WE went tiptoeing along a path amongst the trees back towards the end of th_idow's garden, stooping down so as the branches wouldn't scrape our heads.
When we was passing by the kitchen I fell over a root and made a noise. W_crouched down and laid still. Miss Watson's big nigger, named Jim, wa_etting in the kitchen door; we could see him pretty clear, because there wa_ light behind him. He got up and stretched his neck out about a minute, listening. Then he says:
He listened some more; then he come tiptoeing down and stood right between us; we could a touched him, nearly. Well, likely it was minutes and minutes tha_here warn't a sound, and we all there so close together. There was a place o_y ankle that got to itching, but I dasn't scratch it; and then my ear begu_o itch; and next my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed like I'd die i_ couldn't scratch. Well, I've noticed that thing plenty times since. If yo_re with the quality, or at a funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain'_leepy—if you are anywheres where it won't do for you to scratch, why you wil_tch all over 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, _now what I's gwyne to do: I's gwyne to set down here and listen tell I hear_t agin."
So he set down on the ground betwixt me and Tom. He leaned his back up agains_ tree, and stretched his legs out till one of them most touched one of mine.
My nose begun to itch. It itched till the tears come into my eyes. But _asn't scratch. Then it begun to itch on the inside. Next I got to itchin_nderneath. I didn't know how I was going to set still. This miserablenes_ent on as much as six or seven minutes; but it seemed a sight longer tha_hat. I was itching in eleven different places now. I reckoned I couldn'_tand it more'n a minute longer, but I set my teeth hard and got ready to try.
Just then Jim begun to breathe heavy; next he begun to snore—and then I wa_retty soon comfortable again.
Tom he made a sign to me—kind of a little noise with his mouth—and we wen_reeping away on our hands and knees. When we was ten foot off Tom whispere_o me, and wanted to tie Jim to the tree for fun. But I said no; he might wak_nd make a disturbance, and then they'd find out I warn't in. Then Tom said h_adn't got candles enough, and he would slip in the kitchen and get some more.
I didn't want him to try. I said Jim might wake up and come. But Tom wanted t_esk it; so we slid in there and got three candles, and Tom laid five cents o_he table for pay. Then we got out, and I was in a sweat to get away; bu_othing would do Tom but he must crawl to where Jim was, on his hands an_nees, and play something on him. I waited, and it seemed a good while, everything was so still and lonesome.
As soon as Tom was back we cut along the path, around the garden fence, and b_nd by fetched up on the steep top of the hill the other side of the house.
Tom said he slipped Jim's hat off of his head and hung it on a limb right ove_im, and Jim stirred a little, but he didn't wake. Afterwards Jim said th_itches be witched him and put him in a trance, and rode him all over th_tate, and then set him under the trees again, and hung his hat on a limb t_how who done it. And next time Jim told it he said they rode him down to Ne_rleans; and, after that, every time he told it he spread it more and more, till by and by he said they rode him all over the world, and tired him most t_eath, and his back was all over saddle-boils. Jim was monstrous proud abou_t, and he got so he wouldn't hardly notice the other niggers. Niggers woul_ome miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was more looked up to than an_igger in that country. Strange niggers would stand with their mouths open an_ook him all over, same as if he was a wonder. Niggers is always talking abou_itches in the dark by the kitchen fire; but whenever one was talking an_etting on to know all about such things, Jim would happen in and say, "Hm!
What you know 'bout witches?" and that nigger was corked up and had to take _ack seat. Jim always kept that five-center piece round his neck with _tring, and said it was a charm the devil give to him with his own hands, an_old him he could cure anybody with it and fetch witches whenever he wanted t_ust by saying something to it; but he never told what it was he said to it.
Niggers would come from all around there and give Jim anything they had, jus_or a sight of that five-center piece; but they wouldn't touch it, because th_evil had had his hands on it. Jim was most ruined for a servant, because h_ot stuck up 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 down int_he village and could see three or four lights twinkling, where there was sic_olks, maybe; and the stars over us was sparkling ever so fine; and down b_he village was the river, a whole mile broad, and awful still and grand. W_ent down the hill and found Jo Harper and Ben Rogers, and two or three mor_f the boys, hid in the old tanyard. So we unhitched a skiff and pulled dow_he river two mile and a half, to the big scar on the hillside, and wen_shore.
We went to a clump of bushes, and Tom made everybody swear to keep the secret, and then showed them a hole in the hill, right in the thickest part of th_ushes. Then we lit the candles, and crawled in on our hands and knees. W_ent about two hundred yards, and then the cave opened up. Tom poked abou_mongst the passages, and pretty soon ducked under a wall where you wouldn't _oticed that there was a hole. We went along a narrow place and got into _ind 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 name i_lood."
Everybody was willing. So Tom got out a sheet of paper that he had wrote th_ath on, and read it. It swore every boy to stick to the band, and never tel_ny of the secrets; and if anybody done anything to any boy in the band, whichever boy was ordered to kill that person and his family must do it, an_e mustn't eat and he mustn't sleep till he had killed them and hacked a cros_n their breasts, which was the sign of the band. And nobody that didn'_elong to the band could use that mark, and if he did he must be sued; and i_e done it again he must be killed. And if anybody that belonged to the ban_old the secrets, he must have his throat cut, and then have his carcass burn_p and the ashes scattered all around, and his name blotted off of the lis_ith blood and never mentioned again by the gang, but have a curse put on i_nd be forgot forever.
Everybody said it was a real beautiful oath, and asked Tom if he got it out o_is own head. He said, some of it, but the rest was out of pirate-books an_obber-books, and every gang that was high-toned had it.
Some thought it would be good to kill the FAMILIES of boys that told th_ecrets. Tom said it was a good idea, so he took a pencil and wrote it in.
Then Ben Rogers says:
"Here's Huck Finn, he hain't got no family; what you going to do 'bout him?"
"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. He used t_ay drunk with the hogs in the tanyard, but he hain't been seen in these part_or a year or more."
They talked it over, and they was going to rule me out, because they sai_very boy must have a family or somebody to kill, or else it wouldn't be fai_nd square for the others. Well, nobody could think of anything t_o—everybody was stumped, and set still. I was most ready to cry; but all a_nce I thought of a way, and so I offered them Miss Watson—they could kil_er. 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, and _ade 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," say_om Sawyer. "We ain't burglars. That ain't no sort of style. We ar_ighwaymen. We stop stages and carriages on the road, with masks on, and kil_he people and take their watches and money."
"Must we always kill the people?"
"Oh, certainly. It's best. Some authorities think different, but mostly it'_onsidered best to kill them—except some that you bring to the cave here, an_eep 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 so o_ourse 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 the books? D_ou want to go to doing different from what's in the books, and get things al_uddled up?"
"Oh, that's all very fine to SAY, Tom Sawyer, but how in the nation are thes_ellows going to be ransomed if we don't know how to do it to them? —that'_he 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, i_eans that we keep them till they're dead."
"Now, that's something LIKE. That'll answer. Why couldn't you said tha_efore? We'll keep them till they're ransomed to death; and a bothersome lo_hey'll be, too—eating up everything, and always trying to get loose."
"How you talk, Ben Rogers. How can they get loose when there's a guard ove_hem, 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 and neve_et any sleep, just so as to watch them. I think that's foolishness. Why can'_ body take a club and ransom them as soon as they get here?"
"Because it ain't in the books so—that's why. Now, Ben Rogers, do you want t_o things regular, or don't you?—that's the idea. Don't you reckon that th_eople that made the books knows what's the correct thing to do? Do you recko_OU can learn 'em anything? Not by a good deal. No, sir, we'll just go on an_ansom them in the regular way."
"All right. I don't mind; but I say it's a fool way, anyhow. Say, do we kil_he women, too?"
"Well, Ben Rogers, if I was as ignorant as you I wouldn't let on. Kill th_omen? No; nobody ever saw anything in the books like that. You fetch them t_he cave, and you're always as polite as pie to them; and by and by they fal_n love with you, and never want to go home any more."
"Well, if that's the way I'm agreed, but I don't take no stock in it. Might_oon we'll have the cave so cluttered up with women, and fellows waiting to b_ansomed, that there won't be no place for the robbers. But go ahead, I ain'_ot nothing to say."
Little Tommy Barnes was asleep now, and when they waked him up he was scared, and cried, and said he wanted to go home to his ma, and didn't want to be _obber any more.
So they all made fun of him, and called him cry-baby, and that made him mad, and he said he would go straight and tell all the secrets. But Tom give hi_ive cents to keep quiet, and said we would all go home and meet next week, and rob somebody and kill some people.
Ben Rogers said he couldn't get out much, only Sundays, and so he wanted t_egin next Sunday; but all the boys said it would be wicked to do it o_unday, and that settled the thing. They agreed to get together and fix a da_s soon as they could, and then we elected Tom Sawyer first captain and J_arper second captain of the Gang, and so started home.
I clumb up the shed and crept into my window just before day was breaking. M_ew clothes was all greased up and clayey, and I was dog- tired.