Tom Sawyer Abroad

by Mark Twain

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Chapter 5


WE tried to make some plans, but we couldn't come to no agreement. Me andJim was for turning around and going back home, but Tom allowed that bythe time daylight come, so we could see our way, we would be so fartoward England that we might as well go there, and come back in a ship,and have the glory of saying we done it.

About midnight the storm quit and the moon come out and lit up the ocean,and we begun to feel comfortable and drowsy; so we stretched out on thelockers and went to sleep, and never woke up again till sun-up. The seawas sparkling like di'monds, and it was nice weather, and pretty soon ourthings was all dry again.

We went aft to find some breakfast, and the first thing we noticed wasthat there was a dim light burning in a compass back there under a hood.Then Tom was disturbed. He says:

"You know what that means, easy enough. It means that somebody has got tostay on watch and steer this thing the same as he would a ship, or she'llwander around and go wherever the wind wants her to."

"Well," I says, "what's she been doing since--er--since we had theaccident?"

"Wandering," he says, kinder troubled--"wandering, without any doubt.She's in a wind now that's blowing her south of east. We don't know howlong that's been going on, either."

So then he p'inted her east, and said he would hold her there till werousted out the breakfast. The professor had laid in everything a bodycould want; he couldn't 'a' been better fixed. There wasn't no milk forthe coffee, but there was water, and everything else you could want, anda charcoal stove and the fixings for it, and pipes and cigars andmatches; and wine and liquor, which warn't in our line; and books, andmaps, and charts, and an accordion; and furs, and blankets, and no end ofrubbish, like brass beads and brass jewelry, which Tom said was a suresign that he had an idea of visiting among savages. There was money, too.Yes, the professor was well enough fixed.

After breakfast Tom learned me and Jim how to steer, and divided us allup into four-hour watches, turn and turn about; and when his watch wasout I took his place, and he got out the professor's papers and pens andwrote a letter home to his aunt Polly, telling her everything that hadhappened to us, and dated it "IN THE WELKIN, APPROACHING ENGLAND," andfolded it together and stuck it fast with a red wafer, and directed it,and wrote above the direction, in big writing, "FROM TOM SAWYER, THEERRONORT," and said it would stump old Nat Parsons, the postmaster, whenit come along in the mail. I says:

"Tom Sawyer, this ain't no welkin, it's a balloon."

"Well, now, who SAID it was a welkin, smarty?"

"You've wrote it on the letter, anyway."

"What of it? That don't mean that the balloon's the welkin."

"Oh, I thought it did. Well, then, what is a welkin?"

I see in a minute he was stuck. He raked and scraped around in his mind,but he couldn't find nothing, so he had to say:

"I don't know, and nobody don't know. It's just a word, and it's a mightygood word, too. There ain't many that lays over it. I don't believethere's ANY that does."

"Shucks!" I says. "But what does it MEAN?--that's the p'int."

"I don't know what it means, I tell you. It's a word that people usesfor--for--well, it's ornamental. They don't put ruffles on a shirt tokeep a person warm, do they?"

"Course they don't."

"But they put them ON, don't they?"


"All right, then; that letter I wrote is a shirt, and the welkin's theruffle on it."

I judged that that would gravel Jim, and it did.

"Now, Mars Tom, it ain't no use to talk like dat; en, moreover, it'ssinful. You knows a letter ain't no shirt, en dey ain't no ruffles on it,nuther. Dey ain't no place to put 'em on; you can't put em on, and deywouldn't stay ef you did."

"Oh DO shut up, and wait till something's started that you know somethingabout."

"Why, Mars Tom, sholy you can't mean to say I don't know about shirts,when, goodness knows, I's toted home de washin' ever sence--"

"I tell you, this hasn't got anything to do with shirts. I only--"

"Why, Mars Tom, you said yo'self dat a letter--"

"Do you want to drive me crazy? Keep still. I only used it as ametaphor."

That word kinder bricked us up for a minute. Then Jim says--rather timid,because he see Tom was getting pretty tetchy:

"Mars Tom, what is a metaphor?"

"A metaphor's a--well, it's a--a--a metaphor's an illustration." He seeTHAT didn't git home, so he tried again. "When I say birds of a featherflocks together, it's a metaphorical way of saying--"

"But dey DON'T, Mars Tom. No, sir, 'deed dey don't. Dey ain't no feathersdat's more alike den a bluebird en a jaybird, but ef you waits till youcatches dem birds together, you'll--"

"Oh, give us a rest! You can't get the simplest little thing through yourthick skull. Now don't bother me any more."

Jim was satisfied to stop. He was dreadful pleased with himself forcatching Tom out. The minute Tom begun to talk about birds I judged hewas a goner, because Jim knowed more about birds than both of us puttogether. You see, he had killed hundreds and hundreds of them, andthat's the way to find out about birds. That's the way people does thatwrites books about birds, and loves them so that they'll go hungry andtired and take any amount of trouble to find a new bird and kill it.Their name is ornithologers, and I could have been an ornithologermyself, because I always loved birds and creatures; and I started out tolearn how to be one, and I see a bird setting on a limb of a high tree,singing with its head tilted back and its mouth open, and before Ithought I fired, and his song stopped and he fell straight down from thelimb, all limp like a rag, and I run and picked him up and he was dead,and his body was warm in my hand, and his head rolled about this way andthat, like his neck was broke, and there was a little white skin over hiseyes, and one little drop of blood on the side of his head; and, laws! Icouldn't see nothing more for the tears; and I hain't never murdered nocreature since that warn't doing me no harm, and I ain't going to.

But I was aggravated about that welkin. I wanted to know. I got thesubject up again, and then Tom explained, the best he could. He said whena person made a big speech the newspapers said the shouts of the peoplemade the welkin ring. He said they always said that, but none of themever told what it was, so he allowed it just meant outdoors and up high.Well, that seemed sensible enough, so I was satisfied, and said so. Thatpleased Tom and put him in a good humor again, and he says:

"Well, it's all right, then; and we'll let bygones be bygones. I don'tknow for certain what a welkin is, but when we land in London we'll makeit ring, anyway, and don't you forget it."

He said an erronort was a person who sailed around in balloons; and saidit was a mighty sight finer to be Tom Sawyer the Erronort than to be TomSawyer the Traveler, and we would be heard of all round the world, if wepulled through all right, and so he wouldn't give shucks to be a travelernow.

Toward the middle of the afternoon we got everything ready to land, andwe felt pretty good, too, and proud; and we kept watching with theglasses, like Columbus discovering America. But we couldn't see nothingbut ocean. The afternoon wasted out and the sun shut down, and stillthere warn't no land anywheres. We wondered what was the matter, butreckoned it would come out all right, so we went on steering east, butwent up on a higher level so we wouldn't hit any steeples or mountains inthe dark.

It was my watch till midnight, and then it was Jim's; but Tom stayed up,because he said ship captains done that when they was making the land,and didn't stand no regular watch.

Well, when daylight come, Jim give a shout, and we jumped up and lookedover, and there was the land sure enough--land all around, as far as youcould see, and perfectly level and yaller. We didn't know how long we'dbeen over it. There warn't no trees, nor hills, nor rocks, nor towns, andTom and Jim had took it for the sea. They took it for the sea in a deadca'm; but we was so high up, anyway, that if it had been the sea andrough, it would 'a' looked smooth, all the same, in the night, that way.

We was all in a powerful excitement now, and grabbed the glasses andhunted everywheres for London, but couldn't find hair nor hide of it, norany other settlement--nor any sign of a lake or a river, either. Tom wasclean beat. He said it warn't his notion of England; he thought Englandlooked like America, and always had that idea. So he said we better havebreakfast, and then drop down and inquire the quickest way to London. Wecut the breakfast pretty short, we was so impatient. As we slanted alongdown, the weather began to moderate, and pretty soon we shed our furs.But it kept ON moderating, and in a precious little while it was 'mosttoo moderate. We was close down now, and just blistering!

We settled down to within thirty foot of the land--that is, it was landif sand is land; for this wasn't anything but pure sand. Tom and me clumbdown the ladder and took a run to stretch our legs, and it felt amazinggood--that is, the stretching did, but the sand scorched our feet likehot embers. Next, we see somebody coming, and started to meet him; but weheard Jim shout, and looked around and he was fairly dancing, and makingsigns, and yelling. We couldn't make out what he said, but we was scaredanyway, and begun to heel it back to the balloon. When we got closeenough, we understood the words, and they made me sick:

"Run! Run fo' yo' life! Hit's a lion; I kin see him thoo de glass! Run,boys; do please heel it de bes' you kin. He's bu'sted outen de menagerie,en dey ain't nobody to stop him!"

It made Tom fly, but it took the stiffening all out of my legs. I couldonly just gasp along the way you do in a dream when there's a ghostgaining on you.

Tom got to the ladder and shinned up it a piece and waited for me; and assoon as I got a foothold on it he shouted to Jim to soar away. But Jimhad clean lost his head, and said he had forgot how. So Tom shinned alongup and told me to follow; but the lion was arriving, fetching a mostghastly roar with every lope, and my legs shook so I dasn't try to takeone of them out of the rounds for fear the other one would give way underme.

But Tom was aboard by this time, and he started the balloon up a little,and stopped it again as soon as the end of the ladder was ten or twelvefeet above ground. And there was the lion, a-ripping around under me, androaring and springing up in the air at the ladder, and only missing itabout a quarter of an inch, it seemed to me. It was delicious to be outof his reach, perfectly delicious, and made me feel good and thankful allup one side; but I was hanging there helpless and couldn't climb, andthat made me feel perfectly wretched and miserable all down the other. Itis most seldom that a person feels so mixed like that; and it is not tobe recommended, either.

Tom asked me what he'd better do, but I didn't know. He asked me if Icould hold on whilst he sailed away to a safe place and left the lionbehind. I said I could if he didn't go no higher than he was now; but ifhe went higher I would lose my head and fall, sure. So he said, "Take agood grip," and he started.

"Don't go so fast," I shouted. "It makes my head swim."

He had started like a lightning express. He slowed down, and we glidedover the sand slower, but still in a kind of sickening way; for it ISuncomfortable to see things sliding and gliding under you like that, andnot a sound.

But pretty soon there was plenty of sound, for the lion was catching up.His noise fetched others. You could see them coming on the lope fromevery direction, and pretty soon there was a couple of dozen of themunder me, jumping up at the ladder and snarling and snapping at eachother; and so we went skimming along over the sand, and these fellersdoing what they could to help us to not forgit the occasion; and thensome other beasts come, without an invite, and they started a regularriot down there.

We see this plan was a mistake. We couldn't ever git away from them atthis gait, and I couldn't hold on forever. So Tom took a think, andstruck another idea. That was, to kill a lion with the pepper-boxrevolver, and then sail away while the others stopped to fight over thecarcass. So he stopped the balloon still, and done it, and then we sailedoff while the fuss was going on, and come down a quarter of a mile off,and they helped me aboard; but by the time we was out of reach again,that gang was on hand once more. And when they see we was really gone andthey couldn't get us, they sat down on their hams and looked up at us sokind of disappointed that it was as much as a person could do not to seeTHEIR side of the matter.

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