning him, it only "set him up"
the more and made him the more diligent to avoid betraying that he
knew she was about. Presently she gave over skylarking, and moved
irresolutely about, sighing once or twice and glancing furtively and
wistfully toward Tom. Then she observed that now Tom was talking more
particularly to Amy Lawrence than to any one else. She felt a sharp pang
and grew disturbed and uneasy at once. She tried to go away, but her
feet were treacherous, and carried her to the group instead. She said to
a girl almost at Tom's elbow--with sham vivacity:
"Why, Mary Austin! you bad girl, why didn't you come to Sunday-school?"
"I did come--didn't you see me?"
"Why, no! Did you? Where did you sit?"
"I was in Miss Peters' class, where I always go. I saw _you_."
"Did you? Why, it's funny I didn't see you. I wanted to tell you about
"Oh, that's jolly. Who's going to give it?"
"My ma's going to let me have one."
"Oh, goody; I hope she'll let _me_ come."
"Well, she will. The picnic's for me. She'll let anybody come that I
want, and I want you."
"That's ever so nice. When is it going to be?"
"By and by. Maybe about vacation."
"Oh, won't it be fun! You going to have all the girls and boys?"
"Yes, every one that's friends to me--or wants to be"; and she glanced
ever so furtively at Tom, but he talked right along to Amy Lawrence
about the terrible storm on the island, and how the lightning tore the
great sycamore tree "all to flinders" while he was "standing within
three feet of it."
"Oh, may I come?" said Grace Miller.
"And me?" said Sally Rogers.
"And me, too?" said Susy Harper. "And Joe?"
And so on, with clapping of joyful hands till all the group had begged
for invitations but Tom and Amy. Then Tom turned coolly away, still
talking, and took Amy with him. Becky's lips trembled and the tears
came to her eyes; she hid these signs with a forced gayety and went on
chattering, but the life had gone out of the picnic, now, and out of
everything else; she got away as soon as she could and hid herself and
had what her sex call "a good cry." Then she sat moody, with wounded
pride, till the bell rang. She roused up, now, with a vindictive cast
in her eye, and gave her plaited tails a shake and said she knew what
At recess Tom continued his flirtation with Amy with jubilant
self-satisfaction. And he kept drifting about to find Becky and lacerate
her with the performance. At last he spied her, but there was a sudden
falling of his mercury. She was sitting cosily on a little bench behind
the schoolhouse looking at a picture-book with Alfred Temple--and so
absorbed were they, and their heads so close together over the book,
that they did not seem to be conscious of anything in the world besides.
Jealousy ran red-hot through Tom's veins. He began to hate himself for
throwing away the chance Becky had offered for a reconciliation. He
called himself a fool, and all the hard names he could think of. He
wanted to cry with vexation. Amy chatted happily along, as they walked,
for her heart was singing, but Tom's tongue had lost its function. He
did not hear what Amy was saying, and whenever she paused expectantly
he could only stammer an awkward assent, which was as often misplaced
as otherwise. He kept drifting to the rear of the schoolhouse, again and
again, to sear his eyeballs with the hateful spectacle there. He could
not help it. And it maddened him to see, as he thought he saw, that
Becky Thatcher never once suspected that he was even in the land of the
living. But she did see, nevertheless; and she knew she was winning her
fight, too, and was glad to see him suffer as she had suffered.
Amy's happy prattle became intolerable. Tom hinted at things he had
to attend to; things that must be done; and time was fleeting. But in
vain--the girl chirped on. Tom thought, "Oh, hang her, ain't I ever going
to get rid of her?" At last he must be attending to those things--and she
said artlessly that she would be "around" when school let out. And he
hastened away, hating her for it.
"Any other boy!" Tom thought, grating his teeth. "Any boy in the whole
town but that Saint Louis smarty that thinks he dresses so fine and is
aristocracy! Oh, all right, I licked you the first day you ever saw this
town, mister, and I'll lick you again! You just wait till I catch you
out! I'll just take and--"
And he went through the motions of thrashing an imaginary boy--pummelling
the air, and kicking and gouging. "Oh, you do, do you? You holler
'nough, do you? Now, then, let that learn you!" And so the imaginary
flogging was finished to his satisfaction.
Tom fled home at noon. His conscience could not endure any more of Amy's
grateful happiness, and his jealousy could bear no more of the other
distress. Becky resumed her picture inspections with Alfred, but as the
minutes dragged along and no Tom came to suffer, her triumph began to
cloud and she lost interest; gravity and absentmindedness followed,
and then melancholy; two or three times she pricked up her ear at
a footstep, but it was a false hope; no Tom came. At last she grew
entirely miserable and wished she hadn't carried it so far. When
poor Alfred, seeing that he was losing her, he did not know how, kept
exclaiming: "Oh, here's a jolly one! look at this!" she lost patience at
last, and said, "Oh, don't bother me! I don't care for them!" and burst
into tears, and got up and walked away.
Alfred dropped alongside and was going to try to comfort her, but she
"Go away and leave me alone, can't you! I hate you!"
So the boy halted, wondering what he could have done--for she had said
she would look at pictures all through the nooning--and she walked on,
crying. Then Alfred went musing into the deserted schoolhouse. He was
humiliated and angry. He easily guessed his way to the truth--the girl
had simply made a convenience of him to vent her spite upon Tom Sawyer.
He was far from hating Tom the less when this thought occurred to him.
He wished there was some way to get that boy into trouble without much
risk to himself. Tom's spelling-book fell under his eye. Here was his
opportunity. He gratefully opened to the lesson for the afternoon and
poured ink upon the page.
Becky, glancing in at a window behind him at the moment, saw the act,
and moved on, without discovering herself. She started homeward, now,
intending to find Tom and tell him; Tom would be thankful and their
troubles would be healed. Before she was half way home, however, she
had changed her mind. The thought of Tom's treatment of her when she was
talking about her picnic came scorching back and filled her with shame.
She resolved to let him get whipped on the damaged spelling-book's
account, and to hate him forever, into the bargain.
TOM arrived at home in a dreary mood, and the first thing his aunt said
to him showed him that he had brought his sorrows to an unpromising
"Tom, I've a notion to skin you alive!"
"Auntie, what have I done?"
"Well, you've done enough. Here I go over to Sereny Harper, like an old
softy, expecting I'm going to make her believe all that rubbage about
that dream, when lo and behold you she'd found out from Joe that you was
over here and heard all the talk we had that night. Tom, I don't know
what is to become of a boy that will act like that. It makes me feel so
bad to think you could let me go to Sereny Harper and make such a fool
of myself and never say a word."
This was a new aspect of the thing. His smartness of the morning had
seemed to Tom a good joke before, and very ingenious. It merely looked
mean and shabby now. He hung his head and could not think of anything to
say for a moment. Then he said:
"Auntie, I wish I hadn't done it--but I didn't think."
"Oh, child, you never think. You never think of anything but your
own selfishness. You could think to come all the way over here from
Jackson's Island in the night to laugh at our troubles, and you could
think to fool me with a lie about a dream; but you couldn't ever think
to pity us and save us from sorrow."
"Auntie, I know now it was mean, but I didn't mean to be mean. I didn't,
honest. And besides, I didn't come over here to laugh at you that
"What did you come for, then?"
"It was to tell you not to be uneasy about us, because we hadn't got
"Tom, Tom, I would be the thankfullest soul in this world if I could
believe you ever had as good a thought as that, but you know you never
did--and I know it, Tom."
"Indeed and 'deed I did, auntie--I wish I may never stir if I didn't."
"Oh, Tom, don't lie--don't do it. It only makes things a hundred times
"It ain't a lie, auntie; it's the truth. I wanted to keep you from
grieving--that was all that made me come."
"I'd give the whole world to believe that--it would cover up a power
of sins, Tom. I'd 'most be glad you'd run off and acted so bad. But it
ain't reasonable; because, why didn't you tell me, child?"
"Why, you see, when you got to talking about the funeral, I just got all
full of the idea of our coming and hiding in the church, and I couldn't
somehow bear to spoil it. So I just put the bark back in my pocket and
"The bark I had wrote on to tell you we'd gone pirating. I wish, now,
you'd waked up when I kissed you--I do, honest."
The hard lines in his aunt's face relaxed and a sudden tenderness dawned
in her eyes.
"_Did_ you kiss me, Tom?"
"Why, yes, I did."
"Are you sure you did, Tom?"
"Why, yes, I did, auntie--certain sure."
"What did you kiss me for, Tom?"
"Because I loved you so, and you laid there moaning and I was so sorry."
The words sounded like truth. The old lady could not hide a tremor in
her voice when she said:
"Kiss me again, Tom!--and be off with you to school, now, and don't
bother me any more."
The moment he was gone, she ran to a closet and got out the ruin of a
jacket which Tom had gone pirating in. Then she stopped, with it in her
hand, and said to herself:
"No, I don't dare. Poor boy, I reckon he's lied about it--but it's a
blessed, blessed lie, there's such a comfort come from it. I hope
the Lord--I _know_ the Lord will forgive him, because it was such
good-heartedness in him to tell it. But I don't want to find out it's a
lie. I won't look."
She put the jacket away, and stood by musing a minute. Twice she put out
her hand to take the garment again, and twice she refrained. Once more
she ventured, and this time she fortified herself with the thought:
"It's a good lie--it's a good lie--I won't let it grieve me." So she
sought the jacket pocket. A moment later she was reading Tom's piece of
bark through flowing tears and saying: "I could forgive the boy, now, if
he'd committed a million sins!"
THERE was something about Aunt Polly's manner, when she kissed Tom, that
swept away his low spirits and made him lighthearted and happy again. He
started to school and had the luck of coming upon Becky Thatcher at the
head of Meadow Lane. His mood always determined his manner. Without a
moment's hesitation he ran to her and said:
"I acted mighty mean today, Becky, and I'm so sorry. I won't ever, ever
do that way again, as long as ever I live--please make up, won't you?"
The girl stopped and looked him scornfully in the face:
"I'll thank you to keep yourself _to_ yourself, Mr. Thomas Sawyer. I'll
never speak to you again."
She tossed her head and passed on. Tom was so stunned that he had not
even presence of mind enough to say "Who cares, Miss Smarty?" until the
right time to say it had gone by. So he said nothing. But he was in a
fine rage, nevertheless. He moped into the schoolyard wishing she were
a boy, and imagining how he would trounce her if she were. He presently
encountered her and delivered a stinging remark as he passed. She hurled
one in return, and the angry breach was complete. It seemed to Becky, in
her hot resentment, that she could hardly wait for school to "take in,"
she was so impatient to see Tom flogged for the injured spelling-book.
If she had had any lingering notion of exposing Alfred Temple, Tom's
offensive fling had driven it entirely away.
Poor girl, she did not know how fast she was nearing trouble herself.
The master, Mr. Dobbins, had reached middle age with an unsatisfied
ambition. The darling of his desires was, to be a doctor, but
poverty had decreed that he should be nothing higher than a village
schoolmaster. Every day he took a mysterious book out of his desk and
absorbed himself in it at times when no classes were reciting. He kept
that book under lock and key. There was not an urchin in school but was
perishing to have a glimpse of it, but the chance never came. Every boy
and girl had a theory about the nature of that book; but no two theories
were alike, and there was no way of getting at the facts in the case.
Now, as Becky was passing by the desk, which stood near the door, she
noticed that the key was in the lock! It was a precious moment. She
glanced around; found herself alone, and the next instant she had the
book in her hands. The titlepage--Professor Somebody's _Anatomy_--carried
no information to her mind; so she began to turn the leaves. She came at
once upon a handsomely engraved and colored frontispiece--a human figure,
stark naked. At that moment a shadow fell on the page and Tom Sawyer
stepped in at the door and caught a glimpse of the picture. Becky
snatched at the book to close it, and had the hard luck to tear the
pictured page half down the middle. She thrust the volume into the desk,
turned the key, and burst out crying with shame and vexation.
"Tom Sawyer, you are just as mean as you can be, to sneak up on a person
and look at what they're looking at."
"How could I know you was looking at anything?"
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Tom Sawyer; you know you're
going to tell on me, and oh, what shall I do, what shall I do! I'll be
whipped, and I never was whipped in school."
Then she stamped her little foot and said:
"_Be_ so mean if you want to! I know something that's going to happen.
You just wait and you'll see! Hateful, hateful, hateful!"--and she flung
out of the house with a new explosion of crying.
Tom stood still, rather flustered by this onslaught. Presently he said
"What a curious kind of a fool a girl is! Never been licked in
school! Shucks! What's a licking! That's just like a girl--they're so
thin-skinned and chicken-hearted. Well, of course I ain't going to tell
old Dobbins on this little fool, because there's other ways of getting
even on her, that ain't so mean; but what of it? Old Dobbins will ask
who it was tore his book. Nobody'll answer. Then he'll do just the way
he always does--ask first one and then t'other, and when he comes to the
right girl he'll know it, without any telling. Girls' faces always tell
on them. They ain't got any backbone. She'll get licked. Well, it's a
kind of a tight place for Becky Thatcher, because there ain't any way
out of it." Tom conned the thing a moment longer, and then added: "All
right, though; she'd like to see me in just such a fix--let her sweat it
Tom joined the mob of skylarking scholars outside. In a few moments the
master arrived and school "took in." Tom did not feel a strong interest
in his studies. Every time he stole a glance at the girls' side of the
room Becky's face troubled him. Considering all things, he did not want
to pity her, and yet it was all he could do to help it. He could get
up no exultation that was really worthy the name. Presently the
spelling-book discovery was made, and Tom's mind was entirely full
of his own matters for a while after that. Becky roused up from her
lethargy of distress and showed good interest in the proceedings. She
did not expect that Tom could get out of his trouble by denying that he
spilt the ink on the book himself; and she was right. The denial only
seemed to make the thing worse for Tom. Becky supposed she would be glad
of that, and she tried to believe she was glad of it, but she found she
was not certain. When the worst came to the worst, she had an impulse
to get up and tell on Alfred Temple, but she made an effort and forced
herself to keep still--because, said she to herself, "he'll tell about me
tearing the picture sure. I wouldn't say a word, not to save his life!"
Tom took his whipping and went back to his seat not at all
broken-hearted, for he thought it was possible that he had unknowingly
upset the ink on the spelling-book himself, in some skylarking bout--he
had denied it for form's sake and because it was custom, and had stuck
to the denial from principle.
A whole hour drifted by, the master sat nodding in his throne, the air
was drowsy with the hum of study. By and by, Mr. Dobbins straightened
himself up, yawned, then unlocked his desk, and reached for his book,
but seemed undecided whether to take it out or leave it. Most of the
pupils glanced up languidly, but there were two among them that watched
his movements with intent eyes. Mr. Dobbins fingered his book absently
for a while, then took it out and settled himself in his chair to read!
Tom shot a glance at Becky. He had seen a hunted and helpless rabbit
look as she did, with a gun levelled at its head. Instantly he forgot
his quarrel with her. Quick--something must be done! done in a flash,
too! But the very imminence of the emergency paralyzed his invention.
Good!--he had an inspiration! He would run and snatch the book, spring
through the door and fly. But his resolution shook for one little
instant, and the chance was lost--the master opened the volume. If Tom
only had the wasted opportunity back again! Too late. There was no help
for Becky now, he said. The next moment the master faced the school.
Every eye sank under his gaze. There was that in it which smote even
the innocent with fear. There was silence while one might count ten--the
master was gathering his wrath. Then he spoke: "Who tore this book?"
There was not a sound. One could have heard a pin drop. The stillness
continued; the master searched face after face for signs of guilt.
"Benjamin Rogers, did you tear this book?"
A denial. Another pause.
"Joseph Harper, did you?"
Another denial. Tom's uneasiness grew more and more intense under the
slow torture of these proceedings. The master scanned the ranks of
boys--considered a while, then turned to the girls:
A shake of the head.
The same sign.
"Susan Harper, did you do this?"
Another negative. The next girl was Becky Thatcher. Tom was trembling
from head to foot with excitement and a sense of the hopelessness of the
"Rebecca Thatcher" [Tom glanced at her face--it was white with
terror]--"did you tear--no, look me in the face" [her hands rose in
appeal]--"did you tear this book?"
A thought shot like lightning through Tom's brain. He sprang to his feet
and shouted--"I done it!"
The school stared in perplexity at this incredible folly. Tom stood a
moment, to gather his dismembered faculties; and when he stepped forward
to go to his punishment the surprise, the gratitude, the adoration that
shone upon him out of poor Becky's eyes seemed pay enough for a hundred
floggings. Inspired by the splendor of his own act, he took without
an outcry the most merciless flaying that even Mr. Dobbins had ever
administered; and also received with indifference the added cruelty of a
command to remain two hours after school should be dismissed--for he
knew who would wait for him outside till his captivity was done, and not
count the tedious time as loss, either.
Tom went to bed that night planning vengeance against Alfred Temple; for
with shame and repentance Becky had told him all, not forgetting her own
treachery; but even the longing for vengeance had to give way, soon, to
pleasanter musings, and he fell asleep at last with Becky's latest words
lingering dreamily in his ear--
"Tom, how _could_ you be so noble!"
VACATION was approaching. The schoolmaster, always severe, grew severer
and more exacting than ever, for he wanted the school to make a good
showing on "Examination" day. His rod and his ferule were seldom idle
now--at least among the smaller pupils. Only the biggest boys, and young
ladies of eighteen and twenty, escaped lashing. Mr. Dobbins' lashings
were very vigorous ones, too; for although he carried, under his wig, a
perfectly bald and shiny head, he had only reached middle age, and there
was no sign of feebleness in his muscle. As the great day approached,
all the tyranny that was in him came to the surface; he seemed to take a
vindictive pleasure in punishing the least shortcomings. The consequence
was, that the smaller boys spent their days in terror and suffering and
their nights in plotting revenge. They threw away no opportunity to do
the master a mischief. But he kept ahead all the time. The retribution
that followed every vengeful success was so sweeping and majestic that
the boys always retired from the field badly worsted. At last they
conspired together and hit upon a plan that promised a dazzling victory.
They swore in the signpainter's boy, told him the scheme, and asked his
help. He had his own reasons for being delighted, for the master boarded
in his father's family and had given the boy ample cause to hate him.
The master's wife would go on a visit to the country in a few days, and
there would be nothing to interfere with the plan; the master always
prepared himself for great occasions by getting pretty well fuddled, and
the signpainter's boy said that when the dominie had reached the proper
condition on Examination Evening he would "manage the thing" while he
napped in his chair; then he would have him awakened at the right time
and hurried away to school.
In the fulness of time the interesting occasion arrived. At eight in
the evening the schoolhouse was brilliantly lighted, and adorned with
wreaths and festoons of foliage and flowers. The master sat throned in
his great chair upon a raised platform, with his blackboard behind him.
He was looking tolerably mellow. Three rows of benches on each side and
six rows in front of him were occupied by the dignitaries of the town
and by the parents of the pupils. To his left, back of the rows of
citizens, was a spacious temporary platform upon which were seated the
scholars who were to take part in the exercises of the evening; rows of
small boys, washed and dressed to an intolerable state of discomfort;
rows of gawky big boys; snowbanks of girls and young ladies clad in
lawn and muslin and conspicuously conscious of their bare arms, their
grandmothers' ancient trinkets, their bits of pink and blue ribbon and
the flowers in their hair. All the rest of the house was filled with
The exercises began. A very little boy stood up and sheepishly recited,
"You'd scarce expect one of my age to speak in public on the stage,"
etc.--accompanying himself with the painfully exact and spasmodic
gestures which a machine might have used--supposing the machine to be a
trifle out of order. But he got through safely, though cruelly scared,
and got a fine round of applause when he made his manufactured bow and
A little shamefaced girl lisped, "Mary had a little lamb," etc.,
performed a compassion-inspiring curtsy, got her meed of applause, and
sat down flushed and happy.
Tom Sawyer stepped forward with conceited confidence and soared into
the unquenchable and indestructible "Give me liberty or give me death"
speech, with fine fury and frantic gesticulation, and broke down in the
middle of it. A ghastly stage-fright seized him, his legs quaked under
him and he was like to choke. True, he had the manifest sympathy of the
house but he had the house's silence, too, which was even worse than
its sympathy. The master frowned, and this completed the disaster. Tom
struggled awhile and then retired, utterly defeated. There was a weak
attempt at applause, but it died early.
"The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck" followed; also "The Assyrian Came
Down," and other declamatory gems. Then there were reading exercises,
and a spelling fight. The meagre Latin class recited with honor. The
prime feature of the evening was in order, now--original "compositions"
by the young ladies. Each in her turn stepped forward to the edge of the
platform, cleared her throat, held up her manuscript (tied with dainty
ribbon), and proceeded to read, with labored attention to "expression"
and punctuation. The themes were the same that had been illuminated upon
similar occasions by their mothers before them, their grandmothers,
and doubtless all their ancestors in the female line clear back to the
Crusades. "Friendship" was one; "Memories of Other Days"; "Religion in
History"; "Dream Land"; "The Advantages of Culture"; "Forms of Political
Government Compared and Contrasted"; "Melancholy"; "Filial Love"; "Heart
Longings," etc., etc.
A prevalent feature in these compositions was a nursed and petted
melancholy; another was a wasteful and opulent gush of "fine language";
another was a tendency to lug in by the ears particularly prized words
and phrases until they were worn entirely out; and a peculiarity that
conspicuously marked and marred them was the inveterate and intolerable
sermon that wagged its crippled tail at the end of each and every one
of them. No matter what the subject might be, a brainracking effort was
made to squirm it into some aspect or other that the moral and religious
mind could contemplate with edification. The glaring insincerity of
these sermons was not sufficient to compass the banishment of the
fashion from the schools, and it is not sufficient today; it never will
be sufficient while the world stands, perhaps. There is no school in
all our land where the young ladies do not feel obliged to close their
compositions with a sermon; and you will find that the sermon of the
most frivolous and the least religious girl in the school is always
the longest and the most relentlessly pious. But enough of this. Homely
truth is unpalatable.
Let us return to the "Examination." The first composition that was read
was one entitled "Is this, then, Life?" Perhaps the reader can endure an
extract from it:
"In the common walks of life, with what delightful emotions does the
youthful mind look forward to some anticipated scene of festivity!
Imagination is busy sketching rose-tinted pictures of joy. In fancy, the
voluptuous votary of fashion sees herself amid the festive throng, 'the
observed of all observers.' Her graceful form, arrayed in snowy robes,
is whirling through the mazes of the joyous dance; her eye is brightest,
her step is lightest in the gay assembly.
"In such delicious fancies time quickly glides by, and the welcome hour
arrives for her entrance into the Elysian world, of which she has
had such bright dreams. How fairy-like does everything appear to her
enchanted vision! Each new scene is more charming than the last. But
after a while she finds that beneath this goodly exterior, all is
vanity, the flattery which once charmed her soul, now grates harshly
upon her ear; the ballroom has lost its charms; and with wasted health
and imbittered heart, she turns away with the conviction that earthly
pleasures cannot satisfy the longings of the soul!"
And so forth and so on. There was a buzz of gratification from time to
time during the reading, accompanied by whispered ejaculations of "How
sweet!" "How eloquent!" "So true!" etc., and after the thing had closed
with a peculiarly afflicting sermon the applause was enthusiastic.
Then arose a slim, melancholy girl, whose face had the "interesting"
paleness that comes of pills and indigestion, and read a "poem." Two
stanzas of it will do:
"A MISSOURI MAIDEN'S FAREWELL TO ALABAMA
"Alabama, goodbye! I love thee well! But yet for a while do I leave thee
now! Sad, yes, sad thoughts of thee my heart doth swell, And burning
recollections throng my brow! For I have wandered through thy flowery
woods; Have roamed and read near Tallapoosa's stream; Have listened to
Tallassee's warring floods, And wooed on Coosa's side Aurora's beam.
"Yet shame I not to bear an o'erfull heart, Nor blush to turn behind
my tearful eyes; 'Tis from no stranger land I now must part, 'Tis to no
strangers left I yield these sighs. Welcome and home were mine within
this State, Whose vales I leave--whose spires fade fast from me And cold
must be mine eyes, and heart, and tete, When, dear Alabama! they turn
cold on thee!" There were very few there who knew what "tete" meant, but
the poem was very satisfactory, nevertheless.
Next appeared a dark-complexioned, black-eyed, black-haired young lady,
who paused an impressive moment, assumed a tragic expression, and began
to read in a measured, solemn tone:
"Dark and tempestuous was night. Around the throne on high not a single
star quivered; but the deep intonations of the heavy thunder constantly
vibrated upon the ear; whilst the terrific lightning revelled in angry
mood through the cloudy chambers of heaven, seeming to scorn the power
exerted over its terror by the illustrious Franklin! Even the boisterous
winds unanimously came forth from their mystic homes, and blustered
about as if to enhance by their aid the wildness of the scene.
"At such a time, so dark, so dreary, for human sympathy my very spirit
sighed; but instead thereof,
"'My dearest friend, my counsellor, my comforter and guide--My joy in
grief, my second bliss in joy,' came to my side. She moved like one of
those bright beings pictured in the sunny walks of fancy's Eden by
the romantic and young, a queen of beauty unadorned save by her own
transcendent loveliness. So soft was her step, it failed to make even a
sound, and but for the magical thrill imparted by her genial touch,
as other unobtrusive beauties, she would have glided away
unperceived--unsought. A strange sadness rested upon her features, like
icy tears upon the robe of December, as she pointed to the contending
elements without, and bade me contemplate the two beings presented."
This nightmare occupied some ten pages of manuscript and wound up with a
sermon so destructive of all hope to non-Presbyterians that it took
the first prize. This composition was considered to be the very finest
effort of the evening. The mayor of the village, in delivering the prize
to the author of it, made a warm speech in which he said that it was by
far the most "eloquent" thing he had ever listened to, and that Daniel
Webster himself might well be proud of it.
It may be remarked, in passing, that the number of compositions in which
the word "beauteous" was over-fondled, and human experience referred to
as "life's page," was up to the usual average.
Now the master, mellow almost to the verge of geniality, put his chair
aside, turned his back to the audience, and began to draw a map of
America on the blackboard, to exercise the geography class upon. But he
made a sad business of it with his unsteady hand, and a smothered titter
rippled over the house. He knew what the matter was, and set himself to
right it. He sponged out lines and remade them; but he only distorted
them more than ever, and the tittering was more pronounced. He threw his
entire attention upon his work, now, as if determined not to be put down
by the mirth. He felt that all eyes were fastened upon him; he imagined
he was succeeding, and yet the tittering continued; it even manifestly
increased. And well it might. There was a garret above, pierced with
a scuttle over his head; and down through this scuttle came a cat,
suspended around the haunches by a string; she had a rag tied about
her head and jaws to keep her from mewing; as she slowly descended she
curved upward and clawed at the string, she swung downward and clawed
at the intangible air. The tittering rose higher and higher--the cat was
within six inches of the absorbed teacher's head--down, down, a little
lower, and she grabbed his wig with her desperate claws, clung to it,
and was snatched up into the garret in an instant with her trophy still
in her possession! And how the light did blaze abroad from the master's
bald pate--for the signpainter's boy had _gilded_ it!
That broke up the meeting. The boys were avenged. Vacation had come.
NOTE:--The pretended "compositions" quoted in this chapter are taken
without alteration from a volume entitled "Prose and Poetry, by a
Western Lady"--but they are exactly and precisely after the schoolgirl
pattern, and hence are much happier than any mere imitations could be.
TOM joined the new order of Cadets of Temperance, being attracted by the
showy character of their "regalia." He promised to abstain from smoking,
chewing, and profanity as long as he remained a member. Now he found out
a new thing--namely, that to promise not to do a thing is the surest way
in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing. Tom soon
found himself tormented with a desire to drink and swear; the desire
grew to be so intense that nothing but the hope of a chance to display
himself in his red sash kept him from withdrawing from the order. Fourth
of July was coming; but he soon gave that up--gave it up before he had
worn his shackles over forty-eight hours--and fixed his hopes upon old
Judge Frazer, justice of the peace, who was apparently on his deathbed
and would have a big public funeral, since he was so high an official.
During three days Tom was deeply concerned about the Judge's condition
and hungry for news of it. Sometimes his hopes ran high--so high that
he would venture to get out his regalia and practise before the
looking-glass. But the Judge had a most discouraging way of fluctuating.
At last he was pronounced upon the mend--and then convalescent. Tom was
disgusted; and felt a sense of injury, too. He handed in his resignation
at once--and that night the Judge suffered a relapse and died. Tom
resolved that he would never trust a man like that again.
The funeral was a fine thing. The Cadets paraded in a style calculated
to kill the late member with envy. Tom was a free boy again,
however--there was something in that. He could drink and swear, now--but
found to his surprise that he did not want to. The simple fact that he
could, took the desire away, and the charm of it.
Tom presently wondered to find that his coveted vacation was beginning
to hang a little heavily on his hands.
He attempted a diary--but nothing happened during three days, and so he
The first of all the negro minstrel shows came to town, and made a
sensation. Tom and Joe Harper got up a band of performers and were happy
for two days.
Even the Glorious Fourth was in some sense a failure, for it rained
hard, there was no procession in consequence, and the greatest man
in the world (as Tom supposed), Mr. Benton, an actual United States
Senator, proved an overwhelming disappointment--for he was not
twenty-five feet high, nor even anywhere in the neighborhood of it.
A circus came. The boys played circus for three days afterward in tents
made of rag carpeting--admission, three pins for boys, two for girls--and
then circusing was abandoned.
A phrenologist and a mesmerizer came--and went again and left the village
duller and drearier than ever.
There were some boys-and-girls' parties, but they were so few and so
delightful that they only made the aching voids between ache the harder.
Becky Thatcher was gone to her Constantinople home to stay with her
parents during vacation--so there was no bright side to life anywhere.
The dreadful secret of the murder was a chronic misery. It was a very
cancer for permanency and pain.
Then came the measles.
During two long weeks Tom lay a prisoner, dead to the world and its
happenings. He was very ill, he was interested in nothing. When he got
upon his feet at last and moved feebly downtown, a melancholy change had
come over everything and every creature. There had been a "revival," and
everybody had "got religion," not only the adults, but even the boys and
girls. Tom went about, hoping against hope for the sight of one blessed
sinful face, but disappointment crossed him everywhere. He found Joe
Harper studying a Testament, and turned sadly away from the depressing
spectacle. He sought Ben Rogers, and found him visiting the poor with a
basket of tracts. He hunted up Jim Hollis, who called his attention to
the precious blessing of his late measles as a warning. Every boy
he encountered added another ton to his depression; and when, in
desperation, he flew for refuge at last to the bosom of Huckleberry Finn
and was received with a Scriptural quotation, his heart broke and he
crept home and to bed realizing that he alone of all the town was lost,
forever and forever.
And that night there came on a terrific storm, with driving rain, awful
claps of thunder and blinding sheets of lightning. He covered his head
with the bedclothes and waited in a horror of suspense for his doom; for
he had not the shadow of a doubt that all this hubbub was about him.
He believed he had taxed the forbearance of the powers above to the
extremity of endurance and that this was the result. It might have
seemed to him a waste of pomp and ammunition to kill a bug with a
battery of artillery, but there seemed nothing incongruous about the
getting up such an expensive thunderstorm as this to knock the turf from
under an insect like himself.
By and by the tempest spent itself and died without accomplishing its
object. The boy's first impulse was to be grateful, and reform. His
second was to wait--for there might not be any more storms.
The next day the doctors were back; Tom had relapsed. The three weeks he
spent on his back this time seemed an entire age. When he got abroad
at last he was hardly grateful that he had been spared, remembering how
lonely was his estate, how companionless and forlorn he was. He drifted
listlessly down the street and found Jim Hollis acting as judge in a
juvenile court that was trying a cat for murder, in the presence of her
victim, a bird. He found Joe Harper and Huck Finn up an alley eating a
stolen melon. Poor lads! they--like Tom--had suffered a relapse.
AT last the sleepy atmosphere was stirred--and vigorously: the murder
trial came on in the court. It became the absorbing topic of village
talk immediately. Tom could not get away from it. Every reference to
the murder sent a shudder to his heart, for his troubled conscience
and fears almost persuaded him that these remarks were put forth in
his hearing as "feelers"; he did not see how he could be suspected of
knowing anything about the murder, but still he could not be comfortable
in the midst of this gossip. It kept him in a cold shiver all the time.
He took Huck to a lonely place to have a talk with him. It would be some
relief to unseal his tongue for a little while; to divide his burden of
distress with another sufferer. Moreover, he wanted to assure himself
that Huck had remained discreet.
"Huck, have you ever told anybody about--that?"
"You know what."
"Oh--'course I haven't."
"Never a word?"
"Never a solitary word, so help me. What makes you ask?"
"Well, I was afeard."
"Why, Tom Sawyer, we wouldn't be alive two days if that got found out.
_You_ know that."
Tom felt more comfortable. After a pause:
"Huck, they couldn't anybody get you to tell, could they?"
"Get me to tell? Why, if I wanted that halfbreed devil to drownd me they
could get me to tell. They ain't no different way."
"Well, that's all right, then. I reckon we're safe as long as we keep
mum. But let's swear again, anyway. It's more surer."
So they swore again with dread solemnities.
"What is the talk around, Huck? I've heard a power of it."
"Talk? Well, it's just Muff Potter, Muff Potter, Muff Potter all the
time. It keeps me in a sweat, constant, so's I want to hide som'ers."
"That's just the same way they go on round me. I reckon he's a goner.
Don't you feel sorry for him, sometimes?"
"Most always--most always. He ain't no account; but then he hain't ever
done anything to hurt anybody. Just fishes a little, to get money to
get drunk on--and loafs around considerable; but lord, we all do
that--leastways most of us--preachers and such like. But he's kind of
good--he give me half a fish, once, when there warn't enough for two; and
lots of times he's kind of stood by me when I was out of luck."
"Well, he's mended kites for me, Huck, and knitted hooks on to my line.
I wish we could get him out of there."
"My! we couldn't get him out, Tom. And besides, 'twouldn't do any good;
they'd ketch him again."
"Yes--so they would. But I hate to hear 'em abuse him so like the dickens
when he never done--that."
"I do too, Tom. Lord, I hear 'em say he's the bloodiest looking villain
in this country, and they wonder he wasn't ever hung before."
"Yes, they talk like that, all the time. I've heard 'em say that if he
was to get free they'd lynch him."
"And they'd do it, too."
The boys had a long talk, but it brought them little comfort. As the
twilight drew on, they found themselves hanging about the neighborhood
of the little isolated jail, perhaps with an undefined hope that
something would happen that might clear away their difficulties. But
nothing happened; there seemed to be no angels or fairies interested in
this luckless captive.
The boys did as they had often done before--went to the cell grating and
gave Potter some tobacco and matches. He was on the ground floor and
there were no guards.
His gratitude for their gifts had always smote their consciences
before--it cut deeper than ever, this time. They felt cowardly and
treacherous to the last degree when Potter said:
"You've been mighty good to me, boys--better'n anybody else in this town.
And I don't forget it, I don't. Often I says to myself, says I, 'I used
to mend all the boys' kites and things, and show 'em where the good
fishin' places was, and befriend 'em what I could, and now they've
all forgot old Muff when he's in trouble; but Tom don't, and Huck
don't--_they_ don't forget him, says I, 'and I don't forget them.' Well,
boys, I done an awful thing--drunk and crazy at the time--that's the only
way I account for it--and now I got to swing for it, and it's right.
Right, and _best_, too, I reckon--hope so, anyway. Well, we won't talk
about that. I don't want to make _you_ feel bad; you've befriended me.
But what I want to say, is, don't _you_ ever get drunk--then you won't
ever get here. Stand a litter furder west--so--that's it; it's a prime
comfort to see faces that's friendly when a body's in such a muck
of trouble, and there don't none come here but yourn. Good friendly
faces--good friendly faces. Git up on one another's backs and let me
touch 'em. That's it. Shake hands--yourn'll come through the bars, but
mine's too big. Little hands, and weak--but they've helped Muff Potter a
power, and they'd help him more if they could."
Tom went home miserable, and his dreams that night were full of horrors.
The next day and the day after, he hung about the courtroom, drawn by an
almost irresistible impulse to go in, but forcing himself to stay out.
Huck was having the same experience. They studiously avoided each other.
Each wandered away, from time to time, but the same dismal fascination
always brought them back presently. Tom kept his ears open when idlers
sauntered out of the courtroom, but invariably heard distressing
news--the toils were closing more and more relentlessly around poor
Potter. At the end of the second day the village talk was to the effect
that Injun Joe's evidence stood firm and unshaken, and that there was
not the slightest question as to what the jury's verdict would be.
Tom was out late, that night, and came to bed through the window. He
was in a tremendous state of excitement. It was hours before he got to
sleep. All the village flocked to the courthouse the next morning, for
this was to be the great day. Both sexes were about equally represented
in the packed audience. After a long wait the jury filed in and took
their places; shortly afterward, Potter, pale and haggard, timid and
hopeless, was brought in, with chains upon him, and seated where all
the curious eyes could stare at him; no less conspicuous was Injun Joe,
stolid as ever. There was another pause, and then the judge arrived and
the sheriff proclaimed the opening of the court. The usual whisperings
among the lawyers and gathering together of papers followed. These
details and accompanying delays worked up an atmosphere of preparation
that was as impressive as it was fascinating.
Now a witness was called who testified that he found Muff Potter washing
in the brook, at an early hour of the morning that the murder was
discovered, and that he immediately sneaked away. After some further
questioning, counsel for the prosecution said:
"Take the witness."
The prisoner raised his eyes for a moment, but dropped them again when
his own counsel said:
"I have no questions to ask him."
The next witness proved the finding of the knife near the corpse.
Counsel for the prosecution said:
"Take the witness."
"I have no questions to ask him," Potter's lawyer replied.
A third witness swore he had often seen the knife in Potter's
"Take the witness."
Counsel for Potter declined to question him. The faces of the audience
began to betray annoyance. Did this attorney mean to throw away his
client's life without an effort?
Several witnesses deposed concerning Potter's guilty behavior when
brought to the scene of the murder. They were allowed to leave the stand
without being cross-questioned.
Every detail of the damaging circumstances that occurred in the
graveyard upon that morning which all present remembered so well was
brought out by credible witnesses, but none of them were cross-examined
by Potter's lawyer. The perplexity and dissatisfaction of the house
expressed itself in murmurs and provoked a reproof from the bench.
Counsel for the prosecution now said:
"By the oaths of citizens whose simple word is above suspicion, we have
fastened this awful crime, beyond all possibility of question, upon the
unhappy prisoner at the bar. We rest our case here."
A groan escaped from poor Potter, and he put his face in his hands and
rocked his body softly to and fro, while a painful silence reigned
in the courtroom. Many men were moved, and many women's compassion
testified itself in tears. Counsel for the defence rose and said:
"Your honor, in our remarks at the opening of this trial, we
foreshadowed our purpose to prove that our client did this fearful deed
while under the influence of a blind and irresponsible delirium produced
by drink. We have changed our mind. We shall not offer that plea." [Then
to the clerk:] "Call Thomas Sawyer!"
A puzzled amazement awoke in every face in the house, not even excepting
Potter's. Every eye fastened itself with wondering interest upon Tom as
he rose and took his place upon the stand. The boy looked wild enough,
for he was badly scared. The oath was administered.
"Thomas Sawyer, where were you on the seventeenth of June, about the
hour of midnight?"
Tom glanced at Injun Joe's iron face and his tongue failed him. The
audience listened breathless, but the words refused to come. After a few
moments, however, the boy got a little of his strength back, and managed
to put enough of it into his voice to make part of the house hear:
"In the graveyard!"
"A little bit louder, please. Don't be afraid. You were--"
"In the graveyard."
A contemptuous smile flitted across Injun Joe's face.
"Were you anywhere near Horse Williams' grave?"
"Speak up--just a trifle louder. How near were you?"
"Near as I am to you."
"Were you hidden, or not?"
"I was hid."
"Behind the elms that's on the edge of the grave."
Injun Joe gave a barely perceptible start.
"Any one with you?"
"Yes, sir. I went there with--"
"Wait--wait a moment. Never mind mentioning your companion's name. We
will produce him at the proper time. Did you carry anything there with
Tom hesitated and looked confused.
"Speak out, my boy--don't be diffident. The truth is always respectable.
What did you take there?"
"Only a--a--dead cat."
There was a ripple of mirth, which the court checked.
"We will produce the skeleton of that cat. Now, my boy, tell us
everything that occurred--tell it in your own way--don't skip anything,
and don't be afraid."
Tom began--hesitatingly at first, but as he warmed to his subject his
words flowed more and more easily; in a little while every sound ceased
but his own voice; every eye fixed itself upon him; with parted lips and
bated breath the audience hung upon his words, taking no note of time,
rapt in the ghastly fascinations of the tale. The strain upon pent
emotion reached its climax when the boy said:
"--and as the doctor fetched the board around and Muff Potter fell, Injun
Joe jumped with the knife and--"
Crash! Quick as lightning the halfbreed sprang for a window, tore his
way through all opposers, and was gone!
TOM was a glittering hero once more--the pet of the old, the envy of the
young. His name even went into immortal print, for the village paper
magnified him. There were some that believed he would be President, yet,
if he escaped hanging.
As usual, the fickle, unreasoning world took Muff Potter to its bosom
and fondled him as lavishly as it had abused him before. But that sort
of conduct is to the world's credit; therefore it is not well to find
fault with it.
Tom's days were days of splendor and exultation to him, but his nights
were seasons of horror. Injun Joe infested all his dreams, and always
with doom in his eye. Hardly any temptation could persuade the boy
to stir abroad after nightfall. Poor Huck was in the same state of
wretchedness and terror, for Tom had told the whole story to the lawyer
the night before the great day of the trial, and Huck was sore afraid
that his share in the business might leak out, yet, notwithstanding
Injun Joe's flight had saved him the suffering of testifying in court.
The poor fellow had got the attorney to promise secrecy, but what of
that? Since Tom's harassed conscience had managed to drive him to the
lawyer's house by night and wring a dread tale from lips that had
been sealed with the dismalest and most formidable of oaths, Huck's
confidence in the human race was wellnigh obliterated.
Daily Muff Potter's gratitude made Tom glad he had spoken; but nightly
he wished he had sealed up his tongue.
Half the time Tom was afraid Injun Joe would never be captured; the
other half he was afraid he would be. He felt sure he never could draw a
safe breath again until that man was dead and he had seen the corpse.
Rewards had been offered, the country had been scoured, but no Injun
Joe was found. One of those omniscient and aweinspiring marvels, a
detective, came up from St. Louis, moused around, shook his head, looked
wise, and made that sort of astounding success which members of that
craft usually achieve. That is to say, he "found a clew." But you can't
hang a "clew" for murder, and so after that detective had got through
and gone home, Tom felt just as insecure as he was before.
The slow days drifted on, and each left behind it a slightly lightened
weight of apprehension.
THERE comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy's life when he has
a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure. This desire
suddenly came upon Tom one day. He sallied out to find Joe Harper,
but failed of success. Next he sought Ben Rogers; he had gone fishing.
Presently he stumbled upon Huck Finn the Red-Handed. Huck would
answer. Tom took him to a private place and opened the matter to him
confidentially. Huck was willing. Huck was always willing to take a hand
in any enterprise that offered entertainment and required no capital,
for he had a troublesome superabundance of that sort of time which is
not money. "Where'll we dig?" said Huck.
"Oh, most anywhere."
"Why, is it hid all around?"
"No, indeed it ain't. It's hid in mighty particular places,
Huck--sometimes on islands, sometimes in rotten chests under the end of
a limb of an old dead tree, just where the shadow falls at midnight; but
mostly under the floor in ha'nted houses."
"Who hides it?"
"Why, robbers, of course--who'd you reckon? Sunday-school
"I don't know. If 'twas mine I wouldn't hide it; I'd spend it and have a
"So would I. But robbers don't do that way. They always hide it and
leave it there."
"Don't they come after it any more?"
"No, they think they will, but they generally forget the marks, or else
they die. Anyway, it lays there a long time and gets rusty; and by and
by somebody finds an old yellow paper that tells how to find the marks--a
paper that's got to be ciphered over about a week because it's mostly
signs and hy'roglyphics."
"Hy'roglyphics--pictures and things, you know, that don't seem to mean
"Have you got one of them papers, Tom?"
"Well then, how you going to find the marks?"
"I don't want any marks. They always bury it under a ha'nted house or on
an island, or under a dead tree that's got one limb sticking out. Well,
we've tried Jackson's Island a little, and we can try it again some
time; and there's the old ha'nted house up the Still-House branch, and
there's lots of dead-limb trees--dead loads of 'em."
"Is it under all of them?"
"How you talk! No!"
"Then how you going to know which one to go for?"
"Go for all of 'em!"
"Why, Tom, it'll take all summer."
"Well, what of that? Suppose you find a brass pot with a hundred dollars
in it, all rusty and gray, or rotten chest full of di'monds. How's
Huck's eyes glowed.
"That's bully. Plenty bully enough for me. Just you gimme the hundred
dollars and I don't want no di'monds."
"All right. But I bet you I ain't going to throw off on di'monds. Some
of 'em's worth twenty dollars apiece--there ain't any, hardly, but's
worth six bits or a dollar."
"No! Is that so?"
"Cert'nly--anybody'll tell you so. Hain't you ever seen one, Huck?"
"Not as I remember."
"Oh, kings have slathers of them."
"Well, I don' know no kings, Tom."
"I reckon you don't. But if you was to go to Europe you'd see a raft of
'em hopping around."
"Do they hop?"
"Hop?--your granny! No!"
"Well, what did you say they did, for?"
"Shucks, I only meant you'd _see_ 'em--not hopping, of course--what do
they want to hop for?--but I mean you'd just see 'em--scattered around,
you know, in a kind of a general way. Like that old humpbacked Richard."
"Richard? What's his other name?"
"He didn't have any other name. Kings don't have any but a given name."
"But they don't."
"Well, if they like it, Tom, all right; but I don't want to be a king
and have only just a given name, like a nigger. But say--where you going
to dig first?"
"Well, I don't know. S'pose we tackle that old dead-limb tree on the
hill t'other side of Still-House branch?"
So they got a crippled pick and a shovel, and set out on their
three-mile tramp. They arrived hot and panting, and threw themselves
down in the shade of a neighboring elm to rest and have a smoke.
"I like this," said Tom.
"So do I."
"Say, Huck, if we find a treasure here, what you going to do with your
"Well, I'll have pie and a glass of soda every day, and I'll go to every
circus that comes along. I bet I'll have a gay time."
"Well, ain't you going to save any of it?"
"Save it? What for?"
"Why, so as to have something to live on, by and by."
"Oh, that ain't any use. Pap would come back to thish-yer town some day
and get his claws on it if I didn't hurry up, and I tell you he'd clean
it out pretty quick. What you going to do with yourn, Tom?"
"I'm going to buy a new drum, and a sure'nough sword, and a red necktie
and a bull pup, and get married."
"Tom, you--why, you ain't in your right mind."
"Well, that's the foolishest thing you could do. Look at pap and my
mother. Fight! Why, they used to fight all the time. I remember, mighty
"That ain't anything. The girl I'm going to marry won't fight."
"Tom, I reckon they're all alike. They'll all comb a body. Now you
better think 'bout this awhile. I tell you you better. What's the name
of the gal?"
"It ain't a gal at all--it's a girl."
"It's all the same, I reckon; some says gal, some says girl--both's
right, like enough. Anyway, what's her name, Tom?"
"I'll tell you some time--not now."
"All right--that'll do. Only if you get married I'll be more lonesomer
"No you won't. You'll come and live with me. Now stir out of this and
we'll go to digging."
They worked and sweated for half an hour. No result. They toiled another
halfhour. Still no result. Huck said:
"Do they always bury it as deep as this?"
"Sometimes--not always. Not generally. I reckon we haven't got the right
So they chose a new spot and began again. The labor dragged a little,
but still they made progress. They pegged away in silence for some time.
Finally Huck leaned on his shovel, swabbed the beaded drops from his
brow with his sleeve, and said:
"Where you going to dig next, after we get this one?"
"I reckon maybe we'll tackle the old tree that's over yonder on Cardiff
Hill back of the widow's."
"I reckon that'll be a good one. But won't the widow take it away from
us, Tom? It's on her land."
"_She_ take it away! Maybe she'd like to try it once. Whoever finds one
of these hid treasures, it belongs to him. It don't make any difference
whose land it's on."
That was satisfactory. The work went on. By and by Huck said:
"Blame it, we must be in the wrong place again. What do you think?"
"It is mighty curious, Huck. I don't understand it. Sometimes witches
interfere. I reckon maybe that's what's the trouble now."
"Shucks! Witches ain't got no power in the daytime."
"Well, that's so. I didn't think of that. Oh, I know what the matter is!
What a blamed lot of fools we are! You got to find out where the shadow
of the limb falls at midnight, and that's where you dig!"
"Then consound it, we've fooled away all this work for nothing. Now hang
it all, we got to come back in the night. It's an awful long way. Can
you get out?"
"I bet I will. We've got to do it tonight, too, because if somebody sees
these holes they'll know in a minute what's here and they'll go for it."
"Well, I'll come around and maow tonight."
"All right. Let's hide the tools in the bushes."
The boys were there that night, about the appointed time. They sat in
the shadow waiting. It was a lonely place, and an hour made solemn by
old traditions. Spirits whispered in the rustling leaves, ghosts lurked
in the murky nooks, the deep baying of a hound floated up out of the
distance, an owl answered with his sepulchral note. The boys were
subdued by these solemnities, and talked little. By and by they judged
that twelve had come; they marked where the shadow fell, and began to
dig. Their hopes commenced to rise. Their interest grew stronger, and
their industry kept pace with it. The hole deepened and still deepened,
but every time their hearts jumped to hear the pick strike upon
something, they only suffered a new disappointment. It was only a stone
or a chunk. At last Tom said:
"It ain't any use, Huck, we're wrong again."
"Well, but we _can't_ be wrong. We spotted the shadder to a dot."
"I know it, but then there's another thing."
"Why, we only guessed at the time. Like enough it was too late or too
Huck dropped his shovel.
"That's it," said he. "That's the very trouble. We got to give this one
up. We can't ever tell the right time, and besides this kind of thing's
too awful, here this time of night with witches and ghosts a-fluttering
around so. I feel as if something's behind me all the time; and I'm
afeard to turn around, becuz maybe there's others in front a-waiting for
a chance. I been creeping all over, ever since I got here."
"Well, I've been pretty much so, too, Huck. They most always put in a
dead man when they bury a treasure under a tree, to look out for it."
"Yes, they do. I've always heard that."
"Tom, I don't like to fool around much where there's dead people. A
body's bound to get into trouble with 'em, sure."
"I don't like to stir 'em up, either. S'pose this one here was to stick
his skull out and say something!"
"Don't Tom! It's awful."
"Well, it just is. Huck, I don't feel comfortable a bit."
"Say, Tom, let's give this place up, and try somewheres else."
"All right, I reckon we better."
"What'll it be?"
Tom considered awhile; and then said:
"The ha'nted house. That's it!"
"Blame it, I don't like ha'nted houses, Tom. Why, they're a dern sight
worse'n dead people. Dead people might talk, maybe, but they don't come
sliding around in a shroud, when you ain't noticing, and peep over your
shoulder all of a sudden and grit their teeth, the way a ghost does. I
couldn't stand such a thing as that, Tom--nobody could."
"Yes, but, Huck, ghosts don't travel around only at night. They won't
hender us from digging there in the daytime."
"Well, that's so. But you know mighty well people don't go about that
ha'nted house in the day nor the night."
"Well, that's mostly because they don't like to go where a man's been
murdered, anyway--but nothing's ever been seen around that house except
in the night--just some blue lights slipping by the windows--no regular
"Well, where you see one of them blue lights flickering around, Tom,
you can bet there's a ghost mighty close behind it. It stands to reason.
Becuz you know that they don't anybody but ghosts use 'em."
"Yes, that's so. But anyway they don't come around in the daytime, so
what's the use of our being afeard?"
"Well, all right. We'll tackle the ha'nted house if you say so--but I
reckon it's taking chances."
They had started down the hill by this time. There in the middle of the
moonlit valley below them stood the "ha'nted" house, utterly isolated,
its fences gone long ago, rank weeds smothering the very doorsteps, the
chimney crumbled to ruin, the window-sashes vacant, a corner of the roof
caved in. The boys gazed awhile, half expecting to see a blue light flit
past a window; then talking in a low tone, as befitted the time and the
circumstances, they struck far off to the right, to give the haunted
house a wide berth, and took their way homeward through the woods that
adorned the rearward side of Cardiff Hill.
ABOUT noon the next day the boys arrived at the dead tree; they had come
for their tools. Tom was impatient to go to the haunted house; Huck was
measurably so, also--but suddenly said:
"Lookyhere, Tom, do you know what day it is?"
Tom mentally ran over the days of the week, and then quickly lifted his
eyes with a startled look in them--
"My! I never once thought of it, Huck!"
"Well, I didn't neither, but all at once it popped onto me that it was
"Blame it, a body can't be too careful, Huck. We might 'a' got into an
awful scrape, tackling such a thing on a Friday."
"_Might_! Better say we _would_! There's some lucky days, maybe, but
"Any fool knows that. I don't reckon _you_ was the first that found it
"Well, I never said I was, did I? And Friday ain't all, neither. I had a
rotten bad dream last night--dreampt about rats."
"No! Sure sign of trouble. Did they fight?"
"Well, that's good, Huck. When they don't fight it's only a sign that
there's trouble around, you know. All we got to do is to look mighty
sharp and keep out of it. We'll drop this thing for today, and play. Do
you know Robin Hood, Huck?"
"No. Who's Robin Hood?"
"Why, he was one of the greatest men that was ever in England--and the
best. He was a robber."
"Cracky, I wisht I was. Who did he rob?"
"Only sheriffs and bishops and rich people and kings, and such like. But
he never bothered the poor. He loved 'em. He always divided up with 'em
"Well, he must 'a' been a brick."
"I bet you he was, Huck. Oh, he was the noblest man that ever was.
They ain't any such men now, I can tell you. He could lick any man in
England, with one hand tied behind him; and he could take his yew bow
and plug a ten-cent piece every time, a mile and a half."
"What's a _yew_ bow?"
"I don't know. It's some kind of a bow, of course. And if he hit that
dime only on the edge he would set down and cry--and curse. But we'll
play Robin Hood--it's nobby fun. I'll learn you."
So they played Robin Hood all the afternoon, now and then casting a
yearning eye down upon the haunted house and passing a remark about the
morrow's prospects and possibilities there. As the sun began to sink
into the west they took their way homeward athwart the long shadows
of the trees and soon were buried from sight in the forests of Cardiff
On Saturday, shortly after noon, the boys were at the dead tree again.
They had a smoke and a chat in the shade, and then dug a little in their
last hole, not with great hope, but merely because Tom said there were
so many cases where people had given up a treasure after getting down
within six inches of it, and then somebody else had come along and
turned it up with a single thrust of a shovel. The thing failed this
time, however, so the boys shouldered their tools and went away feeling
that they had not trifled with fortune, but had fulfilled all the
requirements that belong to the business of treasure-hunting.
When they reached the haunted house there was something so weird and
grisly about the dead silence that reigned there under the baking sun,
and something so depressing about the loneliness and desolation of the
place, that they were afraid, for a moment, to venture in. Then they
crept to the door and took a trembling peep. They saw a weedgrown,
floorless room, unplastered, an ancient fireplace, vacant windows,
a ruinous staircase; and here, there, and everywhere hung ragged and
abandoned cobwebs. They presently entered, softly, with quickened
pulses, talking in whispers, ears alert to catch the slightest sound,
and muscles tense and ready for instant retreat.
In a little while familiarity modified their fears and they gave the
place a critical and interested examination, rather admiring their own
boldness, and wondering at it, too. Next they wanted to look upstairs.
This was something like cutting off retreat, but they got to daring
each other, and of course there could be but one result--they threw their
tools into a corner and made the ascent. Up there were the same signs of
decay. In one corner they found a closet that promised mystery, but the
promise was a fraud--there was nothing in it. Their courage was up now
and well in hand. They were about to go down and begin work when--
"Sh!" said Tom.
"What is it?" whispered Huck, blanching with fright.
"Sh!... There!... Hear it?"
"Yes!... Oh, my! Let's run!"
"Keep still! Don't you budge! They're coming right toward the door."
The boys stretched themselves upon the floor with their eyes to
knotholes in the planking, and lay waiting, in a misery of fear.
"They've stopped.... No--coming.... Here they are. Don't whisper another
word, Huck. My goodness, I wish I was out of this!"
Two men entered. Each boy said to himself: "There's the old deaf and
dumb Spaniard that's been about town once or twice lately--never saw
t'other man before."
"T'other" was a ragged, unkempt creature, with nothing very pleasant
in his face. The Spaniard was wrapped in a serape; he had bushy white
whiskers; long white hair flowed from under his sombrero, and he wore
green goggles. When they came in, "t'other" was talking in a low voice;
they sat down on the ground, facing the door, with their backs to the
wall, and the speaker continued his remarks. His manner became less
guarded and his words more distinct as he proceeded:
"No," said he, "I've thought it all over, and I don't like it. It's
"Dangerous!" grunted the "deaf and dumb" Spaniard--to the vast surprise
of the boys. "Milksop!"
This voice made the boys gasp and quake. It was Injun Joe's! There was
silence for some time. Then Joe said:
"What's any more dangerous than that job up yonder--but nothing's come of
"That's different. Away up the river so, and not another house about.
'Twon't ever be known that we tried, anyway, long as we didn't succeed."
"Well, what's more dangerous than coming here in the daytime!--anybody
would suspicion us that saw us."
"I know that. But there warn't any other place as handy after that fool
of a job. I want to quit this shanty. I wanted to yesterday, only it
warn't any use trying to stir out of here, with those infernal boys
playing over there on the hill right in full view."
"Those infernal boys" quaked again under the inspiration of this remark,
and thought how lucky it was that they had remembered it was Friday and
concluded to wait a day. They wished in their hearts they had waited a
The two men got out some food and made a luncheon. After a long and
thoughtful silence, Injun Joe said:
"Look here, lad--you go back up the river where you belong. Wait there
till you hear from me. I'll take the chances on dropping into this town
just once more, for a look. We'll do that 'dangerous' job after I've
spied around a little and think things look well for it. Then for Texas!
We'll leg it together!"
This was satisfactory. Both men presently fell to yawning, and Injun Joe
"I'm dead for sleep! It's your turn to watch."
He curled down in the weeds and soon began to snore. His comrade stirred
him once or twice and he became quiet. Presently the watcher began to
nod; his head drooped lower and lower, both men began to snore now.
The boys drew a long, grateful breath. Tom whispered:
"Now's our chance--come!"
"I can't--I'd die if they was to wake."
Tom urged--Huck held back. At last Tom rose slowly and softly, and
started alone. But the first step he made wrung such a hideous creak
from the crazy floor that he sank down almost dead with fright. He never
made a second attempt. The boys lay there counting the dragging moments
till it seemed to them that time must be done and eternity growing gray;
and then they were grateful to note that at last the sun was setting.
Now one snore ceased. Injun Joe sat up, stared around--smiled grimly upon
his comrade, whose head was drooping upon his knees--stirred him up with
his foot and said:
"Here! _You're_ a watchman, ain't you! All right, though--nothing's
"My! have I been asleep?"
"Oh, partly, partly. Nearly time for us to be moving, pard. What'll we
do with what little swag we've got left?"
"I don't know--leave it here as we've always done, I reckon. No use to
take it away till we start south. Six hundred and fifty in silver's
something to carry."
"Well--all right--it won't matter to come here once more."
"No--but I'd say come in the night as we used to do--it's better."
"Yes: but look here; it may be a good while before I get the right
chance at that job; accidents might happen; 'tain't in such a very good
place; we'll just regularly bury it--and bury it deep."
"Good idea," said the comrade, who walked across the room, knelt down,
raised one of the rearward hearth-stones and took out a bag that jingled
pleasantly. He subtracted from it twenty or thirty dollars for himself
and as much for Injun Joe, and passed the bag to the latter, who was on
his knees in the corner, now, digging with his bowie-knife.
The boys forgot all their fears, all their miseries in an instant. With
gloating eyes they watched every movement. Luck!--the splendor of it was
beyond all imagination! Six hundred dollars was money enough to make
half a dozen boys rich! Here was treasure-hunting under the happiest
auspices--there would not be any bothersome uncertainty as to where to
dig. They nudged each other every moment--eloquent nudges and easily
understood, for they simply meant--"Oh, but ain't you glad _now_ we're
Joe's knife struck upon something.
"Hello!" said he.
"What is it?" said his comrade.
"Half-rotten plank--no, it's a box, I believe. Here--bear a hand and we'll
see what it's here for. Never mind, I've broke a hole."
He reached his hand in and drew it out--
"Man, it's money!"
The two men examined the handful of coins. They were gold. The boys
above were as excited as themselves, and as delighted.
Joe's comrade said:
"We'll make quick work of this. There's an old rusty pick over amongst
the weeds in the corner the other side of the fireplace--I saw it a
He ran and brought the boys' pick and shovel. Injun Joe took the
pick, looked it over critically, shook his head, muttered something to
himself, and then began to use it. The box was soon unearthed. It was
not very large; it was iron bound and had been very strong before the
slow years had injured it. The men contemplated the treasure awhile in
"Pard, there's thousands of dollars here," said Injun Joe.
"'Twas always said that Murrel's gang used to be around here one
summer," the stranger observed.
"I know it," said Injun Joe; "and this looks like it, I should say."
"Now you won't need to do that job."
The halfbreed frowned. Said he:
"You don't know me. Least you don't know all about that thing. 'Tain't
robbery altogether--it's _revenge_!" and a wicked light flamed in his
eyes. "I'll need your help in it. When it's finished--then Texas. Go home
to your Nance and your kids, and stand by till you hear from me."
"Well--if you say so; what'll we do with this--bury it again?"
"Yes. [Ravishing delight overhead.] _No_! by the great Sachem, no!
[Profound distress overhead.] I'd nearly forgot. That pick had fresh
earth on it! [The boys were sick with terror in a moment.] What business
has a pick and a shovel here? What business with fresh earth on
them? Who brought them here--and where are they gone? Have you heard
anybody?--seen anybody? What! bury it again and leave them to come and
see the ground disturbed? Not exactly--not exactly. We'll take it to my
"Why, of course! Might have thought of that before. You mean Number
"No--Number Two--under the cross. The other place is bad--too common."
"All right. It's nearly dark enough to start."
Injun Joe got up and went about from window to window cautiously peeping
out. Presently he said:
"Who could have brought those tools here? Do you reckon they can be
The boys' breath forsook them. Injun Joe put his hand on his knife,
halted a moment, undecided, and then turned toward the stairway. The
boys thought of the closet, but their strength was gone. The steps came
creaking up the stairs--the intolerable distress of the situation woke
the stricken resolution of the lads--they were about to spring for the
closet, when there was a crash of rotten timbers and Injun Joe landed on
the ground amid the debris of the ruined stairway. He gathered himself
up cursing, and his comrade said:
"Now what's the use of all that? If it's anybody, and they're up there,
let them _stay_ there--who cares? If they want to jump down, now, and get
into trouble, who objects? It will be dark in fifteen minutes--and then
let them follow us if they want to. I'm willing. In my opinion, whoever
hove those things in here caught a sight of us and took us for ghosts or
devils or something. I'll bet they're running yet."
Joe grumbled awhile; then he agreed with his friend that what daylight
was left ought to be economized in getting things ready for leaving.
Shortly afterward they slipped out of the house in the deepening
twilight, and moved toward the river with their precious box.
Tom and Huck rose up, weak but vastly relieved, and stared after them
through the chinks between the logs of the house. Follow? Not they. They
were content to reach ground again without broken necks, and take the
townward track over the hill. They did not talk much. They were too much
absorbed in hating themselves--hating the ill luck that made them take
the spade and the pick there. But for that, Injun Joe never would have
suspected. He would have hidden the silver with the gold to wait
there till his "revenge" was satisfied, and then he would have had the
misfortune to find that money turn up missing. Bitter, bitter luck that
the tools were ever brought there!
They resolved to keep a lookout for that Spaniard when he should come to
town spying out for chances to do his revengeful job, and follow him to
"Number Two," wherever that might be. Then a ghastly thought occurred to
"Revenge? What if he means _us_, Huck!"
"Oh, don't!" said Huck, nearly fainting.
They talked it all over, and as they entered town they agreed to believe
that he might possibly mean somebody else--at least that he might at
least mean nobody but Tom, since only Tom had testified.
Very, very small comfort it was to Tom to be alone in danger! Company
would be a palpable improvement, he thought.
THE adventure of the day mightily tormented Tom's dreams that night.
Four times he had his hands on that rich treasure and four times
it wasted to nothingness in his fingers as sleep forsook him and
wakefulness brought back the hard reality of his misfortune. As he lay
in the early morning recalling the incidents of his great adventure, he
noticed that they seemed curiously subdued and far away--somewhat as if
they had happened in another world, or in a time long gone by. Then it
occurred to him that the great adventure itself must be a dream! There
was one very strong argument in favor of this idea--namely, that the
quantity of coin he had seen was too vast to be real. He had never seen
as much as fifty dollars in one mass before, and he was like all boys of
his age and station in life, in that he imagined that all references to
"hundreds" and "thousands" were mere fanciful forms of speech, and that
no such sums really existed in the world. He never had supposed for
a moment that so large a sum as a hundred dollars was to be found in
actual money in any one's possession. If his notions of hidden treasure
had been analyzed, they would have been found to consist of a handful of
real dimes and a bushel of vague, splendid, ungraspable dollars.
But the incidents of his adventure grew sensibly sharper and clearer
under the attrition of thinking them over, and so he presently found
himself leaning to the impression that the thing might not have been a
dream, after all. This uncertainty must be swept away. He would snatch a
hurried breakfast and go and find Huck. Huck was sitting on the gunwale
of a flatboat, listlessly dangling his feet in the water and looking
very melancholy. Tom concluded to let Huck lead up to the subject. If
he did not do it, then the adventure would be proved to have been only a
Silence, for a minute.
"Tom, if we'd 'a' left the blame tools at the dead tree, we'd 'a' got
the money. Oh, ain't it awful!"
"'Tain't a dream, then, 'tain't a dream! Somehow I most wish it was.
Dog'd if I don't, Huck."
"What ain't a dream?"
"Oh, that thing yesterday. I been half thinking it was."
"Dream! If them stairs hadn't broke down you'd 'a' seen how much dream
it was! I've had dreams enough all night--with that patch-eyed Spanish
devil going for me all through 'em--rot him!"
"No, not rot him. _Find_ him! Track the money!"
"Tom, we'll never find him. A feller don't have only one chance for such
a pile--and that one's lost. I'd feel mighty shaky if I was to see him,
"Well, so'd I; but I'd like to see him, anyway--and track him out--to his
"Number Two--yes, that's it. I been thinking 'bout that. But I can't make
nothing out of it. What do you reckon it is?"
"I dono. It's too deep. Say, Huck--maybe it's the number of a house!"
"Goody!... No, Tom, that ain't it. If it is, it ain't in this one-horse
town. They ain't no numbers here."
"Well, that's so. Lemme think a minute. Here--it's the number of a
room--in a tavern, you know!"
"Oh, that's the trick! They ain't only two taverns. We can find out
"You stay here, Huck, till I come."
Tom was off at once. He did not care to have Huck's company in public
places. He was gone half an hour. He found that in the best tavern, No.
2 had long been occupied by a young lawyer, and was still so occupied.
In the less ostentatious house, No. 2 was a mystery. The tavern-keeper's
young son said it was kept locked all the time, and he never saw anybody
go into it or come out of it except at night; he did not know any
particular reason for this state of things; had had some little
curiosity, but it was rather feeble; had made the most of the mystery
by entertaining himself with the idea that that room was "ha'nted"; had
noticed that there was a light in there the night before.
"That's what I've found out, Huck. I reckon that's the very No. 2 we're
"I reckon it is, Tom. Now what you going to do?"
Tom thought a long time. Then he said:
"I'll tell you. The back door of that No. 2 is the door that comes out
into that little close alley between the tavern and the old rattle trap
of a brick store. Now you get hold of all the doorkeys you can find, and
I'll nip all of auntie's, and the first dark night we'll go there and
try 'em. And mind you, keep a lookout for Injun Joe, because he said he
was going to drop into town and spy around once more for a chance to get
his revenge. If you see him, you just follow him; and if he don't go to
that No. 2, that ain't the place."
"Lordy, I don't want to foller him by myself!"
"Why, it'll be night, sure. He mightn't ever see you--and if he did,
maybe he'd never think anything."
"Well, if it's pretty dark I reckon I'll track him. I dono--I dono. I'll
"You bet I'll follow him, if it's dark, Huck. Why, he might 'a' found
out he couldn't get his revenge, and be going right after that money."
"It's so, Tom, it's so. I'll foller him; I will, by jingoes!"
"Now you're _talking_! Don't you ever weaken, Huck, and I won't."
THAT night Tom and Huck were ready for their adventure. They hung about
the neighborhood of the tavern until after nine, one watching the alley
at a distance and the other the tavern door. Nobody entered the alley or
left it; nobody resembling the Spaniard entered or left the tavern
door. The night promised to be a fair one; so Tom went home with the
understanding that if a considerable degree of darkness came on, Huck
was to come and "maow," whereupon he would slip out and try the keys.
But the night remained clear, and Huck closed his watch and retired to
bed in an empty sugar hogshead about twelve.
Tuesday the boys had the same ill luck. Also Wednesday. But Thursday
night promised better. Tom slipped out in good season with his aunt's
old tin lantern, and a large towel to blindfold it with. He hid the
lantern in Huck's sugar hogshead and the watch began. An hour before
midnight the tavern closed up and its lights (the only ones thereabouts)
were put out. No Spaniard had been seen. Nobody had entered or left the
alley. Everything was auspicious. The blackness of darkness reigned,
the perfect stillness was interrupted only by occasional mutterings of
Tom got his lantern, lit it in the hogshead, wrapped it closely in the
towel, and the two adventurers crept in the gloom toward the tavern.
Huck stood sentry and Tom felt his way into the alley. Then there was
a season of waiting anxiety that weighed upon Huck's spirits like a
mountain. He began to wish he could see a flash from the lantern--it
would frighten him, but it would at least tell him that Tom was alive
yet. It seemed hours since Tom had disappeared. Surely he must have
fainted; maybe he was dead; maybe his heart had burst under terror and
excitement. In his uneasiness Huck found himself drawing closer
and closer to the alley; fearing all sorts of dreadful things, and
momentarily expecting some catastrophe to happen that would take away
his breath. There was not much to take away, for he seemed only able to
inhale it by thimblefuls, and his heart would soon wear itself out, the
way it was beating. Suddenly there was a flash of light and Tom came
tearing by him: "Run!" said he; "run, for your life!"
He needn't have repeated it; once was enough; Huck was making thirty or
forty miles an hour before the repetition was uttered. The boys never
stopped till they reached the shed of a deserted slaughter-house at the
lower end of the village. Just as they got within its shelter the storm
burst and the rain poured down. As soon as Tom got his breath he said:
"Huck, it was awful! I tried two of the keys, just as soft as I could;
but they seemed to make such a power of racket that I couldn't hardly
get my breath I was so scared. They wouldn't turn in the lock, either.
Well, without noticing what I was doing, I took hold of the knob, and
open comes the door! It warn't locked! I hopped in, and shook off the
towel, and, _Great Caesar's Ghost!_"
"What!--what'd you see, Tom?"
"Huck, I most stepped onto Injun Joe's hand!"
"Yes! He was lying there, sound asleep on the floor, with his old patch
on his eye and his arms spread out."
"Lordy, what did you do? Did he wake up?"
"No, never budged. Drunk, I reckon. I just grabbed that towel and
"I'd never 'a' thought of the towel, I bet!"
"Well, I would. My aunt would make me mighty sick if I lost it."
"Say, Tom, did you see that box?"
"Huck, I didn't wait to look around. I didn't see the box, I didn't see
the cross. I didn't see anything but a bottle and a tin cup on the floor
by Injun Joe; yes, I saw two barrels and lots more bottles in the room.
Don't you see, now, what's the matter with that ha'nted room?"
"Why, it's ha'nted with whiskey! Maybe _all_ the Temperance Taverns have
got a ha'nted room, hey, Huck?"
"Well, I reckon maybe that's so. Who'd 'a' thought such a thing? But
say, Tom, now's a mighty good time to get that box, if Injun Joe's
"It is, that! You try it!"
"Well, no--I reckon not."
"And I reckon not, Huck. Only one bottle alongside of Injun Joe ain't
enough. If there'd been three, he'd be drunk enough and I'd do it."
There was a long pause for reflection, and then Tom said:
"Lookyhere, Huck, less not try that thing any more till we know Injun
Joe's not in there. It's too scary. Now, if we watch every night, we'll
be dead sure to see him go out, some time or other, and then we'll
snatch that box quicker'n lightning."
"Well, I'm agreed. I'll watch the whole night long, and I'll do it every
night, too, if you'll do the other part of the job."
"All right, I will. All you got to do is to trot up Hooper Street a
block and maow--and if I'm asleep, you throw some gravel at the window
and that'll fetch me."
"Agreed, and good as wheat!"
"Now, Huck, the storm's over, and I'll go home. It'll begin to be
daylight in a couple of hours. You go back and watch that long, will
"I said I would, Tom, and I will. I'll ha'nt that tavern every night for
a year! I'll sleep all day and I'll stand watch all night."
"That's all right. Now, where you going to sleep?"
"In Ben Rogers' hayloft. He lets me, and so does his pap's nigger man,
Uncle Jake. I tote water for Uncle Jake whenever he wants me to, and any
time I ask him he gives me a little something to eat if he can spare it.
That's a mighty good nigger, Tom. He likes me, becuz I don't ever act as
if I was above him. Sometime I've set right down and eat _with_ him. But
you needn't tell that. A body's got to do things when he's awful hungry
he wouldn't want to do as a steady thing."
"Well, if I don't want you in the daytime, I'll let you sleep. I won't
come bothering around. Any time you see something's up, in the night,
just skip right around and maow."
THE first thing Tom heard on Friday morning was a glad piece of
news--Judge Thatcher's family had come back to town the night before.
Both Injun Joe and the treasure sunk into secondary importance for a
moment, and Becky took the chief place in the boy's interest. He saw her
and they had an exhausting good time playing "hispy" and "gully-keeper"
with a crowd of their schoolmates. The day was completed and crowned in
a peculiarly satisfactory way: Becky teased her mother to appoint
the next day for the long-promised and long-delayed picnic, and she
consented. The child's delight was boundless; and Tom's not more
moderate. The invitations were sent out before sunset, and straightway
the young folks of the village were thrown into a fever of preparation
and pleasurable anticipation. Tom's excitement enabled him to keep
awake until a pretty late hour, and he had good hopes of hearing Huck's
"maow," and of having his treasure to astonish Becky and the picnickers
with, next day; but he was disappointed. No signal came that night.
Morning came, eventually, and by ten or eleven o'clock a giddy and
rollicking company were gathered at Judge Thatcher's, and everything was
ready for a start. It was not the custom for elderly people to mar the
picnics with their presence. The children were considered safe enough
under the wings of a few young ladies of eighteen and a few young
gentlemen of twenty-three or thereabouts. The old steam ferry-boat was
chartered for the occasion; presently the gay throng filed up the main
street laden with provision-baskets. Sid was sick and had to miss
the fun; Mary remained at home to entertain him. The last thing Mrs.
Thatcher said to Becky, was:
"You'll not get back till late. Perhaps you'd better stay all night with
some of the girls that live near the ferry-landing, child."
"Then I'll stay with Susy Harper, mamma."
"Very well. And mind and behave yourself and don't be any trouble."
Presently, as they tripped along, Tom said to Becky:
"Say--I'll tell you what we'll do. 'Stead of going to Joe Harper's we'll
climb right up the hill and stop at the Widow Douglas'. She'll have
ice-cream! She has it most every day--dead loads of it. And she'll be
awful glad to have us."
"Oh, that will be fun!"
Then Becky reflected a moment and said:
"But what will mamma say?"
"How'll she ever know?"
The girl turned the idea over in her mind, and said reluctantly:
"I reckon it's wrong--but--"
"But shucks! Your mother won't know, and so what's the harm? All she
wants is that you'll be safe; and I bet you she'd 'a' said go there if
she'd 'a' thought of it. I know she would!"
The Widow Douglas' splendid hospitality was a tempting bait. It and
Tom's persuasions presently carried the day. So it was decided to say
nothing to anybody about the night's programme. Presently it occurred to
Tom that maybe Huck might come this very night and give the signal. The
thought took a deal of the spirit out of his anticipations. Still he
could not bear to give up the fun at Widow Douglas'. And why should he
give it up, he reasoned--the signal did not come the night before, so
why should it be any more likely to come tonight? The sure fun of the
evening outweighed the uncertain treasure; and, boy-like, he determined
to yield to the stronger inclination and not allow himself to think of
the box of money another time that day.
Three miles below town the ferryboat stopped at the mouth of a woody
hollow and tied up. The crowd swarmed ashore and soon the forest
distances and craggy heights echoed far and near with shoutings and
laughter. All the different ways of getting hot and tired were gone
through with, and by-and-by the rovers straggled back to camp fortified
with responsible appetites, and then the destruction of the good things
began. After the feast there was a refreshing season of rest and chat in
the shade of spreading oaks. By-and-by somebody shouted:
"Who's ready for the cave?"
Everybody was. Bundles of candles were procured, and straightway there
was a general scamper up the hill. The mouth of the cave was up the
hillside--an opening shaped like a letter A. Its massive oaken door stood
unbarred. Within was a small chamber, chilly as an icehouse, and walled
by Nature with solid limestone that was dewy with a cold sweat. It was
romantic and mysterious to stand here in the deep gloom and look out
upon the green valley shining in the sun. But the impressiveness of the
situation quickly wore off, and the romping began again. The moment
a candle was lighted there was a general rush upon the owner of it; a
struggle and a gallant defence followed, but the candle was soon knocked
down or blown out, and then there was a glad clamor of laughter and a
new chase. But all things have an end. By-and-by the procession went
filing down the steep descent of the main avenue, the flickering rank of
lights dimly revealing the lofty walls of rock almost to their point of
junction sixty feet overhead. This main avenue was not more than
eight or ten feet wide. Every few steps other lofty and still narrower
crevices branched from it on either hand--for McDougal's cave was but a
vast labyrinth of crooked aisles that ran into each other and out again
and led nowhere. It was said that one might wander days and nights
together through its intricate tangle of rifts and chasms, and never
find the end of the cave; and that he might go down, and down, and
still down, into the earth, and it was just the same--labyrinth under
labyrinth, and no end to any of them. No man "knew" the cave. That was
an impossible thing. Most of the young men knew a portion of it, and it
was not customary to venture much beyond this known portion. Tom Sawyer
knew as much of the cave as any one.
The procession moved along the main avenue some three-quarters of
a mile, and then groups and couples began to slip aside into branch
avenues, fly along the dismal corridors, and take each other by surprise
at points where the corridors joined again. Parties were able to elude
each other for the space of half an hour without going beyond the
By-and-by, one group after another came straggling back to the mouth
of the cave, panting, hilarious, smeared from head to foot with tallow
drippings, daubed with clay, and entirely delighted with the success of
the day. Then they were astonished to find that they had been taking
no note of time and that night was about at hand. The clanging bell had
been calling for half an hour. However, this sort of close to the day's
adventures was romantic and therefore satisfactory. When the ferryboat
with her wild freight pushed into the stream, nobody cared sixpence for
the wasted time but the captain of the craft.
Huck was already upon his watch when the ferryboat's lights went
glinting past the wharf. He heard no noise on board, for the young
people were as subdued and still as people usually are who are nearly
tired to death. He wondered what boat it was, and why she did not
stop at the wharf--and then he dropped her out of his mind and put his
attention upon his business. The night was growing cloudy and dark. Ten
o'clock came, and the noise of vehicles ceased, scattered lights began
to wink out, all straggling foot-passengers disappeared, the village
betook itself to its slumbers and left the small watcher alone with the
silence and the ghosts. Eleven o'clock came, and the tavern lights were
put out; darkness everywhere, now. Huck waited what seemed a weary long
time, but nothing happened. His faith was weakening. Was there any use?
Was there really any use? Why not give it up and turn in?
A noise fell upon his ear. He was all attention in an instant. The alley
door closed softly. He sprang to the corner of the brick store. The next
moment two men brushed by him, and one seemed to have something under
his arm. It must be that box! So they were going to remove the treasure.
Why call Tom now? It would be absurd--the men would get away with the box
and never be found again. No, he would stick to their wake and follow
them; he would trust to the darkness for security from discovery. So
communing with himself, Huck stepped out and glided along behind the
men, cat-like, with bare feet, allowing them to keep just far enough
ahead not to be invisible.
They moved up the river street three blocks, then turned to the left up
a crossstreet. They went straight ahead, then, until they came to the
path that led up Cardiff Hill; this they took. They passed by the old
Welshman's house, halfway up the hill, without hesitating, and still
climbed upward. Good, thought Huck, they will bury it in the old quarry.
But they never stopped at the quarry. They passed on, up the summit.
They plunged into the narrow path between the tall sumach bushes, and
were at once hidden in the gloom. Huck closed up and shortened his
distance, now, for they would never be able to see him. He trotted along
awhile; then slackened his pace, fearing he was gaining too fast; moved
on a piece, then stopped altogether; listened; no sound; none, save that
he seemed to hear the beating of his own heart. The hooting of an
owl came over the hill--ominous sound! But no footsteps. Heavens, was
everything lost! He was about to spring with winged feet, when a man
cleared his throat not four feet from him! Huck's heart shot into his
throat, but he swallowed it again; and then he stood there shaking as
if a dozen agues had taken charge of him at once, and so weak that he
thought he must surely fall to the ground. He knew where he was. He
knew he was within five steps of the stile leading into Widow Douglas'
grounds. Very well, he thought, let them bury it there; it won't be hard
Now there was a voice--a very low voice--Injun Joe's:
"Damn her, maybe she's got company--there's lights, late as it is."
"I can't see any."
This was that stranger's voice--the stranger of the haunted house. A
deadly chill went to Huck's heart--this, then, was the "revenge" job! His
thought was, to fly. Then he remembered that the Widow Douglas had been
kind to him more than once, and maybe these men were going to murder
her. He wished he dared venture to warn her; but he knew he didn't
dare--they might come and catch him. He thought all this and more in
the moment that elapsed between the stranger's remark and Injun Joe's
"Because the bush is in your way. Now--this way--now you see, don't you?"
"Yes. Well, there _is_ company there, I reckon. Better give it up."
"Give it up, and I just leaving this country forever! Give it up and
maybe never have another chance. I tell you again, as I've told you
before, I don't care for her swag--you may have it. But her husband was
rough on me--many times he was rough on me--and mainly he was the justice
of the peace that jugged me for a vagrant. And that ain't all. It ain't
a millionth part of it! He had me _horsewhipped_!--horsewhipped in
front of the jail, like a nigger!--with all the town looking on!
_Horsewhipped_!--do you understand? He took advantage of me and died. But
I'll take it out of _her_."
"Oh, don't kill her! Don't do that!"
"Kill? Who said anything about killing? I would kill _him_ if he was
here; but not her. When you want to get revenge on a woman you don't
kill her--bosh! you go for her looks. You slit her nostrils--you notch her
ears like a sow!"
"By God, that's--"
"Keep your opinion to yourself! It will be safest for you. I'll tie her
to the bed. If she bleeds to death, is that my fault? I'll not cry, if
she does. My friend, you'll help me in this thing--for _my_ sake--that's
why you're here--I mightn't be able alone. If you flinch, I'll kill you.
Do you understand that? And if I have to kill you, I'll kill her--and
then I reckon nobody'll ever know much about who done this business."
"Well, if it's got to be done, let's get at it. The quicker the
better--I'm all in a shiver."
"Do it _now_? And company there? Look here--I'll get suspicious of you,
first thing you know. No--we'll wait till the lights are out--there's no
Huck felt that a silence was going to ensue--a thing still more awful
than any amount of murderous talk; so he held his breath and stepped
gingerly back; planted his foot carefully and firmly, after balancing,
one-legged, in a precarious way and almost toppling over, first on one
side and then on the other. He took another step back, with the same
elaboration and the same risks; then another and another, and--a twig
snapped under his foot! His breath stopped and he listened. There was no
sound--the stillness was perfect. His gratitude was measureless. Now he
turned in his tracks, between the walls of sumach bushes--turned
himself as carefully as if he were a ship--and then stepped quickly but
cautiously along. When he emerged at the quarry he felt secure, and
so he picked up his nimble heels and flew. Down, down he sped, till he
reached the Welshman's. He banged at the door, and presently the heads
of the old man and his two stalwart sons were thrust from windows.
"What's the row there? Who's banging? What do you want?"
"Let me in--quick! I'll tell everything."
"Why, who are you?"
"Huckleberry Finn--quick, let me in!"
"Huckleberry Finn, indeed! It ain't a name to open many doors, I judge!
But let him in, lads, and let's see what's the trouble."
"Please don't ever tell I told you," were Huck's first words when he got
in. "Please don't--I'd be killed, sure--but the widow's been good friends
to me sometimes, and I want to tell--I _will_ tell if you'll promise you
won't ever say it was me."
"By George, he _has_ got something to tell, or he wouldn't act so!"
exclaimed the old man; "out with it and nobody here'll ever tell, lad."
Three minutes later the old man and his sons, well armed, were up the
hill, and just entering the sumach path on tiptoe, their weapons in
their hands. Huck accompanied them no further. He hid behind a great
bowlder and fell to listening. There was a lagging, anxious silence, and
then all of a sudden there was an explosion of firearms and a cry.
Huck waited for no particulars. He sprang away and sped down the hill as
fast as his legs could carry him.
AS the earliest suspicion of dawn appeared on Sunday morning, Huck came
groping up the hill and rapped gently at the old Welshman's door. The
inmates were asleep, but it was a sleep that was set on a hair-trigger,
on account of the exciting episode of the night. A call came from a
Huck's scared voice answered in a low tone:
"Please let me in! It's only Huck Finn!"
"It's a name that can open this door night or day, lad!--and welcome!"
These were strange words to the vagabond boy's ears, and the pleasantest
he had ever heard. He could not recollect that the closing word had ever
been applied in his case before. The door was quickly unlocked, and he
entered. Huck was given a seat and the old man and his brace of tall
sons speedily dressed themselves.
"Now, my boy, I hope you're good and hungry, because breakfast will be
ready as soon as the sun's up, and we'll have a piping hot one, too--make
yourself easy about that! I and the boys hoped you'd turn up and stop
here last night."
"I was awful scared," said Huck, "and I run. I took out when the pistols
went off, and I didn't stop for three mile. I've come now becuz I wanted
to know about it, you know; and I come before daylight becuz I didn't
want to run across them devils, even if they was dead."
"Well, poor chap, you do look as if you'd had a hard night of it--but
there's a bed here for you when you've had your breakfast. No, they
ain't dead, lad--we are sorry enough for that. You see we knew right
where to put our hands on them, by your description; so we crept along
on tiptoe till we got within fifteen feet of them--dark as a cellar that
sumach path was--and just then I found I was going to sneeze. It was the
meanest kind of luck! I tried to keep it back, but no use--'twas bound to
come, and it did come! I was in the lead with my pistol raised, and when
the sneeze started those scoundrels a-rustling to get out of the path,
I sung out, 'Fire boys!' and blazed away at the place where the rustling
was. So did the boys. But they were off in a jiffy, those villains, and
we after them, down through the woods. I judge we never touched them.
They fired a shot apiece as they started, but their bullets whizzed by
and didn't do us any harm. As soon as we lost the sound of their feet
we quit chasing, and went down and stirred up the constables. They got a
posse together, and went off to guard the river bank, and as soon as it
is light the sheriff and a gang are going to beat up the woods. My boys
will be with them presently. I wish we had some sort of description of
those rascals--'twould help a good deal. But you couldn't see what they
were like, in the dark, lad, I suppose?"
"Oh yes; I saw them downtown and follered them."
"Splendid! Describe them--describe them, my boy!"
"One's the old deaf and dumb Spaniard that's ben around here once or
twice, and t'other's a mean-looking, ragged--"
"That's enough, lad, we know the men! Happened on them in the woods back
of the widow's one day, and they slunk away. Off with you, boys, and
tell the sheriff--get your breakfast tomorrow morning!"
The Welshman's sons departed at once. As they were leaving the room Huck
sprang up and exclaimed:
"Oh, please don't tell _any_body it was me that blowed on them! Oh,
"All right if you say it, Huck, but you ought to have the credit of what
"Oh no, no! Please don't tell!"
When the young men were gone, the old Welshman said:
"They won't tell--and I won't. But why don't you want it known?"
Huck would not explain, further than to say that he already knew too
much about one of those men and would not have the man know that he knew
anything against him for the whole world--he would be killed for knowing
The old man promised secrecy once more, and said:
"How did you come to follow these fellows, lad? Were they looking
Huck was silent while he framed a duly cautious reply. Then he said:
"Well, you see, I'm a kind of a hard lot,--least everybody says so, and
I don't see nothing agin it--and sometimes I can't sleep much, on account
of thinking about it and sort of trying to strike out a new way of
doing. That was the way of it last night. I couldn't sleep, and so I
come along upstreet 'bout midnight, a-turning it all over, and when I
got to that old shackly brick store by the Temperance Tavern, I backed
up agin the wall to have another think. Well, just then along comes
these two chaps slipping along close by me, with something under their
arm, and I reckoned they'd stole it. One was a-smoking, and t'other one
wanted a light; so they stopped right before me and the cigars lit up
their faces and I see that the big one was the deaf and dumb Spaniard,
by his white whiskers and the patch on his eye, and t'other one was a
rusty, ragged-looking devil."
"Could you see the rags by the light of the cigars?"
This staggered Huck for a moment. Then he said:
"Well, I don't know--but somehow it seems as if I did."
"Then they went on, and you--"
"Follered 'em--yes. That was it. I wanted to see what was up--they sneaked
along so. I dogged 'em to the widder's stile, and stood in the dark and
heard the ragged one beg for the widder, and the Spaniard swear he'd
spile her looks just as I told you and your two--"
"What! The _deaf and dumb_ man said all that!"
Huck had made another terrible mistake! He was trying his best to keep
the old man from getting the faintest hint of who the Spaniard might be,
and yet his tongue seemed determined to get him into trouble in spite of
all he could do. He made several efforts to creep out of his scrape,
but the old man's eye was upon him and he made blunder after blunder.
Presently the Welshman said:
"My boy, don't be afraid of me. I wouldn't hurt a hair of your head for
all the world. No--I'd protect you--I'd protect you. This Spaniard is
not deaf and dumb; you've let that slip without intending it; you can't
cover that up now. You know something about that Spaniard that you want
to keep dark. Now trust me--tell me what it is, and trust me--I won't
Huck looked into the old man's honest eyes a moment, then bent over and
whispered in his ear:
"'Tain't a Spaniard--it's Injun Joe!"
The Welshman almost jumped out of his chair. In a moment he said:
"It's all plain enough, now. When you talked about notching ears and
slitting noses I judged that that was your own embellishment, because
white men don't take that sort of revenge. But an Injun! That's a
different matter altogether."
During breakfast the talk went on, and in the course of it the old man
said that the last thing which he and his sons had done, before going
to bed, was to get a lantern and examine the stile and its vicinity for
marks of blood. They found none, but captured a bulky bundle of--
If the words had been lightning they could not have leaped with a more
stunning suddenness from Huck's blanched lips. His eyes were staring
wide, now, and his breath suspended--waiting for the answer. The Welshman
started--stared in return--three seconds--five seconds--ten--then replied:
"Of burglar's tools. Why, what's the _matter_ with you?"
Huck sank back, panting gently, but deeply, unutterably grateful. The
Welshman eyed him gravely, curiously--and presently said:
"Yes, burglar's tools. That appears to relieve you a good deal. But what
did give you that turn? What were _you_ expecting we'd found?"
Huck was in a close place--the inquiring eye was upon him--he would have
given anything for material for a plausible answer--nothing suggested
itself--the inquiring eye was boring deeper and deeper--a senseless
reply offered--there was no time to weigh it, so at a venture he uttered
"Sunday-school books, maybe."
Poor Huck was too distressed to smile, but the old man laughed loud and
joyously, shook up the details of his anatomy from head to foot, and
ended by saying that such a laugh was money in a-man's pocket, because
it cut down the doctor's bill like everything. Then he added:
"Poor old chap, you're white and jaded--you ain't well a bit--no wonder
you're a little flighty and off your balance. But you'll come out of it.
Rest and sleep will fetch you out all right, I hope."
Huck was irritated to think he had been such a goose and betrayed such
a suspicious excitement, for he had dropped the idea that the parcel
brought from the tavern was the treasure, as soon as he had heard the
talk at the widow's stile. He had only thought it was not the treasure,
however--he had not known that it wasn't--and so the suggestion of a
captured bundle was too much for his self-possession. But on the whole
he felt glad the little episode had happened, for now he knew beyond all
question that that bundle was not _the_ bundle, and so his mind was
at rest and exceedingly comfortable. In fact, everything seemed to be
drifting just in the right direction, now; the treasure must be still
in No. 2, the men would be captured and jailed that day, and he and
Tom could seize the gold that night without any trouble or any fear of
Just as breakfast was completed there was a knock at the door. Huck
jumped for a hiding-place, for he had no mind to be connected even
remotely with the late event. The Welshman admitted several ladies and
gentlemen, among them the Widow Douglas, and noticed that groups of
citizens were climbing up the hill--to stare at the stile. So the news
had spread. The Welshman had to tell the story of the night to the
visitors. The widow's gratitude for her preservation was outspoken.
"Don't say a word about it, madam. There's another that you're more
beholden to than you are to me and my boys, maybe, but he don't allow me
to tell his name. We wouldn't have been there but for him."
Of course this excited a curiosity so vast that it almost belittled the
main matter--but the Welshman allowed it to eat into the vitals of his
visitors, and through them be transmitted to the whole town, for he
refused to part with his secret. When all else had been learned, the
"I went to sleep reading in bed and slept straight through all that
noise. Why didn't you come and wake me?"
"We judged it warn't worth while. Those fellows warn't likely to come
again--they hadn't any tools left to work with, and what was the use of
waking you up and scaring you to death? My three negro men stood guard
at your house all the rest of the night. They've just come back."
More visitors came, and the story had to be told and retold for a couple
of hours more.
There was no Sabbath-school during day-school vacation, but everybody
was early at church. The stirring event was well canvassed. News came
that not a sign of the two villains had been yet discovered. When the
sermon was finished, Judge Thatcher's wife dropped alongside of Mrs.
Harper as she moved down the aisle with the crowd and said:
"Is my Becky going to sleep all day? I just expected she would be tired
"Yes," with a startled look--"didn't she stay with you last night?"
Mrs. Thatcher turned pale, and sank into a pew, just as Aunt Polly,
talking briskly with a friend, passed by. Aunt Polly said:
"Goodmorning, Mrs. Thatcher. Goodmorning, Mrs. Harper. I've got a boy
that's turned up missing. I reckon my Tom stayed at your house last
night--one of you. And now he's afraid to come to church. I've got to
settle with him."
Mrs. Thatcher shook her head feebly and turned paler than ever.
"He didn't stay with us," said Mrs. Harper, beginning to look uneasy. A
marked anxiety came into Aunt Polly's face.
"Joe Harper, have you seen my Tom this morning?"
"When did you see him last?"
Joe tried to remember, but was not sure he could say. The people had
stopped moving out of church. Whispers passed along, and a boding
uneasiness took possession of every countenance. Children were anxiously
questioned, and young teachers. They all said they had not noticed
whether Tom and Becky were on board the ferryboat on the homeward trip;
it was dark; no one thought of inquiring if any one was missing. One
young man finally blurted out his fear that they were still in the cave!
Mrs. Thatcher swooned away. Aunt Polly fell to crying and wringing her
The alarm swept from lip to lip, from group to group, from street to
street, and within five minutes the bells were wildly clanging and
the whole town was up! The Cardiff Hill episode sank into instant
insignificance, the burglars were forgotten, horses were saddled, skiffs
were manned, the ferryboat ordered out, and before the horror was half
an hour old, two hundred men were pouring down highroad and river toward
All the long afternoon the village seemed empty and dead. Many women
visited Aunt Polly and Mrs. Thatcher and tried to comfort them. They
cried with them, too, and that was still better than words. All the
tedious night the town waited for news; but when the morning dawned at
last, all the word that came was, "Send more candles--and send food."
Mrs. Thatcher was almost crazed; and Aunt Polly, also. Judge Thatcher
sent messages of hope and encouragement from the cave, but they conveyed
no real cheer.
The old Welshman came home toward daylight, spattered with
candle-grease, smeared with clay, and almost worn out. He found Huck
still in the bed that had been provided for him, and delirious with
fever. The physicians were all at the cave, so the Widow Douglas came
and took charge of the patient. She said she would do her best by him,
because, whether he was good, bad, or indifferent, he was the Lord's,
and nothing that was the Lord's was a thing to be neglected. The
Welshman said Huck had good spots in him, and the widow said:
"You can depend on it. That's the Lord's mark. He don't leave it off.
He never does. Puts it somewhere on every creature that comes from his
Early in the forenoon parties of jaded men began to straggle into the
village, but the strongest of the citizens continued searching. All the
news that could be gained was that remotenesses of the cavern were being
ransacked that had never been visited before; that every corner and
crevice was going to be thoroughly searched; that wherever one wandered
through the maze of passages, lights were to be seen flitting hither
and thither in the distance, and shoutings and pistol-shots sent their
hollow reverberations to the ear down the sombre aisles. In one place,
far from the section usually traversed by tourists, the names "BECKY &
TOM" had been found traced upon the rocky wall with candle-smoke, and
near at hand a grease-soiled bit of ribbon. Mrs. Thatcher recognized the
ribbon and cried over it. She said it was the last relic she should ever
have of her child; and that no other memorial of her could ever be so
precious, because this one parted latest from the living body before the
awful death came. Some said that now and then, in the cave, a far-away
speck of light would glimmer, and then a glorious shout would burst
forth and a score of men go trooping down the echoing aisle--and then a
sickening disappointment always followed; the children were not there;
it was only a searcher's light.
Three dreadful days and nights dragged their tedious hours along, and
the village sank into a hopeless stupor. No one had heart for anything.
The accidental discovery, just made, that the proprietor of the
Temperance Tavern kept liquor on his premises, scarcely fluttered the
public pulse, tremendous as the fact was. In a lucid interval, Huck
feebly led up to the subject of taverns, and finally asked--dimly
dreading the worst--if anything had been discovered at the Temperance
Tavern since he had been ill.
"Yes," said the widow.
Huck started up in bed, wildeyed:
"What? What was it?"
"Liquor!--and the place has been shut up. Lie down, child--what a turn you
did give me!"
"Only tell me just one thing--only just one--please! Was it Tom Sawyer
that found it?"
The widow burst into tears. "Hush, hush, child, hush! I've told you
before, you must _not_ talk. You are very, very sick!"
Then nothing but liquor had been found; there would have been a great
powwow if it had been the gold. So the treasure was gone forever--gone
forever! But what could she be crying about? Curious that she should
These thoughts worked their dim way through Huck's mind, and under the
weariness they gave him he fell asleep. The widow said to herself:
"There--he's asleep, poor wreck. Tom Sawyer find it! Pity but somebody
could find Tom Sawyer! Ah, there ain't many left, now, that's got hope
enough, or strength enough, either, to go on searching."
NOW to return to Tom and Becky's share in the picnic. They tripped along
the murky aisles with the rest of the company, visiting the familiar
wonders of the cave--wonders dubbed with rather over-descriptive names,
such as "The Drawing-Room," "The Cathedral," "Aladdin's Palace," and
so on. Presently the hide-and-seek frolicking began, and Tom and Becky
engaged in it with zeal until the exertion began to grow a trifle
wearisome; then they wandered down a sinuous avenue holding their
candles aloft and reading the tangled webwork of names, dates,
postoffice addresses, and mottoes with which the rocky walls had been
frescoed (in candle-smoke). Still drifting along and talking, they
scarcely noticed that they were now in a part of the cave whose walls
were not frescoed. They smoked their own names under an overhanging
shelf and moved on. Presently they came to a place where a little stream
of water, trickling over a ledge and carrying a limestone sediment with
it, had, in the slow-dragging ages, formed a laced and ruffled Niagara
in gleaming and imperishable stone. Tom squeezed his small body behind
it in order to illuminate it for Becky's gratification. He found that
it curtained a sort of steep natural stairway which was enclosed between
narrow walls, and at once the ambition to be a discoverer seized him.
Becky responded to his call, and they made a smoke-mark for future
guidance, and started upon their quest. They wound this way and that,
far down into the secret depths of the cave, made another mark, and
branched off in search of novelties to tell the upper world about. In
one place they found a spacious cavern, from whose ceiling depended a
multitude of shining stalactites of the length and circumference of
a man's leg; they walked all about it, wondering and admiring, and
presently left it by one of the numerous passages that opened into
it. This shortly brought them to a bewitching spring, whose basin was
incrusted with a frostwork of glittering crystals; it was in the midst
of a cavern whose walls were supported by many fantastic pillars which
had been formed by the joining of great stalactites and stalagmites
together, the result of the ceaseless water-drip of centuries. Under the
roof vast knots of bats had packed themselves together, thousands in a
bunch; the lights disturbed the creatures and they came flocking down by
hundreds, squeaking and darting furiously at the candles. Tom knew their
ways and the danger of this sort of conduct. He seized Becky's hand and
hurried her into the first corridor that offered; and none too soon, for
a bat struck Becky's light out with its wing while she was passing out
of the cavern. The bats chased the children a good distance; but the
fugitives plunged into every new passage that offered, and at last got
rid of the perilous things. Tom found a subterranean lake, shortly,
which stretched its dim length away until its shape was lost in the
shadows. He wanted to explore its borders, but concluded that it would
be best to sit down and rest awhile, first. Now, for the first time, the
deep stillness of the place laid a clammy hand upon the spirits of the
children. Becky said:
"Why, I didn't notice, but it seems ever so long since I heard any of
"Come to think, Becky, we are away down below them--and I don't know how
far away north, or south, or east, or whichever it is. We couldn't hear
Becky grew apprehensive.
"I wonder how long we've been down here, Tom? We better start back."
"Yes, I reckon we better. P'raps we better."
"Can you find the way, Tom? It's all a mixed-up crookedness to me."
"I reckon I could find it--but then the bats. If they put our candles
out it will be an awful fix. Let's try some other way, so as not to go
"Well. But I hope we won't get lost. It would be so awful!" and the girl
shuddered at the thought of the dreadful possibilities.
They started through a corridor, and traversed it in silence a long
way, glancing at each new opening, to see if there was anything familiar
about the look of it; but they were all strange. Every time Tom made an
examination, Becky would watch his face for an encouraging sign, and he
would say cheerily:
"Oh, it's all right. This ain't the one, but we'll come to it right
But he felt less and less hopeful with each failure, and presently began
to turn off into diverging avenues at sheer random, in desperate hope of
finding the one that was wanted. He still said it was "all right," but
there was such a leaden dread at his heart that the words had lost their
ring and sounded just as if he had said, "All is lost!" Becky clung to
his side in an anguish of fear, and tried hard to keep back the tears,
but they would come. At last she said:
"Oh, Tom, never mind the bats, let's go back that way! We seem to get
worse and worse off all the time."
"Listen!" said he.
Profound silence; silence so deep that even their breathings were
conspicuous in the hush. Tom shouted. The call went echoing down
the empty aisles and died out in the distance in a faint sound that
resembled a ripple of mocking laughter.
"Oh, don't do it again, Tom, it is too horrid," said Becky.
"It is horrid, but I better, Becky; they might hear us, you know," and
he shouted again.
The "might" was even a chillier horror than the ghostly laughter, it so
confessed a perishing hope. The children stood still and listened; but
there was no result. Tom turned upon the back track at once, and hurried
his steps. It was but a little while before a certain indecision in his
manner revealed another fearful fact to Becky--he could not find his way
"Oh, Tom, you didn't make any marks!"
"Becky, I was such a fool! Such a fool! I never thought we might want to
come back! No--I can't find the way. It's all mixed up."
"Tom, Tom, we're lost! we're lost! We never can get out of this awful
place! Oh, why _did_ we ever leave the others!"
She sank to the ground and burst into such a frenzy of crying that Tom
was appalled with the idea that she might die, or lose her reason. He
sat down by her and put his arms around her; she buried her face in
his bosom, she clung to him, she poured out her terrors, her unavailing
regrets, and the far echoes turned them all to jeering laughter. Tom
begged her to pluck up hope again, and she said she could not. He fell
to blaming and abusing himself for getting her into this miserable
situation; this had a better effect. She said she would try to hope
again, she would get up and follow wherever he might lead if only he
would not talk like that any more. For he was no more to blame than she,
So they moved on again--aimlessly--simply at random--all they could do
was to move, keep moving. For a little while, hope made a show of
reviving--not with any reason to back it, but only because it is its
nature to revive when the spring has not been taken out of it by age and
familiarity with failure.
By-and-by Tom took Becky's candle and blew it out. This economy meant so
much! Words were not needed. Becky understood, and her hope died again.
She knew that Tom had a whole candle and three or four pieces in his
pockets--yet he must economize.
By-and-by, fatigue began to assert its claims; the children tried to pay
attention, for it was dreadful to think of sitting down when time was
grown to be so precious, moving, in some direction, in any direction,
was at least progress and might bear fruit; but to sit down was to
invite death and shorten its pursuit.
At last Becky's frail limbs refused to carry her farther. She sat down.
Tom rested with her, and they talked of home, and the friends there,
and the comfortable beds and, above all, the light! Becky cried, and Tom
tried to think of some way of comforting her, but all his encouragements
were grown thread-bare with use, and sounded like sarcasms. Fatigue bore
so heavily upon Becky that she drowsed off to sleep. Tom was grateful.
He sat looking into her drawn face and saw it grow smooth and natural
under the influence of pleasant dreams; and by-and-by a smile dawned and
rested there. The peaceful face reflected somewhat of peace and healing
into his own spirit, and his thoughts wandered away to bygone times and
dreamy memories. While he was deep in his musings, Becky woke up with a
breezy little laugh--but it was stricken dead upon her lips, and a groan
"Oh, how _could_ I sleep! I wish I never, never had waked! No! No, I
don't, Tom! Don't look so! I won't say it again."
"I'm glad you've slept, Becky; you'll feel rested, now, and we'll find
the way out."
"We can try, Tom; but I've seen such a beautiful country in my dream. I
reckon we are going there."
"Maybe not, maybe not. Cheer up, Becky, and let's go on trying."
They rose up and wandered along, hand in hand and hopeless. They tried
to estimate how long they had been in the cave, but all they knew was
that it seemed days and weeks, and yet it was plain that this could not
be, for their candles were not gone yet. A long time after this--they
could not tell how long--Tom said they must go softly and listen for
dripping water--they must find a spring. They found one presently, and
Tom said it was time to rest again. Both were cruelly tired, yet Becky
said she thought she could go a little farther. She was surprised to
hear Tom dissent. She could not understand it. They sat down, and Tom
fastened his candle to the wall in front of them with some clay. Thought
was soon busy; nothing was said for some time. Then Becky broke the
"Tom, I am so hungry!"
Tom took something out of his pocket.
"Do you remember this?" said he.
Becky almost smiled.
"It's our wedding-cake, Tom."
"Yes--I wish it was as big as a barrel, for it's all we've got."
"I saved it from the picnic for us to dream on, Tom, the way grownup
people do with wedding-cake--but it'll be our--"
She dropped the sentence where it was. Tom divided the cake and Becky
ate with good appetite, while Tom nibbled at his moiety. There was
abundance of cold water to finish the feast with. By-and-by Becky
suggested that they move on again. Tom was silent a moment. Then he
"Becky, can you bear it if I tell you something?"
Becky's face paled, but she thought she could.
"Well, then, Becky, we must stay here, where there's water to drink.
That little piece is our last candle!"
Becky gave loose to tears and wailings. Tom did what he could to comfort
her, but with little effect. At length Becky said:
"They'll miss us and hunt for us!"
"Yes, they will! Certainly they will!"
"Maybe they're hunting for us now, Tom."
"Why, I reckon maybe they are. I hope they are."
"When would they miss us, Tom?"
"When they get back to the boat, I reckon."
"Tom, it might be dark then--would they notice we hadn't come?"
"I don't know. But anyway, your mother would miss you as soon as they
A frightened look in Becky's face brought Tom to his senses and he saw
that he had made a blunder. Becky was not to have gone home that night!
The children became silent and thoughtful. In a moment a new burst of
grief from Becky showed Tom that the thing in his mind had struck hers
also--that the Sabbath morning might be half spent before Mrs. Thatcher
discovered that Becky was not at Mrs. Harper's.
The children fastened their eyes upon their bit of candle and watched it
melt slowly and pitilessly away; saw the half inch of wick stand alone
at last; saw the feeble flame rise and fall, climb the thin column of
smoke, linger at its top a moment, and then--the horror of utter darkness
How long afterward it was that Becky came to a slow consciousness that
she was crying in Tom's arms, neither could tell. All that they knew
was, that after what seemed a mighty stretch of time, both awoke out of
a dead stupor of sleep and resumed their miseries once more. Tom said
it might be Sunday, now--maybe Monday. He tried to get Becky to talk, but
her sorrows were too oppressive, all her hopes were gone. Tom said that
they must have been missed long ago, and no doubt the search was going
on. He would shout and maybe some one would come. He tried it; but in
the darkness the distant echoes sounded so hideously that he tried it no
The hours wasted away, and hunger came to torment the captives again. A
portion of Tom's half of the cake was left; they divided and ate it. But
they seemed hungrier than before. The poor morsel of food only whetted
By-and-by Tom said:
"SH! Did you hear that?"
Both held their breath and listened. There was a sound like the
faintest, far-off shout. Instantly Tom answered it, and leading Becky by
the hand, started groping down the corridor in its direction. Presently
he listened again; again the sound was heard, and apparently a little
"It's them!" said Tom; "they're coming! Come along, Becky--we're all
The joy of the prisoners was almost overwhelming. Their speed was slow,
however, because pitfalls were somewhat common, and had to be guarded
against. They shortly came to one and had to stop. It might be three
feet deep, it might be a hundred--there was no passing it at any rate.
Tom got down on his breast and reached as far down as he could. No
bottom. They must stay there and wait until the searchers came. They
listened; evidently the distant shoutings were growing more distant!
a moment or two more and they had gone altogether. The heart-sinking
misery of it! Tom whooped until he was hoarse, but it was of no use. He
talked hopefully to Becky; but an age of anxious waiting passed and no
sounds came again.
The children groped their way back to the spring. The weary time dragged
on; they slept again, and awoke famished and woe-stricken. Tom believed
it must be Tuesday by this time.
Now an idea struck him. There were some side passages near at hand. It
would be better to explore some of these than bear the weight of the
heavy time in idleness. He took a kite-line from his pocket, tied it to
a projection, and he and Becky started, Tom in the lead, unwinding the
line as he groped along. At the end of twenty steps the corridor ended
in a "jumping-off place." Tom got down on his knees and felt below,
and then as far around the corner as he could reach with his hands
conveniently; he made an effort to stretch yet a little farther to the
right, and at that moment, not twenty yards away, a human hand, holding
a candle, appeared from behind a rock! Tom lifted up a glorious shout,
and instantly that hand was followed by the body it belonged to--Injun
Joe's! Tom was paralyzed; he could not move. He was vastly gratified the
next moment, to see the "Spaniard" take to his heels and get himself out
of sight. Tom wondered that Joe had not recognized his voice and come
over and killed him for testifying in court. But the echoes must have
disguised the voice. Without doubt, that was it, he reasoned. Tom's
fright weakened every muscle in his body. He said to himself that if he
had strength enough to get back to the spring he would stay there, and
nothing should tempt him to run the risk of meeting Injun Joe again. He
was careful to keep from Becky what it was he had seen. He told her he
had only shouted "for luck."
But hunger and wretchedness rise superior to fears in the long run.
Another tedious wait at the spring and another long sleep brought
changes. The children awoke tortured with a raging hunger. Tom believed
that it must be Wednesday or Thursday or even Friday or Saturday, now,
and that the search had been given over. He proposed to explore another
passage. He felt willing to risk Injun Joe and all other terrors. But
Becky was very weak. She had sunk into a dreary apathy and would not be
roused. She said she would wait, now, where she was, and die--it would
not be long. She told Tom to go with the kite-line and explore if he
chose; but she implored him to come back every little while and speak
to her; and she made him promise that when the awful time came, he would
stay by her and hold her hand until all was over.
Tom kissed her, with a choking sensation in his throat, and made a show
of being confident of finding the searchers or an escape from the cave;
then he took the kite-line in his hand and went groping down one of the
passages on his hands and knees, distressed with hunger and sick with
bodings of coming doom.
TUESDAY afternoon came, and waned to the twilight. The village of St.
Petersburg still mourned. The lost children had not been found. Public
prayers had been offered up for them, and many and many a private prayer
that had the petitioner's whole heart in it; but still no good news came
from the cave. The majority of the searchers had given up the quest
and gone back to their daily avocations, saying that it was plain the
children could never be found. Mrs. Thatcher was very ill, and a great
part of the time delirious. People said it was heartbreaking to hear her
call her child, and raise her head and listen a whole minute at a time,
then lay it wearily down again with a moan. Aunt Polly had drooped into
a settled melancholy, and her gray hair had grown almost white. The
village went to its rest on Tuesday night, sad and forlorn.
Away in the middle of the night a wild peal burst from the village
bells, and in a moment the streets were swarming with frantic half-clad
people, who shouted, "Turn out! turn out! they're found! they're found!"
Tin pans and horns were added to the din, the population massed itself
and moved toward the river, met the children coming in an open carriage
drawn by shouting citizens, thronged around it, joined its homeward
march, and swept magnificently up the main street roaring huzzah after
The village was illuminated; nobody went to bed again; it was the
greatest night the little town had ever seen. During the first half-hour
a procession of villagers filed through Judge Thatcher's house, seized
the saved ones and kissed them, squeezed Mrs. Thatcher's hand, tried to
speak but couldn't--and drifted out raining tears all over the place.
Aunt Polly's happiness was complete, and Mrs. Thatcher's nearly so. It
would be complete, however, as soon as the messenger dispatched with the
great news to the cave should get the word to her husband. Tom lay upon
a sofa with an eager auditory about him and told the history of the
wonderful adventure, putting in many striking additions to adorn it
withal; and closed with a description of how he left Becky and went
on an exploring expedition; how he followed two avenues as far as his
kite-line would reach; how he followed a third to the fullest stretch
of the kite-line, and was about to turn back when he glimpsed a far-off
speck that looked like daylight; dropped the line and groped toward it,
pushed his head and shoulders through a small hole, and saw the broad
Mississippi rolling by!
And if it had only happened to be night he would not have seen that
speck of daylight and would not have explored that passage any more! He
told how he went back for Becky and broke the good news and she told
him not to fret her with such stuff, for she was tired, and knew she was
going to die, and wanted to. He described how he labored with her and
convinced her; and how she almost died for joy when she had groped to
where she actually saw the blue speck of daylight; how he pushed his way
out at the hole and then helped her out; how they sat there and cried
for gladness; how some men came along in a skiff and Tom hailed them
and told them their situation and their famished condition; how the men
didn't believe the wild tale at first, "because," said they, "you are
five miles down the river below the valley the cave is in"--then took
them aboard, rowed to a house, gave them supper, made them rest till two
or three hours after dark and then brought them home.
Before day-dawn, Judge Thatcher and the handful of searchers with him
were tracked out, in the cave, by the twine clews they had strung behind
them, and informed of the great news.
Three days and nights of toil and hunger in the cave were not to
be shaken off at once, as Tom and Becky soon discovered. They were
bedridden all of Wednesday and Thursday, and seemed to grow more and
more tired and worn, all the time. Tom got about, a little, on Thursday,
was downtown Friday, and nearly as whole as ever Saturday; but Becky
did not leave her room until Sunday, and then she looked as if she had
passed through a wasting illness.
Tom learned of Huck's sickness and went to see him on Friday, but could
not be admitted to the bedroom; neither could he on Saturday or Sunday.
He was admitted daily after that, but was warned to keep still about his
adventure and introduce no exciting topic. The Widow Douglas stayed by
to see that he obeyed. At home Tom learned of the Cardiff Hill event;
also that the "ragged man's" body had eventually been found in the river
near the ferry-landing; he had been drowned while trying to escape,
About a fortnight after Tom's rescue from the cave, he started off to
visit Huck, who had grown plenty strong enough, now, to hear exciting
talk, and Tom had some that would interest him, he thought. Judge
Thatcher's house was on Tom's way, and he stopped to see Becky. The
Judge and some friends set Tom to talking, and some one asked him
ironically if he wouldn't like to go to the cave again. Tom said he
thought he wouldn't mind it. The Judge said:
"Well, there are others just like you, Tom, I've not the least doubt.
But we have taken care of that. Nobody will get lost in that cave any
"Because I had its big door sheathed with boiler iron two weeks ago, and
triple-locked--and I've got the keys."
Tom turned as white as a sheet.
"What's the matter, boy! Here, run, somebody! Fetch a glass of water!"
The water was brought and thrown into Tom's face.
"Ah, now you're all right. What was the matter with you, Tom?"
"Oh, Judge, Injun Joe's in the cave!"
WITHIN a few minutes the news had spread, and a dozen skiff-loads of
men were on their way to McDougal's cave, and the ferryboat, well filled
with passengers, soon followed. Tom Sawyer was in the skiff that bore
When the cave door was unlocked, a sorrowful sight presented itself in
the dim twilight of the place. Injun Joe lay stretched upon the ground,
dead, with his face close to the crack of the door, as if his longing
eyes had been fixed, to the latest moment, upon the light and the cheer
of the free world outside. Tom was touched, for he knew by his own
experience how this wretch had suffered. His pity was moved, but
nevertheless he felt an abounding sense of relief and security, now,
which revealed to him in a degree which he had not fully appreciated
before how vast a weight of dread had been lying upon him since the day
he lifted his voice against this bloody-minded outcast.
Injun Joe's bowie-knife lay close by, its blade broken in two. The great
foundation-beam of the door had been chipped and hacked through, with
tedious labor; useless labor, too, it was, for the native rock formed a
sill outside it, and upon that stubborn material the knife had wrought
no effect; the only damage done was to the knife itself. But if there
had been no stony obstruction there the labor would have been useless
still, for if the beam had been wholly cut away Injun Joe could not have
squeezed his body under the door, and he knew it. So he had only hacked
that place in order to be doing something--in order to pass the weary
time--in order to employ his tortured faculties. Ordinarily one could
find half a dozen bits of candle stuck around in the crevices of this
vestibule, left there by tourists; but there were none now. The prisoner
had searched them out and eaten them. He had also contrived to catch a
few bats, and these, also, he had eaten, leaving only their claws. The
poor unfortunate had starved to death. In one place, near at hand, a
stalagmite had been slowly growing up from the ground for ages, builded
by the water-drip from a stalactite overhead. The captive had broken off
the stalagmite, and upon the stump had placed a stone, wherein he had
scooped a shallow hollow to catch the precious drop that fell once
in every three minutes with the dreary regularity of a clock-tick--a
dessertspoonful once in four and twenty hours. That drop was falling
when the Pyramids were new; when Troy fell; when the foundations of Rome
were laid; when Christ was crucified; when the Conqueror created the
British empire; when Columbus sailed; when the massacre at Lexington was
It is falling now; it will still be falling when all these things shall
have sunk down the afternoon of history, and the twilight of tradition,
and been swallowed up in the thick night of oblivion. Has everything a
purpose and a mission? Did this drop fall patiently during five thousand
years to be ready for this flitting human insect's need? and has it
another important object to accomplish ten thousand years to come? No
matter. It is many and many a year since the hapless half-breed scooped
out the stone to catch the priceless drops, but to this day the tourist
stares longest at that pathetic stone and that slow-dropping water when
he comes to see the wonders of McDougal's cave. Injun Joe's cup stands
first in the list of the cavern's marvels; even "Aladdin's Palace"
cannot rival it.
Injun Joe was buried near the mouth of the cave; and people flocked
there in boats and wagons from the towns and from all the farms and
hamlets for seven miles around; they brought their children, and
all sorts of provisions, and confessed that they had had almost as
satisfactory a time at the funeral as they could have had at the
This funeral stopped the further growth of one thing--the petition to the
governor for Injun Joe's pardon. The petition had been largely signed;
many tearful and eloquent meetings had been held, and a committee of
sappy women been appointed to go in deep mourning and wail around the
governor, and implore him to be a merciful ass and trample his duty
under foot. Injun Joe was believed to have killed five citizens of the
village, but what of that? If he had been Satan himself there would
have been plenty of weaklings ready to scribble their names to a
pardon-petition, and drip a tear on it from their permanently impaired
and leaky water-works.
The morning after the funeral Tom took Huck to a private place to have
an important talk. Huck had learned all about Tom's adventure from the
Welshman and the Widow Douglas, by this time, but Tom said he reckoned
there was one thing they had not told him; that thing was what he wanted
to talk about now. Huck's face saddened. He said:
"I know what it is. You got into No. 2 and never found anything but
whiskey. Nobody told me it was you; but I just knowed it must 'a' ben
you, soon as I heard 'bout that whiskey business; and I knowed you
hadn't got the money becuz you'd 'a' got at me some way or other and
told me even if you was mum to everybody else. Tom, something's always
told me we'd never get holt of that swag."
"Why, Huck, I never told on that tavern-keeper. _You_ know his tavern
was all right the Saturday I went to the picnic. Don't you remember you
was to watch there that night?"
"Oh yes! Why, it seems 'bout a year ago. It was that very night that I
follered Injun Joe to the widder's."
"_You_ followed him?"
"Yes--but you keep mum. I reckon Injun Joe's left friends behind him, and
I don't want 'em souring on me and doing me mean tricks. If it hadn't
ben for me he'd be down in Texas now, all right."
Then Huck told his entire adventure in confidence to Tom, who had only
heard of the Welshman's part of it before.
"Well," said Huck, presently, coming back to the main question, "whoever
nipped the whiskey in No. 2, nipped the money, too, I reckon--anyways
it's a goner for us, Tom."
"Huck, that money wasn't ever in No. 2!"
"What!" Huck searched his comrade's face keenly. "Tom, have you got on
the track of that money again?"
"Huck, it's in the cave!"
Huck's eyes blazed.
"Say it again, Tom."
"The money's in the cave!"
"Tom--honest injun, now--is it fun, or earnest?"
"Earnest, Huck--just as earnest as ever I was in my life. Will you go in
there with me and help get it out?"
"I bet I will! I will if it's where we can blaze our way to it and not
"Huck, we can do that without the least little bit of trouble in the
"Good as wheat! What makes you think the money's--"
"Huck, you just wait till we get in there. If we don't find it I'll
agree to give you my drum and every thing I've got in the world. I will,
"All right--it's a whiz. When do you say?"
"Right now, if you say it. Are you strong enough?"
"Is it far in the cave? I ben on my pins a little, three or four days,
now, but I can't walk more'n a mile, Tom--least I don't think I could."
"It's about five mile into there the way anybody but me would go, Huck,
but there's a mighty short cut that they don't anybody but me know
about. Huck, I'll take you right to it in a skiff. I'll float the skiff
down there, and I'll pull it back again all by myself. You needn't ever
turn your hand over."
"Less start right off, Tom."
"All right. We want some bread and meat, and our pipes, and a little
bag or two, and two or three kite-strings, and some of these new-fangled
things they call lucifer matches. I tell you, many's the time I wished I
had some when I was in there before."
A trifle after noon the boys borrowed a small skiff from a citizen who
was absent, and got under way at once. When they were several miles
below "Cave Hollow," Tom said:
"Now you see this bluff here looks all alike all the way down from the
cave hollow--no houses, no wood-yards, bushes all alike. But do you see
that white place up yonder where there's been a landslide? Well, that's
one of my marks. We'll get ashore, now."
"Now, Huck, where we're a-standing you could touch that hole I got out
of with a fishing-pole. See if you can find it."
Huck searched all the place about, and found nothing. Tom proudly
marched into a thick clump of sumach bushes and said:
"Here you are! Look at it, Huck; it's the snuggest hole in this country.
You just keep mum about it. All along I've been wanting to be a robber,
but I knew I'd got to have a thing like this, and where to run across
it was the bother. We've got it now, and we'll keep it quiet, only we'll
let Joe Harper and Ben Rogers in--because of course there's got to be a
Gang, or else there wouldn't be any style about it. Tom Sawyer's Gang--it
sounds splendid, don't it, Huck?"
"Well, it just does, Tom. And who'll we rob?"
"Oh, most anybody. Waylay people--that's mostly the way."
"And kill them?"
"No, not always. Hive them in the cave till they raise a ransom."
"What's a ransom?"
"Money. You make them raise all they can, off'n their friends; and after
you've kept them a year, if it ain't raised then you kill them. That's
the general way. Only you don't kill the women. You shut up the women,
but you don't kill them. They're always beautiful and rich, and awfully
scared. You take their watches and things, but you always take your hat
off and talk polite. They ain't anybody as polite as robbers--you'll see
that in any book. Well, the women get to loving you, and after they've
been in the cave a week or two weeks they stop crying and after that
you couldn't get them to leave. If you drove them out they'd turn right
around and come back. It's so in all the books."
"Why, it's real bully, Tom. I believe it's better'n to be a pirate."
"Yes, it's better in some ways, because it's close to home and circuses
and all that."
By this time everything was ready and the boys entered the hole, Tom in
the lead. They toiled their way to the farther end of the tunnel, then
made their spliced kite-strings fast and moved on. A few steps brought
them to the spring, and Tom felt a shudder quiver all through him.
He showed Huck the fragment of candle-wick perched on a lump of clay
against the wall, and described how he and Becky had watched the flame
struggle and expire.
The boys began to quiet down to whispers, now, for the stillness and
gloom of the place oppressed their spirits. They went on, and presently
entered and followed Tom's other corridor until they reached the
"jumping-off place." The candles revealed the fact that it was not
really a precipice, but only a steep clay hill twenty or thirty feet
high. Tom whispered:
"Now I'll show you something, Huck."
He held his candle aloft and said:
"Look as far around the corner as you can. Do you see that? There--on the
big rock over yonder--done with candle-smoke."
"Tom, it's a _cross_!"
"_Now_ where's your Number Two? '_under the cross_,' hey? Right yonder's
where I saw Injun Joe poke up his candle, Huck!"
Huck stared at the mystic sign awhile, and then said with a shaky voice:
"Tom, less git out of here!"
"What! and leave the treasure?"
"Yes--leave it. Injun Joe's ghost is round about there, certain."
"No it ain't, Huck, no it ain't. It would ha'nt the place where he
died--away out at the mouth of the cave--five mile from here."
"No, Tom, it wouldn't. It would hang round the money. I know the ways of
ghosts, and so do you."
Tom began to fear that Huck was right. Mis-givings gathered in his mind.
But presently an idea occurred to him--
"Lookyhere, Huck, what fools we're making of ourselves! Injun Joe's
ghost ain't a going to come around where there's a cross!"
The point was well taken. It had its effect.
"Tom, I didn't think of that. But that's so. It's luck for us, that
cross is. I reckon we'll climb down there and have a hunt for that box."
Tom went first, cutting rude steps in the clay hill as he descended.
Huck followed. Four avenues opened out of the small cavern which the
great rock stood in. The boys examined three of them with no result.
They found a small recess in the one nearest the base of the rock, with
a pallet of blankets spread down in it; also an old suspender, some
bacon rind, and the well-gnawed bones of two or three fowls. But there
was no moneybox. The lads searched and researched this place, but in
vain. Tom said:
"He said _under_ the cross. Well, this comes nearest to being under the
cross. It can't be under the rock itself, because that sets solid on the
They searched everywhere once more, and then sat down discouraged. Huck
could suggest nothing. By-and-by Tom said:
"Lookyhere, Huck, there's footprints and some candle-grease on the clay
about one side of this rock, but not on the other sides. Now, what's
that for? I bet you the money _is_ under the rock. I'm going to dig in
"That ain't no bad notion, Tom!" said Huck with animation.
Tom's "real Barlow" was out at once, and he had not dug four inches
before he struck wood.
"Hey, Huck!--you hear that?"
Huck began to dig and scratch now. Some boards were soon uncovered and
removed. They had concealed a natural chasm which led under the rock.
Tom got into this and held his candle as far under the rock as he
could, but said he could not see to the end of the rift. He proposed
to explore. He stooped and passed under; the narrow way descended
gradually. He followed its winding course, first to the right, then to
the left, Huck at his heels. Tom turned a short curve, by-and-by, and
"My goodness, Huck, lookyhere!"
It was the treasure-box, sure enough, occupying a snug little cavern,
along with an empty powder-keg, a couple of guns in leather cases, two
or three pairs of old moccasins, a leather belt, and some other rubbish
well soaked with the water-drip.
"Got it at last!" said Huck, ploughing among the tarnished coins with
his hand. "My, but we're rich, Tom!"
"Huck, I always reckoned we'd get it. It's just too good to believe, but
we _have_ got it, sure! Say--let's not fool around here. Let's snake it
out. Lemme see if I can lift the box."
It weighed about fifty pounds. Tom could lift it, after an awkward
fashion, but could not carry it conveniently.
"I thought so," he said; "_They_ carried it like it was heavy, that day
at the ha'nted house. I noticed that. I reckon I was right to think of
fetching the little bags along."
The money was soon in the bags and the boys took it up to the cross
"Now less fetch the guns and things," said Huck.
"No, Huck--leave them there. They're just the tricks to have when we
go to robbing. We'll keep them there all the time, and we'll hold our
orgies there, too. It's an awful snug place for orgies."
"I dono. But robbers always have orgies, and of course we've got to
have them, too. Come along, Huck, we've been in here a long time. It's
getting late, I reckon. I'm hungry, too. We'll eat and smoke when we get
to the skiff."
They presently emerged into the clump of sumach bushes, looked warily
out, found the coast clear, and were soon lunching and smoking in the
skiff. As the sun dipped toward the horizon they pushed out and got
under way. Tom skimmed up the shore through the long twilight, chatting
cheerily with Huck, and landed shortly after dark.
"Now, Huck," said Tom, "we'll hide the money in the loft of the widow's
woodshed, and I'll come up in the morning and we'll count it and divide,
and then we'll hunt up a place out in the woods for it where it will be
safe. Just you lay quiet here and watch the stuff till I run and hook
Benny Taylor's little wagon; I won't be gone a minute."
He disappeared, and presently returned with the wagon, put the two small
sacks into it, threw some old rags on top of them, and started off,
dragging his cargo behind him. When the boys reached the Welshman's
house, they stopped to rest. Just as they were about to move on, the
Welshman stepped out and said:
"Hallo, who's that?"
"Huck and Tom Sawyer."
"Good! Come along with me, boys, you are keeping everybody waiting.
Here--hurry up, trot ahead--I'll haul the wagon for you. Why, it's not as
light as it might be. Got bricks in it?--or old metal?"
"Old metal," said Tom.
"I judged so; the boys in this town will take more trouble and fool away
more time hunting up six bits' worth of old iron to sell to the foundry
than they would to make twice the money at regular work. But that's
human nature--hurry along, hurry along!"
The boys wanted to know what the hurry was about.
"Never mind; you'll see, when we get to the Widow Douglas'."
Huck said with some apprehension--for he was long used to being falsely
"Mr. Jones, we haven't been doing nothing."
The Welshman laughed.
"Well, I don't know, Huck, my boy. I don't know about that. Ain't you
and the widow good friends?"
"Yes. Well, she's ben good friends to me, anyway."
"All right, then. What do you want to be afraid for?"
This question was not entirely answered in Huck's slow mind before he
found himself pushed, along with Tom, into Mrs. Douglas' drawing-room.
Mr. Jones left the wagon near the door and followed.
The place was grandly lighted, and everybody that was of any consequence
in the village was there. The Thatchers were there, the Harpers, the
Rogerses, Aunt Polly, Sid, Mary, the minister, the editor, and a great
many more, and all dressed in their best. The widow received the boys
as heartily as any one could well receive two such looking beings. They
were covered with clay and candle-grease. Aunt Polly blushed crimson
with humiliation, and frowned and shook her head at Tom. Nobody suffered
half as much as the two boys did, however. Mr. Jones said:
"Tom wasn't at home, yet, so I gave him up; but I stumbled on him and
Huck right at my door, and so I just brought them along in a hurry."
"And you did just right," said the widow. "Come with me, boys."
She took them to a bedchamber and said:
"Now wash and dress yourselves. Here are two new suits of
clothes--shirts, socks, everything complete. They're Huck's--no, no
thanks, Huck--Mr. Jones bought one and I the other. But they'll fit both
of you. Get into them. We'll wait--come down when you are slicked up
Then she left.
HUCK said: "Tom, we can slope, if we can find a rope. The window ain't
high from the ground."
"Shucks! what do you want to slope for?"
"Well, I ain't used to that kind of a crowd. I can't stand it. I ain't
going down there, Tom."
"Oh, bother! It ain't anything. I don't mind it a bit. I'll take care of
"Tom," said he, "auntie has been waiting for you all the afternoon. Mary
got your Sunday clothes ready, and everybody's been fretting about you.
Say--ain't this grease and clay, on your clothes?"
"Now, Mr. Siddy, you jist 'tend to your own business. What's all this
blowout about, anyway?"
"It's one of the widow's parties that she's always having. This time
it's for the Welshman and his sons, on account of that scrape they
helped her out of the other night. And say--I can tell you something, if
you want to know."
"Why, old Mr. Jones is going to try to spring something on the people
here tonight, but I overheard him tell auntie today about it, as a
secret, but I reckon it's not much of a secret now. Everybody knows--the
widow, too, for all she tries to let on she don't. Mr. Jones was bound
Huck should be here--couldn't get along with his grand secret without
Huck, you know!"
"Secret about what, Sid?"
"About Huck tracking the robbers to the widow's. I reckon Mr. Jones was
going to make a grand time over his surprise, but I bet you it will drop
Sid chuckled in a very contented and satisfied way.
"Sid, was it you that told?"
"Oh, never mind who it was. _Somebody_ told--that's enough."
"Sid, there's only one person in this town mean enough to do that, and
that's you. If you had been in Huck's place you'd 'a' sneaked down the
hill and never told anybody on the robbers. You can't do any but mean
things, and you can't bear to see anybody praised for doing good ones.
There--no thanks, as the widow says"--and Tom cuffed Sid's ears and helped
him to the door with several kicks. "Now go and tell auntie if you
dare--and tomorrow you'll catch it!"
Some minutes later the widow's guests were at the supper-table, and a
dozen children were propped up at little side-tables in the same room,
after the fashion of that country and that day. At the proper time Mr.
Jones made his little speech, in which he thanked the widow for the
honor she was doing himself and his sons, but said that there was
another person whose modesty--
And so forth and so on. He sprung his secret about Huck's share in
the adventure in the finest dramatic manner he was master of, but the
surprise it occasioned was largely counterfeit and not as clamorous and
effusive as it might have been under happier circumstances. However,
the widow made a pretty fair show of astonishment, and heaped so many
compliments and so much gratitude upon Huck that he almost forgot
the nearly intolerable discomfort of his new clothes in the entirely
intolerable discomfort of being set up as a target for everybody's gaze
and everybody's laudations.
The widow said she meant to give Huck a home under her roof and have him
educated; and that when she could spare the money she would start him in
business in a modest way. Tom's chance was come. He said:
"Huck don't need it. Huck's rich."
Nothing but a heavy strain upon the good manners of the company kept
back the due and proper complimentary laugh at this pleasant joke. But
the silence was a little awkward. Tom broke it:
"Huck's got money. Maybe you don't believe it, but he's got lots of it.
Oh, you needn't smile--I reckon I can show you. You just wait a minute."
Tom ran out of doors. The company looked at each other with a perplexed
interest--and inquiringly at Huck, who was tongue-tied.
"Sid, what ails Tom?" said Aunt Polly. "He--well, there ain't ever any
making of that boy out. I never--"
Tom entered, struggling with the weight of his sacks, and Aunt Polly
did not finish her sentence. Tom poured the mass of yellow coin upon the
table and said:
"There--what did I tell you? Half of it's Huck's and half of it's mine!"
The spectacle took the general breath away. All gazed, nobody spoke for
a moment. Then there was a unanimous call for an explanation. Tom said
he could furnish it, and he did. The tale was long, but brimful of
interest. There was scarcely an interruption from any one to break the
charm of its flow. When he had finished, Mr. Jones said:
"I thought I had fixed up a little surprise for this occasion, but it
don't amount to anything now. This one makes it sing mighty small, I'm
willing to allow."
The money was counted. The sum amounted to a little over twelve thousand
dollars. It was more than any one present had ever seen at one time
before, though several persons were there who were worth considerably
more than that in property.
THE reader may rest satisfied that Tom's and Huck's windfall made a
mighty stir in the poor little village of St. Petersburg. So vast a
sum, all in actual cash, seemed next to incredible. It was talked
about, gloated over, glorified, until the reason of many of the citizens
tottered under the strain of the unhealthy excitement. Every "haunted"
house in St. Petersburg and the neighboring villages was dissected,
plank by plank, and its foundations dug up and ransacked for hidden
treasure--and not by boys, but men--pretty grave, unromantic men, too,
some of them. Wherever Tom and Huck appeared they were courted, admired,
stared at. The boys were not able to remember that their remarks had
possessed weight before; but now their sayings were treasured and
repeated; everything they did seemed somehow to be regarded as
remarkable; they had evidently lost the power of doing and saying
commonplace things; moreover, their past history was raked up and
discovered to bear marks of conspicuous originality. The village paper
published biographical sketches of the boys.
The Widow Douglas put Huck's money out at six per cent., and Judge
Thatcher did the same with Tom's at Aunt Polly's request. Each lad had
an income, now, that was simply prodigious--a dollar for every weekday in
the year and half of the Sundays. It was just what the minister got--no,
it was what he was promised--he generally couldn't collect it. A dollar
and a quarter a week would board, lodge, and school a boy in those old
simple days--and clothe him and wash him, too, for that matter.
Judge Thatcher had conceived a great opinion of Tom. He said that no
commonplace boy would ever have got his daughter out of the cave. When
Becky told her father, in strict confidence, how Tom had taken her
whipping at school, the Judge was visibly moved; and when she pleaded
grace for the mighty lie which Tom had told in order to shift that
whipping from her shoulders to his own, the Judge said with a fine
outburst that it was a noble, a generous, a magnanimous lie--a lie that
was worthy to hold up its head and march down through history breast to
breast with George Washington's lauded Truth about the hatchet! Becky
thought her father had never looked so tall and so superb as when he
walked the floor and stamped his foot and said that. She went straight
off and told Tom about it.
Judge Thatcher hoped to see Tom a great lawyer or a great soldier some
day. He said he meant to look to it that Tom should be admitted to the
National Military Academy and afterward trained in the best law school
in the country, in order that he might be ready for either career or
Huck Finn's wealth and the fact that he was now under the Widow Douglas'
protection introduced him into society--no, dragged him into it, hurled
him into it--and his sufferings were almost more than he could bear. The
widow's servants kept him clean and neat, combed and brushed, and they
bedded him nightly in unsympathetic sheets that had not one little spot
or stain which he could press to his heart and know for a friend. He had
to eat with a knife and fork; he had to use napkin, cup, and plate;
he had to learn his book, he had to go to church; he had to talk so
properly that speech was become insipid in his mouth; whithersoever he
turned, the bars and shackles of civilization shut him in and bound him
hand and foot.
He bravely bore his miseries three weeks, and then one day turned up
missing. For forty-eight hours the widow hunted for him everywhere in
great distress. The public were profoundly concerned; they searched high
and low, they dragged the river for his body. Early the third morning
Tom Sawyer wisely went poking among some old empty hogsheads down behind
the abandoned slaughter-house, and in one of them he found the refugee.
Huck had slept there; he had just breakfasted upon some stolen odds and
ends of food, and was lying off, now, in comfort, with his pipe. He was
unkempt, uncombed, and clad in the same old ruin of rags that had made
him picturesque in the days when he was free and happy. Tom routed him
out, told him the trouble he had been causing, and urged him to go home.
Huck's face lost its tranquil content, and took a melancholy cast. He
"Don't talk about it, Tom. I've tried it, and it don't work; it don't
work, Tom. It ain't for me; I ain't used to it. The widder's good to me,
and friendly; but I can't stand them ways. She makes me get up just
at the same time every morning; she makes me wash, they comb me all
to thunder; she won't let me sleep in the woodshed; I got to wear them
blamed clothes that just smothers me, Tom; they don't seem to any air
git through 'em, somehow; and they're so rotten nice that I can't
set down, nor lay down, nor roll around anywher's; I hain't slid on a
cellar-door for--well, it 'pears to be years; I got to go to church
and sweat and sweat--I hate them ornery sermons! I can't ketch a fly in
there, I can't chaw. I got to wear shoes all Sunday. The widder eats by
a bell; she goes to bed by a bell; she gits up by a bell--everything's so
awful reg'lar a body can't stand it."
"Well, everybody does that way, Huck."
"Tom, it don't make no difference. I ain't everybody, and I can't
_stand_ it. It's awful to be tied up so. And grub comes too easy--I don't
take no interest in vittles, that way. I got to ask to go a-fishing;
I got to ask to go in a-swimming--dern'd if I hain't got to ask to do
everything. Well, I'd got to talk so nice it wasn't no comfort--I'd got
to go up in the attic and rip out awhile, every day, to git a taste
in my mouth, or I'd a died, Tom. The widder wouldn't let me smoke;
she wouldn't let me yell, she wouldn't let me gape, nor stretch, nor
scratch, before folks--" [Then with a spasm of special irritation and
injury]--"And dad fetch it, she prayed all the time! I never see such a
woman! I _had_ to shove, Tom--I just had to. And besides, that school's
going to open, and I'd a had to go to it--well, I wouldn't stand _that_,
Tom. Looky-here, Tom, being rich ain't what it's cracked up to be. It's
just worry and worry, and sweat and sweat, and a-wishing you was dead
all the time. Now these clothes suits me, and this bar'l suits me, and
I ain't ever going to shake 'em any more. Tom, I wouldn't ever got into
all this trouble if it hadn't 'a' ben for that money; now you just take
my sheer of it along with your'n, and gimme a ten-center sometimes--not
many times, becuz I don't give a dern for a thing 'thout it's tollable
hard to git--and you go and beg off for me with the widder."
"Oh, Huck, you know I can't do that. 'Tain't fair; and besides if you'll
try this thing just a while longer you'll come to like it."
"Like it! Yes--the way I'd like a hot stove if I was to set on it long
enough. No, Tom, I won't be rich, and I won't live in them cussed
smothery houses. I like the woods, and the river, and hogsheads, and
I'll stick to 'em, too. Blame it all! just as we'd got guns, and a cave,
and all just fixed to rob, here this dern foolishness has got to come up
and spile it all!"
Tom saw his opportunity--
"Lookyhere, Huck, being rich ain't going to keep me back from turning
"No! Oh, good-licks; are you in real dead-wood earnest, Tom?"
"Just as dead earnest as I'm sitting here. But Huck, we can't let you
into the gang if you ain't respectable, you know."
Huck's joy was quenched.
"Can't let me in, Tom? Didn't you let me go for a pirate?"
"Yes, but that's different. A robber is more high-toned than what a
pirate is--as a general thing. In most countries they're awful high up in
the nobility--dukes and such."
"Now, Tom, hain't you always ben friendly to me? You wouldn't shet me
out, would you, Tom? You wouldn't do that, now, _would_ you, Tom?"
"Huck, I wouldn't want to, and I _don't_ want to--but what would people
say? Why, they'd say, 'Mph! Tom Sawyer's Gang! pretty low characters in
it!' They'd mean you, Huck. You wouldn't like that, and I wouldn't."
Huck was silent for some time, engaged in a mental struggle. Finally he
"Well, I'll go back to the widder for a month and tackle it and see if I
can come to stand it, if you'll let me b'long to the gang, Tom."
"All right, Huck, it's a whiz! Come along, old chap, and I'll ask the
widow to let up on you a little, Huck."
"Will you, Tom--now will you? That's good. If she'll let up on some of
the roughest things, I'll smoke private and cuss private, and crowd
through or bust. When you going to start the gang and turn robbers?"
"Oh, right off. We'll get the boys together and have the initiation
"Have the which?"
"Have the initiation."
"It's to swear to stand by one another, and never tell the gang's
secrets, even if you're chopped all to flinders, and kill anybody and
all his family that hurts one of the gang."
"That's gay--that's mighty gay, Tom, I tell you."
"Well, I bet it is. And all that swearing's got to be done at midnight,
in the lonesomest, awfulest place you can find--a ha'nted house is the
best, but they're all ripped up now."
"Well, midnight's good, anyway, Tom."
"Yes, so it is. And you've got to swear on a coffin, and sign it with
"Now, that's something _like_! Why, it's a million times bullier than
pirating. I'll stick to the widder till I rot, Tom; and if I git to be
a reg'lar ripper of a robber, and everybody talking 'bout it, I reckon
she'll be proud she snaked me in out of the wet."
SO endeth this chronicle. It being strictly a history of a _boy_, it
must stop here; the story could not go much further without becoming the
history of a _man_. When one writes a novel about grown people, he knows
exactly where to stop--that is, with a marriage; but when he writes of
juveniles, he must stop where he best can.
Most of the characters that perform in this book still live, and are
prosperous and happy. Some day it may seem worth while to take up the
story of the younger ones again and see what sort of men and women they
turned out to be; therefore it will be wisest not to reveal any of that
part of their lives at present.