AFTER dinner all the gang turned out to
hunt for turtle eggs on the bar. They
went about poking sticks into the sand,
and when they found a soft place they
went down on their knees and dug with
their hands. Sometimes they would take
fifty or sixty eggs out of one hole. They were perfectly
round white things a trifle smaller than an English
walnut. They had a famous fried-egg feast that night,
and another on Friday morning.
After breakfast they went whooping and prancing
out on the bar, and chased each other round and
round, shedding clothes as they went, until they were
naked, and then continued the frolic far away up the
shoal water of the bar, against the stiff current, which
latter tripped their legs from under them from time
to time and greatly increased the fun. And now and
then they stooped in a group and splashed water in
each other's faces with their palms, gradually approaching each other, with averted faces to avoid the strangling sprays, and finally gripping and struggling till the
best man ducked his neighbor, and then they all went
under in a tangle of white legs and arms and came up
blowing, sputtering, laughing, and gasping for breath
at one and the same time.
When they were well exhausted, they would run
out and sprawl on the dry, hot sand, and lie there and
cover themselves up with it, and by and by break for
the water again and go through the original performance once more. Finally it occurred to them that their
naked skin represented flesh-colored "tights" very
fairly; so they drew a ring in the sand and had a
circus -- with three clowns in it, for none would yield
this proudest post to his neighbor.
Next they got their marbles and played "knucks"
and "ring-taw" and "keeps" till that amusement
grew stale. Then Joe and Huck had another swim,
but Tom would not venture, because he found that
in kicking off his trousers he had kicked his string
of rattlesnake rattles off his ankle, and he wondered
how he had escaped cramp so long without the protection of this mysterious charm. He did not venture again until he had found it, and by that time
the other boys were tired and ready to rest. They
gradually wandered apart, dropped into the "dumps,"
and fell to gazing longingly across the wide river to
where the village lay drowsing in the sun. Tom found
himself writing "BECKY" in the sand with his big toe;
he scratched it out, and was angry with himself for his
weakness. But he wrote it again, nevertheless; he
could not help it. He erased it once more and then took
himself out of temptation by driving the other boys
together and joining them.
But Joe's spirits had gone down almost beyond
resurrection. He was so homesick that he could hardly
endure the misery of it. The tears lay very near the
surface. Huck was melancholy, too. Tom was downhearted, but tried hard not to show it. He had a secret
which he was not ready to tell, yet, but if this mutinous
depression was not broken up soon, he would have to
bring it out. He said, with a great show of cheerfulness:
"I bet there's been pirates on this island before,
boys. We'll explore it again. They've hid treasures
here somewhere. How'd you feel to light on a rotten
chest full of gold and silver -- hey?"
But it roused only faint enthusiasm, which faded
out, with no reply. Tom tried one or two other
seductions; but they failed, too. It was discouraging
work. Joe sat poking up the sand with a stick and
looking very gloomy. Finally he said:
"Oh, boys, let's give it up. I want to go home.
It's so lonesome."
"Oh no, Joe, you'll feel better by and by," said
Tom. "Just think of the fishing that's here."
"I don't care for fishing. I want to go home."
"But, Joe, there ain't such another swimming-place
"Swimming's no good. I don't seem to care for
it, somehow, when there ain't anybody to say I sha'n't
go in. I mean to go home."
"Oh, shucks! Baby! You want to see your mother,
"Yes, I DO want to see my mother -- and you would,
too, if you had one. I ain't any more baby than you
are." And Joe snuffled a little.
"Well, we'll let the cry-baby go home to his mother,
won't we, Huck? Poor thing -- does it want to see its
mother? And so it shall. You like it here, don't you,
Huck? We'll stay, won't we?"
Huck said, "Y-e-s" -- without any heart in it.
"I'll never speak to you again as long as I live,"
said Joe, rising. "There now!" And he moved
moodily away and began to dress himself.
"Who cares!" said Tom. "Nobody wants you to.
Go 'long home and get laughed at. Oh, you're a nice
pirate. Huck and me ain't cry-babies. We'll stay,
won't we, Huck? Let him go if he wants to. I reckon
we can get along without him, per'aps."
But Tom was uneasy, nevertheless, and was alarmed
to see Joe go sullenly on with his dressing. And then
it was discomforting to see Huck eying Joe's preparations so wistfully, and keeping up such an ominous
silence. Presently, without a parting word, Joe began
to wade off toward the Illinois shore. Tom's heart
began to sink. He glanced at Huck. Huck could
not bear the look, and dropped his eyes. Then he
"I want to go, too, Tom. It was getting so lonesome anyway, and now it'll be worse. Let's us go,
"I won't! You can all go, if you want to. I mean
"Tom, I better go."
"Well, go 'long -- who's hendering you."
Huck began to pick up his scattered clothes. He
"Tom, I wisht you'd come, too. Now you think it
over. We'll wait for you when we get to shore."
"Well, you'll wait a blame long time, that's all."
Huck started sorrowfully away, and Tom stood
looking after him, with a strong desire tugging at his
heart to yield his pride and go along too. He hoped
the boys would stop, but they still waded slowly on.
It suddenly dawned on Tom that it was become very
lonely and still. He made one final struggle with his
pride, and then darted after his comrades, yelling:
"Wait! Wait! I want to tell you something!"
They presently stopped and turned around. When
he got to where they were, he began unfolding his
secret, and they listened moodily till at last they saw
the "point" he was driving at, and then they set
up a war-whoop of applause and said it was "splendid!" and said if he had told them at first, they wouldn't
have started away. He made a plausible excuse; but
his real reason had been the fear that not even the
secret would keep them with him any very great length
of time, and so he had meant to hold it in reserve as a
The lads came gayly back and went at their sports
again with a will, chattering all the time about Tom's
stupendous plan and admiring the genius of it. After
a dainty egg and fish dinner, Tom said he wanted to
learn to smoke, now. Joe caught at the idea and said
he would like to try, too. So Huck made pipes and
filled them. These novices had never smoked anything
before but cigars made of grape-vine, and they "bit"
the tongue, and were not considered manly anyway.
Now they stretched themselves out on their elbows
and began to puff, charily, and with slender confidence. The smoke had an unpleasant taste, and
they gagged a little, but Tom said:
"Why, it's just as easy! If I'd a knowed this was
all, I'd a learnt long ago."
"So would I," said Joe. "It's just nothing."
"Why, many a time I've looked at people smoking,
and thought well I wish I could do that; but I never
thought I could," said Tom.
"That's just the way with me, hain't it, Huck?
You've heard me talk just that way -- haven't you,
Huck? I'll leave it to Huck if I haven't."
"Yes -- heaps of times," said Huck.
"Well, I have too," said Tom; "oh, hundreds of
times. Once down by the slaughter-house. Don't
you remember, Huck? Bob Tanner was there, and
Johnny Miller, and Jeff Thatcher, when I said it.
Don't you remember, Huck, 'bout me saying that?"
"Yes, that's so," said Huck. "That was the day
after I lost a white alley. No, 'twas the day before."
"There -- I told you so," said Tom. "Huck recollects it."
"I bleeve I could smoke this pipe all day," said Joe.
"I don't feel sick."
"Neither do I," said Tom. "I could smoke it all
day. But I bet you Jeff Thatcher couldn't."
"Jeff Thatcher! Why, he'd keel over just with two
draws. Just let him try it once. HE'D see!"
"I bet he would. And Johnny Miller -- I wish
could see Johnny Miller tackle it once."
"Oh, don't I!" said Joe. "Why, I bet you Johnny
Miller couldn't any more do this than nothing. Just
one little snifter would fetch HIM."
"'Deed it would, Joe. Say -- I wish the boys could
see us now."
"So do I."
"Say -- boys, don't say anything about it, and some
time when they're around, I'll come up to you and
say, 'Joe, got a pipe? I want a smoke.' And you'll
say, kind of careless like, as if it warn't anything, you'll
say, 'Yes, I got my OLD pipe, and another one, but my
tobacker ain't very good.' And I'll say, 'Oh, that's all
right, if it's STRONG enough.' And then you'll out with
the pipes, and we'll light up just as ca'm, and then just
see 'em look!"
"By jings, that'll be gay, Tom! I wish it was
"So do I! And when we tell 'em we learned when
we was off pirating, won't they wish they'd been
"Oh, I reckon not! I'll just BET they will!"
So the talk ran on. But presently it began to flag
a trifle, and grow disjointed. The silences widened;
the expectoration marvellously increased. Every pore
inside the boys' cheeks became a spouting fountain;
they could scarcely bail out the cellars under their
tongues fast enough to prevent an inundation; little
overflowings down their throats occurred in spite of all
they could do, and sudden retchings followed every
time. Both boys were looking very pale and miserable,
now. Joe's pipe dropped from his nerveless fingers.
Tom's followed. Both fountains were going furiously
and both pumps bailing with might and main. Joe
"I've lost my knife. I reckon I better go and find it."
Tom said, with quivering lips and halting utterance:
"I'll help you. You go over that way and I'll hunt
around by the spring. No, you needn't come, Huck -- we can find it."
So Huck sat down again, and waited an hour. Then
he found it lonesome, and went to find his comrades.
They were wide apart in the woods, both very pale, both
fast asleep. But something informed him that if they
had had any trouble they had got rid of it.
They were not talkative at supper that night. They
had a humble look, and when Huck prepared his pipe
after the meal and was going to prepare theirs, they
said no, they were not feeling very well -- something they
ate at dinner had disagreed with them.
About midnight Joe awoke, and called the boys.
There was a brooding oppressiveness in the air that
seemed to bode something. The boys huddled themselves together and sought the friendly companionship
of the fire, though the dull dead heat of the breathless
atmosphere was stifling. They sat still, intent and
waiting. The solemn hush continued. Beyond the
light of the fire everything was swallowed up in the
blackness of darkness. Presently there came a quivering glow that vaguely revealed the foliage for a moment
and then vanished. By and by another came, a little
stronger. Then another. Then a faint moan came
sighing through the branches of the forest and the boys
felt a fleeting breath upon their cheeks, and shuddered
with the fancy that the Spirit of the Night had gone by.
There was a pause. Now a weird flash turned night
into day and showed every little grass-blade, separate
and distinct, that grew about their feet. And it showed
three white, startled faces, too. A deep peal of thunder
went rolling and tumbling down the heavens and lost
itself in sullen rumblings in the distance. A sweep of
chilly air passed by, rustling all the leaves and snowing the flaky ashes broadcast about the fire. Another
fierce glare lit up the forest and an instant crash followed
that seemed to rend the tree-tops right over the boys'
heads. They clung together in terror, in the thick
gloom that followed. A few big rain-drops fell pattering upon the leaves.
"Quick! boys, go for the tent!" exclaimed Tom.
They sprang away, stumbling over roots and among
vines in the dark, no two plunging in the same direction.
A furious blast roared through the trees, making everything sing as it went. One blinding flash after another
came, and peal on peal of deafening thunder. And now
a drenching rain poured down and the rising hurricane
drove it in sheets along the ground. The boys cried
out to each other, but the roaring wind and the booming thunder-blasts drowned their voices utterly. However, one by one they straggled in at last and took
shelter under the tent, cold, scared, and streaming
with water; but to have company in misery seemed
something to be grateful for. They could not talk, the
old sail flapped so furiously, even if the other noises
would have allowed them. The tempest rose higher
and higher, and presently the sail tore loose from its
fastenings and went winging away on the blast. The
boys seized each others' hands and fled, with many
tumblings and bruises, to the shelter of a great oak that
stood upon the river-bank. Now the battle was at its
highest. Under the ceaseless conflagration of lightning
that flamed in the skies, everything below stood out in
clean-cut and shadowless distinctness: the bending
trees, the billowy river, white with foam, the driving
spray of spume-flakes, the dim outlines of the high
bluffs on the other side, glimpsed through the drifting
cloud-rack and the slanting veil of rain. Every little
while some giant tree yielded the fight and fell crashing
through the younger growth; and the unflagging thunderpeals came now in ear-splitting explosive bursts, keen
and sharp, and unspeakably appalling. The storm
culminated in one matchless effort that seemed likely
to tear the island to pieces, burn it up, drown it to the
tree-tops, blow it away, and deafen every creature in it,
all at one and the same moment. It was a wild night
for homeless young heads to be out in.
But at last the battle was done, and the forces retired with weaker and weaker threatenings and grumblings, and peace resumed her sway. The boys went
back to camp, a good deal awed; but they found there
was still something to be thankful for, because the great
sycamore, the shelter of their beds, was a ruin, now,
blasted by the lightnings, and they were not under it
when the catastrophe happened.
Everything in camp was drenched, the camp-fire
as well; for they were but heedless lads, like their
generation, and had made no provision against rain.
Here was matter for dismay, for they were soaked
through and chilled. They were eloquent in their distress; but they presently discovered that the fire had
eaten so far up under the great log it had been built
against (where it curved upward and separated itself
from the ground), that a handbreadth or so of it had
escaped wetting; so they patiently wrought until, with
shreds and bark gathered from the under sides of sheltered logs, they coaxed the fire to burn again. Then
they piled on great dead boughs till they had a roaring furnace, and were glad-hearted once more. They
dried their boiled ham and had a feast, and after that
they sat by the fire and expanded and glorified their
midnight adventure until morning, for there was not a
dry spot to sleep on, anywhere around.
As the sun began to steal in upon the boys, drowsiness
came over them, and they went out on the sandbar and
lay down to sleep. They got scorched out by and by,
and drearily set about getting breakfast. After the
meal they felt rusty, and stiff-jointed, and a little homesick once more. Tom saw the signs, and fell to cheering up the pirates as well as he could. But they cared
nothing for marbles, or circus, or swimming, or anything. He reminded them of the imposing secret, and
raised a ray of cheer. While it lasted, he got them interested in a new device. This was to knock off being
pirates, for a while, and be Indians for a change. They
were attracted by this idea; so it was not long before
they were stripped, and striped from head to heel with
black mud, like so many zebras -- all of them chiefs,
of course -- and then they went tearing through the
woods to attack an English settlement.
By and by they separated into three hostile tribes,
and darted upon each other from ambush with dreadful war-whoops, and killed and scalped each other by
thousands. It was a gory day. Consequently it was
an extremely satisfactory one.
They assembled in camp toward supper-time, hungry
and happy; but now a difficulty arose -- hostile Indians
could not break the bread of hospitality together without first making peace, and this was a simple impossibility without smoking a pipe of peace. There
was no other process that ever they had heard of. Two
of the savages almost wished they had remained pirates.
However, there was no other way; so with such show of
cheerfulness as they could muster they called for the
pipe and took their whiff as it passed, in due form.
And behold, they were glad they had gone into
savagery, for they had gained something; they found
that they could now smoke a little without having to go
and hunt for a lost knife; they did not get sick enough
to be seriously uncomfortable. They were not likely
to fool away this high promise for lack of effort. No,
they practised cautiously, after supper, with right fair
success, and so they spent a jubilant evening. They
were prouder and happier in their new acquirement than
they would have been in the scalping and skinning of the
Six Nations. We will leave them to smoke and chatter and brag, since we have no further use for them at