November, 1993 [Etext #91] Originally a May release of Wiretap
Part 2 out of 3
strange things to see, and no nagging and no pester-
ing, and no good people, and just holiday all the time.
Land, I warn't in no hurry to git out and buck at
civilization again. Now, one of the worst things about
civilization is, that anybody that gits a letter with
trouble in it comes and tells you all about it and makes
you feel bad, and the newspapers fetches you the
troubles of everybody all over the world, and keeps
you downhearted and dismal 'most all the time, and
it's such a heavy load for a person. I hate them
newspapers; and I hate letters; and if I had my way
I wouldn't allow nobody to load his troubles on to
other folks he ain't acquainted with, on t'other side of
the world, that way. Well, up in a balloon there ain't
any of that, and it's the darlingest place there is.
We had supper, and that night was one of the
prettiest nights I ever see. The moon made it just
like daylight, only a heap softer; and once we see a
lion standing all alone by himself, just all alone on the
earth, it seemed like, and his shadder laid on the sand
by him like a puddle of ink. That's the kind of moon-
light to have.
Mainly we laid on our backs and talked; we didn't
want to go to sleep. Tom said we was right in the
midst of the Arabian Nights now. He said it was right
along here that one of the cutest things in that book
happened; so we looked down and watched while he
told about it, because there ain't anything that is so
interesting to look at as a place that a book has talked
about. It was a tale about a camel-driver that had lost
his camel, and he come along in the desert and met a
man, and says:
"Have you run across a stray camel to-day?"
And the man says:
"Was he blind in his left eye?"
"Had he lost an upper front tooth?"
"Was his off hind leg lame?"
"Was he loaded with millet-seed on one side and
honey on the other?"
"Yes, but you needn't go into no more details --
that's the one, and I'm in a hurry. Where did you
"I hain't seen him at all," the man says.
"Hain't seen him at all? How can you describe
him so close, then?"
"Because when a person knows how to use his eyes,
everything has got a meaning to it; but most people's
eyes ain't any good to them. I knowed a camel had
been along, because I seen his track. I knowed he
was lame in his off hind leg because he had favored
that foot and trod light on it, and his track showed it.
I knowed he was blind on his left side because he only
nibbled the grass on the right side of the trail. I
knowed he had lost an upper front tooth because where
he bit into the sod his teeth-print showed it. The
millet-seed sifted out on one side -- the ants told me
that; the honey leaked out on the other -- the flies
told me that. I know all about your camel, but I
hain't seen him."
"Go on, Mars Tom, hit's a mighty good tale, and
"That's all," Tom says.
"ALL?" says Jim, astonished. "What 'come o'
"I don't know."
"Mars Tom, don't de tale say?"
Jim puzzled a minute, then he says:
"Well! Ef dat ain't de beatenes' tale ever I struck.
Jist gits to de place whah de intrust is gittin' red-hot,
en down she breaks. Why, Mars Tom, dey ain't no
SENSE in a tale dat acts like dat. Hain't you got no
IDEA whether de man got de camel back er not?"
"No, I haven't."
I see myself there warn't no sense in the tale, to
chop square off that way before it come to anything,
but I warn't going to say so, because I could see Tom
was souring up pretty fast over the way it flatted out
and the way Jim had popped on to the weak place in
it, and I don't think it's fair for everybody to pile on
to a feller when he's down. But Tom he whirls on
me and says:
"What do YOU think of the tale?"
Of course, then, I had to come out and make a clean
breast and say it did seem to me, too, same as it did
to Jim, that as long as the tale stopped square in the
middle and never got to no place, it really warn't
worth the trouble of telling.
Tom's chin dropped on his breast, and 'stead of
being mad, as I reckoned he'd be, to hear me scoff at
his tale that way, he seemed to be only sad; and he
"Some people can see, and some can't -- just as
that man said. Let alone a camel, if a cyclone had
gone by, YOU duffers wouldn't 'a' noticed the
I don't know what he meant by that, and he didn't
say; it was just one of his irrulevances, I reckon -- he
was full of them, sometimes, when he was in a close
place and couldn't see no other way out -- but I didn't
mind. We'd spotted the soft place in that tale sharp
enough, he couldn't git away from that little fact. It
graveled him like the nation, too, I reckon, much as
he tried not to let on.
THE DISAPPEARING LAKE
WE had an early breakfast in the morning, and set
looking down on the desert, and the weather
was ever so bammy and lovely, although we warn't
high up. You have to come down lower and lower
after sundown in the desert, because it cools off so
fast; and so, by the time it is getting toward dawn,
you are skimming along only a little ways above the
We was watching the shadder of the balloon slide
along the ground, and now and then gazing off across
the desert to see if anything was stirring, and then
down on the shadder again, when all of a sudden
almost right under us we see a lot of men and camels
laying scattered about, perfectly quiet, like they was
We shut off the power, and backed up and stood
over them, and then we see that they was all dead. It
give us the cold shivers. And it made us hush down,
too, and talk low, like people at a funeral. We
dropped down slow and stopped, and me and Tom
clumb down and went among them. There was men,
and women, and children. They was dried by the sun
and dark and shriveled and leathery, like the pictures
of mummies you see in books. And yet they looked
just as human, you wouldn't 'a' believed it; just like
they was asleep.
Some of the people and animals was partly covered
with sand, but most of them not, for the sand was
thin there, and the bed was gravel and hard. Most
of the clothes had rotted away; and when you took
hold of a rag, it tore with a touch, like spider-
web. Tom reckoned they had been laying there for
Some of the men had rusty guns by them, some had
swords on and had shawl belts with long, silver-
mounted pistols stuck in them. All the camels had
their loads on yet, but the packs had busted or rotted
and spilt the freight out on the ground. We didn't
reckon the swords was any good to the dead people
any more, so we took one apiece, and some pistols.
We took a small box, too, because it was so handsome
and inlaid so fine; and then we wanted to bury the
people; but there warn't no way to do it that we could
think of, and nothing to do it with but sand, and that
would blow away again, of course.
Then we mounted high and sailed away, and pretty
soon that black spot on the sand was out of sight, and
we wouldn't ever see them poor people again in this
world. We wondered, and reasoned, and tried to
guess how they come to be there, and how it all hap-
pened to them, but we couldn't make it out. First we
thought maybe they got lost, and wandered around and
about till their food and water give out and they
starved to death; but Tom said no wild animals nor
vultures hadn't meddled with them, and so that guess
wouldn't do. So at last we give it up, and judged we
wouldn't think about it no more, because it made us
Then we opened the box, and it had gems and jewels
in it, quite a pile, and some little veils of the kind the
dead women had on, with fringes made out of curious
gold money that we warn't acquainted with. We
wondered if we better go and try to find them again
and give it back; but Tom thought it over and said
no, it was a country that was full of robbers, and they
would come and steal it; and then the sin would be on
us for putting the temptation in their way. So we
went on; but I wished we had took all they had, so
there wouldn't 'a' been no temptation at all left.
We had had two hours of that blazing weather down
there, and was dreadful thirsty when we got aboard
again. We went straight for the water, but it was
spoiled and bitter, besides being pretty near hot enough
to scald your mouth. We couldn't drink it. It was
Mississippi river water, the best in the world, and we
stirred up the mud in it to see if that would help, but
no, the mud wasn't any better than the water.
Well, we hadn't been so very, very thirsty before,
while we was interested in the lost people, but we was
now, and as soon as we found we couldn't have a
drink, we was more than thirty-five times as thirsty as
we was a quarter of a minute before. Why, in a little
while we wanted to hold our mouths open and pant
like a dog.
Tom said to keep a sharp lookout, all around, every-
wheres, because we'd got to find an oasis or there
warn't no telling what would happen. So we done it.
We kept the glasses gliding around all the time, till our
arms got so tired we couldn't hold them any more.
Two hours -- three hours -- just gazing and gazing,
and nothing but sand, sand, SAND, and you could see
the quivering heat-shimmer playing over it. Dear,
dear, a body don't know what real misery is till he is
thirsty all the way through and is certain he ain't ever
going to come to any water any more. At last I
couldn't stand it to look around on them baking plains;
I laid down on the locker, and give it up.
But by and by Tom raised a whoop, and there she
was! A lake, wide and shiny, with pa'm-trees leaning
over it asleep, and their shadders in the water just as
soft and delicate as ever you see. I never see anything
look so good. It was a long ways off, but that
warn't anything to us; we just slapped on a hundred-
mile gait, and calculated to be there in seven minutes;
but she stayed the same old distance away, all the
time; we couldn't seem to gain on her; yes, sir, just as
far, and shiny, and like a dream; but we couldn't get
no nearer; and at last, all of a sudden, she was gone!
Tom's eyes took a spread, and he says:
"Boys, it was a MYridge!" Said it like he was
glad. I didn't see nothing to be glad about. I says:
"Maybe. I don't care nothing about its name, the
thing I want to know is, what's become of it?"
Jim was trembling all over, and so scared he couldn't
speak, but he wanted to ask that question himself if he
could 'a' done it. Tom says:
"What's BECOME of it? Why, you see yourself it's
"Yes, I know; but where's it gone TO?"
He looked me over and says:
"Well, now, Huck Finn, where WOULD it go to!
Don't you know what a myridge is?"
"No, I don't. What is it?"
"It ain't anything but imagination. There ain't
anything TO it. "
It warmed me up a little to hear him talk like that,
and I says:
"What's the use you talking that kind of stuff, Tom
Sawyer? Didn't I see the lake?"
"Yes -- you think you did."
"I don't think nothing about it, I DID see it."
"I tell you you DIDN'T see it either -- because it
warn't there to see."
It astonished Jim to hear him talk so, and he broke
in and says, kind of pleading and distressed:
"Mars Tom, PLEASE don't say sich things in sich an
awful time as dis. You ain't only reskin' yo' own
self, but you's reskin' us -- same way like Anna Nias
en Siffra. De lake WUZ dah -- I seen it jis' as plain
as I sees you en Huck dis minute."
"Why, he seen it himself! He was the very one
that seen it first. NOW, then!"
"Yes, Mars Tom, hit's so -- you can't deny it. We
all seen it, en dat PROVE it was dah."
"Proves it! How does it prove it?"
"Same way it does in de courts en everywheres,
Mars Tom. One pusson might be drunk, or dreamy
or suthin', en he could be mistaken; en two might,
maybe; but I tell you, sah, when three sees a thing,
drunk er sober, it's SO. Dey ain't no gittin' aroun'
dat, en you knows it, Mars Tom."
"I don't know nothing of the kind. There used to
be forty thousand million people that seen the sun
move from one side of the sky to the other every day.
Did that prove that the sun DONE it?"
"Course it did. En besides, dey warn't no 'casion
to prove it. A body 'at's got any sense ain't gwine to
doubt it. Dah she is now -- a sailin' thoo de sky,
like she allays done."
Tom turned on me, then, and says:
"What do YOU say -- is the sun standing still?"
"Tom Sawyer, what's the use to ask such a jackass
question? Anybody that ain't blind can see it don't
"Well," he says, "I'm lost in the sky with no
company but a passel of low-down animals that don't
know no more than the head boss of a university did
three or four hundred years ago."
It warn't fair play, and I let him know it. I
"Throwin' mud ain't arguin', Tom Sawyer."
"Oh, my goodness, oh, my goodness gracious,
dah's de lake agi'n!" yelled Jim, just then. "NOW,
Mars Tom, what you gwine to say?"
Yes, sir, there was the lake again, away yonder
across the desert, perfectly plain, trees and all, just
the same as it was before. I says:
"I reckon you're satisfied now, Tom Sawyer."
But he says, perfectly ca'm:
"Yes, satisfied there ain't no lake there."
"DON'T talk so, Mars Tom -- it sk'yers me to hear
you. It's so hot, en you's so thirsty, dat you ain't in
yo' right mine, Mars Tom. Oh, but don't she look
good! 'clah I doan' know how I's gwine to wait tell
we gits dah, I's SO thirsty."
"Well, you'll have to wait; and it won't do you no
good, either, because there ain't no lake there, I tell
"Jim, don't you take your eye off of it, and I
"'Deed I won't; en bless you, honey, I couldn't ef
I wanted to."
We went a-tearing along toward it, piling the miles
behind us like nothing, but never gaining an inch on it
-- and all of a sudden it was gone again! Jim stag-
gered, and 'most fell down. When he got his breath
he says, gasping like a fish:
"Mars Tom, hit's a GHOS', dat's what it is, en I
hopes to goodness we ain't gwine to see it no mo'.
Dey's BEEN a lake, en suthin's happened, en de lake's
dead, en we's seen its ghos'; we's seen it twiste, en
dat's proof. De desert's ha'nted, it's ha'nted, sho;
oh, Mars Tom, le''s git outen it; I'd ruther die den
have de night ketch us in it ag'in en de ghos' er dat
lake come a-mournin' aroun' us en we asleep en doan'
know de danger we's in."
"Ghost, you gander! It ain't anything but air and
heat and thirstiness pasted together by a person's
imagination. If I -- gimme the glass!"
He grabbed it and begun to gaze off to the right.
"It's a flock of birds," he says. "It's getting
toward sundown, and they're making a bee-line across
our track for somewheres. They mean business --
maybe they're going for food or water, or both. Let
her go to starboard! -- Port your hellum! Hard down!
There -- ease up -- steady, as you go."
We shut down some of the power, so as not to out-
speed them, and took out after them. We went skim-
ming along a quarter of a mile behind them, and when
we had followed them an hour and a half and was get-
ting pretty discouraged, and was thirsty clean to
unendurableness, Tom says:
"Take the glass, one of you, and see what that is,
away ahead of the birds."
Jim got the first glimpse, and slumped down on the
locker sick. He was most crying, and says:
"She's dah ag'in, Mars Tom, she's dah ag'in, en I
knows I's gwine to die, 'case when a body sees a ghos'
de third time, dat's what it means. I wisht I'd never
come in dis balloon, dat I does."
He wouldn't look no more, and what he said made
me afraid, too, because I knowed it was true, for that
has always been the way with ghosts; so then I
wouldn't look any more, either. Both of us begged
Tom to turn off and go some other way, but he
wouldn't, and said we was ignorant superstitious
blatherskites. Yes, and he'll git come up with, one
of these days, I says to myself, insulting ghosts that
way. They'll stand it for a while, maybe, but they
won't stand it always, for anybody that knows about
ghosts knows how easy they are hurt, and how revenge-
ful they are.
So we was all quiet and still, Jim and me being
scared, and Tom busy. By and by Tom fetched the
balloon to a standstill, and says:
"NOW get up and look, you sapheads."
We done it, and there was the sure-enough water
right under us! -- clear, and blue, and cool, and deep,
and wavy with the breeze, the loveliest sight that ever
was. And all about it was grassy banks, and flowers,
and shady groves of big trees, looped together with
vines, and all looking so peaceful and comfortable --
enough to make a body cry, it was so beautiful.
Jim DID cry, and rip and dance and carry on, he was
so thankful and out of his mind for joy. It was my
watch, so I had to stay by the works, but Tom and
Jim clumb down and drunk a barrel apiece, and
fetched me up a lot, and I've tasted a many a good
thing in my life, but nothing that ever begun with that
Then we went down and had a swim, and then Tom
came up and spelled me, and me and Jim had a swim,
and then Jim spelled Tom, and me and Tom had a
foot-race and a boxing-mill, and I don't reckon I ever
had such a good time in my life. It warn't so very
hot, because it was close on to evening, and we hadn't
any clothes on, anyway. Clothes is well enough in
school, and in towns, and at balls, too, but there ain't
no sense in them when there ain't no civilization nor
other kinds of bothers and fussiness around.
"Lions a-comin'! -- lions! Quick, Mars Tom!
Jump for yo' life, Huck!"
Oh, and didn't we! We never stopped for clothes,
but waltzed up the ladder just so. Jim lost his head
straight off -- he always done it whenever he got ex-
cited and scared; and so now, 'stead of just easing the
ladder up from the ground a little, so the animals
couldn't reach it, he turned on a raft of power, and we
went whizzing up and was dangling in the sky before
he got his wits together and seen what a foolish thing
he was doing. Then he stopped her, but he had clean
forgot what to do next; so there we was, so high that
the lions looked like pups, and we was drifting off on
But Tom he shinned up and went for the works and
begun to slant her down, and back toward the lake,
where the animals was gathering like a camp-meeting,
and I judged he had lost HIS head, too; for he knowed
I was too scared to climb, and did he want to dump
me among the tigers and things?
But no, his head was level, he knowed what he was
about. He swooped down to within thirty or forty
feet of the lake, and stopped right over the center, and
"Leggo, and drop!"
I done it, and shot down, feet first, and seemed to
go about a mile toward the bottom; and when I come
up, he says:
"Now lay on your back and float till you're rested
and got your pluck back, then I'll dip the ladder in
the water and you can climb aboard."
I done it. Now that was ever so smart in Tom, be-
cause if he had started off somewheres else to drop
down on the sand, the menagerie would 'a' come
along, too, and might 'a' kept us hunting a safe place
till I got tuckered out and fell.
And all this time the lions and tigers was sorting out
the clothes, and trying to divide them up so there
would be some for all, but there was a misunderstand-
ing about it somewheres, on account of some of them
trying to hog more than their share; so there was
another insurrection, and you never see anything like
it in the world. There must 'a' been fifty of them, all
mixed up together, snorting and roaring and snapping
and biting and tearing, legs and tails in the air, and
you couldn't tell which was which, and the sand and
fur a-flying. And when they got done, some was
dead. and some was limping off crippled, and the rest
was setting around on the battlefield, some of them
licking their sore places and the others looking up at
us and seemed to be kind of inviting us to come down
and have some fun, but which we didn't want any.
As for the clothes, they warn't any, any more.
Every last rag of them was inside of the animals; and
not agreeing with them very well, I don't reckon, for
there was considerable many brass buttons on them,
and there was knives in the pockets, too, and smoking
tobacco, and nails and chalk and marbles and fish-
hooks and things. But I wasn't caring. All that was
bothering me was, that all we had now was the pro-
fessor's clothes, a big enough assortment, but not suit-
able to go into company with, if we came across any,
because the britches was as long as tunnels, and the
coats and things according. Still, there was everything
a tailor needed, and Jim was a kind of jack legged
tailor, and he allowed he could soon trim a suit or two
down for us that would answer.
TOM DISCOURSES ON THE DESERT
STILL, we thought we would drop down there a
minute, but on another errand. Most of the pro-
fessor's cargo of food was put up in cans, in the new
way that somebody had just invented; the rest was
fresh. When you fetch Missouri beefsteak to the
Great Sahara, you want to be particular and stay up
in the coolish weather. So we reckoned we would
drop down into the lion market and see how we could
make out there.
We hauled in the ladder and dropped down till we
was just above the reach of the animals, then we let
down a rope with a slip-knot in it and hauled up a
dead lion, a small tender one, then yanked up a cub
tiger. We had to keep the congregation off with the
revolver, or they would 'a' took a hand in the proceed-
ings and helped.
We carved off a supply from both, and saved the
skins, and hove the rest overboard. Then we baited
some of the professor's hooks with the fresh meat and
went a-fishing. We stood over the lake just a con-
venient distance above the water, and catched a lot of
the nicest fish you ever see. It was a most amazing
good supper we had; lion steak, tiger steak, fried fish,
and hot corn-pone. I don't want nothing better than
We had some fruit to finish off with. We got it out
of the top of a monstrous tall tree. It was a very slim
tree that hadn't a branch on it from the bottom plumb
to the top, and there it bursted out like a feather-
duster. It was a pa'm-tree, of course; anybody knows
a pa'm-tree the minute he see it, by the pictures. We
went for cocoanuts in this one, but there warn't none.
There was only big loose bunches of things like over-
sized grapes, and Tom allowed they was dates, because
he said they answered the description in the Arabian
Nights and the other books. Of course they mightn't
be, and they might be poison; so we had to wait a
spell, and watch and see if the birds et them. They
done it; so we done it, too, and they was most amaz-
By this time monstrous big birds begun to come and
settle on the dead animals. They was plucky creturs;
they would tackle one end of a lion that was being
gnawed at the other end by another lion. If the lion
drove the bird away, it didn't do no good; he was
back again the minute the lion was busy.
The big birds come out of every part of the sky --
you could make them out with the glass while they was
still so far away you couldn't see them with your naked
eye. Tom said the birds didn't find out the meat was
there by the smell; they had to find it out by seeing
it. Oh, but ain't that an eye for you! Tom said at
the distance of five mile a patch of dead lions couldn't
look any bigger than a person's finger-nail, and he
couldn't imagine how the birds could notice such a
little thing so far off.
It was strange and unnatural to see lion eat lion,
and we thought maybe they warn't kin. But Jim said
that didn't make no difference. He said a hog was
fond of her own children, and so was a spider, and he
reckoned maybe a lion was pretty near as unprincipled
though maybe not quite. He thought likely a lion
wouldn't eat his own father, if he knowed which was
him, but reckoned he would eat his brother-in-law if
he was uncommon hungry, and eat his mother-in-law
any time. But RECKONING don't settle nothing. You
can reckon till the cows come home, but that don't
fetch you to no decision. So we give it up and let it
Generly it was very still in the Desert nights, but this
time there was music. A lot of other animals come to
dinner; sneaking yelpers that Tom allowed was jackals,
and roached-backed ones that he said was hyenas; and
all the whole biling of them kept up a racket all the
time. They made a picture in the moonlight that was
more different than any picture I ever see. We had a
line out and made fast to the top of a tree, and didn't
stand no watch, but all turned in and slept; but I was
up two or three times to look down at the animals and
hear the music. It was like having a front seat at a
menagerie for nothing, which I hadn't ever had before,
and so it seemed foolish to sleep and not make the
most of it; I mightn't ever have such a chance
We went a-fishing again in the early dawn, and then
lazied around all day in the deep shade on an island,
taking turn about to watch and see that none of the
animals come a-snooping around there after erronorts
for dinner. We was going to leave the next day, but
couldn't, it was too lovely.
The day after, when we rose up toward the sky and
sailed off eastward, we looked back and watched that
place till it warn't nothing but just a speck in the
Desert, and I tell you it was like saying good-bye to a
friend that you ain't ever going to see any more.
Jim was thinking to himself, and at last he says:
"Mars Tom, we's mos' to de end er de Desert now,
"Well, hit stan' to reason we is. You knows how
long we's been a-skimmin' over it. Mus' be mos' out
o' san'. Hit's a wonder to me dat it's hilt out as long
as it has."
"Shucks, there's plenty sand, you needn't worry."
"Oh, I ain't a-worryin', Mars Tom, only wonderin',
dat's all. De Lord's got plenty san', I ain't doubtin'
dat; but nemmine, He ain't gwyne to WAS'E it jist on
dat account; en I allows dat dis Desert's plenty big
enough now, jist de way she is, en you can't spread
her out no mo' 'dout was'in' san'."
"Oh, go 'long! we ain't much more than fairly
STARTED across this Desert yet. The United States is a
pretty big country, ain't it? Ain't it, Huck?"
"Yes," I says, "there ain't no bigger one, I don't
"Well," he says, "this Desert is about the shape
of the United States, and if you was to lay it down on
top of the United States, it would cover the land of
the free out of sight like a blanket. There'd be a little
corner sticking out, up at Maine and away up north-
west, and Florida sticking out like a turtle's tail, and
that's all. We've took California away from the
Mexicans two or three years ago, so that part of the
Pacific coast is ours now, and if you laid the Great
Sahara down with her edge on the Pacific, she would
cover the United States and stick out past New York
six hundred miles into the Atlantic ocean."
"Good land! have you got the documents for that,
"Yes, and they're right here, and I've been study-
ing them. You can look for yourself. From New
York to the Pacific is 2,600 miles. From one end of
the Great Desert to the other is 3,200. The United
States contains 3,600,000 square miles, the Desert
contains 4,162,000. With the Desert's bulk you could
cover up every last inch of the United States, and in
under where the edges projected out, you could tuck
England, Scotland, Ireland, France, Denmark, and all
Germany. Yes, sir, you could hide the home of the
brave and all of them countries clean out of sight under
the Great Sahara, and you would still have 2,000
square miles of sand left."
"Well," I says, "it clean beats me. Why, Tom,
it shows that the Lord took as much pains makin' this
Desert as makin' the United States and all them other
Jim says: "Huck, dat don' stan' to reason. I
reckon dis Desert wa'n't made at all. Now you take
en look at it like dis -- you look at it, and see ef I's
right. What's a desert good for? 'Taint good for
nuthin'. Dey ain't no way to make it pay. Hain't
dat so, Huck?"
"Yes, I reckon."
"Hain't it so, Mars Tom?"
"I guess so. Go on."
"Ef a thing ain't no good, it's made in vain, ain't it?"
"NOW, den! Do de Lord make anything in vain?
You answer me dat."
"Well -- no, He don't."
"Den how come He make a desert?"
"Well, go on. How DID He come to make it?"
"Mars Tom, I b'lieve it uz jes like when you's buildin'
a house; dey's allays a lot o' truck en rubbish lef' over.
What does you do wid it? Doan' you take en k'yart
it off en dump it into a ole vacant back lot? 'Course.
Now, den, it's my opinion hit was jes like dat -- dat
de Great Sahara warn't made at all, she jes HAPPEN'."
I said it was a real good argument, and I believed it
was the best one Jim ever made. Tom he said the same,
but said the trouble about arguments is, they ain't
nothing but THEORIES, after all, and theories don't prove
nothing, they only give you a place to rest on, a spell,
when you are tuckered out butting around and around
trying to find out something there ain't no way TO find
out. And he says:
"There's another trouble about theories: there's
always a hole in them somewheres, sure, if you look
close enough. It's just so with this one of Jim's.
Look what billions and billions of stars there is. How
does it come that there was just exactly enough star-
stuff, and none left over? How does it come there
ain't no sand-pile up there?"
But Jim was fixed for him and says:
"What's de Milky Way? -- dat's what I want to
know. What's de Milky Way? Answer me dat!"
In my opinion it was just a sockdologer. It's only
an opinion, it's only MY opinion and others may think
different; but I said it then and I stand to it now -- it
was a sockdologer. And moreover, besides, it landed
Tom Sawyer. He couldn't say a word. He had that
stunned look of a person that's been shot in the back
with a kag of nails. All he said was, as for people
like me and Jim, he'd just as soon have intellectual
intercourse with a catfish. But anybody can say that
-- and I notice they always do, when somebody has
fetched them a lifter. Tom Sawyer was tired of that
end of the subject.
So we got back to talking about the size of the
Desert again, and the more we compared it with this
and that and t'other thing, the more nobler and bigger
and grander it got to look right along. And so, hunt-
ing among the figgers, Tom found, by and by, that it
was just the same size as the Empire of China. Then
he showed us the spread the Empire of China made on
the map, and the room she took up in the world.
Well, it was wonderful to think of, and I says:
"Why, I've heard talk about this Desert plenty of
times, but I never knowed before how important she
Then Tom says:
"Important! Sahara important! That's just the
way with some people. If a thing's big, it's important.
That's all the sense they've got. All they can see is
SIZE. Why, look at England. It's the most important
country in the world; and yet you could put it in
China's vest-pocket; and not only that, but you'd
have the dickens's own time to find it again the next
time you wanted it. And look at Russia. It spreads
all around and everywhere, and yet ain't no more im-
portant in this world than Rhode Island is, and hasn't
got half as much in it that's worth saving."
Away off now we see a little hill, a-standing up just
on the edge of the world. Tom broke off his talk, and
reached for a glass very much excited, and took a look,
"That's it -- it's the one I've been looking for,
sure. If I'm right, it's the one the dervish took the
man into and showed him all the treasures."
So we begun to gaze, and he begun to tell about it
out of the Arabian Nights.
TOM said it happened like this.
A dervish was stumping it along through the
Desert, on foot, one blazing hot day, and he had come
a thousand miles and was pretty poor, and hungry,
and ornery and tired, and along about where we are
now he run across a camel-driver with a hundred
camels, and asked him for some a'ms. But the camel-
driver he asked to be excused. The dervish said:
"Don't you own these camels?"
"Yes, they're mine."
"Are you in debt?"
"Who -- me? No."
"Well, a man that owns a hundred camels and ain't
in debt is rich -- and not only rich, but very rich.
Ain't it so?"
The camel-driver owned up that it was so. Then
the dervish says:
"God has made you rich, and He has made me
poor. He has His reasons, and they are wise, blessed
be His name. But He has willed that His rich shall
help His poor, and you have turned away from me,
your brother, in my need, and He will remember this,
and you will lose by it."
That made the camel-driver feel shaky, but all the
same he was born hoggish after money and didn't like
to let go a cent; so he begun to whine and explain,
and said times was hard, and although he had took a
full freight down to Balsora and got a fat rate for it,
he couldn't git no return freight, and so he warn't
making no great things out of his trip. So the dervish
starts along again, and says:
"All right, if you want to take the risk; but I
reckon you've made a mistake this time, and missed a
Of course the camel-driver wanted to know what
kind of a chance he had missed, because maybe there
was money in it; so he run after the dervish, and
begged him so hard and earnest to take pity on him
that at last the dervish gave in, and says:
"Do you see that hill yonder? Well, in that hill is
all the treasures of the earth, and I was looking around
for a man with a particular good kind heart and a
noble, generous disposition, because if I could find just
that man, I've got a kind of a salve I could put on
his eyes and he could see the treasures and get them
So then the camel-driver was in a sweat; and he
cried, and begged, and took on, and went down on his
knees, and said he was just that kind of a man, and
said he could fetch a thousand people that would say
he wasn't ever described so exact before.
"Well, then," says the dervish, "all right. If we
load the hundred camels, can I have half of them?"
The driver was so glad he couldn't hardly hold in,
"Now you're shouting."
So they shook hands on the bargain, and the dervish
got out his box and rubbed the salve on the driver's
right eye, and the hill opened and he went in, and
there, sure enough, was piles and piles of gold and
jewels sparkling like all the stars in heaven had fell down.
So him and the dervish laid into it, and they loaded
every camel till he couldn't carry no more; then they
said good-bye, and each of them started off with his
fifty. But pretty soon the camel-driver come a-running
and overtook the dervish and says:
"You ain't in society, you know, and you don't
really need all you've got. Won't you be good, and
let me have ten of your camels?"
"Well," the dervish says, "I don't know but what
you say is reasonable enough."
So he done it, and they separated and the dervish
started off again with his forty. But pretty soon here
comes the camel-driver bawling after him again, and
whines and slobbers around and begs another ten off of
him, saying thirty camel loads of treasures was enough
to see a dervish through, because they live very simple,
you know, and don't keep house, but board around
and give their note.
But that warn't the end yet. That ornery hound
kept coming and coming till he had begged back all
the camels and had the whole hundred. Then he was
satisfied, and ever so grateful, and said he wouldn't
ever forgit the dervish as long as he lived, and nobody
hadn't been so good to him before, and liberal. So
they shook hands good-bye, and separated and started
But do you know, it warn't ten minutes till the
camel-driver was unsatisfied again -- he was the low-
downest reptyle in seven counties -- and he come a-
running again. And this time the thing he wanted was
to get the dervish to rub some of the salve on his other
"Why?" said the dervish.
"Oh, you know," says the driver.
"Well, you can't fool me," says the driver.
"You're trying to keep back something from me,
you know it mighty well. You know, I reckon, that
if I had the salve on the other eye I could see a lot
more things that's valuable. Come -- please put it on."
The dervish says:
"I wasn't keeping anything back from you. I
don't mind telling you what would happen if I put it
on. You'd never see again. You'd be stone-blind the
rest of your days."
But do you know that beat wouldn't believe him.
No, he begged and begged, and whined and cried, till
at last the dervish opened his box and told him to put
it on, if he wanted to. So the man done it, and sure
enough he was as blind as a bat in a minute.
Then the dervish laughed at him and mocked at him
and made fun of him; and says:
"Good-bye -- a man that's blind hain't got no use
And he cleared out with the hundred camels, and
left that man to wander around poor and miserable and
friendless the rest of his days in the Desert.
Jim said he'd bet it was a lesson to him.
"Yes," Tom says, "and like a considerable many
lessons a body gets. They ain't no account, because
the thing don't ever happen the same way again -- and
can't. The time Hen Scovil fell down the chimbly
and crippled his back for life, everybody said it would
be a lesson to him. What kind of a lesson? How
was he going to use it? He couldn't climb chimblies
no more, and he hadn't no more backs to break."
"All de same, Mars Tom, dey IS sich a thing as
learnin' by expe'ence. De Good Book say de burnt
chile shun de fire."
"Well, I ain't denying that a thing's a lesson if it's
a thing that can happen twice just the same way.
There's lots of such things, and THEY educate a person,
that's what Uncle Abner always said; but there's forty
MILLION lots of the other kind -- the kind that don't
happen the same way twice -- and they ain't no real
use, they ain't no more instructive than the small-pox.
When you've got it, it ain't no good to find out you
ought to been vaccinated, and it ain't no good to git
vaccinated afterward, because the small-pox don't
come but once. But, on the other hand, Uncle Abner
said that the person that had took a bull by the tail
once had learnt sixty or seventy times as much as a
person that hadn't, and said a person that started in to
carry a cat home by the tail was gitting knowledge that
was always going to be useful to him, and warn't ever
going to grow dim or doubtful. But I can tell you,
Jim, Uncle Abner was down on them people that's all
the time trying to dig a lesson out of everything that
happens, no matter whether --"
But Jim was asleep. Tom looked kind of ashamed,
because you know a person always feels bad when he
is talking uncommon fine and thinks the other person
is admiring, and that other person goes to sleep that
way. Of course he oughtn't to go to sleep, because
it's shabby; but the finer a person talks the certainer
it is to make you sleep, and so when you come to look
at it it ain't nobody's fault in particular; both of
them's to blame.
Jim begun to snore -- soft and blubbery at first,
then a long rasp, then a stronger one, then a half a
dozen horrible ones like the last water sucking down
the plug-hole of a bath-tub, then the same with more
power to it, and some big coughs and snorts flung in,
the way a cow does that is choking to death; and
when the person has got to that point he is at his level
best, and can wake up a man that is in the next block
with a dipperful of loddanum in him, but can't wake
himself up although all that awful noise of his'n ain't
but three inches from his own ears. And that is the
curiosest thing in the world, seems to me. But you
rake a match to light the candle, and that little bit of a
noise will fetch him. I wish I knowed what was the
reason of that, but there don't seem to be no way to
find out. Now there was Jim alarming the whole
Desert, and yanking the animals out, for miles and
miles around, to see what in the nation was going on
up there; there warn't nobody nor nothing that was as
close to the noise as HE was, and yet he was the only
cretur that wasn't disturbed by it. We yelled at him
and whooped at him, it never done no good; but the
first time there come a little wee noise that wasn't of a
usual kind it woke him up. No, sir, I've thought it
all over, and so has Tom, and there ain't no way to
find out why a snorer can't hear himself snore.
Jim said he hadn't been asleep; he just shut his eyes
so he could listen better.
Tom said nobody warn't accusing him.
That made him look like he wished he hadn't said
anything. And he wanted to git away from the sub-
ject, I reckon, because he begun to abuse the camel-
driver, just the way a person does when he has got
catched in something and wants to take it out of some-
body else. He let into the camel-driver the hardest he
knowed how, and I had to agree with him; and he
praised up the dervish the highest he could, and I had
to agree with him there, too. But Tom says:
"I ain't so sure. You call that dervish so dreadful
liberal and good and unselfish, but I don't quite see it.
He didn't hunt up another poor dervish, did he? No,
he didn't. If he was so unselfish, why didn't he go in
there himself and take a pocketful of jewels and go
along and be satisfied? No, sir, the person he was
hunting for was a man with a hundred camels. He
wanted to get away with all the treasure he could."
"Why, Mars Tom, he was willin' to divide, fair and
square; he only struck for fifty camels."
"Because he knowed how he was going to get all of
them by and by."
"Mars Tom, he TOLE de man de truck would make
"Yes, because he knowed the man's character. It
was just the kind of a man he was hunting for -- a
man that never believes in anybody's word or any-
body's honorableness, because he ain't got none of his
own. I reckon there's lots of people like that dervish.
They swindle, right and left, but they always make the
other person SEEM to swindle himself. They keep inside
of the letter of the law all the time, and there ain't no
way to git hold of them. THEY don't put the salve on
-- oh, no, that would be sin; but they know how to
fool YOU into putting it on, then it's you that blinds
yourself. I reckon the dervish and the camel-driver
was just a pair -- a fine, smart, brainy rascal, and a
dull, coarse, ignorant one, but both of them rascals,
just the same."
"Mars Tom, does you reckon dey's any o' dat kind
o' salve in de worl' now?"
"Yes, Uncle Abner says there is. He says they've
got it in New York, and they put it on country people's
eyes and show them all the railroads in the world, and
they go in and git them, and then when they rub the
salve on the other eye the other man bids them good-
bye and goes off with their railroads. Here's the
treasure-hill now. Lower away!"
We landed, but it warn't as interesting as I thought
it was going to be, because we couldn't find the place
where they went in to git the treasure. Still, it was
plenty interesting enough, just to see the mere hill
itself where such a wonderful thing happened. Jim
said he wou'dn't 'a' missed it for three dollars, and I
felt the same way.
And to me and Jim, as wonderful a thing as any was
the way Tom could come into a strange big country
like this and go straight and find a little hump like that
and tell it in a minute from a million other humps that
was almost just like it, and nothing to help him but
only his own learning and his own natural smartness.
We talked and talked it over together, but couldn't
make out how he done it. He had the best head on
him I ever see; and all he lacked was age, to make a
name for himself equal to Captain Kidd or George
Washington. I bet you it would 'a' crowded either of
THEM to find that hill, with all their gifts, but it warn't
nothing to Tom Sawyer; he went across Sahara and
put his finger on it as easy as you could pick a nigger
out of a bunch of angels.
We found a pond of salt water close by and scraped
up a raft of salt around the edges, and loaded up the
lion's skin and the tiger's so as they would keep till Jim
could tan them.
WE went a-fooling along for a day or two, and then
just as the full moon was touching the ground
on the other side of the desert, we see a string of little
black figgers moving across its big silver face. You
could see them as plain as if they was painted on the
moon with ink. It was another caravan. We cooled
down our speed and tagged along after it, just to have
company, though it warn't going our way. It was a
rattler, that caravan, and a most bully sight to look at
next morning when the sun come a-streaming across
the desert and flung the long shadders of the camels
on the gold sand like a thousand grand-daddy-long-
legses marching in procession. We never went very
near it, because we knowed better now than to act like
that and scare people's camels and break up their cara-
vans. It was the gayest outfit you ever see, for rich
clothes and nobby style. Some of the chiefs rode on
dromedaries, the first we ever see, and very tall, and
they go plunging along like they was on stilts, and
they rock the man that is on them pretty violent and
churn up his dinner considerable, I bet you, but they
make noble good time, and a camel ain't nowheres with
them for speed.
The caravan camped, during the middle part of the
day, and then started again about the middle of the
afternoon. Before long the sun begun to look very
curious. First it kind of turned to brass, and then to
copper, and after that it begun to look like a blood-
red ball, and the air got hot and close, and pretty soon
all the sky in the west darkened up and looked thick
and foggy, but fiery and dreadful -- like it looks
through a piece of red glass, you know. We looked
down and see a big confusion going on in the caravan,
and a rushing every which way like they was scared;
and then they all flopped down flat in the sand and
laid there perfectly still.
Pretty soon we see something coming that stood up
like an amazing wide wall, and reached from the Desert
up into the sky and hid the sun, and it was coming
like the nation, too. Then a little faint breeze struck
us, and then it come harder, and grains of sand begun
to sift against our faces and sting like fire, and Tom
"It's a sand-storm -- turn your backs to it!"
We done it; and in another minute it was blowing a
gale, and the sand beat against us by the shovelful, and
the air was so thick with it we couldn't see a thing. In
five minutes the boat was level full, and we was setting
on the lockers buried up to the chin in sand, and only
our heads out and could hardly breathe.
Then the storm thinned, and we see that monstrous
wall go a-sailing off across the desert, awful to look at,
I tell you. We dug ourselves out and looked down,
and where the caravan was before there wasn't any-
thing but just the sand ocean now, and all still and
quiet. All them people and camels was smothered and
dead and buried -- buried under ten foot of sand, we
reckoned, and Tom allowed it might be years before
the wind uncovered them, and all that time their friends
wouldn't ever know what become of that caravan.
"NOW we know what it was that happened to the
people we got the swords and pistols from."
Yes, sir, that was just it. It was as plain as day
now. They got buried in a sand-storm, and the wild
animals couldn't get at them, and the wind never un-
covered them again until they was dried to leather and
warn't fit to eat. It seemed to me we had felt as sorry
for them poor people as a person could for anybody,
and as mournful, too, but we was mistaken; this last
caravan's death went harder with us, a good deal
harder. You see, the others was total strangers, and
we never got to feeling acquainted with them at all,
except, maybe, a little with the man that was watching
the girl, but it was different with this last caravan. We
was huvvering around them a whole night and 'most a
whole day, and had got to feeling real friendly with
them, and acquainted. I have found out that there
ain't no surer way to find out whether you like people
or hate them than to travel with them. Just so with
these. We kind of liked them from the start, and
traveling with them put on the finisher. The longer
we traveled with them, and the more we got used to
their ways, the better and better we liked them, and
the gladder and gladder we was that we run across
them. We had come to know some of them so well
that we called them by name when we was talking
about them, and soon got so familiar and sociable that
we even dropped the Miss and Mister and just used
their plain names without any handle, and it did not
seem unpolite, but just the right thing. Of course, it
wasn't their own names, but names we give them.
There was Mr. Elexander Robinson and Miss Adaline
Robinson, and Colonel Jacob McDougal and Miss
Harryet McDougal, and Judge Jeremiah Butler and
young Bushrod Butler, and these was big chiefs mostly
that wore splendid great turbans and simmeters, and
dressed like the Grand Mogul, and their families. But
as soon as we come to know them good, and like them
very much, it warn't Mister, nor Judge, nor nothing,
any more, but only Elleck, and Addy, and Jake, and
Hattie, and Jerry, and Buck, and so on.
And you know the more you join in with people in
their joys and their sorrows, the more nearer and
dearer they come to be to you. Now we warn't cold
and indifferent, the way most travelers is, we was right
down friendly and sociable, and took a chance in every-
thing that was going, and the caravan could depend on
us to be on hand every time, it didn't make no differ-
ence what it was.
When they camped, we camped right over them, ten
or twelve hundred feet up in the air. When they et a
meal, we et ourn, and it made it ever so much home-
liker to have their company. When they had a wed-
ding that night, and Buck and Addy got married, we
got ourselves up in the very starchiest of the professor's
duds for the blow-out, and when they danced we jined
in and shook a foot up there.
But it is sorrow and trouble that brings you the
nearest, and it was a funeral that done it with us. It
was next morning, just in the still dawn. We didn't
know the diseased, and he warn't in our set, but that
never made no difference; he belonged to the caravan,
and that was enough, and there warn't no more sincerer
tears shed over him than the ones we dripped on him
from up there eleven hundred foot on high.
Yes, parting with this caravan was much more
bitterer than it was to part with them others, which was
comparative strangers, and been dead so long, anyway.
We had knowed these in their lives, and was fond of
them, too, and now to have death snatch them from
right before our faces while we was looking, and leave
us so lonesome and friendless in the middle of that big
desert, it did hurt so, and we wished we mightn't ever
make any more friends on that voyage if we was
going to lose them again like that.
We couldn't keep from talking about them, and
they was all the time coming up in our memory, and
looking just the way they looked when we was all alive
and happy together. We could see the line marching,
and the shiny spearheads a-winking in the sun; we
could see the dromedaries lumbering along; we could
see the wedding and the funeral; and more oftener
than anything else we could see them praying, because
they don't allow nothing to prevent that; whenever
the call come, several times a day, they would stop
right there, and stand up and face to the east, and lift
back their heads, and spread out their arms and begin,
and four or five times they would go down on their
knees, and then fall forward and touch their forehead
to the ground.
Well, it warn't good to go on talking about them,
lovely as they was in their life, and dear to us in their
life and death both, because it didn't do no good, and
made us too down-hearted. Jim allowed he was going
to live as good a life as he could, so he could see them
again in a better world; and Tom kept still and didn't
tell him they was only Mohammedans; it warn't no
use to disappoint him, he was feeling bad enough just
as it was.
When we woke up next morning we was feeling a
little cheerfuller, and had had a most powerful good
sleep, because sand is the comfortablest bed there is,
and I don't see why people that can afford it don't
have it more. And it's terrible good ballast, too; I
never see the balloon so steady before.
Tom allowed we had twenty tons of it, and wondered
what we better do with it; it was good sand, and it
didn't seem good sense to throw it away. Jim says:
"Mars Tom, can't we tote it back home en sell it?
How long'll it take?"
"Depends on the way we go."
"Well, sah, she's wuth a quarter of a dollar a load
at home, en I reckon we's got as much as twenty
loads, hain't we? How much would dat be?"
"By jings, Mars Tom, le's shove for home right on
de spot! Hit's more'n a dollar en a half apiece, hain't
"Well, ef dat ain't makin' money de easiest ever I
struck! She jes' rained in -- never cos' us a lick o'
work. Le's mosey right along, Mars Tom."
But Tom was thinking and ciphering away so busy
and excited he never heard him. Pretty soon he says:
"Five dollars -- sho! Look here, this sand's worth
-- worth -- why, it's worth no end of money."
"How is dat, Mars Tom? Go on, honey, go on!"
"Well, the minute people knows it's genuwyne sand
from the genuwyne Desert of Sahara, they'll just be in
a perfect state of mind to git hold of some of it to
keep on the what-not in a vial with a label on it for a
curiosity. All we got to do is to put it up in vials and
float around all over the United States and peddle them
out at ten cents apiece. We've got all of ten thousand
dollars' worth of sand in this boat."
Me and Jim went all to pieces with joy, and begun
to shout whoopjamboreehoo, and Tom says:
"And we can keep on coming back and fetching
sand, and coming back and fetching more sand, and
just keep it a-going till we've carted this whole Desert
over there and sold it out; and there ain't ever going
to be any opposition, either, because we'll take out a
"My goodness," I says, "we'll be as rich as Creo-
sote, won't we, Tom?"
"Yes -- Creesus, you mean. Why, that dervish was
hunting in that little hill for the treasures of the earth,
and didn't know he was walking over the real ones for
a thousand miles. He was blinder than he made the
"Mars Tom, how much is we gwyne to be worth?"
"Well, I don't know yet. It's got to be ciphered,
and it ain't the easiest job to do, either, because it's
over four million square miles of sand at ten cents a
Jim was awful excited, but this faded it out consider-
able, and he shook his head and says:
"Mars Tom, we can't 'ford all dem vials -- a king
couldn't. We better not try to take de whole Desert,
Mars Tom, de vials gwyne to bust us, sho'."
Tom's excitement died out, too, now, and I reck-
oned it was on account of the vials, but it wasn't. He
set there thinking, and got bluer and bluer, and at last
"Boys, it won't work; we got to give it up."
"On account of the duties."
I couldn't make nothing out of that, neither could
Jim. I says:
"What IS our duty, Tom? Because if we can't git
around it, why can't we just DO it? People often has
But he says:
"Oh, it ain't that kind of duty. The kind I mean
is a tax. Whenever you strike a frontier -- that's the
border of a country, you know -- you find a custom-
house there, and the gov'ment officers comes and rum-
mages among your things and charges a big tax, which
they call a duty because it's their duty to bust you if
they can, and if you don't pay the duty they'll hog
your sand. They call it confiscating, but that don't
deceive nobody, it's just hogging, and that's all it is.
Now if we try to carry this sand home the way we're
pointed now, we got to climb fences till we git tired --
just frontier after frontier -- Egypt, Arabia, Hindostan,
and so on, and they'll all whack on a duty, and so you
see, easy enough, we CAN'T go THAT road."
"Why, Tom," I says, "we can sail right over their
old frontiers; how are THEY going to stop us?"
He looked sorrowful at me, and says, very grave:
"Huck Finn, do you think that would be honest?"
I hate them kind of interruptions. I never said
nothing, and he went on:
"Well, we're shut off the other way, too. If we go
back the way we've come, there's the New York
custom-house, and that is worse than all of them others
put together, on account of the kind of cargo we've
"Well, they can't raise Sahara sand in America, of
course, and when they can't raise a thing there, the
duty is fourteen hundred thousand per cent. on it if
you try to fetch it in from where they do raise it."
"There ain't no sense in that, Tom Sawyer."
"Who said there WAS? What do you talk to me
like that for, Huck Finn? You wait till I say a thing's
got sense in it before you go to accusing me of say-
"All right, consider me crying about it, and sorry.
"Mars Tom, do dey jam dat duty onto everything
we can't raise in America, en don't make no 'stinction
"Yes, that's what they do."
"Mars Tom, ain't de blessin' o' de Lord de mos'
valuable thing dey is?"
"Yes, it is."
"Don't de preacher stan' up in de pulpit en call it
down on de people?"
"Whah do it come from?"
"Yassir! you's jes' right, 'deed you is, honey -- it
come from heaven, en dat's a foreign country. NOW,
den! do dey put a tax on dat blessin'?"
"No, they don't."
"Course dey don't; en so it stan' to reason dat
you's mistaken, Mars Tom. Dey wouldn't put de tax
on po' truck like san', dat everybody ain't 'bleeged to
have, en leave it off'n de bes' thing dey is, which
nobody can't git along widout."
Tom Sawyer was stumped; he see Jim had got him
where he couldn't budge. He tried to wiggle out by
saying they had FORGOT to put on that tax, but they'd
be sure to remember about it, next session of Con-
gress, and then they'd put it on, but that was a poor
lame come-off, and he knowed it. He said there
warn't nothing foreign that warn't taxed but just that
one, and so they couldn't be consistent without taxing
it, and to be consistent was the first law of politics.
So he stuck to it that they'd left it out unintentional
and would be certain to do their best to fix it before
they got caught and laughed at.
But I didn't feel no more interest in such things, as
long as we couldn't git our sand through, and it made
me low-spirited, and Jim the same. Tom he tried to
cheer us up by saying he would think up another
speculation for us that would be just as good as this
one and better, but it didn't do no good, we didn't
believe there was any as big as this. It was mighty
hard; such a little while ago we was so rich, and could
'a' bought a country and started a kingdom and been
celebrated and happy, and now we was so poor and
ornery again, and had our sand left on our hands.
The sand was looking so lovely before, just like gold
and di'monds, and the feel of it was so soft and so
silky and nice, but now I couldn't bear the sight of it,
it made me sick to look at it, and I knowed I wouldn't
ever feel comfortable again till we got shut of it, and I
didn't have it there no more to remind us of what we
had been and what we had got degraded down to.
The others was feeling the same way about it that I
was. I knowed it, because they cheered up so, the
minute I says le's throw this truck overboard.
Well, it was going to be work, you know, and pretty
solid work, too; so Tom he divided it up according to
fairness and strength. He said me and him would
clear out a fifth apiece of the sand, and Jim three-
fifths. Jim he didn't quite like that arrangement. He
"Course I's de stronges', en I's willin' to do a share
accordin', but by jings you's kinder pilin' it onto ole
Jim, Mars Tom, hain't you?"
"Well, I didn't think so, Jim, but you try your hand
at fixing it, and let's see."
So Jim reckoned it wouldn't be no more than fair if
me and Tom done a TENTH apiece. Tom he turned his
back to git room and be private, and then he smole a
smile that spread around and covered the whole Sahara
to the westward, back to the Atlantic edge of it where
we come from. Then he turned around again and
said it was a good enough arrangement, and we was
satisfied if Jim was. Jim said he was.
So then Tom measured off our two-tenths in the
bow and left the rest for Jim, and it surprised Jim a
good deal to see how much difference there was and
what a raging lot of sand his share come to, and said
he was powerful glad now that he had spoke up in time
and got the first arrangement altered, for he said that
even the way it was now, there was more sand than
enjoyment in his end of the contract, he believed.
Then we laid into it. It was mighty hot work, and
tough; so hot we had to move up into cooler weather
or we couldn't 'a' stood it. Me and Tom took turn
about, and one worked while t'other rested, but there
warn't nobody to spell poor old Jim, and he made all
that part of Africa damp, he sweated so. We couldn't
work good, we was so full of laugh, and Jim he kept
fretting and wanting to know what tickled us so, and
we had to keep making up things to account for it, and
they was pretty poor inventions, but they done well
enough, Jim didn't see through them. At last when
we got done we was 'most dead, but not with work
but with laughing. By and by Jim was 'most dead,
too, but: it was with work; then we took turns and
spelled him, and he was as thankfull as he could be,
and would set on the gunnel and swab the sweat, and
heave and pant, and say how good we was to a poor
old nigger, and he wouldn't ever forgit us. He was
always the gratefulest nigger I ever see, for any little
thing you done for him. He was only nigger outside;
inside he was as white as you be.
JIM STANDING SIEGE
THE next few meals was pretty sandy, but that
don't make no difference when you are hungry;
and when you ain't it ain't no satisfaction to eat, any-
way, and so a little grit in the meat ain't no particular
drawback, as far as I can see.
Then we struck the east end of the Desert at last,
sailing on a northeast course. Away off on the edge
of the sand, in a soft pinky light, we see three little
sharp roofs like tents, and Tom says:
"It's the pyramids of Egypt."
It made my heart fairly jump. You see, I had seen
a many and a many a picture of them, and heard tell
about them a hundred times, and yet to come on them
all of a sudden, that way, and find they was REAL, 'stead
of imaginations, 'most knocked the breath out of me
with surprise. It's a curious thing, that the more you
hear about a grand and big and bully thing or person,
the more it kind of dreamies out, as you may say, and
gets to be a big dim wavery figger made out of moon-
shine and nothing solid to it. It's just so with George
Washington, and the same with them pyramids.
And moreover, besides, the thing they always said
about them seemed to me to be stretchers. There was
a feller come to the Sunday-school once, and had a
picture of them, and made a speech, and said the big-
gest pyramid covered thirteen acres, and was most five
hundred foot high, just a steep mountain, all built out
of hunks of stone as big as a bureau, and laid up
in perfectly regular layers, like stair-steps. Thirteen
acres, you see, for just one building; it's a farm. If
it hadn't been in Sunday-school, I would 'a' judged it
was a lie; and outside I was certain of it. And he
said there was a hole in the pyramid, and you could go
in there with candles, and go ever so far up a long
slanting tunnel, and come to a large room in the
stomach of that stone mountain, and there you would
find a big stone chest with a king in it, four thousand
years old. I said to myself, then, if that ain't a lie I
will eat that king if they will fetch him, for even
Methusalem warn't that old, and nobody claims it.
As we come a little nearer we see the yaller sand
come to an end in a long straight edge like a blanket,
and on to it was joined, edge to edge, a wide country
of bright green, with a snaky stripe crooking through
it, and Tom said it was the Nile. It made my heart
jump again, for the Nile was another thing that wasn't
real to me. Now I can tell you one thing which is
dead certain: if you will fool along over three thou-
sand miles of yaller sand, all glimmering with heat so
that it makes your eyes water to look at it, and you've
been a considerable part of a week doing it, the green
country will look so like home and heaven to you that
it will make your eyes water AGAIN.
It was just so with me, and the same with Jim.
And when Jim got so he could believe it WAS the
land of Egypt he was looking at, he wouldn't enter it
standing up, but got down on his knees and took off
his hat, because he said it wasn't fitten' for a humble
poor nigger to come any other way where such men
had been as Moses and Joseph and Pharaoh and the
other prophets. He was a Presbyterian, and had a
most deep respect for Moses which was a Presbyterian,
too, he said. He was all stirred up, and says:
"Hit's de lan' of Egypt, de lan' of Egypt, en I's
'lowed to look at it wid my own eyes! En dah's de
river dat was turn' to blood, en I's looking at de very
same groun' whah de plagues was, en de lice, en de
frogs, en de locus', en de hail, en whah dey marked
de door-pos', en de angel o' de Lord come by in de
darkness o' de night en slew de fust-born in all de lan'
o' Egypt. Ole Jim ain't worthy to see dis day!"
And then he just broke down and cried, he was so
thankful. So between him and Tom there was talk
enough, Jim being excited because the land was so full
of history -- Joseph and his brethren, Moses in the
bulrushers, Jacob coming down into Egypt to buy
corn, the silver cup in the sack, and all them interesting
things; and Tom just as excited too, because the land
was so full of history that was in HIS line, about
Noureddin, and Bedreddin, and such like monstrous
giants, that made Jim's wool rise, and a raft of other
Arabian Nights folks, which the half of them never
done the things they let on they done, I don't believe.
Then we struck a disappointment, for one of them
early morning fogs started up, and it warn't no use to
sail over the top of it, because we would go by Egypt,
sure, so we judged it was best to set her by compass
straight for the place where the pyramids was gitting
blurred and blotted out, and then drop low and skin
along pretty close to the ground and keep a sharp
lookout. Tom took the hellum, I stood by to let go
the anchor, and Jim he straddled the bow to dig
through the fog with his eyes and watch out for danger
ahead. We went along a steady gait, but not very
fast, and the fog got solider and solider, so solid that
Jim looked dim and ragged and smoky through it. It
was awful still, and we talked low and was anxious.
Now and then Jim would say:
"Highst her a p'int, Mars Tom, highst her!" and
up she would skip, a foot or two, and we would slide
right over a flat-roofed mud cabin, with people that
had been asleep on it just beginning to turn out and
gap and stretch; and once when a feller was clear up
on his hind legs so he could gap and stretch better, we
took him a blip in the back and knocked him off. By
and by, after about an hour, and everything dead still
and we a-straining our ears for sounds and holding our
breath, the fog thinned a little, very sudden, and Jim
sung out in an awful scare:
"Oh, for de lan's sake, set her back, Mars Tom,
here's de biggest giant outen de 'Rabian Nights a-
comin' for us!" and he went over backwards in the
Tom slammed on the back-action, and as we slowed
to a standstill a man's face as big as our house at home
looked in over the gunnel, same as a house looks out
of its windows, and I laid down and died. I must 'a'
been clear dead and gone for as much as a minute or
more; then I come to, and Tom had hitched a boat-
hook on to the lower lip of the giant and was holding
the balloon steady with it whilst he canted his head
back and got a good long look up at that awful face.
Jim was on his knees with his hands clasped, gazing
up at the thing in a begging way, and working his lips,
but not getting anything out. I took only just a
glimpse, and was fading out again, but Tom says:
"He ain't alive, you fools; it's the Sphinx!"
I never see Tom look so little and like a fly;
but that was because the giant's head was so big and
awful. Awful, yes, so it was, but not dreadful any
more, because you could see it was a noble face,
and kind of sad, and not thinking about you, but about
other things and larger. It was stone, reddish stone,
and its nose and ears battered, and that give it an
abused look, and you felt sorrier for it for that.
We stood off a piece, and sailed around it and over
it, and it was just grand. It was a man's head, or
maybe a woman's, on a tiger's body a hundred and
twenty-five foot long, and there was a dear little temple
between its front paws. All but the head used to be
under the sand, for hundreds of years, maybe thou-
sands, but they had just lately dug the sand away and
found that little temple. It took a power of sand to
bury that cretur; most as much as it would to bury a
steamboat, I reckon.
We landed Jim on top of the head, with an American
flag to protect him, it being a foreign land; then we
sailed off to this and that and t'other distance, to git
what Tom called effects and perspectives and propor-
tions, and Jim he done the best he could, striking all
the different kinds of attitudes and positions he could
study up, but standing on his head and working his
legs the way a frog does was the best. The further we
got away, the littler Jim got, and the grander the
Sphinx got, till at last it was only a clothespin on a
dome, as you might say. That's the way perspective
brings out the correct proportions, Tom said; he said
Julus Cesar's niggers didn't know how big he was,
they was too close to him.
Then we sailed off further and further, till we
couldn't see Jim at all any more, and then that great
figger was at its noblest, a-gazing out over the Nile
Valley so still and solemn and lonesome, and all the
little shabby huts and things that was scattered about it
clean disappeared and gone, and nothing around it now
but a soft wide spread of yaller velvet, which was the
That was the right place to stop, and we done it.
We set there a-looking and a-thinking for a half an
hour, nobody a-saying anything, for it made us feel
quiet and kind of solemn to remember it had been
looking over that valley just that same way, and think-
ing its awful thoughts all to itself for thousands of
years. and nobody can't find out what they are to this
At last I took up the glass and see some little black
things a-capering around on that velvet carpet, and
some more a-climbing up the cretur's back, and then I
see two or three wee puffs of white smoke, and told
Tom to look. He done it, and says:
"They're bugs. No -- hold on; they -- why, I be-
lieve they're men. Yes, it's men -- men and horses
both. They're hauling a long ladder up onto the
Sphinx's back -- now ain't that odd? And now they're
trying to lean it up a -- there's some more puffs of
smoke -- it's guns! Huck, they're after Jim."
We clapped on the power, and went for them a-
biling. We was there in no time, and come a-whizzing
down amongst them, and they broke and scattered every
which way, and some that was climbing the ladder after
Jim let go all holts and fell. We soared up and found
him laying on top of the head panting and most
tuckered out, partly from howling for help and partly
from scare. He had been standing a siege a long time
-- a week, HE said, but it warn't so, it only just seemed
so to him because they was crowding him so. They
had shot at him, and rained the bullets all around him,
but he warn't hit, and when they found he wouldn't
stand up and the bullets couldn't git at him when he
was laying down, they went for the ladder, and then
he knowed it was all up with him if we didn't come
pretty quick. Tom was very indignant, and asked him
why he didn't show the flag and command them to GIT,
in the name of the United States. Jim said he done
it, but they never paid no attention. Tom said he
would have this thing looked into at Washington, and
"You'll see that they'll have to apologize for insult-
ing the flag, and pay an indemnity, too, on top of it
even if they git off THAT easy."
"What's an indemnity, Mars Tom?"
"It's cash, that's what it is."
"Who gits it, Mars Tom?"
"Why, WE do."
"En who gits de apology?"
"The United States. Or, we can take whichever
we please. We can take the apology, if we want to,
and let the gov'ment take the money."
"How much money will it be, Mars Tom?"
"Well, in an aggravated case like this one, it will
be at least three dollars apiece, and I don't know but
"Well, den, we'll take de money, Mars Tom, blame
de 'pology. Hain't dat yo' notion, too? En hain't it
We talked it over a little and allowed that that was as
good a way as any, so we agreed to take the money.
It was a new business to me, and I asked Tom if
countries always apologized when they had done wrong,
and he says:
"Yes; the little ones does."
We was sailing around examining the pyramids, you
know, and now we soared up and roosted on the flat top
of the biggest one, and found it was just like what the
man said in the Sunday-school. It was like four pairs
of stairs that starts broad at the bottom and slants up
and comes together in a point at the top, only these
stair-steps couldn't be clumb the way you climb other
stairs; no, for each step was as high as your chin, and
you have to be boosted up from behind. The two
other pyramids warn't far away, and the people moving
about on the sand between looked like bugs crawling,
we was so high above them.
Tom he couldn't hold himself he was so worked up
with gladness and astonishment to be in such a cele-
brated place, and he just dripped history from every
pore, seemed to me. He said he couldn't scarcely
believe he was standing on the very identical spot the
prince flew from on the Bronze Horse. It was in the
Arabian Night times, he said. Somebody give the
prince a bronze horse with a peg in its shoulder, and
he could git on him and fly through the air like a bird,
and go all over the world, and steer it by turning the
peg, and fly high or low and land wherever he wanted
When he got done telling it there was one of them
uncomfortable silences that comes, you know, when a
person has been telling a whopper and you feel sorry
for him and wish you could think of some way to
change the subject and let him down easy, but git stuck
and don't see no way, and before you can pull your
mind together and DO something, that silence has got in
and spread itself and done the business. I was embar-
rassed, Jim he was embarrassed, and neither of us
couldn't say a word. Well, Tom he glowered at me a
minute, and says:
"Come, out with it. What do you think?"
"Tom Sawyer, YOU don't believe that, yourself."
"What's the reason I don't? What's to hender
"There's one thing to hender you: it couldn't
happen, that's all."
"What's the reason it couldn't happen?"
"You tell me the reason it COULD happen."
"This balloon is a good enough reason it could
happen, I should reckon."
"WHY is it?"
"WHY is it? I never saw such an idiot. Ain't this
balloon and the bronze horse the same thing under
"No, they're not. One is a balloon and the other's
a horse. It's very different. Next you'll be saying a
house and a cow is the same thing."
"By Jackson, Huck's got him ag'in! Dey ain't no
wigglin' outer dat!"
"Shut your head, Jim; you don't know what you're
talking about. And Huck don't. Look here, Huck,
I'll make it plain to you, so you can understand. You
see, it ain't the mere FORM that's got anything to do
with their being similar or unsimilar, it's the PRINCI-
PLE involved; and the principle is the same in both.
Don't you see, now?"
I turned it over in my mind, and says:
"Tom, it ain't no use. Principles is all very well,
but they don't git around that one big fact, that the
thing that a balloon can do ain't no sort of proof of
what a horse can do."
"Shucks, Huck, you don't get the idea at all. Now
look here a minute -- it's perfectly plain. Don't we
fly through the air?"
"Very well. Don't we fly high or fly low, just as
"Don't we steer whichever way we want to?"
"And don't we land when and where we please?"
"How do we move the balloon and steer it?"
"By touching the buttons."
"NOW I reckon the thing is clear to you at last. In
the other case the moving and steering was done by
turning a peg. We touch a button, the prince turned
a peg. There ain't an atom of difference, you see. I
knowed I could git it through your head if I stuck to it
He felt so happy he begun to whistle. But me and
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