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 rendezvous. 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 something." 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
"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, comfortable path along the shore under the bluff, but it
lacked the advantages of difficulty and danger so valued 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 quantity 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 adventure 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
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!"
"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 understood 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!"
"Shake out that maintogalans'l! Sheets and braces!
NOW my hearties!"
"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 eyeshot 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 supper, 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 unexplored and uninhabited island, far from the haunts of
men, and they said they never would return to civilization. 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
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
"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,
"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
"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
"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?"
"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,
"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