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Mark Twain > Tom Sawyer, Detective > Chapter VIII

Tom Sawyer, Detective

Chapter VIII


IT warn't very cheerful at breakfast. Aunt Sally she
looked old and tired and let the children snarl and fuss
at one another and didn't seem to notice it was going on,
which wasn't her usual style; me and Tom had a plenty
to think about without talking; Benny she looked like she
hadn't had much sleep, and whenever she'd lift her head
a little and steal a look towards her father you could
see there was tears in her eyes; and as for the old man,
his things stayed on his plate and got cold without him
knowing they was there, I reckon, for he was thinking and
thinking all the time, and never said a word and never et
a bite.

By and by when it was stillest, that nigger's head
was poked in at the door again, and he said his Marse
Brace was getting powerful uneasy about Marse Jubiter,
which hadn't come home yet, and would Marse Silas please
--He was looking at Uncle Silas, and he stopped there,
like the rest of his words was froze; for Uncle Silas he
rose up shaky and steadied himself leaning his fingers
on the table, and he was panting, and his eyes was set
on the nigger, and he kept swallowing, and put his other
hand up to his throat a couple of times, and at last he
got his words started, and says:

"Does he--does he--think--WHAT does he think! Tell him--tell
him--" Then he sunk down in his chair limp and weak,
and says, so as you could hardly hear him: "Go away--go away!"

The nigger looked scared and cleared out, and we all
felt--well, I don't know how we felt, but it was awful,
with the old man panting there, and his eyes set and looking
like a person that was dying. None of us could budge;
but Benny she slid around soft, with her tears running down,
and stood by his side, and nestled his old gray head
up against her and begun to stroke it and pet it with
her hands, and nodded to us to go away, and we done it,
going out very quiet, like the dead was there.

Me and Tom struck out for the woods mighty solemn,
and saying how different it was now to what it was last
summer when we was here and everything was so peaceful
and happy and everybody thought so much of Uncle Silas,
and he was so cheerful and simple-hearted and pudd'n-headed
and good--and now look at him. If he hadn't lost his mind
he wasn't muck short of it. That was what we allowed.

It was a most lovely day now, and bright and sun. shiny;
and the further and further we went over the hills towards
the prairie the lovelier and lovelier the trees and flowers
got to be and the more it seemed strange and somehow wrong
that there had to be trouble in such a world as this.
And then all of a sudden I catched my breath and grabbed
Tom's arm, and all my livers and lungs and things fell down into my legs.

"There it is!" I says. We jumped back behind a bush shivering,
and Tom says:

"'Sh!--don't make a noise."

It was setting on a log right in the edge of a little
prairie, thinking. I tried to get Tom to come away,
but he wouldn't, and I dasn't budge by myself. He said
we mightn't ever get another chance to see one, and he
was going to look his fill at this one if he died for it.
So I looked too, though it give me the fan-tods to do it.
Tom he HAD to talk, but he talked low. He says:

"Poor Jakey, it's got all its things on, just as he said
he would. NOW you see what we wasn't certain about--its hair.
It's not long now the way it was: it's got it cropped close
to its head, the way he said he would. Huck, I never
see anything look any more naturaler than what It does."

"Nor I neither," I says; "I'd recognize it anywheres."

"So would I. It looks perfectly solid and genuwyne,
just the way it done before it died."

So we kept a-gazing. Pretty soon Tom says:

"Huck, there's something mighty curious about this one,
don't you know? IT oughtn't to be going around in the daytime."

"That's so, Tom--I never heard the like of it before."

"No, sir, they don't ever come out only at night--
and then not till after twelve. There's something
wrong about this one, now you mark my words. I don't
believe it's got any right to be around in the daytime.
But don't it look natural! Jake was going to play deef
and dumb here, so the neighbors wouldn't know his voice.
Do you reckon it would do that if we was to holler at it?"

"Lordy, Tom, don't talk so! If you was to holler at it
I'd die in my tracks."

"Don't you worry, I ain't going to holler at it.
Look, Huck, it's a-scratching its head--don't you see?"

"Well, what of it?"

"Why, this. What's the sense of it scratching its head?
There ain't anything there to itch; its head is made
out of fog or something like that, and can't itch.
A fog can't itch; any fool knows that."

"Well, then, if it don't itch and can't itch, what in
the nation is it scratching it for? Ain't it just habit,
don't you reckon?"

"No, sir, I don't. I ain't a bit satisfied about the way this
one acts. I've a blame good notion it's a bogus one--I have,
as sure as I'm a-sitting here. Because, if it--Huck!"

"Well, what's the matter now?"


"Why, Tom, it's so, sure! It's as solid as a cow.
I sort of begin to think--"

"Huck, it's biting off a chaw of tobacker! By George,
THEY don't chaw--they hain't got anything to chaw WITH.

"I'm a-listening."

"It ain't a ghost at all. It's Jake Dunlap his own self!"

"Oh your granny!" I says.

"Huck Finn, did we find any corpse in the sycamores?"


"Or any sign of one?"


"Mighty good reason. Hadn't ever been any corpse there."

"Why, Tom, you know we heard--"

"Yes, we did--heard a howl or two. Does that prove anybody
was killed? Course it don't. And we seen four men run,
then this one come walking out and we took it for a ghost.
No more ghost than you are. It was Jake Dunlap his
own self, and it's Jake Dunlap now. He's been and got his
hair cropped, the way he said he would, and he's playing
himself for a stranger, just the same as he said he would.
Ghost? Hum!--he's as sound as a nut."

Then I see it all, and how we had took too much for granted.
I was powerful glad he didn't get killed, and so was Tom,
and we wondered which he would like the best--for us
to never let on to know him, or how? Tom reckoned the
best way would be to go and ask him. So he started;
but I kept a little behind, because I didn't know but it
might be a ghost, after all. When Tom got to where he was,
he says:

"Me and Huck's mighty glad to see you again, and you needn't
be afeared we'll tell. And if you think it'll be safer for
you if we don't let on to know you when we run across you,
say the word and you'll see you can depend on us, and would
ruther cut our hands off than get you into the least little bit of danger."

First off he looked surprised to see us, and not
very glad, either; but as Tom went on he looked pleasanter,
and when he was done he smiled, and nodded his head
several times, and made signs with his hands, and says:

"Goo-goo--goo-goo," the way deef and dummies does.

Just then we see some of Steve Nickerson's people coming
that lived t'other side of the prairie, so Tom says:

"You do it elegant; I never see anybody do it better.
You're right; play it on us, too; play it on us same
as the others; it'll keep you in practice and prevent
you making blunders. We'll keep away from you and let
on we don't know you, but any time we can be any help,
you just let us know."

Then we loafed along past the Nickersons, and of course
they asked if that was the new stranger yonder, and where'd
he come from, and what was his name, and which communion
was he, Babtis' or Methodis', and which politics,
Whig or Democrat, and how long is he staying, and all them
other questions that humans always asks when a stranger comes,
and animals does, too. But Tom said he warn't able to make
anything out of deef and dumb signs, and the same with
goo-gooing. Then we watched them go and bullyrag Jake;
because we was pretty uneasy for him. Tom said it would
take him days to get so he wouldn't forget he was a deef
and dummy sometimes, and speak out before he thought.
When we had watched long enough to see that Jake was
getting along all right and working his signs very good,
we loafed along again, allowing to strike the schoolhouse
about recess time, which was a three-mile tramp.

I was so disappointed not to hear Jake tell about the row
in the sycamores, and how near he come to getting killed,
that I couldn't seem to get over it, and Tom he felt
the same, but said if we was in Jake's fix we would want
to go careful and keep still and not take any chances.

The boys and girls was all glad to see us again, and we
had a real good time all through recess. Coming to
school the Henderson boys had come across the new deef
and dummy and told the rest; so all the scholars was
chuck full of him and couldn't talk about anything else,
and was in a sweat to get a sight of him because they
hadn't ever seen a deef and dummy in their lives,
and it made a powerful excitement.

Tom said it was tough to have to keep mum now; said we would
be heroes if we could come out and tell all we knowed;
but after all, it was still more heroic to keep mum,
there warn't two boys in a million could do it.
That was Tom Sawyer's idea about it, and reckoned there
warn't anybody could better it.

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