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by Mark Twain
The original, squashed down to read in about 30 minutes
Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835-1910) from Florida, Missouri, had little education and worked as a printer, as a silver miner in Nevada, a news reporter in San Francisco and as a Mississippi River pilot, from where he took his pseudonym from the boatmen's cry meaning "mark two fathoms.".
Aunt Polly pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the room; then she put them up and looked under them, scanning every nook and corner. She reached under the bed with the broom, and resurrected nothing but the cat. She gazed out into the garden and then raised her voice again, this time for distance.
But Tom was discovered in the small closet behind her, and there was evidence that he had been making free with the jam pot. He escaped the threatened switching by diverting his aunt's attention, and that afternoon he played hookey, arriving home barely in time to help Jim, the small colored boy, saw and split the wood for the morrow. At least, he sat and told of his adventures while Jim did three-quarters of the work, at the same time that his younger half-brother, Sid, who had no adventuresome and troublesome ways, quietly performed his task of picking up the chips.
Aunt Polly, with whom Tom lived, his dead mother's sister, never had the heart to punish him properly, though she certainly had enough provocation. But this time she had steeled herself to turn his Saturday holiday into captivity, for work was the thing he most hated in all the world. Tom was commanded to whitewash the fence, and as he began the hated task a great, magnificent inspiration dawned upon him. He set to work in earnest, stepping back every few minutes to admire his handiwork, and one by one the neighborhood boys, passing by, paused to watch.
They came to jeer but remained to whitewash, for as Toni seemed to take pride in his work and remarked "Aunt Polly's awful particular about this fence" he soon had the boys pleading "Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little." Tom demurred, but finally let Ben Rogers have a share in the noble work in return for his apple. After that it was easy to trade off chances on the whitewashing for various small possessions the boys had that he coveted.
By the middle of the afternoon Tom was literally rolling in wealth, he had had a nice, idle time, and the fence had received three coats of whitewash.
Aunt Polly, summoned to inspect the work, would not believe that it had been completed, and great was her astonishment as she admitted, "Well! you can work when you've a mind to."
The rest of the afternoon was free for play, and Tom engaged in sham military maneuvers with the boys, his company being victorious. Homeward-bound, the fresh-crowned hero fell captive, without a shot being fired, to love, and a certain Amy Lawrence, whom he had thought he had adored to distraction, vanished out of his heart and left not a trace of her-self behind. The lovely little blue-eyed creature with yellow hair in pigtails, wearing a white summer frock and embroidered pantalettes, whom he espied in the garden, was Becky Thatcher. Tom worshiped with furtive eyes, and then began to "show-off" in all sorts of absurd boyish ways, and as she disappeared into the house she tossed a pansy over the fence, which he cherished tenderly, and returned to supper in such high spirits that his aunt wondered what had got into him.
Next day at Sunday-School, miracle of miracles, Tom was presented with a Bible, coveted prize given the scholar who could produce ten yellow tickets, signifying that he had memorized two thousand Bible verses. Through an intricate system of blue, red, and yellow tickets, these precious slips might be accumulated over a period of months or even years. But as it was impossible to believe that this boy had achieved this remarkable feat, the presentation of the prize lacked something of the gusto appropriate to the occasion, especially so as Tom had replied miserably "David and Goliath" when questioned as to the identity of the first two disciples.
On the superintendent, Mr. Walters, had slowly dawned the suspicion that these tickets had not been come by in the approved manner. He had expected no application for the Bible prize for ten years at least; this had been the most stunning surprise of the decade, but also a mystery that could not well bear the light.
And indeed Tom had obtained the tickets by waylaying boys as they came in to the Sunday-School, and trading tickets of various colors for odds and ends of trifles he had on hand. Too late the boys saw that they had been duped, but by that time Tom had his Bible. As the company passed into the church on this Sabbath morning, Tom amused himself with the antics of a pinch-bug beetle which he had in a percussion-cap box in his pocket. Others of the congregation, becoming weary of the long sermon, took pleasure in watching the insect, and a vagrant poodle-dog who happened in played with the pinch-bug as it lay on its back in the aisle and then gave a yelp of agony as the creature bit it sharply and dashed down the aisle and right in front of the altar. It was a relief to everyone when the benediction was pronounced and the long service was over.
Monday morning at school, Tom's excuse in regard to his lateness "I stopped to talk with Huckleberry Finn" drew upon him a terrible flogging in which the schoolmaster's arm performed until it was tired. But the punishment was worth it, for afterwards Tom was sent to sit with the girls, which meant in this case next to Becky Thatcher.
This was bliss for Tom, but for a long time Becky would not notice him. Finally she deigned to look at the pictures he drew for her, and when he wrote the words "I love you" on his slate he pretended not to want her to see, but gradually withdrew the hand that was hiding them. The master, now noticing what was going on, descended on Tom and fastening a close grip on his ear bore him across the room to his own seat.
That noon, however, the two children remained in the deserted schoolroom and Tom drew more pictures for Becky. The sweet tale "I love you" was whispered softly each to the other, and they became "engaged." But alas, before the hour was out they had quarreled and Tom left the school in anger, leaving them both miserable.
Steeped in melancholy, Tom wandered disconsolately through the woods, and then came the happy thought to be a pirate. "Tom Sawyer the Pirate - the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main!" The adventure that night in the graveyard with Huckleberry Finn proved to be of tragic import and rather more than the boys had bargained for.
Huck Finn was the son of the town drunkard, the juvenile pariah of the village. His society was forbidden to all the "nice" boys of St. Petersburg, and all the mothers hated and dreaded him because he was such a glamorous figure to their sons on account of the freedom of his life.
He was accountable to no one, fished and swam when he pleased, slept on doorsteps in fine weather and in empty hogsheads in wet, wore queer discarded clothing, and smoked a pipe.
Huck had this time acquired a dead cat, and the two boys had arranged to go to the graveyard at midnight to the grave of a person recently buried and wait for the spirits to take away the body. They would then throw the dead cat after the body, and this, accompanied by the proper incantation, meant, Huck said, a sure cure for warts.
They met as scheduled, and while they were rather fearfully waiting for the spirits of the dead to appear, three figures were seen in the distance who turned out to be not the three devils they expected but three humans they knew well. Young Doctor Robinson, who had arranged with the other two, Injun Joe and Muff Potter.
Potter and Injun Joe, with handbarrow and shovels, began to open the grave. They were so close the boys could have touched him. A spade struck upon the coffin with a dull woody accent, and within another minute or two the men had hoisted it out on the ground. They pried off the lid with their shovels, got out the body and dumped it rudely on the ground. Potter roped the body to the barrow, trimmed the rope with his knife, then said:
"Now the cussed thing's ready, Sawbones, and you'll out with another five, or here she stays."
"Look here," said the doctor. "I've already paid you."
"Yes," said Injun Joe, approaching the doctor. "And you drove me once from your father's kitchen, when I come to ask for something to eat; and I swore I'd get even with you if it took a hundred years. Your father had me jailed for a vagrant. Did you think I'd forget? The Injun blood ain't in me for nothing.
The doctor struck out suddenly and stretched the ruffian on the ground.
Potter exclaimed: "Here, now, don't you hit my pard!" and the next moment the two were struggling with might and main. Injun Joe sprang to his feet snatched up Potter's knife, and went creeping, catlike, round and round about the combatants, seeking an opportunity. All at once the doctor flung himself free, and in the same instant the half-breed saw his chance and drove Potter's knife to the hilt in the young doctor's breast, he gave a long gasp or two and was still.
Huck and Tom, horror-stricken at what they had witnessed, ran from the grave. Through fear of Injun Joe they made a compact to tell nothing of what they knew as to the correct identity of the murderer.
The law took its course, and during the weeks to come they visited Muff Potter in jail and brought him small comforts. Tom's conscience began to trouble him more and more, and finally the night before the trial, it harassed him so that it drove him to the judge's with the story of what he knew.
When the truth came out next day, Injun Joe, fleet of foot, escaped from the court-room and was not caught. Tom now was a glittering hero by day, but to him the night became a season of horror. Injun Joe infested all his dreams and he hardly dared set foot out-of-doors after twilight. Huck Finn was in the same state of wretchedness and terror, though his part in the dread night's proceedings had not come out. And also Huck had lost his confidence in human beings since Torn, who had sworn with the most dismal and formidable of oaths, had none-theless revealed the secret they had agreed to keep to them-selves.
Both Huck and Tom had their attention diverted from the grewsome business by a new adventure, as Tom, to whom life had again become a gloomy affair, mostly, because he had been slighted by Becky; felt that this was a good chance to become the pirate he dreamed of. He discovered that Joe Harper was of the same mind, having been unjustly punished at home.
These two hunted up Huck Finn, and the three resolved to meet on the river at midnight. They were going to capture a small raft and provision it with what they could steal at home, and set sail. At midnight, the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main (known up to this time as Tom Sawyer) arrived with a boiled ham, and a few trifles, the Terror of the Seas (Joe Harper) contributed a side of bacon, while Huck the Red Handed, provided a skillet, and a quantity of leaf tobacco and corncobs for pipes. No one smoked but himself, but when the long evenings of their self-imposed exile began to drag, he lost no time in teaching this art to his companions, with sad results at first.
it was fun the first night - they had arrived at their retreat about two o'clock in the morning, - as they built a great fire and ate their bacon and corn pone. They had a good sleep, a swim the next morning before their breakfast of the fish that they caught and bacon and more pone. Exploration of the island followed, revealing nothing extraordinary. But as time went on, the novelty of the adventure wore off, and little by little the boys became homesick, though they would not have admitted this for worlds.
During that afternoon they heard a peculiar sound in the distance, which seemed to be the ferryboat's whistle and which was often repeated. It slowly dawned on the boys that this was the signal heard "last summer when Bill Turner got drownded." They parted the bushes and could see the ferryboat with crowds of people aboard, and knew that the river was being searched. "Boys, I know who's drownded - it's us!" exclaimed Tom, and they all felt like heroes. It was good to be missed.
That night Tom swam and waded to the nearby Missouri shore and crawled into the skiff of the ferryboat that was about to depart. Making his way home after he had crossed the river, he hid and overheard Mrs. Harper and Aunt Polly and the rest saying with many tears that the boys had been given up for dead, since the raft had been found wedged against the hank. If the bodies were not found by Saturday - it was now Wednesday - funeral services for the three would be held Sunday morning at church time.
Tom had gone home with the good intention of leaving for his aunt a message "We ain't dead - we're only off being pirates," but now a brilliant idea came to him, and he did not leave the message after all. The boys would stay on the island till Saturday, make their way home and hide in the church for their own funerals, revealing themselves when the time seemed ripe.
This plan was carried out. After a final adventure of a terrific thunder-storm on their last night, when the thunder and lightning crashed and cracked around them, and their makeshift tent of an old sail was destroyed and they were soaked to their skins, the boys dried themselves out as best they could, and departed for home.
They hid in the church gallery and listened to the eulogies of themselves and the sobs of the mourners, and at the proper moment marched down the aisle in a very fine climax. As their families threw themselves upon them in a frenzy of emotion, in which Huck was included too at Tom's insistence, the minister in a flash of inspiration gave the signal for "Praise God from Whom All Blessings Flow," and Old Hundred swelled up with a triumphant burst and shook the rafters.
Thus was ended an extraordinary funeral service, and Tom knew this to be the proudest moment of his life. At this point Tom resolved that he could be independent of Becky Thatcher; he would now live for glory. Probably she would be wanting to "make up" now that he was a hero, but he would show her that he could be indifferent. He pretended not to notice Becky and did not even plead for an invitation to her picnic.
Each of them took up a "flirtation" with another to get even, but this seemed curiously unsatisfying to both of them. There came a day in school when Tom received two whippings: one for the inky page in his speller which had been thus smeared by his hated rival for Becky's favor, Alfred Temple, "that St. Louis smarty!" And the second when in an impulse of chivalry he took the blame for the torn page in the schoolmaster's book that Becky had mutilated.
The gratitude and adoration which shone out of Becky's eyes were pay for a hundred floggings, and though he had to stay two hours after school as added punishment, he was happy, for he knew that she would wait all that weary time for him. As he fell asleep that night, her last words lingered sweetly in his ears "Oh Tom, how could you be so noble!"
The long summer vacation was marked by a rainy and disappointing Fourth of July, a few days of the circus, some parties, a revival in the town, and then an attack of the measles for Tom. After long, weary days he recovered from the latter, and then one afternoon he was suddenly smitten with the raging desire to go somewhere and dig for buried treasure.
"Where'll we go dig?" inquired Huck sensibly when approached on the subject, and Tom answered "Oh, most anywhere." But, on further consideration, he admitted that the treasure would probably be buried under a ha'nted house or on an island or "under a dead tree that's got one limb sticking out." The boys had already tried Jackson's Island when they were off playing pirates. Long and wearisome experiments were made with the other two types of hunting for buried treasure.
"Do they always bury it as deep as this?" inquired Huck as they toiled away with their shovels. "Not generally. I guess we haven't got the right place," his companion replied. After more back-breaking work, Tom remembered that they should find out where the shadow of the dead limb fell at midnight and dig there. This project did not work out either, however, and the next day as they returned for their tools they approached the ha'nted house, and then remembered that as it was a Friday they must not dig for buried treasure that day.
They fell to playing Robin Hood. But the day following they came back to the haunted house and ventured inside. As they examined the place with interest and familiarity modified their fears, they finally dared to go upstairs, and thereby met with a frightening adventure. For who should enter the house presently but two figures, one of whom they both identified (by his voice) as Injun Joe, in the disguise of a deaf-and-dumb Spaniard that had lately appeared about town.
The boys overhead and quaked with fear, but they listened with all their ears and watched through a knot-hole, as the two unkempt men talked a long while, had a lunch, and a sleep. Tom wanted to escape while they slept, but the floor creaked so menacingly at his first step that he gave up the idea. So Huck and Tom waited in agony until the men awoke.
In digging in the fireplace preparatory to burying the money-bag they had with them containing six hundred dollars, the men came upon another treasure trove of thousands, a box left by some former gang.
They would have left both stores buried in the fireplace, had it not been for the pick and shovel with fresh earth on them that they had discovered in the house. "Who could have brought these tools here? Do you reckon they can be upstairs?" queried Injun Joe, and the boys' hearts stood still. The half-breed turned toward the stairway and was creaking up when suddenly there was a crash of rotten timbers and he fell to the ground amid the ruins of the collapsed staircase. This mishap of Injun. Joe saved the boys, for he gave up any further attempt to see if the house were occupied, and shortly the two companions departed toward the river with their precious box.
Bitter, bitter luck that the tools had ever been brought to the house, thought the boys as they proceeded soberly homewards. The men had spoken of some revengeful job Injun Joe was anxious to get finished.
Tom had an awful thought. "Revenge? What if he means us?"
Tom's dreams were mightily tormented that night. In figuring out what hiding place for the money the men had moved it to, Huck and Tom came upon some promising clues, and Huck agreed to keep watch every night on the a tavern which seemed to be the place and wait until Injun Joe departed from it.
It was on the night of the day that Tom went to Becky Thatcher's picnic that Huck's chance came, but let us take up Tom's story first.
The chief event of the long-delayed picnic that had been promised Becky Thatcher was exploring McDougal's Cave, a fascinating cavern of stalactites and glittering crystals. The children explored the passages, holding their candles aloft. But to Becky and Tom who wandered far away from the main body of picnickers it became a place of torment. At last they realized that they were lost, their last bit of candle flickered into nothingness, and they were tired and hungry.
Tom had a cake in his pocket, but this did not help for long. Fortunately they had water to drink, for owing to Tom's good sense they had stopped by a spring when the candle went out. Becky forlornly cried herself to sleep in Tom's arms, and when she waked she groaned, "Oh, how could I sleep! I wish I never, never had waked!" Tom tried to comfort her, but he was badly scared him-self when he realized that Becky's mother had expected her to spend the night at the home of a friend near the ferry-landing, and thus would not miss her for a long time. And indeed it was not until Sunday afternoon that searching-parties were sent out for it was after church that Mrs. Thatcher and Aunt Polly perceived that Becky and Tom had not returned from the picnic with the rest.
Wild was the excitement in St. Petersburg, and it was not long before two hundred men were off to explore parts of the cave that had never been visited before. To Becky and Tom the three days and nights dragged interminably, once they heard faint sounds as of rescuers but could not reach them.
At last as Tom decided to explore some of the side passages near them, he came to a "jumping-off" place, and as he leaned down to gaze as far around the corner as he could, he saw unmistakably the form of Injun Joe! Tom was momentarily paralyzed, but the half-breed made off as fast as he could, and Tom said nothing to Becky of the encounter. He resolved to stay close to the spring after this, but after another night of wretchedness and an awaking to raging hunger, he decided to try once more, and moved off in another direction, with the aid of some kite-line.
Becky was very weak, and said she was willing to wait and die where she was. The long vigil of the children was now almost over, for after exploring three corridors in vain Tom spied a faint speck of daylight at the end of a fourth, hastened to it joyfully, and be-held the broad Mississippi rolling by!
Becky refused to believe the good news, but with Tom was overjoyed when they finally pushed their way out into daylight again, and waited for a skiff to take them home. The point where they had emerged was five miles down the river below the valley the cave was in! The searching-party in the cave was tracked by the twine clues they had left behind them, and told the good news.
Tom and Becky were weak and bedridden for days. But as soon as Tom was able he was off to see Huck Finn, who had been delirious with fever and was still ill, the Widow Douglas caring for him.
Tom was not allowed to talk with Huck of exciting things, but he learned at home of most of the happenings of that eventful week-end, and gradually he pieced the story together. Huck had seen Injun Joe and his ragged, unkempt companion come out of the door-way he had been watching so long, bearing the heavy box of money with them, and had tracked them up Cardiff Hill. He there learned of a plot to rob the Widow Douglas and torture her. It was because her husband, the justice of the peace, had had him horsewhipped, "horsewhipped in front of the jail, like a nigger," that Injun Joe demanded his revenge by leaving her to bleed to death after he had "slit her nostrils and notched her ears." His companion had objected to this part of the program, but was persuaded, and as they were waiting for the lights to be turned off at the house, Huck had time to run down the hill and tell his incredible tale to the Welshman in whose house Huck was stayed.
He with his two sons hurried up the hill, fired on the two plotters and frightened them off. Next morning Huck described the two men to the tavern-keeper, though insisting that no one must know that he was the one who tracked them. He let out the fact which he tried at first to conceal, through fear, that the "deaf-and-dumb" Spaniard was really Injun Joe. And of this outlaw's miserable end the people learned when a party went to the ill-fated cave and discovered him dead at the entrance.
Judge Thatcher had had the door of the cave sealed up and triple-locked, so no one else could get lost in it, and Tom had not learned of this till two weeks after his own rescue. So the half-breed was dead, and a sense of relief and security swept through the community. But the treasure had not been found, and there remained one more adventure for the boys.
The heavy treasure-box, whose contents they placed in small bags they could carry, Tom and Huck discovered right under-neath the point in the cave where Tom had seen Injun Joe make a mark with candle smoke on that awful day of his captivity in the cave. On this trip of discovery Tom and Huck had used the entrance from which he and Becky had emerged, and this was now to be the headquarters of "Tom Sawyer's Gang" (the decision had been made to be robbers instead of pirates, and Huck approved.
"Why, it's real bully, Tom. I b'lieve it's better'n to be a pirate." "Yes, it's better in some ways, because it's close to home and circuses and all that," agreed Tom. As Huck and Tom lugged home the discovered treasure in a small wagon, intending to hide it in the loft of the widow's woodshed, they were overtaken by the Welshman, made to dress up, and hauled into a party that the Widow Douglas was giving in gratitude for having been saved from a terrible fate.
To Huck, whose share in the affair had leaked out, being set up as a target for everybody's gaze and laudations was only more uncomfortable than the nearly intolerable discomfort of his new clothes. He was promised a home and education by the grateful widow and a start in business when the time came, but Tom broke in, "Huck don't need it. Huck's rich." At the incredulous smiles of the company, who thought he must be crazy, Tom merely ran out-of-doors and brought in the sacks of money. It was counted, and the sum amounted to a little over twelve thousand dollars. It was more than any one present had ever seen at one time before. So vast a sum seemed incredible, everybody took to ransacking haunted houses, with-out success.
The village paper published biographical sketches of the boys. Judge Thatcher invested Tom's share of the money at Aunt Polly's request. The judge had conceived a great opinion of Tom. No ordinary boy could have gotten his daughter out of the cave, he was sure, and Becky had told him of Tom's nobility in taking her whipping at school, and pleaded grace for the lie he told in so doing until the judge, visibly moved, declared it a generous, magnanimous lie, worthy to rank with George Washing-ton's truth about the hatchet.
Judge Thatcher hoped for the career of either a soldier or a lawyer for Tom, and he promised to help him achieve the one he should choose. Huck, being under the Widow Douglas' protection, was per-force dragged into society, and made miserable by new clothes, clean beds, meals at regular times, and going to church.
After three weeks, Tom discovered him asleep in his accustomed haunt in an empty hogshead behind the abandoned slaughter-house, clad in his old rags, and happy with his pipe.
To Tom's pleas to return, Huck protested, "No, Tom, I won't be rich, and I won't live in them cussed, smothery houses. I like the woods, and the river, and hogsheads, and I'll stick to 'em, too." Huck was won over though when Tom assured him that their turning rich was not going to prevent them from being robbers, and Tom promised to intercede with the widow that she "let up" on Huck a little.
When Tom declared, "Huck, we can't let you into the gang, you know, if you ain't respectable," and assured him that "a robber is more high-toned than what a pirate is - as a general thing. In most countries they're awful high up in the nobility - dukes and such," Huck saw that he must endure civilization and its draw-backs for the sake of belonging to the gang, and he declared with finality "I'll stick to the widdertill I rot, Tom; and if I get to be a reg'lar ripper of a robber, and everybody talking 'bout it, I reckon she'll be proud she snaked me in out of the wet."
SO endeth this chronicle. Most of the characters that perform in this book still live, and are prosperous and happy. Some day it may seem worth while to take up the story of the younger ones again and see what sort of men and women they turned out to be.
● Copyright © 2014 Glyn Hughes.
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