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


(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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WHEN Tom awoke in the morning, he wondered where he was.

He sat up and rubbed his eyes and looked around. Then he

comprehended. It was the cool gray dawn, and there was a

delicious sense of repose and peace in the deep pervading calm

and silence of the woods. Not a leaf stirred; not a sound

obtruded upon great Nature's meditation. Beaded dewdrops

stood upon the leaves and grasses. A white layer of ashes

covered the fire, and a thin blue breath of smoke

rose straight into the air. Joe and Huck still slept.

Now, far away in the woods a bird called; another

answered; presently the hammering of a woodpecker

was heard. Gradually the cool dim gray of the morn-

ing whitened, and as gradually sounds multiplied and

life manifested itself. The marvel of Nature shaking

off sleep and going to work unfolded itself to the musing

boy. A little green worm came crawling over a dewy

leaf, lifting two-thirds of his body into the air from time

to time and "sniffing around," then proceeding again --

for he was measuring, Tom said; and when the worm

approached him, of its own accord, he sat as still as a

stone, with his hopes rising and falling, by turns, as the

creature still came toward him or seemed inclined to

go elsewhere; and when at last it considered a painful

moment with its curved body in the air and then came

decisively down upon Tom's leg and began a journey

over him, his whole heart was glad -- for that meant

that he was going to have a new suit of clothes -- without

the shadow of a doubt a gaudy piratical uniform. Now

a procession of ants appeared, from nowhere in par-

ticular, and went about their labors; one struggled man-

fully by with a dead spider five times as big as itself in

its arms, and lugged it straight up a tree-trunk. A

brown spotted lady-bug climbed the dizzy height of a

grass blade, and Tom bent down close to it and said,

"Lady-bug, lady-bug, fly away home, your house is on

fire, your children's alone," and she took wing and went

off to see about it -- which did not surprise the boy, for

he knew of old that this insect was credulous about

conflagrations, and he had practised upon its simplicity

more than once. A tumblebug came next, heaving

sturdily at its ball, and Tom touched the creature, to

see it shut its legs against its body and pretend to be

dead. The birds were fairly rioting by this time. A

catbird, the Northern mocker, lit in a tree over Tom's

head, and trilled out her imitations of her neighbors in

a rapture of enjoyment; then a shrill jay swept down,

a flash of blue flame, and stopped on a twig almost

within the boy's reach, cocked his head to one side and

eyed the strangers with a consuming curiosity; a gray

squirrel and a big fellow of the "fox" kind came

skurrying along, sitting up at intervals to inspect and

chatter at the boys, for the wild things had probably

never seen a human being before and scarcely knew

whether to be afraid or not. All Nature was wide

awake and stirring, now; long lances of sunlight pierced

down through the dense foliage far and near, and a

few butterflies came fluttering upon the scene.

Tom stirred up the other pirates and they all clattered

away with a shout, and in a minute or two were stripped

and chasing after and tumbling over each other in the

shallow limpid water of the white sandbar. They felt

no longing for the little village sleeping in the distance

beyond the majestic waste of water. A vagrant cur-

rent or a slight rise in the river had carried off their

raft, but this only gratified them, since its going was

something like burning the bridge between them and


They came back to camp wonderfully refreshed,

glad-hearted, and ravenous; and they soon had the

camp-fire blazing up again. Huck found a spring of

clear cold water close by, and the boys made cups of

broad oak or hickory leaves, and felt that water, sweet-

ened with such a wildwood charm as that, would be a

good enough substitute for coffee. While Joe was

slicing bacon for breakfast, Tom and Huck asked him

to hold on a minute; they stepped to a promising nook

in the river-bank and threw in their lines; almost im-

mediately they had reward. Joe had not had time to

get impatient before they were back again with some

handsome bass, a couple of sun-perch and a small

catfish -- provisions enough for quite a family. They

fried the fish with the bacon, and were astonished; for no

fish had ever seemed so delicious before. They did not

know that the quicker a fresh-water fish is on the fire

after he is caught the better he is; and they reflected

little upon what a sauce open-air sleeping, open-air

exercise, bathing, and a large ingredient of hunger make, too.

They lay around in the shade, after breakfast, while

Huck had a smoke, and then went off through the woods

on an exploring expedition. They tramped gayly along,

over decaying logs, through tangled underbrush, among

solemn monarchs of the forest, hung from their crowns

to the ground with a drooping regalia of grape-vines.

Now and then they came upon snug nooks carpeted

with grass and jeweled with flowers.

They found plenty of things to be delighted with, but

nothing to be astonished at. They discovered that the

island was about three miles long and a quarter of a

mile wide, and that the shore it lay closest to was only

separated from it by a narrow channel hardly two hun-

dred yards wide. They took a swim about every hour,

so it was close upon the middle of the afternoon when

they got back to camp. They were too hungry to stop

to fish, but they fared sumptuously upon cold ham, and

then threw themselves down in the shade to talk. But

the talk soon began to drag, and then died. The

stillness, the solemnity that brooded in the woods, and

the sense of loneliness, began to tell upon the spirits

of the boys. They fell to thinking. A sort of unde-

fined longing crept upon them. This took dim shape,

presently -- it was budding homesickness. Even Finn

the Red-Handed was dreaming of his doorsteps and

empty hogsheads. But they were all ashamed of their

weakness, and none was brave enough to speak his thought.

For some time, now, the boys had been dully con-

scious of a peculiar sound in the distance, just as one

sometimes is of the ticking of a clock which he takes no

distinct note of. But now this mysterious sound be-

came more pronounced, and forced a recognition. The

boys started, glanced at each other, and then each as-

sumed a listening attitude. There was a long silence,

profound and unbroken; then a deep, sullen boom

came floating down out of the distance.

"What is it!" exclaimed Joe, under his breath.

"I wonder," said Tom in a whisper.

"'Tain't thunder," said Huckleberry, in an awed

tone, "becuz thunder --"

"Hark!" said Tom. "Listen -- don't talk."

They waited a time that seemed an age, and then the

same muffled boom troubled the solemn hush.

"Let's go and see."

They sprang to their feet and hurried to the shore

toward the town. They parted the bushes on the bank

and peered out over the water. The little steam ferry-

boat was about a mile below the village, drifting with the

current. Her broad deck seemed crowded with people.

There were a great many skiffs rowing about or floating

with the stream in the neighborhood of the ferryboat,

but the boys could not determine what the men in them

were doing. Presently a great jet of white smoke burst

from the ferryboat's side, and as it expanded and rose

in a lazy cloud, that same dull throb of sound was borne

to the listeners again.

"I know now!" exclaimed Tom; "somebody's drownded!"

"That's it!" said Huck; "they done that last summer,

when Bill Turner got drownded; they shoot a cannon

over the water, and that makes him come up to the top.

Yes, and they take loaves of bread and put quicksilver

in 'em and set 'em afloat, and wherever there's anybody

that's drownded, they'll float right there and stop."

"Yes, I've heard about that," said Joe. "I wonder

what makes the bread do that."

"Oh, it ain't the bread, so much," said Tom; "I

reckon it's mostly what they SAY over it before they start

it out."

"But they don't say anything over it," said Huck.

"I've seen 'em and they don't."

"Well, that's funny," said Tom. "But maybe

they say it to themselves. Of COURSE they do. Any-

body might know that."

The other boys agreed that there was reason in what

Tom said, because an ignorant lump of bread, un-

instructed by an incantation, could not be expected to

act very intelligently when set upon an errand of such gravity.

"By jings, I wish I was over there, now," said Joe.

"I do too" said Huck "I'd give heaps to know who it is."

The boys still listened and watched. Presently a

revealing thought flashed through Tom's mind, and

he exclaimed:

"Boys, I know who's drownded -- it's us!"

They felt like heroes in an instant. Here was a

gorgeous triumph; they were missed; they were mourned;

hearts were breaking on their account; tears were being

shed; accusing memories of unkindness to these poor

lost lads were rising up, and unavailing regrets and re-

morse were being indulged; and best of all, the depart-

ed were the talk of the whole town, and the envy of

all the boys, as far as this dazzling notoriety was concerned.

This was fine. It was worth while to be a pirate, after all.

As twilight drew on, the ferryboat went back to her

accustomed business and the skiffs disappeared. The

pirates returned to camp. They were jubilant with

vanity over their new grandeur and the illustrious

trouble they were making. They caught fish, cooked

supper and ate it, and then fell to guessing at what the

village was thinking and saying about them; and the

pictures they drew of the public distress on their ac-

count were gratifying to look upon -- from their point

of view. But when the shadows of night closed them

in, they gradually ceased to talk, and sat gazing into the

fire, with their minds evidently wandering elsewhere.

The excitement was gone, now, and Tom and Joe could

not keep back thoughts of certain persons at home who

were not enjoying this fine frolic as much as they were.

Misgivings came; they grew troubled and unhappy;

a sigh or two escaped, unawares. By and by Joe

timidly ventured upon a roundabout "feeler" as to

how the others might look upon a return to civilization

-- not right now, but --

Tom withered him with derision! Huck, being un-

committed as yet, joined in with Tom, and the waverer

quickly "explained," and was glad to get out of the

scrape with as little taint of chicken-hearted home-

sickness clinging to his garments as he could. Mutiny

was effectually laid to rest for the moment.

As the night deepened, Huck began to nod, and

presently to snore. Joe followed next. Tom lay

upon his elbow motionless, for some time, watching

the two intently. At last he got up cautiously, on

his knees, and went searching among the grass and

the flickering reflections flung by the camp-fire. He

picked up and inspected several large semi-cylinders

of the thin white bark of a sycamore, and finally chose

two which seemed to suit him. Then he knelt by the

fire and painfully wrote something upon each of these

with his "red keel"; one he rolled up and put in his

jacket pocket, and the other he put in Joe's hat and

removed it to a little distance from the owner. And

he also put into the hat certain schoolboy treasures of

almost inestimable value -- among them a lump of

chalk, an India-rubber ball, three fishhooks, and one of

that kind of marbles known as a "sure 'nough crystal."

Then he tiptoed his way cautiously among the trees

till he felt that he was out of hearing, and straightway

broke into a keen run in the direction of the sandbar.



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