TOM dodged hither and thither through
lanes until he was well out of the track
of returning scholars, and then fell into a
moody jog. He crossed a small "branch"
two or three times, because of a prevailing
juvenile superstition that to cross water
baffled pursuit. Half an hour later he was disappearing behind the Douglas mansion on the summit
of Cardiff Hill, and the school-house was hardly distinguishable away off in the valley behind him. He
entered a dense wood, picked his pathless way to the
centre of it, and sat down on a mossy spot under a
spreading oak. There was not even a zephyr stirring;
the dead noonday heat had even stilled the songs of
the birds; nature lay in a trance that was broken by no
sound but the occasional far-off hammering of a woodpecker, and this seemed to render the pervading silence
and sense of loneliness the more profound. The boy's
soul was steeped in melancholy; his feelings were in
happy accord with his surroundings. He sat long with
his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands,
meditating. It seemed to him that life was but a
trouble, at best, and he more than half envied Jimmy
Hodges, so lately released; it must be very peaceful, he
thought, to lie and slumber and dream forever and
ever, with the wind whispering through the trees and
caressing the grass and the flowers over the grave,
and nothing to bother and grieve about, ever any
more. If he only had a clean Sunday-school record
he could be willing to go, and be done with it all.
Now as to this girl. What had he done? Nothing.
He had meant the best in the world, and been treated
like a dog -- like a very dog. She would be sorry some
day -- maybe when it was too late. Ah, if he could only
But the elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed
into one constrained shape long at a time. Tom
presently began to drift insensibly back into the concerns of this life again. What if he turned his back,
now, and disappeared mysteriously? What if he went
away -- ever so far away, into unknown countries beyond
the seas -- and never came back any more! How
would she feel then! The idea of being a clown
recurred to him now, only to fill him with disgust.
For frivolity and jokes and spotted tights were an
offense, when they intruded themselves upon a spirit
that was exalted into the vague august realm of the
romantic. No, he would be a soldier, and return after
long years, all war-worn and illustrious. No -- better
still, he would join the Indians, and hunt buffaloes
and go on the warpath in the mountain ranges and the
trackless great plains of the Far West, and away in
the future come back a great chief, bristling with
feathers, hideous with paint, and prance into Sunday-school, some drowsy summer morning, with a blood-curdling war-whoop, and sear the eyeballs of all his
companions with unappeasable envy. But no, there
was something gaudier even than this. He would be
a pirate! That was it! NOW his future lay plain
before him, and glowing with unimaginable splendor.
How his name would fill the world, and make people
shudder! How gloriously he would go plowing the
dancing seas, in his long, low, black-hulled racer, the
Spirit of the Storm, with his grisly flag flying at
the fore! And at the zenith of his fame, how he would
suddenly appear at the old village and stalk into church,
brown and weather-beaten, in his black velvet doublet
and trunks, his great jack-boots, his crimson sash, his
belt bristling with horse-pistols, his crime-rusted cutlass at his side, his slouch hat with waving plumes,
his black flag unfurled, with the skull and crossbones
on it, and hear with swelling ecstasy the whisperings,
"It's Tom Sawyer the Pirate! -- the Black Avenger of
the Spanish Main!"
Yes, it was settled; his career was determined.
He would run away from home and enter upon it.
He would start the very next morning. Therefore
he must now begin to get ready. He would collect
his resources together. He went to a rotten log near
at hand and began to dig under one end of it with his
Barlow knife. He soon struck wood that sounded
hollow. He put his hand there and uttered this incantation impressively:
"What hasn't come here, come! What's here, stay
Then he scraped away the dirt, and exposed a pine
shingle. He took it up and disclosed a shapely little
treasure-house whose bottom and sides were of shingles.
In it lay a marble. Tom's astonishment was boundless! He scratched his head with a perplexed air,
"Well, that beats anything!"
Then he tossed the marble away pettishly, and
stood cogitating. The truth was, that a superstition
of his had failed, here, which he and all his comrades
had always looked upon as infallible. If you buried
a marble with certain necessary incantations, and
left it alone a fortnight, and then opened the place
with the incantation he had just used, you would find
that all the marbles you had ever lost had gathered
themselves together there, meantime, no matter how
widely they had been separated. But now, this thing
had actually and unquestionably failed. Tom's whole
structure of faith was shaken to its foundations. He
had many a time heard of this thing succeeding but
never of its failing before. It did not occur to him
that he had tried it several times before, himself, but
could never find the hiding-places afterward. He
puzzled over the matter some time, and finally decided
that some witch had interfered and broken the charm.
He thought he would satisfy himself on that point; so
he searched around till he found a small sandy spot
with a little funnel-shaped depression in it. He laid
himself down and put his mouth close to this depression and called --
"Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want to
know! Doodle-bug, doodle-bug, tell me what I want
The sand began to work, and presently a small
black bug appeared for a second and then darted
under again in a fright.
"He dasn't tell! So it WAS a witch that done it. I
just knowed it."
He well knew the futility of trying to contend against
witches, so he gave up discouraged. But it occurred
to him that he might as well have the marble he had
just thrown away, and therefore he went and made
a patient search for it. But he could not find it.
Now he went back to his treasure-house and carefully
placed himself just as he had been standing when he
tossed the marble away; then he took another marble
from his pocket and tossed it in the same way, saying:
"Brother, go find your brother!"
He watched where it stopped, and went there and
looked. But it must have fallen short or gone too
far; so he tried twice more. The last repetition was
successful. The two marbles lay within a foot of each
Just here the blast of a toy tin trumpet came faintly
down the green aisles of the forest. Tom flung off his
jacket and trousers, turned a suspender into a belt,
raked away some brush behind the rotten log, disclosing a rude bow and arrow, a lath sword and a tin
trumpet, and in a moment had seized these things
and bounded away, barelegged, with fluttering shirt.
He presently halted under a great elm, blew an answering blast, and then began to tiptoe and look warily out,
this way and that. He said cautiously -- to an imaginary company:
"Hold, my merry men! Keep hid till I blow."
Now appeared Joe Harper, as airily clad and elaborately armed as Tom. Tom called:
"Hold! Who comes here into Sherwood Forest
without my pass?"
"Guy of Guisborne wants no man's pass. Who
art thou that -- that --"
"Dares to hold such language," said Tom, prompting -- for they talked "by the book," from memory.
"Who art thou that dares to hold such language?"
"I, indeed! I am Robin Hood, as thy caitiff carcase
soon shall know."
"Then art thou indeed that famous outlaw? Right
gladly will I dispute with thee the passes of the merry
wood. Have at thee!"
They took their lath swords, dumped their other
traps on the ground, struck a fencing attitude, foot
to foot, and began a grave, careful combat, "two
up and two down." Presently Tom said:
"Now, if you've got the hang, go it lively!"
So they "went it lively," panting and perspiring
with the work. By and by Tom shouted:
"Fall! fall! Why don't you fall?"
"I sha'n't! Why don't you fall yourself? You're
getting the worst of it."
"Why, that ain't anything. I can't fall; that ain't
the way it is in the book. The book says, 'Then with
one back-handed stroke he slew poor Guy of Guisborne.' You're to turn around and let me hit you in
There was no getting around the authorities, so Joe
turned, received the whack and fell.
"Now," said Joe, getting up, "you got to let me
kill YOU. That's fair."
"Why, I can't do that, it ain't in the book."
"Well, it's blamed mean -- that's all."
"Well, say, Joe, you can be Friar Tuck or Much
the miller's son, and lam me with a quarter-staff; or
I'll be the Sheriff of Nottingham and you be Robin
Hood a little while and kill me."
This was satisfactory, and so these adventures
were carried out. Then Tom became Robin Hood
again, and was allowed by the treacherous nun to
bleed his strength away through his neglected wound.
And at last Joe, representing a whole tribe of weeping
outlaws, dragged him sadly forth, gave his bow into
his feeble hands, and Tom said, "Where this arrow
falls, there bury poor Robin Hood under the greenwood tree." Then he shot the arrow and fell back
and would have died, but he lit on a nettle and sprang
up too gaily for a corpse.
The boys dressed themselves, hid their accoutrements, and went off grieving that there were no outlaws any more, and wondering what modern civilization could claim to have done to compensate for their
loss. They said they would rather be outlaws a year
in Sherwood Forest than President of the United