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 morning 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 particular, and went about their labors; one struggled manfully 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 current 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, sweetened 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 immediately 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
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 hundred 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 undefined 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
For some time, now, the boys had been dully conscious 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 became more pronounced, and forced a recognition. The
boys started, glanced at each other, and then each assumed 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 ferryboat 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
"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
"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. Anybody might know that."
The other boys agreed that there was reason in what
Tom said, because an ignorant lump of bread, uninstructed by an incantation, could not be expected to
act very intelligently when set upon an errand of such
"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
"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 remorse were being indulged; and best of all, the departed 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 account 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 uncommitted 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 homesickness 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.