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(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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TOM'S mind was made up now. He was gloomy and desperate.

He was a forsaken, friendless boy, he said; nobody loved him;

when they found out what they had driven him to,

perhaps they would be sorry; he had tried to do right and get

along, but they would not let him; since nothing would

do them but to be rid of him, let it be so; and let them

blame HIM for the consequences -- why shouldn't they?

What right had the friendless to complain? Yes, they

had forced him to it at last: he would 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 he should never, never

hear that old familiar sound any more -- it was very

hard, but it was forced on him; since he was driven out

into the cold world, he must submit -- but he forgave

them. Then the sobs came thick and 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, wiping

his eyes with his sleeve, began to blubber out something

about a resolution to escape from hard usage and lack

of sympathy at home by roaming abroad into the great

world never to return; and ended by hoping that Joe

would not forget him.

But it transpired that this was a request which Joe

had just been going to make of Tom, and had come

to hunt him up for that purpose. His mother had

whipped him for drinking some cream which he had

never tasted and knew nothing about; it was plain

that she was tired of him and wished him to go; if

she felt that way, there was nothing for him to do but

succumb; he hoped she would be happy, and never

regret having driven her poor boy out into the unfeeling

world to suffer and die.

As the two boys walked sorrowing along, they

made a new compact to stand by each other and be

brothers and never separate till death relieved 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, and dying, some time, of cold and want

and grief; but after listening to Tom, he conceded that

there were some conspicuous advantages about a life

of crime, and so he consented to be a pirate.

Three miles below St. Petersburg, at a point where

the Mississippi River was a trifle over a mile wide,

there was a long, narrow, wooded island, with a shallow

bar at the head of it, and this offered well as a ren-

dezvous. It was not inhabited; it lay far over toward

the further shore, abreast a dense and almost wholly

unpeopled forest. So Jackson's Island was chosen.

Who were to be the subjects of their piracies was a

matter that did not occur to them. Then they hunted

up Huckleberry Finn, and he joined them promptly,

for all careers were one to him; he was indifferent.

They presently separated to meet at a lonely spot on

the river-bank two miles above the village at the favorite

hour -- which was midnight. There was a small log

raft there which they meant to capture. Each would

bring hooks and lines, and such provision as he could

steal in the most dark and mysterious way -- as became

outlaws. And before the afternoon was done, they

had all managed to enjoy the sweet glory of spreading

the fact that pretty soon the town would "hear some-

thing." All who got this vague hint were cautioned to

"be mum and wait."

About midnight Tom arrived with a boiled ham

and a few trifles, and stopped in a dense undergrowth

on a small bluff overlooking the meeting-place. It

was starlight, and very still. The mighty river lay

like an ocean at rest. Tom listened a moment, but no

sound disturbed the quiet. Then he gave a low,

distinct whistle. It was answered from under the

bluff. Tom whistled twice more; these signals were

answered in the same 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." Tom had furnished these titles,

from his favorite literature.

"'Tis well. Give the countersign."

Two hoarse whispers delivered the same awful word

simultaneously to the 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 was an easy, com-

fortable path along the shore under the bluff, but it

lacked the advantages of difficulty and danger so val-

ued by a pirate.

The Terror of the Seas had brought a side of bacon,

and had about worn himself out with getting it there.

Finn the Red-Handed had stolen a skillet and a quan-

tity of half-cured leaf tobacco, and had also brought a

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 it would never do to

start without some fire. That was a wise thought;

matches were hardly known there in that day. They

saw a fire smouldering upon a great raft a hundred

yards above, and they went stealthily thither and helped

themselves to a chunk. They made an imposing ad-

venture of it, saying, "Hist!" every now and then, and

suddenly halting with finger on lip; moving with hands

on imaginary dagger-hilts; and giving orders in dismal

whispers that if "the foe" stirred, to "let him have it

to the hilt," because "dead men tell no tales." They

knew well enough that the raftsmen were all down at

the village laying in stores or having a spree, but still

that was no excuse for their conducting this thing in an

unpiratical way.

They shoved off, presently, Tom in command, Huck

at the after oar and Joe at the forward. Tom stood

amidships, gloomy-browed, and with folded arms, 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-stream it was no doubt under-

stood 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 her head right, and then lay on their

oars. The river was not high, so there was not more

than a two or three mile current. Hardly a word was

said during the next three-quarters of an hour. Now

the raft was passing before the distant town. Two or

three glimmering lights showed where it lay, peacefully

sleeping, beyond the vague vast sweep of star-gemmed

water, unconscious of the tremendous event that was

happening. The Black Avenger stood still with folded

arms, "looking his last" upon the scene of his former

joys and his later sufferings, and wishing "she" could

see him now, abroad on the wild sea, facing peril and

death with 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 Island beyond eye-

shot of the village, and so he "looked his last" with a

broken and satisfied heart. The other pirates were

looking their last, too; and they all looked so long

that they came near letting the current drift them out

of the range of the island. But they discovered the

danger in time, and made shift to avert it. About two

o'clock in the morning the raft grounded on the bar

two hundred yards above the head of the island, and

they waded back and forth until they had landed their

freight. Part of the little raft's belongings consisted

of an old sail, and this they spread over a nook in the

bushes for a tent to shelter their provisions; but they

themselves would sleep in the open air in good weather,

as became outlaws.

They built a fire against the side of a great log twenty

or thirty steps within the sombre depths of the forest,

and then cooked some bacon in the frying-pan for sup-

per, and used up half of the corn "pone" stock they had

brought. It seemed glorious sport to be feasting in

that wild, free way in the virgin forest of an unex-

plored and uninhabited island, far from the haunts of

men, and they said they never would return to civiliza-

tion. The climbing fire lit up their faces and threw its

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 of corn pone devoured, the boys stretched

themselves out on the grass, filled with contentment.

They could have found a cooler place, but they would

not deny themselves such a romantic feature as the

roasting camp-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 want nothing better'n this. I don't

ever get enough to eat, gen'ally -- and here 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 that blame 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,

and then 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, like they used to in old times, but

a pirate's always respected. And a hermit's got to

sleep on the hardest place he can find, and put sackcloth

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 do that 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 be a disgrace."

The Red-Handed made no response, being better

employed. He had finished gouging out a cob, and

now he fitted a weed stem to it, loaded it with tobacco,

and was pressing a coal to the charge and blowing a

cloud of fragrant smoke -- he was in the full bloom of

luxurious contentment. The other pirates envied him

this majestic vice, and secretly 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 get the money and bury it in awful

places in their island where there's ghosts 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 kill the women."

"No," assented Tom, "they don't kill the women --

they're too noble. And the women's always beautiful, too.

"And don't they wear the bulliest clothes! Oh no!

All gold and silver and di'monds," said Joe, with


"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 a regretful 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 understand that his poor

rags would do to begin with, though it was customary

for wealthy pirates to start with a proper wardrobe.

Gradually their talk died out and drowsiness began

to steal upon the eyelids of the little waifs. The pipe

dropped from the fingers of the Red-Handed, and he

slept the sleep of the conscience-free and the weary.

The Terror of the Seas and the Black Avenger of the

Spanish Main had more difficulty in getting to sleep.

They said their prayers inwardly, and lying down, since

there was nobody there with authority to make them

kneel and recite aloud; in truth, they had a mind not

to say them at all, but they were afraid to proceed to

such lengths as that, lest they might call down a sudden

and special thunderbolt from heaven. Then at once

they reached and hovered upon the imminent verge of

sleep -- but an intruder came, now, that would not

"down." It was conscience. They began to feel a

vague fear that they had been doing wrong to run

away; and next they thought of the stolen meat, and

then the real torture came. They tried to argue it

away by reminding conscience that they had purloined

sweetmeats and apples scores of times; but conscience

was not to be appeased by such thin plausibilities;

it seemed to them, in the end, that there was no getting

around the stubborn fact that taking sweetmeats was

only "hooking," while taking bacon and hams and

such valuables was plain simple stealing -- and there was

a command against that in the Bible. So they 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 inconsistent pirates fell peacefully to sleep.



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