WE went a-fooling along for a day or two, and then just as the full moonwas touching the ground on the other side of the desert, we see a stringof little black figgers moving across its big silver face. You could seethem as plain as if they was painted on the moon with ink. It was anothercaravan. We cooled down our speed and tagged along after it, just to havecompany, though it warn't going our way. It was a rattler, that caravan,and a most bully sight to look at next morning when the sun comea-streaming across the desert and flung the long shadders of the camelson the gold sand like a thousand grand-daddy-long-legses marching inprocession. We never went very near it, because we knowed better now thanto act like that and scare people's camels and break up their caravans.It was the gayest outfit you ever see, for rich clothes and nobby style.Some of the chiefs rode on dromedaries, the first we ever see, and verytall, and they go plunging along like they was on stilts, and they rockthe man that is on them pretty violent and churn up his dinnerconsiderable, I bet you, but they make noble good time, and a camel ain'tnowheres with them for speed.
The caravan camped, during the middle part of the day, and then startedagain about the middle of the afternoon. Before long the sun begun tolook very curious. First it kind of turned to brass, and then to copper,and after that it begun to look like a blood-red ball, and the air gothot and close, and pretty soon all the sky in the west darkened up andlooked thick and foggy, but fiery and dreadful--like it looks through apiece of red glass, you know. We looked down and see a big confusiongoing on in the caravan, and a rushing every which way like they wasscared; and then they all flopped down flat in the sand and laid thereperfectly still.
Pretty soon we see something coming that stood up like an amazing widewall, and reached from the Desert up into the sky and hid the sun, and itwas coming like the nation, too. Then a little faint breeze struck us,and then it come harder, and grains of sand begun to sift against ourfaces and sting like fire, and Tom sung out:
"It's a sand-storm--turn your backs to it!"
We done it; and in another minute it was blowing a gale, and the sandbeat against us by the shovelful, and the air was so thick with it wecouldn't see a thing. In five minutes the boat was level full, and we wassetting on the lockers buried up to the chin in sand, and only our headsout and could hardly breathe.
Then the storm thinned, and we see that monstrous wall go a-sailing offacross the desert, awful to look at, I tell you. We dug ourselves out andlooked down, and where the caravan was before there wasn't anything butjust the sand ocean now, and all still and quiet. All them people andcamels was smothered and dead and buried--buried under ten foot of sand,we reckoned, and Tom allowed it might be years before the wind uncoveredthem, and all that time their friends wouldn't ever know what become ofthat caravan. Tom said:
"NOW we know what it was that happened to the people we got the swordsand pistols from."
Yes, sir, that was just it. It was as plain as day now. They got buriedin a sand-storm, and the wild animals couldn't get at them, and the windnever uncovered them again until they was dried to leather and warn't fitto eat. It seemed to me we had felt as sorry for them poor people as aperson could for anybody, and as mournful, too, but we was mistaken; thislast caravan's death went harder with us, a good deal harder. You see,the others was total strangers, and we never got to feeling acquaintedwith them at all, except, maybe, a little with the man that was watchingthe girl, but it was different with this last caravan. We was huvveringaround them a whole night and 'most a whole day, and had got to feelingreal friendly with them, and acquainted. I have found out that thereain't no surer way to find out whether you like people or hate them thanto travel with them. Just so with these. We kind of liked them from thestart, and traveling with them put on the finisher. The longer wetraveled with them, and the more we got used to their ways, the betterand better we liked them, and the gladder and gladder we was that we runacross them. We had come to know some of them so well that we called themby name when we was talking about them, and soon got so familiar andsociable that we even dropped the Miss and Mister and just used theirplain names without any handle, and it did not seem unpolite, but justthe right thing. Of course, it wasn't their own names, but names we givethem. There was Mr. Elexander Robinson and Miss Adaline Robinson, andColonel Jacob McDougal and Miss Harryet McDougal, and Judge JeremiahButler and young Bushrod Butler, and these was big chiefs mostly thatwore splendid great turbans and simmeters, and dressed like the GrandMogul, and their families. But as soon as we come to know them good, andlike them very much, it warn't Mister, nor Judge, nor nothing, any more,but only Elleck, and Addy, and Jake, and Hattie, and Jerry, and Buck, andso on.
And you know the more you join in with people in their joys and theirsorrows, the more nearer and dearer they come to be to you. Now we warn'tcold and indifferent, the way most travelers is, we was right downfriendly and sociable, and took a chance in everything that was going,and the caravan could depend on us to be on hand every time, it didn'tmake no difference what it was.
When they camped, we camped right over them, ten or twelve hundred feetup in the air. When they et a meal, we et ourn, and it made it ever somuch home-liker to have their company. When they had a wedding thatnight, and Buck and Addy got married, we got ourselves up in the verystarchiest of the professor's duds for the blow-out, and when they dancedwe jined in and shook a foot up there.
But it is sorrow and trouble that brings you the nearest, and it was afuneral that done it with us. It was next morning, just in the stilldawn. We didn't know the diseased, and he warn't in our set, but thatnever made no difference; he belonged to the caravan, and that wasenough, and there warn't no more sincerer tears shed over him than theones we dripped on him from up there eleven hundred foot on high.
Yes, parting with this caravan was much more bitterer than it was to partwith them others, which was comparative strangers, and been dead so long,anyway. We had knowed these in their lives, and was fond of them, too,and now to have death snatch them from right before our faces while wewas looking, and leave us so lonesome and friendless in the middle ofthat big desert, it did hurt so, and we wished we mightn't ever make anymore friends on that voyage if we was going to lose them again like that.
We couldn't keep from talking about them, and they was all the timecoming up in our memory, and looking just the way they looked when we wasall alive and happy together. We could see the line marching, and theshiny spearheads a-winking in the sun; we could see the dromedarieslumbering along; we could see the wedding and the funeral; and moreoftener than anything else we could see them praying, because they don'tallow nothing to prevent that; whenever the call come, several times aday, they would stop right there, and stand up and face to the east, andlift back their heads, and spread out their arms and begin, and four orfive times they would go down on their knees, and then fall forward andtouch their forehead to the ground.
Well, it warn't good to go on talking about them, lovely as they was intheir life, and dear to us in their life and death both, because itdidn't do no good, and made us too down-hearted. Jim allowed he was goingto live as good a life as he could, so he could see them again in abetter world; and Tom kept still and didn't tell him they was onlyMohammedans; it warn't no use to disappoint him, he was feeling badenough just as it was.
When we woke up next morning we was feeling a little cheerfuller, and hadhad a most powerful good sleep, because sand is the comfortablest bedthere is, and I don't see why people that can afford it don't have itmore. And it's terrible good ballast, too; I never see the balloon sosteady before.
Tom allowed we had twenty tons of it, and wondered what we better do withit; it was good sand, and it didn't seem good sense to throw it away. Jimsays:
"Mars Tom, can't we tote it back home en sell it? How long'll it take?"
"Depends on the way we go."
"Well, sah, she's wuth a quarter of a dollar a load at home, en I reckonwe's got as much as twenty loads, hain't we? How much would dat be?"
"By jings, Mars Tom, le's shove for home right on de spot! Hit's more'n adollar en a half apiece, hain't it?"
"Well, ef dat ain't makin' money de easiest ever I struck! She jes'rained in--never cos' us a lick o' work. Le's mosey right along, MarsTom."
But Tom was thinking and ciphering away so busy and excited he neverheard him. Pretty soon he says:
"Five dollars--sho! Look here, this sand's worth--worth--why, it's worthno end of money."
"How is dat, Mars Tom? Go on, honey, go on!"
"Well, the minute people knows it's genuwyne sand from the genuwyneDesert of Sahara, they'll just be in a perfect state of mind to git holdof some of it to keep on the what-not in a vial with a label on it for acuriosity. All we got to do is to put it up in vials and float around allover the United States and peddle them out at ten cents apiece. We've gotall of ten thousand dollars' worth of sand in this boat."
Me and Jim went all to pieces with joy, and begun to shoutwhoopjamboreehoo, and Tom says:
"And we can keep on coming back and fetching sand, and coming back andfetching more sand, and just keep it a-going till we've carted this wholeDesert over there and sold it out; and there ain't ever going to be anyopposition, either, because we'll take out a patent."
"My goodness," I says, "we'll be as rich as Creosote, won't we, Tom?"
"Yes--Creesus, you mean. Why, that dervish was hunting in that littlehill for the treasures of the earth, and didn't know he was walking overthe real ones for a thousand miles. He was blinder than he made thedriver."
"Mars Tom, how much is we gwyne to be worth?"
"Well, I don't know yet. It's got to be ciphered, and it ain't theeasiest job to do, either, because it's over four million square miles ofsand at ten cents a vial."
Jim was awful excited, but this faded it out considerable, and he shookhis head and says:
"Mars Tom, we can't 'ford all dem vials--a king couldn't. We better nottry to take de whole Desert, Mars Tom, de vials gwyne to bust us, sho'."
Tom's excitement died out, too, now, and I reckoned it was on account ofthe vials, but it wasn't. He set there thinking, and got bluer and bluer,and at last he says:
"Boys, it won't work; we got to give it up."
"On account of the duties."
I couldn't make nothing out of that, neither could Jim. I says:
"What IS our duty, Tom? Because if we can't git around it, why can't wejust DO it? People often has to."
But he says:
"Oh, it ain't that kind of duty. The kind I mean is a tax. Whenever youstrike a frontier--that's the border of a country, you know--you find acustom-house there, and the gov'ment officers comes and rummages amongyour things and charges a big tax, which they call a duty because it'stheir duty to bust you if they can, and if you don't pay the duty they'llhog your sand. They call it confiscating, but that don't deceive nobody,it's just hogging, and that's all it is. Now if we try to carry this sandhome the way we're pointed now, we got to climb fences till we gittired--just frontier after frontier--Egypt, Arabia, Hindostan, and soon, and they'll all whack on a duty, and so you see, easy enough, weCAN'T go THAT road."
"Why, Tom," I says, "we can sail right over their old frontiers; how areTHEY going to stop us?"
He looked sorrowful at me, and says, very grave:
"Huck Finn, do you think that would be honest?"
I hate them kind of interruptions. I never said nothing, and he went on:
"Well, we're shut off the other way, too. If we go back the way we'vecome, there's the New York custom-house, and that is worse than all ofthem others put together, on account of the kind of cargo we've got."
"Well, they can't raise Sahara sand in America, of course, and when theycan't raise a thing there, the duty is fourteen hundred thousand percent. on it if you try to fetch it in from where they do raise it."
"There ain't no sense in that, Tom Sawyer."
"Who said there WAS? What do you talk to me like that for, Huck Finn? Youwait till I say a thing's got sense in it before you go to accusing me ofsaying it."
"All right, consider me crying about it, and sorry. Go on."
"Mars Tom, do dey jam dat duty onto everything we can't raise in America,en don't make no 'stinction 'twix' anything?"
"Yes, that's what they do."
"Mars Tom, ain't de blessin' o' de Lord de mos' valuable thing dey is?"
"Yes, it is."
"Don't de preacher stan' up in de pulpit en call it down on de people?"
"Whah do it come from?"
"Yassir! you's jes' right, 'deed you is, honey--it come from heaven, endat's a foreign country. NOW, den! do dey put a tax on dat blessin'?"
"No, they don't."
"Course dey don't; en so it stan' to reason dat you's mistaken, Mars Tom.Dey wouldn't put de tax on po' truck like san', dat everybody ain't'bleeged to have, en leave it off'n de bes' thing dey is, which nobodycan't git along widout."
Tom Sawyer was stumped; he see Jim had got him where he couldn't budge.He tried to wiggle out by saying they had FORGOT to put on that tax, butthey'd be sure to remember about it, next session of Congress, and thenthey'd put it on, but that was a poor lame come-off, and he knowed it. Hesaid there warn't nothing foreign that warn't taxed but just that one,and so they couldn't be consistent without taxing it, and to beconsistent was the first law of politics. So he stuck to it that they'dleft it out unintentional and would be certain to do their best to fix itbefore they got caught and laughed at.
But I didn't feel no more interest in such things, as long as we couldn'tgit our sand through, and it made me low-spirited, and Jim the same. Tomhe tried to cheer us up by saying he would think up another speculationfor us that would be just as good as this one and better, but it didn'tdo no good, we didn't believe there was any as big as this. It was mightyhard; such a little while ago we was so rich, and could 'a' bought acountry and started a kingdom and been celebrated and happy, and now wewas so poor and ornery again, and had our sand left on our hands. Thesand was looking so lovely before, just like gold and di'monds, and thefeel of it was so soft and so silky and nice, but now I couldn't bear thesight of it, it made me sick to look at it, and I knowed I wouldn't everfeel comfortable again till we got shut of it, and I didn't have it thereno more to remind us of what we had been and what we had got degradeddown to. The others was feeling the same way about it that I was. Iknowed it, because they cheered up so, the minute I says le's throw thistruck overboard.
Well, it was going to be work, you know, and pretty solid work, too; soTom he divided it up according to fairness and strength. He said me andhim would clear out a fifth apiece of the sand, and Jim three-fifths. Jimhe didn't quite like that arrangement. He says:
"Course I's de stronges', en I's willin' to do a share accordin', but byjings you's kinder pilin' it onto ole Jim, Mars Tom, hain't you?"
"Well, I didn't think so, Jim, but you try your hand at fixing it, andlet's see."
So Jim reckoned it wouldn't be no more than fair if me and Tom done aTENTH apiece. Tom he turned his back to git room and be private, and thenhe smole a smile that spread around and covered the whole Sahara to thewestward, back to the Atlantic edge of it where we come from. Then heturned around again and said it was a good enough arrangement, and we wassatisfied if Jim was. Jim said he was.
So then Tom measured off our two-tenths in the bow and left the rest forJim, and it surprised Jim a good deal to see how much difference therewas and what a raging lot of sand his share come to, and said he waspowerful glad now that he had spoke up in time and got the firstarrangement altered, for he said that even the way it was now, there wasmore sand than enjoyment in his end of the contract, he believed.
Then we laid into it. It was mighty hot work, and tough; so hot we had tomove up into cooler weather or we couldn't 'a' stood it. Me and Tom tookturn about, and one worked while t'other rested, but there warn't nobodyto spell poor old Jim, and he made all that part of Africa damp, hesweated so. We couldn't work good, we was so full of laugh, and Jim hekept fretting and wanting to know what tickled us so, and we had to keepmaking up things to account for it, and they was pretty poor inventions,but they done well enough, Jim didn't see through them. At last when wegot done we was 'most dead, but not with work but with laughing. By andby Jim was 'most dead, too, but: it was with work; then we took turns andspelled him, and he was as thankfull as he could be, and would set on thegunnel and swab the sweat, and heave and pant, and say how good we was toa poor old nigger, and he wouldn't ever forgit us. He was always thegratefulest nigger I ever see, for any little thing you done for him. Hewas only nigger outside; inside he was as white as you be.