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Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.


(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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TOM dodged hither and thither through lanes until

he was well out of the track of returning scholars,

and then fell into a moody jog. He crossed a small "branch"

two or three times, because of a prevailing

juvenile superstition that to cross water

baffled pursuit. Half an hour later he was disappearing

behind the Douglas mansion on the summit of Cardiff Hill,

and the school-house was hardly distinguishable

away off in the valley behind him. He entered a dense wood,

picked his pathless way to the centre of it,

and sat down on a mossy spot under a spreading oak.

There was not even a zephyr stirring;

the dead noonday heat had even stilled the songs of

the birds; nature lay in a trance that was broken by no

sound but the occasional far-off hammering of a wood-

pecker, and this seemed to render the pervading silence

and sense of loneliness the more profound. The boy's

soul was steeped in melancholy; his feelings were in

happy accord with his surroundings. He sat 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, and he more than half envied Jimmy

Hodges, so lately released; it must be very peaceful, he

thought, to lie and slumber and dream forever and

ever, with the wind whispering through the trees and

caressing the grass and the flowers over the grave,

and nothing to bother and grieve about, ever any

more. If he only had a clean Sunday-school record

he could 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 been treated

like a dog -- like a very dog. She would be sorry some

day -- maybe when it was too late. Ah, if he could only


But the elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed

into one constrained shape long at a time. Tom

presently began to drift insensibly back into the con-

cerns of this life again. What if he turned his back,

now, and disappeared mysteriously? What if he went

away -- ever so far away, into unknown countries beyond

the seas -- and never came back any more! How

would she feel then! The idea of being a clown

recurred to him now, only to fill him with disgust.

For frivolity and jokes and spotted tights were an

offense, when they intruded themselves upon a spirit

that was exalted into the vague august realm of the

romantic. No, he would be a soldier, and return after

long years, all war-worn and illustrious. No -- better

still, he would join the Indians, and hunt buffaloes

and go on the warpath in the mountain ranges and the

trackless great plains of the Far West, and away in

the future come back a great chief, bristling with

feathers, hideous with paint, and prance into Sunday-

school, some drowsy summer morning, with a blood-

curdling war-whoop, and sear the eyeballs of all his

companions with unappeasable envy. But no, there

was something gaudier even than this. He would be

a pirate! That was it! NOW his future lay plain

before him, and glowing with unimaginable splendor.

How his name would fill the world, and make people

shudder! How gloriously he would go plowing the

dancing seas, in his long, low, black-hulled racer, the

Spirit of the Storm, with his grisly flag flying at

the fore! And at the zenith of his fame, how he would

suddenly appear at the old village and stalk into church,

brown and weather-beaten, in his black velvet doublet

and trunks, his great jack-boots, his crimson sash, his

belt bristling with horse-pistols, his crime-rusted cut-

lass at his side, his slouch hat with waving plumes,

his black flag unfurled, with the skull and 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 from home and enter upon it.

He would start the very next morning. Therefore

he must now begin to get ready. He would collect

his resources together. He went to a rotten log near

at hand and began to dig under one end of it with his

Barlow knife. He soon struck wood that sounded hollow.

He put his hand there and uttered this incantation


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

Then he scraped away the dirt, and exposed a pine

shingle. He took it up and disclosed a shapely little

treasure-house whose bottom and sides were 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. The truth was, that a superstition

of his had failed, here, which he and all his comrades

had always looked upon as infallible. If you buried

a marble with certain necessary incantations, and

left it alone a fortnight, and then opened the place

with the incantation he had just used, you would find

that all the marbles you had ever lost had gathered

themselves together there, meantime, no matter how

widely they had been separated. But now, this thing

had actually and unquestionably failed. Tom's whole

structure of faith was shaken to its foundations. He

had many a time heard of this thing succeeding but

never of its failing before. It did not occur to him

that he had tried it several times before, himself, but

could never find the hiding-places afterward. He

puzzled over the matter some time, and finally decided

that some witch had interfered and broken the charm.

He thought he would satisfy himself on that point; so

he searched around till he found a small sandy spot

with a little funnel-shaped depression in it. He laid

himself down and put his mouth close to this de-

pression and called --

"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 a second 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 he gave up discouraged. But it occurred

to him that he might as well have the marble he had

just thrown away, and therefore he went and made

a patient search for it. But he could not find it.

Now he went back to his treasure-house and carefully

placed himself just as he had been standing when he

tossed the marble away; then he took another marble

from 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 must have fallen short or gone too far; so he tried

twice more. The last repetition was successful. The two

marbles lay within a foot of each other.

Just here the blast of a toy tin trumpet came faintly

down the green aisles of the forest. Tom flung off his

jacket and trousers, turned a suspender into a belt,

raked away some brush behind the rotten log, dis-

closing a rude bow and arrow, a lath sword and a tin

trumpet, and in a moment had seized these things

and bounded away, barelegged, with fluttering shirt.

He presently halted under a great elm, blew an answer-

ing blast, and then began to tiptoe and look warily out,

this way and that. He said cautiously -- to an imaginary


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

Now appeared Joe Harper, as airily clad and elab-

orately 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 dispute with 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, careful combat, "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 and by Tom shouted:

"Fall! fall! Why don't you fall?"

"I sha'n't! Why don't you fall yourself? You're

getting the worst of it."

"Why, that ain't anything. I can't fall; that ain't

the way it is in the book. The book says, 'Then with

one back-handed stroke he slew poor Guy of Guisborne.'

You're to turn around and let me hit you in the back."

There was no getting around the authorities, so Joe

turned, received the 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, and lam me with a quarter-staff; or

I'll be the Sheriff of Nottingham and you be Robin

Hood a little while and kill me."

This was satisfactory, and so these adventures

were carried out. Then Tom became Robin Hood

again, and was allowed by the treacherous nun to

bleed 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 arrow

falls, there bury poor Robin Hood under the green-

wood tree." Then he shot the arrow and fell back

and would have died, but he lit on a nettle and sprang

up too gaily for a corpse.

The boys dressed themselves, hid their accoutrements,

and went off grieving that there were no outlaws any more,

and wondering what modern civilization could claim

to have done to compensate for their loss.

They said they would rather be outlaws a year

in Sherwood Forest than President of the United States forever.



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