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On the banks of the Mississippi, Tom Sawyer and his friends seek out adventure at every turn. Then one fateful night they witness a murder. The boys swear never to reveal the secret and run away to be pirates and search for hidden treasure. But when Tom gets trapped in a cave with the murderer, can he escape unharmed?
Mark Twain is the pseudonym of Samuel Langhorne Clemens (1835 -
1910). He was born and brought up in the American state of Missouri
and, because of his father's death, he left school to earn his living
when he was only twelve. He was a great adventurer and travelled round
America as a printer; prospected for gold and set off for South America
to earn his fortune. He returned to become a steam-boat pilot on the
Mississippi River, close to where he had grown up. The Civil War put an
end to steam-boating and Clemens briefly joined the Confederate army -
although the rest of his family were Unionists! He had already tried
his hand at newspaper reporting and now became a successful journalist.
He started to use the alias Mark Twain during the Civil War and it was
under this pen name that he became a famous travel writer. He took the
name from his steam-boat days - it was the river pilots' cry to let
their men know that the water was two fathoms deep.
Mark Twain was always nostalgic about his childhood and in 1876 The
Adventures of Tom Sawyer was published, based on his own
experiences. The book was soon recognised as a work of genius and eight
years later the sequel, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, was
published. The great writer Ernest Hemingway claimed that 'All modern
literature stems from this one book.'
Mark Twain was soon famous all over the world. He made a fortune
from writing and lost it on a typesetter he invented. He then made
another fortune and lost it on a bad investment. He was an impulsive,
hot-tempered man but was also quite sentimental and superstitious. He
was born when Halley's Comet was passing the Earth and always believed
he would die when it returned - this is exactly what happened.
'What's gone with that boy, I wonder? You Tom!'
The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them, about
the room; then she put them up and looked out under them. She seldom or
never looked through them for so small a thing as a boy, for
they were her state pair, the pride of her heart, and were built for
'style' not service; she could have seen through a pair of stove lids
as well. She looked perplexed a moment and said, not fiercely, but
still loud enough for the furniture to hear, 'Well, I lay if I get hold
of you, I'll -'
She did not finish, for by this time she was bending down and
punching under the bed with the broom -and so she needed breath to
punctuate the punches with. She resurrected nothing but the cat.
'I never did see the beat of that boy I'
She went to the open door and stood in it, and looked out among the
tomato vines and 'jimpson' weeds that constituted the garden. No
Tom. So she lifted up her voice, at an angle calculated for distance,
There was a slight noise behind her, and she turned just in time to
seize a small boy by the slack of his roundabout and arrest his flight.
'There! I might 'a thought of that closet. What you been doing in
'Nothing! Look at your hands, and look at your mouth. What is that
truck?' 'I don't know, Aunt! 'Well, I know. It's jam, that's what it
is. Forty times I've said if you didn't let that jam alone I'd skin
you. Hand me that switch.'
The switch hovered in the air. The peril was de.1perate.
'My! Look behind you, Aunt!'
The old lady whirled around and snatched her skirts out of danger,
and the lad fled, on the instant, scrambled up the high board fence,
and disappeared over it. His Aunt Polly stood surprised a moment, and
then broke into a gentle laugh.
'Hang the boy, can't I ever learn anything? Ain't he played me
tricks enough like that for me to be looking out for him by this time?
But old fools is the biggest fools there is. Can't learn any old dog
new tricks, as the saying is. But, my goodness, he never plays them
alike two days, and how is a body to know what's coming? He 'pears to
know just how long he can torment me before I get my dander up, and he
knows if he can make out to put me off for a minute, or make me laugh,
it's all down again, and I can't hit him a lick. I ain't doing my duty
by that boy, and that's the Lord's truth, goodness knows. Spare the rod
and spile the child, as the good book says. I'm a-laying up sin and
suffering for us both, I know. He's full of the old scratch,
but laws-a-me! he's my own dead sister's boy, poor thing, and I ain't
got the heart to lash him somehow. Every time I let him off my
conscience does hurt me so; and every time I hit him my oId heart 'most
breaks. Well-a-well, man that is born of a woman is of few days and
full of trouble, as the Scripture says, and I reckon it's so. He'll
play hookey this evening, and I'll just be obliged to make him work
tomorrow, to punish him. It's mighty hard to make him work Saturdays,
when all the boys is having a holiday, but he hates work more than he
hates anything else, and I've got to do some of my duty by him, or I'll
be the ruination of the child.'
Tom did play hookey, and he had a very good time. He got back home
barely in season to help Jim, the small coloured boy, saw next
day's wood, and split the kindlings before supper -at least he was
there in time to tell his adventures to Jim while Jim did
three-fourths of the work. Tom's younger brother (or rather
half-brother) Sid was already through with his part of the work
(picking up chips), for he was a quiet boy, and had no adventurous,
troublesome ways. While Tom was eating his supper and stealing sugar as
opportunity offered, Aunt Polly asked him questions that were full of
guile, and very deep -for she wanted to trap him into damaging
revealments. Like many other simple-hearted souls, it was her pet
vanity to believe she was endowed with a talent for dark and
mysterious diplomacy, and she loved to contemplate her most transparent
devices as marvels of low cunning. Said she, 'Tom, it was middling warm
in school, warn't it?'
'Powerful warm, warn't it?'
'Didn't you want to go in a swimming, Tom?'
A bit of a scare shot through Tom -a touch of uncomfortable
suspicion. He searched Aunt Polly's face, but it told him nothing. So
'No, 'm -well, not very much.'
The old lady reached out her hand and felt Tom's shirt, and said:
'But you ain't too warm now, though.' And it flattered her to reflect
that she had discovered that
the shirt was dry without anybody knowing that that was what she had
in her mind. But in spite of her Tom knew where the wind lay now. So he
forestalled what might be the next move.
'Some of us pumped on our heads -mine's damp yet. See?'
Aunt Polly was vexed to think she had overlooked that bit of
circumstantial evidence and missed a trick. Then she had a ne\v
'Tom, you didn't have to undo your shirt collar where I sewed it to
pump on your head, did you? Unbutton your jacket!'
The trouble vanished out of Tom's face. He opened his jacket. His
shirt collar was securely sewed.
'Bother! Well, go 'long with you. I made sure you'd played hookey
and been a swimming. But I forgive ye, Tom, I reckon you're a kind of a
singed cat, as the saying is better'n you look, this time.'
She was half sorry her sagacity had miscarried, and half glad that
Tom had stumbled into obedient conduct for once.
But Sidney said:
'Well, now, if I didn't think you sewed his collar with white
thread, but it's black.' 'Why, I did sew it with white! Toml' But Tom
did not wait for the rest. As he went out of the door, he said:
'Siddy, I'll lick you for that.'
In a safe place Tom examined two large needles which were thrust
into the lapels of his jacket -and had thread bound about them -one
needle carried white thread and the other black. He said:
'She'd never noticed ifit hadn't been for Sid. Confound it,
sometimes she sews it with white and sometimes she sews it with black.
I wish to geeminy she'd stick to one or t'other - I can't keep
the run of 'em. But I bet you I'll lam Sid for that. If I don't, blame
He was not the model boy of the village. He knew the model boy very
well, though, and loathed him.
Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his troubles.
Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and bitter to him
than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest bore
them down and drove them out of his mind for the time; just as men's
misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This
new interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just
acquired from a Negro, and he was suffering to practise it undisturbed.
It consisted in a peculiar bird-like tum, a sort of liquid warble,
produced by touching the tongue to the roof of the mouth at short
intervals in the midst of the music. The reader probably remembers how
to do it if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention soon gave
him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his mouth full
of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an
astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet. No doubt as far as
strong, deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was
with the boy, not the astronomer.
The summer evenings were long. It was not dark yet. Presently Tom
checked his whistle. A stranger was before him; a boy a shade larger
than himself. A new-comer of any age or either sex was an impressive
curiosity in the poor little village of 8t Petersburg. This boy was
well dressed, too -well dressed on a week-day. This was simply
astounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue
cloth roundabout was new and natty, and so were his
pantaloons. He had shoes on, and yet it was only Friday. He even
wore a neck-tie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about
him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid
marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery, and the
shabbier and shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy
spoke. If one moved the other moved -but only sidewise, in a circle.
They kept face to face and eye to eye all the time. Finally, Tom said:
'I can lick you!'
'I'd like to see you try it.'
'Well, I can do it.'
'No you can't, either.'
'Yes I can.'
'No you can't.'
An uncomfortable pause. Then Tom said:
'What's your name?'
'Tisn't any of your business, maybe.'
'Well, I 'low I'll make it my business.'
'Well, why don't you?'
'If you say much I will.'
'Much -much -much! There, now.'
'Oh, you think you're mighty smart, don't you? I could lick
you with one hand tied behind me, ifI wanted to.'
'Well, why don't you do it? You say you can do it.'
'Well, I will, if you fool with me.'
'Oh, yes -I've seen whole families in the same fix.'
'Smarty! you think you're some now, don't you?'
'Oh, what a hat!'
'You can lump that hat if you don't like it. I dare you to knock it
off; and anybody that'll take a dare will suck eggs.'
'You're a liar I'
'You're a fighting liar, and darn't take it up.'
'Aw-take a walk!'
'Say –if you give me much more of your sass, I'll take and bounce a
rock off'n your head.' 'Oh, of course you will.' 'Well, I will.'
'Well, why don't you do it, then? What do you keep
saying you will for? Why don't you do it? It's
because you're afraid.'
'I ain't afraid.'
Another pause, and more eyeing and sidling around each other.
Presently they were shoulder to shoulder. Tom said:
'Get away from here!'
'Get away yourself!'
'I won't, either.'
So they stood, each with a foot placed at an angle as a brace, and
both shoving with might and main, and glowering at each other with
hate. But neither could get an advantage. After struggling till
both were hot and flushed, each relaxed his strain with watchful
caution, and Tom said:
'You're a coward and a pup. I'll tell my big brother on you, and he
can lam you with his little finger, and I'll make him do it, too.'
'What do I care for your big brother? I've got a brother that's
bigger than he is; and, what's more, he can throw him over that fence,
too.' (Both brothers were imaginary.)
'That's a lie.'
'Tour saying so don't make it so.'
Tom drew a line in the dust with his big toe, and said:
'I dare you to step over that, and I'll lick you till you can't
stand up. Anybody that'll take a dare will steal a sheep.'
The new boy stepped over promptly, and said:
'Now you said you'd do it, now let's see you do it.'
'Don't you crowd me, now; you'd better look out.'
'Well, you said you'd do it -why don't you do it?'
'By jingoes, for two cents I will do it.'
The new boy took two broad coppers out of his pocket and held them
out with derision. Tom struck them to the ground. In an instant both
boys were rolling and tumbling in the
dirt, gripped together like cats; and for the space ofa minute they
tugged and tore at each other's hair and clothes, punched and scratched
each other's noses, and covered themselves with dust and glory.
Presently the confusion took form, and through the fog of battle Tom
appeared, seated astride the new boy, and pounding him with his fists.
'Holler 'nuff!' said he.
The boy only struggled to free himself: He was crying, mainly from
rage. 'Holler 'nuff!' and the pounding went on. At last the stranger
got out a smothered 'nuff!' and Tom let him up, and said, 'Now that'll
learn you. Better look out who you're fooling with next time.'
The new boy went off brushing the dust from his clothes, sobbing,
snuffling, and occasionally looking back and shaking his head, and
threatening what he would do to Tom the 'next time he caught him out'.
To which Tom responded with jeers, and started off in high feather; and
as soon as his back was turned the new boy snatched up a stone, threw
it, and hit him between the shoulders, and then turned tail and ran
like an antelope. Tom chased the traitor home, and thus found out where
he lived. He then held a position at the gate for some time, daring the
enemy to come outside; but the enemy only made faces at him through the
window, and declined. At last the enemy's mother appeared, and called
Tom a bad, vicious, vulgar child, and or lowered him away. So he went
away, but he said he 'lowed' to 'lag' for that boy.
He got home pretty late that night, and when he climbed cautiously
in at the window he uncovered an ambuscade in the person of his aunt;
and when she saw the state his clothes were in, her resolution to turn
his Saturday holiday into captivity at hard labour became adamantine in
ISBN: 9780141194936 ISBN-10: 0141194936 Series: Popular Penguins Audience:
Number Of Pages: 222 Published: 28th June 2010 Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd Country of Publication: GB Dimensions (cm): 18.0 x 11.2
Weight (kg): 0.13
Edition Number: 1