Part 3 out of 5
"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.
THAT was Tom's great secret--the scheme to return home with his
brother pirates and attend their own funerals. They had paddled over to
the Missouri shore on a log, at dusk on Saturday, landing five or six
miles below the village; they had slept in the woods at the edge of the
town till nearly daylight, and had then crept through back lanes and
alleys and finished their sleep in the gallery of the church among a
chaos of invalided benches.
At breakfast, Monday morning, Aunt Polly and Mary were very loving to
Tom, and very attentive to his wants. There was an unusual amount of
talk. In the course of it Aunt Polly said:
"Well, I don't say it wasn't a fine joke, Tom, to keep everybody
suffering 'most a week so you boys had a good time, but it is a pity
you could be so hard-hearted as to let me suffer so. If you could come
over on a log to go to your funeral, you could have come over and give
me a hint some way that you warn't dead, but only run off."
"Yes, you could have done that, Tom," said Mary; "and I believe you
would if you had thought of it."
"Would you, Tom?" said Aunt Polly, her face lighting wistfully. "Say,
now, would you, if you'd thought of it?"
"I--well, I don't know. 'Twould 'a' spoiled everything."
"Tom, I hoped you loved me that much," said Aunt Polly, with a grieved
tone that discomforted the boy. "It would have been something if you'd
cared enough to THINK of it, even if you didn't DO it."
"Now, auntie, that ain't any harm," pleaded Mary; "it's only Tom's
giddy way--he is always in such a rush that he never thinks of
"More's the pity. Sid would have thought. And Sid would have come and
DONE it, too. Tom, you'll look back, some day, when it's too late, and
wish you'd cared a little more for me when it would have cost you so
"Now, auntie, you know I do care for you," said Tom.
"I'd know it better if you acted more like it."
"I wish now I'd thought," said Tom, with a repentant tone; "but I
dreamt about you, anyway. That's something, ain't it?"
"It ain't much--a cat does that much--but it's better than nothing.
What did you dream?"
"Why, Wednesday night I dreamt that you was sitting over there by the
bed, and Sid was sitting by the woodbox, and Mary next to him."
"Well, so we did. So we always do. I'm glad your dreams could take
even that much trouble about us."
"And I dreamt that Joe Harper's mother was here."
"Why, she was here! Did you dream any more?"
"Oh, lots. But it's so dim, now."
"Well, try to recollect--can't you?"
"Somehow it seems to me that the wind--the wind blowed the--the--"
"Try harder, Tom! The wind did blow something. Come!"
Tom pressed his fingers on his forehead an anxious minute, and then
"I've got it now! I've got it now! It blowed the candle!"
"Mercy on us! Go on, Tom--go on!"
"And it seems to me that you said, 'Why, I believe that that door--'"
"Go ON, Tom!"
"Just let me study a moment--just a moment. Oh, yes--you said you
believed the door was open."
"As I'm sitting here, I did! Didn't I, Mary! Go on!"
"And then--and then--well I won't be certain, but it seems like as if
you made Sid go and--and--"
"Well? Well? What did I make him do, Tom? What did I make him do?"
"You made him--you--Oh, you made him shut it."
"Well, for the land's sake! I never heard the beat of that in all my
days! Don't tell ME there ain't anything in dreams, any more. Sereny
Harper shall know of this before I'm an hour older. I'd like to see her
get around THIS with her rubbage 'bout superstition. Go on, Tom!"
"Oh, it's all getting just as bright as day, now. Next you said I
warn't BAD, only mischeevous and harum-scarum, and not any more
responsible than--than--I think it was a colt, or something."
"And so it was! Well, goodness gracious! Go on, Tom!"
"And then you began to cry."
"So I did. So I did. Not the first time, neither. And then--"
"Then Mrs. Harper she began to cry, and said Joe was just the same,
and she wished she hadn't whipped him for taking cream when she'd
throwed it out her own self--"
"Tom! The sperrit was upon you! You was a prophesying--that's what you
was doing! Land alive, go on, Tom!"
"Then Sid he said--he said--"
"I don't think I said anything," said Sid.
"Yes you did, Sid," said Mary.
"Shut your heads and let Tom go on! What did he say, Tom?"
"He said--I THINK he said he hoped I was better off where I was gone
to, but if I'd been better sometimes--"
"THERE, d'you hear that! It was his very words!"
"And you shut him up sharp."
"I lay I did! There must 'a' been an angel there. There WAS an angel
"And Mrs. Harper told about Joe scaring her with a firecracker, and
you told about Peter and the Painkiller--"
"Just as true as I live!"
"And then there was a whole lot of talk 'bout dragging the river for
us, and 'bout having the funeral Sunday, and then you and old Miss
Harper hugged and cried, and she went."
"It happened just so! It happened just so, as sure as I'm a-sitting in
these very tracks. Tom, you couldn't told it more like if you'd 'a'
seen it! And then what? Go on, Tom!"
"Then I thought you prayed for me--and I could see you and hear every
word you said. And you went to bed, and I was so sorry that I took and
wrote on a piece of sycamore bark, 'We ain't dead--we are only off
being pirates,' and put it on the table by the candle; and then you
looked so good, laying there asleep, that I thought I went and leaned
over and kissed you on the lips."
"Did you, Tom, DID you! I just forgive you everything for that!" And
she seized the boy in a crushing embrace that made him feel like the
guiltiest of villains.
"It was very kind, even though it was only a--dream," Sid soliloquized
"Shut up, Sid! A body does just the same in a dream as he'd do if he
was awake. Here's a big Milum apple I've been saving for you, Tom, if
you was ever found again--now go 'long to school. I'm thankful to the
good God and Father of us all I've got you back, that's long-suffering
and merciful to them that believe on Him and keep His word, though
goodness knows I'm unworthy of it, but if only the worthy ones got His
blessings and had His hand to help them over the rough places, there's
few enough would smile here or ever enter into His rest when the long
night comes. Go 'long Sid, Mary, Tom--take yourselves off--you've
hendered me long enough."
The children left for school, and the old lady to call on Mrs. Harper
and vanquish her realism with Tom's marvellous dream. Sid had better
judgment than to utter the thought that was in his mind as he left the
house. It was this: "Pretty thin--as long a dream as that, without any
mistakes in it!"
What a hero Tom was become, now! He did not go skipping and prancing,
but moved with a dignified swagger as became a pirate who felt that the
public eye was on him. And indeed it was; he tried not to seem to see
the looks or hear the remarks as he passed along, but they were food
and drink to him. Smaller boys than himself flocked at his heels, as
proud to be seen with him, and tolerated by him, as if he had been the
drummer at the head of a procession or the elephant leading a menagerie
into town. Boys of his own size pretended not to know he had been away
at all; but they were consuming with envy, nevertheless. They would
have given anything to have that swarthy suntanned skin of his, and his
glittering notoriety; and Tom would not have parted with either for a
At school the children made so much of him and of Joe, and delivered
such eloquent admiration from their eyes, that the two heroes were not
long in becoming insufferably "stuck-up." They began to tell their
adventures to hungry listeners--but they only began; it was not a thing
likely to have an end, with imaginations like theirs to furnish
material. And finally, when they got out their pipes and went serenely
puffing around, the very summit of glory was reached.
Tom decided that he could be independent of Becky Thatcher now. Glory
was sufficient. He would live for glory. Now that he was distinguished,
maybe she would be wanting to "make up." Well, let her--she should see
that he could be as indifferent as some other people. Presently she
arrived. Tom pretended not to see her. He moved away and joined a group
of boys and girls and began to talk. Soon he observed that she was
tripping gayly back and forth with flushed face and dancing eyes,
pretending to be busy chasing schoolmates, and screaming with laughter
when she made a capture; but he noticed that she always made her
captures in his vicinity, and that she seemed to cast a conscious eye
in his direction at such times, too. It gratified all the vicious
vanity that was in him; and so, instead of winning him, it only "set
him up" the more and made him the more diligent to avoid betraying that
he knew she was about. Presently she gave over skylarking, and moved
irresolutely about, sighing once or twice and glancing furtively and
wistfully toward Tom. Then she observed that now Tom was talking more
particularly to Amy Lawrence than to any one else. She felt a sharp
pang and grew disturbed and uneasy at once. She tried to go away, but
her feet were treacherous, and carried her to the group instead. She
said to a girl almost at Tom's elbow--with sham vivacity:
"Why, Mary Austin! you bad girl, why didn't you come to Sunday-school?"
"I did come--didn't you see me?"
"Why, no! Did you? Where did you sit?"
"I was in Miss Peters' class, where I always go. I saw YOU."
"Did you? Why, it's funny I didn't see you. I wanted to tell you about
"Oh, that's jolly. Who's going to give it?"
"My ma's going to let me have one."
"Oh, goody; I hope she'll let ME come."
"Well, she will. The picnic's for me. She'll let anybody come that I
want, and I want you."
"That's ever so nice. When is it going to be?"
"By and by. Maybe about vacation."
"Oh, won't it be fun! You going to have all the girls and boys?"
"Yes, every one that's friends to me--or wants to be"; and she glanced
ever so furtively at Tom, but he talked right along to Amy Lawrence
about the terrible storm on the island, and how the lightning tore the
great sycamore tree "all to flinders" while he was "standing within
three feet of it."
"Oh, may I come?" said Grace Miller.
"And me?" said Sally Rogers.
"And me, too?" said Susy Harper. "And Joe?"
And so on, with clapping of joyful hands till all the group had begged
for invitations but Tom and Amy. Then Tom turned coolly away, still
talking, and took Amy with him. Becky's lips trembled and the tears
came to her eyes; she hid these signs with a forced gayety and went on
chattering, but the life had gone out of the picnic, now, and out of
everything else; she got away as soon as she could and hid herself and
had what her sex call "a good cry." Then she sat moody, with wounded
pride, till the bell rang. She roused up, now, with a vindictive cast
in her eye, and gave her plaited tails a shake and said she knew what
At recess Tom continued his flirtation with Amy with jubilant self-
satisfaction. And he kept drifting about to find Becky and lacerate her
with the performance. At last he spied her, but there was a sudden
falling of his mercury. She was sitting cosily on a little bench behind
the schoolhouse looking at a picture-book with Alfred Temple--and so
absorbed were they, and their heads so close together over the book,
that they did not seem to be conscious of anything in the world
besides. Jealousy ran red-hot through Tom's veins. He began to hate
himself for throwing away the chance Becky had offered for a
reconciliation. He called himself a fool, and all the hard names he
could think of. He wanted to cry with vexation. Amy chatted happily
along, as they walked, for her heart was singing, but Tom's tongue had
lost its function. He did not hear what Amy was saying, and whenever
she paused expectantly he could only stammer an awkward assent, which
was as often misplaced as otherwise. He kept drifting to the rear of
the schoolhouse, again and again, to sear his eyeballs with the hateful
spectacle there. He could not help it. And it maddened him to see, as
he thought he saw, that Becky Thatcher never once suspected that he was
even in the land of the living. But she did see, nevertheless; and she
knew she was winning her fight, too, and was glad to see him suffer as
she had suffered.
Amy's happy prattle became intolerable. Tom hinted at things he had to
attend to; things that must be done; and time was fleeting. But in
vain--the girl chirped on. Tom thought, "Oh, hang her, ain't I ever
going to get rid of her?" At last he must be attending to those
things--and she said artlessly that she would be "around" when school
let out. And he hastened away, hating her for it.
"Any other boy!" Tom thought, grating his teeth. "Any boy in the whole
town but that Saint Louis smarty that thinks he dresses so fine and is
aristocracy! Oh, all right, I licked you the first day you ever saw
this town, mister, and I'll lick you again! You just wait till I catch
you out! I'll just take and--"
And he went through the motions of thrashing an imaginary boy--
pummelling the air, and kicking and gouging. "Oh, you do, do you? You
holler 'nough, do you? Now, then, let that learn you!" And so the
imaginary flogging was finished to his satisfaction.
Tom fled home at noon. His conscience could not endure any more of
Amy's grateful happiness, and his jealousy could bear no more of the
other distress. Becky resumed her picture inspections with Alfred, but
as the minutes dragged along and no Tom came to suffer, her triumph
began to cloud and she lost interest; gravity and absent-mindedness
followed, and then melancholy; two or three times she pricked up her
ear at a footstep, but it was a false hope; no Tom came. At last she
grew entirely miserable and wished she hadn't carried it so far. When
poor Alfred, seeing that he was losing her, he did not know how, kept
exclaiming: "Oh, here's a jolly one! look at this!" she lost patience
at last, and said, "Oh, don't bother me! I don't care for them!" and
burst into tears, and got up and walked away.
Alfred dropped alongside and was going to try to comfort her, but she
"Go away and leave me alone, can't you! I hate you!"
So the boy halted, wondering what he could have done--for she had said
she would look at pictures all through the nooning--and she walked on,
crying. Then Alfred went musing into the deserted schoolhouse. He was
humiliated and angry. He easily guessed his way to the truth--the girl
had simply made a convenience of him to vent her spite upon Tom Sawyer.
He was far from hating Tom the less when this thought occurred to him.
He wished there was some way to get that boy into trouble without much
risk to himself. Tom's spelling-book fell under his eye. Here was his
opportunity. He gratefully opened to the lesson for the afternoon and
poured ink upon the page.
Becky, glancing in at a window behind him at the moment, saw the act,
and moved on, without discovering herself. She started homeward, now,
intending to find Tom and tell him; Tom would be thankful and their
troubles would be healed. Before she was half way home, however, she
had changed her mind. The thought of Tom's treatment of her when she
was talking about her picnic came scorching back and filled her with
shame. She resolved to let him get whipped on the damaged spelling-
book's account, and to hate him forever, into the bargain.
TOM arrived at home in a dreary mood, and the first thing his aunt
said to him showed him that he had brought his sorrows to an
"Tom, I've a notion to skin you alive!"
"Auntie, what have I done?"
"Well, you've done enough. Here I go over to Sereny Harper, like an
old softy, expecting I'm going to make her believe all that rubbage
about that dream, when lo and behold you she'd found out from Joe that
you was over here and heard all the talk we had that night. Tom, I
don't know what is to become of a boy that will act like that. It makes
me feel so bad to think you could let me go to Sereny Harper and make
such a fool of myself and never say a word."
This was a new aspect of the thing. His smartness of the morning had
seemed to Tom a good joke before, and very ingenious. It merely looked
mean and shabby now. He hung his head and could not think of anything
to say for a moment. Then he said:
"Auntie, I wish I hadn't done it--but I didn't think."
"Oh, child, you never think. You never think of anything but your own
selfishness. You could think to come all the way over here from
Jackson's Island in the night to laugh at our troubles, and you could
think to fool me with a lie about a dream; but you couldn't ever think
to pity us and save us from sorrow."
"Auntie, I know now it was mean, but I didn't mean to be mean. I
didn't, honest. And besides, I didn't come over here to laugh at you
"What did you come for, then?"
"It was to tell you not to be uneasy about us, because we hadn't got
"Tom, Tom, I would be the thankfullest soul in this world if I could
believe you ever had as good a thought as that, but you know you never
did--and I know it, Tom."
"Indeed and 'deed I did, auntie--I wish I may never stir if I didn't."
"Oh, Tom, don't lie--don't do it. It only makes things a hundred times
"It ain't a lie, auntie; it's the truth. I wanted to keep you from
grieving--that was all that made me come."
"I'd give the whole world to believe that--it would cover up a power
of sins, Tom. I'd 'most be glad you'd run off and acted so bad. But it
ain't reasonable; because, why didn't you tell me, child?"
"Why, you see, when you got to talking about the funeral, I just got
all full of the idea of our coming and hiding in the church, and I
couldn't somehow bear to spoil it. So I just put the bark back in my
pocket and kept mum."
"The bark I had wrote on to tell you we'd gone pirating. I wish, now,
you'd waked up when I kissed you--I do, honest."
The hard lines in his aunt's face relaxed and a sudden tenderness
dawned in her eyes.
"DID you kiss me, Tom?"
"Why, yes, I did."
"Are you sure you did, Tom?"
"Why, yes, I did, auntie--certain sure."
"What did you kiss me for, Tom?"
"Because I loved you so, and you laid there moaning and I was so sorry."
The words sounded like truth. The old lady could not hide a tremor in
her voice when she said:
"Kiss me again, Tom!--and be off with you to school, now, and don't
bother me any more."
The moment he was gone, she ran to a closet and got out the ruin of a
jacket which Tom had gone pirating in. Then she stopped, with it in her
hand, and said to herself:
"No, I don't dare. Poor boy, I reckon he's lied about it--but it's a
blessed, blessed lie, there's such a comfort come from it. I hope the
Lord--I KNOW the Lord will forgive him, because it was such
goodheartedness in him to tell it. But I don't want to find out it's a
lie. I won't look."
She put the jacket away, and stood by musing a minute. Twice she put
out her hand to take the garment again, and twice she refrained. Once
more she ventured, and this time she fortified herself with the
thought: "It's a good lie--it's a good lie--I won't let it grieve me."
So she sought the jacket pocket. A moment later she was reading Tom's
piece of bark through flowing tears and saying: "I could forgive the
boy, now, if he'd committed a million sins!"
THERE was something about Aunt Polly's manner, when she kissed Tom,
that swept away his low spirits and made him lighthearted and happy
again. He started to school and had the luck of coming upon Becky
Thatcher at the head of Meadow Lane. His mood always determined his
manner. Without a moment's hesitation he ran to her and said:
"I acted mighty mean to-day, Becky, and I'm so sorry. I won't ever,
ever do that way again, as long as ever I live--please make up, won't
The girl stopped and looked him scornfully in the face:
"I'll thank you to keep yourself TO yourself, Mr. Thomas Sawyer. I'll
never speak to you again."
She tossed her head and passed on. Tom was so stunned that he had not
even presence of mind enough to say "Who cares, Miss Smarty?" until the
right time to say it had gone by. So he said nothing. But he was in a
fine rage, nevertheless. He moped into the schoolyard wishing she were
a boy, and imagining how he would trounce her if she were. He presently
encountered her and delivered a stinging remark as he passed. She
hurled one in return, and the angry breach was complete. It seemed to
Becky, in her hot resentment, that she could hardly wait for school to
"take in," she was so impatient to see Tom flogged for the injured
spelling-book. If she had had any lingering notion of exposing Alfred
Temple, Tom's offensive fling had driven it entirely away.
Poor girl, she did not know how fast she was nearing trouble herself.
The master, Mr. Dobbins, had reached middle age with an unsatisfied
ambition. The darling of his desires was, to be a doctor, but poverty
had decreed that he should be nothing higher than a village
schoolmaster. Every day he took a mysterious book out of his desk and
absorbed himself in it at times when no classes were reciting. He kept
that book under lock and key. There was not an urchin in school but was
perishing to have a glimpse of it, but the chance never came. Every boy
and girl had a theory about the nature of that book; but no two
theories were alike, and there was no way of getting at the facts in
the case. Now, as Becky was passing by the desk, which stood near the
door, she noticed that the key was in the lock! It was a precious
moment. She glanced around; found herself alone, and the next instant
she had the book in her hands. The title-page--Professor Somebody's
ANATOMY--carried no information to her mind; so she began to turn the
leaves. She came at once upon a handsomely engraved and colored
frontispiece--a human figure, stark naked. At that moment a shadow fell
on the page and Tom Sawyer stepped in at the door and caught a glimpse
of the picture. Becky snatched at the book to close it, and had the
hard luck to tear the pictured page half down the middle. She thrust
the volume into the desk, turned the key, and burst out crying with
shame and vexation.
"Tom Sawyer, you are just as mean as you can be, to sneak up on a
person and look at what they're looking at."
"How could I know you was looking at anything?"
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Tom Sawyer; you know you're
going to tell on me, and oh, what shall I do, what shall I do! I'll be
whipped, and I never was whipped in school."
Then she stamped her little foot and said:
"BE so mean if you want to! I know something that's going to happen.
You just wait and you'll see! Hateful, hateful, hateful!"--and she
flung out of the house with a new explosion of crying.
Tom stood still, rather flustered by this onslaught. Presently he said
"What a curious kind of a fool a girl is! Never been licked in school!
Shucks! What's a licking! That's just like a girl--they're so thin-
skinned and chicken-hearted. Well, of course I ain't going to tell old
Dobbins on this little fool, because there's other ways of getting even
on her, that ain't so mean; but what of it? Old Dobbins will ask who it
was tore his book. Nobody'll answer. Then he'll do just the way he
always does--ask first one and then t'other, and when he comes to the
right girl he'll know it, without any telling. Girls' faces always tell
on them. They ain't got any backbone. She'll get licked. Well, it's a
kind of a tight place for Becky Thatcher, because there ain't any way
out of it." Tom conned the thing a moment longer, and then added: "All
right, though; she'd like to see me in just such a fix--let her sweat
Tom joined the mob of skylarking scholars outside. In a few moments
the master arrived and school "took in." Tom did not feel a strong
interest in his studies. Every time he stole a glance at the girls'
side of the room Becky's face troubled him. Considering all things, he
did not want to pity her, and yet it was all he could do to help it. He
could get up no exultation that was really worthy the name. Presently
the spelling-book discovery was made, and Tom's mind was entirely full
of his own matters for a while after that. Becky roused up from her
lethargy of distress and showed good interest in the proceedings. She
did not expect that Tom could get out of his trouble by denying that he
spilt the ink on the book himself; and she was right. The denial only
seemed to make the thing worse for Tom. Becky supposed she would be
glad of that, and she tried to believe she was glad of it, but she
found she was not certain. When the worst came to the worst, she had an
impulse to get up and tell on Alfred Temple, but she made an effort and
forced herself to keep still--because, said she to herself, "he'll tell
about me tearing the picture sure. I wouldn't say a word, not to save
Tom took his whipping and went back to his seat not at all broken-
hearted, for he thought it was possible that he had unknowingly upset
the ink on the spelling-book himself, in some skylarking bout--he had
denied it for form's sake and because it was custom, and had stuck to
the denial from principle.
A whole hour drifted by, the master sat nodding in his throne, the air
was drowsy with the hum of study. By and by, Mr. Dobbins straightened
himself up, yawned, then unlocked his desk, and reached for his book,
but seemed undecided whether to take it out or leave it. Most of the
pupils glanced up languidly, but there were two among them that watched
his movements with intent eyes. Mr. Dobbins fingered his book absently
for a while, then took it out and settled himself in his chair to read!
Tom shot a glance at Becky. He had seen a hunted and helpless rabbit
look as she did, with a gun levelled at its head. Instantly he forgot
his quarrel with her. Quick--something must be done! done in a flash,
too! But the very imminence of the emergency paralyzed his invention.
Good!--he had an inspiration! He would run and snatch the book, spring
through the door and fly. But his resolution shook for one little
instant, and the chance was lost--the master opened the volume. If Tom
only had the wasted opportunity back again! Too late. There was no help
for Becky now, he said. The next moment the master faced the school.
Every eye sank under his gaze. There was that in it which smote even
the innocent with fear. There was silence while one might count ten--
the master was gathering his wrath. Then he spoke: "Who tore this book?"
There was not a sound. One could have heard a pin drop. The stillness
continued; the master searched face after face for signs of guilt.
"Benjamin Rogers, did you tear this book?"
A denial. Another pause.
"Joseph Harper, did you?"
Another denial. Tom's uneasiness grew more and more intense under the
slow torture of these proceedings. The master scanned the ranks of
boys--considered a while, then turned to the girls:
A shake of the head.
The same sign.
"Susan Harper, did you do this?"
Another negative. The next girl was Becky Thatcher. Tom was trembling
from head to foot with excitement and a sense of the hopelessness of
"Rebecca Thatcher" [Tom glanced at her face--it was white with terror]
--"did you tear--no, look me in the face" [her hands rose in appeal]--
"did you tear this book?"
A thought shot like lightning through Tom's brain. He sprang to his
feet and shouted--"I done it!"
The school stared in perplexity at this incredible folly. Tom stood a
moment, to gather his dismembered faculties; and when he stepped
forward to go to his punishment the surprise, the gratitude, the
adoration that shone upon him out of poor Becky's eyes seemed pay
enough for a hundred floggings. Inspired by the splendor of his own
act, he took without an outcry the most merciless flaying that even Mr.
Dobbins had ever administered; and also received with indifference the
added cruelty of a command to remain two hours after school should be
dismissed--for he knew who would wait for him outside till his
captivity was done, and not count the tedious time as loss, either.
Tom went to bed that night planning vengeance against Alfred Temple;
for with shame and repentance Becky had told him all, not forgetting
her own treachery; but even the longing for vengeance had to give way,
soon, to pleasanter musings, and he fell asleep at last with Becky's
latest words lingering dreamily in his ear--
"Tom, how COULD you be so noble!"
VACATION was approaching. The schoolmaster, always severe, grew
severer and more exacting than ever, for he wanted the school to make a
good showing on "Examination" day. His rod and his ferule were seldom
idle now--at least among the smaller pupils. Only the biggest boys, and
young ladies of eighteen and twenty, escaped lashing. Mr. Dobbins'
lashings were very vigorous ones, too; for although he carried, under
his wig, a perfectly bald and shiny head, he had only reached middle
age, and there was no sign of feebleness in his muscle. As the great
day approached, all the tyranny that was in him came to the surface; he
seemed to take a vindictive pleasure in punishing the least
shortcomings. The consequence was, that the smaller boys spent their
days in terror and suffering and their nights in plotting revenge. They
threw away no opportunity to do the master a mischief. But he kept
ahead all the time. The retribution that followed every vengeful
success was so sweeping and majestic that the boys always retired from
the field badly worsted. At last they conspired together and hit upon a
plan that promised a dazzling victory. They swore in the sign-painter's
boy, told him the scheme, and asked his help. He had his own reasons
for being delighted, for the master boarded in his father's family and
had given the boy ample cause to hate him. The master's wife would go
on a visit to the country in a few days, and there would be nothing to
interfere with the plan; the master always prepared himself for great
occasions by getting pretty well fuddled, and the sign-painter's boy
said that when the dominie had reached the proper condition on
Examination Evening he would "manage the thing" while he napped in his
chair; then he would have him awakened at the right time and hurried
away to school.
In the fulness of time the interesting occasion arrived. At eight in
the evening the schoolhouse was brilliantly lighted, and adorned with
wreaths and festoons of foliage and flowers. The master sat throned in
his great chair upon a raised platform, with his blackboard behind him.
He was looking tolerably mellow. Three rows of benches on each side and
six rows in front of him were occupied by the dignitaries of the town
and by the parents of the pupils. To his left, back of the rows of
citizens, was a spacious temporary platform upon which were seated the
scholars who were to take part in the exercises of the evening; rows of
small boys, washed and dressed to an intolerable state of discomfort;
rows of gawky big boys; snowbanks of girls and young ladies clad in
lawn and muslin and conspicuously conscious of their bare arms, their
grandmothers' ancient trinkets, their bits of pink and blue ribbon and
the flowers in their hair. All the rest of the house was filled with
The exercises began. A very little boy stood up and sheepishly
recited, "You'd scarce expect one of my age to speak in public on the
stage," etc.--accompanying himself with the painfully exact and
spasmodic gestures which a machine might have used--supposing the
machine to be a trifle out of order. But he got through safely, though
cruelly scared, and got a fine round of applause when he made his
manufactured bow and retired.
A little shamefaced girl lisped, "Mary had a little lamb," etc.,
performed a compassion-inspiring curtsy, got her meed of applause, and
sat down flushed and happy.
Tom Sawyer stepped forward with conceited confidence and soared into
the unquenchable and indestructible "Give me liberty or give me death"
speech, with fine fury and frantic gesticulation, and broke down in the
middle of it. A ghastly stage-fright seized him, his legs quaked under
him and he was like to choke. True, he had the manifest sympathy of the
house but he had the house's silence, too, which was even worse than
its sympathy. The master frowned, and this completed the disaster. Tom
struggled awhile and then retired, utterly defeated. There was a weak
attempt at applause, but it died early.
"The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck" followed; also "The Assyrian Came
Down," and other declamatory gems. Then there were reading exercises,
and a spelling fight. The meagre Latin class recited with honor. The
prime feature of the evening was in order, now--original "compositions"
by the young ladies. Each in her turn stepped forward to the edge of
the platform, cleared her throat, held up her manuscript (tied with
dainty ribbon), and proceeded to read, with labored attention to
"expression" and punctuation. The themes were the same that had been
illuminated upon similar occasions by their mothers before them, their
grandmothers, and doubtless all their ancestors in the female line
clear back to the Crusades. "Friendship" was one; "Memories of Other
Days"; "Religion in History"; "Dream Land"; "The Advantages of
Culture"; "Forms of Political Government Compared and Contrasted";
"Melancholy"; "Filial Love"; "Heart Longings," etc., etc.
A prevalent feature in these compositions was a nursed and petted
melancholy; another was a wasteful and opulent gush of "fine language";
another was a tendency to lug in by the ears particularly prized words
and phrases until they were worn entirely out; and a peculiarity that
conspicuously marked and marred them was the inveterate and intolerable
sermon that wagged its crippled tail at the end of each and every one
of them. No matter what the subject might be, a brain-racking effort
was made to squirm it into some aspect or other that the moral and
religious mind could contemplate with edification. The glaring
insincerity of these sermons was not sufficient to compass the
banishment of the fashion from the schools, and it is not sufficient
to-day; it never will be sufficient while the world stands, perhaps.
There is no school in all our land where the young ladies do not feel
obliged to close their compositions with a sermon; and you will find
that the sermon of the most frivolous and the least religious girl in
the school is always the longest and the most relentlessly pious. But
enough of this. Homely truth is unpalatable.
Let us return to the "Examination." The first composition that was
read was one entitled "Is this, then, Life?" Perhaps the reader can
endure an extract from it:
"In the common walks of life, with what delightful
emotions does the youthful mind look forward to some
anticipated scene of festivity! Imagination is busy
sketching rose-tinted pictures of joy. In fancy, the
voluptuous votary of fashion sees herself amid the
festive throng, 'the observed of all observers.' Her
graceful form, arrayed in snowy robes, is whirling
through the mazes of the joyous dance; her eye is
brightest, her step is lightest in the gay assembly.
"In such delicious fancies time quickly glides by,
and the welcome hour arrives for her entrance into
the Elysian world, of which she has had such bright
dreams. How fairy-like does everything appear to
her enchanted vision! Each new scene is more charming
than the last. But after a while she finds that
beneath this goodly exterior, all is vanity, the
flattery which once charmed her soul, now grates
harshly upon her ear; the ball-room has lost its
charms; and with wasted health and imbittered heart,
she turns away with the conviction that earthly
pleasures cannot satisfy the longings of the soul!"
And so forth and so on. There was a buzz of gratification from time to
time during the reading, accompanied by whispered ejaculations of "How
sweet!" "How eloquent!" "So true!" etc., and after the thing had closed
with a peculiarly afflicting sermon the applause was enthusiastic.
Then arose a slim, melancholy girl, whose face had the "interesting"
paleness that comes of pills and indigestion, and read a "poem." Two
stanzas of it will do:
"A MISSOURI MAIDEN'S FAREWELL TO ALABAMA
"Alabama, good-bye! I love thee well!
But yet for a while do I leave thee now!
Sad, yes, sad thoughts of thee my heart doth swell,
And burning recollections throng my brow!
For I have wandered through thy flowery woods;
Have roamed and read near Tallapoosa's stream;
Have listened to Tallassee's warring floods,
And wooed on Coosa's side Aurora's beam.
"Yet shame I not to bear an o'er-full heart,
Nor blush to turn behind my tearful eyes;
'Tis from no stranger land I now must part,
'Tis to no strangers left I yield these sighs.
Welcome and home were mine within this State,
Whose vales I leave--whose spires fade fast from me
And cold must be mine eyes, and heart, and tete,
When, dear Alabama! they turn cold on thee!"
There were very few there who knew what "tete" meant, but the poem was
very satisfactory, nevertheless.
Next appeared a dark-complexioned, black-eyed, black-haired young
lady, who paused an impressive moment, assumed a tragic expression, and
began to read in a measured, solemn tone:
"Dark and tempestuous was night. Around the
throne on high not a single star quivered; but
the deep intonations of the heavy thunder
constantly vibrated upon the ear; whilst the
terrific lightning revelled in angry mood
through the cloudy chambers of heaven, seeming
to scorn the power exerted over its terror by
the illustrious Franklin! Even the boisterous
winds unanimously came forth from their mystic
homes, and blustered about as if to enhance by
their aid the wildness of the scene.
"At such a time, so dark, so dreary, for human
sympathy my very spirit sighed; but instead thereof,
"'My dearest friend, my counsellor, my comforter
and guide--My joy in grief, my second bliss
in joy,' came to my side. She moved like one of
those bright beings pictured in the sunny walks
of fancy's Eden by the romantic and young, a
queen of beauty unadorned save by her own
transcendent loveliness. So soft was her step, it
failed to make even a sound, and but for the
magical thrill imparted by her genial touch, as
other unobtrusive beauties, she would have glided
away un-perceived--unsought. A strange sadness
rested upon her features, like icy tears upon
the robe of December, as she pointed to the
contending elements without, and bade me contemplate
the two beings presented."
This nightmare occupied some ten pages of manuscript and wound up with
a sermon so destructive of all hope to non-Presbyterians that it took
the first prize. This composition was considered to be the very finest
effort of the evening. The mayor of the village, in delivering the
prize to the author of it, made a warm speech in which he said that it
was by far the most "eloquent" thing he had ever listened to, and that
Daniel Webster himself might well be proud of it.
It may be remarked, in passing, that the number of compositions in
which the word "beauteous" was over-fondled, and human experience
referred to as "life's page," was up to the usual average.
Now the master, mellow almost to the verge of geniality, put his chair
aside, turned his back to the audience, and began to draw a map of
America on the blackboard, to exercise the geography class upon. But he
made a sad business of it with his unsteady hand, and a smothered
titter rippled over the house. He knew what the matter was, and set
himself to right it. He sponged out lines and remade them; but he only
distorted them more than ever, and the tittering was more pronounced.
He threw his entire attention upon his work, now, as if determined not
to be put down by the mirth. He felt that all eyes were fastened upon
him; he imagined he was succeeding, and yet the tittering continued; it
even manifestly increased. And well it might. There was a garret above,
pierced with a scuttle over his head; and down through this scuttle
came a cat, suspended around the haunches by a string; she had a rag
tied about her head and jaws to keep her from mewing; as she slowly
descended she curved upward and clawed at the string, she swung
downward and clawed at the intangible air. The tittering rose higher
and higher--the cat was within six inches of the absorbed teacher's
head--down, down, a little lower, and she grabbed his wig with her
desperate claws, clung to it, and was snatched up into the garret in an
instant with her trophy still in her possession! And how the light did
blaze abroad from the master's bald pate--for the sign-painter's boy
had GILDED it!
That broke up the meeting. The boys were avenged. Vacation had come.
NOTE:--The pretended "compositions" quoted in
this chapter are taken without alteration from a
volume entitled "Prose and Poetry, by a Western
Lady"--but they are exactly and precisely after
the schoolgirl pattern, and hence are much
happier than any mere imitations could be.
TOM joined the new order of Cadets of Temperance, being attracted by
the showy character of their "regalia." He promised to abstain from
smoking, chewing, and profanity as long as he remained a member. Now he
found out a new thing--namely, that to promise not to do a thing is the
surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very
thing. Tom soon found himself tormented with a desire to drink and
swear; the desire grew to be so intense that nothing but the hope of a
chance to display himself in his red sash kept him from withdrawing
from the order. Fourth of July was coming; but he soon gave that up--
gave it up before he had worn his shackles over forty-eight hours--and
fixed his hopes upon old Judge Frazer, justice of the peace, who was
apparently on his deathbed and would have a big public funeral, since
he was so high an official. During three days Tom was deeply concerned
about the Judge's condition and hungry for news of it. Sometimes his
hopes ran high--so high that he would venture to get out his regalia
and practise before the looking-glass. But the Judge had a most
discouraging way of fluctuating. At last he was pronounced upon the
mend--and then convalescent. Tom was disgusted; and felt a sense of
injury, too. He handed in his resignation at once--and that night the
Judge suffered a relapse and died. Tom resolved that he would never
trust a man like that again.
The funeral was a fine thing. The Cadets paraded in a style calculated
to kill the late member with envy. Tom was a free boy again, however--
there was something in that. He could drink and swear, now--but found
to his surprise that he did not want to. The simple fact that he could,
took the desire away, and the charm of it.
Tom presently wondered to find that his coveted vacation was beginning
to hang a little heavily on his hands.
He attempted a diary--but nothing happened during three days, and so
he abandoned it.
The first of all the negro minstrel shows came to town, and made a
sensation. Tom and Joe Harper got up a band of performers and were
happy for two days.
Even the Glorious Fourth was in some sense a failure, for it rained
hard, there was no procession in consequence, and the greatest man in
the world (as Tom supposed), Mr. Benton, an actual United States
Senator, proved an overwhelming disappointment--for he was not twenty-
five feet high, nor even anywhere in the neighborhood of it.
A circus came. The boys played circus for three days afterward in
tents made of rag carpeting--admission, three pins for boys, two for
girls--and then circusing was abandoned.
A phrenologist and a mesmerizer came--and went again and left the
village duller and drearier than ever.
There were some boys-and-girls' parties, but they were so few and so
delightful that they only made the aching voids between ache the harder.
Becky Thatcher was gone to her Constantinople home to stay with her
parents during vacation--so there was no bright side to life anywhere.
The dreadful secret of the murder was a chronic misery. It was a very
cancer for permanency and pain.
Then came the measles.
During two long weeks Tom lay a prisoner, dead to the world and its
happenings. He was very ill, he was interested in nothing. When he got
upon his feet at last and moved feebly down-town, a melancholy change
had come over everything and every creature. There had been a
"revival," and everybody had "got religion," not only the adults, but
even the boys and girls. Tom went about, hoping against hope for the
sight of one blessed sinful face, but disappointment crossed him
everywhere. He found Joe Harper studying a Testament, and turned sadly
away from the depressing spectacle. He sought Ben Rogers, and found him
visiting the poor with a basket of tracts. He hunted up Jim Hollis, who
called his attention to the precious blessing of his late measles as a
warning. Every boy he encountered added another ton to his depression;
and when, in desperation, he flew for refuge at last to the bosom of
Huckleberry Finn and was received with a Scriptural quotation, his
heart broke and he crept home and to bed realizing that he alone of all
the town was lost, forever and forever.
And that night there came on a terrific storm, with driving rain,
awful claps of thunder and blinding sheets of lightning. He covered his
head with the bedclothes and waited in a horror of suspense for his
doom; for he had not the shadow of a doubt that all this hubbub was
about him. He believed he had taxed the forbearance of the powers above
to the extremity of endurance and that this was the result. It might
have seemed to him a waste of pomp and ammunition to kill a bug with a
battery of artillery, but there seemed nothing incongruous about the
getting up such an expensive thunderstorm as this to knock the turf
from under an insect like himself.
By and by the tempest spent itself and died without accomplishing its
object. The boy's first impulse was to be grateful, and reform. His
second was to wait--for there might not be any more storms.
The next day the doctors were back; Tom had relapsed. The three weeks
he spent on his back this time seemed an entire age. When he got abroad
at last he was hardly grateful that he had been spared, remembering how
lonely was his estate, how companionless and forlorn he was. He drifted
listlessly down the street and found Jim Hollis acting as judge in a
juvenile court that was trying a cat for murder, in the presence of her
victim, a bird. He found Joe Harper and Huck Finn up an alley eating a
stolen melon. Poor lads! they--like Tom--had suffered a relapse.
AT last the sleepy atmosphere was stirred--and vigorously: the murder
trial came on in the court. It became the absorbing topic of village
talk immediately. Tom could not get away from it. Every reference to
the murder sent a shudder to his heart, for his troubled conscience and
fears almost persuaded him that these remarks were put forth in his
hearing as "feelers"; he did not see how he could be suspected of
knowing anything about the murder, but still he could not be
comfortable in the midst of this gossip. It kept him in a cold shiver
all the time. He took Huck to a lonely place to have a talk with him.
It would be some relief to unseal his tongue for a little while; to
divide his burden of distress with another sufferer. Moreover, he
wanted to assure himself that Huck had remained discreet.
"Huck, have you ever told anybody about--that?"
"You know what."
"Oh--'course I haven't."
"Never a word?"
"Never a solitary word, so help me. What makes you ask?"
"Well, I was afeard."
"Why, Tom Sawyer, we wouldn't be alive two days if that got found out.
YOU know that."
Tom felt more comfortable. After a pause:
"Huck, they couldn't anybody get you to tell, could they?"
"Get me to tell? Why, if I wanted that half-breed devil to drownd me
they could get me to tell. They ain't no different way."
"Well, that's all right, then. I reckon we're safe as long as we keep
mum. But let's swear again, anyway. It's more surer."
So they swore again with dread solemnities.
"What is the talk around, Huck? I've heard a power of it."
"Talk? Well, it's just Muff Potter, Muff Potter, Muff Potter all the
time. It keeps me in a sweat, constant, so's I want to hide som'ers."
"That's just the same way they go on round me. I reckon he's a goner.
Don't you feel sorry for him, sometimes?"
"Most always--most always. He ain't no account; but then he hain't
ever done anything to hurt anybody. Just fishes a little, to get money
to get drunk on--and loafs around considerable; but lord, we all do
that--leastways most of us--preachers and such like. But he's kind of
good--he give me half a fish, once, when there warn't enough for two;
and lots of times he's kind of stood by me when I was out of luck."
"Well, he's mended kites for me, Huck, and knitted hooks on to my
line. I wish we could get him out of there."
"My! we couldn't get him out, Tom. And besides, 'twouldn't do any
good; they'd ketch him again."
"Yes--so they would. But I hate to hear 'em abuse him so like the
dickens when he never done--that."
"I do too, Tom. Lord, I hear 'em say he's the bloodiest looking
villain in this country, and they wonder he wasn't ever hung before."
"Yes, they talk like that, all the time. I've heard 'em say that if he
was to get free they'd lynch him."
"And they'd do it, too."
The boys had a long talk, but it brought them little comfort. As the
twilight drew on, they found themselves hanging about the neighborhood
of the little isolated jail, perhaps with an undefined hope that
something would happen that might clear away their difficulties. But
nothing happened; there seemed to be no angels or fairies interested in
this luckless captive.
The boys did as they had often done before--went to the cell grating
and gave Potter some tobacco and matches. He was on the ground floor
and there were no guards.
His gratitude for their gifts had always smote their consciences
before--it cut deeper than ever, this time. They felt cowardly and
treacherous to the last degree when Potter said:
"You've been mighty good to me, boys--better'n anybody else in this
town. And I don't forget it, I don't. Often I says to myself, says I,
'I used to mend all the boys' kites and things, and show 'em where the
good fishin' places was, and befriend 'em what I could, and now they've
all forgot old Muff when he's in trouble; but Tom don't, and Huck
don't--THEY don't forget him, says I, 'and I don't forget them.' Well,
boys, I done an awful thing--drunk and crazy at the time--that's the
only way I account for it--and now I got to swing for it, and it's
right. Right, and BEST, too, I reckon--hope so, anyway. Well, we won't
talk about that. I don't want to make YOU feel bad; you've befriended
me. But what I want to say, is, don't YOU ever get drunk--then you won't
ever get here. Stand a litter furder west--so--that's it; it's a prime
comfort to see faces that's friendly when a body's in such a muck of
trouble, and there don't none come here but yourn. Good friendly
faces--good friendly faces. Git up on one another's backs and let me
touch 'em. That's it. Shake hands--yourn'll come through the bars, but
mine's too big. Little hands, and weak--but they've helped Muff Potter
a power, and they'd help him more if they could."
Tom went home miserable, and his dreams that night were full of
horrors. The next day and the day after, he hung about the court-room,
drawn by an almost irresistible impulse to go in, but forcing himself
to stay out. Huck was having the same experience. They studiously
avoided each other. Each wandered away, from time to time, but the same
dismal fascination always brought them back presently. Tom kept his
ears open when idlers sauntered out of the court-room, but invariably
heard distressing news--the toils were closing more and more
relentlessly around poor Potter. At the end of the second day the
village talk was to the effect that Injun Joe's evidence stood firm and
unshaken, and that there was not the slightest question as to what the
jury's verdict would be.
Tom was out late, that night, and came to bed through the window. He
was in a tremendous state of excitement. It was hours before he got to
sleep. All the village flocked to the court-house the next morning, for
this was to be the great day. Both sexes were about equally represented
in the packed audience. After a long wait the jury filed in and took
their places; shortly afterward, Potter, pale and haggard, timid and
hopeless, was brought in, with chains upon him, and seated where all
the curious eyes could stare at him; no less conspicuous was Injun Joe,
stolid as ever. There was another pause, and then the judge arrived and
the sheriff proclaimed the opening of the court. The usual whisperings
among the lawyers and gathering together of papers followed. These
details and accompanying delays worked up an atmosphere of preparation
that was as impressive as it was fascinating.
Now a witness was called who testified that he found Muff Potter
washing in the brook, at an early hour of the morning that the murder
was discovered, and that he immediately sneaked away. After some
further questioning, counsel for the prosecution said:
"Take the witness."
The prisoner raised his eyes for a moment, but dropped them again when
his own counsel said:
"I have no questions to ask him."
The next witness proved the finding of the knife near the corpse.
Counsel for the prosecution said:
"Take the witness."
"I have no questions to ask him," Potter's lawyer replied.
A third witness swore he had often seen the knife in Potter's
"Take the witness."
Counsel for Potter declined to question him. The faces of the audience
began to betray annoyance. Did this attorney mean to throw away his
client's life without an effort?
Several witnesses deposed concerning Potter's guilty behavior when
brought to the scene of the murder. They were allowed to leave the
stand without being cross-questioned.
Every detail of the damaging circumstances that occurred in the
graveyard upon that morning which all present remembered so well was
brought out by credible witnesses, but none of them were cross-examined
by Potter's lawyer. The perplexity and dissatisfaction of the house
expressed itself in murmurs and provoked a reproof from the bench.
Counsel for the prosecution now said:
"By the oaths of citizens whose simple word is above suspicion, we
have fastened this awful crime, beyond all possibility of question,
upon the unhappy prisoner at the bar. We rest our case here."
A groan escaped from poor Potter, and he put his face in his hands and
rocked his body softly to and fro, while a painful silence reigned in
the court-room. Many men were moved, and many women's compassion
testified itself in tears. Counsel for the defence rose and said:
"Your honor, in our remarks at the opening of this trial, we
foreshadowed our purpose to prove that our client did this fearful deed
while under the influence of a blind and irresponsible delirium
produced by drink. We have changed our mind. We shall not offer that
plea." [Then to the clerk:] "Call Thomas Sawyer!"
A puzzled amazement awoke in every face in the house, not even
excepting Potter's. Every eye fastened itself with wondering interest
upon Tom as he rose and took his place upon the stand. The boy looked
wild enough, for he was badly scared. The oath was administered.
"Thomas Sawyer, where were you on the seventeenth of June, about the
hour of midnight?"
Tom glanced at Injun Joe's iron face and his tongue failed him. The
audience listened breathless, but the words refused to come. After a
few moments, however, the boy got a little of his strength back, and
managed to put enough of it into his voice to make part of the house
"In the graveyard!"
"A little bit louder, please. Don't be afraid. You were--"
"In the graveyard."
A contemptuous smile flitted across Injun Joe's face.
"Were you anywhere near Horse Williams' grave?"
"Speak up--just a trifle louder. How near were you?"
"Near as I am to you."
"Were you hidden, or not?"
"I was hid."
"Behind the elms that's on the edge of the grave."
Injun Joe gave a barely perceptible start.
"Any one with you?"
"Yes, sir. I went there with--"
"Wait--wait a moment. Never mind mentioning your companion's name. We
will produce him at the proper time. Did you carry anything there with
Tom hesitated and looked confused.
"Speak out, my boy--don't be diffident. The truth is always
respectable. What did you take there?"
"Only a--a--dead cat."
There was a ripple of mirth, which the court checked.
"We will produce the skeleton of that cat. Now, my boy, tell us
everything that occurred--tell it in your own way--don't skip anything,
and don't be afraid."
Tom began--hesitatingly at first, but as he warmed to his subject his
words flowed more and more easily; in a little while every sound ceased
but his own voice; every eye fixed itself upon him; with parted lips
and bated breath the audience hung upon his words, taking no note of
time, rapt in the ghastly fascinations of the tale. The strain upon
pent emotion reached its climax when the boy said:
"--and as the doctor fetched the board around and Muff Potter fell,
Injun Joe jumped with the knife and--"
Crash! Quick as lightning the half-breed sprang for a window, tore his
way through all opposers, and was gone!
TOM was a glittering hero once more--the pet of the old, the envy of
the young. His name even went into immortal print, for the village
paper magnified him. There were some that believed he would be
President, yet, if he escaped hanging.
As usual, the fickle, unreasoning world took Muff Potter to its bosom
and fondled him as lavishly as it had abused him before. But that sort
of conduct is to the world's credit; therefore it is not well to find
fault with it.
Tom's days were days of splendor and exultation to him, but his nights
were seasons of horror. Injun Joe infested all his dreams, and always
with doom in his eye. Hardly any temptation could persuade the boy to
stir abroad after nightfall. Poor Huck was in the same state of
wretchedness and terror, for Tom had told the whole story to the lawyer
the night before the great day of the trial, and Huck was sore afraid
that his share in the business might leak out, yet, notwithstanding
Injun Joe's flight had saved him the suffering of testifying in court.
The poor fellow had got the attorney to promise secrecy, but what of
that? Since Tom's harassed conscience had managed to drive him to the
lawyer's house by night and wring a dread tale from lips that had been
sealed with the dismalest and most formidable of oaths, Huck's
confidence in the human race was well-nigh obliterated.
Daily Muff Potter's gratitude made Tom glad he had spoken; but nightly
he wished he had sealed up his tongue.
Half the time Tom was afraid Injun Joe would never be captured; the
other half he was afraid he would be. He felt sure he never could draw
a safe breath again until that man was dead and he had seen the corpse.
Rewards had been offered, the country had been scoured, but no Injun
Joe was found. One of those omniscient and awe-inspiring marvels, a
detective, came up from St. Louis, moused around, shook his head,
looked wise, and made that sort of astounding success which members of
that craft usually achieve. That is to say, he "found a clew." But you
can't hang a "clew" for murder, and so after that detective had got
through and gone home, Tom felt just as insecure as he was before.
The slow days drifted on, and each left behind it a slightly lightened
weight of apprehension.
THERE comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy's life when he has
a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure. This
desire suddenly came upon Tom one day. He sallied out to find Joe
Harper, but failed of success. Next he sought Ben Rogers; he had gone
fishing. Presently he stumbled upon Huck Finn the Red-Handed. Huck
would answer. Tom took him to a private place and opened the matter to
him confidentially. Huck was willing. Huck was always willing to take a
hand in any enterprise that offered entertainment and required no
capital, for he had a troublesome superabundance of that sort of time
which is not money. "Where'll we dig?" said Huck.
"Oh, most anywhere."
"Why, is it hid all around?"
"No, indeed it ain't. It's hid in mighty particular places, Huck--
sometimes on islands, sometimes in rotten chests under the end of a
limb of an old dead tree, just where the shadow falls at midnight; but
mostly under the floor in ha'nted houses."
"Who hides it?"
"Why, robbers, of course--who'd you reckon? Sunday-school
"I don't know. If 'twas mine I wouldn't hide it; I'd spend it and have
a good time."
"So would I. But robbers don't do that way. They always hide it and
leave it there."
"Don't they come after it any more?"
"No, they think they will, but they generally forget the marks, or
else they die. Anyway, it lays there a long time and gets rusty; and by
and by somebody finds an old yellow paper that tells how to find the
marks--a paper that's got to be ciphered over about a week because it's
mostly signs and hy'roglyphics."
"Hy'roglyphics--pictures and things, you know, that don't seem to mean
"Have you got one of them papers, Tom?"
"Well then, how you going to find the marks?"
"I don't want any marks. They always bury it under a ha'nted house or
on an island, or under a dead tree that's got one limb sticking out.
Well, we've tried Jackson's Island a little, and we can try it again
some time; and there's the old ha'nted house up the Still-House branch,
and there's lots of dead-limb trees--dead loads of 'em."
"Is it under all of them?"
"How you talk! No!"
"Then how you going to know which one to go for?"
"Go for all of 'em!"
"Why, Tom, it'll take all summer."
"Well, what of that? Suppose you find a brass pot with a hundred
dollars in it, all rusty and gray, or rotten chest full of di'monds.
Huck's eyes glowed.
"That's bully. Plenty bully enough for me. Just you gimme the hundred
dollars and I don't want no di'monds."
"All right. But I bet you I ain't going to throw off on di'monds. Some
of 'em's worth twenty dollars apiece--there ain't any, hardly, but's
worth six bits or a dollar."
"No! Is that so?"
"Cert'nly--anybody'll tell you so. Hain't you ever seen one, Huck?"
"Not as I remember."
"Oh, kings have slathers of them."
"Well, I don' know no kings, Tom."
"I reckon you don't. But if you was to go to Europe you'd see a raft
of 'em hopping around."
"Do they hop?"
"Hop?--your granny! No!"
"Well, what did you say they did, for?"
"Shucks, I only meant you'd SEE 'em--not hopping, of course--what do
they want to hop for?--but I mean you'd just see 'em--scattered around,
you know, in a kind of a general way. Like that old humpbacked Richard."
"Richard? What's his other name?"
"He didn't have any other name. Kings don't have any but a given name."
"But they don't."
"Well, if they like it, Tom, all right; but I don't want to be a king
and have only just a given name, like a nigger. But say--where you
going to dig first?"
"Well, I don't know. S'pose we tackle that old dead-limb tree on the
hill t'other side of Still-House branch?"
So they got a crippled pick and a shovel, and set out on their three-
mile tramp. They arrived hot and panting, and threw themselves down in
the shade of a neighboring elm to rest and have a smoke.
"I like this," said Tom.
"So do I."
"Say, Huck, if we find a treasure here, what you going to do with your
"Well, I'll have pie and a glass of soda every day, and I'll go to
every circus that comes along. I bet I'll have a gay time."
"Well, ain't you going to save any of it?"
"Save it? What for?"
"Why, so as to have something to live on, by and by."
"Oh, that ain't any use. Pap would come back to thish-yer town some
day and get his claws on it if I didn't hurry up, and I tell you he'd
clean it out pretty quick. What you going to do with yourn, Tom?"
"I'm going to buy a new drum, and a sure-'nough sword, and a red
necktie and a bull pup, and get married."
"Tom, you--why, you ain't in your right mind."
"Well, that's the foolishest thing you could do. Look at pap and my
mother. Fight! Why, they used to fight all the time. I remember, mighty
"That ain't anything. The girl I'm going to marry won't fight."
"Tom, I reckon they're all alike. They'll all comb a body. Now you
better think 'bout this awhile. I tell you you better. What's the name
of the gal?"
"It ain't a gal at all--it's a girl."
"It's all the same, I reckon; some says gal, some says girl--both's
right, like enough. Anyway, what's her name, Tom?"
"I'll tell you some time--not now."
"All right--that'll do. Only if you get married I'll be more lonesomer
"No you won't. You'll come and live with me. Now stir out of this and
we'll go to digging."
They worked and sweated for half an hour. No result. They toiled
another half-hour. Still no result. Huck said:
"Do they always bury it as deep as this?"
"Sometimes--not always. Not generally. I reckon we haven't got the
So they chose a new spot and began again. The labor dragged a little,
but still they made progress. They pegged away in silence for some
time. Finally Huck leaned on his shovel, swabbed the beaded drops from
his brow with his sleeve, and said:
"Where you going to dig next, after we get this one?"
"I reckon maybe we'll tackle the old tree that's over yonder on
Cardiff Hill back of the widow's."
"I reckon that'll be a good one. But won't the widow take it away from
us, Tom? It's on her land."
"SHE take it away! Maybe she'd like to try it once. Whoever finds one
of these hid treasures, it belongs to him. It don't make any difference
whose land it's on."
That was satisfactory. The work went on. By and by Huck said:
"Blame it, we must be in the wrong place again. What do you think?"
"It is mighty curious, Huck. I don't understand it. Sometimes witches
interfere. I reckon maybe that's what's the trouble now."
"Shucks! Witches ain't got no power in the daytime."
"Well, that's so. I didn't think of that. Oh, I know what the matter
is! What a blamed lot of fools we are! You got to find out where the
shadow of the limb falls at midnight, and that's where you dig!"
"Then consound it, we've fooled away all this work for nothing. Now
hang it all, we got to come back in the night. It's an awful long way.
Can you get out?"
"I bet I will. We've got to do it to-night, too, because if somebody
sees these holes they'll know in a minute what's here and they'll go
"Well, I'll come around and maow to-night."
"All right. Let's hide the tools in the bushes."
The boys were there that night, about the appointed time. They sat in
the shadow waiting. It was a lonely place, and an hour made solemn by
old traditions. Spirits whispered in the rustling leaves, ghosts lurked
in the murky nooks, the deep baying of a hound floated up out of the
distance, an owl answered with his sepulchral note. The boys were
subdued by these solemnities, and talked little. By and by they judged
that twelve had come; they marked where the shadow fell, and began to
dig. Their hopes commenced to rise. Their interest grew stronger, and
their industry kept pace with it. The hole deepened and still deepened,
but every time their hearts jumped to hear the pick strike upon
something, they only suffered a new disappointment. It was only a stone
or a chunk. At last Tom said:
"It ain't any use, Huck, we're wrong again."
"Well, but we CAN'T be wrong. We spotted the shadder to a dot."
"I know it, but then there's another thing."
"Why, we only guessed at the time. Like enough it was too late or too
Huck dropped his shovel.
"That's it," said he. "That's the very trouble. We got to give this
one up. We can't ever tell the right time, and besides this kind of
thing's too awful, here this time of night with witches and ghosts a-
fluttering around so. I feel as if something's behind me all the time;
and I'm afeard to turn around, becuz maybe there's others in front a-
waiting for a chance. I been creeping all over, ever since I got here."
"Well, I've been pretty much so, too, Huck. They most always put in a
dead man when they bury a treasure under a tree, to look out for it."
"Yes, they do. I've always heard that."
"Tom, I don't like to fool around much where there's dead people. A
body's bound to get into trouble with 'em, sure."
"I don't like to stir 'em up, either. S'pose this one here was to
stick his skull out and say something!"
"Don't Tom! It's awful."
"Well, it just is. Huck, I don't feel comfortable a bit."
"Say, Tom, let's give this place up, and try somewheres else."
"All right, I reckon we better."
"What'll it be?"
Tom considered awhile; and then said:
"The ha'nted house. That's it!"
"Blame it, I don't like ha'nted houses, Tom. Why, they're a dern sight
worse'n dead people. Dead people might talk, maybe, but they don't come
sliding around in a shroud, when you ain't noticing, and peep over your
shoulder all of a sudden and grit their teeth, the way a ghost does. I
couldn't stand such a thing as that, Tom--nobody could."
"Yes, but, Huck, ghosts don't travel around only at night. They won't
hender us from digging there in the daytime."
"Well, that's so. But you know mighty well people don't go about that
ha'nted house in the day nor the night."