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Mark Twain > Tom Sawyer Abroad > Chapter V

Tom Sawyer Abroad

Chapter V


LAND

WE tried to make some plans, but we couldn't come
to no agreement. Me and Jim was for turning
around and going back home, but Tom allowed that
by the time daylight come, so we could see our way,
we would be so far toward England that we might as
well go there, and come back in a ship, and have the
glory of saying we done it.

About midnight the storm quit and the moon come
out and lit up the ocean, and we begun to feel com-
fortable and drowsy; so we stretched out on the
lockers and went to sleep, and never woke up again
till sun-up. The sea was sparkling like di'monds, and
it was nice weather, and pretty soon our things was all
dry again.

We went aft to find some breakfast, and the first
thing we noticed was that there was a dim light burning
in a compass back there under a hood. Then Tom was
disturbed. He says:

"You know what that means, easy enough. It
means that somebody has got to stay on watch and
steer this thing the same as he would a ship, or she'll
wander around and go wherever the wind wants her
to."

"Well," I says, "what's she been doing since --
er -- since we had the accident?"

"Wandering," he says, kinder troubled --" wander-
ing, without any doubt. She's in a wind now that's
blowing her south of east. We don't know how long
that's been going on, either."

So then he p'inted her east, and said he would hold
her there till we rousted out the breakfast. The pro-
fessor had laid in everything a body could want; he
couldn't 'a' been better fixed. There wasn't no milk
for the coffee, but there was water, and everything
else you could want, and a charcoal stove and the
fixings for it, and pipes and cigars and matches; and
wine and liquor, which warn't in our line; and books,
and maps, and charts, and an accordion; and furs,
and blankets, and no end of rubbish, like brass beads
and brass jewelry, which Tom said was a sure sign that
he had an idea of visiting among savages. There was
money, too. Yes, the professor was well enough fixed.

After breakfast Tom learned me and Jim how to
steer, and divided us all up into four-hour watches,
turn and turn about; and when his watch was out I
took his place, and he got out the professor's papers
and pens and wrote a letter home to his aunt Polly, tell-
ing her everything that had happened to us, and dated
it "IN THE WELKIN, APPROACHING ENGLAND," and folded
it together and stuck it fast with a red wafer, and
directed it, and wrote above the direction, in big
writing, "FROM TOM SAWYER, THE ERRONORT," and said
it would stump old Nat Parsons, the postmaster, when
it come along in the mail. I says:

"Tom Sawyer, this ain't no welkin, it's a balloon."

"Well, now, who SAID it was a welkin, smarty?"

"You've wrote it on the letter, anyway."

"What of it? That don't mean that the balloon's
the welkin."

"Oh, I thought it did. Well, then, what is a
welkin?"

I see in a minute he was stuck. He raked and
scraped around in his mind, but he couldn't find noth-
ing, so he had to say:

"I don't know, and nobody don't know. It's just
a word, and it's a mighty good word, too. There
ain't many that lays over it. I don't believe there's
ANY that does."

"Shucks!" I says. "But what does it MEAN? --
that's the p'int. "

"I don't know what it means, I tell you. It's a
word that people uses for -- for -- well, it's orna-
mental. They don't put ruffles on a shirt to keep a
person warm, do they?"

"Course they don't."

"But they put them ON, don't they?"

"Yes."

"All right, then; that letter I wrote is a shirt, and
the welkin's the ruffle on it."

I judged that that would gravel Jim, and it did.

"Now, Mars Tom, it ain't no use to talk like dat;
en, moreover, it's sinful. You knows a letter ain't no
shirt, en dey ain't no ruffles on it, nuther. Dey ain't
no place to put 'em on; you can't put em on, and
dey wouldn't stay ef you did."

"Oh DO shut up, and wait till something's started
that you know something about."

"Why, Mars Tom, sholy you can't mean to say I
don't know about shirts, when, goodness knows, I's
toted home de washin' ever sence --"

"I tell you, this hasn't got anything to do with
shirts. I only --"

"Why, Mars Tom, you said yo'self dat a letter --"

"Do you want to drive me crazy? Keep still. I
only used it as a metaphor."

That word kinder bricked us up for a minute. Then
Jim says -- rather timid, because he see Tom was get-
ting pretty tetchy:

"Mars Tom, what is a metaphor?"

"A metaphor's a -- well, it's a -- a -- a metaphor's
an illustration." He see THAT didn't git home, so he
tried again. "When I say birds of a feather flocks
together, it's a metaphorical way of saying --"

"But dey DON'T, Mars Tom. No, sir, 'deed dey
don't. Dey ain't no feathers dat's more alike den a
bluebird en a jaybird, but ef you waits till you catches
dem birds together, you'll --"

"Oh, give us a rest! You can't get the simplest
little thing through your thick skull. Now don't bother
me any more."

Jim was satisfied to stop. He was dreadful pleased
with himself for catching Tom out. The minute Tom
begun to talk about birds I judged he was a goner,
because Jim knowed more about birds than both of us
put together. You see, he had killed hundreds and
hundreds of them, and that's the way to find out
about birds. That's the way people does that writes
books about birds, and loves them so that they'll
go hungry and tired and take any amount of trouble to
find a new bird and kill it. Their name is ornitholo-
gers, and I could have been an ornithologer myself,
because I always loved birds and creatures; and I
started out to learn how to be one, and I see a bird
setting on a limb of a high tree, singing with its head
tilted back and its mouth open, and before I thought I
fired, and his song stopped and he fell straight down
from the limb, all limp like a rag, and I run and picked
him up and he was dead, and his body was warm in my
hand, and his head rolled about this way and that, like
his neck was broke, and there was a little white skin
over his eyes, and one little drop of blood on the side
of his head; and, laws! I couldn't see nothing more
for the tears; and I hain't never murdered no creature
since that warn't doing me no harm, and I ain't going
to.

But I was aggravated about that welkin. I wanted
to know. I got the subject up again, and then Tom
explained, the best he could. He said when a person
made a big speech the newspapers said the shouts of
the people made the welkin ring. He said they always
said that, but none of them ever told what it was, so
he allowed it just meant outdoors and up high. Well,
that seemed sensible enough, so I was satisfied, and
said so. That pleased Tom and put him in a good
humor again, and he says:

"Well, it's all right, then; and we'll let bygones
be bygones. I don't know for certain what a welkin
is, but when we land in London we'll make it ring,
anyway, and don't you forget it."

He said an erronort was a person who sailed around
in balloons; and said it was a mighty sight finer to be
Tom Sawyer the Erronort than to be Tom Sawyer the
Traveler, and we would be heard of all round the
world, if we pulled through all right, and so he wouldn't
give shucks to be a traveler now.

Toward the middle of the afternoon we got every-
thing ready to land, and we felt pretty good, too, and
proud; and we kept watching with the glasses, like
Columbus discovering America. But we couldn't see
nothing but ocean. The afternoon wasted out and the
sun shut down, and still there warn't no land any-
wheres. We wondered what was the matter, but
reckoned it would come out all right, so we went on
steering east, but went up on a higher level so we
wouldn't hit any steeples or mountains in the dark.

It was my watch till midnight, and then it was Jim's;
but Tom stayed up, because he said ship captains done
that when they was making the land, and didn't stand
no regular watch.

Well, when daylight come, Jim give a shout, and we
jumped up and looked over, and there was the land
sure enough -- land all around, as far as you could see,
and perfectly level and yaller. We didn't know how
long we'd been over it. There warn't no trees, nor
hills, nor rocks, nor towns, and Tom and Jim had took
it for the sea. They took it for the sea in a dead
ca'm; but we was so high up, anyway, that if it had
been the sea and rough, it would 'a' looked smooth, all
the same, in the night, that way.

We was all in a powerful excitement now, and
grabbed the glasses and hunted everywheres for Lon-
don, but couldn't find hair nor hide of it, nor any
other settlement -- nor any sign of a lake or a river,
either. Tom was clean beat. He said it warn't his
notion of England; he thought England looked like
America, and always had that idea. So he said we
better have breakfast, and then drop down and inquire
the quickest way to London. We cut the breakfast
pretty short, we was so impatient. As we slanted
along down, the weather began to moderate, and
pretty soon we shed our furs. But it kept ON moder-
ating, and in a precious little while it was 'most too
moderate. We was close down now, and just blistering!

We settled down to within thirty foot of the land --
that is, it was land if sand is land; for this wasn't any-
thing but pure sand. Tom and me clumb down the
ladder and took a run to stretch our legs, and it felt
amazing good -- that is, the stretching did, but the
sand scorched our feet like hot embers. Next, we see
somebody coming, and started to meet him; but we
heard Jim shout, and looked around and he was fairly
dancing, and making signs, and yelling. We couldn't
make out what he said, but we was scared anyway, and
begun to heel it back to the balloon. When we got
close enough, we understood the words, and they
made me sick:

"Run! Run fo' yo' life! Hit's a lion; I kin see
him thoo de glass! Run, boys; do please heel it de
bes' you kin. He's bu'sted outen de menagerie, en
dey ain't nobody to stop him!"

It made Tom fly, but it took the stiffening all out of
my legs. I could only just gasp along the way you do
in a dream when there's a ghost gaining on you.

Tom got to the ladder and shinned up it a piece and
waited for me; and as soon as I got a foothold on it
he shouted to Jim to soar away. But Jim had clean
lost his head, and said he had forgot how. So Tom
shinned along up and told me to follow; but the lion
was arriving, fetching a most ghastly roar with every
lope, and my legs shook so I dasn't try to take one of
them out of the rounds for fear the other one would
give way under me.

But Tom was aboard by this time, and he started the
balloon up a little, and stopped it again as soon as the
end of the ladder was ten or twelve feet above ground.
And there was the lion, a-ripping around under me,
and roaring and springing up in the air at the ladder,
and only missing it about a quarter of an inch, it
seemed to me. It was delicious to be out of his reach,
perfectly delicious, and made me feel good and thank-
ful all up one side; but I was hanging there helpless
and couldn't climb, and that made me feel perfectly
wretched and miserable all down the other. It is most
seldom that a person feels so mixed like that; and it is
not to be recommended, either.

Tom asked me what he'd better do, but I didn't
know. He asked me if I could hold on whilst he sailed
away to a safe place and left the lion behind. I said I
could if he didn't go no higher than he was now; but
if he went higher I would lose my head and fall, sure.
So he said, "Take a good grip," and he started.

"Don't go so fast," I shouted. "It makes my
head swim."

He had started like a lightning express. He slowed
down, and we glided over the sand slower, but still in
a kind of sickening way; for it IS uncomfortable to see
things sliding and gliding under you like that, and not
a sound.

But pretty soon there was plenty of sound, for the
lion was catching up. His noise fetched others. You
could see them coming on the lope from every direc-
tion, and pretty soon there was a couple of dozen of
them under me, jumping up at the ladder and snarling
and snapping at each other; and so we went skimming
along over the sand, and these fellers doing what they
could to help us to not forgit the occasion; and then
some other beasts come, without an invite, and they
started a regular riot down there.

We see this plan was a mistake. We couldn't ever
git away from them at this gait, and I couldn't hold on
forever. So Tom took a think, and struck another
idea. That was, to kill a lion with the pepper-box
revolver, and then sail away while the others stopped
to fight over the carcass. So he stopped the balloon
still, and done it, and then we sailed off while the fuss
was going on, and come down a quarter of a mile off,
and they helped me aboard; but by the time we was
out of reach again, that gang was on hand once more.
And when they see we was really gone and they
couldn't get us, they sat down on their hams and
looked up at us so kind of disappointed that it was as
much as a person could do not to see THEIR side of the
matter.

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