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Mark Twain > Tom Sawyer Abroad > Chapter I

Tom Sawyer Abroad

Chapter I


DO you reckon Tom Sawyer was satisfied after all
them adventures? I mean the adventures we had
down the river, and the time we set the darky Jim free
and Tom got shot in the leg. No, he wasn't. It only
just p'isoned him for more. That was all the effect it
had. You see, when we three came back up the river
in glory, as you may say, from that long travel, and
the village received us with a torchlight procession and
speeches, and everybody hurrah'd and shouted, it
made us heroes, and that was what Tom Sawyer had
always been hankering to be.

For a while he WAS satisfied. Everybody made
much of him, and he tilted up his nose and stepped
around the town as though he owned it. Some called
him Tom Sawyer the Traveler, and that just swelled
him up fit to bust. You see he laid over me and Jim
considerable, because we only went down the river on
a raft and came back by the steamboat, but Tom went
by the steamboat both ways. The boys envied me and
Jim a good deal, but land! they just knuckled to the
dirt before TOM.

Well, I don't know; maybe he might have been
satisfied if it hadn't been for old Nat Parsons, which
was postmaster, and powerful long and slim, and kind
o' good-hearted and silly, and bald-headed, on account
of his age, and about the talkiest old cretur I ever see.
For as much as thirty years he'd been the only man in
the village that had a reputation -- I mean a reputation
for being a traveler, and of course he was mortal proud
of it, and it was reckoned that in the course of that
thirty years he had told about that journey over a
million times and enjoyed it every time. And now
comes along a boy not quite fifteen, and sets everybody
admiring and gawking over HIS travels, and it just give
the poor old man the high strikes. It made him sick
to listen to Tom, and to hear the people say "My
land!" "Did you ever!" "My goodness sakes
alive!" and all such things; but he couldn't pull away
from it, any more than a fly that's got its hind leg fast
in the molasses. And always when Tom come to a
rest, the poor old cretur would chip in on HIS same old
travels and work them for all they were worth; but
they were pretty faded, and didn't go for much, and it
was pitiful to see. And then Tom would take another
innings, and then the old man again -- and so on, and
so on, for an hour and more, each trying to beat out
the other.

You see, Parsons' travels happened like this: When
he first got to be postmaster and was green in the busi-
ness, there come a letter for somebody he didn't know,
and there wasn't any such person in the village. Well,
he didn't know what to do, nor how to act, and there
the letter stayed and stayed, week in and week out, till
the bare sight of it gave him a conniption. The postage
wasn't paid on it, and that was another thing to worry
about. There wasn't any way to collect that ten cents,
and he reckon'd the gov'ment would hold him respon-
sible for it and maybe turn him out besides, when they
found he hadn't collected it. Well, at last he couldn't
stand it any longer. He couldn't sleep nights, he
couldn't eat, he was thinned down to a shadder, yet
he da'sn't ask anybody's advice, for the very person
he asked for advice might go back on him and let the
gov'ment know about the letter. He had the letter
buried under the floor, but that did no good; if he
happened to see a person standing over the place it'd
give him the cold shivers, and loaded him up with
suspicions, and he would sit up that night till the town
was still and dark, and then he would sneak there and
get it out and bury it in another place. Of course,
people got to avoiding him and shaking their heads
and whispering, because, the way he was looking and
acting, they judged he had killed somebody or done
something terrible, they didn't know what, and if he
had been a stranger they would've lynched him.

Well, as I was saying, it got so he couldn't stand it
any longer; so he made up his mind to pull out for
Washington, and just go to the President of the United
States and make a clean breast of the whole thing, not
keeping back an atom, and then fetch the letter out and
lay it before the whole gov'ment, and say, "Now,
there she is -- do with me what you're a mind to;
though as heaven is my judge I am an innocent man
and not deserving of the full penalties of the law and
leaving behind me a family that must starve and yet
hadn't had a thing to do with it, which is the whole
truth and I can swear to it."

So he did it. He had a little wee bit of steamboat-
ing, and some stage-coaching, but all the rest of the
way was horseback, and it took him three weeks to get
to Washington. He saw lots of land and lots of vil-
lages and four cities. He was gone 'most eight weeks,
and there never was such a proud man in the village as
he when he got back. His travels made him the greatest
man in all that region, and the most talked about; and
people come from as much as thirty miles back in the
country, and from over in the Illinois bottoms, too,
just to look at him -- and there they'd stand and gawk,
and he'd gabble. You never see anything like it.

Well, there wasn't any way now to settle which was
the greatest traveler; some said it was Nat, some said
it was Tom. Everybody allowed that Nat had seen
the most longitude, but they had to give in that what-
ever Tom was short in longitude he had made up in
latitude and climate. It was about a stand-off; so both
of them had to whoop up their dangerous adventures,
and try to get ahead THAT way. That bullet-wound in
Tom's leg was a tough thing for Nat Parsons to buck
against, but he bucked the best he could; and at a
disadvantage, too, for Tom didn't set still as he'd orter
done, to be fair, but always got up and sauntered
around and worked his limp while Nat was painting up
the adventure that HE had in Washington; for Tom
never let go that limp when his leg got well, but prac-
ticed it nights at home, and kept it good as new right

Nat's adventure was like this; I don't know how
true it is; maybe he got it out of a paper, or some-
where, but I will say this for him, that he DID know
how to tell it. He could make anybody's flesh crawl,
and he'd turn pale and hold his breath when he told
it, and sometimes women and girls got so faint they
couldn't stick it out. Well, it was this way, as near as
I can remember:

He come a-loping into Washington, and put up his
horse and shoved out to the President's house with his
letter, and they told him the President was up to the
Capitol, and just going to start for Philadelphia -- not
a minute to lose if he wanted to catch him. Nat 'most
dropped, it made him so sick. His horse was put up,
and he didn't know what to do. But just then along
comes a darky driving an old ramshackly hack, and he
see his chance. He rushes out and shouts: "A half a
dollar if you git me to the Capitol in half an hour, and
a quarter extra if you do it in twenty minutes!"

"Done!" says the darky.

Nat he jumped in and slammed the door, and away
they went a-ripping and a-tearing over the roughest
road a body ever see, and the racket of it was some-
thing awful. Nat passed his arms through the loops
and hung on for life and death, but pretty soon the
hack hit a rock and flew up in the air, and the bottom
fell out, and when it come down Nat's feet was on the
ground, and he see he was in the most desperate danger
if he couldn't keep up with the hack. He was horrible
scared, but he laid into his work for all he was worth,
and hung tight to the arm-loops and made his legs
fairly fly. He yelled and shouted to the driver to
stop, and so did the crowds along the street, for they
could see his legs spinning along under the coach, and
his head and shoulders bobbing inside through the
windows, and he was in awful danger; but the more
they all shouted the more the nigger whooped and
yelled and lashed the horses and shouted, "Don't you
fret, I'se gwine to git you dah in time, boss; I's gwine
to do it, sho'!" for you see he thought they were all
hurrying him up, and, of course, he couldn't hear any-
thing for the racket he was making. And so they went
ripping along, and everybody just petrified to see it;
and when they got to the Capitol at last it was the
quickest trip that ever was made, and everybody said
so. The horses laid down, and Nat dropped, all tuck-
ered out, and he was all dust and rags and barefooted;
but he was in time and just in time, and caught the
President and give him the letter, and everything was
all right, and the President give him a free pardon on
the spot, and Nat give the nigger two extra quarters
instead of one, because he could see that if he hadn't
had the hack he wouldn't'a' got there in time, nor
anywhere near it.

It WAS a powerful good adventure, and Tom Sawyer
had to work his bullet-wound mighty lively to hold his
own against it.

Well, by and by Tom's glory got to paling down
gradu'ly, on account of other things turning up for the
people to talk about -- first a horse-race, and on top of
that a house afire, and on top of that the circus, and
on top of that the eclipse; and that started a revival,
same as it always does, and by that time there wasn't
any more talk about Tom, so to speak, and you never
see a person so sick and disgusted.

Pretty soon he got to worrying and fretting right
along day in and day out, and when I asked him what
WAS he in such a state about, he said it 'most broke his
heart to think how time was slipping away, and him
getting older and older, and no wars breaking out and
no way of making a name for himself that he could
see. Now that is the way boys is always thinking, but
he was the first one I ever heard come out and say it.

So then he set to work to get up a plan to make him
celebrated; and pretty soon he struck it, and offered to
take me and Jim in. Tom Sawyer was always free and
generous that way. There's a-plenty of boys that's
mighty good and friendly when YOU'VE got a good
thing, but when a good thing happens to come their
way they don't say a word to you, and try to hog it
all. That warn't ever Tom Sawyer's way, I can say
that for him. There's plenty of boys that will come
hankering and groveling around you when you've got
an apple and beg the core off of you; but when they've
got one, and you beg for the core and remind them
how you give them a core one time, they say thank
you 'most to death, but there ain't a-going to be no
core. But I notice they always git come up with; all
you got to do is to wait.

Well, we went out in the woods on the hill, and Tom
told us what it was. It was a crusade.

"What's a crusade?" I says.

He looked scornful, the way he's always done when
he was ashamed of a person, and says:

"Huck Finn, do you mean to tell me you don't
know what a crusade is?"

"No," says I, "I don't. And I don't care to,
nuther. I've lived till now and done without it, and
had my health, too. But as soon as you tell me, I'll
know, and that's soon enough. I don't see any use in
finding out things and clogging up my head with them
when I mayn't ever have any occasion to use 'em.
There was Lance Williams, he learned how to talk
Choctaw here till one come and dug his grave for him.
Now, then, what's a crusade? But I can tell you one
thing before you begin; if it's a patent-right, there's
no money in it. Bill Thompson he --"

"Patent-right!" says he. "I never see such an
idiot. Why, a crusade is a kind of war."

I thought he must be losing his mind. But no, he
was in real earnest, and went right on, perfectly

"A crusade is a war to recover the Holy Land from
the paynim."

"Which Holy Land?"

"Why, the Holy Land -- there ain't but one."

"What do we want of it?"

"Why, can't you understand? It's in the hands of
the paynim, and it's our duty to take it away from

"How did we come to let them git hold of it?"

"We didn't come to let them git hold of it. They
always had it."

"Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, don't it?"

"Why of course it does. Who said it didn't?"

I studied over it, but couldn't seem to git at the
right of it, no way. I says:

"It's too many for me, Tom Sawyer. If I had a
farm and it was mine, and another person wanted it,
would it be right for him to --"

"Oh, shucks! you don't know enough to come in
when it rains, Huck Finn. It ain't a farm, it's entirely
different. You see, it's like this. They own the land,
just the mere land, and that's all they DO own; but it
was our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it
holy, and so they haven't any business to be there
defiling it. It's a shame, and we ought not to stand it
a minute. We ought to march against them and take
it away from them."

"Why, it does seem to me it's the most mixed-up
thing I ever see! Now, if I had a farm and another
person --"

"Don't I tell you it hasn't got anything to do with
farming? Farming is business, just common low-down
business: that's all it is, it's all you can say for it; but
this is higher, this is religious, and totally different."

"Religious to go and take the land away from
people that owns it?"

"Certainly; it's always been considered so."

Jim he shook his head, and says:

"Mars Tom, I reckon dey's a mistake about it
somers -- dey mos' sholy is. I's religious myself, en
I knows plenty religious people, but I hain't run across
none dat acts like dat."

It made Tom hot, and he says:

"Well, it's enough to make a body sick, such
mullet-headed ignorance! If either of you'd read any-
thing about history, you'd know that Richard Cur de
Loon, and the Pope, and Godfrey de Bulleyn, and lots
more of the most noble-hearted and pious people in
the world, hacked and hammered at the paynims for
more than two hundred years trying to take their land
away from them, and swum neck-deep in blood the
whole time -- and yet here's a couple of sap-headed
country yahoos out in the backwoods of Missouri set-
ting themselves up to know more about the rights and
wrongs of it than they did! Talk about cheek!"

Well, of course, that put a more different light on it,
and me and Jim felt pretty cheap and ignorant, and
wished we hadn't been quite so chipper. I couldn't
say nothing, and Jim he couldn't for a while; then he

"Well, den, I reckon it's all right; beca'se ef dey
didn't know, dey ain't no use for po' ignorant folks
like us to be trying to know; en so, ef it's our duty,
we got to go en tackle it en do de bes' we can. Same
time, I feel as sorry for dem paynims as Mars Tom.
De hard part gwine to be to kill folks dat a body hain't
been 'quainted wid and dat hain't done him no harm.
Dat's it, you see. Ef we wuz to go 'mongst 'em, jist
we three, en say we's hungry, en ast 'em for a bite to
eat, why, maybe dey's jist like yuther people. Don't
you reckon dey is? Why, DEY'D give it, I know dey
would, en den --"

"Then what?"

"Well, Mars Tom, my idea is like dis. It ain't no
use, we CAN'T kill dem po' strangers dat ain't doin' us
no harm, till we've had practice -- I knows it perfectly
well, Mars Tom -- 'deed I knows it perfectly well. But
ef we takes a' axe or two, jist you en me en Huck, en
slips acrost de river to-night arter de moon's gone
down, en kills dat sick fam'ly dat's over on the Sny,
en burns dey house down, en --"

"Oh, you make me tired!" says Tom. "I don't
want to argue any more with people like you and Huck
Finn, that's always wandering from the subject, and
ain't got any more sense than to try to reason out a
thing that's pure theology by the laws that protect real

Now that's just where Tom Sawyer warn't fair. Jim
didn't mean no harm, and I didn't mean no harm.
We knowed well enough that he was right and we was
wrong, and all we was after was to get at the HOW of
it, and that was all; and the only reason he couldn't
explain it so we could understand it was because we
was ignorant -- yes, and pretty dull, too, I ain't deny-
ing that; but, land! that ain't no crime, I should think.

But he wouldn't hear no more about it -- just said if
we had tackled the thing in the proper spirit, he would
'a' raised a couple of thousand knights and put them
in steel armor from head to heel, and made me a lieu-
tenant and Jim a sutler, and took the command himself
and brushed the whole paynim outfit into the sea like
flies and come back across the world in a glory like
sunset. But he said we didn't know enough to take
the chance when we had it, and he wouldn't ever offer
it again. And he didn't. When he once got set, you
couldn't budge him.

But I didn't care much. I am peaceable, and don't
get up rows with people that ain't doing nothing to
me. I allowed if the paynim was satisfied I was, and
we would let it stand at that.

Now Tom he got all that notion out of Walter Scott's
book, which he was always reading. And it WAS a
wild notion, because in my opinion he never could've
raised the men, and if he did, as like as not he would've
got licked. I took the book and read all about it, and
as near as I could make it out, most of the folks that
shook farming to go crusading had a mighty rocky
time of it.

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