WE went tiptoeing along a path amongst the trees back towards
the end of the widow's garden, stooping down so as the branches
wouldn't scrape our heads. When we was passing by the kitchen I
fell over a root and made a noise. We scrouched down and laid
still. Miss Watson's big nigger, named Jim, was setting in the
kitchen door; we could see him pretty clear, because there was a
light behind him. He got up and stretched his neck out about a
minute, listening. Then he says:
He listened some more; then he come tiptoeing down and stood
right between us; we could a touched him, nearly. Well, likely it
was minutes and minutes that there warn't a sound, and we all there
so close together. There was a place on my ankle that got to
itching, but I dasn't scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch;
and next my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed like I'd die
if I couldn't scratch. Well, I've noticed that thing plenty times
since. If you are with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to
go to sleep when you ain't sleepy—if you are anywheres where it
won't do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over in upwards
of a thousand places. Pretty soon Jim says:
"Say, who is you? Whar is you? Dog my cats ef I didn' hear
sumf'n. Well, I know what I's gwyne to do: I's gwyne to set down
here and listen tell I hears it agin."
So he set down on the ground betwixt me and Tom. He leaned his
back up against a tree, and stretched his legs out till one of them
most touched one of mine. My nose begun to itch. It itched till the
tears come into my eyes. But I dasn't scratch. Then it begun to
itch on the inside. Next I got to itching underneath. I didn't know
how I was going to set still. This miserableness went on as much as
six or seven minutes; but it seemed a sight longer than that. I was
itching in eleven different places now. I reckoned I couldn't stand
it more'n a minute longer, but I set my teeth hard and got ready to
try. Just then Jim begun to breathe heavy; next he begun to
snore—and then I was pretty soon comfortable again.
Tom he made a sign to me—kind of a little noise with his
mouth—and we went creeping away on our hands and knees. When we was
ten foot off Tom whispered to me, and wanted to tie Jim to the tree
for fun. But I said no; he might wake and make a disturbance, and
then they'd find out I warn't in. Then Tom said he hadn't got
candles enough, and he would slip in the kitchen and get some more.
I didn't want him to try. I said Jim might wake up and come. But
Tom wanted to resk it; so we slid in there and got three candles,
and Tom laid five cents on the table for pay. Then we got out, and
I was in a sweat to get away; but nothing would do Tom but he must
crawl to where Jim was, on his hands and knees, and play something
on him. I waited, and it seemed a good while, everything was so
still and lonesome.
As soon as Tom was back we cut along the path, around the garden
fence, and by and by fetched up on the steep top of the hill the
other side of the house. Tom said he slipped Jim's hat off of his
head and hung it on a limb right over him, and Jim stirred a
little, but he didn't wake. Afterwards Jim said the witches be
witched him and put him in a trance, and rode him all over the
State, and then set him under the trees again, and hung his hat on
a limb to show who done it. And next time Jim told it he said they
rode him down to New Orleans; and, after that, every time he told
it he spread it more and more, till by and by he said they rode him
all over the world, and tired him most to death, and his back was
all over saddle-boils. Jim was monstrous proud about it, and he got
so he wouldn't hardly notice the other niggers. Niggers would come
miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was more looked up to than
any nigger in that country. Strange niggers would stand with their
mouths open and look him all over, same as if he was a wonder.
Niggers is always talking about witches in the dark by the kitchen
fire; but whenever one was talking and letting on to know all about
such things, Jim would happen in and say, "Hm! What you know 'bout
witches?" and that nigger was corked up and had to take a back
seat. Jim always kept that five-center piece round his neck with a
string, and said it was a charm the devil give to him with his own
hands, and told him he could cure anybody with it and fetch witches
whenever he wanted to just by saying something to it; but he never
told what it was he said to it. Niggers would come from all around
there and give Jim anything they had, just for a sight of that
five-center piece; but they wouldn't touch it, because the devil
had had his hands on it. Jim was most ruined for a servant, because
he got stuck up on account of having seen the devil and been rode
Well, when Tom and me got to the edge of the hilltop we looked
away down into the village and could see three or four lights
twinkling, where there was sick folks, maybe; and the stars over us
was sparkling ever so fine; and down by the village was the river,
a whole mile broad, and awful still and grand. We went down the
hill and found Jo Harper and Ben Rogers, and two or three more of
the boys, hid in the old tanyard. So we unhitched a skiff and
pulled down the river two mile and a half, to the big scar on the
hillside, and went ashore.
We went to a clump of bushes, and Tom made everybody swear to
keep the secret, and then showed them a hole in the hill, right in
the thickest part of the bushes. Then we lit the candles, and
crawled in on our hands and knees. We went about two hundred yards,
and then the cave opened up. Tom poked about amongst the passages,
and pretty soon ducked under a wall where you wouldn't a noticed
that there was a hole. We went along a narrow place and got into a
kind of room, all damp and sweaty and cold, and there we stopped.
"Now, we'll start this band of robbers and call it Tom Sawyer's
Gang. Everybody that wants to join has got to take an oath, and
write his name in blood."
Everybody was willing. So Tom got out a sheet of paper that he
had wrote the oath on, and read it. It swore every boy to stick to
the band, and never tell any of the secrets; and if anybody done
anything to any boy in the band, whichever boy was ordered to kill
that person and his family must do it, and he mustn't eat and he
mustn't sleep till he had killed them and hacked a cross in their
breasts, which was the sign of the band. And nobody that didn't
belong to the band could use that mark, and if he did he must be
sued; and if he done it again he must be killed. And if anybody
that belonged to the band told the secrets, he must have his throat
cut, and then have his carcass burnt up and the ashes scattered all
around, and his name blotted off of the list with blood and never
mentioned again by the gang, but have a curse put on it and be
Everybody said it was a real beautiful oath, and asked Tom if he
got it out of his own head. He said, some of it, but the rest was
out of pirate-books and robber-books, and every gang that was
high-toned had it.
Some thought it would be good to kill the FAMILIES of boys that
told the secrets. Tom said it was a good idea, so he took a pencil
and wrote it in. Then Ben Rogers says:
"Here's Huck Finn, he hain't got no family; what you going to do
"Well, hain't he got a father?" says Tom Sawyer.
"Yes, he's got a father, but you can't never find him these
days. He used to lay drunk with the hogs in the tanyard, but he
hain't been seen in these parts for a year or more."
They talked it over, and they was going to rule me out, because
they said every boy must have a family or somebody to kill, or else
it wouldn't be fair and square for the others. Well, nobody could
think of anything to do—everybody was stumped, and set still. I was
most ready to cry; but all at once I thought of a way, and so I
offered them Miss Watson—they could kill her. Everybody said:
"Oh, she'll do. That's all right. Huck can come in."
Then they all stuck a pin in their fingers to get blood to sign
with, and I made my mark on the paper.
"Now," says Ben Rogers, "what's the line of business of this
"Nothing only robbery and murder," Tom said.
"But who are we going to rob?—houses, or cattle, or—"
"Stuff! stealing cattle and such things ain't robbery; it's
burglary," says Tom Sawyer. "We ain't burglars. That ain't no sort
of style. We are highwaymen. We stop stages and carriages on the
road, with masks on, and kill the people and take their watches and
"Must we always kill the people?"
"Oh, certainly. It's best. Some authorities think different, but
mostly it's considered best to kill them—except some that you bring
to the cave here, and keep them till they're ransomed."
"Ransomed? What's that?"
"I don't know. But that's what they do. I've seen it in books;
and so of course that's what we've got to do."
"But how can we do it if we don't know what it is?"
"Why, blame it all, we've GOT to do it. Don't I tell you it's in
the books? Do you want to go to doing different from what's in the
books, and get things all muddled up?"
"Oh, that's all very fine to SAY, Tom Sawyer, but how in the
nation are these fellows going to be ransomed if we don't know how
to do it to them? —that's the thing I want to get at. Now, what do
you reckon it is?"
"Well, I don't know. But per'aps if we keep them till they're
ransomed, it means that we keep them till they're dead."
"Now, that's something LIKE. That'll answer. Why couldn't you
said that before? We'll keep them till they're ransomed to death;
and a bothersome lot they'll be, too—eating up everything, and
always trying to get loose."
"How you talk, Ben Rogers. How can they get loose when there's a
guard over them, ready to shoot them down if they move a peg?"
"A guard! Well, that IS good. So somebody's got to set up all
night and never get any sleep, just so as to watch them. I think
that's foolishness. Why can't a body take a club and ransom them as
soon as they get here?"
"Because it ain't in the books so—that's why. Now, Ben Rogers,
do you want to do things regular, or don't you?—that's the idea.
Don't you reckon that the people that made the books knows what's
the correct thing to do? Do you reckon YOU can learn 'em anything?
Not by a good deal. No, sir, we'll just go on and ransom them in
the regular way."
"All right. I don't mind; but I say it's a fool way, anyhow.
Say, do we kill the women, too?"
"Well, Ben Rogers, if I was as ignorant as you I wouldn't let
on. Kill the women? No; nobody ever saw anything in the books like
that. You fetch them to the cave, and you're always as polite as
pie to them; and by and by they fall in love with you, and never
want to go home any more."
"Well, if that's the way I'm agreed, but I don't take no stock
in it. Mighty soon we'll have the cave so cluttered up with women,
and fellows waiting to be ransomed, that there won't be no place
for the robbers. But go ahead, I ain't got nothing to say."
Little Tommy Barnes was asleep now, and when they waked him up
he was scared, and cried, and said he wanted to go home to his ma,
and didn't want to be a robber any more.
So they all made fun of him, and called him cry-baby, and that
made him mad, and he said he would go straight and tell all the
secrets. But Tom give him five cents to keep quiet, and said we
would all go home and meet next week, and rob somebody and kill
Ben Rogers said he couldn't get out much, only Sundays, and so
he wanted to begin next Sunday; but all the boys said it would be
wicked to do it on Sunday, and that settled the thing. They agreed
to get together and fix a day as soon as they could, and then we
elected Tom Sawyer first captain and Jo Harper second captain of
the Gang, and so started home.
I clumb up the shed and crept into my window just before day was
breaking. My new clothes was all greased up and clayey, and I was