The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Part 4.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Produced by David Widger
THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
TOM'S mind was made up now. He was gloomy and desperate. He was a
forsaken, friendless boy, he said; nobody loved him; when they found
out what they had driven him to, perhaps they would be sorry; he had
tried to do right and get along, but they would not let him; since
nothing would do them but to be rid of him, let it be so; and let them
blame HIM for the consequences--why shouldn't they? What right had the
friendless to complain? Yes, they had forced him to it at last: he
would lead a life of crime. There was no choice.
By this time he was far down Meadow Lane, and the bell for school to
"take up" tinkled faintly upon his ear. He sobbed, now, to think he
should never, never hear that old familiar sound any more--it was very
hard, but it was forced on him; since he was driven out into the cold
world, he must submit--but he forgave them. Then the sobs came thick
Just at this point he met his soul's sworn comrade, Joe Harper
--hard-eyed, and with evidently a great and dismal purpose in his heart.
Plainly here were "two souls with but a single thought." Tom, wiping
his eyes with his sleeve, began to blubber out something about a
resolution to escape from hard usage and lack of sympathy at home by
roaming abroad into the great world never to return; and ended by
hoping that Joe would not forget him.
But it transpired that this was a request which Joe had just been
going to make of Tom, and had come to hunt him up for that purpose. His
mother had whipped him for drinking some cream which he had never
tasted and knew nothing about; it was plain that she was tired of him
and wished him to go; if she felt that way, there was nothing for him
to do but succumb; he hoped she would be happy, and never regret having
driven her poor boy out into the unfeeling world to suffer and die.
As the two boys walked sorrowing along, they made a new compact to
stand by each other and be brothers and never separate till death
relieved them of their troubles. Then they began to lay their plans.
Joe was for being a hermit, and living on crusts in a remote cave, and
dying, some time, of cold and want and grief; but after listening to
Tom, he conceded that there were some conspicuous advantages about a
life of crime, and so he consented to be a pirate.
Three miles below St. Petersburg, at a point where the Mississippi
River was a trifle over a mile wide, there was a long, narrow, wooded
island, with a shallow bar at the head of it, and this offered well as
a rendezvous. It was not inhabited; it lay far over toward the further
shore, abreast a dense and almost wholly unpeopled forest. So Jackson's
Island was chosen. Who were to be the subjects of their piracies was a
matter that did not occur to them. Then they hunted up Huckleberry
Finn, and he joined them promptly, for all careers were one to him; he
was indifferent. They presently separated to meet at a lonely spot on
the river-bank two miles above the village at the favorite hour--which
was midnight. There was a small log raft there which they meant to
capture. Each would bring hooks and lines, and such provision as he
could steal in the most dark and mysterious way--as became outlaws. And
before the afternoon was done, they had all managed to enjoy the sweet
glory of spreading the fact that pretty soon the town would "hear
something." All who got this vague hint were cautioned to "be mum and
About midnight Tom arrived with a boiled ham and a few trifles,
and stopped in a dense undergrowth on a small bluff overlooking the
meeting-place. It was starlight, and very still. The mighty river lay
like an ocean at rest. Tom listened a moment, but no sound disturbed the
quiet. Then he gave a low, distinct whistle. It was answered from under
the bluff. Tom whistled twice more; these signals were answered in the
same way. Then a guarded voice said:
"Who goes there?"
"Tom Sawyer, the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main. Name your names."
"Huck Finn the Red-Handed, and Joe Harper the Terror of the Seas." Tom
had furnished these titles, from his favorite literature.
"'Tis well. Give the countersign."
Two hoarse whispers delivered the same awful word simultaneously to
the brooding night:
Then Tom tumbled his ham over the bluff and let himself down after it,
tearing both skin and clothes to some extent in the effort. There was
an easy, comfortable path along the shore under the bluff, but it
lacked the advantages of difficulty and danger so valued by a pirate.
The Terror of the Seas had brought a side of bacon, and had about worn
himself out with getting it there. Finn the Red-Handed had stolen a
skillet and a quantity of half-cured leaf tobacco, and had also brought
a few corn-cobs to make pipes with. But none of the pirates smoked or
"chewed" but himself. The Black Avenger of the Spanish Main said it
would never do to start without some fire. That was a wise thought;
matches were hardly known there in that day. They saw a fire
smouldering upon a great raft a hundred yards above, and they went
stealthily thither and helped themselves to a chunk. They made an
imposing adventure of it, saying, "Hist!" every now and then, and
suddenly halting with finger on lip; moving with hands on imaginary
dagger-hilts; and giving orders in dismal whispers that if "the foe"
stirred, to "let him have it to the hilt," because "dead men tell no
tales." They knew well enough that the raftsmen were all down at the
village laying in stores or having a spree, but still that was no
excuse for their conducting this thing in an unpiratical way.
They shoved off, presently, Tom in command, Huck at the after oar and
Joe at the forward. Tom stood amidships, gloomy-browed, and with folded
arms, and gave his orders in a low, stern whisper:
"Luff, and bring her to the wind!"
"Steady it is, sir!"
"Let her go off a point!"
"Point it is, sir!"
As the boys steadily and monotonously drove the raft toward mid-stream
it was no doubt understood that these orders were given only for
"style," and were not intended to mean anything in particular.
"What sail's she carrying?"
"Courses, tops'ls, and flying-jib, sir."
"Send the r'yals up! Lay out aloft, there, half a dozen of ye
--foretopmaststuns'l! Lively, now!"
"Shake out that maintogalans'l! Sheets and braces! NOW my hearties!"
"Hellum-a-lee--hard a port! Stand by to meet her when she comes! Port,
port! NOW, men! With a will! Stead-y-y-y!"
"Steady it is, sir!"
The raft drew beyond the middle of the river; the boys pointed her
head right, and then lay on their oars. The river was not high, so
there was not more than a two or three mile current. Hardly a word was
said during the next three-quarters of an hour. Now the raft was
passing before the distant town. Two or three glimmering lights showed
where it lay, peacefully sleeping, beyond the vague vast sweep of
star-gemmed water, unconscious of the tremendous event that was happening.
The Black Avenger stood still with folded arms, "looking his last" upon
the scene of his former joys and his later sufferings, and wishing
"she" could see him now, abroad on the wild sea, facing peril and death
with dauntless heart, going to his doom with a grim smile on his lips.
It was but a small strain on his imagination to remove Jackson's Island
beyond eyeshot of the village, and so he "looked his last" with a
broken and satisfied heart. The other pirates were looking their last,
too; and they all looked so long that they came near letting the
current drift them out of the range of the island. But they discovered
the danger in time, and made shift to avert it. About two o'clock in
the morning the raft grounded on the bar two hundred yards above the
head of the island, and they waded back and forth until they had landed
their freight. Part of the little raft's belongings consisted of an old
sail, and this they spread over a nook in the bushes for a tent to
shelter their provisions; but they themselves would sleep in the open
air in good weather, as became outlaws.
They built a fire against the side of a great log twenty or thirty
steps within the sombre depths of the forest, and then cooked some
bacon in the frying-pan for supper, and used up half of the corn "pone"
stock they had brought. It seemed glorious sport to be feasting in that
wild, free way in the virgin forest of an unexplored and uninhabited
island, far from the haunts of men, and they said they never would
return to civilization. The climbing fire lit up their faces and threw
its ruddy glare upon the pillared tree-trunks of their forest temple,
and upon the varnished foliage and festooning vines.
When the last crisp slice of bacon was gone, and the last allowance of
corn pone devoured, the boys stretched themselves out on the grass,
filled with contentment. They could have found a cooler place, but they
would not deny themselves such a romantic feature as the roasting
"AIN'T it gay?" said Joe.
"It's NUTS!" said Tom. "What would the boys say if they could see us?"
"Say? Well, they'd just die to be here--hey, Hucky!"
"I reckon so," said Huckleberry; "anyways, I'm suited. I don't want
nothing better'n this. I don't ever get enough to eat, gen'ally--and
here they can't come and pick at a feller and bullyrag him so."
"It's just the life for me," said Tom. "You don't have to get up,
mornings, and you don't have to go to school, and wash, and all that
blame foolishness. You see a pirate don't have to do ANYTHING, Joe,
when he's ashore, but a hermit HE has to be praying considerable, and
then he don't have any fun, anyway, all by himself that way."
"Oh yes, that's so," said Joe, "but I hadn't thought much about it,
you know. I'd a good deal rather be a pirate, now that I've tried it."
"You see," said Tom, "people don't go much on hermits, nowadays, like
they used to in old times, but a pirate's always respected. And a
hermit's got to sleep on the hardest place he can find, and put
sackcloth and ashes on his head, and stand out in the rain, and--"
"What does he put sackcloth and ashes on his head for?" inquired Huck.
"I dono. But they've GOT to do it. Hermits always do. You'd have to do
that if you was a hermit."
"Dern'd if I would," said Huck.
"Well, what would you do?"
"I dono. But I wouldn't do that."
"Why, Huck, you'd HAVE to. How'd you get around it?"
"Why, I just wouldn't stand it. I'd run away."
"Run away! Well, you WOULD be a nice old slouch of a hermit. You'd be
The Red-Handed made no response, being better employed. He had
finished gouging out a cob, and now he fitted a weed stem to it, loaded
it with tobacco, and was pressing a coal to the charge and blowing a
cloud of fragrant smoke--he was in the full bloom of luxurious
contentment. The other pirates envied him this majestic vice, and
secretly resolved to acquire it shortly. Presently Huck said:
"What does pirates have to do?"
"Oh, they have just a bully time--take ships and burn them, and get
the money and bury it in awful places in their island where there's
ghosts and things to watch it, and kill everybody in the ships--make
'em walk a plank."
"And they carry the women to the island," said Joe; "they don't kill
"No," assented Tom, "they don't kill the women--they're too noble. And
the women's always beautiful, too.
"And don't they wear the bulliest clothes! Oh no! All gold and silver
and di'monds," said Joe, with enthusiasm.
"Who?" said Huck.
"Why, the pirates."
Huck scanned his own clothing forlornly.
"I reckon I ain't dressed fitten for a pirate," said he, with a
regretful pathos in his voice; "but I ain't got none but these."
But the other boys told him the fine clothes would come fast enough,
after they should have begun their adventures. They made him understand
that his poor rags would do to begin with, though it was customary for
wealthy pirates to start with a proper wardrobe.
Gradually their talk died out and drowsiness began to steal upon the
eyelids of the little waifs. The pipe dropped from the fingers of the
Red-Handed, and he slept the sleep of the conscience-free and the
weary. The Terror of the Seas and the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main
had more difficulty in getting to sleep. They said their prayers
inwardly, and lying down, since there was nobody there with authority
to make them kneel and recite aloud; in truth, they had a mind not to
say them at all, but they were afraid to proceed to such lengths as
that, lest they might call down a sudden and special thunderbolt from
heaven. Then at once they reached and hovered upon the imminent verge
of sleep--but an intruder came, now, that would not "down." It was
conscience. They began to feel a vague fear that they had been doing
wrong to run away; and next they thought of the stolen meat, and then
the real torture came. They tried to argue it away by reminding
conscience that they had purloined sweetmeats and apples scores of
times; but conscience was not to be appeased by such thin
plausibilities; it seemed to them, in the end, that there was no
getting around the stubborn fact that taking sweetmeats was only
"hooking," while taking bacon and hams and such valuables was plain
simple stealing--and there was a command against that in the Bible. So
they inwardly resolved that so long as they remained in the business,
their piracies should not again be sullied with the crime of stealing.
Then conscience granted a truce, and these curiously inconsistent
pirates fell peacefully to sleep.
WHEN Tom awoke in the morning, he wondered where he was. He sat up and
rubbed his eyes and looked around. Then he comprehended. It was the
cool gray dawn, and there was a delicious sense of repose and peace in
the deep pervading calm and silence of the woods. Not a leaf stirred;
not a sound obtruded upon great Nature's meditation. Beaded dewdrops
stood upon the leaves and grasses. A white layer of ashes covered the
fire, and a thin blue breath of smoke rose straight into the air. Joe
and Huck still slept.
Now, far away in the woods a bird called; another answered; presently
the hammering of a woodpecker was heard. Gradually the cool dim gray of
the morning whitened, and as gradually sounds multiplied and life
manifested itself. The marvel of Nature shaking off sleep and going to
work unfolded itself to the musing boy. A little green worm came
crawling over a dewy leaf, lifting two-thirds of his body into the air
from time to time and "sniffing around," then proceeding again--for he
was measuring, Tom said; and when the worm approached him, of its own
accord, he sat as still as a stone, with his hopes rising and falling,
by turns, as the creature still came toward him or seemed inclined to
go elsewhere; and when at last it considered a painful moment with its
curved body in the air and then came decisively down upon Tom's leg and
began a journey over him, his whole heart was glad--for that meant that
he was going to have a new suit of clothes--without the shadow of a
doubt a gaudy piratical uniform. Now a procession of ants appeared,
from nowhere in particular, and went about their labors; one struggled
manfully by with a dead spider five times as big as itself in its arms,
and lugged it straight up a tree-trunk. A brown spotted lady-bug
climbed the dizzy height of a grass blade, and Tom bent down close to
it and said, "Lady-bug, lady-bug, fly away home, your house is on fire,
your children's alone," and she took wing and went off to see about it
--which did not surprise the boy, for he knew of old that this insect was
credulous about conflagrations, and he had practised upon its
simplicity more than once. A tumblebug came next, heaving sturdily at
its ball, and Tom touched the creature, to see it shut its legs against
its body and pretend to be dead. The birds were fairly rioting by this
time. A catbird, the Northern mocker, lit in a tree over Tom's head,
and trilled out her imitations of her neighbors in a rapture of
enjoyment; then a shrill jay swept down, a flash of blue flame, and
stopped on a twig almost within the boy's reach, cocked his head to one
side and eyed the strangers with a consuming curiosity; a gray squirrel
and a big fellow of the "fox" kind came skurrying along, sitting up at
intervals to inspect and chatter at the boys, for the wild things had
probably never seen a human being before and scarcely knew whether to
be afraid or not. All Nature was wide awake and stirring, now; long
lances of sunlight pierced down through the dense foliage far and near,
and a few butterflies came fluttering upon the scene.
Tom stirred up the other pirates and they all clattered away with a
shout, and in a minute or two were stripped and chasing after and
tumbling over each other in the shallow limpid water of the white
sandbar. They felt no longing for the little village sleeping in the
distance beyond the majestic waste of water. A vagrant current or a
slight rise in the river had carried off their raft, but this only
gratified them, since its going was something like burning the bridge
between them and civilization.
They came back to camp wonderfully refreshed, glad-hearted, and
ravenous; and they soon had the camp-fire blazing up again. Huck found
a spring of clear cold water close by, and the boys made cups of broad
oak or hickory leaves, and felt that water, sweetened with such a
wildwood charm as that, would be a good enough substitute for coffee.
While Joe was slicing bacon for breakfast, Tom and Huck asked him to
hold on a minute; they stepped to a promising nook in the river-bank
and threw in their lines; almost immediately they had reward. Joe had
not had time to get impatient before they were back again with some
handsome bass, a couple of sun-perch and a small catfish--provisions
enough for quite a family. They fried the fish with the bacon, and were
astonished; for no fish had ever seemed so delicious before. They did
not know that the quicker a fresh-water fish is on the fire after he is
caught the better he is; and they reflected little upon what a sauce
open-air sleeping, open-air exercise, bathing, and a large ingredient
of hunger make, too.
They lay around in the shade, after breakfast, while Huck had a smoke,
and then went off through the woods on an exploring expedition. They
tramped gayly along, over decaying logs, through tangled underbrush,
among solemn monarchs of the forest, hung from their crowns to the
ground with a drooping regalia of grape-vines. Now and then they came
upon snug nooks carpeted with grass and jeweled with flowers.
They found plenty of things to be delighted with, but nothing to be
astonished at. They discovered that the island was about three miles
long and a quarter of a mile wide, and that the shore it lay closest to
was only separated from it by a narrow channel hardly two hundred yards
wide. They took a swim about every hour, so it was close upon the
middle of the afternoon when they got back to camp. They were too
hungry to stop to fish, but they fared sumptuously upon cold ham, and
then threw themselves down in the shade to talk. But the talk soon
began to drag, and then died. The stillness, the solemnity that brooded
in the woods, and the sense of loneliness, began to tell upon the
spirits of the boys. They fell to thinking. A sort of undefined longing
crept upon them. This took dim shape, presently--it was budding
homesickness. Even Finn the Red-Handed was dreaming of his doorsteps
and empty hogsheads. But they were all ashamed of their weakness, and
none was brave enough to speak his thought.
For some time, now, the boys had been dully conscious of a peculiar
sound in the distance, just as one sometimes is of the ticking of a
clock which he takes no distinct note of. But now this mysterious sound
became more pronounced, and forced a recognition. The boys started,
glanced at each other, and then each assumed a listening attitude.
There was a long silence, profound and unbroken; then a deep, sullen
boom came floating down out of the distance.
"What is it!" exclaimed Joe, under his breath.
"I wonder," said Tom in a whisper.
"'Tain't thunder," said Huckleberry, in an awed tone, "becuz thunder--"
"Hark!" said Tom. "Listen--don't talk."
They waited a time that seemed an age, and then the same muffled boom
troubled the solemn hush.
"Let's go and see."
They sprang to their feet and hurried to the shore toward the town.
They parted the bushes on the bank and peered out over the water. The
little steam ferryboat was about a mile below the village, drifting
with the current. Her broad deck seemed crowded with people. There were
a great many skiffs rowing about or floating with the stream in the
neighborhood of the ferryboat, but the boys could not determine what
the men in them were doing. Presently a great jet of white smoke burst
from the ferryboat's side, and as it expanded and rose in a lazy cloud,
that same dull throb of sound was borne to the listeners again.
"I know now!" exclaimed Tom; "somebody's drownded!"
"That's it!" said Huck; "they done that last summer, when Bill Turner
got drownded; they shoot a cannon over the water, and that makes him
come up to the top. Yes, and they take loaves of bread and put
quicksilver in 'em and set 'em afloat, and wherever there's anybody
that's drownded, they'll float right there and stop."
"Yes, I've heard about that," said Joe. "I wonder what makes the bread
"Oh, it ain't the bread, so much," said Tom; "I reckon it's mostly
what they SAY over it before they start it out."
"But they don't say anything over it," said Huck. "I've seen 'em and
"Well, that's funny," said Tom. "But maybe they say it to themselves.
Of COURSE they do. Anybody might know that."
The other boys agreed that there was reason in what Tom said, because
an ignorant lump of bread, uninstructed by an incantation, could not be
expected to act very intelligently when set upon an errand of such
"By jings, I wish I was over there, now," said Joe.
"I do too" said Huck "I'd give heaps to know who it is."
The boys still listened and watched. Presently a revealing thought
flashed through Tom's mind, and he exclaimed:
"Boys, I know who's drownded--it's us!"
They felt like heroes in an instant. Here was a gorgeous triumph; they
were missed; they were mourned; hearts were breaking on their account;
tears were being shed; accusing memories of unkindness to these poor
lost lads were rising up, and unavailing regrets and remorse were being
indulged; and best of all, the departed were the talk of the whole
town, and the envy of all the boys, as far as this dazzling notoriety
was concerned. This was fine. It was worth while to be a pirate, after
As twilight drew on, the ferryboat went back to her accustomed
business and the skiffs disappeared. The pirates returned to camp. They
were jubilant with vanity over their new grandeur and the illustrious
trouble they were making. They caught fish, cooked supper and ate it,
and then fell to guessing at what the village was thinking and saying
about them; and the pictures they drew of the public distress on their
account were gratifying to look upon--from their point of view. But
when the shadows of night closed them in, they gradually ceased to
talk, and sat gazing into the fire, with their minds evidently
wandering elsewhere. The excitement was gone, now, and Tom and Joe
could not keep back thoughts of certain persons at home who were not
enjoying this fine frolic as much as they were. Misgivings came; they
grew troubled and unhappy; a sigh or two escaped, unawares. By and by
Joe timidly ventured upon a roundabout "feeler" as to how the others
might look upon a return to civilization--not right now, but--
Tom withered him with derision! Huck, being uncommitted as yet, joined
in with Tom, and the waverer quickly "explained," and was glad to get
out of the scrape with as little taint of chicken-hearted homesickness
clinging to his garments as he could. Mutiny was effectually laid to
rest for the moment.
As the night deepened, Huck began to nod, and presently to snore. Joe
followed next. Tom lay upon his elbow motionless, for some time,
watching the two intently. At last he got up cautiously, on his knees,
and went searching among the grass and the flickering reflections flung
by the camp-fire. He picked up and inspected several large
semi-cylinders of the thin white bark of a sycamore, and finally chose
two which seemed to suit him. Then he knelt by the fire and painfully
wrote something upon each of these with his "red keel"; one he rolled up
and put in his jacket pocket, and the other he put in Joe's hat and
removed it to a little distance from the owner. And he also put into the
hat certain schoolboy treasures of almost inestimable value--among them
a lump of chalk, an India-rubber ball, three fishhooks, and one of that
kind of marbles known as a "sure 'nough crystal." Then he tiptoed his
way cautiously among the trees till he felt that he was out of hearing,
and straightway broke into a keen run in the direction of the sandbar.
A FEW minutes later Tom was in the shoal water of the bar, wading
toward the Illinois shore. Before the depth reached his middle he was
half-way over; the current would permit no more wading, now, so he
struck out confidently to swim the remaining hundred yards. He swam
quartering upstream, but still was swept downward rather faster than he
had expected. However, he reached the shore finally, and drifted along
till he found a low place and drew himself out. He put his hand on his
jacket pocket, found his piece of bark safe, and then struck through
the woods, following the shore, with streaming garments. Shortly before
ten o'clock he came out into an open place opposite the village, and
saw the ferryboat lying in the shadow of the trees and the high bank.
Everything was quiet under the blinking stars. He crept down the bank,
watching with all his eyes, slipped into the water, swam three or four
strokes and climbed into the skiff that did "yawl" duty at the boat's
stern. He laid himself down under the thwarts and waited, panting.
Presently the cracked bell tapped and a voice gave the order to "cast
off." A minute or two later the skiff's head was standing high up,
against the boat's swell, and the voyage was begun. Tom felt happy in
his success, for he knew it was the boat's last trip for the night. At
the end of a long twelve or fifteen minutes the wheels stopped, and Tom
slipped overboard and swam ashore in the dusk, landing fifty yards
downstream, out of danger of possible stragglers.
He flew along unfrequented alleys, and shortly found himself at his
aunt's back fence. He climbed over, approached the "ell," and looked in
at the sitting-room window, for a light was burning there. There sat
Aunt Polly, Sid, Mary, and Joe Harper's mother, grouped together,
talking. They were by the bed, and the bed was between them and the
door. Tom went to the door and began to softly lift the latch; then he
pressed gently and the door yielded a crack; he continued pushing
cautiously, and quaking every time it creaked, till he judged he might
squeeze through on his knees; so he put his head through and began,
"What makes the candle blow so?" said Aunt Polly. Tom hurried up.
"Why, that door's open, I believe. Why, of course it is. No end of
strange things now. Go 'long and shut it, Sid."
Tom disappeared under the bed just in time. He lay and "breathed"
himself for a time, and then crept to where he could almost touch his
"But as I was saying," said Aunt Polly, "he warn't BAD, so to say
--only mischEEvous. Only just giddy, and harum-scarum, you know. He
warn't any more responsible than a colt. HE never meant any harm, and
he was the best-hearted boy that ever was"--and she began to cry.
"It was just so with my Joe--always full of his devilment, and up to
every kind of mischief, but he was just as unselfish and kind as he
could be--and laws bless me, to think I went and whipped him for taking
that cream, never once recollecting that I throwed it out myself
because it was sour, and I never to see him again in this world, never,
never, never, poor abused boy!" And Mrs. Harper sobbed as if her heart
"I hope Tom's better off where he is," said Sid, "but if he'd been
better in some ways--"
"SID!" Tom felt the glare of the old lady's eye, though he could not
see it. "Not a word against my Tom, now that he's gone! God'll take
care of HIM--never you trouble YOURself, sir! Oh, Mrs. Harper, I don't
know how to give him up! I don't know how to give him up! He was such a
comfort to me, although he tormented my old heart out of me, 'most."
"The Lord giveth and the Lord hath taken away--Blessed be the name of
the Lord! But it's so hard--Oh, it's so hard! Only last Saturday my
Joe busted a firecracker right under my nose and I knocked him
sprawling. Little did I know then, how soon--Oh, if it was to do over
again I'd hug him and bless him for it."
"Yes, yes, yes, I know just how you feel, Mrs. Harper, I know just
exactly how you feel. No longer ago than yesterday noon, my Tom took
and filled the cat full of Pain-killer, and I did think the cretur
would tear the house down. And God forgive me, I cracked Tom's head
with my thimble, poor boy, poor dead boy. But he's out of all his
troubles now. And the last words I ever heard him say was to reproach--"
But this memory was too much for the old lady, and she broke entirely
down. Tom was snuffling, now, himself--and more in pity of himself than
anybody else. He could hear Mary crying, and putting in a kindly word
for him from time to time. He began to have a nobler opinion of himself
than ever before. Still, he was sufficiently touched by his aunt's
grief to long to rush out from under the bed and overwhelm her with
joy--and the theatrical gorgeousness of the thing appealed strongly to
his nature, too, but he resisted and lay still.
He went on listening, and gathered by odds and ends that it was
conjectured at first that the boys had got drowned while taking a swim;
then the small raft had been missed; next, certain boys said the
missing lads had promised that the village should "hear something"
soon; the wise-heads had "put this and that together" and decided that
the lads had gone off on that raft and would turn up at the next town
below, presently; but toward noon the raft had been found, lodged
against the Missouri shore some five or six miles below the village
--and then hope perished; they must be drowned, else hunger would have
driven them home by nightfall if not sooner. It was believed that the
search for the bodies had been a fruitless effort merely because the
drowning must have occurred in mid-channel, since the boys, being good
swimmers, would otherwise have escaped to shore. This was Wednesday
night. If the bodies continued missing until Sunday, all hope would be
given over, and the funerals would be preached on that morning. Tom
Mrs. Harper gave a sobbing good-night and turned to go. Then with a
mutual impulse the two bereaved women flung themselves into each
other's arms and had a good, consoling cry, and then parted. Aunt Polly
was tender far beyond her wont, in her good-night to Sid and Mary. Sid
snuffled a bit and Mary went off crying with all her heart.
Aunt Polly knelt down and prayed for Tom so touchingly, so
appealingly, and with such measureless love in her words and her old
trembling voice, that he was weltering in tears again, long before she
He had to keep still long after she went to bed, for she kept making
broken-hearted ejaculations from time to time, tossing unrestfully, and
turning over. But at last she was still, only moaning a little in her
sleep. Now the boy stole out, rose gradually by the bedside, shaded the
candle-light with his hand, and stood regarding her. His heart was full
of pity for her. He took out his sycamore scroll and placed it by the
candle. But something occurred to him, and he lingered considering. His
face lighted with a happy solution of his thought; he put the bark
hastily in his pocket. Then he bent over and kissed the faded lips, and
straightway made his stealthy exit, latching the door behind him.
He threaded his way back to the ferry landing, found nobody at large
there, and walked boldly on board the boat, for he knew she was
tenantless except that there was a watchman, who always turned in and
slept like a graven image. He untied the skiff at the stern, slipped
into it, and was soon rowing cautiously upstream. When he had pulled a
mile above the village, he started quartering across and bent himself
stoutly to his work. He hit the landing on the other side neatly, for
this was a familiar bit of work to him. He was moved to capture the
skiff, arguing that it might be considered a ship and therefore
legitimate prey for a pirate, but he knew a thorough search would be
made for it and that might end in revelations. So he stepped ashore and
entered the woods.
He sat down and took a long rest, torturing himself meanwhile to keep
awake, and then started warily down the home-stretch. The night was far
spent. It was broad daylight before he found himself fairly abreast the
island bar. He rested again until the sun was well up and gilding the
great river with its splendor, and then he plunged into the stream. A
little later he paused, dripping, upon the threshold of the camp, and
heard Joe say:
"No, Tom's true-blue, Huck, and he'll come back. He won't desert. He
knows that would be a disgrace to a pirate, and Tom's too proud for
that sort of thing. He's up to something or other. Now I wonder what?"
"Well, the things is ours, anyway, ain't they?"
Pretty near, but not yet, Huck. The writing says they are if he ain't
back here to breakfast."
"Which he is!" exclaimed Tom, with fine dramatic effect, stepping
grandly into camp.
A sumptuous breakfast of bacon and fish was shortly provided, and as
the boys set to work upon it, Tom recounted (and adorned) his
adventures. They were a vain and boastful company of heroes when the
tale was done. Then Tom hid himself away in a shady nook to sleep till
noon, and the other pirates got ready to fish and explore.
AFTER dinner all the gang turned out to hunt for turtle eggs on the
bar. They went about poking sticks into the sand, and when they found a
soft place they went down on their knees and dug with their hands.
Sometimes they would take fifty or sixty eggs out of one hole. They
were perfectly round white things a trifle smaller than an English
walnut. They had a famous fried-egg feast that night, and another on
After breakfast they went whooping and prancing out on the bar, and
chased each other round and round, shedding clothes as they went, until
they were naked, and then continued the frolic far away up the shoal
water of the bar, against the stiff current, which latter tripped their
legs from under them from time to time and greatly increased the fun.
And now and then they stooped in a group and splashed water in each
other's faces with their palms, gradually approaching each other, with
averted faces to avoid the strangling sprays, and finally gripping and
struggling till the best man ducked his neighbor, and then they all
went under in a tangle of white legs and arms and came up blowing,
sputtering, laughing, and gasping for breath at one and the same time.
When they were well exhausted, they would run out and sprawl on the
dry, hot sand, and lie there and cover themselves up with it, and by
and by break for the water again and go through the original
performance once more. Finally it occurred to them that their naked
skin represented flesh-colored "tights" very fairly; so they drew a
ring in the sand and had a circus--with three clowns in it, for none
would yield this proudest post to his neighbor.
Next they got their marbles and played "knucks" and "ring-taw" and
"keeps" till that amusement grew stale. Then Joe and Huck had another
swim, but Tom would not venture, because he found that in kicking off
his trousers he had kicked his string of rattlesnake rattles off his
ankle, and he wondered how he had escaped cramp so long without the
protection of this mysterious charm. He did not venture again until he
had found it, and by that time the other boys were tired and ready to
rest. They gradually wandered apart, dropped into the "dumps," and fell
to gazing longingly across the wide river to where the village lay
drowsing in the sun. Tom found himself writing "BECKY" in the sand with
his big toe; he scratched it out, and was angry with himself for his
weakness. But he wrote it again, nevertheless; he could not help it. He
erased it once more and then took himself out of temptation by driving
the other boys together and joining them.
But Joe's spirits had gone down almost beyond resurrection. He was so
homesick that he could hardly endure the misery of it. The tears lay
very near the surface. Huck was melancholy, too. Tom was downhearted,
but tried hard not to show it. He had a secret which he was not ready
to tell, yet, but if this mutinous depression was not broken up soon,
he would have to bring it out. He said, with a great show of
"I bet there's been pirates on this island before, boys. We'll explore
it again. They've hid treasures here somewhere. How'd you feel to light
on a rotten chest full of gold and silver--hey?"
But it roused only faint enthusiasm, which faded out, with no reply.
Tom tried one or two other seductions; but they failed, too. It was
discouraging work. Joe sat poking up the sand with a stick and looking
very gloomy. Finally he said:
"Oh, boys, let's give it up. I want to go home. It's so lonesome."
"Oh no, Joe, you'll feel better by and by," said Tom. "Just think of
the fishing that's here."
"I don't care for fishing. I want to go home."
"But, Joe, there ain't such another swimming-place anywhere."
"Swimming's no good. I don't seem to care for it, somehow, when there
ain't anybody to say I sha'n't go in. I mean to go home."
"Oh, shucks! Baby! You want to see your mother, I reckon."
"Yes, I DO want to see my mother--and you would, too, if you had one.
I ain't any more baby than you are." And Joe snuffled a little.
"Well, we'll let the cry-baby go home to his mother, won't we, Huck?
Poor thing--does it want to see its mother? And so it shall. You like
it here, don't you, Huck? We'll stay, won't we?"
Huck said, "Y-e-s"--without any heart in it.
"I'll never speak to you again as long as I live," said Joe, rising.
"There now!" And he moved moodily away and began to dress himself.
"Who cares!" said Tom. "Nobody wants you to. Go 'long home and get
laughed at. Oh, you're a nice pirate. Huck and me ain't cry-babies.
We'll stay, won't we, Huck? Let him go if he wants to. I reckon we can
get along without him, per'aps."
But Tom was uneasy, nevertheless, and was alarmed to see Joe go
sullenly on with his dressing. And then it was discomforting to see
Huck eying Joe's preparations so wistfully, and keeping up such an
ominous silence. Presently, without a parting word, Joe began to wade
off toward the Illinois shore. Tom's heart began to sink. He glanced at
Huck. Huck could not bear the look, and dropped his eyes. Then he said:
"I want to go, too, Tom. It was getting so lonesome anyway, and now
it'll be worse. Let's us go, too, Tom."
"I won't! You can all go, if you want to. I mean to stay."
"Tom, I better go."
"Well, go 'long--who's hendering you."
Huck began to pick up his scattered clothes. He said:
"Tom, I wisht you'd come, too. Now you think it over. We'll wait for
you when we get to shore."
"Well, you'll wait a blame long time, that's all."
Huck started sorrowfully away, and Tom stood looking after him, with a
strong desire tugging at his heart to yield his pride and go along too.
He hoped the boys would stop, but they still waded slowly on. It
suddenly dawned on Tom that it was become very lonely and still. He
made one final struggle with his pride, and then darted after his
"Wait! Wait! I want to tell you something!"
They presently stopped and turned around. When he got to where they
were, he began unfolding his secret, and they listened moodily till at
last they saw the "point" he was driving at, and then they set up a
war-whoop of applause and said it was "splendid!" and said if he had
told them at first, they wouldn't have started away. He made a plausible
excuse; but his real reason had been the fear that not even the secret
would keep them with him any very great length of time, and so he had
meant to hold it in reserve as a last seduction.
The lads came gayly back and went at their sports again with a will,
chattering all the time about Tom's stupendous plan and admiring the
genius of it. After a dainty egg and fish dinner, Tom said he wanted to
learn to smoke, now. Joe caught at the idea and said he would like to
try, too. So Huck made pipes and filled them. These novices had never
smoked anything before but cigars made of grape-vine, and they "bit"
the tongue, and were not considered manly anyway.
Now they stretched themselves out on their elbows and began to puff,
charily, and with slender confidence. The smoke had an unpleasant
taste, and they gagged a little, but Tom said:
"Why, it's just as easy! If I'd a knowed this was all, I'd a learnt
"So would I," said Joe. "It's just nothing."
"Why, many a time I've looked at people smoking, and thought well I
wish I could do that; but I never thought I could," said Tom.
"That's just the way with me, hain't it, Huck? You've heard me talk
just that way--haven't you, Huck? I'll leave it to Huck if I haven't."
"Yes--heaps of times," said Huck.
"Well, I have too," said Tom; "oh, hundreds of times. Once down by the
slaughter-house. Don't you remember, Huck? Bob Tanner was there, and
Johnny Miller, and Jeff Thatcher, when I said it. Don't you remember,
Huck, 'bout me saying that?"
"Yes, that's so," said Huck. "That was the day after I lost a white
alley. No, 'twas the day before."
"There--I told you so," said Tom. "Huck recollects it."
"I bleeve I could smoke this pipe all day," said Joe. "I don't feel
"Neither do I," said Tom. "I could smoke it all day. But I bet you
Jeff Thatcher couldn't."
"Jeff Thatcher! Why, he'd keel over just with two draws. Just let him
try it once. HE'D see!"
"I bet he would. And Johnny Miller--I wish could see Johnny Miller
tackle it once."
"Oh, don't I!" said Joe. "Why, I bet you Johnny Miller couldn't any
more do this than nothing. Just one little snifter would fetch HIM."
"'Deed it would, Joe. Say--I wish the boys could see us now."
"So do I."
"Say--boys, don't say anything about it, and some time when they're
around, I'll come up to you and say, 'Joe, got a pipe? I want a smoke.'
And you'll say, kind of careless like, as if it warn't anything, you'll
say, 'Yes, I got my OLD pipe, and another one, but my tobacker ain't
very good.' And I'll say, 'Oh, that's all right, if it's STRONG
enough.' And then you'll out with the pipes, and we'll light up just as
ca'm, and then just see 'em look!"
"By jings, that'll be gay, Tom! I wish it was NOW!"
"So do I! And when we tell 'em we learned when we was off pirating,
won't they wish they'd been along?"
"Oh, I reckon not! I'll just BET they will!"
So the talk ran on. But presently it began to flag a trifle, and grow
disjointed. The silences widened; the expectoration marvellously
increased. Every pore inside the boys' cheeks became a spouting
fountain; they could scarcely bail out the cellars under their tongues
fast enough to prevent an inundation; little overflowings down their
throats occurred in spite of all they could do, and sudden retchings
followed every time. Both boys were looking very pale and miserable,
now. Joe's pipe dropped from his nerveless fingers. Tom's followed.
Both fountains were going furiously and both pumps bailing with might
and main. Joe said feebly:
"I've lost my knife. I reckon I better go and find it."
Tom said, with quivering lips and halting utterance:
"I'll help you. You go over that way and I'll hunt around by the
spring. No, you needn't come, Huck--we can find it."
So Huck sat down again, and waited an hour. Then he found it lonesome,
and went to find his comrades. They were wide apart in the woods, both
very pale, both fast asleep. But something informed him that if they
had had any trouble they had got rid of it.
They were not talkative at supper that night. They had a humble look,
and when Huck prepared his pipe after the meal and was going to prepare
theirs, they said no, they were not feeling very well--something they
ate at dinner had disagreed with them.
About midnight Joe awoke, and called the boys. There was a brooding
oppressiveness in the air that seemed to bode something. The boys
huddled themselves together and sought the friendly companionship of
the fire, though the dull dead heat of the breathless atmosphere was
stifling. They sat still, intent and waiting. The solemn hush
continued. Beyond the light of the fire everything was swallowed up in
the blackness of darkness. Presently there came a quivering glow that
vaguely revealed the foliage for a moment and then vanished. By and by
another came, a little stronger. Then another. Then a faint moan came
sighing through the branches of the forest and the boys felt a fleeting
breath upon their cheeks, and shuddered with the fancy that the Spirit
of the Night had gone by. There was a pause. Now a weird flash turned
night into day and showed every little grass-blade, separate and
distinct, that grew about their feet. And it showed three white,
startled faces, too. A deep peal of thunder went rolling and tumbling
down the heavens and lost itself in sullen rumblings in the distance. A
sweep of chilly air passed by, rustling all the leaves and snowing the
flaky ashes broadcast about the fire. Another fierce glare lit up the
forest and an instant crash followed that seemed to rend the tree-tops
right over the boys' heads. They clung together in terror, in the thick
gloom that followed. A few big rain-drops fell pattering upon the
"Quick! boys, go for the tent!" exclaimed Tom.
They sprang away, stumbling over roots and among vines in the dark, no
two plunging in the same direction. A furious blast roared through the
trees, making everything sing as it went. One blinding flash after
another came, and peal on peal of deafening thunder. And now a
drenching rain poured down and the rising hurricane drove it in sheets
along the ground. The boys cried out to each other, but the roaring
wind and the booming thunder-blasts drowned their voices utterly.
However, one by one they straggled in at last and took shelter under
the tent, cold, scared, and streaming with water; but to have company
in misery seemed something to be grateful for. They could not talk, the
old sail flapped so furiously, even if the other noises would have
allowed them. The tempest rose higher and higher, and presently the
sail tore loose from its fastenings and went winging away on the blast.
The boys seized each others' hands and fled, with many tumblings and
bruises, to the shelter of a great oak that stood upon the river-bank.
Now the battle was at its highest. Under the ceaseless conflagration of
lightning that flamed in the skies, everything below stood out in
clean-cut and shadowless distinctness: the bending trees, the billowy
river, white with foam, the driving spray of spume-flakes, the dim
outlines of the high bluffs on the other side, glimpsed through the
drifting cloud-rack and the slanting veil of rain. Every little while
some giant tree yielded the fight and fell crashing through the younger
growth; and the unflagging thunder-peals came now in ear-splitting
explosive bursts, keen and sharp, and unspeakably appalling. The storm
culminated in one matchless effort that seemed likely to tear the island
to pieces, burn it up, drown it to the tree-tops, blow it away, and
deafen every creature in it, all at one and the same moment. It was a
wild night for homeless young heads to be out in.
But at last the battle was done, and the forces retired with weaker
and weaker threatenings and grumblings, and peace resumed her sway. The
boys went back to camp, a good deal awed; but they found there was
still something to be thankful for, because the great sycamore, the
shelter of their beds, was a ruin, now, blasted by the lightnings, and
they were not under it when the catastrophe happened.
Everything in camp was drenched, the camp-fire as well; for they were
but heedless lads, like their generation, and had made no provision
against rain. Here was matter for dismay, for they were soaked through
and chilled. They were eloquent in their distress; but they presently
discovered that the fire had eaten so far up under the great log it had
been built against (where it curved upward and separated itself from
the ground), that a handbreadth or so of it had escaped wetting; so
they patiently wrought until, with shreds and bark gathered from the
under sides of sheltered logs, they coaxed the fire to burn again. Then
they piled on great dead boughs till they had a roaring furnace, and
were glad-hearted once more. They dried their boiled ham and had a
feast, and after that they sat by the fire and expanded and glorified
their midnight adventure until morning, for there was not a dry spot to
sleep on, anywhere around.
As the sun began to steal in upon the boys, drowsiness came over them,
and they went out on the sandbar and lay down to sleep. They got
scorched out by and by, and drearily set about getting breakfast. After
the meal they felt rusty, and stiff-jointed, and a little homesick once
more. Tom saw the signs, and fell to cheering up the pirates as well as
he could. But they cared nothing for marbles, or circus, or swimming,
or anything. He reminded them of the imposing secret, and raised a ray
of cheer. While it lasted, he got them interested in a new device. This
was to knock off being pirates, for a while, and be Indians for a
change. They were attracted by this idea; so it was not long before
they were stripped, and striped from head to heel with black mud, like
so many zebras--all of them chiefs, of course--and then they went
tearing through the woods to attack an English settlement.
By and by they separated into three hostile tribes, and darted upon
each other from ambush with dreadful war-whoops, and killed and scalped
each other by thousands. It was a gory day. Consequently it was an
extremely satisfactory one.
They assembled in camp toward supper-time, hungry and happy; but now a
difficulty arose--hostile Indians could not break the bread of
hospitality together without first making peace, and this was a simple
impossibility without smoking a pipe of peace. There was no other
process that ever they had heard of. Two of the savages almost wished
they had remained pirates. However, there was no other way; so with
such show of cheerfulness as they could muster they called for the pipe
and took their whiff as it passed, in due form.
And behold, they were glad they had gone into savagery, for they had
gained something; they found that they could now smoke a little without
having to go and hunt for a lost knife; they did not get sick enough to
be seriously uncomfortable. They were not likely to fool away this high
promise for lack of effort. No, they practised cautiously, after
supper, with right fair success, and so they spent a jubilant evening.
They were prouder and happier in their new acquirement than they would
have been in the scalping and skinning of the Six Nations. We will
leave them to smoke and chatter and brag, since we have no further use
for them at present.
BUT there was no hilarity in the little town that same tranquil
Saturday afternoon. The Harpers, and Aunt Polly's family, were being
put into mourning, with great grief and many tears. An unusual quiet
possessed the village, although it was ordinarily quiet enough, in all
conscience. The villagers conducted their concerns with an absent air,
and talked little; but they sighed often. The Saturday holiday seemed a
burden to the children. They had no heart in their sports, and
gradually gave them up.
In the afternoon Becky Thatcher found herself moping about the
deserted schoolhouse yard, and feeling very melancholy. But she found
nothing there to comfort her. She soliloquized:
"Oh, if I only had a brass andiron-knob again! But I haven't got
anything now to remember him by." And she choked back a little sob.
Presently she stopped, and said to herself:
"It was right here. Oh, if it was to do over again, I wouldn't say
that--I wouldn't say it for the whole world. But he's gone now; I'll
never, never, never see him any more."
This thought broke her down, and she wandered away, with tears rolling
down her cheeks. Then quite a group of boys and girls--playmates of
Tom's and Joe's--came by, and stood looking over the paling fence and
talking in reverent tones of how Tom did so-and-so the last time they
saw him, and how Joe said this and that small trifle (pregnant with
awful prophecy, as they could easily see now!)--and each speaker
pointed out the exact spot where the lost lads stood at the time, and
then added something like "and I was a-standing just so--just as I am
now, and as if you was him--I was as close as that--and he smiled, just
this way--and then something seemed to go all over me, like--awful, you
know--and I never thought what it meant, of course, but I can see now!"
Then there was a dispute about who saw the dead boys last in life, and
many claimed that dismal distinction, and offered evidences, more or
less tampered with by the witness; and when it was ultimately decided
who DID see the departed last, and exchanged the last words with them,
the lucky parties took upon themselves a sort of sacred importance, and
were gaped at and envied by all the rest. One poor chap, who had no
other grandeur to offer, said with tolerably manifest pride in the
"Well, Tom Sawyer he licked me once."
But that bid for glory was a failure. Most of the boys could say that,
and so that cheapened the distinction too much. The group loitered
away, still recalling memories of the lost heroes, in awed voices.
When the Sunday-school hour was finished, the next morning, the bell
began to toll, instead of ringing in the usual way. It was a very still
Sabbath, and the mournful sound seemed in keeping with the musing hush
that lay upon nature. The villagers began to gather, loitering a moment
in the vestibule to converse in whispers about the sad event. But there
was no whispering in the house; only the funereal rustling of dresses
as the women gathered to their seats disturbed the silence there. None
could remember when the little church had been so full before. There
was finally a waiting pause, an expectant dumbness, and then Aunt Polly
entered, followed by Sid and Mary, and they by the Harper family, all
in deep black, and the whole congregation, the old minister as well,
rose reverently and stood until the mourners were seated in the front
pew. There was another communing silence, broken at intervals by
muffled sobs, and then the minister spread his hands abroad and prayed.
A moving hymn was sung, and the text followed: "I am the Resurrection
and the Life."
As the service proceeded, the clergyman drew such pictures of the
graces, the winning ways, and the rare promise of the lost lads that
every soul there, thinking he recognized these pictures, felt a pang in
remembering that he had persistently blinded himself to them always
before, and had as persistently seen only faults and flaws in the poor
boys. The minister related many a touching incident in the lives of the
departed, too, which illustrated their sweet, generous natures, and the
people could easily see, now, how noble and beautiful those episodes
were, and remembered with grief that at the time they occurred they had
seemed rank rascalities, well deserving of the cowhide. The
congregation became more and more moved, as the pathetic tale went on,
till at last the whole company broke down and joined the weeping
mourners in a chorus of anguished sobs, the preacher himself giving way
to his feelings, and crying in the pulpit.
There was a rustle in the gallery, which nobody noticed; a moment
later the church door creaked; the minister raised his streaming eyes
above his handkerchief, and stood transfixed! First one and then
another pair of eyes followed the minister's, and then almost with one
impulse the congregation rose and stared while the three dead boys came
marching up the aisle, Tom in the lead, Joe next, and Huck, a ruin of
drooping rags, sneaking sheepishly in the rear! They had been hid in
the unused gallery listening to their own funeral sermon!
Aunt Polly, Mary, and the Harpers threw themselves upon their restored
ones, smothered them with kisses and poured out thanksgivings, while
poor Huck stood abashed and uncomfortable, not knowing exactly what to
do or where to hide from so many unwelcoming eyes. He wavered, and
started to slink away, but Tom seized him and said:
"Aunt Polly, it ain't fair. Somebody's got to be glad to see Huck."
"And so they shall. I'm glad to see him, poor motherless thing!" And
the loving attentions Aunt Polly lavished upon him were the one thing
capable of making him more uncomfortable than he was before.
Suddenly the minister shouted at the top of his voice: "Praise God
from whom all blessings flow--SING!--and put your hearts in it!"
And they did. Old Hundred swelled up with a triumphant burst, and
while it shook the rafters Tom Sawyer the Pirate looked around upon the
envying juveniles about him and confessed in his heart that this was
the proudest moment of his life.
As the "sold" congregation trooped out they said they would almost be
willing to be made ridiculous again to hear Old Hundred sung like that
Tom got more cuffs and kisses that day--according to Aunt Polly's
varying moods--than he had earned before in a year; and he hardly knew
which expressed the most gratefulness to God and affection for himself.
Back to Full Books