Tom Sawyer, Detective

by Mark Twain

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Chapter 8


IT warn't very cheerful at breakfast. Aunt Sally she looked old andtired and let the children snarl and fuss at one another and didn't seemto notice it was going on, which wasn't her usual style; me and Tom had aplenty to think about without talking; Benny she looked like she hadn'thad much sleep, and whenever she'd lift her head a little and steal alook towards her father you could see there was tears in her eyes; and asfor the old man, his things stayed on his plate and got cold without himknowing they was there, I reckon, for he was thinking and thinking allthe time, and never said a word and never et a bite.

By and by when it was stillest, that nigger's head was poked in at thedoor again, and he said his Marse Brace was getting powerful uneasy aboutMarse Jubiter, which hadn't come home yet, and would Marse Silas please--He was looking at Uncle Silas, and he stopped there, like the rest ofhis words was froze; for Uncle Silas he rose up shaky and steadiedhimself leaning his fingers on the table, and he was panting, and hiseyes was set on the nigger, and he kept swallowing, and put his otherhand up to his throat a couple of times, and at last he got his wordsstarted, and says:

"Does he--does he--think--WHAT does he think! Tell him--tell him--" Thenhe sunk down in his chair limp and weak, and says, so as you could hardlyhear him: "Go away--go away!"

The nigger looked scared and cleared out, and we all felt--well, I don'tknow how we felt, but it was awful, with the old man panting there, andhis eyes set and looking like a person that was dying. None of us couldbudge; but Benny she slid around soft, with her tears running down, andstood by his side, and nestled his old gray head up against her and begunto stroke it and pet it with her hands, and nodded to us to go away, andwe done it, going out very quiet, like the dead was there.

Me and Tom struck out for the woods mighty solemn, and saying howdifferent it was now to what it was last summer when we was here andeverything was so peaceful and happy and everybody thought so much ofUncle Silas, and he was so cheerful and simple-hearted and pudd'n-headedand good--and now look at him. If he hadn't lost his mind he wasn't muckshort of it. That was what we allowed.

It was a most lovely day now, and bright and sunshiny; and the furtherand further we went over the hills towards the prairie the lovelier andlovelier the trees and flowers got to be and the more it seemed strangeand somehow wrong that there had to be trouble in such a world as this.And then all of a sudden I catched my breath and grabbed Tom's arm, andall my livers and lungs and things fell down into my legs.

"There it is!" I says. We jumped back behind a bush shivering, and Tomsays:

"'Sh!--don't make a noise."

It was setting on a log right in the edge of a little prairie, thinking.I tried to get Tom to come away, but he wouldn't, and I dasn't budge bymyself. He said we mightn't ever get another chance to see one, and hewas going to look his fill at this one if he died for it. So I lookedtoo, though it give me the fan-tods to do it. Tom he HAD to talk, but hetalked low. He says:

"Poor Jakey, it's got all its things on, just as he said he would. NOWyou see what we wasn't certain about--its hair. It's not long now the wayit was: it's got it cropped close to its head, the way he said he would.Huck, I never see anything look any more naturaler than what It does."

"Nor I neither," I says; "I'd recognize it anywheres."

"So would I. It looks perfectly solid and genuwyne, just the way it donebefore it died."

So we kept a-gazing. Pretty soon Tom says:

"Huck, there's something mighty curious about this one, don't you know?IT oughtn't to be going around in the daytime."

"That's so, Tom--I never heard the like of it before."

"No, sir, they don't ever come out only at night--and then not tillafter twelve. There's something wrong about this one, now you mark mywords. I don't believe it's got any right to be around in the daytime.But don't it look natural! Jake was going to play deef and dumb here, sothe neighbors wouldn't know his voice. Do you reckon it would do that ifwe was to holler at it?"

"Lordy, Tom, don't talk so! If you was to holler at it I'd die in mytracks."

"Don't you worry, I ain't going to holler at it. Look, Huck, it'sa-scratching its head--don't you see?"

"Well, what of it?"

"Why, this. What's the sense of it scratching its head? There ain'tanything there to itch; its head is made out of fog or something likethat, and can't itch. A fog can't itch; any fool knows that."

"Well, then, if it don't itch and can't itch, what in the nation is itscratching it for? Ain't it just habit, don't you reckon?"

"No, sir, I don't. I ain't a bit satisfied about the way this one acts.I've a blame good notion it's a bogus one--I have, as sure as I'ma-sitting here. Because, if it--Huck!"

"Well, what's the matter now?"


"Why, Tom, it's so, sure! It's as solid as a cow. I sort of begin tothink--"

"Huck, it's biting off a chaw of tobacker! By George, THEY don'tchaw--they hain't got anything to chaw WITH. Huck!"

"I'm a-listening."

"It ain't a ghost at all. It's Jake Dunlap his own self!"

"Oh your granny!" I says.

"Huck Finn, did we find any corpse in the sycamores?"


"Or any sign of one?"


"Mighty good reason. Hadn't ever been any corpse there."

"Why, Tom, you know we heard--"

"Yes, we did--heard a howl or two. Does that prove anybody was killed?Course it don't. And we seen four men run, then this one come walking outand we took it for a ghost. No more ghost than you are. It was JakeDunlap his own self, and it's Jake Dunlap now. He's been and got hishair cropped, the way he said he would, and he's playing himself for astranger, just the same as he said he would. Ghost? Hum!--he's as soundas a nut."

Then I see it all, and how we had took too much for granted. I waspowerful glad he didn't get killed, and so was Tom, and we wondered whichhe would like the best--for us to never let on to know him, or how? Tomreckoned the best way would be to go and ask him. So he started; but Ikept a little behind, because I didn't know but it might be a ghost,after all. When Tom got to where he was, he says:

"Me and Huck's mighty glad to see you again, and you needn't be afearedwe'll tell. And if you think it'll be safer for you if we don't let onto know you when we run across you, say the word and you'll see you candepend on us, and would ruther cut our hands off than get you into theleast little bit of danger."

First off he looked surprised to see us, and not very glad, either; butas Tom went on he looked pleasanter, and when he was done he smiled, andnodded his head several times, and made signs with his hands, and says:

"Goo-goo--goo-goo," the way deef and dummies does.

Just then we see some of Steve Nickerson's people coming that livedt'other side of the prairie, so Tom says:

"You do it elegant; I never see anybody do it better. You're right; playit on us, too; play it on us same as the others; it'll keep you inpractice and prevent you making blunders. We'll keep away from you andlet on we don't know you, but any time we can be any help, you just letus know."

Then we loafed along past the Nickersons, and of course they asked ifthat was the new stranger yonder, and where'd he come from, and what washis name, and which communion was he, Babtis' or Methodis', and whichpolitics, Whig or Democrat, and how long is he staying, and all themother questions that humans always asks when a stranger comes, andanimals does, too. But Tom said he warn't able to make anything out ofdeef and dumb signs, and the same with goo-gooing. Then we watched themgo and bullyrag Jake; because we was pretty uneasy for him. Tom said itwould take him days to get so he wouldn't forget he was a deef and dummysometimes, and speak out before he thought. When we had watched longenough to see that Jake was getting along all right and working his signsvery good, we loafed along again, allowing to strike the schoolhouseabout recess time, which was a three-mile tramp.

I was so disappointed not to hear Jake tell about the row in thesycamores, and how near he come to getting killed, that I couldn't seemto get over it, and Tom he felt the same, but said if we was in Jake'sfix we would want to go careful and keep still and not take any chances.

The boys and girls was all glad to see us again, and we had a real goodtime all through recess. Coming to school the Henderson boys had comeacross the new deef and dummy and told the rest; so all the scholars waschuck full of him and couldn't talk about anything else, and was in asweat to get a sight of him because they hadn't ever seen a deef anddummy in their lives, and it made a powerful excitement.

Tom said it was tough to have to keep mum now; said we would be heroes ifwe could come out and tell all we knowed; but after all, it was stillmore heroic to keep mum, there warn't two boys in a million could do it.That was Tom Sawyer's idea about it, and reckoned there warn't anybodycould better it.

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