The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain | Full Audiobook

Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain. To my wife this book is affectionately dedicated.
PREFACE. 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. THE AUTHOR. HARTFORD, 1876. CHAPTER 1. “TOM!” No answer. “TOM!” No answer.
“What’s gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!” No answer. The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the room; then she put them up and looked out under them. She seldom or never looked through them for so small a thing as a boy; they were her state pair, the pride of her heart, and were built
for “style,” not service—she could have seen through a pair of stove-lids just as
well. She looked perplexed for a moment, and then said, not fiercely, but still loud enough
for the furniture to hear: “Well, I lay if I get hold of you I’ll—” She did not finish, for by this time she was
bending down and punching under the bed with the broom, and so she needed breath to punctuate
the punches with. She resurrected nothing but the cat. “I never did see the beat of that boy!” She went to the open door and stood in it
and looked out among the tomato vines and “jimpson” weeds that constituted the garden.
No Tom. So she lifted up her voice at an angle calculated for distance and shouted: “Y-o-u-u TOM!” There was a slight noise behind her and she
turned just in time to seize a small boy by the slack of his roundabout and arrest his
flight. “There! I might ‘a’ thought of that closet.
What you been doing in there?” “Nothing.” “Nothing! Look at your hands. And look at
your mouth. What is that truck?” “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 laugh. “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?” “Yes’m.” “Powerful warm, warn’t it?” “Yes’m.” “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 inspiration: “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 astronomer. The summer evenings were long. It was not
dark, yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a shade
larger than himself. A new-comer of any age or either sex was an 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 astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned
blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and
it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified
air about him that ate into Tom’s vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel,
the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit
seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved—but only sidewise,
in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time. Finally Tom said: “I can lick you!” “I’d like to see you try it.” “Well, I can do it.” “No you can’t, either.” “Yes I can.” “No you can’t.” “I can.” “You can’t.” “Can!” “Can’t!” An uncomfortable pause. Then Tom said: “What’s your name?” “’Tisn’t any of your business, maybe.” “Well I ‘low I’ll make it my business.” “Well why don’t you?” “If you say much, I will.” “Much—much—much. There now.” “Oh, you think you’re mighty smart, don’t
you? I could lick you with one hand tied behind me, if I wanted to.” “Well why don’t you do it? You say you can
do it.” “Well I will, if you fool with me.” “Oh yes—I’ve seen whole families in the
same fix.” “Smarty! You think you’re some, now, don’t
you? Oh, what a hat!” “You can lump that hat if you don’t like
it. I dare you to knock it off—and anybody that’ll take a dare will suck eggs.” “You’re a liar!” “You’re another.” “You’re a fighting liar and dasn’t take
it up.” “Aw—take a walk!” “Say—if you give me much more of your
sass I’ll take and bounce a rock off’n your head.” “Oh, of course you will.” “Well I will.” “Well why don’t you do it then? What do
you keep saying you will for? Why don’t you do it? It’s because you’re afraid.” “I ain’t afraid.” “You are.” “I ain’t.” “You are.” Another pause, and more eying and sidling
around each other. Presently they were shoulder to shoulder. Tom said: “Get away from here!” “Go away yourself!” “I won’t.” “I won’t either.” So they stood, each with a foot placed at
an angle as a brace, and both shoving with might and main, and glowering at each other
with hate. But neither could get an advantage. After struggling till both were hot and flushed,
each relaxed his strain with watchful caution, and Tom said: “You’re a coward and a pup. I’ll tell my
big brother on you, and he can thrash you with his little finger, and I’ll make him
do it, too.” “What do I care for your big brother? I’ve
got a brother that’s bigger than he is—and what’s more, he can throw him over that fence,
too.” [Both brothers were imaginary.] “That’s a lie.” “Your saying so don’t make it so.” Tom drew a line in the dust with his big toe,
and said: “I dare you to step over that, and I’ll
lick you till you can’t stand up. Anybody that’ll take a dare will steal sheep.” The new boy stepped over promptly, and said: “Now you said you’d do it, now let’s see
you do it.” “Don’t you crowd me now; you better look
out.” “Well, you said you’d do it—why don’t
you do it?” “By jingo! for two cents I will do it.” The new boy took two broad coppers out of
his pocket and held them out with derision. Tom struck them to the ground. In an instant
both boys were rolling and tumbling in the dirt, gripped together like cats; and for
the space of a minute they tugged and tore at each other’s hair and clothes, punched
and scratched each other’s nose, and covered themselves with dust and glory. Presently
the confusion took form, and through the fog of battle Tom appeared, seated astride the
new boy, and pounding him with his fists. “Holler ’nuff!” said he. The boy only struggled to free himself. He
was crying—mainly from rage. “Holler ’nuff!”—and the pounding went
on. At last the stranger got out a smothered “’Nuff!”
and Tom let him up and said: “Now that’ll learn you. Better look out
who you’re fooling with next time.” The new boy went off brushing the dust from
his clothes, sobbing, snuffling, and occasionally looking back and shaking his head and threatening
what he would do to Tom the “next time he caught him out.” To which Tom responded
with jeers, and started off in high feather, and as soon as his back was turned the new
boy snatched up a stone, threw it and hit him between the shoulders and then turned
tail and ran like an antelope. Tom chased the traitor home, and thus found out where
he lived. He then held a position at the gate for some time, daring the enemy to come outside,
but the enemy only made faces at him through the window and declined. At last the enemy’s
mother appeared, and called Tom a bad, vicious, vulgar child, and ordered him away. So he
went away; but he said he “’lowed” to “lay” for that boy.
He got home pretty late that night, and when he climbed cautiously in at the window, he
uncovered an ambuscade, in the person of his aunt; and when she saw the state his clothes
were in her resolution to turn his Saturday holiday into captivity at hard labor became
adamantine in its firmness. CHAPTER II.
SATURDAY morning was come, and all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with
life. There was a song in every heart; and if the heart was young the music issued at
the lips. There was cheer in every face and a spring in every step. The locust-trees were
in bloom and the fragrance of the blossoms filled the air. Cardiff Hill, beyond the village
and above it, was green with vegetation and it lay just far enough away to seem a Delectable
Land, dreamy, reposeful, and inviting. Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket
of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left
him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine
feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a burden. Sighing, he dipped
his brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it again;
compared the insignificant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching continent of unwhitewashed
fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged. Jim came skipping out at the gate with a tin
pail, and singing Buffalo Gals. Bringing water from the town pump had always been hateful
work in Tom’s eyes, before, but now it did not strike him so. He remembered that there
was company at the pump. White, mulatto, and negro boys and girls were always there waiting
their turns, resting, trading playthings, quarrelling, fighting, skylarking. And he
remembered that although the pump was only a hundred and fifty yards off, Jim never got
back with a bucket of water under an hour—and even then somebody generally had to go after
him. Tom said: “Say, Jim, I’ll fetch the water if you’ll
whitewash some.” Jim shook his head and said: “Can’t, Mars Tom. Ole missis, she tole me
I got to go an’ git dis water an’ not stop foolin’ roun’ wid anybody. She say she spec’
Mars Tom gwine to ax me to whitewash, an’ so she tole me go ‘long an’ ‘tend to my own
business—she ‘lowed she’d ‘tend to de whitewashin’.” “Oh, never you mind what she said, Jim.
That’s the way she always talks. Gimme the bucket—I won’t be gone only a a minute.
She won’t ever know.” “Oh, I dasn’t, Mars Tom. Ole missis she’d
take an’ tar de head off’n me. ‘Deed she would.” “She! She never licks anybody—whacks ’em
over the head with her thimble—and who cares for that, I’d like to know. She talks awful,
but talk don’t hurt—anyways it don’t if she don’t cry. Jim, I’ll give you a marvel.
I’ll give you a white alley!” Jim began to waver. “White alley, Jim! And it’s a bully taw.” “My! Dat’s a mighty gay marvel, I tell you!
But Mars Tom I’s powerful ‘fraid ole missis—” “And besides, if you will I’ll show you
my sore toe.” Jim was only human—this attraction was too
much for him. He put down his pail, took the white alley, and bent over the toe with absorbing
interest while the bandage was being unwound. In another moment he was flying down the street
with his pail and a tingling rear, Tom was whitewashing with vigor, and Aunt Polly was
retiring from the field with a slipper in her hand and triumph in her eye.
But Tom’s energy did not last. He began to think of the fun he had planned for this day,
and his sorrows multiplied. Soon the free boys would come tripping along on all sorts
of delicious expeditions, and they would make a world of fun of him for having to work—the
very thought of it burnt him like fire. He got out his worldly wealth and examined it—bits
of toys, marbles, and trash; enough to buy an exchange of work, maybe, but not half enough
to buy so much as half an hour of pure freedom. So he returned his straitened means to his
pocket, and gave up the idea of trying to buy the boys. At this dark and hopeless moment
an inspiration burst upon him! Nothing less than a great, magnificent inspiration. He took up his brush and went tranquilly to
work. Ben Rogers hove in sight presently—the very boy, of all boys, whose ridicule he had
been dreading. Ben’s gait was the hop-skip-and-jump—proof enough that his heart was light and his anticipations
high. He was eating an apple, and giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed
by a deep-toned ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a steamboat. As he
drew near, he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to starboard
and rounded to ponderously and with laborious pomp and circumstance—for he was personating
the Big Missouri, and considered himself to be drawing nine feet of water. He was boat
and captain and engine-bells combined, so he had to imagine himself standing on his
own hurricane-deck giving the orders and executing them: “Stop her, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling!” The
headway ran almost out, and he drew up slowly toward the sidewalk. “Ship up to back! Ting-a-ling-ling!” His
arms straightened and stiffened down his sides. “Set her back on the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling!
Chow! ch-chow-wow! Chow!” His right hand, 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 gauge-cocks). Tom went on whitewashing—paid no attention
to the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said: “Hi-Yi! You’re up a stump, ain’t
you!” No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with
the eye of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the result,
as before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom’s mouth watered for the apple, but he
stuck to his work. Ben said: “Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?” Tom wheeled suddenly and said: “Why, it’s you, Ben! I warn’t noticing.” “Say—I’m going in a-swimming, I am. Don’t
you wish you could? But of course you’d druther work—wouldn’t you? Course you would!” Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said: “What do you call work?” “Why, ain’t that work?” Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered
carelessly: “Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t.
All I know, is, it suits Tom Sawyer.” “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 report. CHAPTER III. 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 said: “Well, I never! There’s no getting round
it, you can work when you’re a mind to, Tom.” And then she diluted the compliment by adding,
“But it’s powerful seldom you’re a mind to, I’m bound to say. Well, go ‘long and play;
but mind you get back some time in a week, or I’ll tan you.” She was so overcome by the splendor of his
achievement that she took him into the closet and selected a choice apple and delivered
it to him, along with an improving lecture upon the added value and flavor a treat took
to itself when it came without sin through virtuous effort. And while she closed with
a happy Scriptural flourish, he “hooked” a doughnut. 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 done. He worshipped this new angel with furtive
eye, till he saw that she had discovered him; then he pretended he did not know she was
present, and began to “show off” in all sorts of absurd boyish ways, in order to win
her admiration. He kept up this grotesque foolishness for some time; but by-and-by,
while he was in the midst of some dangerous gymnastic performances, he glanced aside and
saw that the little girl was wending her way toward the house. Tom came up to the fence
and leaned on it, grieving, and hoping she would tarry yet awhile longer. She halted
a moment on the steps and then moved toward the door. Tom heaved a great sigh as she put
her foot on the threshold. But his face lit up, right away, for she tossed a pansy over
the fence a moment before she disappeared. The boy ran around and stopped within a foot
or two of the flower, and then shaded his eyes with his hand and began to look down
street as if he had discovered something of interest going on in that direction. Presently
he picked up a straw and began trying to balance it on his nose, with his head tilted far back;
and as he moved from side to side, in his efforts, he edged nearer and nearer toward
the pansy; finally his bare foot rested upon it, his pliant toes closed upon it, and he
hopped away with the treasure and disappeared round the corner. But only for a minute—only
while he could button the flower inside his jacket, next his heart—or next his stomach,
possibly, for he was not much posted in anatomy, and not hypercritical, anyway. He returned, now, and hung about the fence
till nightfall, “showing off,” as before; but the girl never exhibited herself again,
though Tom comforted himself a little with the hope that she had been near some window,
meantime, and been aware of his attentions. Finally he strode home reluctantly, with his
poor head full of visions. All through supper his spirits were so high
that his aunt wondered “what had got into the child.” He took a good scolding about
clodding Sid, and did not seem to mind it in the least. He tried to steal sugar under
his aunt’s very nose, and got his knuckles rapped for it. He said: “Aunt, you don’t whack Sid when he takes
it.” “Well, Sid don’t torment a body the way
you do. You’d be always into that sugar if I warn’t watching you.” Presently she stepped into the kitchen, and
Sid, happy in his immunity, reached for the sugar-bowl—a sort of glorying over Tom which
was wellnigh unbearable. But Sid’s fingers slipped and the bowl dropped and broke. Tom
was in ecstasies. In such ecstasies that he even controlled his tongue and was silent.
He said to himself that he would not speak a word, even when his aunt came in, but would
sit perfectly still till she asked who did the mischief; and then he would tell, and
there would be nothing so good in the world as to see that pet model “catch it.” He
was so brimful of exultation that he could hardly hold himself when the old lady came
back and stood above the wreck discharging lightnings of wrath from over her spectacles.
He said to himself, “Now it’s coming!” And the next instant he was sprawling on the
floor! The potent palm was uplifted to strike again when Tom cried 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. CHAPTER IV.
THE sun rose upon a tranquil world, and beamed down upon the peaceful village like a benediction.
Breakfast over, Aunt Polly had family worship: it began with a prayer built from the ground
up of solid courses of Scriptural quotations, welded together with a thin mortar of originality;
and from the summit of this she delivered a grim chapter of the Mosaic Law, as from
Sinai. Then Tom girded up his loins, so to speak,
and went to work to “get his verses.” Sid had learned his lesson days before. Tom
bent all his energies to the memorizing of five verses, and he chose part of the Sermon
on the Mount, because he could find no verses that were shorter. At the end of half an hour
Tom had a vague general idea of his lesson, but no more, for his mind was traversing the
whole field of human thought, and his hands were busy with distracting recreations. Mary
took his book to hear him recite, and he tried to find his way through the fog: “Blessed are the—a—a—” “Poor”— “Yes—poor; blessed are the poor—a—a—” “In spirit—” “In spirit; blessed are the poor in spirit,
for they—they—” “Theirs—” “For theirs. Blessed are the poor in spirit,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for they—they—” “Sh—” “For they—a—” “S, H, A—” “For they S, H—Oh, I don’t know what it
is!” “Shall!” “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 you.” 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?” “Yes.” “What’ll you take for her?” “What’ll you give?” “Piece of lickrish and a fish-hook.” “Less see ’em.” Tom exhibited. They were satisfactory, and
the property changed hands. Then Tom traded a couple of white alleys for three red tickets,
and some small trifle or other for a couple of blue ones. He waylaid other boys as they
came, and went on buying tickets of various colors ten or fifteen minutes longer. He entered
the church, now, with a swarm of clean and noisy boys and girls, proceeded to his seat
and started a quarrel with the first boy that came handy. The teacher, a grave, elderly
man, interfered; then turned his back a moment and Tom pulled a boy’s hair in the next bench,
and was absorbed in his book when the boy turned around; stuck a pin in another boy,
presently, in order to hear him say “Ouch!” and got a new reprimand from his teacher.
Tom’s whole class were of a pattern—restless, noisy, and troublesome. When they came to
recite their lessons, not one of them knew his verses perfectly, but had to be prompted
all along. However, they worried through, and each got his reward—in small blue tickets,
each with a passage of Scripture on it; each blue ticket was pay for two verses of the
recitation. Ten blue tickets equalled a red one, and could be exchanged for it; ten red
tickets equalled a yellow one; for ten yellow tickets the superintendent gave a very plainly
bound Bible (worth forty cents in those easy times) to the pupil. How many of my readers
would have the industry and application to memorize two thousand verses, even for a Dore
Bible? And yet Mary had acquired two Bibles in this way—it was the patient work of two
years—and a boy of German parentage had won four or five. He once recited three thousand
verses without stopping; but the strain upon his mental faculties was too great, and he
was little better than an idiot from that day forth—a grievous misfortune for the
school, for on great occasions, before company, the superintendent (as Tom expressed it) had
always made this boy come out and “spread himself.” Only the older pupils managed
to keep their tickets and stick to their tedious work long enough to get a Bible, and so the
delivery of one of these prizes was a rare and noteworthy circumstance; the successful
pupil was so great and conspicuous for that day that on the spot every scholar’s heart
was fired with a fresh ambition that often lasted a couple of weeks. It is possible that
Tom’s mental stomach had never really hungered for one of those prizes, but unquestionably
his entire being had for many a day longed for the glory and the eclat that came with
it. In due course the superintendent stood up
in front of the pulpit, with a closed hymn-book in his hand and his forefinger inserted between
its leaves, and commanded attention. When a Sunday-school superintendent makes his customary
little speech, a hymn-book in the hand is as necessary as is the inevitable sheet of
music in the hand of a singer who stands forward on the platform and sings a solo at a concert—though
why, is a mystery: for neither the hymn-book nor the sheet of music is ever referred to
by the sufferer. This superintendent was a slim creature of thirty-five, with a sandy
goatee and short sandy hair; he wore a stiff standing-collar whose upper edge almost reached
his ears and whose sharp points curved forward abreast the corners of his mouth—a fence
that compelled a straight lookout ahead, and a turning of the whole body when a side view
was required; his chin was propped on a spreading cravat which was as broad and as long as a
bank-note, and had fringed ends; his boot toes were turned sharply up, in the fashion
of the day, like sleigh-runners—an effect patiently and laboriously produced by the
young men by sitting with their toes pressed against a wall for hours together. Mr. Walters
was very earnest of mien, and very sincere and honest at heart; and he held sacred things
and places in such reverence, and so separated them from worldly matters, that unconsciously
to himself his Sunday-school voice had acquired a peculiar intonation which was wholly absent
on week-days. He began after this fashion: “Now, children, I want you all to sit up
just as straight and pretty as you can and give me all your attention for a minute or
two. There—that is it. That is the way good little boys and girls should do. I see one
little girl who is looking out of the window—I am afraid she thinks I am out there somewhere—perhaps
up in one of the trees making a speech to the little birds. [Applausive titter.] I want
to tell you how good it makes me feel to see so many bright, clean little faces assembled
in a place like this, learning to do right and be good.” And so forth and so on. It
is not necessary to set down the rest of the oration. It was of a pattern which does not
vary, and so it is familiar to us all. The latter third of the speech was marred
by the resumption of fights and other recreations among certain of the bad boys, and by fidgetings
and whisperings that extended far and wide, washing even to the bases of isolated and
incorruptible rocks like Sid and Mary. But now every sound ceased suddenly, with the
subsidence of Mr. Walters’ voice, and the conclusion of the speech was received with
a burst of silent 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: “Tom.” “Oh, no, not Tom—it is—” “Thomas.” “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.” “Thomas Sawyer—sir.” “That’s it! That’s a good boy. Fine boy.
Fine, manly little fellow. Two thousand verses is a great many—very, very great many. And
you never can be sorry for the trouble you took to learn them; for knowledge is worth
more than anything there is in the world; it’s what makes great men and good men; you’ll
be a great man and a good man yourself, some day, Thomas, and then you’ll look back and
say, It’s all owing to the precious Sunday-school privileges of my boyhood—it’s all owing
to my dear teachers that taught me to learn—it’s all owing to the good superintendent, who
encouraged me, and watched over me, and gave me a beautiful Bible—a splendid elegant
Bible—to keep and have it all for my own, always—it’s all owing to right bringing
up! That is what you will say, Thomas—and you wouldn’t take any money for those two
thousand verses—no indeed you wouldn’t. And now you wouldn’t mind telling me and this
lady some of the things you’ve learned—no, I know you wouldn’t—for we are proud of
little boys that learn. Now, no doubt you know the names of all the twelve disciples.
Won’t you tell us the names of the first two that were appointed?” Tom was tugging at a button-hole and looking
sheepish. He blushed, now, and his eyes fell. Mr. Walters’ heart sank within him. He said
to himself, it is not possible that the boy can answer the simplest question—why did
the Judge ask him? Yet he felt obliged to speak up and say: “Answer the gentleman, Thomas—don’t be
afraid.” Tom still hung fire. “Now I know you’ll tell me,” said the
lady. “The names of the first two disciples were—” “David And Goliah!” Let us draw the curtain of charity over the
rest of the scene. CHAPTER V.
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 earth.” 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.
CHAPTER VI. MONDAY morning found Tom Sawyer miserable.
Monday morning always found him so—because it began another week’s slow suffering in
school. He generally began that day with wishing he had had no intervening holiday, it made
the going into captivity and fetters again so much more odious. Tom lay thinking. Presently it occurred to
him that he wished he was sick; then he could stay home from school. Here was a vague possibility.
He canvassed his system. No ailment was found, and he investigated again. This time he thought
he could detect colicky symptoms, and he began to encourage them with considerable hope.
But they soon grew feeble, and presently died wholly away. He reflected further. Suddenly
he discovered something. One of his upper front teeth was loose. This was lucky; he
was about to begin to groan, as a “starter,” as he called it, when it occurred to him that
if he came into court with that argument, his aunt would pull it out, and that would
hurt. So he thought he would hold the tooth in reserve for the present, and seek further.
Nothing offered for some little time, and then he remembered hearing the doctor tell
about a certain thing that laid up a patient for two or three weeks and threatened to make
him lose a finger. So the boy eagerly drew his sore toe from under the sheet and held
it up for inspection. But now he did not know the necessary symptoms. However, it seemed
well worth while to chance it, so he fell to groaning with considerable spirit. But Sid slept on unconscious. Tom groaned louder, and fancied that he began
to feel pain in the toe. No result from Sid. Tom was panting with his exertions by this
time. He took a rest and then swelled himself up and fetched a succession of admirable groans. Sid snored on. Tom was aggravated. He said, “Sid, Sid!”
and shook him. This course worked well, and Tom began to groan again. Sid yawned, stretched,
then brought himself up on his elbow with a snort, and began to stare at Tom. Tom went
on groaning. Sid said: “Tom! Say, Tom!” [No response.] “Here,
Tom! TOM! What is the matter, Tom?” And he shook him and looked in his face anxiously. Tom moaned out: “Oh, don’t, Sid. Don’t joggle me.” “Why, what’s the matter, Tom? I must call
auntie.” “No—never mind. It’ll be over by and by,
maybe. Don’t call anybody.” “But I must! Don’t groan so, Tom, it’s awful.
How long you been this way?” “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!” “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.” Tom said: “Oh, please, auntie, don’t pull it out.
It don’t hurt any more. I wish I may never stir if it does. Please don’t, auntie. I don’t
want to stay home from school.” “Oh, you don’t, don’t you? So all this row
was because you thought you’d get to stay home from school and go a-fishing? Tom, Tom,
I love you so, and you seem to try every way you can to break my old heart with your outrageousness.”
By this time the dental instruments were ready. The old lady made one end of the silk thread
fast to Tom’s tooth with a loop and tied the other to the bedpost. Then she seized the
chunk of fire and suddenly thrust it almost into the boy’s face. The tooth hung dangling
by the bedpost, now. But all trials bring their compensations.
As Tom wended to school after breakfast, he was the envy of every boy he met because the
gap in his upper row of teeth enabled him to expectorate in a new and admirable way.
He gathered quite a following of lads interested in the exhibition; and one that had cut his
finger and had been a centre of fascination and homage up to this time, now found himself
suddenly without an adherent, and shorn of his glory. His heart was heavy, and he said
with a disdain which he did not feel that it wasn’t anything to spit like Tom Sawyer;
but another boy said, “Sour grapes!” and he wandered away a dismantled hero. Shortly Tom came upon the juvenile pariah
of the village, Huckleberry Finn, son of the town drunkard. Huckleberry was cordially hated
and dreaded by all the mothers of the town, because he was idle and lawless and vulgar
and bad—and because all their children admired him so, and delighted in his forbidden society,
and wished they dared to be like him. Tom was like the rest of the respectable boys,
in that he envied Huckleberry his gaudy outcast condition, and was under strict orders not
to play with him. So he played with him every time he got a chance. Huckleberry was always
dressed in the cast-off clothes of full-grown men, and they were in perennial bloom and
fluttering with rags. His hat was a vast ruin with a wide crescent lopped out of its brim;
his coat, when he wore one, hung nearly to his heels and had the rearward buttons far
down the back; but one suspender supported his trousers; the seat of the trousers bagged
low and contained nothing, the fringed legs dragged in the dirt when not rolled up. Huckleberry came and went, at his own free
will. He slept on doorsteps in fine weather and in empty hogsheads in wet; he did not
have to go to school or to church, or call any being master or obey anybody; he could
go fishing or swimming when and where he chose, and stay as long as it suited him; nobody
forbade him to fight; he could sit up as late as he pleased; he was always the first boy
that went barefoot in the spring and the last to resume leather in the fall; he never had
to wash, nor put on clean clothes; he could swear wonderfully. In a word, everything that
goes to make life precious that boy had. So thought every harassed, hampered, respectable
boy in St. Petersburg. Tom hailed the romantic outcast: “Hello, Huckleberry!” “Hello yourself, and see how you like it.” “What’s that you got?” “Dead cat.” “Lemme see him, Huck. My, he’s pretty stiff.
Where’d you get him?” “Bought him off’n a boy.” “What did you give?” “I give a blue ticket and a bladder that
I got at the slaughter-house.” “Where’d you get the blue ticket?” “Bought it off’n Ben Rogers two weeks ago
for a hoop-stick.” “Say—what is dead cats good for, Huck?” “Good for? Cure warts with.” “No! Is that so? I know something that’s
better.” “I bet you don’t. What is it?” “Why, spunk-water.” “Spunk-water! I wouldn’t give a dern for
spunk-water.” “You wouldn’t, wouldn’t you? D’you ever
try it?” “No, I hain’t. But Bob Tanner did.” “Who told you so!” “Why, he told Jeff Thatcher, and Jeff told
Johnny Baker, and Johnny told Jim Hollis, and Jim told Ben Rogers, and Ben told a nigger,
and the nigger told me. There now!” “Well, what of it? They’ll all lie. Leastways
all but the nigger. I don’t know him. But I never see a nigger that wouldn’t lie. Shucks!
Now you tell me how Bob Tanner done it, Huck.” “Why, he took and dipped his hand in a rotten
stump where the rain-water was.” “In the daytime?” “Certainly.” “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 done.” “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 his arm.” “Why, that’s awful. How did he know she
was a-witching him?” “Lord, pap can tell, easy. Pap says when
they keep looking at you right stiddy, they’re a-witching you. Specially if they mumble.
Becuz when they mumble they’re saying the Lord’s Prayer backards.” “Say, Hucky, when you going to try the cat?” “To-night. I reckon they’ll come after old
Hoss Williams to-night.” “But they buried him Saturday. Didn’t they
get him Saturday night?” “Why, how you talk! How could their charms
work till midnight?—and then it’s Sunday. Devils don’t slosh around much of a Sunday,
I don’t reckon.” “I never thought of that. That’s so. Lemme
go with you?” “Of course—if you ain’t afeard.” “Afeard! ‘Tain’t likely. Will you meow?” “Yes—and you meow back, if you get a chance.
Last time, you kep’ me a-meowing around till old Hays went to throwing rocks at me and
says ‘Dern that cat!’ and so I hove a brick through his window—but don’t you tell.” “I won’t. I couldn’t meow that night, becuz
auntie was watching me, but I’ll meow this time. Say—what’s that?” “Nothing but a tick.” “Where’d you get him?” “Out in the woods.” “What’ll you take for him?” “I don’t know. I don’t want to sell him.” “All right. It’s a mighty small tick, anyway.” “Oh, anybody can run a tick down that don’t
belong to them. I’m satisfied with it. It’s a good enough tick for me.” “Sho, there’s ticks a plenty. I could have
a thousand of ’em if I wanted to.” “Well, why don’t you? Becuz you know mighty
well you can’t. This is a pretty early tick, I reckon. It’s the first one I’ve seen this
year.” “Say, Huck—I’ll give you my tooth for
him.” “Less see it.” Tom got out a bit of paper and carefully unrolled
it. Huckleberry viewed it wistfully. The temptation was very strong. At last he said: “Is it genuwyne?” Tom lifted his lip and showed the vacancy. “Well, all right,” said Huckleberry, “it’s
a trade.” Tom enclosed the tick in the percussion-cap
box that had lately been the pinchbug’s prison, and the boys separated, each feeling wealthier
than before. When Tom reached the little isolated frame
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. “Thomas Sawyer!” Tom knew that when his name was pronounced
in full, it meant trouble. “Sir!” “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 jacket.” 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?” “Yes.” 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 said: “Oh, it ain’t anything.” “Yes it is.” “No it ain’t. You don’t want to see.” “Yes I do, indeed I do. Please let me.” “You’ll tell.” “No I won’t—deed and deed and double deed
won’t.” “You won’t tell anybody at all? Ever, as
long as you live?” “No, I won’t ever tell anybody. Now let
me.” “Oh, you don’t want to see!” “Now that you treat me so, I will see.”
And she put her small hand upon his and a little scuffle ensued, Tom pretending to resist
in earnest but letting his hand slip by degrees till these words were revealed: “I love
you.” “Oh, you bad thing!” And she hit his hand
a smart rap, but reddened and looked pleased, nevertheless. Just at this juncture the boy felt a slow,
fateful grip closing on his ear, and a steady lifting impulse. In that wise he was borne
across the house and deposited in his own seat, under a peppering fire of giggles from
the whole school. Then the master stood over him during a few awful moments, and finally
moved away to his throne without saying a word. But although Tom’s ear tingled, his
heart was jubilant. As the school quieted down Tom made an honest
effort to study, but the turmoil within him was too great. In turn he took his place in
the reading class and made a botch of it; then in the geography class and turned lakes
into mountains, mountains into rivers, and rivers into continents, till chaos was come
again; then in the spelling class, and got “turned down,” by a succession of mere
baby words, till he brought up at the foot and yielded up the pewter medal which he had
worn with ostentation for months.
CHAPTER VII. THE harder Tom tried to fasten his mind on
his book, the more his ideas wandered. So at last, with a sigh and a yawn, he gave it
up. It seemed to him that the noon recess would never come. The air was utterly dead.
There was not a breath stirring. It was the sleepiest of sleepy days. The drowsing murmur
of the five and twenty studying scholars soothed the soul like the spell that is in the murmur
of bees. Away off in the flaming sunshine, Cardiff Hill lifted its soft green sides through
a shimmering veil of heat, tinted with the purple of distance; a few birds floated on
lazy wing high in the air; no other living thing was visible but some cows, and they
were asleep. Tom’s heart ached to be free, or else to have something of interest to do
to pass the dreary time. His hand wandered into his pocket and his face lit up with a
glow of gratitude that was prayer, though he did not know it. Then furtively the percussion-cap
box came out. He released the tick and put him on the long flat desk. The creature probably
glowed with a gratitude that amounted to prayer, too, at this moment, but it was premature:
for when he started thankfully to travel off, Tom turned him aside with a pin and made him
take a new direction. Tom’s bosom friend sat next him, suffering
just as Tom had been, and now he was deeply and gratefully interested in this entertainment
in an instant. This bosom friend was Joe Harper. The two boys were sworn friends all the week,
and embattled enemies on Saturdays. Joe took a pin out of his lapel and began to assist
in exercising the prisoner. The sport grew in interest momently. Soon Tom said that they
were interfering with each other, and neither getting the fullest benefit of the tick. So
he put Joe’s slate on the desk and drew a line down the middle of it from top to bottom. “Now,” said he, “as long as he is on
your side you can stir him up and I’ll let him alone; but if you let him get away and
get on my side, you’re to leave him alone as long as I can keep him from crossing over.” “All right, go ahead; start him up.” The tick escaped from Tom, presently, and
crossed the equator. Joe harassed him awhile, and then he got away and crossed back again.
This change of base occurred often. While one boy was worrying the tick with absorbing
interest, the other would look on with interest as strong, the two heads bowed together over
the slate, and the two souls dead to all things else. At last luck seemed to settle and abide
with Joe. The tick tried this, that, and the other course, and got as excited and as anxious
as the boys themselves, but time and again just as he would have victory in his very
grasp, so to speak, and Tom’s fingers would be twitching to begin, Joe’s pin would deftly
head him off, and keep possession. At last Tom could stand it no longer. The temptation
was too strong. So he reached out and lent a hand with his pin. Joe was angry in a moment.
Said he: “Tom, you let him alone.” “I only just want to stir him up a little,
Joe.” “No, sir, it ain’t fair; you just let him
alone.” “Blame it, I ain’t going to stir him much.” “Let him alone, I tell you.” “I won’t!” “You shall—he’s on my side of the line.” “Look here, Joe Harper, whose is that tick?” “I don’t care whose tick he is—he’s on
my side of the line, and you sha’n’t touch him.” “Well, I’ll just bet I will, though. He’s
my tick and I’ll do what I blame please with him, or die!” A tremendous whack came down on Tom’s shoulders,
and its duplicate on Joe’s; and for the space of two minutes the dust continued to fly from
the two jackets and the whole school to enjoy it. The boys had been too absorbed to notice
the hush that had stolen upon the school awhile before when the master came tiptoeing down
the room and stood over them. He had contemplated a good part of the performance before he contributed
his bit of variety to it. When school broke up at noon, Tom flew to
Becky Thatcher, and whispered in her ear: “Put on your bonnet and let on you’re going
home; and when you get to the corner, give the rest of ’em the slip, and turn down through
the lane and come back. I’ll go the other way and come it over ’em the same way.” So the one went off with one group of scholars,
and the other with another. In a little while the two met at the bottom of the lane, and
when they reached the school they had it all to themselves. Then they sat together, with
a slate before them, and Tom gave Becky the pencil and held her hand in his, guiding it,
and so created another surprising house. When the interest in art began to wane, the two
fell to talking. Tom was swimming in bliss. He said: “Do you love rats?” “No! I hate them!” “Well, I do, too—live ones. But I mean
dead ones, to swing round your head with a string.” “No, I don’t care for rats much, anyway.
What I like is chewing-gum.” “Oh, I should say so! I wish I had some
now.” “Do you? I’ve got some. I’ll let you chew
it awhile, but you must give it back to me.” That was agreeable, so they chewed it turn
about, and dangled their legs against the bench in excess of contentment. “Was you ever at a circus?” said Tom. “Yes, and my pa’s going to take me again
some time, if I’m good.” “I been to the circus three or four times—lots
of times. Church ain’t shucks to a circus. There’s things going on at a circus all the
time. I’m going to be a clown in a circus when I grow up.” “Oh, are you! That will be nice. They’re
so lovely, all spotted up.” “Yes, that’s so. And they get slathers of
money—most a dollar a day, Ben Rogers says. Say, Becky, was you ever engaged?” “What’s that?” “Why, engaged to be married.” “No.” “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.” “Everybody?” “Why, yes, everybody that’s in love with
each other. Do you remember what I wrote on the slate?” “Ye—yes.” “What was it?” “I sha’n’t tell you.” “Shall I tell you?” “Ye—yes—but some other time.” “No, now.” “No, not now—to-morrow.” “Oh, no, now. Please, Becky—I’ll whisper
it, I’ll whisper it ever so easy.” 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 said: “Now it’s all done, Becky. And always after
this, you know, you ain’t ever to love anybody but me, and you ain’t ever to marry anybody
but me, ever never and forever. Will you?” “No, I’ll never love anybody but you, Tom,
and I’ll never marry anybody but you—and you ain’t to ever marry anybody but me, either.” “Certainly. Of course. That’s part of it.
And always coming to school or when we’re going home, you’re to walk with me, when there
ain’t anybody looking—and you choose me and I choose you at parties, because that’s
the way you do when you’re engaged.” “It’s so nice. I never heard of it before.” “Oh, it’s ever so gay! Why, me and Amy Lawrence—” The big eyes told Tom his blunder and he stopped,
confused. “Oh, Tom! Then I ain’t the first you’ve
ever been engaged to!” The child began to cry. Tom said: “Oh, don’t cry, Becky, I don’t care for
her any more.” “Yes, you do, Tom—you know you do.”
Tom tried to put his arm about her neck, but she pushed him away and turned her face to
the wall, and went on crying. Tom tried again, with soothing words in his mouth, and was
repulsed again. Then his pride was up, and he strode away and went outside. He stood
about, restless and uneasy, for a while, glancing at the door, every now and then, hoping she
would repent and come to find him. But she did not. Then he began to feel badly and fear
that he was in the wrong. It was a hard struggle with him to make new advances, now, but he
nerved himself to it and entered. She was still standing back there in the corner, sobbing,
with her face to the wall. Tom’s heart smote him. He went to her and stood a moment, not
knowing exactly how to proceed. Then he said hesitatingly: “Becky, I—I don’t care for anybody but
you.” No reply—but sobs. “Becky”—pleadingly. “Becky, won’t
you say something?” More sobs. Tom got out his chiefest jewel, a brass knob
from the top of an andiron, and passed it around her so that she could see it, and said: “Please, Becky, won’t you take it?” She struck it to the floor. Then Tom marched
out of the house and over the hills and far away, to return to school no more that day.
Presently Becky began to suspect. She ran to the door; he was not in sight; she flew
around to the play-yard; he was not there. Then she called: “Tom! Come back, Tom!” She listened intently, but there was no answer.
She had no companions but silence and loneliness. So she sat down to cry again and upbraid herself;
and by this time the scholars began to gather again, and she had to hide her griefs and
still her broken heart and take up the cross of a long, dreary, aching afternoon, with
none among the strangers about her to exchange sorrows with.
CHAPTER VIII. 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 die temporarily! But the elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed
into one constrained shape long at a time. Tom presently began to drift insensibly back
into the concerns of this life again. What if he turned his back, now, and disappeared
mysteriously? What if he went away—ever so far away, into unknown countries beyond
the seas—and never came back any more! How would she feel then! The idea of being a clown
recurred to him now, only to fill him with disgust. For frivolity and jokes and spotted
tights were an offense, when they intruded themselves upon a spirit that was exalted
into the vague august realm of the romantic. No, he would be a soldier, and return after
long years, all war-worn and illustrious. No—better still, he would join the Indians,
and hunt buffaloes and go on the warpath in the mountain ranges and the trackless great
plains of the Far West, and away in the future come back a great chief, bristling with feathers,
hideous with paint, and prance into Sunday-school, some drowsy summer morning, with a 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 Spanish Main!”
Yes, it was settled; his career was determined. He would run away from home and enter upon
it. He would start the very next morning. Therefore he must now begin to get ready.
He would collect his resources together. He went to a rotten log near at hand and began
to dig under one end of it with his Barlow knife. He soon struck wood that sounded hollow.
He put his hand there and uttered this incantation impressively: “What hasn’t come here, come! What’s here,
stay here!” Then he scraped away the dirt, and exposed
a pine shingle. He took it up and disclosed a shapely little treasure-house whose bottom
and sides were of shingles. In it lay a marble. Tom’s astonishment was 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 other. Just here the blast of a toy tin trumpet came
faintly down the green aisles of the forest. Tom flung off his jacket and trousers, turned
a suspender into a belt, raked away some brush behind the rotten log, disclosing a rude bow
and arrow, a lath sword and a tin trumpet, and in a moment had seized these things and
bounded away, barelegged, with fluttering shirt. He presently halted under a great elm,
blew an answering blast, and then began to tiptoe and look warily out, this way and that.
He said cautiously—to an imaginary company: “Hold, my merry men! Keep hid till I blow.” Now appeared Joe Harper, as airily clad and
elaborately armed as Tom. Tom called: “Hold! Who comes here into Sherwood Forest
without my pass?” “Guy of Guisborne wants no man’s pass. Who
art thou that—that—” “Dares to hold such language,” said Tom,
prompting—for they talked “by the book,” from memory. “Who art thou that dares to hold such language?” “I, indeed! I am Robin Hood, as thy caitiff
carcase soon shall know.” “Then art thou indeed that famous outlaw?
Right gladly will I dispute with thee the passes of the merry wood. Have at thee!” They took their lath swords, dumped their
other traps on the ground, struck a fencing attitude, foot to foot, and began a grave,
careful combat, “two up and two down.” Presently Tom said: “Now, if you’ve got the hang, go it lively!” So they “went it lively,” panting and
perspiring with the work. By and by Tom shouted: “Fall! fall! Why don’t you fall?” “I sha’n’t! Why don’t you fall yourself?
You’re getting the worst of it.” “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 fair.” “Why, I can’t do that, it ain’t in the book.” “Well, it’s blamed mean—that’s all.” “Well, say, Joe, you can be Friar Tuck or
Much the miller’s son, and lam me with a quarter-staff; or I’ll be the Sheriff of Nottingham and you
be Robin Hood a little while and kill me.” This was satisfactory, and so these adventures
were carried out. Then Tom became Robin Hood again, and was allowed by the treacherous
nun to bleed his strength away through his neglected wound. And at last Joe, representing
a whole tribe of weeping outlaws, dragged him sadly forth, gave his bow into his feeble
hands, and Tom said, “Where this arrow falls, there bury poor Robin Hood under the greenwood
tree.” Then he shot the arrow and fell back and would have died, but he lit on a nettle
and sprang up too gaily for a corpse. The boys dressed themselves, hid their accoutrements,
and went off grieving that there were no outlaws any more, and wondering what modern civilization
could claim to have done to compensate for their loss. They said they would rather be
outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever.
CHAPTER IX. 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 the grave. Then they waited in silence for what seemed
a long time. The hooting of a distant owl was all the sound that troubled the dead stillness.
Tom’s reflections grew oppressive. He must force some talk. So he said in a whisper: “Hucky, do you believe the dead people like
it for us to be here?” Huckleberry whispered: “I wisht I knowed. It’s awful solemn like,
ain’t it?” “I bet it is.” There was a considerable pause, while the
boys canvassed this matter inwardly. Then Tom whispered: “Say, Hucky—do you reckon Hoss Williams
hears us talking?” “O’ course he does. Least his sperrit does.” Tom, after a pause: “I wish I’d said Mister Williams. But I
never meant any harm. Everybody calls him Hoss.” “A body can’t be too partic’lar how they
talk ’bout these-yer dead people, Tom.” This was a damper, and conversation died again. Presently Tom seized his comrade’s arm and
said: “Sh!” “What is it, Tom?” And the two clung together
with beating hearts. “Sh! There ’tis again! Didn’t you hear it?” “I—” “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 come.” “Oh, don’t be afeard. I don’t believe they’ll
bother us. We ain’t doing any harm. If we keep perfectly still, maybe they won’t notice
us at all.” “I’ll try to, Tom, but, Lord, I’m all of
a shiver.” “Listen!” 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 shudder: “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—’”
“Sh!” “What is it, Huck?” “They’re humans! One of ’em is, anyway.
One of ’em’s old Muff Potter’s voice.” “No—’tain’t so, is it?” “I bet I know it. Don’t you stir nor budge.
He ain’t sharp enough to notice us. Drunk, the same as usual, likely—blamed old rip!” “All right, I’ll keep still. Now they’re
stuck. Can’t find it. Here they come again. Now they’re hot. Cold again. Hot again. Red
hot! They’re p’inted right, this time. Say, Huck, I know another o’ them voices; it’s
Injun Joe.” “That’s so—that murderin’ half-breed!
I’d druther they was devils a dern sight. What kin they be up to?” The whisper died wholly out, now, for the
three men had reached the grave and stood within a few feet of the boys’ hiding-place. “Here it is,” said the third voice; and
the owner of it held the lantern up and revealed the face of young Doctor Robinson. Potter and Injun Joe were carrying a handbarrow
with a rope and a couple of shovels on it. They cast down their load and began to open
the grave. The doctor put the lantern at the head of the grave and came and sat down with
his back against one of the elm trees. He was so close the boys could have touched him. “Hurry, men!” he said, in a low voice;
“the moon might come out at any moment.” 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 now.”
“Oh, I didn’t know what I was a-doing. I wish I may die this minute if I did. It was
all on account of the whiskey and the excitement, I reckon. I never used a weepon in my life
before, Joe. I’ve fought, but never with weepons. They’ll all say that. Joe, don’t tell! Say
you won’t tell, Joe—that’s a good feller. I always liked you, Joe, and stood up for
you, too. Don’t you remember? You won’t tell, will you, Joe?” And the poor creature dropped
on his knees before the stolid murderer, and clasped his appealing hands. “No, you’ve always been fair and square
with me, Muff Potter, and I won’t go back on you. There, now, that’s as fair as a man
can say.” “Oh, Joe, you’re an angel. I’ll bless you
for this the longest day I live.” And Potter began to cry. “Come, now, that’s enough of that. This
ain’t any time for blubbering. You be off yonder way and I’ll go this. Move, now, and
don’t leave any tracks behind you.” Potter started on a trot that quickly increased
to a run. The half-breed stood looking after him. He muttered: “If he’s as much stunned with the lick and
fuddled with the rum as he had the look of being, he won’t think of the knife till he’s
gone so far he’ll be afraid to come back after it to such a place by himself—chicken-heart!” 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.
CHAPTER X. 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 that we—” “Oh no, that wouldn’t do for this. That’s
good enough for little rubbishy common things—specially with gals, cuz they go back on you anyway,
and blab if they get in a huff—but there orter be writing ’bout a big thing like this.
And blood.” Tom’s whole being applauded this idea. It
was deep, and dark, and awful; the hour, the circumstances, the surroundings, were in keeping
with it. He picked up a clean pine shingle that lay in the 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.” “What’s verdigrease?” “It’s p’ison. That’s what it is. You just
swaller some of it once—you’ll see.” So Tom unwound the thread from one of his
needles, and each boy pricked the ball of his thumb and squeezed out a drop of blood.
In time, after many squeezes, Tom managed to sign his initials, using the ball of his
little finger for a pen. Then he showed Huckleberry how to make an H and an F, and the oath was
complete. They buried the shingle close to the wall, with some dismal ceremonies and
incantations, and the fetters that bound their tongues were considered to be locked and the
key thrown away. A figure crept stealthily through a break
in the other end of the ruined building, now, but they did not notice it. “Tom,” whispered Huckleberry, “does
this keep us from ever telling—always?” “Of course it does. It don’t make any difference
what happens, we got to keep mum. We’d drop down dead—don’t you know that?” “Yes, I reckon that’s so.” They continued to whisper for some little
time. Presently a dog set up a long, lugubrious howl just outside—within ten feet of them.
The boys clasped each other suddenly, in an agony of fright. “Which of us does he mean?” gasped Huckleberry. “I dono—peep through the crack. Quick!” “No, you, Tom!” “I can’t—I can’t do it, Huck!” “Please, Tom. There ’tis again!” “Oh, lordy, I’m thankful!” whispered Tom.
“I know his voice. It’s Bull Harbison.” * [* If Mr. Harbison owned a slave named Bull,
Tom would have spoken of him as “Harbison’s Bull,” but a son or a dog of that name was
“Bull Harbison.”] “Oh, that’s good—I tell you, Tom, I was
most scared to death; I’d a bet anything it was a stray dog.” The dog howled again. The boys’ hearts sank
once more. “Oh, my! that ain’t no Bull Harbison!”
whispered Huckleberry. “Do, Tom!” Tom, quaking with fear, yielded, and put his
eye to the crack. His whisper was hardly audible when he said: “Oh, Huck, 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 little. “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 pointing heavenward. “Oh, geeminy, it’s him!” exclaimed both
boys, in a breath. “Say, Tom—they say a stray dog come howling
around Johnny Miller’s house, ’bout midnight, as much as two weeks ago; and a whippoorwill
come in and lit on the banisters and sung, the very same evening; and there ain’t anybody
dead there yet.” “Well, I know that. And suppose there ain’t.
Didn’t Gracie Miller fall in the kitchen fire and burn herself terrible the very next Saturday?” “Yes, but she ain’t dead. And what’s more,
she’s getting better, too.” “All right, you wait and see. She’s a goner,
just as dead sure as Muff Potter’s a goner. That’s what the niggers say, and they know
all about these kind of things, Huck.” Then they separated, cogitating. When Tom
crept in at his bedroom window the night was almost spent. He undressed with excessive
caution, and fell asleep congratulating himself that nobody knew of his escapade. He was not
aware that the gently-snoring Sid was awake, and had been so for an hour. When Tom awoke, Sid was dressed and gone.
There was a late look in the light, a late sense in the atmosphere. He was startled.
Why had he not been called—persecuted till he was up, as usual? The thought filled him
with bodings. Within five minutes he was dressed and down-stairs, feeling sore and drowsy.
The family were still at table, but they had finished breakfast. There was no voice of
rebuke; but there were averted eyes; there was a silence and an air of solemnity that
struck a chill to the culprit’s heart. He sat down and tried to seem gay, but it was
up-hill work; it roused no smile, no response, and he lapsed into silence and let his heart
sink down to the depths. After breakfast his aunt took him aside, and
Tom almost brightened in the hope that he was going to be flogged; but it was not so.
His aunt wept over him and asked him how he could go and break her old heart so; and finally
told him to go on, and ruin himself and bring her gray hairs with sorrow to the grave, for
it was no use for her to try any more. This was worse than a thousand whippings, and Tom’s
heart was sorer now than his body. He cried, he pleaded for forgiveness, promised to reform
over and over again, and then received his dismissal, feeling that he had won but an
imperfect forgiveness and established but a feeble confidence. He left the presence too miserable to even
feel revengeful toward Sid; and so the latter’s prompt retreat through the back gate was unnecessary.
He moped to school gloomy and sad, and took his flogging, along with Joe Harper, for playing
hookey the day before, with the air of one whose heart was busy with heavier woes and
wholly dead to trifles. Then he betook himself to his seat, rested his elbows on his desk
and his jaws in his hands, and stared at the wall with the stony stare of suffering that
has reached the limit and can no further go. His elbow was pressing against some hard substance.
After a long time he slowly and sadly changed his position, and took up this object with
a sigh. It was in a paper. He unrolled it. A long, lingering, colossal sigh followed,
and his heart broke. It was his brass andiron knob! This final feather broke the camel’s back.
CHAPTER XI. 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
before night. All the town was drifting toward the graveyard.
Tom’s heartbreak vanished and he joined the procession, not because he would not a thousand
times rather go anywhere else, but because an awful, unaccountable fascination drew him
on. Arrived at the dreadful place, he wormed his small body through the crowd and saw the
dismal spectacle. It seemed to him an age since he was there before. Somebody pinched
his arm. He turned, and his eyes met Huckleberry’s. Then both looked elsewhere at once, and wondered
if anybody had noticed anything in their mutual glance. But everybody was talking, and intent
upon the grisly spectacle before them. “Poor fellow!” “Poor young fellow!”
“This ought to be a lesson to grave robbers!” “Muff Potter’ll hang for this if they catch
him!” This was the drift of remark; and the minister said, “It was a judgment; His
hand is here.” Now Tom shivered from head to heel; for his
eye fell upon the stolid face of Injun Joe. At this moment the crowd began to sway and
struggle, and voices shouted, “It’s him! it’s him! he’s coming himself!” “Who? Who?” from twenty voices. “Muff Potter!” “Hallo, he’s stopped!—Look out, he’s turning!
Don’t let him get away!” People in the branches of the trees over Tom’s
head said he wasn’t trying to get away—he only looked doubtful and perplexed. “Infernal impudence!” said a bystander;
“wanted to come and take a quiet look at his work, I reckon—didn’t expect any company.” The crowd fell apart, now, and the Sheriff
came through, ostentatiously leading Potter by the arm. The poor fellow’s face was haggard,
and his eyes showed the fear that was upon him. When he stood before the murdered man,
he shook as with a palsy, and he put his face in his hands and burst into tears. “I didn’t do it, friends,” he sobbed;
“’pon my word and honor I never done it.” “Who’s accused you?” shouted a voice. This shot seemed to carry home. Potter lifted
his face and looked around him with a pathetic hopelessness in his eyes. He saw Injun Joe,
and exclaimed: “Oh, Injun Joe, you promised me you’d never—” “Is that your knife?” and it was thrust
before him by the Sheriff. Potter would have fallen if they had not caught
him and eased him to the ground. Then he said: “Something told me ‘t if I didn’t come back
and get—” He shuddered; then waved his nerveless hand with a vanquished gesture and
said, “Tell ’em, Joe, tell ’em—it ain’t any use any more.” Then Huckleberry and Tom stood dumb and staring,
and heard the stony-hearted liar reel off his serene statement, they expecting every
moment that the clear sky would deliver God’s lightnings upon his head, and wondering to
see how long the stroke was delayed. And when he had finished and still stood alive and
whole, their wavering impulse to break their oath and save the poor betrayed prisoner’s
life faded and vanished away, for plainly this miscreant had sold himself to Satan and
it would be fatal to meddle with the property of such a power as that. “Why didn’t you leave? What did you want
to come here for?” somebody said. “I couldn’t help it—I couldn’t help it,”
Potter moaned. “I wanted to run away, but I couldn’t seem to come anywhere but here.”
And he fell to sobbing again. Injun Joe repeated his statement, just as
calmly, a few minutes afterward on the inquest, under oath; and the boys, seeing that the
lightnings were still withheld, were confirmed in their belief that Joe had sold himself
to the devil. He was now become, to them, the most balefully interesting object they
had ever looked upon, and they could not take their fascinated eyes from his face. They inwardly resolved to watch him nights,
when opportunity should offer, in the hope of getting a glimpse of his dread master. Injun Joe helped to raise the body of the
murdered man and put it in a wagon for removal; and it was whispered through the shuddering
crowd that the wound bled a little! The boys thought that this happy circumstance would
turn suspicion in the right direction; but they were disappointed, for more than one
villager remarked: “It was within three feet of Muff Potter
when it done it.” Tom’s fearful secret and gnawing conscience
disturbed his sleep for as much as a week after this; and at breakfast one morning Sid
said: “Tom, you pitch around and talk in your
sleep so much that you keep me awake half the time.” Tom blanched and dropped his eyes. “It’s a bad sign,” said Aunt Polly, gravely.
“What you got on your mind, Tom?” “Nothing. Nothing ‘t I know of.” But the
boy’s hand shook so that he spilled his coffee. “And you do talk such stuff,” Sid said.
“Last night you said, ‘It’s blood, it’s blood, that’s what it is!’ You said that over
and over. And you said, ‘Don’t torment me so—I’ll tell!’ Tell what? What is it you’ll
tell?” Everything was swimming before Tom. There
is no telling what might have happened, now, but luckily the concern passed out of Aunt
Polly’s face and she came to Tom’s relief without knowing it. She said: “Sho! It’s that dreadful murder. I dream
about it most every night myself. Sometimes I dream it’s me that done it.” Mary said she had been affected much the same
way. Sid seemed satisfied. Tom got out of the presence as quick as he plausibly could,
and after that he complained of toothache for a week, and tied up his jaws every night.
He never knew that Sid lay nightly watching, and frequently slipped the bandage free and
then leaned on his elbow listening a good while at a time, and afterward slipped the
bandage back to its place again. Tom’s distress of mind wore off gradually and the toothache
grew irksome and was discarded. If Sid really managed to make anything out of Tom’s disjointed
mutterings, he kept it to himself. It seemed to Tom that his schoolmates never
would get done holding inquests on dead cats, and thus keeping his trouble present to his
mind. Sid noticed that Tom never was coroner at one of these inquiries, though it had been
his habit to take the lead in all new enterprises; he noticed, too, that Tom never acted as a
witness—and that was strange; and Sid did not overlook the fact that Tom even showed
a marked aversion to these inquests, and always avoided them when he could. Sid marvelled,
but said nothing. However, even inquests went out of vogue at last, and ceased to torture
Tom’s conscience. Every day or two, during this time of sorrow,
Tom watched his opportunity and went to the little grated jail-window and smuggled such
small comforts through to the “murderer” as he could get hold of. The jail was a trifling
little brick den that stood in a marsh at the edge of the village, and no guards were
afforded for it; indeed, it was seldom occupied. These offerings greatly helped to ease Tom’s
conscience. 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. CHAPTER XII.
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 neighbors.
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 cure-alls. Tom had become indifferent to persecution
by this time. This phase filled the old lady’s heart with consternation. This indifference
must be broken up at any cost. Now she heard of Pain-killer for the first time. She ordered
a lot at once. She tasted it and was filled with gratitude. It was simply fire in a liquid
form. She dropped the water treatment and everything else, and pinned her faith to Pain-killer.
She gave Tom a teaspoonful and watched with the deepest anxiety for the result. Her troubles
were instantly at rest, her soul at peace again; for the “indifference” was broken
up. The boy could not have shown a wilder, heartier interest, if she had built a fire
under him. Tom felt that it was time to wake up; this
sort of life might be romantic enough, in his blighted condition, but it was getting
to have too little sentiment and too much distracting variety about it. So he thought
over various plans for relief, and finally hit 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 good time.” “They do, do they?” There was something
in the tone that made Tom apprehensive. “Yes’m. That is, I believe they do.” “You do?” “Yes’m.” 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 human!” Aunt Polly felt a sudden pang of remorse.
This was putting the thing in a new light; what was cruelty to a cat might be cruelty
to a boy, too. She began to soften; she felt sorry. Her eyes watered a little, and she
put her hand on Tom’s head and said gently: “I was meaning for the best, Tom. And, Tom,
it did do you good.” Tom looked up in her face with just a perceptible
twinkle peeping through his gravity. “I know you was meaning for the best, aunty,
and so was I with Peter. It done him good, too. I never see him get around so since—” “Oh, go ‘long with you, Tom, before you
aggravate me again. And you try and see if you can’t be a good boy, for once, and you
needn’t take any more medicine.” Tom reached school ahead of time. It was noticed
that this strange thing had been occurring every day latterly. And now, as usual of late,
he hung about the gate of the schoolyard instead of playing with his comrades. He was sick,
he said, and he looked it. He tried to seem to be looking everywhere but whither he really
was looking—down the road. Presently Jeff Thatcher hove in sight, and Tom’s face lighted;
he gazed a moment, and then turned sorrowfully away. When Jeff arrived, Tom accosted him;
and “led up” warily to opportunities for remark about Becky, but the giddy lad never
could see the bait. Tom watched and watched, hoping whenever a frisking frock came in sight,
and hating the owner of it as soon as he saw she was not the right one. At last frocks
ceased to appear, and he dropped hopelessly into the dumps; he entered the empty schoolhouse
and sat down to suffer. Then one more frock passed in at the gate, and Tom’s heart gave
a great bound. The next instant he was out, and “going on” like an Indian; yelling,
laughing, chasing boys, jumping over the fence at risk of life and limb, throwing handsprings,
standing on his head—doing all the heroic things he could conceive of, and keeping a
furtive eye out, all the while, to see if Becky Thatcher was noticing. But she seemed
to be unconscious of it all; she never looked. Could it be possible that she was not aware
that he was there? He carried his exploits to her immediate vicinity; came war-whooping
around, snatched a boy’s cap, hurled it to the roof of the schoolhouse, broke through
a group of boys, tumbling them in every direction, and fell sprawling, himself, under Becky’s
nose, almost upsetting her—and she turned, with her nose in the air, and he heard her
say: “Mf! some people think they’re mighty smart—always showing off!” Tom’s cheeks burned. He gathered himself up
and sneaked off, crushed and crestfallen. CHAPTER XIII.
TOM’S mind was made up now. He was gloomy and desperate. He was a forsaken, friendless
boy, he said; nobody loved him; when they found out what they had driven him to, perhaps
they would be sorry; he had tried to do right and get along, but they would not let him;
since nothing would do them but to be rid of him, let it be so; and let them blame him
for the consequences—why shouldn’t they? What right had the friendless to complain?
Yes, they had forced him to it at last: he would lead a life of crime. There was no choice. By this time he was far down Meadow Lane,
and the bell for school to “take up” tinkled faintly upon his ear. He sobbed, now, to think
he should never, never hear that old familiar sound any more—it was very hard, but it
was forced on him; since he was driven out into the cold world, he must submit—but
he forgave them. Then the sobs came thick and fast. Just at this point he met his soul’s sworn
comrade, Joe Harper—hard-eyed, and with evidently a great and dismal purpose in his
heart. Plainly here were “two souls with but a single thought.” Tom, wiping his eyes
with his sleeve, began to blubber out something about a resolution to escape from hard usage
and lack of sympathy at home by roaming abroad into the great world never to return; and
ended by hoping that Joe would not forget him. But it transpired that this was a request
which Joe had just been going to make of Tom, and had come to hunt him up for that purpose.
His mother had whipped him for drinking some cream which he had never tasted and knew nothing
about; it was plain that she was tired of him and wished him to go; if she felt that
way, there was nothing for him to do but succumb; he hoped she would be happy, and never regret
having driven her poor boy out into the unfeeling world to suffer and die. As the two boys walked sorrowing along, they
made a new compact to stand by each other and be brothers and never separate till death
relieved them of their troubles. Then they began to lay their plans. Joe was for being
a hermit, and living on crusts in a remote cave, and dying, some time, of cold and want
and grief; but after listening to Tom, he conceded that there were some conspicuous
advantages about a life of crime, and so he consented to be a pirate. Three miles below St. Petersburg, at a point
where the Mississippi River was a trifle over a mile wide, there was a long, narrow, wooded
island, with a shallow bar at the head of it, and this offered well as a rendezvous.
It was not inhabited; it lay far over toward the further shore, abreast a dense and almost
wholly unpeopled forest. So Jackson’s Island was chosen. Who were to be the subjects of
their piracies was a matter that did not occur to them. Then they hunted up Huckleberry Finn,
and he joined them promptly, for all careers were one to him; he was indifferent. They
presently separated to meet at a lonely spot on the river-bank two miles above the village
at the favorite hour—which was midnight. There was a small log raft there which they
meant to capture. Each would bring hooks and lines, and such provision as he could steal
in the most dark and mysterious way—as became outlaws. And before the afternoon was done,
they had all managed to enjoy the sweet glory of spreading the fact that pretty soon the
town would “hear something.” All who got this vague hint were cautioned to “be mum
and 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 brooding night: “Blood!” Then Tom tumbled his ham over the bluff and
let himself down after it, tearing both skin and clothes to some extent in the effort.
There was an easy, comfortable path along the shore under the bluff, but it lacked the
advantages of difficulty and danger so valued by a pirate. The Terror of the Seas had brought a side
of bacon, and had about worn himself out with getting it there. Finn the Red-Handed had
stolen a skillet and a quantity of half-cured leaf tobacco, and had also brought a few corn-cobs
to make pipes with. But none of the pirates smoked or “chewed” but himself. The Black
Avenger of the Spanish Main said it would never do to start without some fire. That
was a wise thought; matches were hardly known there in that day. They saw a fire smouldering
upon a great raft a hundred yards above, and they went stealthily thither and helped themselves
to a chunk. They made an imposing adventure of it, saying, “Hist!” every now and then,
and suddenly halting with finger on lip; moving with hands on imaginary dagger-hilts; and
giving orders in dismal whispers that if “the foe” stirred, to “let him have it to the
hilt,” because “dead men tell no tales.” They knew well enough that the raftsmen were
all down at the village laying in stores or having a spree, but still that was no excuse
for their conducting this thing in an unpiratical way. They shoved off, presently, Tom in command,
Huck at the after oar and Joe at the forward. Tom stood amidships, gloomy-browed, and with
folded arms, and gave his orders in a low, stern whisper: “Luff, and bring her to the wind!” “Aye-aye, sir!” “Steady, steady-y-y-y!” “Steady it is, sir!” “Let her go off a point!” “Point it is, sir!” As the boys steadily and monotonously drove
the raft toward mid-stream it was no doubt understood that these orders were given only
for “style,” and were not intended to mean anything in particular. “What sail’s she carrying?” “Courses, tops’ls, and flying-jib, sir.” “Send the r’yals up! Lay out aloft, there,
half a dozen of ye—foretopmaststuns’l! Lively, now!” “Aye-aye, sir!” “Shake out that maintogalans’l! Sheets and
braces! now my hearties!” “Aye-aye, sir!” “Hellum-a-lee—hard a port! Stand by to
meet her when she comes! Port, port! Now, men! With a will! Stead-y-y-y!” “Steady it is, sir!” The raft drew beyond the middle of the river;
the boys pointed her head right, and then lay on their oars. The river was not high,
so there was not more than a two or three mile current. Hardly a word was said during
the next three-quarters of an hour. Now the raft was passing before the distant town.
Two or three glimmering lights showed where it lay, peacefully sleeping, beyond the vague
vast sweep of star-gemmed water, unconscious of the tremendous event that was happening.
The Black Avenger stood still with folded arms, “looking his last” upon the scene
of his former joys and his later sufferings, and wishing “she” could see him now, abroad
on the wild sea, facing peril and death with dauntless heart, going to his doom with a
grim smile on his lips. It was but a small strain on his imagination to remove Jackson’s
Island beyond 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 became outlaws. They built a fire against the side of a great
log twenty or thirty steps within the sombre depths of the forest, and then cooked some
bacon in the frying-pan for supper, and used up half of the corn “pone” stock they
had brought. It seemed glorious sport to be feasting in that wild, free way in the virgin
forest of an unexplored and uninhabited island, far from the haunts of men, and they said
they never would return to civilization. The climbing fire lit up their faces and threw
its ruddy glare upon the pillared tree-trunks of their forest temple, and upon the varnished
foliage and festooning vines. When the last crisp slice of bacon was gone,
and the last allowance of corn pone devoured, the boys stretched themselves out on the grass,
filled with contentment. They could have found a cooler place, but they would not deny themselves
such a romantic feature as the roasting campfire. “Ain’t it gay?” said Joe. “It’s nuts!” said Tom. “What would the
boys say if they could see us?” “Say? Well, they’d just die to be here—hey,
Hucky!” “I reckon so,” said Huckleberry; “anyways,
I’m suited. I don’t want nothing better’n this. I don’t ever get enough to eat, gen’ally—and
here they can’t come and pick at a feller and bullyrag him so.” “It’s just the life for me,” said Tom.
“You don’t have to get up, mornings, and you don’t have to go to school, and wash,
and all that blame foolishness. You see a pirate don’t have to do anything, Joe, when
he’s ashore, but a hermit he has to be praying considerable, and then he don’t have any fun,
anyway, all by himself that way.” “Oh yes, that’s so,” said Joe, “but
I hadn’t thought much about it, you know. I’d a good deal rather be a pirate, now that
I’ve tried it.” “You see,” said Tom, “people don’t go
much on hermits, nowadays, like they used to in old times, but a pirate’s always respected.
And a hermit’s got to sleep on the hardest place he can find, and put sackcloth and ashes
on his head, and stand out in the rain, and—” “What does he put sackcloth and ashes on
his head for?” inquired Huck. “I dono. But they’ve got to do it. Hermits
always do. You’d have to do that if you was a hermit.” “Dern’d if I would,” said Huck. “Well, what would you do?” “I dono. But I wouldn’t do that.” “Why, Huck, you’d have to. How’d you get
around it?” “Why, I just wouldn’t stand it. I’d run
away.” “Run away! Well, you would be a nice old
slouch of a hermit. You’d be a disgrace.” The Red-Handed made no response, being better
employed. He had finished gouging out a cob, and now he fitted a weed stem to it, loaded
it with tobacco, and was pressing a coal to the charge and blowing a cloud of fragrant
smoke—he was in the full bloom of luxurious contentment. The other pirates envied him
this majestic vice, and secretly resolved to acquire it shortly. Presently Huck said: “What does pirates have to do?” Tom said: “Oh, they have just a bully time—take
ships and burn them, and get the money and bury it in awful places in their island where
there’s ghosts and things to watch it, and kill everybody in the ships—make ’em walk
a plank.” “And they carry the women to the island,”
said Joe; “they don’t kill the women.” “No,” assented Tom, “they don’t kill
the women—they’re too noble. And the women’s always beautiful, too. “And don’t they wear the bulliest clothes!
Oh no! All gold and silver and di’monds,” said Joe, with enthusiasm. “Who?” said Huck. “Why, the pirates.” Huck scanned his own clothing forlornly. “I reckon I ain’t dressed fitten for a pirate,”
said he, with a regretful pathos in his voice; “but I ain’t got none but these.” But the other boys told him the fine clothes
would come fast enough, after they should have begun their adventures. They made him
understand that his poor rags would do to begin with, though it was customary for wealthy
pirates to start with a proper wardrobe. Gradually their talk died out and drowsiness
began to steal upon the eyelids of the little waifs. The pipe dropped from the fingers of
the Red-Handed, and he slept the sleep of the conscience-free and the weary. The Terror
of the Seas and the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main had more difficulty in getting to sleep.
They said their prayers inwardly, and lying down, since there was nobody there with authority
to make them kneel and recite aloud; in truth, they had a mind not to say them at all, but
they were afraid to proceed to such lengths as that, lest they might call down a sudden
and special thunderbolt from heaven. Then at once they reached and hovered upon the
imminent verge of sleep—but an intruder came, now, that would not “down.” It was
conscience. They began to feel a vague fear that they had been doing wrong to run away;
and next they thought of the stolen meat, and then the real torture came. They tried
to argue it away by reminding conscience that they had purloined sweetmeats and apples scores
of times; but conscience was not to be appeased by such thin plausibilities; it seemed to
them, in the end, that there was no getting around the stubborn fact that taking sweetmeats
was only “hooking,” while taking bacon and hams and such valuables was plain simple
stealing—and there was a command against that in the Bible. So they inwardly resolved
that so long as they remained in the business, their piracies should not again be sullied
with the crime of stealing. Then conscience granted a truce, and these curiously inconsistent
pirates fell peacefully to sleep. CHAPTER XIV.
WHEN Tom awoke in the morning, he wondered where he was. He sat up and rubbed his eyes
and looked around. Then he comprehended. It was the cool gray dawn, and there was a delicious
sense of repose and peace in the deep pervading calm and silence of the woods. Not a leaf
stirred; not a sound obtruded upon great Nature’s meditation. Beaded dewdrops stood upon the
leaves and grasses. A white layer of ashes covered the fire, and a thin blue breath of
smoke rose straight into the air. Joe and Huck still slept. Now, far away in the woods a bird called;
another answered; presently the hammering of a woodpecker was heard. Gradually the cool
dim gray of the morning whitened, and as gradually sounds multiplied and life manifested itself.
The marvel of Nature shaking off sleep and going to work unfolded itself to the musing
boy. A little green worm came crawling over a dewy leaf, lifting two-thirds of his body
into the air from time to time and “sniffing around,” then proceeding again—for he
was measuring, Tom said; and when the worm approached him, of its own accord, he sat
as still as a stone, with his hopes rising and falling, by turns, as the creature still
came toward him or seemed inclined to go elsewhere; and when at last it considered a painful moment
with its curved body in the air and then came decisively down upon Tom’s leg and began a
journey over him, his whole heart was glad—for that meant that he was going to have a new
suit of clothes—without the shadow of a doubt a gaudy piratical uniform. Now a procession
of ants appeared, from nowhere in particular, and went about their labors; one struggled
manfully by with a dead spider five times as big as itself in its arms, and lugged it
straight up a tree-trunk. A brown spotted lady-bug climbed the dizzy height of a grass
blade, and Tom bent down close to it and said, “Lady-bug, lady-bug, fly away home, your
house is on fire, your children’s alone,” and she took wing and went off to see about
it—which did not surprise the boy, for he knew of old that this insect was credulous
about conflagrations, and he had practised upon its simplicity more than once. A tumblebug
came next, heaving sturdily at its ball, and Tom touched the creature, to see it shut its
legs against its body and pretend to be dead. The birds were fairly rioting by this time.
A catbird, the Northern mocker, lit in a tree over Tom’s head, and trilled out her imitations
of her neighbors in a rapture of enjoyment; then a shrill jay swept down, a flash of blue
flame, and stopped on a twig almost within the boy’s reach, cocked his head to one side
and eyed the strangers with a consuming curiosity; a gray squirrel and a big fellow of the “fox”
kind came skurrying along, sitting up at intervals to inspect and chatter at the boys, for the
wild things had probably never seen a human being before and scarcely knew whether to
be afraid or not. All Nature was wide awake and stirring, now; long lances of sunlight
pierced down through the dense foliage far and near, and a few butterflies came fluttering
upon the scene. Tom stirred up the other pirates and they
all clattered away with a shout, and in a minute or two were stripped and chasing after
and tumbling over each other in the shallow limpid water of the white sandbar. They felt
no longing for the little village sleeping in the distance beyond the majestic waste
of water. A vagrant current or a slight rise in the river had carried off their raft, but
this only gratified them, since its going was something like burning the bridge between
them and civilization. They came back to camp wonderfully refreshed,
glad-hearted, and ravenous; and they soon had the camp-fire blazing up again. Huck found
a spring of clear cold water close by, and the boys made cups of broad oak or hickory
leaves, and felt that water, sweetened with such a wildwood charm as that, would be a
good enough substitute for coffee. While Joe was slicing bacon for breakfast, Tom and Huck
asked him to hold on a minute; they stepped to a promising nook in the river-bank and
threw in their lines; almost immediately they had reward. Joe had not had time to get impatient
before they were back again with some handsome bass, a couple of sun-perch and a small catfish—provisions
enough for quite a family. They fried the fish with the bacon, and were astonished;
for no fish had ever seemed so delicious before. They did not know that the quicker a fresh-water
fish is on the fire after he is caught the better he is; and they reflected little upon
what a sauce open-air sleeping, open-air exercise, bathing, and a large ingredient of hunger
make, too. They lay around in the shade, after breakfast,
while Huck had a smoke, and then went off through the woods on an exploring expedition.
They tramped gayly along, over decaying logs, through tangled underbrush, among solemn monarchs
of the forest, hung from their crowns to the ground with a drooping regalia of grape-vines.
Now and then they came upon snug nooks carpeted with grass and jeweled with flowers.
They found plenty of things to be delighted with, but nothing to be astonished at. They
discovered that the island was about three miles long and a quarter of a mile wide, and
that the shore it lay closest to was only separated from it by a narrow channel hardly
two hundred yards wide. They took a swim about every hour, so it was close upon the middle
of the afternoon when they got back to camp. They were too hungry to stop to fish, but
they fared sumptuously upon cold ham, and then threw themselves down in the shade to
talk. But the talk soon began to drag, and then died. The stillness, the solemnity that
brooded in the woods, and the sense of loneliness, began to tell upon the spirits of the boys.
They fell to thinking. A sort of undefined longing crept upon them. This took dim shape,
presently—it was budding homesickness. Even Finn the Red-Handed was dreaming of his doorsteps
and empty hogsheads. But they were all ashamed of their weakness, and none was brave enough
to speak his thought. For some time, now, the boys had been dully
conscious of a peculiar sound in the distance, just as one sometimes is of the ticking of
a clock which he takes no distinct note of. But now this mysterious sound became more
pronounced, and forced a recognition. The boys started, glanced at each other, and then
each assumed a listening attitude. There was a long silence, profound and unbroken; then
a deep, sullen boom came floating down out of the distance. “What is it!” exclaimed Joe, under his
breath. “I wonder,” said Tom in a whisper. “’Tain’t thunder,” said Huckleberry, in
an awed tone, “becuz thunder—” “Hark!” said Tom. “Listen—don’t talk.” They waited a time that seemed an age, and
then the same muffled boom troubled the solemn hush. “Let’s go and see.” They sprang to their feet and hurried to the
shore toward the town. They parted the bushes on the bank and peered out over the water.
The little steam 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 do that.” “Oh, it ain’t the bread, so much,” said
Tom; “I reckon it’s mostly what they say over it before they start it out.” “But they don’t say anything over it,”
said Huck. “I’ve seen ’em and they don’t.” “Well, that’s funny,” said Tom. “But
maybe they say it to themselves. Of course they do. Anybody might know that.” The other boys agreed that there was reason
in what Tom said, because an ignorant lump of bread, uninstructed by an incantation,
could not be expected to act very intelligently when set upon an errand of such gravity. “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.
CHAPTER XV. 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, warily. “What makes the candle blow so?” said
Aunt Polly. Tom hurried up. “Why, that door’s open, I believe. Why, of course it is. No
end of strange things now. Go ‘long and shut it, Sid.” Tom disappeared under the bed just in time.
He lay and “breathed” himself for a time, and then crept to where he could almost touch
his aunt’s foot. “But as I was saying,” said Aunt Polly,
“he warn’t bad, so to say—only mischeevous. Only just giddy, and harum-scarum, you know.
He warn’t any more responsible than a colt. He never meant any harm, and he was the best-hearted
boy that ever was”—and she began to cry. “It was just so with my Joe—always full
of his devilment, and up to every kind of mischief, but he was just as unselfish and
kind as he could be—and laws bless me, to think I went and whipped him for taking that
cream, never once recollecting that I throwed it out myself because it was sour, and I never
to see him again in this world, never, never, never, poor abused boy!” And Mrs. Harper
sobbed as if her heart would break. “I hope Tom’s better off where he is,”
said Sid, “but if he’d been better in some ways—” “Sid!” Tom felt the glare of the old lady’s
eye, though he could not see it. “Not a word against my Tom, now that he’s gone! God’ll
take care of him—never you trouble yourself, sir! Oh, Mrs. Harper, I don’t know how to
give him up! I don’t know how to give him up! He was such a comfort to me, although
he tormented my old heart out of me, ‘most.” “The Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken
away—Blessed be the name of the Lord! But it’s so hard—Oh, it’s so hard! Only last
Saturday my Joe busted a firecracker right under my nose and I knocked him sprawling.
Little did I know then, how soon—Oh, if it was to do over again I’d hug him and bless
him for it.” “Yes, yes, yes, I know just how you feel,
Mrs. Harper, I know just exactly how you feel. No longer ago than yesterday noon, my Tom
took and filled the cat full of Pain-killer, and I did think the cretur would tear the
house down. And God forgive me, I cracked Tom’s head with my thimble, poor boy, poor
dead boy. But he’s out of all his troubles now. And the last words I ever heard him say
was to reproach—” But this memory was too much for the old lady,
and she broke entirely down. Tom was snuffling, now, himself—and more in pity of himself
than anybody else. He could hear Mary crying, and putting in a kindly word for him from
time to time. He began to have a nobler opinion of himself than ever before. Still, he was
sufficiently touched by his aunt’s grief to long to rush out from under the bed and overwhelm
her with joy—and the theatrical gorgeousness of the thing appealed strongly to his nature,
too, but he resisted and lay still. He went on listening, and gathered by odds
and ends that it was conjectured at first that the boys had got drowned while taking
a swim; then the small raft had been missed; next, certain boys said the missing lads had
promised that the village should “hear something” soon; the wise-heads had “put this and that
together” and decided that the lads had gone off on that raft and would turn up at
the next town below, presently; but toward noon the raft had been found, lodged against
the Missouri shore some five or six miles below the village—and then hope perished;
they must be drowned, else hunger would have driven them home by nightfall if not sooner.
It was believed that the search for the bodies had been a fruitless effort merely because
the drowning must have occurred in mid-channel, since the boys, being good swimmers, would
otherwise have escaped to shore. This was Wednesday night. If the bodies continued missing
until Sunday, all hope would be given over, and the funerals would be preached on that
morning. Tom 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.
CHAPTER XVI. 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, yelling: “Wait! Wait! I want to tell you something!” They presently stopped and turned around.
When he got to where they were, he began unfolding his secret, and they listened moodily till
at last they saw the “point” he was driving at, and then they set up a 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 ago.” “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 sick.” “Neither do I,” said Tom. “I could smoke
it all day. But I bet you Jeff Thatcher couldn’t.” “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 it once.” “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 out in. 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 satisfactory
one. 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 present.
CHAPTER XVII. 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 up. 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 remembrance: “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 Life.” 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 once more. 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.
CHAPTER XVIII. 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 invalided benches. 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 little.” “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 said: “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 there, somewheres!” “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 just audibly. “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 enough.” 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 circus. 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 the picnic.” “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. “Yes.” “And me?” said Sally Rogers. “Yes.” “And me, too?” said Susy Harper. “And
Joe?” “Yes.” 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 she’d do.
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 said: “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.
CHAPTER XIX. 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 market: “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
night.” “What did you come for, then?” “It was to tell you not to be uneasy about
us, because we hadn’t got drownded.” “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 worse.” “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 kept
mum.” “What bark?” “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!”
CHAPTER XX. 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 to himself: “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 out!” 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: “Amy Lawrence?” A shake of the head. “Gracie Miller?” 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 situation. “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!”
CHAPTER XXI. 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 non-participating scholars.
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 retired. 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: “A VISION “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.
CHAPTER XXII. 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 abandoned it. 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.
CHAPTER XXIII. 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?” “’Bout what?” “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.” “I’m agreed.” 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 possession. “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?” “Yes, sir.” “Speak up—just a trifle louder. How near
were you?” “Near as I am to you.” “Were you hidden, or not?” “I was hid.” “Where?” “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 you.” 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!
CHAPTER XXIV. 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.
CHAPTER XXV. 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 sup’rintendents?” “I don’t know. If ’twas mine I wouldn’t
hide it; I’d spend it and have a good time.” “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.” “Hyro—which?” “Hy’roglyphics—pictures and things, you
know, that don’t seem to mean anything.” “Have you got one of them papers, Tom?” “No.” “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 that?” 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.” “No?” “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?” “I’m agreed.” 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 share?” “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.” “Married!” “That’s it.” “Tom, you—why, you ain’t in your right
mind.” “Wait—you’ll see.” “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 well.” “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 than ever.” “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 place.” 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.” “What’s that?”. “Why, we only guessed at the time. Like
enough it was too late or too early.” 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.” “Lordy!” “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 ghosts.” “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
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 Friday.” “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 Friday ain’t.” “Any fool knows that. I don’t reckon you
was the first that found it out, Huck.” “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?” “No.” “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 perfectly square.” “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.” “I’m agreed.” 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 Hill. 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.” “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 it.” “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 year. 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 said: “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!” Huck said: “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 happened.” “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
here!” 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 minute ago.” 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 blissful silence. “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
den.” “Why, of course! Might have thought of that
before. You mean Number One?” “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 upstairs?” 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 Tom. “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.
CHAPTER XXVII. 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 dream. “Hello, Huck!” “Hello, yourself.” 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, anyway.” “Well, so’d I; but I’d like to see him,
anyway—and track him out—to his Number Two.” “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 quick.” “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 after.” “I reckon it is, Tom. Now what you going
to do?” “Lemme think.” 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 try.” “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.” CHAPTER XXVIII.
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 distant thunder. 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!” “No!” “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 started!” “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?” “How?” “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 drunk.” “It is, that! You try it!” Huck shuddered. “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 you?” “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.”
CHAPTER XXIX. 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 “known”
ground. 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 to find. 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 next—which
was— “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 hurry.” 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.
CHAPTER XXX. 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 window: “Who’s there!” 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 anybody it was me
that blowed on them! Oh, please!” “All right if you say it, Huck, but you
ought to have the credit of what you did.” “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
it, sure. The old man promised secrecy once more, and
said: “How did you come to follow these fellows,
lad? Were they looking suspicious?” 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 betray you.” 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— “Of what?” 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 it—feebly: “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 interruption. 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 widow said: “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 to death.” “Your Becky?” “Yes,” with a startled look—“didn’t
she stay with you last night?” “Why, no.” 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?” “No’m.” “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 hands. 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 the cave. 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 hands.” 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 cry. 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.”
CHAPTER XXXI. 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 the others.” “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 them here.” 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 through there.” “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 away!” 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 back! “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, she said. 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 followed it. “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 silence: “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 said: “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: “Tom!” “Well, Becky?” “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 got home.” 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 reigned! 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 more. 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 desire. 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 nearer. “It’s them!” said Tom; “they’re coming!
Come along, Becky—we’re all right now!” 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.
CHAPTER XXXII. 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 huzzah!
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, perhaps. 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 more.” “Why?” “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!” CHAPTER XXXIII.
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 Judge Thatcher. 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 “news.”
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 hanging. 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 get lost.” “Huck, we can do that without the least
little bit of trouble in the world.” “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, by jings.” “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.” They landed. “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 ground.” 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 the
clay.” “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 exclaimed: “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 rock. “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.” “What 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 accused: “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 enough.” Then she left.
CHAPTER XXXIV. 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 you.” Sid appeared. “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.” “Well, what?” “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 pretty flat.” 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. CHAPTER XXXV.
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 both. 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 said: “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 robber.” “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 said: “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 tonight, maybe.” “Have the which?” “Have the initiation.” “What’s that?” “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 blood.” “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.” CONCLUSION
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

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