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Chapter I. TOM SEEKS NEW ADVENTURES
 
 DO  you  reckon  Tom  Sawyer was satisfied after all them adventures? I
mean the adventures we had down the river, and the time we set the darky
Jim free and Tom got shot in the leg. No, he wasn't. It only just p'isoned
him for more. That was all the effect it had. You see, when we three came
back up the river in glory, as you may say, from that long travel, and the
village received us with a torchlight procession and speeches, and
everybody hurrah'd and shouted, it made us heroes, and that was what Tom
Sawyer had always been hankering to be.
For a while he WAS satisfied. Everybody made much of him, and he tilted
up his nose and stepped around the town as though he owned it. Some called
him Tom Sawyer the Traveler, and that just swelled him up fit to bust. You
see he laid over me and Jim considerable, because we only went down the
river on a raft and came back by the steamboat, but Tom went by the
steamboat both ways. The boys envied me and Jim a good deal, but land!
they just knuckled to the dirt before TOM.
Well, I don't know; maybe he might have been satisfied if it hadn't
been for old Nat Parsons, which was postmaster, and powerful long and
slim, and kind o' good-hearted and silly, and bald-headed, on account of
his age, and about the talkiest old cretur I ever see. For as much as
thirty years he'd been the only man in the village that had a reputation-I
mean a reputation for being a traveler, and of course he was mortal proud
of it, and it was reckoned that in the course of that thirty years he had
told about that journey over a million times and enjoyed it every time.
And now comes along a boy not quite fifteen, and sets everybody admiring
and gawking over HIS travels, and it just give the poor old man the high
strikes. It made him sick to listen to Tom, and to hear the people say "My
land!" "Did you ever!" "My goodness sakes alive!" and all such things; but
he couldn't pull away from it, any more than a fly that's got its hind leg
fast in the molasses. And always when Tom come to a rest, the poor old
cretur would chip in on HIS same old travels and work them for all they
were worth; but they were pretty faded, and didn't go for much, and it was
pitiful to see. And then Tom would take another innings, and then the old
man again-and so on, and so on, for an hour and more, each trying to beat
out the other.
You see, Parsons' travels happened like this: When he first got to be
postmaster and was green in the business, there come a letter for somebody
he didn't know, and there wasn't any such person in the village. Well, he
didn't know what to do, nor how to act, and there the letter stayed and
stayed, week in and week out, till the bare sight of it gave him a
conniption. The postage wasn't paid on it, and that was another thing to
worry about. There wasn't any way to collect that ten cents, and he
reckon'd the gov'ment would hold him responsible for it and maybe turn him
out besides, when they found he hadn't collected it. Well, at last he
couldn't stand it any longer. He couldn't sleep nights, he couldn't eat,
he was thinned down to a shadder, yet he da'sn't ask anybody's advice, for
the very person he asked for advice might go back on him and let the
gov'ment know about the letter. He had the letter buried under the floor,
but that did no good; if he happened to see a person standing over the
place it'd give him the cold shivers, and loaded him up with suspicions,
and he would sit up that night till the town was still and dark, and then
he would sneak there and get it out and bury it in another place. Of
course, people got to avoiding him and shaking their heads and whispering,
because, the way he was looking and acting, they judged he had killed
somebody or done something terrible, they didn't know what, and if he had
been a stranger they would've lynched him.
Well, as I was saying, it got so he couldn't stand it any longer; so he
made up his mind to pull out for Washington, and just go to the President
of the United States and make a clean breast of the whole thing, not
keeping back an atom, and then fetch the letter out and lay it before the
whole gov'ment, and say, "Now, there she is-do with me what you're a mind
to; though as heaven is my judge I am an innocent man and not deserving of
the full penalties of the law and leaving behind me a family that must
starve and yet hadn't had a thing to do with it, which is the whole truth
and I can swear to it."
So he did it. He had a little wee bit of steamboating, and some
stage-coaching, but all the rest of the way was horseback, and it took him
three weeks to get to Washington. He saw lots of land and lots of villages
and four cities. He was gone 'most eight weeks, and there never was such a
proud man in the village as he when he got back. His travels made him the
greatest man in all that region, and the most talked about; and people
come from as much as thirty miles back in the country, and from over in
the Illinois bottoms, too, just to look at him-and there they'd stand and
gawk, and he'd gabble. You never see anything like it.
Well, there wasn't any way now to settle which was the greatest
traveler; some said it was Nat, some said it was Tom. Everybody allowed
that Nat had seen the most longitude, but they had to give in that
whatever Tom was short in longitude he had made up in latitude and
climate. It was about a stand-off; so both of them had to whoop up their
dangerous adventures, and try to get ahead THAT way. That bullet-wound in
Tom's leg was a tough thing for Nat Parsons to buck against, but he bucked
the best he could; and at a disadvantage, too, for Tom didn't set still as
he'd orter done, to be fair, but always got up and sauntered around and
worked his limp while Nat was painting up the adventure that HE had in
Washington; for Tom never let go that limp when his leg got well, but
practiced it nights at home, and kept it good as new right along.
Nat's adventure was like this; I don't know how true it is; maybe he
got it out of a paper, or somewhere, but I will say this for him, that he
DID know how to tell it. He could make anybody's flesh crawl, and he'd
turn pale and hold his breath when he told it, and sometimes women and
girls got so faint they couldn't stick it out. Well, it was this way, as
near as I can remember:
He come a-loping into Washington, and put up his horse and shoved out
to the President's house with his letter, and they told him the President
was up to the Capitol, and just going to start for Philadelphia-not a
minute to lose if he wanted to catch him. Nat 'most dropped, it made him
so sick. His horse was put up, and he didn't know what to do. But just
then along comes a darky driving an old ramshackly hack, and he see his
chance. He rushes out and shouts: "A half a dollar if you git me to the
Capitol in half an hour, and a quarter extra if you do it in twenty
minutes!"
"Done!" says the darky.
Nat he jumped in and slammed the door, and away they went a-ripping and
a-tearing over the roughest road a body ever see, and the racket of it was
something awful. Nat passed his arms through the loops and hung on for
life and death, but pretty soon the hack hit a rock and flew up in the
air, and the bottom fell out, and when it come down Nat's feet was on the
ground, and he see he was in the most desperate danger if he couldn't keep
up with the hack. He was horrible scared, but he laid into his work for
all he was worth, and hung tight to the arm-loops and made his legs fairly
fly. He yelled and shouted to the driver to stop, and so did the crowds
along the street, for they could see his legs spinning along under the
coach, and his head and shoulders bobbing inside through the windows, and
he was in awful danger; but the more they all shouted the more the nigger
whooped and yelled and lashed the horses and shouted, "Don't you fret,
I'se gwine to git you dah in time, boss; I's gwine to do it, sho'!" for
you see he thought they were all hurrying him up, and, of course, he
couldn't hear anything for the racket he was making. And so they went
ripping along, and everybody just petrified to see it; and when they got
to the Capitol at last it was the quickest trip that ever was made, and
everybody said so. The horses laid down, and Nat dropped, all tuckered
out, and he was all dust and rags and barefooted; but he was in time and
just in time, and caught the President and give him the letter, and
everything was all right, and the President give him a free pardon on the
spot, and Nat give the nigger two extra quarters instead of one, because
he could see that if he hadn't had the hack he wouldn't'a' got there in
time, nor anywhere near it.
It WAS a powerful good adventure, and Tom Sawyer had to work his
bullet-wound mighty lively to hold his own against it.
Well, by and by Tom's glory got to paling down gradu'ly, on account of
other things turning up for the people to talk about-first a horse-race,
and on top of that a house afire, and on top of that the circus, and on
top of that the eclipse; and that started a revival, same as it always
does, and by that time there wasn't any more talk about Tom, so to speak,
and you never see a person so sick and disgusted.
Pretty soon he got to worrying and fretting right along day in and day
out, and when I asked him what WAS he in such a state about, he said it
'most broke his heart to think how time was slipping away, and him getting
older and older, and no wars breaking out and no way of making a name for
himself that he could see. Now that is the way boys is always thinking,
but he was the first one I ever heard come out and say it.
So then he set to work to get up a plan to make him celebrated; and
pretty soon he struck it, and offered to take me and Jim in. Tom Sawyer
was always free and generous that way. There's a-plenty of boys that's
mighty good and friendly when YOU'VE got a good thing, but when a good
thing happens to come their way they don't say a word to you, and try to
hog it all. That warn't ever Tom Sawyer's way, I can say that for him.
There's plenty of boys that will come hankering and groveling around you
when you've got an apple and beg the core off of you; but when they've got
one, and you beg for the core and remind them how you give them a core one
time, they say thank you 'most to death, but there ain't a-going to be no
core. But I notice they always git come up with; all you got to do is to
wait.
Well, we went out in the woods on the hill, and Tom told us what it
was. It was a crusade.
"What's a crusade?" I says.
He looked scornful, the way he's always done when he was ashamed of a
person, and says:
"Huck Finn, do you mean to tell me you don't know what a crusade is?"
"No," says I, "I don't. And I don't care to, nuther. I've lived till
now and done without it, and had my health, too. But as soon as you tell
me, I'll know, and that's soon enough. I don't see any use in finding out
things and clogging up my head with them when I mayn't ever have any
occasion to use 'em. There was Lance Williams, he learned how to talk
Choctaw here till one come and dug his grave for him. Now, then, what's a
crusade? But I can tell you one thing before you begin; if it's a
patent-right, there's no money in it. Bill Thompson he-"
"Patent-right!" says he. "I never see such an idiot. Why, a crusade is
a kind of war."
I thought he must be losing his mind. But no, he was in real earnest,
and went right on, perfectly ca'm.
"A crusade is a war to recover the Holy Land from the paynim."
"Which Holy Land?"
"Why, the Holy Land-there ain't but one."
"What do we want of it?"
"Why, can't you understand? It's in the hands of the paynim, and it's
our duty to take it away from them."
"How did we come to let them git hold of it?"
"We didn't come to let them git hold of it. They always had it."
"Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, don't it?"
"Why of course it does. Who said it didn't?"
I studied over it, but couldn't seem to git at the right of it, no way.
I says:
"It's too many for me, Tom Sawyer. If I had a farm and it was mine, and
another person wanted it, would it be right for him to-"
"Oh, shucks! you don't know enough to come in when it rains, Huck Finn.
It ain't a farm, it's entirely different. You see, it's like this. They
own the land, just the mere land, and that's all they DO own; but it was
our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven't
any business to be there defiling it. It's a shame, and we ought not to
stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from
them."
"Why, it does seem to me it's the most mixed-up thing I ever see! Now,
if I had a farm and another person-"
"Don't I tell you it hasn't got anything to do with farming? Farming is
business, just common low-down business: that's all it is, it's all you
can say for it; but this is higher, this is religious, and totally
different."
"Religious to go and take the land away from people that owns it?"
"Certainly; it's always been considered so."
Jim he shook his head, and says:
"Mars Tom, I reckon dey's a mistake about it somers-dey mos' sholy is.
I's religious myself, en I knows plenty religious people, but I hain't run
across none dat acts like dat."
It made Tom hot, and he says:
"Well, it's enough to make a body sick, such mullet-headed ignorance!
If either of you'd read anything about history, you'd know that Richard
Cur de Loon, and the Pope, and Godfrey de Bulleyn, and lots more of the
most noble-hearted and pious people in the world, hacked and hammered at
the paynims for more than two hundred years trying to take their land away
from them, and swum neck-deep in blood the whole time-and yet here's a
couple of sap-headed country yahoos out in the backwoods of Missouri
setting themselves up to know more about the rights and wrongs of it than
they did! Talk about cheek!"
Well, of course, that put a more different light on it, and me and Jim
felt pretty cheap and ignorant, and wished we hadn't been quite so
chipper. I couldn't say nothing, and Jim he couldn't for a while; then he
says:
"Well, den, I reckon it's all right; beca'se ef dey didn't know, dey
ain't no use for po' ignorant folks like us to be trying to know; en so,
ef it's our duty, we got to go en tackle it en do de bes' we can. Same
time, I feel as sorry for dem paynims as Mars Tom. De hard part gwine to
be to kill folks dat a body hain't been 'quainted wid and dat hain't done
him no harm. Dat's it, you see. Ef we wuz to go 'mongst 'em, jist we
three, en say we's hungry, en ast 'em for a bite to eat, why, maybe dey's
jist like yuther people. Don't you reckon dey is? Why, DEY'D give it, I
know dey would, en den-"
"Then what?"
"Well, Mars Tom, my idea is like dis. It ain't no use, we CAN'T kill
dem po' strangers dat ain't doin' us no harm, till we've had practice-I
knows it perfectly well, Mars Tom-'deed I knows it perfectly well. But ef
we takes a' axe or two, jist you en me en Huck, en slips acrost de river
to-night arter de moon's gone down, en kills dat sick fam'ly dat's over on
the Sny, en burns dey house down, en-"
"Oh, you make me tired!" says Tom. "I don't want to argue any more with
people like you and Huck Finn, that's always wandering from the subject,
and ain't got any more sense than to try to reason out a thing that's pure
theology by the laws that protect real estate!"
Now that's just where Tom Sawyer warn't fair. Jim didn't mean no harm,
and I didn't mean no harm. We knowed well enough that he was right and we
was wrong, and all we was after was to get at the HOW of it, and that was
all; and the only reason he couldn't explain it so we could understand it
was because we was ignorant-yes, and pretty dull, too, I ain't denying
that; but, land! that ain't no crime, I should think.
But he wouldn't hear no more about it-just said if we had tackled the
thing in the proper spirit, he would 'a' raised a couple of thousand
knights and put them in steel armor from head to heel, and made me a
lieutenant and Jim a sutler, and took the command himself and brushed the
whole paynim outfit into the sea like flies and come back across the world
in a glory like sunset. But he said we didn't know enough to take the
chance when we had it, and he wouldn't ever offer it again. And he didn't.
When he once got set, you couldn't budge him.
But I didn't care much. I am peaceable, and don't get up rows with
people that ain't doing nothing to me. I allowed if the paynim was
satisfied I was, and we would let it stand at that.
Now Tom he got all that notion out of Walter Scott's book, which he was
always reading. And it WAS a wild notion, because in my opinion he never
could've raised the men, and if he did, as like as not he would've got
licked. I took the book and read all about it, and as near as I could make
it out, most of the folks that shook farming to go crusading had a mighty
rocky time of it.