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The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Part 4.

Mark Twain

  Produced by David Widger


  Part 4


  TOM'S mind was made up now. He was gloomy and desperate. He was aforsaken, friendless boy, he said; nobody loved him; when they foundout what they had driven him to, perhaps they would be sorry; he hadtried to do right and get along, but they would not let him; sincenothing would do them but to be rid of him, let it be so; and let themblame HIM for the consequences--why shouldn't they? What right had thefriendless to complain? Yes, they had forced him to it at last: hewould 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 heshould never, never hear that old familiar sound any more--it was veryhard, but it was forced on him; since he was driven out into the coldworld, he must submit--but he forgave them. Then the sobs came thickand fast.

  Just at this point he met his soul's sworn comrade, Joe Harper--hard-eyed, and with evidently a great and dismal purpose in his heart.Plainly here were "two souls with but a single thought." Tom, wipinghis eyes with his sleeve, began to blubber out something about aresolution to escape from hard usage and lack of sympathy at home byroaming abroad into the great world never to return; and ended byhoping that Joe would not forget him.

  But it transpired that this was a request which Joe had just beengoing to make of Tom, and had come to hunt him up for that purpose. Hismother had whipped him for drinking some cream which he had nevertasted and knew nothing about; it was plain that she was tired of himand wished him to go; if she felt that way, there was nothing for himto do but succumb; he hoped she would be happy, and never regret havingdriven her poor boy out into the unfeeling world to suffer and die.

  As the two boys walked sorrowing along, they made a new compact tostand by each other and be brothers and never separate till deathrelieved 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, anddying, some time, of cold and want and grief; but after listening toTom, he conceded that there were some conspicuous advantages about alife of crime, and so he consented to be a pirate.

  Three miles below St. Petersburg, at a point where the MississippiRiver was a trifle over a mile wide, there was a long, narrow, woodedisland, with a shallow bar at the head of it, and this offered well asa rendezvous. It was not inhabited; it lay far over toward the furthershore, abreast a dense and almost wholly unpeopled forest. So Jackson'sIsland was chosen. Who were to be the subjects of their piracies was amatter that did not occur to them. Then they hunted up HuckleberryFinn, and he joined them promptly, for all careers were one to him; hewas indifferent. They presently separated to meet at a lonely spot onthe river-bank two miles above the village at the favorite hour--whichwas midnight. There was a small log raft there which they meant tocapture. Each would bring hooks and lines, and such provision as hecould steal in the most dark and mysterious way--as became outlaws. Andbefore the afternoon was done, they had all managed to enjoy the sweetglory of spreading the fact that pretty soon the town would "hearsomething." All who got this vague hint were cautioned to "be mum andwait."

  About midnight Tom arrived with a boiled ham and a few trifles,and stopped in a dense undergrowth on a small bluff overlooking themeeting-place. It was starlight, and very still. The mighty river laylike an ocean at rest. Tom listened a moment, but no sound disturbed thequiet. Then he gave a low, distinct whistle. It was answered from underthe bluff. Tom whistled twice more; these signals were answered in thesame 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." Tomhad furnished these titles, from his favorite literature.

  "'Tis well. Give the countersign."

  Two hoarse whispers delivered the same awful word simultaneously tothe 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 wasan easy, comfortable path along the shore under the bluff, but itlacked 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 wornhimself out with getting it there. Finn the Red-Handed had stolen askillet and a quantity of half-cured leaf tobacco, and had also broughta 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 itwould never do to start without some fire. That was a wise thought;matches were hardly known there in that day. They saw a firesmouldering upon a great raft a hundred yards above, and they wentstealthily thither and helped themselves to a chunk. They made animposing adventure of it, saying, "Hist!" every now and then, andsuddenly halting with finger on lip; moving with hands on imaginarydagger-hilts; and giving orders in dismal whispers that if "the foe"stirred, to "let him have it to the hilt," because "dead men tell notales." They knew well enough that the raftsmen were all down at thevillage laying in stores or having a spree, but still that was noexcuse for their conducting this thing in an unpiratical way.

  They shoved off, presently, Tom in command, Huck at the after oar andJoe at the forward. Tom stood amidships, gloomy-browed, and with foldedarms, and gave his orders in a low, stern whisper:

  "Luff, and bring her to the wind!"

  "Aye-aye, sir!"

  "Steady, steady-y-y-y!"

  "Steady it is, sir!"

  "Let her go off a point!"

  "Point it is, sir!"

  As the boys steadily and monotonously drove the raft toward mid-streamit was no doubt understood that these orders were given only for"style," and were not intended to mean anything in particular.

  "What sail's she carrying?"

  "Courses, tops'ls, and flying-jib, sir."

  "Send the r'yals up! Lay out aloft, there, half a dozen of ye--foretopmaststuns'l! Lively, now!"

  "Aye-aye, sir!"

  "Shake out that maintogalans'l! Sheets and braces! NOW my hearties!"

  "Aye-aye, sir!"

  "Hellum-a-lee--hard a port! Stand by to meet her when she comes! Port,port! NOW, men! With a will! Stead-y-y-y!"

  "Steady it is, sir!"

  The raft drew beyond the middle of the river; the boys pointed herhead right, and then lay on their oars. The river was not high, sothere was not more than a two or three mile current. Hardly a word wassaid during the next three-quarters of an hour. Now the raft waspassing before the distant town. Two or three glimmering lights showedwhere it lay, peacefully sleeping, beyond the vague vast sweep ofstar-gemmed water, unconscious of the tremendous event that was happening.The Black Avenger stood still with folded arms, "looking his last" uponthe scene of his former joys and his later sufferings, and wishing"she" could see him now, abroad on the wild sea, facing peril and deathwith 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 Islandbeyond eyeshot of the village, and so he "looked his last" with abroken and satisfied heart. The other pirates were looking their last,too; and they all looked so long that they came near letting thecurrent drift them out of the range of the island. But they discoveredthe danger in time, and made shift to avert it. About two o'clock inthe morning the raft grounded on the bar two hundred yards above thehead of the island, and they waded back and forth until they had landedtheir f
reight. Part of the little raft's belongings consisted of an oldsail, and this they spread over a nook in the bushes for a tent toshelter their provisions; but they themselves would sleep in the openair in good weather, as became outlaws.

  They built a fire against the side of a great log twenty or thirtysteps within the sombre depths of the forest, and then cooked somebacon 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 thatwild, free way in the virgin forest of an unexplored and uninhabitedisland, far from the haunts of men, and they said they never wouldreturn to civilization. The climbing fire lit up their faces and threwits 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 ofcorn pone devoured, the boys stretched themselves out on the grass,filled with contentment. They could have found a cooler place, but theywould not deny themselves such a romantic feature as the roastingcamp-fire.

  "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 wantnothing better'n this. I don't ever get enough to eat, gen'ally--andhere 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 thatblame 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, andthen 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, likethey used to in old times, but a pirate's always respected. And ahermit's got to sleep on the hardest place he can find, and putsackcloth 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 dothat 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 bea disgrace."

  The Red-Handed made no response, being better employed. He hadfinished gouging out a cob, and now he fitted a weed stem to it, loadedit with tobacco, and was pressing a coal to the charge and blowing acloud of fragrant smoke--he was in the full bloom of luxuriouscontentment. The other pirates envied him this majestic vice, andsecretly resolved to acquire it shortly. Presently Huck said:

  "What does pirates have to do?"

  Tom said:

  "Oh, they have just a bully time--take ships and burn them, and getthe money and bury it in awful places in their island where there'sghosts 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 killthe women."

  "No," assented Tom, "they don't kill the women--they're too noble. Andthe women's always beautiful, too.

  "And don't they wear the bulliest clothes! Oh no! All gold and silverand 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 aregretful 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 understandthat his poor rags would do to begin with, though it was customary forwealthy pirates to start with a proper wardrobe.

  Gradually their talk died out and drowsiness began to steal upon theeyelids of the little waifs. The pipe dropped from the fingers of theRed-Handed, and he slept the sleep of the conscience-free and theweary. The Terror of the Seas and the Black Avenger of the Spanish Mainhad more difficulty in getting to sleep. They said their prayersinwardly, and lying down, since there was nobody there with authorityto make them kneel and recite aloud; in truth, they had a mind not tosay them at all, but they were afraid to proceed to such lengths asthat, lest they might call down a sudden and special thunderbolt fromheaven. Then at once they reached and hovered upon the imminent vergeof sleep--but an intruder came, now, that would not "down." It wasconscience. They began to feel a vague fear that they had been doingwrong to run away; and next they thought of the stolen meat, and thenthe real torture came. They tried to argue it away by remindingconscience that they had purloined sweetmeats and apples scores oftimes; but conscience was not to be appeased by such thinplausibilities; it seemed to them, in the end, that there was nogetting around the stubborn fact that taking sweetmeats was only"hooking," while taking bacon and hams and such valuables was plainsimple stealing--and there was a command against that in the Bible. Sothey 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 inconsistentpirates fell peacefully to sleep.