Tom Sawyer Abroad eBook: Page1

Mark Twain (1993)

  Produced by An Anonymous Volunteer


  By Mark Twain


  DO you reckon Tom Sawyer was satisfied after all them adventures? I meanthe adventures we had down the river, and the time we set the darky Jimfree and Tom got shot in the leg. No, he wasn't. It only just p'isonedhim for more. That was all the effect it had. You see, when we threecame back up the river in glory, as you may say, from that long travel,and the village received us with a torchlight procession and speeches,and everybody hurrah'd and shouted, it made us heroes, and that was whatTom Sawyer had always been hankering to be.

  For a while he WAS satisfied. Everybody made much of him, and he tiltedup his nose and stepped around the town as though he owned it. Somecalled him Tom Sawyer the Traveler, and that just swelled him up fit tobust. You see he laid over me and Jim considerable, because we only wentdown the river on a raft and came back by the steamboat, but Tom wentby the steamboat both ways. The boys envied me and Jim a good deal, butland! they just knuckled to the dirt before TOM.

  Well, I don't know; maybe he might have been satisfied if it hadn't beenfor old Nat Parsons, which was postmaster, and powerful long and slim,and kind o' good-hearted and silly, and bald-headed, on account of hisage, and about the talkiest old cretur I ever see. For as much as thirtyyears he'd been the only man in the village that had a reputation--Imean a reputation for being a traveler, and of course he was mortalproud of it, and it was reckoned that in the course of that thirty yearshe had told about that journey over a million times and enjoyed it everytime. And now comes along a boy not quite fifteen, and sets everybodyadmiring and gawking over HIS travels, and it just give the poor oldman the high strikes. It made him sick to listen to Tom, and to hear thepeople say "My land!" "Did you ever!" "My goodness sakes alive!" andall such things; but he couldn't pull away from it, any more than a flythat's got its hind leg fast in the molasses. And always when Tom cometo a rest, the poor old cretur would chip in on HIS same old travelsand work them for all they were worth; but they were pretty faded, anddidn't go for much, and it was pitiful to see. And then Tom would takeanother innings, and then the old man again--and so on, and so on, foran hour and more, each trying to beat out the other.

  You see, Parsons' travels happened like this: When he first got tobe postmaster and was green in the business, there come a letterfor somebody he didn't know, and there wasn't any such person in thevillage. Well, he didn't know what to do, nor how to act, and there theletter stayed and stayed, week in and week out, till the bare sight ofit gave him a conniption. The postage wasn't paid on it, and that wasanother thing to worry about. There wasn't any way to collect that tencents, and he reckon'd the gov'ment would hold him responsible for itand maybe turn him out besides, when they found he hadn't collected it.Well, at last he couldn't stand it any longer. He couldn't sleep nights,he couldn't eat, he was thinned down to a shadder, yet he da'sn't askanybody's advice, for the very person he asked for advice might go backon him and let the gov'ment know about the letter. He had the letterburied under the floor, but that did no good; if he happened to seea person standing over the place it'd give him the cold shivers, andloaded him up with suspicions, and he would sit up that night till thetown was still and dark, and then he would sneak there and get it outand bury it in another place. Of course, people got to avoiding him andshaking their heads and whispering, because, the way he was looking andacting, they judged he had killed somebody or done something terrible,they didn't know what, and if he had been a stranger they would'velynched him.

  Well, as I was saying, it got so he couldn't stand it any longer; sohe made up his mind to pull out for Washington, and just go to thePresident of the United States and make a clean breast of the wholething, not keeping back an atom, and then fetch the letter out and layit before the whole gov'ment, and say, "Now, there she is--do with mewhat you're a mind to; though as heaven is my judge I am an innocent manand not deserving of the full penalties of the law and leaving behindme a family that must starve and yet hadn't had a thing to do with it,which is the whole truth and I can swear to it."

  So he did it. He had a little wee bit of steamboating, and somestage-coaching, but all the rest of the way was horseback, and it tookhim three weeks to get to Washington. He saw lots of land and lots ofvillages and four cities. He was gone 'most eight weeks, and there neverwas such a proud man in the village as he when he got back. His travelsmade him the greatest man in all that region, and the most talked about;and people come from as much as thirty miles back in the country, andfrom over in the Illinois bottoms, too, just to look at him--and therethey'd stand and gawk, and he'd gabble. You never see anything like it.

  Well, there wasn't any way now to settle which was the greatesttraveler; some said it was Nat, some said it was Tom. Everybody allowedthat Nat had seen the most longitude, but they had to give in thatwhatever Tom was short in longitude he had made up in latitude andclimate. It was about a stand-off; so both of them had to whoop up theirdangerous adventures, and try to get ahead THAT way. That bullet-woundin Tom's leg was a tough thing for Nat Parsons to buck against, but hebucked the best he could; and at a disadvantage, too, for Tom didn't setstill as he'd orter done, to be fair, but always got up and saunteredaround and worked his limp while Nat was painting up the adventure thatHE had in Washington; for Tom never let go that limp when his leg gotwell, but practiced it nights at home, and kept it good as new rightalong.

  Nat's adventure was like this; I don't know how true it is; maybe he gotit out of a paper, or somewhere, but I will say this for him, that heDID know how to tell it. He could make anybody's flesh crawl, and he'dturn pale and hold his breath when he told it, and sometimes women andgirls got so faint they couldn't stick it out. Well, it was this way, asnear as I can remember:

  He come a-loping into Washington, and put up his horse and shoved out tothe President's house with his letter, and they told him the Presidentwas up to the Capitol, and just going to start for Philadelphia--not aminute to lose if he wanted to catch him. Nat 'most dropped, it made himso sick. His horse was put up, and he didn't know what to do. But justthen along comes a darky driving an old ramshackly hack, and he see hischance. He rushes out and shouts: "A half a dollar if you git me tothe Capitol in half an hour, and a quarter extra if you do it in twentyminutes!"

  "Done!" says the darky.

  Nat he jumped in and slammed the door, and away they went a-ripping anda-tearing over the roughest road a body ever see, and the racket of itwas something awful. Nat passed his arms through the loops and hung onfor life and death, but pretty soon the hack hit a rock and flew up inthe air, and the bottom fell out, and when it come down Nat's feet wason the ground, and he see he was in the most desperate danger if hecouldn't keep up with the hack. He was horrible scared, but he laid intohis work for all he was worth, and hung tight to the arm-loops and madehis legs fairly fly. He yelled and shouted to the driver to stop, andso did the crowds along the street, for they could see his legs spinningalong under the coach, and his head and shoulders bobbing inside throughthe windows, and he was in awful danger; but the more they all shoutedthe more the nigger whooped and yelled and lashed the horses andshouted, "Don't you fret, I'se gwine to git you dah in time, boss; I'sgwine to do it, sho'!" for you see he thought they were all hurryinghim up, and, of course, he couldn't hear anything for the racket he wasmaking. And so they went ripping along, and everybody just petrifiedto see it; and when they got to the Capitol at last it was the quickesttrip that ever was made, and everybody said so. The horses laid down,and Nat dropped, all tuckered out, and he was all dust and ragsand barefooted; but he was in time and just in time, and caught thePresident and give him the letter, and everything was all right, and th
ePresident give him a free pardon on the spot, and Nat give the niggertwo extra quarters instead of one, because he could see that if hehadn't had the hack he wouldn't'a' got there in time, nor anywhere nearit.

  It WAS a powerful good adventure, and Tom Sawyer had to work hisbullet-wound mighty lively to hold his own against it.

  Well, by and by Tom's glory got to paling down gradu'ly, on accountof other things turning up for the people to talk about--first ahorse-race, and on top of that a house afire, and on top of that thecircus, and on top of that the eclipse; and that started a revival, sameas it always does, and by that time there wasn't any more talk aboutTom, so to speak, and you never see a person so sick and disgusted.

  Pretty soon he got to worrying and fretting right along day in and dayout, and when I asked him what WAS he in such a state about, he saidit 'most broke his heart to think how time was slipping away, and himgetting older and older, and no wars breaking out and no way of makinga name for himself that he could see. Now that is the way boys is alwaysthinking, but he was the first one I ever heard come out and say it.

  So then he set to work to get up a plan to make him celebrated; andpretty soon he struck it, and offered to take me and Jim in. Tom Sawyerwas always free and generous that way. There's a-plenty of boys that'smighty good and friendly when YOU'VE got a good thing, but when a goodthing happens to come their way they don't say a word to you, and try tohog it all. That warn't ever Tom Sawyer's way, I can say that for him.There's plenty of boys that will come hankering and groveling around youwhen you've got an apple and beg the core off of you; but when they'vegot one, and you beg for the core and remind them how you give thema core one time, they say thank you 'most to death, but there ain'ta-going to be no core. But I notice they always git come up with; allyou got to do is to wait.

  Well, we went out in the woods on the hill, and Tom told us what it was.It was a crusade.

  "What's a crusade?" I says.

  He looked scornful, the way he's always done when he was ashamed of aperson, and says:

  "Huck Finn, do you mean to tell me you don't know what a crusade is?"

  "No," says I, "I don't. And I don't care to, nuther. I've lived till nowand done without it, and had my health, too. But as soon as you tell me,I'll know, and that's soon enough. I don't see any use in finding outthings and clogging up my head with them when I mayn't ever have anyoccasion to use 'em. There was Lance Williams, he learned how to talkChoctaw here till one come and dug his grave for him. Now, then, what'sa crusade? But I can tell you one thing before you begin; if it's apatent-right, there's no money in it. Bill Thompson he--"

  "Patent-right!" says he. "I never see such an idiot. Why, a crusade is akind of war."

  I thought he must be losing his mind. But no, he was in real earnest,and went right on, perfectly ca'm.

  "A crusade is a war to recover the Holy Land from the paynim."

  "Which Holy Land?"

  "Why, the Holy Land--there ain't but one."

  "What do we want of it?"

  "Why, can't you understand? It's in the hands of the paynim, and it'sour duty to take it away from them."

  "How did we come to let them git hold of it?"

  "We didn't come to let them git hold of it. They always had it."

  "Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, don't it?"

  "Why of course it does. Who said it didn't?"

  I studied over it, but couldn't seem to git at the right of it, no way.I says:

  "It's too many for me, Tom Sawyer. If I had a farm and it was mine, andanother person wanted it, would it be right for him to--"

  "Oh, shucks! you don't know enough to come in when it rains, Huck Finn.It ain't a farm, it's entirely different. You see, it's like this. Theyown the land, just the mere land, and that's all they DO own; but itwas our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so theyhaven't any business to be there defiling it. It's a shame, and we oughtnot to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take itaway from them."

  "Why, it does seem to me it's the most mixed-up thing I ever see! Now,if I had a farm and another person--"

  "Don't I tell you it hasn't got anything to do with farming? Farming isbusiness, just common low-down business: that's all it is, it's allyou can say for it; but this is higher, this is religious, and totallydifferent."

  "Religious to go and take the land away from people that owns it?"

  "Certainly; it's always been considered so."

  Jim he shook his head, and says:

  "Mars Tom, I reckon dey's a mistake about it somers--dey mos' sholy is.I's religious myself, en I knows plenty religious people, but I hain'trun across none dat acts like dat."

  It made Tom hot, and he says:

  "Well, it's enough to make a body sick, such mullet-headed ignorance! Ifeither of you'd read anything about history, you'd know that Richard Curde Loon, and the Pope, and Godfrey de Bulleyn, and lots more of the mostnoble-hearted and pious people in the world, hacked and hammered at thepaynims for more than two hundred years trying to take their land awayfrom them, and swum neck-deep in blood the whole time--and yet here'sa couple of sap-headed country yahoos out in the backwoods of Missourisetting themselves up to know more about the rights and wrongs of itthan they did! Talk about cheek!"

  Well, of course, that put a more different light on it, and me andJim felt pretty cheap and ignorant, and wished we hadn't been quite sochipper. I couldn't say nothing, and Jim he couldn't for a while; thenhe says:

  "Well, den, I reckon it's all right; beca'se ef dey didn't know, deyain't no use for po' ignorant folks like us to be trying to know; en so,ef it's our duty, we got to go en tackle it en do de bes' we can. Sametime, I feel as sorry for dem paynims as Mars Tom. De hard part gwineto be to kill folks dat a body hain't been 'quainted wid and dat hain'tdone him no harm. Dat's it, you see. Ef we wuz to go 'mongst 'em, jistwe three, en say we's hungry, en ast 'em for a bite to eat, why, maybedey's jist like yuther people. Don't you reckon dey is? Why, DEY'D giveit, I know dey would, en den--"

  "Then what?"

  "Well, Mars Tom, my idea is like dis. It ain't no use, we CAN'T killdem po' strangers dat ain't doin' us no harm, till we've had practice--Iknows it perfectly well, Mars Tom--'deed I knows it perfectly well. Butef we takes a' axe or two, jist you en me en Huck, en slips acrost deriver to-night arter de moon's gone down, en kills dat sick fam'ly dat'sover on the Sny, en burns dey house down, en--"

  "Oh, you make me tired!" says Tom. "I don't want to argue any more withpeople like you and Huck Finn, that's always wandering from the subject,and ain't got any more sense than to try to reason out a thing that'spure theology by the laws that protect real estate!"

  Now that's just where Tom Sawyer warn't fair. Jim didn't mean no harm,and I didn't mean no harm. We knowed well enough that he was right andwe was wrong, and all we was after was to get at the HOW of it, andthat was all; and the only reason he couldn't explain it so we couldunderstand it was because we was ignorant--yes, and pretty dull, too, Iain't denying that; but, land! that ain't no crime, I should think.

  But he wouldn't hear no more about it--just said if we had tackled thething in the proper spirit, he would 'a' raised a couple of thousandknights and put them in steel armor from head to heel, and made me alieutenant and Jim a sutler, and took the command himself and brushedthe whole paynim outfit into the sea like flies and come back across theworld in a glory like sunset. But he said we didn't know enough to takethe chance when we had it, and he wouldn't ever offer it again. And hedidn't. When he once got set, you couldn't budge him.

  But I didn't care much. I am peaceable, and don't get up rows withpeople that ain't doing nothing to me. I allowed if the paynim wassatisfied I was, and we would let it stand at that.

  Now Tom he got all that notion out of Walter Scott's book, which he wasalways reading. And it WAS a wild notion, because in my opinion he nevercould've raised the men, and if he did, as like as not he would've gotlicked. I took the book and read all about it, and as near
as I couldmake it out, most of the folks that shook farming to go crusading had amighty rocky time of it.