Read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Chapters 01 to 05 Page 2


  WE went tiptoeing along a path amongst the trees back towards the end ofthe widow's garden, stooping down so as the branches wouldn't scrape ourheads. When we was passing by the kitchen I fell over a root and made anoise. We scrouched down and laid still. Miss Watson's big nigger,named Jim, was setting in the kitchen door; we could see him prettyclear, because there was a light behind him. He got up and stretched hisneck out about a minute, listening. Then he says:

  "Who dah?"

  He listened some more; then he come tiptoeing down and stood rightbetween us; we could a touched him, nearly. Well, likely it was minutesand minutes that there warn't a sound, and we all there so closetogether. There was a place on my ankle that got to itching, but Idasn't scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch; and next my back, rightbetween 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 youare anywheres where it won't do for you to scratch, why you will itch allover 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 listentell I hears it agin."

  So he set down on the ground betwixt me and Tom. He leaned his back upagainst a tree, and stretched his legs out till one of them most touchedone of mine. My nose begun to itch. It itched till the tears come intomy 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 setstill. This miserableness went on as much as six or seven minutes; but itseemed a sight longer than that. I was itching in eleven differentplaces now. I reckoned I couldn't stand it more'n a minute longer, but Iset my teeth hard and got ready to try. Just then Jim begun to breatheheavy; next he begun to snore--and then I was pretty soon comfortableagain.

  Tom he made a sign to me--kind of a little noise with his mouth--and wewent creeping away on our hands and knees. When we was ten foot off Tomwhispered to me, and wanted to tie Jim to the tree for fun. But I saidno; he might wake and make a disturbance, and then they'd find out Iwarn't in. Then Tom said he hadn't got candles enough, and he would slipin the kitchen and get some more. I didn't want him to try. I said Jimmight wake up and come. But Tom wanted to resk it; so we slid in thereand 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 doTom but he must crawl to where Jim was, on his hands and knees, and playsomething on him. I waited, and it seemed a good while, everything wasso 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 ofthe house. Tom said he slipped Jim's hat off of his head and hung it ona 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 toldit he said they rode him down to New Orleans; and, after that, every timehe told it he spread it more and more, till by and by he said they rodehim all over the world, and tired him most to death, and his back was allover saddle-boils. Jim was monstrous proud about it, and he got so hewouldn't hardly notice the other niggers. Niggers would come miles tohear Jim tell about it, and he was more looked up to than any nigger inthat country. Strange niggers would stand with their mouths open andlook him all over, same as if he was a wonder. Niggers is always talkingabout witches in the dark by the kitchen fire; but whenever one wastalking and letting on to know all about such things, Jim would happen inand say, "Hm! What you know 'bout witches?" and that nigger was corkedup and had to take a back seat. Jim always kept that five-center pieceround his neck with a string, and said it was a charm the devil give tohim with his own hands, and told him he could cure anybody with it andfetch witches whenever he wanted to just by saying something to it; buthe never told what it was he said to it. Niggers would come from allaround there and give Jim anything they had, just for a sight of thatfive-center piece; but they wouldn't touch it, because the devil had hadhis hands on it. Jim was most ruined for a servant, because he got stuckup on account of having seen the devil and been rode by witches.

  Well, when Tom and me got to the edge of the hilltop we looked away downinto the village and could see three or four lights twinkling, wherethere was sick folks, maybe; and the stars over us was sparkling ever sofine; and down by the village was the river, a whole mile broad, andawful still and grand. We went down the hill and found Jo Harper and BenRogers, and two or three more of the boys, hid in the old tanyard. So weunhitched a skiff and pulled down the river two mile and a half, to thebig scar on the hillside, and went ashore.

  We went to a clump of bushes, and Tom made everybody swear to keep thesecret, and then showed them a hole in the hill, right in the thickestpart of the bushes. Then we lit the candles, and crawled in on our handsand 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 wallwhere you wouldn't a noticed that there was a hole. We went along anarrow place and got into a kind of room, all damp and sweaty and cold,and there we stopped. Tom says:

  "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 namein blood."

  Everybody was willing. So Tom got out a sheet of paper that he had wrotethe oath on, and read it. It swore every boy to stick to the band, andnever tell any of the secrets; and if anybody done anything to any boy inthe band, whichever boy was ordered to kill that person and his familymust do it, and he mustn't eat and he mustn't sleep till he had killedthem 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 hedid he must be sued; and if he done it again he must be killed. And ifanybody that belonged to the band told the secrets, he must have histhroat cut, and then have his carcass burnt up and the ashes scatteredall around, and his name blotted off of the list with blood and nevermentioned again by the gang, but have a curse put on it and be forgotforever.

  Everybody said it was a real beautiful oath, and asked Tom if he got itout of his own head. He said, some of it, but the rest was out ofpirate-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 thesecrets. Tom said it was a good idea, so he took a pencil and wrote itin. Then Ben Rogers says:

  "Here's Huck Finn, he hain't got no family; what you going to do 'bouthim?"

  "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. Heused to lay drunk with the hogs in the tanyard, but he hain't been seenin these parts for a year or more."

  They talked it over, and they was going to rule me out, because they saidevery boy must have a family or somebody to kill, or else it wouldn't befair and square for the others. Well, nobody could think of anything todo--everybody was stumped, and set still. I was most ready to cry; butall at once I thought of a way, and so I offered them Miss Watson--theycould 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, andI made my mark on the paper.

  "Now," says Ben Rogers, "what's the line of business of this Gang?"

  "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. Weare highwaymen. We stop stages and carriages on the road, with masks on,and kill the people and take their watches and money."

; "Must we always kill the people?"

  "Oh, certainly. It's best. Some authorities think different, but mostlyit's considered best to kill them--except some that you bring to the cavehere, 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 soof 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 thebooks? 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 arethese 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 thatbefore? We'll keep them till they're ransomed to death; and a bothersomelot they'll be, too--eating up everything, and always trying to getloose."

  "How you talk, Ben Rogers. How can they get loose when there's a guardover 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 andnever get any sleep, just so as to watch them. I think that'sfoolishness. Why can't a body take a club and ransom them as soon as theyget here?"

  "Because it ain't in the books so--that's why. Now, Ben Rogers, do youwant to do things regular, or don't you?--that's the idea. Don't youreckon that the people that made the books knows what's the correct thingto 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 wekill the women, too?"

  "Well, Ben Rogers, if I was as ignorant as you I wouldn't let on. Killthe women? No; nobody ever saw anything in the books like that. Youfetch them to the cave, and you're always as polite as pie to them; andby and by they fall in love with you, and never want to go home anymore."

  "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 fellowswaiting 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 wasscared, and cried, and said he wanted to go home to his ma, and didn'twant to be a robber any more.

  So they all made fun of him, and called him cry-baby, and that made himmad, and he said he would go straight and tell all the secrets. But Tomgive him five cents to keep quiet, and said we would all go home and meetnext week, and rob somebody and kill some people.

  Ben Rogers said he couldn't get out much, only Sundays, and so he wantedto begin next Sunday; but all the boys said it would be wicked to do iton Sunday, and that settled the thing. They agreed to get together andfix a day as soon as they could, and then we elected Tom Sawyer firstcaptain 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 wasbreaking. My new clothes was all greased up and clayey, and I wasdog-tired.