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Chapter 14

  • When Tom awoke in the morning, he wondered where he was. He sat up and rubbe_is eyes and looked around. Then he comprehended. It was the cool gray dawn,
  • and there was a delicious sense of repose and peace in the deep pervading cal_nd silence of the woods. Not a leaf stirred; not a sound obtruded upon grea_ature's meditation. Beaded dewdrops stood upon the leaves and grasses. _hite layer of ashes covered the fire, and a thin blue breath of smoke ros_traight into the air. Joe and Huck still slept.
  • Now, far away in the woods a bird called; another answered; presently th_ammering of a woodpecker was heard. Gradually the cool dim gray of th_orning whitened, and as gradually sounds multiplied and life manifeste_tself. The marvel of Nature shaking off sleep and going to work unfolde_tself to the musing boy. A little green worm came crawling over a dewy leaf,
  • lifting two-thirds of his body into the air from time to time and "sniffin_round," then proceeding again — for he was measuring, Tom said; and when th_orm approached him, of its own accord, he sat as still as a stone, with hi_opes rising and falling, by turns, as the creature still came toward him o_eemed inclined to go elsewhere; and when at last it considered a painfu_oment with its curved body in the air and then came decisively down upo_om's leg and began a journey over him, his whole heart was glad — for tha_eant that he was going to have a new suit of clothes — without the shadow o_ doubt a gaudy piratical uniform. Now a procession of ants appeared, fro_owhere in particular, and went about their labors; one struggled manfully b_ith a dead spider five times as big as itself in its arms, and lugged i_traight up a tree-trunk. A brown spotted lady-bug climbed the dizzy height o_ grass blade, and Tom bent down close to it and said, "Lady-bug, lady-bug,
  • fly away home, your house is on fire, your children's alone," and she too_ing and went off to see about it — which did not surprise the boy, for h_new of old that this insect was credulous about conflagrations, and he ha_ractised upon its simplicity more than once. A tumblebug came next, heavin_turdily at its ball, and Tom touched the creature, to see it shut its leg_gainst its body and pretend to be dead. The birds were fairly rioting by thi_ime. A catbird, the Northern mocker, lit in a tree over Tom's head, an_rilled out her imitations of her neighbors in a rapture of enjoyment; then _hrill jay swept down, a flash of blue flame, and stopped on a twig almos_ithin the boy's reach, cocked his head to one side and eyed the stranger_ith a consuming curiosity; a gray squirrel and a big fellow of the "fox" kin_ame skurrying along, sitting up at intervals to inspect and chatter at th_oys, for the wild things had probably never seen a human being before an_carcely knew whether to be afraid or not. All Nature was wide awake an_tirring, now; long lances of sunlight pierced down through the dense foliag_ar and near, and a few butterflies came fluttering upon the scene.
  • Tom stirred up the other pirates and they all clattered away with a shout, an_n a minute or two were stripped and chasing after and tumbling over eac_ther in the shallow limpid water of the white sandbar. They felt no longin_or the little village sleeping in the distance beyond the majestic waste o_ater. A vagrant current or a slight rise in the river had carried off thei_aft, but this only gratified them, since its going was something like burnin_he bridge between them and civilization.
  • They came back to camp wonderfully refreshed, glad-hearted, and ravenous; an_hey soon had the camp-fire blazing up again. Huck found a spring of clea_old water close by, and the boys made cups of broad oak or hickory leaves,
  • and felt that water, sweetened with such a wildwood charm as that, would be _ood enough substitute for coffee. While Joe was slicing bacon for breakfast,
  • Tom and Huck asked him to hold on a minute; they stepped to a promising noo_n the river-bank and threw in their lines; almost immediately they ha_eward. Joe had not had time to get impatient before they were back again wit_ome handsome bass, a couple of sun-perch and a small catfish — provision_nough for quite a family. They fried the fish with the bacon, and wer_stonished; for no fish had ever seemed so delicious before. They did not kno_hat the quicker a fresh-water fish is on the fire after he is caught th_etter he is; and they reflected little upon what a sauce open-air sleeping,
  • open-air exercise, bathing, and a large ingredient of hunger make, too.
  • They lay around in the shade, after breakfast, while Huck had a smoke, an_hen went off through the woods on an exploring expedition. They tramped gayl_long, over decaying logs, through tangled underbrush, among solemn monarch_f the forest, hung from their crowns to the ground with a drooping regalia o_rape-vines. Now and then they came upon snug nooks carpeted with grass an_eweled with flowers.
  • They found plenty of things to be delighted with, but nothing to be astonishe_t. They discovered that the island was about three miles long and a quarte_f a mile wide, and that the shore it lay closest to was only separated fro_t by a narrow channel hardly two hundred yards wide. They took a swim abou_very hour, so it was close upon the middle of the afternoon when they go_ack to camp. They were too hungry to stop to fish, but they fared sumptuousl_pon cold ham, and then threw themselves down in the shade to talk. But th_alk soon began to drag, and then died. The stillness, the solemnity tha_rooded in the woods, and the sense of loneliness, began to tell upon th_pirits of the boys. They fell to thinking. A sort of undefined longing crep_pon them. This took dim shape, presently — it was budding homesickness. Eve_inn the Red-Handed was dreaming of his doorsteps and empty hogsheads. Bu_hey were all ashamed of their weakness, and none was brave enough to spea_is thought.
  • For some time, now, the boys had been dully conscious of a peculiar sound i_he distance, just as one sometimes is of the ticking of a clock which h_akes no distinct note of. But now this mysterious sound became mor_ronounced, and forced a recognition. The boys started, glanced at each other,
  • and then each assumed a listening attitude. There was a long silence, profoun_nd unbroken; then a deep, sullen boom came floating down out of the distance.
  • "What is it!" exclaimed Joe, under his breath.
  • "I wonder," said Tom in a whisper.
  • "'Tain't thunder," said Huckleberry, in an awed tone, "becuz thunder —"
  • "Hark!" said Tom. "Listen — don't talk."
  • They waited a time that seemed an age, and then the same muffled boom trouble_he solemn hush.
  • "Let's go and see."
  • They sprang to their feet and hurried to the shore toward the town. The_arted the bushes on the bank and peered out over the water. The little stea_erryboat was about a mile below the village, drifting with the current. He_road deck seemed crowded with people. There were a great many skiffs rowin_bout or floating with the stream in the neighborhood of the ferryboat, bu_he boys could not determine what the men in them were doing. Presently _reat jet of white smoke burst from the ferryboat's side, and as it expande_nd rose in a lazy cloud, that same dull throb of sound was borne to th_isteners again.
  • "I know now!" exclaimed Tom; "somebody's drownded!"
  • "That's it!" said Huck; "they done that last summer, when Bill Turner go_rownded; they shoot a cannon over the water, and that makes him come up t_he top. Yes, and they take loaves of bread and put quicksilver in 'em and set
  • 'em afloat, and wherever there's anybody that's drownded, they'll float righ_here and stop."
  • "Yes, I've heard about that," said Joe. "I wonder what makes the bread d_hat."
  • "Oh, it ain't the bread, so much," said Tom; "I reckon it's mostly what the_ay over it before they start it out."
  • "But they don't say anything over it," said Huck. "I've seen 'em and the_on't."
  • "Well, that's funny," said Tom. "But maybe they say it to themselves. O_ourse they do. Anybody might know that."
  • The other boys agreed that there was reason in what Tom said, because a_gnorant lump of bread, uninstructed by an incantation, could not be expecte_o act very intelligently when set upon an errand of such gravity.
  • "By jings, I wish I was over there, now," said Joe.
  • "I do too" said Huck "I'd give heaps to know who it is."
  • The boys still listened and watched. Presently a revealing thought flashe_hrough Tom's mind, and he exclaimed:
  • "Boys, I know who's drownded — it's us!"
  • They felt like heroes in an instant. Here was a gorgeous triumph; they wer_issed; they were mourned; hearts were breaking on their account; tears wer_eing shed; accusing memories of unkindness to these poor lost lads wer_ising up, and unavailing regrets and remorse were being indulged; and best o_ll, the departed were the talk of the whole town, and the envy of all th_oys, as far as this dazzling notoriety was concerned. This was fine. It wa_orth while to be a pirate, after all.
  • As twilight drew on, the ferryboat went back to her accustomed business an_he skiffs disappeared. The pirates returned to camp. They were jubilant wit_anity over their new grandeur and the illustrious trouble they were making.
  • They caught fish, cooked supper and ate it, and then fell to guessing at wha_he village was thinking and saying about them; and the pictures they drew o_he public distress on their account were gratifying to look upon — from thei_oint of view. But when the shadows of night closed them in, they graduall_eased to talk, and sat gazing into the fire, with their minds evidentl_andering elsewhere. The excitement was gone, now, and Tom and Joe could no_eep back thoughts of certain persons at home who were not enjoying this fin_rolic as much as they were. Misgivings came; they grew troubled and unhappy;
  • a sigh or two escaped, unawares. By and by Joe timidly ventured upon _oundabout "feeler" as to how the others might look upon a return t_ivilization — not right now, but —
  • Tom withered him with derision! Huck, being uncommitted as yet, joined in wit_om, and the waverer quickly "explained," and was glad to get out of th_crape with as little taint of chicken-hearted homesickness clinging to hi_arments as he could. Mutiny was effectually laid to rest for the moment.
  • As the night deepened, Huck began to nod, and presently to snore. Joe followe_ext. Tom lay upon his elbow motionless, for some time, watching the tw_ntently. At last he got up cautiously, on his knees, and went searching amon_he grass and the flickering reflections flung by the camp-fire. He picked u_nd inspected several large semi-cylinders of the thin white bark of _ycamore, and finally chose two which seemed to suit him. Then he knelt by th_ire and painfully wrote something upon each of these with his "red keel"; on_e rolled up and put in his jacket pocket, and the other he put in Joe's ha_nd removed it to a little distance from the owner. And he also put into th_at certain schoolboy treasures of almost inestimable value — among them _ump of chalk, an India-rubber ball, three fishhooks, and one of that kind o_arbles known as a "sure 'nough crystal." Then he tiptoed his way cautiousl_mong the trees till he felt that he was out of hearing, and straightway brok_nto a keen run in the direction of the sandbar.