Tom Sawyer Abroad

by Mark Twain

Next Chapter

Chapter 1


DO you reckon Tom Sawyer was satisfied after all them adventures? I meanthe adventures we had down the river, and the time we set the darky Jimfree and Tom got shot in the leg. No, he wasn't. It only just p'isonedhim for more. That was all the effect it had. You see, when we three cameback up the river in glory, as you may say, from that long travel, andthe village received us with a torchlight procession and speeches, andeverybody hurrah'd and shouted, it made us heroes, and that was what TomSawyer had always been hankering to be.

For a while he WAS satisfied. Everybody made much of him, and he tiltedup his nose and stepped around the town as though he owned it. Somecalled him Tom Sawyer the Traveler, and that just swelled him up fit tobust. You see he laid over me and Jim considerable, because we only wentdown the river on a raft and came back by the steamboat, but Tom went bythe steamboat both ways. The boys envied me and Jim a good deal, butland! they just knuckled to the dirt before TOM.

Well, I don't know; maybe he might have been satisfied if it hadn't beenfor old Nat Parsons, which was postmaster, and powerful long and slim,and kind o' good-hearted and silly, and bald-headed, on account of hisage, and about the talkiest old cretur I ever see. For as much as thirtyyears he'd been the only man in the village that had a reputation--I meana reputation for being a traveler, and of course he was mortal proud ofit, and it was reckoned that in the course of that thirty years he hadtold about that journey over a million times and enjoyed it every time.And now comes along a boy not quite fifteen, and sets everybody admiringand gawking over HIS travels, and it just give the poor old man the highstrikes. It made him sick to listen to Tom, and to hear the people say"My land!" "Did you ever!" "My goodness sakes alive!" and all suchthings; but he couldn't pull away from it, any more than a fly that's gotits hind leg fast in the molasses. And always when Tom come to a rest,the poor old cretur would chip in on HIS same old travels and work themfor all they were worth; but they were pretty faded, and didn't go formuch, and it was pitiful to see. And then Tom would take another innings,and then the old man again--and so on, and so on, for an hour and more,each trying to beat out the other.

You see, Parsons' travels happened like this: When he first got to bepostmaster and was green in the business, there come a letter forsomebody he didn't know, and there wasn't any such person in the village.Well, he didn't know what to do, nor how to act, and there the letterstayed and stayed, week in and week out, till the bare sight of it gavehim a conniption. The postage wasn't paid on it, and that was anotherthing to worry about. There wasn't any way to collect that ten cents, andhe reckon'd the gov'ment would hold him responsible for it and maybe turnhim out besides, when they found he hadn't collected it. Well, at last hecouldn't stand it any longer. He couldn't sleep nights, he couldn't eat,he was thinned down to a shadder, yet he da'sn't ask anybody's advice,for the very person he asked for advice might go back on him and let thegov'ment know about the letter. He had the letter buried under the floor,but that did no good; if he happened to see a person standing over theplace it'd give him the cold shivers, and loaded him up with suspicions,and he would sit up that night till the town was still and dark, and thenhe would sneak there and get it out and bury it in another place. Ofcourse, people got to avoiding him and shaking their heads andwhispering, because, the way he was looking and acting, they judged hehad killed somebody or done something terrible, they didn't know what,and if he had been a stranger they would've lynched him.

Well, as I was saying, it got so he couldn't stand it any longer; so hemade up his mind to pull out for Washington, and just go to the Presidentof the United States and make a clean breast of the whole thing, notkeeping back an atom, and then fetch the letter out and lay it before thewhole gov'ment, and say, "Now, there she is--do with me what you're amind to; though as heaven is my judge I am an innocent man and notdeserving of the full penalties of the law and leaving behind me a familythat must starve and yet hadn't had a thing to do with it, which is thewhole truth and I can swear to it."

So he did it. He had a little wee bit of steamboating, and somestage-coaching, but all the rest of the way was horseback, and it tookhim three weeks to get to Washington. He saw lots of land and lots ofvillages and four cities. He was gone 'most eight weeks, and there neverwas such a proud man in the village as he when he got back. His travelsmade him the greatest man in all that region, and the most talked about;and people come from as much as thirty miles back in the country, andfrom over in the Illinois bottoms, too, just to look at him--and therethey'd stand and gawk, and he'd gabble. You never see anything like it.

Well, there wasn't any way now to settle which was the greatest traveler;some said it was Nat, some said it was Tom. Everybody allowed that Nathad seen the most longitude, but they had to give in that whatever Tomwas short in longitude he had made up in latitude and climate. It wasabout a stand-off; so both of them had to whoop up their dangerousadventures, and try to get ahead THAT way. That bullet-wound in Tom's legwas a tough thing for Nat Parsons to buck against, but he bucked the besthe could; and at a disadvantage, too, for Tom didn't set still as he'dorter done, to be fair, but always got up and sauntered around and workedhis limp while Nat was painting up the adventure that HE had inWashington; for Tom never let go that limp when his leg got well, butpracticed it nights at home, and kept it good as new right along.

Nat's adventure was like this; I don't know how true it is; maybe he gotit out of a paper, or somewhere, but I will say this for him, that he DIDknow how to tell it. He could make anybody's flesh crawl, and he'd turnpale and hold his breath when he told it, and sometimes women and girlsgot so faint they couldn't stick it out. Well, it was this way, as nearas I can remember:

He come a-loping into Washington, and put up his horse and shoved out tothe President's house with his letter, and they told him the Presidentwas up to the Capitol, and just going to start for Philadelphia--not aminute to lose if he wanted to catch him. Nat 'most dropped, it made himso sick. His horse was put up, and he didn't know what to do. But justthen along comes a darky driving an old ramshackly hack, and he see hischance. He rushes out and shouts: "A half a dollar if you git me to theCapitol in half an hour, and a quarter extra if you do it in twentyminutes!"

"Done!" says the darky.

Nat he jumped in and slammed the door, and away they went a-ripping anda-tearing over the roughest road a body ever see, and the racket of itwas something awful. Nat passed his arms through the loops and hung onfor life and death, but pretty soon the hack hit a rock and flew up inthe air, and the bottom fell out, and when it come down Nat's feet was onthe ground, and he see he was in the most desperate danger if he couldn'tkeep up with the hack. He was horrible scared, but he laid into his workfor all he was worth, and hung tight to the arm-loops and made his legsfairly fly. He yelled and shouted to the driver to stop, and so did thecrowds along the street, for they could see his legs spinning along underthe coach, and his head and shoulders bobbing inside through the windows,and he was in awful danger; but the more they all shouted the more thenigger whooped and yelled and lashed the horses and shouted, "Don't youfret, I'se gwine to git you dah in time, boss; I's gwine to do it, sho'!"for you see he thought they were all hurrying him up, and, of course, hecouldn't hear anything for the racket he was making. And so they wentripping along, and everybody just petrified to see it; and when they gotto the Capitol at last it was the quickest trip that ever was made, andeverybody said so. The horses laid down, and Nat dropped, all tuckeredout, and he was all dust and rags and barefooted; but he was in time andjust in time, and caught the President and give him the letter, andeverything was all right, and the President give him a free pardon on thespot, and Nat give the nigger two extra quarters instead of one, becausehe could see that if he hadn't had the hack he wouldn't'a' got there intime, nor anywhere near it.

It WAS a powerful good adventure, and Tom Sawyer had to work hisbullet-wound mighty lively to hold his own against it.

Well, by and by Tom's glory got to paling down gradu'ly, on account ofother things turning up for the people to talk about--first a horse-race,and on top of that a house afire, and on top of that the circus, and ontop of that the eclipse; and that started a revival, same as it alwaysdoes, and by that time there wasn't any more talk about Tom, so to speak,and you never see a person so sick and disgusted.

Pretty soon he got to worrying and fretting right along day in and dayout, and when I asked him what WAS he in such a state about, he said it'most broke his heart to think how time was slipping away, and himgetting older and older, and no wars breaking out and no way of making aname for himself that he could see. Now that is the way boys is alwaysthinking, but he was the first one I ever heard come out and say it.

So then he set to work to get up a plan to make him celebrated; andpretty soon he struck it, and offered to take me and Jim in. Tom Sawyerwas always free and generous that way. There's a-plenty of boys that'smighty good and friendly when YOU'VE got a good thing, but when a goodthing happens to come their way they don't say a word to you, and try tohog it all. That warn't ever Tom Sawyer's way, I can say that for him.There's plenty of boys that will come hankering and groveling around youwhen you've got an apple and beg the core off of you; but when they'vegot one, and you beg for the core and remind them how you give them acore one time, they say thank you 'most to death, but there ain't a-goingto be no core. But I notice they always git come up with; all you got todo is to wait.

Well, we went out in the woods on the hill, and Tom told us what it was.It was a crusade.

"What's a crusade?" I says.

He looked scornful, the way he's always done when he was ashamed of aperson, and says:

"Huck Finn, do you mean to tell me you don't know what a crusade is?"

"No," says I, "I don't. And I don't care to, nuther. I've lived till nowand done without it, and had my health, too. But as soon as you tell me,I'll know, and that's soon enough. I don't see any use in finding outthings and clogging up my head with them when I mayn't ever have anyoccasion to use 'em. There was Lance Williams, he learned how to talkChoctaw here till one come and dug his grave for him. Now, then, what's acrusade? But I can tell you one thing before you begin; if it's apatent-right, there's no money in it. Bill Thompson he--"

"Patent-right!" says he. "I never see such an idiot. Why, a crusade is akind of war."

I thought he must be losing his mind. But no, he was in real earnest, andwent right on, perfectly ca'm.

"A crusade is a war to recover the Holy Land from the paynim."

"Which Holy Land?"

"Why, the Holy Land--there ain't but one."

"What do we want of it?"

"Why, can't you understand? It's in the hands of the paynim, and it's ourduty to take it away from them."

"How did we come to let them git hold of it?"

"We didn't come to let them git hold of it. They always had it."

"Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, don't it?"

"Why of course it does. Who said it didn't?"

I studied over it, but couldn't seem to git at the right of it, no way. Isays:

"It's too many for me, Tom Sawyer. If I had a farm and it was mine, andanother person wanted it, would it be right for him to--"

"Oh, shucks! you don't know enough to come in when it rains, Huck Finn.It ain't a farm, it's entirely different. You see, it's like this. Theyown the land, just the mere land, and that's all they DO own; but it wasour folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so theyhaven't any business to be there defiling it. It's a shame, and we oughtnot to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it awayfrom them."

"Why, it does seem to me it's the most mixed-up thing I ever see! Now, ifI had a farm and another person--"

"Don't I tell you it hasn't got anything to do with farming? Farming isbusiness, just common low-down business: that's all it is, it's all youcan say for it; but this is higher, this is religious, and totallydifferent."

"Religious to go and take the land away from people that owns it?"

"Certainly; it's always been considered so."

Jim he shook his head, and says:

"Mars Tom, I reckon dey's a mistake about it somers--dey mos' sholy is.I's religious myself, en I knows plenty religious people, but I hain'trun across none dat acts like dat."

It made Tom hot, and he says:

"Well, it's enough to make a body sick, such mullet-headed ignorance! Ifeither of you'd read anything about history, you'd know that Richard Curde Loon, and the Pope, and Godfrey de Bulleyn, and lots more of the mostnoble-hearted and pious people in the world, hacked and hammered at thepaynims for more than two hundred years trying to take their land awayfrom them, and swum neck-deep in blood the whole time--and yet here's acouple of sap-headed country yahoos out in the backwoods of Missourisetting themselves up to know more about the rights and wrongs of it thanthey did! Talk about cheek!"

Well, of course, that put a more different light on it, and me and Jimfelt pretty cheap and ignorant, and wished we hadn't been quite sochipper. I couldn't say nothing, and Jim he couldn't for a while; then hesays:

"Well, den, I reckon it's all right; beca'se ef dey didn't know, deyain't no use for po' ignorant folks like us to be trying to know; en so,ef it's our duty, we got to go en tackle it en do de bes' we can. Sametime, I feel as sorry for dem paynims as Mars Tom. De hard part gwine tobe to kill folks dat a body hain't been 'quainted wid and dat hain't donehim no harm. Dat's it, you see. Ef we wuz to go 'mongst 'em, jist wethree, en say we's hungry, en ast 'em for a bite to eat, why, maybe dey'sjist like yuther people. Don't you reckon dey is? Why, DEY'D give it, Iknow dey would, en den--"

"Then what?"

"Well, Mars Tom, my idea is like dis. It ain't no use, we CAN'T kill dempo' strangers dat ain't doin' us no harm, till we've had practice--Iknows it perfectly well, Mars Tom--'deed I knows it perfectly well. Butef we takes a' axe or two, jist you en me en Huck, en slips acrost deriver to-night arter de moon's gone down, en kills dat sick fam'ly dat'sover on the Sny, en burns dey house down, en--"

"Oh, you make me tired!" says Tom. "I don't want to argue any more withpeople like you and Huck Finn, that's always wandering from the subject,and ain't got any more sense than to try to reason out a thing that'spure theology by the laws that protect real estate!"

Now that's just where Tom Sawyer warn't fair. Jim didn't mean no harm,and I didn't mean no harm. We knowed well enough that he was right and wewas wrong, and all we was after was to get at the HOW of it, and that wasall; and the only reason he couldn't explain it so we could understand itwas because we was ignorant--yes, and pretty dull, too, I ain't denyingthat; but, land! that ain't no crime, I should think.

But he wouldn't hear no more about it--just said if we had tackled thething in the proper spirit, he would 'a' raised a couple of thousandknights and put them in steel armor from head to heel, and made me alieutenant and Jim a sutler, and took the command himself and brushed thewhole paynim outfit into the sea like flies and come back across theworld in a glory like sunset. But he said we didn't know enough to takethe chance when we had it, and he wouldn't ever offer it again. And hedidn't. When he once got set, you couldn't budge him.

But I didn't care much. I am peaceable, and don't get up rows with peoplethat ain't doing nothing to me. I allowed if the paynim was satisfied Iwas, and we would let it stand at that.

Now Tom he got all that notion out of Walter Scott's book, which he wasalways reading. And it WAS a wild notion, because in my opinion he nevercould've raised the men, and if he did, as like as not he would've gotlicked. I took the book and read all about it, and as near as I couldmake it out, most of the folks that shook farming to go crusading had amighty rocky time of it.

Return to the Tom Sawyer Abroad Summary Return to the Mark Twain Library

It ain't what you don't know that gets you into trouble. It's what you know for sure that just ain't so.