Subscribe for ad free access & additional features for teachers. Authors: 267, Books: 3,607, Poems & Short Stories: 4,435, Forum Members: 71,154, Forum Posts: 1,238,602, Quizzes: 344

Chapter 36


AS soon as we reckoned everybody was asleep that
night we went down the lightning-rod, and shut
ourselves up in the lean-to, and got out our pile of
fox-fire, and went to work. We cleared everything
out of the way, about four or five foot along the mid-
dle of the bottom log. Tom said we was right behind
Jim's bed now, and we'd dig in under it, and when we
got through there couldn't nobody in the cabin ever
know there was any hole there, because Jim's counter-
pin hung down most to the ground, and you'd have to
raise it up and look under to see the hole. So we dug
and dug with the case-knives till most midnight; and
then we was dog-tired, and our hands was blistered,
and yet you couldn't see we'd done anything hardly.
At last I says:

"This ain't no thirty-seven year job; this is a
thirty-eight year job, Tom Sawyer."

He never said nothing. But he sighed, and pretty
soon he stopped digging, and then for a good little
while I knowed that he was thinking. Then he says:

"It ain't no use, Huck, it ain't a-going to work. If
we was prisoners it would, because then we'd have as
many years as we wanted, and no hurry; and we
wouldn't get but a few minutes to dig, every day,
while they was changing watches, and so our hands
wouldn't get blistered, and we could keep it up right
along, year in and year out, and do it right, and the
way it ought to be done. But WE can't fool along;
we got to rush; we ain't got no time to spare. If we
was to put in another night this way we'd have to
knock off for a week to let our hands get well --
couldn't touch a case-knife with them sooner."

"Well, then, what we going to do, Tom?"

"I'll tell you. It ain't right, and it ain't moral,  .
and I wouldn't like it to get out; but there ain't only
just the one way: we got to dig him out with the
picks, and LET ON it's case-knives."

"NOW you're TALKING!" I says; "your head gets
leveler and leveler all the time, Tom Sawyer," I
says. "Picks is the thing, moral or no moral; and as
for me, I don't care shucks for the morality of it,
nohow. When I start in to steal a nigger, or a water-
melon, or a Sunday-school book, I ain't no ways
particular how it's done so it's done. What I want is
my nigger; or what I want is my watermelon; or what
I want is my Sunday-school book; and if a pick's the
handiest thing, that's the thing I'm a-going to dig that
nigger or that watermelon or that Sunday-school book
out with; and I don't give a dead rat what the au-
thorities thinks about it nuther."

"Well," he says, "there's excuse for picks and
letting-on in a case like this; if it warn't so, I wouldn't
approve of it, nor I wouldn't stand by and see the
rules broke -- because right is right, and wrong is
wrong, and a body ain't got no business doing wrong
when he ain't ignorant and knows better. It might
answer for YOU to dig Jim out with a pick, WITHOUT any
letting on, because you don't know no better; but it
wouldn't for me, because I do know better. Gimme
a case-knife."

He had his own by him, but I handed him mine.
He flung it down, and says:

"Gimme a CASE-KNIFE."

I didn't know just what to do -- but then I thought.
I scratched around amongst the old tools, and got a
pickaxe and give it to him, and he took it and went to
work, and never said a word.

He was always just that particular. Full of principle.

So then I got a shovel, and then we picked and
shoveled, turn about, and made the fur fly. We stuck
to it about a half an hour, which was as long as we
could stand up; but we had a good deal of a hole to
show for it. When I got up stairs I looked out at the
window and see Tom doing his level best with the
lightning-rod, but he couldn't come it, his hands was
so sore. At last he says:

"It ain't no use, it can't be done. What you
reckon I better do? Can't you think of no way?"

"Yes," I says, "but I reckon it ain't regular.
Come up the stairs, and let on it's a lightning-rod."

So he done it.

Next day Tom stole a pewter spoon and a brass
candlestick in the house, for to make some pens for
Jim out of, and six tallow candles; and I hung around
the nigger cabins and laid for a chance, and stole three
tin plates. Tom says it wasn't enough; but I said
nobody wouldn't ever see the plates that Jim throwed
out, because they'd fall in the dog-fennel and jimpson
weeds under the window-hole -- then we could tote
them back and he could use them over again. So
Tom was satisfied. Then he says:

"Now, the thing to study out is, how to get the
things to Jim."

"Take them in through the hole," I says, "when
we get it done."

He only just looked scornful, and said something
about nobody ever heard of such an idiotic idea, and
then he went to studying. By and by he said he had
ciphered out two or three ways, but there warn't no
need to decide on any of them yet. Said we'd got to
post Jim first.

That night we went down the lightning-rod a little
after ten, and took one of the candles along, and
listened under the window-hole, and heard Jim snoring;
so we pitched it in, and it didn't wake him. Then we
whirled in with the pick and shovel, and in about two
hours and a half the job was done. We crept in under
Jim's bed and into the cabin, and pawed around and
found the candle and lit it, and stood over Jim awhile,
and found him looking hearty and healthy, and then
we woke him up gentle and gradual. He was so glad to
see us he most cried; and called us honey, and all the
pet names he could think of; and was for having us
hunt up a cold-chisel to cut the chain off of his leg
with right away, and clearing out without losing any
time. But Tom he showed him how unregular it
would be, and set down and told him all about our
plans, and how we could alter them in a minute any
time there was an alarm; and not to be the least afraid,
because we would see he got away, SURE. So Jim he
said it was all right, and we set there and talked over
old times awhile, and then Tom asked a lot of ques-
tions, and when Jim told him Uncle Silas come in
every day or two to pray with him, and Aunt Sally
come in to see if he was comfortable and had plenty to
eat, and both of them was kind as they could be, Tom

"NOW I know how to fix it. We'll send you some
things by them."

I said, "Don't do nothing of the kind; it's one of
the most jackass ideas I ever struck;" but he never
paid no attention to me; went right on. It was his
way when he'd got his plans set.

So he told Jim how we'd have to smuggle in the
rope-ladder pie and other large things by Nat, the
nigger that fed him, and he must be on the lookout,
and not be surprised, and not let Nat see him open
them; and we would put small things in uncle's coat-
pockets and he must steal them out; and we would tie
things to aunt's apron-strings or put them in her
apron-pocket, if we got a chance; and told him what
they would be and what they was for. And told him
how to keep a journal on the shirt with his blood, and
all that. He told him everything. Jim he couldn't
see no sense in the most of it, but he allowed we was
white folks and knowed better than him; so he was
satisfied, and said he would do it all just as Tom said.

Jim had plenty corn-cob pipes and tobacco; so
we had a right down good sociable time; then we
crawled out through the hole, and so home to bed,
with hands that looked like they'd been chawed. Tom
was in high spirits. He said it was the best fun he
ever had in his life, and the most intellectural; and
said if he only could see his way to it we would keep it
up all the rest of our lives and leave Jim to our children
to get out; for he believed Jim would come to like it
better and better the more he got used to it. He said
that in that way it could be strung out to as much as
eighty year, and would be the best time on record.
And he said it would make us all celebrated that had a
hand in it.

In the morning we went out to the woodpile and
chopped up the brass candlestick into handy sizes, and
Tom put them and the pewter spoon in his pocket.
Then we went to the nigger cabins, and while I got
Nat's notice off, Tom shoved a piece of candlestick
into the middle of a corn-pone that was in Jim's pan,
and we went along with Nat to see how it would work,
and it just worked noble; when Jim bit into it it most
mashed all his teeth out; and there warn't ever any-
thing could a worked better. Tom said so himself.
Jim he never let on but what it was only just a piece of
rock or something like that that's always getting into
bread, you know; but after that he never bit into
nothing but what he jabbed his fork into it in three or
four places first.

And whilst we was a-standing there in the dimmish
light, here comes a couple of the hounds bulging in
from under Jim's bed; and they kept on piling in till
there was eleven of them, and there warn't hardly
room in there to get your breath. By jings, we forgot
to fasten that lean-to door! The nigger Nat he only
just hollered "Witches" once, and keeled over on to
the floor amongst the dogs, and begun to groan like
he was dying. Tom jerked the door open and flung
out a slab of Jim's meat, and the dogs went for it, and
in two seconds he was out himself and back again and
shut the door, and I knowed he'd fixed the other door
too. Then he went to work on the nigger, coaxing
him and petting him, and asking him if he'd been
imagining he saw something again. He raised up, and
blinked his eyes around, and says:

"Mars Sid, you'll say I's a fool, but if I didn't
b'lieve I see most a million dogs, er devils, er some'n,
I wisht I may die right heah in dese tracks. I did,
mos' sholy. Mars Sid, I FELT um -- I FELT um, sah;
dey was all over me. Dad fetch it, I jis' wisht I
could git my han's on one er dem witches jis' wunst --
on'y jis' wunst -- it's all I'd ast. But mos'ly I wisht
dey'd lemme 'lone, I does."

Tom says:

"Well, I tell you what I think. What makes them
come here just at this runaway nigger's breakfast-time?
It's because they're hungry; that's the reason. You
make them a witch pie; that's the thing for YOU to

"But my lan', Mars Sid, how's I gwyne to make
'm a witch pie? I doan' know how to make it. I
hain't ever hearn er sich a thing b'fo'."

"Well, then, I'll have to make it myself."

"Will you do it, honey? -- Qwill you? I'll wusshup
de groun' und' yo' foot, I will!"

"All right, I'll do it, seeing it's you, and you've
been good to us and showed us the runaway nigger.
But you got to be mighty careful. When we come
around, you turn your back; and then whatever we've
put in the pan, don't you let on you see it at all. And
don't you look when Jim unloads the pan -- something
might happen, I don't know what. And above all,
don't you HANDLE the witch-things."

"HANNEL 'm, Mars Sid? What IS you a-talkin'
'bout? I wouldn' lay de weight er my finger on
um, not f'r ten hund'd thous'n billion dollars, I

Mark Twain