The Complete Works of Mark Twain

As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.
Mark Twain > Tom Sawyer, Detective > Chapter III

Tom Sawyer, Detective

Chapter III


FROM that time out, we was with him 'most all the time,
and one or t'other of us slept in his upper berth. He said
he had been so lonesome, and it was such a comfort to him
to have company, and somebody to talk to in his troubles.
We was in a sweat to find out what his secret was,
but Tom said the best way was not to seem anxious,
then likely he would drop into it himself in one of
his talks, but if we got to asking questions he would get
suspicious and shet up his shell. It turned out just so.
It warn't no trouble to see that he WANTED to talk about it,
but always along at first he would scare away from it
when he got on the very edge of it, and go to talking
about something else. The way it come about was this:
He got to asking us, kind of indifferent like, about the
passengers down on deck. We told him about them.
But he warn't satisfied; we warn't particular enough.
He told us to describe them better. Tom done it.
At last, when Tom was describing one of the roughest
and raggedest ones, he gave a shiver and a gasp and says:

"Oh, lordy, that's one of them! They're aboard sure--
I just knowed it. I sort of hoped I had got away,
but I never believed it. Go on."

Presently when Tom was describing another mangy,
rough deck passenger, he give that shiver again and says:

"That's him!--that's the other one. If it would only
come a good black stormy night and I could get ashore.
You see, they've got spies on me. They've got a right
to come up and buy drinks at the bar yonder forrard,
and they take that chance to bribe somebody to keep watch
on me--porter or boots or somebody. If I was to slip
ashore without anybody seeing me, they would know it inside
of an hour."

So then he got to wandering along, and pretty soon,
sure enough, he was telling! He was poking along through
his ups and downs, and when he come to that place he went
right along. He says:

"It was a confidence game. We played it on a julery-shop
in St. Louis. What we was after was a couple of noble
big di'monds as big as hazel-nuts, which everybody was
running to see. We was dressed up fine, and we played
it on them in broad daylight. We ordered the di'monds
sent to the hotel for us to see if we wanted to buy,
and when we was examining them we had paste counterfeits
all ready, and THEM was the things that went back
to the shop when we said the water wasn't quite fine
enough for twelve thousand dollars."

"Twelve-thousand-dollars!" Tom says. "Was they really
worth all that money, do you reckon?"

"Every cent of it."

"And you fellows got away with them?"

"As easy as nothing. I don't reckon the julery people know
they've been robbed yet. But it wouldn't be good sense
to stay around St. Louis, of course, so we considered where
we'd go. One was for going one way, one another, so we
throwed up, heads or tails, and the Upper Mississippi won.
We done up the di'monds in a paper and put our names on
it and put it in the keep of the hotel clerk, and told
him not to ever let either of us have it again without
the others was on hand to see it done; then we went
down town, each by his own self--because I reckon maybe
we all had the same notion. I don't know for certain,
but I reckon maybe we had."

"What notion?" Tom says.

"To rob the others."

"What--one take everything, after all of you had helped
to get it?"


It disgusted Tom Sawyer, and he said it was the orneriest,
low-downest thing he ever heard of. But Jake Dunlap said
it warn't unusual in the profession. Said when a person
was in that line of business he'd got to look out for his
own intrust, there warn't nobody else going to do it for him.
And then he went on. He says:

"You see, the trouble was, you couldn't divide up two di'monds
amongst three. If there'd been three--But never mind
about that, there warn't three. I loafed along the back
streets studying and studying. And I says to myself,
I'll hog them di'monds the first chance I get, and I'll
have a disguise all ready, and I'll give the boys the slip,
and when I'm safe away I'll put it on, and then let
them find me if they can. So I got the false whiskers
and the goggles and this countrified suit of clothes,
and fetched them along back in a hand-bag; and when I
was passing a shop where they sell all sorts of things,
I got a glimpse of one of my pals through the window.
It was Bud Dixon. I was glad, you bet. I says to myself,
I'll see what he buys. So I kept shady, and watched.
Now what do you reckon it was he bought?"

"Whiskers?" said I.




"Oh, keep still, Huck Finn, can't you, you're only just
hendering all you can. What WAS it he bought, Jake?"

"You'd never guess in the world. It was only just
a screwdriver--just a wee little bit of a screwdriver."

"Well, I declare! What did he want with that?"

"That's what I thought. It was curious. It clean stumped me.
I says to myself, what can he want with that thing? Well,
when he come out I stood back out of sight, and then
tracked him to a second-hand slop-shop and see him buy
a red flannel shirt and some old ragged clothes--just
the ones he's got on now, as you've described.
Then I went down to the wharf and hid my things aboard
the up-river boat that we had picked out, and then
started back and had another streak of luck. I seen our
other pal lay in HIS stock of old rusty second-handers.
We got the di'monds and went aboard the boat.

"But now we was up a stump, for we couldn't go to bed.
We had to set up and watch one another. Pity, that was;
pity to put that kind of a strain on us, because there
was bad blood between us from a couple of weeks back,
and we was only friends in the way of business.
Bad anyway, seeing there was only two di'monds betwixt
three men. First we had supper, and then tramped up
and down the deck together smoking till most midnight;
then we went and set down in my stateroom and locked
the doors and looked in the piece of paper to see if
the di'monds was all right, then laid it on the lower
berth right in full sight; and there we set, and set,
and by-and-by it got to be dreadful hard to keep awake.
At last Bud Dixon he dropped off. As soon as he was
snoring a good regular gait that was likely to last,
and had his chin on his breast and looked permanent,
Hal Clayton nodded towards the di'monds and then towards
the outside door, and I understood. I reached and got
the paper, and then we stood up and waited perfectly still;
Bud never stirred; I turned the key of the outside door
very soft and slow, then turned the knob the same way, and we
went tiptoeing out onto the guard, and shut the door very
soft and gentle.

"There warn't nobody stirring anywhere, and the boat
was slipping along, swift and steady, through the big
water in the smoky moonlight. We never said a word,
but went straight up onto the hurricane-deck and plumb
back aft, and set down on the end of the sky-light. Both
of us knowed what that meant, without having to explain
to one another. Bud Dixon would wake up and miss the swag,
and would come straight for us, for he ain't afeard
of anything or anybody, that man ain't. He would come,
and we would heave him overboard, or get killed trying.
It made me shiver, because I ain't as brave as some people,
but if I showed the white feather--well, I knowed better
than do that. I kind of hoped the boat would land somers,
and we could skip ashore and not have to run the risk
of this row, I was so scared of Bud Dixon, but she
was an upper-river tub and there warn't no real chance
of that.

"Well, the time strung along and along, and that fellow
never come! Why, it strung along till dawn begun to break,
and still he never come. 'Thunder,' I says, 'what do you
make out of this?--ain't it suspicious?' 'Land!' Hal says,
'do you reckon he's playing us?--open the paper!' I done it,
and by gracious there warn't anything in it but a couple
of little pieces of loaf-sugar! THAT'S the reason he could
set there and snooze all night so comfortable. Smart? Well,
I reckon! He had had them two papers all fixed and ready,
and he had put one of them in place of t'other right under
our noses.

"We felt pretty cheap. But the thing to do, straight off,
was to make a plan; and we done it. We would do up the
paper again, just as it was, and slip in, very elaborate
and soft, and lay it on the bunk again, and let on WE
didn't know about any trick, and hadn't any idea he was
a-laughing at us behind them bogus snores of his'n; and we
would stick by him, and the first night we was ashore we
would get him drunk and search him, and get the di'monds;
and DO for him, too, if it warn't too risky. If we got
the swag, we'd GOT to do for him, or he would hunt us down
and do for us, sure. But I didn't have no real hope.
I knowed we could get him drunk--he was always ready
for that--but what's the good of it? You might search him
a year and never find--"Well, right there I catched my
breath and broke off my thought! For an idea went ripping
through my head that tore my brains to rags--and land,
but I felt gay and good! You see, I had had my boots off,
to unswell my feet, and just then I took up one of them
to put it on, and I catched a glimpse of the heel-bottom,
and it just took my breath away. You remember about that
puzzlesome little screwdriver?"

"You bet I do," says Tom, all excited.

"Well, when I catched that glimpse of that boot heel,
the idea that went smashing through my head was,
I know where he's hid the di'monds! You look at this
boot heel, now. See, it's bottomed with a steel plate,
and the plate is fastened on with little screws.
Now there wasn't a screw about that feller anywhere
but in his boot heels; so, if he needed a screwdriver,
I reckoned I knowed why."

"Huck, ain't it bully!" says Tom.

"Well, I got my boots on, and we went down and slipped
in and laid the paper of sugar on the berth, and sat
down soft and sheepish and went to listening to Bud
Dixon snore. Hal Clayton dropped off pretty soon,
but I didn't; I wasn't ever so wide awake in my life.
I was spying out from under the shade of my hat brim,
searching the floor for leather. It took me a long time,
and I begun to think maybe my guess was wrong, but at
last I struck it. It laid over by the bulkhead, and was
nearly the color of the carpet. It was a little round
plug about as thick as the end of your little finger,
and I says to myself there's a di'mond in the nest
you've come from. Before long I spied out the plug's mate.

"Think of the smartness and coolness of that blatherskite!
He put up that scheme on us and reasoned out what we
would do, and we went ahead and done it perfectly exact,
like a couple of pudd'nheads. He set there and took his
own time to unscrew his heelplates and cut out his plugs
and stick in the di'monds and screw on his plates again .
He allowed we would steal the bogus swag and wait all night
for him to come up and get drownded, and by George it's
just what we done! I think it was powerful smart."

"You bet your life it was!" says Tom, just full of admiration.

< Back
Forward >

Index Index

Other Authors Other Authors

Mark Twain. Copyright 2008,
Contact the webmaster
Disclaimer here. Privacy Policy here.