Part 1 - The Adventures of Tom Sawyer Audiobook by Mark Twain (Chs 01-10)


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Transcript:
THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER BY MARK TWAIN (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
P R E F A C E 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. T O M S A W Y E R
>
Chapter I "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, to-morrow, to punish him.
It's mighty hard to make him work Saturdays, when all the boys is having
holiday, but he hates work more than he hates anything else, and I've GOT to do
some of my duty by him, or I'll be the ruination of the child."
Tom did play hookey, and he had a very good time.
He got back home barely in season to help Jim, the small colored boy, saw next-day's
wood and split the kindlings before supper--at least he was there in time to
tell his adventures to Jim while Jim did three-fourths of the work.
Tom's younger brother (or rather half- brother) Sid was already through with his
part of the work (picking up chips), for he was a quiet boy, and had no
adventurous, troublesome ways.
While Tom was eating his supper, and stealing sugar as opportunity offered,
Aunt Polly asked him questions that were full of guile, and very deep--for she
wanted to trap him into damaging revealments.
Like many other simple-hearted souls, it was her pet vanity to believe she was
endowed with a talent for dark and mysterious diplomacy, and she loved to
contemplate her most transparent devices as marvels of low cunning.
Said she: "Tom, it was middling warm in school,
warn't it?"
"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 geeminy she'd stick to one or t'other--I can't keep the run of 'em.
But I bet you I'll lam Sid for that.
I'll learn him!" He was not the Model Boy of the village.
He knew the model boy very well though-- and loathed him.
Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles.
Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's
are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore them down and drove
them out of his mind for the time--just as
men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises.
This new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired from
a negro, and he was suffering to practise it undisturbed.
It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by
touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of
the music--the reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy.
Diligence and attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street
with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude.
He felt much as an astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet--no doubt, as
far as strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy,
not the astronomer.
The summer evenings were long. It was not dark, yet.
Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him--a boy a shade
larger than himself.
A new-comer of any age or either sex was an impressive curiosity in the poor little
shabby village of St. Petersburg. This boy was well dressed, too--well
dressed on a week-day.
This was simply astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-
buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his pantaloons.
He had shoes on--and it was only Friday.
He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon.
He had a citified air about him that ate into Tom's vitals.
The more Tom stared at the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose
at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to
grow.
Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the other moved--but only
sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.
Finally Tom said:
"I can lick you!" "I'd like to see you try it."
"Well, I can do it." "No you can't, either."
"Yes I can."
"No you can't." "I can."
"You can't." "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, meantime, describing stately circles--for it was representing a
forty-foot wheel.
"Let her go back on the labboard! Ting-a-lingling!
Chow-ch-chow-chow!" The left hand began to describe circles.
"Stop the stabboard!
Ting-a-ling-ling! Stop the labboard!
Come ahead on the stabboard! Stop her!
Let your outside turn over slow!
Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow-ow-ow!
Get out that head-line! LIVELY now!
Come--out with your spring-line--what're you about there!
Take a turn round that stump with the bight of it!
Stand by that stage, now--let her go!
Done with the engines, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling!
SH'T! S'H'T!
SH'T!"
(trying the gauge-cocks). Tom went on whitewashing--paid no
attention to the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said: "Hi-YI!
YOU'RE up a stump, ain't you!"
No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye
of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed the
result, as before.
Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom's mouth watered for the apple, but he
stuck to his work. Ben said:
"Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?"
Tom wheeled suddenly and said: "Why, it's you, Ben!
I warn't noticing." "Say--I'm going in a-swimming, I am.
Don't you wish you could?
But of course you'd druther WORK--wouldn't you?
Course you would!" Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:
"What do you call work?"
"Why, ain't THAT work?" Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered
carelessly: "Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain't.
All I know, is, it suits Tom 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 doorknob, a dog-collar--but no
dog--the handle of a knife, four pieces of
orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window sash.
He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while--plenty of company --and the fence
had three coats of whitewash on it!
If he hadn't run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.
Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow world, after all.
He had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it--namely, that
in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only necessary to make the
thing difficult to attain.
If he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book,
he would now have comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to
do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do.
And this would help him to understand why constructing artificial flowers or
performing on a tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is
only amusement.
There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty
or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs them
considerable money; but if they were
offered wages for the service, that would turn it into work and then they would
resign.
The boy mused awhile over the substantial change which had taken place in his
worldly circumstances, and then wended toward headquarters to 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 whitewashed, and not only whitewashed but
elaborately coated and recoated, and even a streak added to the ground, her
astonishment was almost unspeakable.
She said: "Well, I never!
There's no getting round it, you can work when you're a mind to, Tom."
And then she diluted the compliment by adding, "But it's powerful seldom you're a
mind to, I'm bound to say.
Well, go 'long and play; but mind you get back some time in a week, or I'll tan
you."
She was so overcome by the splendor of his achievement that she took him into the
closet and selected a choice apple and delivered it to him, along with an
improving lecture upon the added value and
flavor a treat took to itself when it came without sin through virtuous effort.
And while she closed with a happy Scriptural flourish, he "hooked" a
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 pantalettes.
The fresh-crowned hero fell without firing a shot.
A certain Amy Lawrence vanished out of his heart and left not even a memory of
herself behind.
He had thought he loved her to distraction; he had regarded his passion
as adoration; and behold it was only a poor little evanescent partiality.
He had been months winning her; she had confessed hardly a week ago; he had been
the happiest and the proudest boy in the world only seven short days, and here in
one instant of time she had gone out of
his heart like a casual stranger whose visit is 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 new-comer his soul was all ablaze with bliss in a
moment.
The next moment he was "showing off" with all his might --cuffing boys, pulling
hair, making faces--in a word, using every art that seemed likely to fascinate a girl
and win her applause.
His exaltation had but one alloy--the memory of his humiliation in this angel's
garden--and that record in sand was fast washing out, under the waves of happiness
that were sweeping over it now.
The visitors were given the highest seat of honor, and as soon as Mr. Walters'
speech was finished, he introduced them to the school.
The middle-aged man turned out to be a prodigious personage--no less a one than
the county judge--altogether the most august creation these children had ever
looked upon--and they wondered what kind
of material he was made of--and they half wanted to hear him roar, and were half
afraid he might, too.
He was from Constantinople, twelve miles away--so he had travelled, and seen the
world--these very eyes had looked upon the county court-house--which was said to have
a tin roof.
The awe which these reflections inspired was attested by the impressive silence and
the ranks of staring eyes. This was the great Judge Thatcher, brother
of their own lawyer.
Jeff Thatcher immediately went forward, to be familiar with the great man and be
envied by the school. It would have been music to his soul to
hear the whisperings:
"Look at him, Jim! He's a going up there.
Say--look! he's a going to shake hands with him--he
IS shaking hands with him!
By jings, don't you wish you was Jeff?"
Mr. Walters fell to "showing off," with all sorts of official bustlings and
activities, giving orders, delivering judgments, discharging directions here,
there, everywhere that he could find a target.
The librarian "showed off"--running hither and thither with his arms full of books
and making a deal of the splutter and fuss that insect authority delights in.
The young lady teachers "showed off" -- bending sweetly over pupils that were
lately being boxed, lifting pretty warning fingers at bad little boys and patting
good ones lovingly.
The young gentlemen teachers "showed off" with small scoldings and other little
displays of authority and fine attention to discipline--and most of the teachers,
of both sexes, found business up at the
library, by the pulpit; and it was business that frequently had to be done
over again two or three times (with much seeming vexation).
The little girls "showed off" in various ways, and the little boys "showed off"
with such diligence that the air was thick with paper wads and the murmur of
scufflings.
And above it all the great man sat and beamed a majestic judicial smile upon all
the house, and warmed himself in the sun of his own grandeur--for he was "showing
off," too.
There was only one thing wanting to make Mr. Walters' ecstasy complete, and that
was a chance to deliver a Bible-prize and exhibit a prodigy.
Several pupils had a few yellow tickets, but none had enough --he had been around
among the star pupils inquiring.
He would have given worlds, now, to have that German lad back again with a sound
mind.
And now at this moment, when hope was dead, Tom Sawyer came forward with nine
yellow tickets, nine red tickets, and ten blue ones, and demanded a Bible.
This was a thunderbolt out of a clear sky.
Walters was not expecting an application from this source for the next ten years.
But there was no getting around it--here were the certified checks, and they were
good for their face.
Tom was therefore elevated to a place with the Judge and the other elect, and the
great news was announced from headquarters.
It was the most stunning surprise of the decade, and so profound was the sensation
that it lifted the new hero up to the judicial one's altitude, and the school
had two marvels to gaze upon in place of one.
The boys were all eaten up with envy--but those that suffered the bitterest pangs
were those who perceived too late that they themselves had contributed to this
hated splendor by trading tickets to Tom
for the wealth he had amassed in selling whitewashing privileges.
These despised themselves, as being the dupes of a wily fraud, a guileful snake in
the grass.
The prize was delivered to Tom with as much effusion as the superintendent could
pump up under the circumstances; but it lacked somewhat of the true gush, for the
poor fellow's instinct taught him that
there was a mystery here that could not well bear the light, perhaps; it was
simply preposterous that this boy had warehoused two thousand sheaves of
Scriptural wisdom on his premises--a dozen
would strain his capacity, without a doubt.
Amy Lawrence was proud and glad, and she tried to make Tom see it in her face--but
he wouldn't look.
She wondered; then she was just a grain troubled; next a dim suspicion came and
went--came again; she watched; a furtive glance told her worlds--and then her heart
broke, and she was jealous, and angry, and the tears came and she hated everybody.
Tom most of all (she thought).
Tom was introduced to the Judge; but his tongue was tied, his breath would hardly
come, his heart quaked--partly because of the awful greatness of the man, but mainly
because he was her parent.
He would have liked to fall down and worship him, if it were in the dark.
The Judge put his hand on Tom's head and called him a fine little man, and asked
him what his name was.
The boy stammered, gasped, and got it out: "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' BLOODY seas?
He was regarded as a wonderful reader.
At church "sociables" he was always called upon to read poetry; and when he was
through, the ladies would lift up their hands and let them fall helplessly in
their laps, and "wall" their eyes, and
shake their heads, as much as to say, "Words cannot express it; it is too
beautiful, TOO beautiful for this mortal 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 handkerchiefs, and Tom was entirely happy.
The dog looked foolish, and probably felt so; but there was resentment in his heart,
too, and a craving for revenge.
So he went to the beetle and began a wary attack on it again; jumping at it from
every point of a circle, lighting with his fore-paws within an inch of the creature,
making even closer snatches at it with his
teeth, and jerking his head till his ears flapped again.
But he grew tired once more, after a while; tried to amuse himself with a fly
but found no relief; followed an ant around, with his nose close to the floor,
and quickly wearied of that; yawned,
sighed, forgot the beetle entirely, and sat down on it.
Then there was a wild yelp of agony and the poodle went sailing up the aisle; the
yelps continued, and so did the dog; he crossed the house in front of the altar;
he flew down the other aisle; he crossed
before the doors; he clamored up the home- stretch; his anguish grew with his
progress, till presently he was but a woolly comet moving in its orbit with the
gleam and the speed of light.
At last the frantic sufferer sheered from its course, and sprang into its master's
lap; he flung it out of the window, and the voice of distress quickly thinned away
and died in the distance.
By this time the whole church was red- faced and suffocating with suppressed
laughter, and the sermon had come to a dead standstill.
The discourse was resumed presently, but it went lame and halting, all possibility
of impressiveness being at an end; for even the gravest sentiments were
constantly being received with a smothered
burst of unholy mirth, under cover of some remote pew-back, as if the poor parson had
said a rarely facetious thing.
It was a genuine relief to the whole congregation when the ordeal was over and
the benediction 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 down-stairs 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 up-stairs, nevertheless, with Sid and Mary at her heels.
And her face grew white, too, and her lip trembled.
When she reached the bedside she gasped out:
"You, Tom!
Tom, what's the matter with you?" "Oh, auntie, I'm--"
"What's the matter with you--what is the matter with you, child?"
"Oh, auntie, my sore toe's mortified!"
The old lady sank down into a chair and laughed a little, then cried a little,
then did both together. This restored her and she said:
"Tom, what a turn you did give me.
Now you shut up that nonsense and climb out of this."
The groans ceased and the pain vanished from the toe.
The boy felt a little foolish, and he said:
"Aunt Polly, it SEEMED mortified, and it hurt so I never minded my tooth at all."
"Your tooth, indeed!
What's the matter with your tooth?" "One of them's loose, and it aches
perfectly awful." "There, there, now, don't begin that
groaning again.
Open your mouth. Well--your tooth IS loose, but you're not
going to die about that. Mary, get me a silk thread, and a chunk of
fire out of the kitchen."
Tom said: "Oh, please, auntie, don't pull it out.
It don't hurt any more. I wish I may never stir if it does.
Please don't, auntie.
I don't want to stay home from school." "Oh, you don't, don't you?
So all this row was because you thought you'd get to stay home from school and go
a-fishing?
Tom, Tom, I love you so, and you seem to try every way you can to break my old
heart with your outrageousness." By this time the dental instruments were
ready.
The old lady made one end of the silk thread fast to Tom's tooth with a loop and
tied the other to the bedpost.
Then she seized the chunk of fire and suddenly thrust it almost into the boy's
face. The tooth hung dangling by the bedpost,
now.
But all trials bring their compensations.
As Tom wended to school after breakfast, he was the envy of every boy he met
because the gap in his upper row of teeth enabled him to expectorate in a new and
admirable way.
He gathered quite a following of lads interested in the exhibition; and one that
had cut his finger and had been a centre of fascination and homage up to this time,
now found himself suddenly without an adherent, and shorn of his glory.
His heart was heavy, and he said with a disdain which he did not feel that it
wasn't anything to spit like Tom Sawyer; but another boy said, "Sour grapes!"
and he wandered away a dismantled hero.
Shortly Tom came upon the juvenile pariah of the village, Huckleberry Finn, son of
the town drunkard.
Huckleberry was cordially hated and dreaded by all the mothers of the town,
because he was idle and lawless and vulgar and bad--and because all their children
admired him so, and delighted in his
forbidden society, and wished they dared to be like him.
Tom was like the rest of the respectable boys, in that he envied Huckleberry his
gaudy outcast condition, and was under strict orders not to play with him.
So he played with him every time he got a chance.
Huckleberry was always dressed in the cast-off clothes of full-grown men, and
they were in perennial bloom and fluttering with rags.
His hat was a vast ruin with a wide crescent lopped out of its brim; his coat,
when he wore one, hung nearly to his heels and had the rearward buttons far down the
back; but one suspender supported his
trousers; the seat of the trousers bagged low and contained nothing, the fringed
legs dragged in the dirt when not rolled up.
Huckleberry came and went, at his own free will.
He slept on doorsteps in fine weather and in empty hogsheads in wet; he did not have
to go to school or to church, or call any being master or obey anybody; he could go
fishing or swimming when and where he
chose, and stay as long as it suited him; nobody forbade him to fight; he could sit
up as late as he pleased; he was always the first boy that went barefoot in the
spring and the last to resume leather in
the fall; he never had to wash, nor put on clean clothes; he could swear wonderfully.
In a word, everything that goes to make life precious that boy had.
So thought every harassed, hampered, respectable boy in St. Petersburg.
Tom hailed the romantic outcast: "Hello, Huckleberry!"
"Hello yourself, and see how you like it."
"What's that you got?" "Dead cat."
"Lemme see him, Huck. My, he's pretty stiff.
Where'd you get him?"
"Bought him off'n a boy." "What did you give?"
"I give a blue ticket and a bladder that I got at the slaughter-house."
"Where'd you get the blue ticket?"
"Bought it off'n Ben Rogers two weeks ago for a hoop-stick."
"Say--what is dead cats good for, Huck?" "Good for?
Cure warts with."
"No! Is that so?
I know something that's better." "I bet you don't.
What is it?"
"Why, spunk-water." "Spunk-water!
I wouldn't give a dern for spunk-water." "You wouldn't, wouldn't you?
D'you ever try it?"
"No, I hain't. But Bob Tanner did."
"Who told you so!"
"Why, he told Jeff Thatcher, and Jeff told Johnny Baker, and Johnny told Jim Hollis,
and Jim told Ben Rogers, and Ben told a nigger, and the nigger told me.
There now!"
"Well, what of it? They'll all lie.
Leastways all but the nigger. I don't know HIM.
But I never see a nigger that WOULDN'T lie.
Shucks! Now you tell me how Bob Tanner done it,
Huck."
"Why, he took and dipped his hand in a rotten stump where the rain-water was."
"In the daytime?" "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 graveyard 'long about midnight when
somebody that was wicked has been buried; and when it's midnight a devil will come,
or maybe two or three, but you can't see
'em, you can only hear something like the wind, or maybe hear 'em talk; and when
they're taking that feller away, you heave your cat after 'em and say, 'Devil follow
corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow
cat, I'm done with ye!' That'll fetch ANY wart."
"Sounds right. D'you ever try it, Huck?"
"No, but old Mother Hopkins told me."
"Well, I reckon it's so, then. Becuz they say she's a witch."
"Say! Why, Tom, I KNOW she is.
She witched pap.
Pap says so his own self. He come along one day, and he see she was
a-witching him, so he took up a rock, and if she hadn't dodged, he'd a got her.
Well, that very night he rolled off'n a shed wher' he was a layin drunk, and broke
his arm." "Why, that's awful.
How did he know she was a-witching him?"
"Lord, pap can tell, easy. Pap says when they keep looking at you
right stiddy, they're a-witching you. Specially if they mumble.
Becuz when they mumble they're saying the Lord's Prayer backards."
"Say, Hucky, when you going to try the cat?"
"To-night.
I reckon they'll come after old Hoss Williams to-night."
"But they buried him Saturday. Didn't they get him Saturday night?"
"Why, how you talk!
How could their charms work till midnight?--and THEN it's Sunday.
Devils don't slosh around much of a Sunday, I don't 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 schoolhouse, he strode in briskly, with
the manner of one who had come with all honest speed.
He hung his hat on a peg and flung himself into his seat with business-like alacrity.
The master, throned on high in his great splint-bottom arm-chair, was dozing,
lulled by the drowsy hum of study.
The interruption roused him. "Thomas Sawyer!"
Tom knew that when his name was pronounced in full, it meant trouble.
"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 schoolhouse.
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 noncommittal attempt to see, but the boy did not betray
that he was aware of it. At last she gave in and hesitatingly
whispered:
"Let me see it." Tom partly uncovered a dismal caricature
of a house with two gable ends to it and a corkscrew of smoke issuing from the
chimney.
Then the girl's interest began to fasten itself upon the work and she forgot
everything else. When it was finished, she gazed a moment,
then 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 schoolhouse was hardly distinguishable away off in the
valley behind him.
He entered a dense wood, picked his pathless way to the centre of it, and sat
down on a mossy spot under a spreading oak.
There was not even a zephyr stirring; the dead noonday heat had even stilled the
songs of the birds; nature lay in a trance that was broken by no sound but the
occasional far-off hammering of a
woodpecker, and this seemed to render the pervading silence and sense of loneliness
the more profound.
The boy's soul was steeped in melancholy; his feelings were in happy accord with his
surroundings. He sat long with his elbows on his knees
and his chin in his hands, meditating.
It seemed to him that life was but a trouble, at best, and he more than half
envied Jimmy Hodges, so lately released; it must be very peaceful, he thought, to
lie and slumber and dream forever and
ever, with the wind whispering through the trees and caressing the grass and the
flowers over the grave, and nothing to bother and grieve about, ever any more.
If he only had a clean Sunday-school record he could be willing to go, and be
done with it all. Now as to this girl.
What had he done?
Nothing. He had meant the best in the world, and
been treated like a dog--like a very dog. She would be sorry some day--maybe when it
was too late.
Ah, if he could only die TEMPORARILY! But the elastic heart of youth cannot be
compressed into one constrained shape long at a time.
Tom presently began to drift insensibly back into the concerns of this life again.
What if he turned his back, now, and disappeared mysteriously?
What if he went away--ever so far away, into unknown countries beyond the seas--
and never came back any more! How would she feel then!
The idea of being a clown recurred to him now, only to fill him with disgust.
For frivolity and jokes and spotted tights were an offense, when they intruded
themselves upon a spirit that was exalted into the vague august realm of the
romantic.
No, he would be a soldier, and return after long years, all war-worn and
illustrious.
No--better still, he would join the Indians, and hunt buffaloes and go on the
warpath in the mountain ranges and the trackless great plains of the Far West,
and away in the future come back a great
chief, bristling with feathers, hideous with paint, and prance into Sunday-school,
some drowsy summer morning, with a bloodcurdling war-whoop, and sear the
eyeballs of all his companions with unappeasable envy.
But no, there was something gaudier even than this.
He would be a pirate!
That was it! NOW his future lay plain before him, and
glowing with unimaginable splendor. How his name would fill the world, and
make people shudder!
How gloriously he would go plowing the dancing seas, in his long, low, black-
hulled racer, the Spirit of the Storm, with his grisly flag flying at the fore!
And at the zenith of his fame, how he would suddenly appear at the old village
and stalk into church, brown and weather- beaten, in his black velvet doublet and
trunks, his great jack-boots, his crimson
sash, his belt bristling with horse- pistols, his crime-rusted cutlass at his
side, his slouch hat with waving plumes, his black flag unfurled, with the skull
and crossbones on it, and hear with
swelling ecstasy the whisperings, "It's Tom Sawyer the Pirate!--the Black Avenger
of the Spanish Main!" Yes, it was settled; his career was
determined.
He would run away from home and enter upon it.
He would start the very next morning. Therefore he must now begin to get ready.
He would collect his resources together.
He went to a rotten log near at hand and began to dig under one end of it with his
Barlow knife. He soon struck wood that sounded hollow.
He put his hand there and uttered this incantation impressively:
"What hasn't come here, come! What's here, stay here!"
Then he scraped away the dirt, and exposed a pine shingle.
He took it up and disclosed a shapely little treasure-house whose bottom and
sides were of shingles.
In it lay a marble. Tom's astonishment was boundless!
He scratched his head with a perplexed air, and said:
"Well, that beats anything!"
Then he tossed the marble away pettishly, and stood cogitating.
The truth was, that a superstition of his had failed, here, which he and all his
comrades had always looked upon as infallible.
If you buried a marble with certain necessary incantations, and left it alone
a fortnight, and then opened the place with the incantation he had just used, you
would find that all the marbles you had
ever lost had gathered themselves together there, meantime, no matter how widely they
had been separated. But now, this thing had actually and
unquestionably failed.
Tom's whole structure of faith was shaken to its foundations.
He had many a time heard of this thing succeeding but never of its failing
before.
It did not occur to him that he had tried it several times before, himself, but
could never find the hiding-places afterward.
He puzzled over the matter some time, and finally decided that some witch had
interfered and broken the charm.
He thought he would satisfy himself on that point; so he searched around till he
found a small sandy spot with a little funnel-shaped depression in it.
He laid himself down and put his mouth close to this depression and 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 deathwatch in the wall at the bed's head made Tom
shudder--it meant that somebody's days were numbered.
Then the howl of a far-off dog rose on the night air, and was answered by a fainter
howl from a remoter distance. Tom was in an agony.
At last he was satisfied that time had ceased and eternity begun; he began to
doze, in spite of himself; the clock chimed eleven, but he did not hear it.
And then there came, mingling with his half-formed dreams, a most melancholy
caterwauling. The raising of a neighboring window
disturbed him.
A cry of "Scat! you devil!"
and the crash of an empty bottle against the back of his aunt's woodshed brought
him wide awake, and a single minute later he was dressed and out of the window and
creeping along the roof of the "ell" on all fours.
He "meow'd" with caution once or twice, as he went; then jumped to the roof of the
woodshed and thence to the ground.
Huckleberry Finn was there, with his dead cat.
The boys moved off and disappeared in the gloom.
At the end of half an hour they were wading through the tall grass of the
graveyard. It was a graveyard of the old-fashioned
Western kind.
It was on a hill, about a mile and a half from the village.
It had a crazy board fence around it, which leaned inward in places, and outward
the rest of the time, but stood upright nowhere.
Grass and weeds grew rank over the whole cemetery.
All the old graves were sunken in, there was not a tombstone on the place; round-
topped, worm-eaten boards staggered over the graves, leaning for support and
finding none.
"Sacred to the memory of" So-and-So had been painted on them once, but it could no
longer have been read, on the most of them, now, even if there had been light.
A faint wind moaned through the trees, and Tom feared it might be the spirits of the
dead, complaining at being disturbed.
The boys talked little, and only under their breath, for the time and the place
and the pervading solemnity and silence oppressed their spirits.
They found the sharp new heap they were seeking, and ensconced themselves within
the protection of three great elms that grew in a bunch within a few feet of the
grave.
Then they waited in silence for what seemed a long time.
The hooting of a distant owl was all the sound that troubled the dead stillness.
Tom's reflections grew oppressive.
He must force some talk. So he said in a whisper:
"Hucky, do you believe the dead people like it for us to be here?"
Huckleberry whispered:
"I wisht I knowed. It's awful solemn like, AIN'T it?"
"I bet it is." There was a considerable pause, while the
boys canvassed this matter inwardly.
Then Tom whispered: "Say, Hucky--do you reckon Hoss Williams
hears us talking?" "O' course he does.
Least his sperrit does."
Tom, after a pause: "I wish I'd said Mister Williams.
But I never meant any harm. Everybody calls him Hoss."
"A body can't be too partic'lar how they talk 'bout these-yer dead people, Tom."
This was a damper, and conversation died again.
Presently Tom seized his comrade's arm and said:
"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 moonlight, took a little fragment
of "red keel" out of his pocket, got the moon on his work, and painfully scrawled
these lines, emphasizing each slow down-
stroke by clamping his tongue between his teeth, and letting up the pressure on the
up-strokes. [See next page.]
"Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer swears they will keep mum about This and They wish They may
Drop down dead in Their Tracks if They ever Tell and Rot."
Huckleberry was filled with admiration of Tom's facility in writing, and the
sublimity of his language.
He at once took a pin from his lapel and was going to prick his flesh, but Tom
said: "Hold on!
Don't do that.
A pin's brass. It might have verdigrease on 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, IT S A STRAY DOG!"
"Quick, Tom, quick! Who does he mean?"
"Huck, he must mean us both--we're right together."
"Oh, Tom, I reckon we're goners.
I reckon there ain't no mistake 'bout where I'LL go to.
I been so wicked." "Dad fetch it!
This comes of playing hookey and doing everything a feller's told NOT to do.
I might a been good, like Sid, if I'd a tried --but no, I wouldn't, of course.
But if ever I get off this time, I lay I'll just WALLER in Sunday-schools!"
And Tom began to snuffle a little. "YOU bad!"
and Huckleberry began to snuffle too.
"Consound it, Tom Sawyer, you're just old pie, 'longside o' what I am.
Oh, LORDY, lordy, lordy, I wisht I only had half your chance."
Tom choked off and whispered:
"Look, Hucky, look! He's got his BACK to us!"
Hucky looked, with joy in his heart. "Well, he has, by jingoes!
Did he before?"
"Yes, he did. But I, like a fool, never thought.
Oh, this is bully, you know. NOW who can he mean?"
The howling stopped.
Tom pricked up his ears. "Sh!
What's that?" he whispered.
"Sounds like--like hogs grunting.
No--it's somebody snoring, Tom." "That IS it!
Where 'bouts is it, Huck?" "I bleeve it's down at 'tother end.
Sounds so, anyway.
Pap used to sleep there, sometimes, 'long with the hogs, but laws bless you, he just
lifts things when HE snores. Besides, I reckon he ain't ever coming
back to this town any more."
The spirit of adventure rose in the boys' souls once more.
"Hucky, do you das't to go if I lead?" "I don't like to, much.
Tom, s'pose it's Injun Joe!"
Tom quailed.
But presently the temptation rose up strong again and the boys agreed to try,
with the understanding that they would take to their heels if the snoring
stopped.
So they went tiptoeing stealthily down, the one behind the other.
When they had got to within five steps of the snorer, Tom stepped on a stick, and it
broke with a sharp snap.
The man moaned, writhed a little, and his face came into the moonlight.
It was Muff Potter.
The boys' hearts had stood still, and their hopes too, when the man moved, but
their fears passed away now.
They tiptoed out, through the broken weather-boarding, and stopped at a little
distance to exchange a parting word. That long, lugubrious howl rose on the
night air again!
They turned and saw the strange dog standing within a few feet of where Potter
was lying, and FACING Potter, with his nose pointing heavenward.
"Oh, geeminy, it's HIM!"
exclaimed both boys, in a breath.
"Say, Tom--they say a stray dog come howling around Johnny Miller's house,
'bout midnight, as much as two weeks ago; and a whippoorwill come in and lit on the
banisters and sung, the very same evening; and there ain't anybody dead there yet."
"Well, I know that. And suppose there ain't.
Didn't Gracie Miller fall in the kitchen fire and burn herself terrible the very
next Saturday?" "Yes, but she ain't DEAD.
And what's more, she's getting better, too."
"All right, you wait and see. She's a goner, just as dead sure as Muff
Potter's a goner.
That's what the niggers say, and they know all about these kind of things, Huck."
Then they separated, cogitating. When Tom crept in at his bedroom window
the night was almost spent.
He undressed with excessive caution, and fell asleep congratulating himself that
nobody knew of his escapade.
He was not aware that the gently-snoring Sid was awake, and had been so for an
hour. When Tom awoke, Sid was dressed and gone.
There was a late look in the light, a late sense in the atmosphere.
He was startled. Why had he not been called--persecuted
till he was up, as usual?
The thought filled him with bodings. Within five minutes he was dressed and
down-stairs, feeling sore and drowsy. The family were still at table, but they
had finished breakfast.
There was no voice of rebuke; but there were averted eyes; there was a silence and
an air of solemnity that struck a chill to the culprit's heart.
He sat down and tried to seem gay, but it was up-hill work; it roused no smile, no
response, and he lapsed into silence and let his heart sink down to the depths.
After breakfast his aunt took him aside, and Tom almost brightened in the hope that
he was going to be flogged; but it was not so.
His aunt wept over him and asked him how he could go and break her old heart so;
and finally told him to go on, and ruin himself and bring her gray hairs with
sorrow to the grave, for it was no use for her to try any more.
This was worse than a thousand whippings, and Tom's heart was sorer now than his
body.
He cried, he pleaded for forgiveness, promised to reform over and over again,
and then received his dismissal, feeling that he had won but an imperfect
forgiveness and established but a feeble confidence.
He left the presence too miserable to even feel revengeful toward Sid; and so the
latter's prompt retreat through the back gate was unnecessary.
He moped to school gloomy and sad, and took his flogging, along with Joe Harper,
for playing hookey the day before, with the air of one whose heart was busy with
heavier woes and wholly dead to trifles.
Then he betook himself to his seat, rested his elbows on his desk and his jaws in his
hands, and stared at the wall with the stony stare of suffering that has reached
the limit and can no further go.
His elbow was pressing against some hard substance.
After a long time he slowly and sadly changed his position, and took up this
object with a sigh.
It was in a paper. He unrolled it.
A long, lingering, colossal sigh followed, and his heart broke.
It was his brass andiron knob!
This final feather broke the camel's back.
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