We went tiptoeing along a path
amongst the trees back towards the end of the widow’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.
We scrouched down and laid still. Miss Watson’s
big nigger, named Jim, was setting in the kitchen
door; we could see him pretty clear, because there
was a light behind him. He got up and stretched
his neck out about a minute, listening. Then
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 that there warn’t a sound, and we
all there so close together. There was a place
on my ankle that got to itching, but I dasn’t
scratch it; and then my ear begun to itch; and next
my back, right between my shoulders. Seemed
like I’d die if I couldn’t scratch.
Well, I’ve noticed that thing plenty times
since. If you are with the quality, or at a
funeral, or trying to go to sleep when you ain’t
sleepy if you are anywheres where it won’t
do for you to scratch, why you will itch all over
in upwards of a thousand places. Pretty soon Jim
“Say, who is you? Whar
is you? Dog my cats ef I didn’ hear sumf’n.
Well, I know what I’s gwyne to do: I’s
gwyne to set down here and listen tell I hears it
So he set down on the ground betwixt
me and Tom. He leaned his back up against a
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 I dasn’t scratch. Then it begun to
itch on the inside. Next I got to itching underneath.
I didn’t know how I was going to set still.
This miserableness went on as much as six or seven
minutes; but it seemed a sight longer than that.
I was itching in eleven different places now.
I reckoned I couldn’t stand 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 was pretty
soon comfortable again.
Tom he made a sign to me kind
of a little noise with his mouth and we
went creeping away on our hands and knees. When
we was ten foot off Tom whispered to me, and wanted
to tie Jim to the tree for fun. But I said no;
he might wake and make a disturbance, and then they’d
find out I warn’t in. Then Tom said he
hadn’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 to resk it; so we slid in
there and got three candles, and Tom laid five cents
on the table for pay. Then we got out, and I
was in a sweat to get away; but nothing would do Tom
but he must crawl to where Jim was, on his hands and
knees, and play something on him. I waited,
and it seemed a good while, everything was so still
As soon as Tom was back we cut along
the path, around the garden fence, and by and 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 over him,
and Jim stirred a little, but he didn’t wake.
Afterwards Jim said the witches be witched him and
put him in a trance, and rode him all over the State,
and then set him under the trees again, and hung his
hat on a limb to show who done it. And next time
Jim told it he said they rode him down to New Orleans;
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 to death, and
his back was all over saddle-boils. Jim was
monstrous proud about it, and he got so he wouldn’t
hardly notice the other niggers. Niggers would
come miles to hear Jim tell about it, and he was more
looked up to than any nigger in that country.
Strange niggers would stand with their mouths open
and look him all over, same as if he was a wonder.
Niggers is always talking about witches in the dark
by the kitchen fire; but whenever one was talking
and letting 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 a back seat. Jim always kept
that five-center piece round his neck with a string,
and said it was a charm the devil give to him with
his own hands, and told him he could cure anybody with
it and fetch witches whenever he wanted to just 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, just for
a sight of that five-center piece; but they wouldn’t
touch it, because the devil had had his hands on it.
Jim was most ruined for a servant, because he got
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 into the village
and could see three or four lights twinkling, where
there was sick folks, maybe; and the stars over us
was sparkling ever so fine; and down by the village
was the river, a whole mile broad, and awful still
and grand. We went down the hill and found Jo
Harper and Ben Rogers, and two or three more of the
boys, hid in the old tanyard. So we unhitched
a skiff and pulled down the river two mile and a half,
to the big scar on the hillside, and went ashore.
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 the bushes. Then we lit the candles,
and crawled in on our hands and knees. We went
about two hundred yards, and then the cave opened up.
Tom poked about amongst the passages, and pretty soon
ducked under a wall where you wouldn’t a noticed
that there was a hole. We went along a narrow
place and got into a kind 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 in blood.”
Everybody was willing. So Tom
got out a sheet of paper that he had wrote the oath
on, and read it. It swore every boy to stick
to the band, and never tell any 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, and he mustn’t eat and he mustn’t
sleep till he had killed them and hacked a cross in
their breasts, which was the sign of the band.
And nobody that didn’t belong to the band could
use that mark, and if he did he must be sued; and
if he done it again he must be killed. And if
anybody that belonged to the band told the secrets,
he must have his throat cut, and then have his carcass
burnt up and the ashes scattered all around, and his
name blotted off of the list with blood and never
mentioned again by the gang, but have a curse put on
it and be forgot forever.
Everybody said it was a real beautiful
oath, and asked Tom if he got it out of his own head.
He said, some of it, but the rest was out of pirate-books
and robber-books, and every gang that was high-toned
Some thought it would be good to kill
the families of boys that told the secrets.
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
“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 to lay drunk with the hogs in the tanyard,
but he hain’t been seen in these parts for a
year or more.”
They talked it over, and they was
going to rule me out, because they said every boy
must have a family or somebody to kill, or else it
wouldn’t be fair and square for the others.
Well, nobody could think of anything to do everybody
was stumped, and set still. I was most ready
to cry; but all at once I thought of a way, and so
I offered them Miss Watson they could kill
her. 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 I made my mark
on the paper.
“Now,” says Ben Rogers,
“what’s the line of business of this Gang?”
“Nothing only robbery and murder,” Tom
“But who are we going to rob? houses,
or cattle, or ”
“Stuff! stealing cattle and
such things ain’t robbery; it’s burglary,”
says Tom Sawyer. “We ain’t burglars.
That ain’t no sort of style. We are highwaymen.
We stop stages and carriages on the road, with masks
on, and kill the people and take their watches and
“Must we always kill the people?”
“Oh, certainly. It’s
best. Some authorities think different, but mostly
it’s considered best to kill them except
some that you bring to the cave here, and keep 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 of course 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? Do you want to go to doing different
from what’s in the books, and get things all
“Oh, that’s all very fine
to say, Tom Sawyer, but how in the nation are
these fellows going to be ransomed if we don’t
know how to do it to them? that’s
the 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, it means that we keep them till they’re
“Now, that’s something
like. That’ll answer. Why couldn’t
you said that before? We’ll keep them
till they’re ransomed to death; and a bothersome
lot they’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
over them, ready to shoot them down if they move a
“A guard! Well, that is
good. So somebody’s got to set up all night
and never get any sleep, just so as to watch them.
I think that’s foolishness. Why can’t
a body take a club and ransom them as soon as they
“Because it ain’t in the
books so that’s why. Now, Ben
Rogers, do you want to do things regular, or don’t
you? that’s the idea. Don’t
you reckon that the people that made the books knows
what’s the correct thing to do? Do you
reckon you can learn ’em anything?
Not by a good deal. No, sir, we’ll just
go on and ransom them in the regular way.”
“All right. I don’t
mind; but I say it’s a fool way, anyhow.
Say, do we kill the women, too?”
“Well, Ben Rogers, if I was
as ignorant as you I wouldn’t let on. Kill
the women? No; nobody ever saw anything in the
books like that. You fetch them to the cave,
and you’re always as polite as pie to them; and
by and by they fall in 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. Mighty soon we’ll have the cave so
cluttered up with women, and fellows waiting to be
ransomed, that there won’t be no place for the
robbers. But go ahead, I ain’t got nothing
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 a robber 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 him five 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 to begin
next Sunday; but all the boys said it would be wicked
to do it on Sunday, and that settled the thing.
They agreed to get together and fix a day as soon
as they could, and then we elected Tom Sawyer first
captain and Jo Harper second captain of the Gang, and
so started home.
I clumb up the shed and crept into
my window just before day was breaking. My new
clothes was all greased up and clayey, and I was dog-tired.