The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Part 3. eBook: Page1

Mark Twain (2004)




  Produced by David Widger

  THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER BY MARK TWAIN (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

  Part 3

  CHAPTER VIII

  TOM dodged hither and thither through lanes until he was well out ofthe track of returning scholars, and then fell into a moody jog. Hecrossed a small "branch" two or three times, because of a prevailingjuvenile superstition that to cross water baffled pursuit. Half an hourlater he was disappearing behind the Douglas mansion on the summit ofCardiff Hill, and the schoolhouse was hardly distinguishable away offin the valley behind him. He entered a dense wood, picked his pathlessway to the centre of it, and sat down on a mossy spot under a spreadingoak. There was not even a zephyr stirring; the dead noonday heat hadeven stilled the songs of the birds; nature lay in a trance that wasbroken by no sound but the occasional far-off hammering of awoodpecker, and this seemed to render the pervading silence and senseof loneliness the more profound. The boy's soul was steeped inmelancholy; his feelings were in happy accord with his surroundings. Hesat long with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands,meditating. It seemed to him that life was but a trouble, at best, andhe more than half envied Jimmy Hodges, so lately released; it must bevery peaceful, he thought, to lie and slumber and dream forever andever, with the wind whispering through the trees and caressing thegrass and the flowers over the grave, and nothing to bother and grieveabout, ever any more. If he only had a clean Sunday-school record hecould be willing to go, and be done with it all. Now as to this girl.What had he done? Nothing. He had meant the best in the world, and beentreated like a dog--like a very dog. She would be sorry some day--maybewhen it was too late. Ah, if he could only die TEMPORARILY!

  But the elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into oneconstrained shape long at a time. Tom presently began to driftinsensibly back into the concerns of this life again. What if he turnedhis back, now, and disappeared mysteriously? What if he went away--everso far away, into unknown countries beyond the seas--and never cameback any more! How would she feel then! The idea of being a clownrecurred to him now, only to fill him with disgust. For frivolity andjokes and spotted tights were an offense, when they intruded themselvesupon a spirit that was exalted into the vague august realm of theromantic. No, he would be a soldier, and return after long years, allwar-worn and illustrious. No--better still, he would join the Indians,and hunt buffaloes and go on the warpath in the mountain ranges and thetrackless great plains of the Far West, and away in the future comeback a great chief, bristling with feathers, hideous with paint, andprance into Sunday-school, some drowsy summer morning, with abloodcurdling war-whoop, and sear the eyeballs of all his companionswith unappeasable envy. But no, there was something gaudier even thanthis. He would be a pirate! That was it! NOW his future lay plainbefore him, and glowing with unimaginable splendor. How his name wouldfill the world, and make people shudder! How gloriously he would goplowing the dancing seas, in his long, low, black-hulled racer, theSpirit of the Storm, with his grisly flag flying at the fore! And atthe zenith of his fame, how he would suddenly appear at the old villageand stalk into church, brown and weather-beaten, in his black velvetdoublet and trunks, his great jack-boots, his crimson sash, his beltbristling with horse-pistols, his crime-rusted cutlass at his side, hisslouch hat with waving plumes, his black flag unfurled, with the skulland crossbones on it, and hear with swelling ecstasy the whisperings,"It's Tom Sawyer the Pirate!--the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main!"

  Yes, it was settled; his career was determined. He would run away fromhome and enter upon it. He would start the very next morning. Thereforehe must now begin to get ready. He would collect his resourcestogether. He went to a rotten log near at hand and began to dig underone end of it with his Barlow knife. He soon struck wood that soundedhollow. He put his hand there and uttered this incantation impressively:

  "What hasn't come here, come! What's here, stay here!"

  Then he scraped away the dirt, and exposed a pine shingle. He took itup and disclosed a shapely little treasure-house whose bottom and sideswere of shingles. In it lay a marble. Tom's astonishment was boundless!He scratched his head with a perplexed air, and said:

  "Well, that beats anything!"

  Then he tossed the marble away pettishly, and stood cogitating. Thetruth was, that a superstition of his had failed, here, which he andall his comrades had always looked upon as infallible. If you buried amarble with certain necessary incantations, and left it alone afortnight, and then opened the place with the incantation he had justused, you would find that all the marbles you had ever lost hadgathered themselves together there, meantime, no matter how widely theyhad been separated. But now, this thing had actually and unquestionablyfailed. Tom's whole structure of faith was shaken to its foundations.He had many a time heard of this thing succeeding but never of itsfailing before. It did not occur to him that he had tried it severaltimes before, himself, but could never find the hiding-placesafterward. He puzzled over the matter some time, and finally decidedthat some witch had interfered and broken the charm. He thought hewould satisfy himself on that point; so he searched around till hefound a small sandy spot with a little funnel-shaped depression in it.He laid himself down and put his mouth close to this depression andcalled--

  "Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know! Doodle-bug,doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know!"

  The sand began to work, and presently a small black bug appeared for asecond and then darted under again in a fright.

  "He dasn't tell! So it WAS a witch that done it. I just knowed it."

  He well knew the futility of trying to contend against witches, so hegave up discouraged. But it occurred to him that he might as well havethe marble he had just thrown away, and therefore he went and made apatient search for it. But he could not find it. Now he went back tohis treasure-house and carefully placed himself just as he had beenstanding when he tossed the marble away; then he took another marblefrom his pocket and tossed it in the same way, saying:

  "Brother, go find your brother!"

  He watched where it stopped, and went there and looked. But it musthave fallen short or gone too far; so he tried twice more. The lastrepetition was successful. The two marbles lay within a foot of eachother.

  Just here the blast of a toy tin trumpet came faintly down the greenaisles of the forest. Tom flung off his jacket and trousers, turned asuspender into a belt, raked away some brush behind the rotten log,disclosing a rude bow and arrow, a lath sword and a tin trumpet, and ina moment had seized these things and bounded away, barelegged, withfluttering shirt. He presently halted under a great elm, blew ananswering blast, and then began to tiptoe and look warily out, this wayand that. He said cautiously--to an imaginary company:

  "Hold, my merry men! Keep hid till I blow."

  Now appeared Joe Harper, as airily clad and elaborately armed as Tom.Tom called:

  "Hold! Who comes here into Sherwood Forest without my pass?"

  "Guy of Guisborne wants no man's pass. Who art thou that--that--"

  "Dares to hold such language," said Tom, prompting--for they talked"by the book," from memory.

  "Who art thou that dares to hold such language?"

  "I, indeed! I am Robin Hood, as thy caitiff carcase soon shall know."

  "Then art thou indeed that famous outlaw? Right gladly will I disputewith thee the passes of the merry wood. Have at thee!"

  They took their lath swords, dumped their other traps on the ground,struck a fencing attitude, foot to foot, and began a grave, carefulcombat, "two up and two down." Presently Tom said:

>   "Now, if you've got the hang, go it lively!"

  So they "went it lively," panting and perspiring with the work. By andby Tom shouted:

  "Fall! fall! Why don't you fall?"

  "I sha'n't! Why don't you fall yourself? You're getting the worst ofit."

  "Why, that ain't anything. I can't fall; that ain't the way it is inthe book. The book says, 'Then with one back-handed stroke he slew poorGuy of Guisborne.' You're to turn around and let me hit you in theback."

  There was no getting around the authorities, so Joe turned, receivedthe whack and fell.

  "Now," said Joe, getting up, "you got to let me kill YOU. That's fair."

  "Why, I can't do that, it ain't in the book."

  "Well, it's blamed mean--that's all."

  "Well, say, Joe, you can be Friar Tuck or Much the miller's son, andlam me with a quarter-staff; or I'll be the Sheriff of Nottingham andyou be Robin Hood a little while and kill me."

  This was satisfactory, and so these adventures were carried out. ThenTom became Robin Hood again, and was allowed by the treacherous nun tobleed his strength away through his neglected wound. And at last Joe,representing a whole tribe of weeping outlaws, dragged him sadly forth,gave his bow into his feeble hands, and Tom said, "Where this arrowfalls, there bury poor Robin Hood under the greenwood tree." Then heshot the arrow and fell back and would have died, but he lit on anettle and sprang up too gaily for a corpse.

  The boys dressed themselves, hid their accoutrements, and went offgrieving that there were no outlaws any more, and wondering what moderncivilization could claim to have done to compensate for their loss.They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest thanPresident of the United States forever.