June 10, 2021

Tom Sawyer

The Adventures of Tom Sawyer

Mark Twain (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)


Most of the adventures recorded in this book really occurred; one or two were experiences of my own, the rest those of boys who were schoolmates of mine. Huckleberry Finn is drawn from life; Tom Sawyer also, but not from an individual, he is a combination of the characteristics of three boys whom I knew, and therefore belongs to the composite order of architecture. The odd superstitions touched upon were all prevalent among children and slaves in the West at the period of this story -- that is to say, thirty or forty years ago.

Although my book is intended mainly for the entertainment of boys and girls, I hope it will not be shunned by men and women on that account, for part of my plan has been to try to pleasantly remind adults of what they once were themselves, and of how they felt and thought and talked, and what queer enterprises they sometimes engaged in.

~The Author, Hartford, 1876



No answer.


No answer.

"What's gone with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!"

No answer.

The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked

over them about the room; then she put them up and

looked out under them. She seldom or never looked

THROUGH them for so small a thing as a boy; they were

her state pair, the pride of her heart, and were built

for "style," not service -- she could have seen through

a pair of stove-lids just as well. She looked perplexed

for a moment, and then said, not fiercely, but still

loud enough for the furniture to hear:

"Well, I lay if I get hold of you I'll --"

She did not finish, for by this time she was bending

down and punching under the bed with the broom,

and so she needed breath to punctuate the punches

with. She resurrected nothing but the cat.

"I never did see the beat of that boy!"

She went to the open door and stood in it and looked

out among the tomato vines and "jimpson" weeds that

constituted the garden. No Tom. So she lifted up

her voice at an angle calculated for distance and


"Y-o-u-u TOM!"

There was a slight noise behind her and she turned

just in time to seize a small boy by the slack of his

roundabout and arrest his flight.

"There! I might 'a' thought of that closet. What

you been doing in there?"


"Nothing! Look at your hands. And look at

your mouth. What IS that truck?"

"I don't know, aunt."

"Well, I know. It's jam -- that's what it is. Forty

times I've said if you didn't let that jam alone I'd skin

you. Hand me that switch."

The switch hovered in the air -- the peril was des-

perate --

"My! Look behind you, aunt!"

The old lady whirled round, and snatched her skirts

out of danger. The lad fled on the instant, scrambled

up the high board-fence, and disappeared over it.

His aunt Polly stood surprised a moment, and then

broke into a gentle laugh.

"Hang the boy, can't I never learn anything? Ain't

he played me tricks enough like that for me to be look-

ing out for him by this time? But old fools is the big-

gest fools there is. Can't learn an old dog new tricks,

as the saying is. But my goodness, he never plays

them alike, two days, and how is a body to know what's

coming? He 'pears to know just how long he can

torment me before I get my dander up, and he knows

if he can make out to put me off for a minute or make

me laugh, it's all down again and I can't hit him a lick.

I ain't doing my duty by that boy, and that's the Lord's

truth, goodness knows. Spare the rod and spile the

child, as the Good Book says. I'm a laying up sin and

suffering for us both, I know. He's full of the Old

Scratch, but laws-a-me! he's my own dead sister's boy,

poor thing, and I ain't got the heart to lash him, some-

how. Every time I let him off, my conscience does

hurt me so, and every time I hit him my old heart most

breaks. Well-a-well, man that is born of woman is of

few days and full of trouble, as the Scripture says, and

I reckon it's so. He'll play hookey this evening, * and

[* Southwestern for "afternoon"]

I'll just be obleeged to make him work, to-morrow, to

punish him. It's mighty hard to make him work

Saturdays, when all the boys is having holiday, but he

hates work more than he hates anything else, and I've

GOT to do some of my duty by him, or I'll be the ruination

of the child."

Tom did play hookey, and he had a very good time.

He got back home barely in season to help Jim, the

small colored boy, saw next-day's wood and split the

kindlings before supper -- at least he was there in

time to tell his adventures to Jim while Jim did

three-fourths of the work. Tom's younger brother

(or rather half-brother) Sid was already through

with his part of the work (picking up chips), for he

was a quiet boy, and had no adventurous, trouble-

some ways.

While Tom was eating his supper, and stealing

sugar as opportunity offered, Aunt Polly asked him

questions that were full of guile, and very deep -- for

she wanted to trap him into damaging revealments.

Like many other simple-hearted souls, it was her pet

vanity to believe she was endowed with a talent for

dark and mysterious diplomacy, and she loved to con-

template her most transparent devices as marvels of

low cunning. Said she:

"Tom, it was middling warm in school, warn't



"Powerful warm, warn't it?"


"Didn't you want to go in a-swimming, Tom?"

A bit of a scare shot through Tom -- a touch of

uncomfortable suspicion. He searched Aunt Polly's

face, but it told him nothing. So he said:

"No'm -- well, not very much."

The old lady reached out her hand and felt Tom's

shirt, and said:

"But you ain't too warm now, though." And

it flattered her to reflect that she had discovered that

the shirt was dry without anybody knowing that that

was what she had in her mind. But in spite of her,

Tom knew where the wind lay, now. So he forestalled

what might be the next move:

"Some of us pumped on our heads -- mine's damp

yet. See?"

Aunt Polly was vexed to think she had overlooked

that bit of circumstantial evidence, and missed a trick.

Then she had a new inspiration:

"Tom, you didn't have to undo your shirt collar

where I sewed it, to pump on your head, did you?

Unbutton your jacket!"

The trouble vanished out of Tom's face. He opened

his jacket. His shirt collar was securely sewed.

"Bother! Well, go 'long with you. I'd made sure

you'd played hookey and been a-swimming. But I

forgive ye, Tom. I reckon you're a kind of a singed

cat, as the saying is -- better'n you look. THIS time."

She was half sorry her sagacity had miscarried, and

half glad that Tom had stumbled into obedient con-

duct for once.

But Sidney said:

"Well, now, if I didn't think you sewed his collar

with white thread, but it's black."

"Why, I did sew it with white! Tom!"

But Tom did not wait for the rest. As he went out

at the door he said:

"Siddy, I'll lick you for that."

In a safe place Tom examined two large needles

which were thrust into the lapels of his jacket, and

had thread bound about them -- one needle carried

white thread and the other black. He said:

"She'd never noticed if it hadn't been for Sid.

Confound it! sometimes she sews it with white, and

sometimes she sews it with black. I wish to gee-

miny she'd stick to one or t'other -- I can't keep the

run of 'em. But I bet you I'll lam Sid for that. I'll

learn him!"

He was not the Model Boy of the village. He

knew the model boy very well though — and loatheddc


Within two minutes, or even less, he had forgotten

all his troubles. Not because his troubles were one

whit less heavy and bitter to him than a man's are to a

man, but because a new and powerful interest bore

them down and drove them out of his mind for the time

-- just as men's misfortunes are forgotten in the excite-

ment of new enterprises. This new interest was a

valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired

from a negro, and he was suffering to practise it un-

disturbed. It consisted in a peculiar bird-like turn, a

sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the tongue

to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of

the music -- the reader probably remembers how to

do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and attention

soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the

street with his mouth full of harmony and his soul full

of gratitude. He felt much as an astronomer feels who

has discovered a new planet -- no doubt, as far as strong,

deep, unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage

was with the boy, not the astronomer.

The summer evenings were long. It was not dark,

yet. Presently Tom checked his whistle. A stranger

was before him -- a boy a shade larger than himself.

A new-comer of any age or either sex was an im-

pressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of

St. Petersburg. This boy was well dressed, too --

well dressed on a week-day. This was simply as-

tounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-

buttoned blue cloth roundabout was new and natty,

and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on --

and it was only Friday. He even wore a necktie, a

bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air about him

that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at

the splendid marvel, the higher he turned up his nose

at his finery and the shabbier and shabbier his own

outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If

one moved, the other moved -- but only sidewise, in a

circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye all the time.

Finally Tom said:

"I can lick you!"

"I'd like to see you try it."

"Well, I can do it."

"No you can't, either."

"Yes I can."

"No you can't."

"I can."

"You can't."



An uncomfortable pause. Then Tom said:

"What's your name?"

"'Tisn't any of your business, maybe."

"Well I 'low I'll MAKE it my business."

"Well why don't you?"

"If you say much, I will."

"Much -- much -- MUCH. There now."

"Oh, you think you're mighty smart, DON'T you?

I could lick you with one hand tied behind me, if I

wanted to."

"Well why don't you DO it? You SAY you can do it."

"Well I WILL, if you fool with me."

"Oh yes -- I've seen whole families in the same fix."

"Smarty! You think you're SOME, now, DON'T you?

Oh, what a hat!"

"You can lump that hat if you don't like it. I dare

you to knock it off -- and anybody that'll take a dare

will suck eggs."

"You're a liar!"

"You're another."

"You're a fighting liar and dasn't take it up."

"Aw -- take a walk!"

"Say -- if you give me much more of your sass I'll

take and bounce a rock off'n your head."

"Oh, of COURSE you will."

"Well I WILL."

"Well why don't you DO it then? What do you

keep SAYING you will for? Why don't you DO it? It's

because you're afraid."

"I AIN'T afraid."

"You are."

"I ain't."

"You are."

Another pause, and more eying and sidling around

each other. Presently they were shoulder to shoulder.

Tom said:

"Get away from here!"

"Go away yourself!"

"I won't."

"I won't either."

So they stood, each with a foot placed at an angle

as a brace, and both shoving with might and main,

and glowering at each other with hate. But neither

could get an advantage. After struggling till both

were hot and flushed, each relaxed his strain with

watchful caution, and Tom said:

"You're a coward and a pup. I'll tell my big

brother on you, and he can thrash you with his little

finger, and I'll make him do it, too."

"What do I care for your big brother? I've got

a brother that's bigger than he is -- and what's more,

he can throw him over that fence, too." [Both brothers

were imaginary.]

"That's a lie."

"YOUR saying so don't make it so."

Tom drew a line in the dust with his big toe, and


"I dare you to step over that, and I'll lick you till

you can't stand up. Anybody that'll take a dare will

steal sheep."

The new boy stepped over promptly, and said:

"Now you said you'd do it, now let's see you do it."

"Don't you crowd me now; you better look out."

"Well, you SAID you'd do it -- why don't you do it?"

"By jingo! for two cents I WILL do it."

The new boy took two broad coppers out of his

pocket and held them out with derision. Tom struck

them to the ground. In an instant both boys were

rolling and tumbling in the dirt, gripped together like

cats; and for the space of a minute they tugged and tore

at each other's hair and clothes, punched and scratched

each other's nose, and covered themselves with dust

and glory. Presently the confusion took form, and

through the fog of battle Tom appeared, seated astride

the new boy, and pounding him with his fists.

"Holler 'nuff!" said he.

The boy only struggled to free himself. He was

crying -- mainly from rage.

"Holler 'nuff!" -- and the pounding went on.

At last the stranger got out a smothered "'Nuff!"

and Tom let him up and said:

"Now that'll learn you. Better look out who you're

fooling with next time."

The new boy went off brushing the dust from his

clothes, sobbing, snuffling, and occasionally looking

back and shaking his head and threatening what he

would do to Tom the "next time he caught him out."

To which Tom responded with jeers, and started off

in high feather, and as soon as his back was turned the

new boy snatched up a stone, threw it and hit him be-

tween the shoulders and then turned tail and ran like

an antelope. Tom chased the traitor home, and thus

found out where he lived. He then held a position at

the gate for some time, daring the enemy to come out-

side, but the enemy only made faces at him through

the window and declined. At last the enemy's mother

appeared, and called Tom a bad, vicious, vulgar child,

and ordered him away. So he went away; but he

said he "'lowed" to "lay" for that boy.

He got home pretty late that night, and when he

climbed cautiously in at the window, he uncovered

an ambuscade, in the person of his aunt; and when

she saw the state his clothes were in her resolution

to turn his Saturday holiday into captivity at hard

labor became adamantine in its firmness.


SATURDAY morning was come, and all

the summer world was bright and fresh,

and brimming with life. There was a

song in every heart; and if the heart was

young the music issued at the lips. There

was cheer in every face and a spring in

every step. The locust-trees were in bloom and the

fragrance of the blossoms filled the air. Cardiff

Hill, beyond the village and above it, was green with

vegetation and it lay just far enough away to seem

a Delectable Land, dreamy, reposeful, and inviting.

Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of

whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed

the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep mel-

ancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards

of board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed

hollow, and existence but a burden. Sighing, he

dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank;

repeated the operation; did it again; compared the in-

significant whitewashed streak with the far-reaching

continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a

tree-box discouraged. Jim came skipping out at the

gate with a tin pail, and singing Buffalo Gals. Bringing

water from the town pump had always been hateful

work in Tom's eyes, before, but now it did not strike

him so. He remembered that there was company

at the pump. White, mulatto, and negro boys and

girls were always there waiting their turns, resting,

trading playthings, quarrelling, fighting, skylarking.

And he remembered that although the pump was only

a hundred and fifty yards off, Jim never got back with

a bucket of water under an hour -- and even then some-

body generally had to go after him. Tom said:

"Say, Jim, I'll fetch the water if you'll whitewash


Jim shook his head and said:

"Can't, Mars Tom. Ole missis, she tole me I

got to go an' git dis water an' not stop foolin' roun'

wid anybody. She say she spec' Mars Tom gwine

to ax me to whitewash, an' so she tole me go 'long

an' 'tend to my own business -- she 'lowed SHE'D 'tend

to de whitewashin'."

"Oh, never you mind what she said, Jim. That's

the way she always talks. Gimme the bucket -- I

won't be gone only a a minute. SHE won't ever know."

"Oh, I dasn't, Mars Tom. Ole missis she'd take

an' tar de head off'n me. 'Deed she would."

"SHE! She never licks anybody -- whacks 'em over

the head with her thimble -- and who cares for that,

I'd like to know. She talks awful, but talk don't

hurt -- anyways it don't if she don't cry. Jim, I'll give

you a marvel. I'll give you a white alley!"

Jim began to waver.

"White alley, Jim! And it's a bully taw."

"My! Dat's a mighty gay marvel, I tell you!

But Mars Tom I's powerful 'fraid ole missis --"

"And besides, if you will I'll show you my sore


Jim was only human -- this attraction was too much

for him. He put down his pail, took the white alley,

and bent over the toe with absorbing interest while the

bandage was being unwound. In another moment he

was flying down the street with his pail and a tingling

rear, Tom was whitewashing with vigor, and Aunt

Polly was retiring from the field with a slipper in her

hand and triumph in her eye.

But Tom's energy did not last. He began to think

of the fun he had planned for this day, and his sorrows

multiplied. Soon the free boys would come tripping

along on all sorts of delicious expeditions, and they

would make a world of fun of him for having to work

-- the very thought of it burnt him like fire. He got

out his worldly wealth and examined it -- bits of toys,

marbles, and trash; enough to buy an exchange of WORK,

maybe, but not half enough to buy so much as half an

hour of pure freedom. So he returned his straitened

means to his pocket, and gave up the idea of trying

to buy the boys. At this dark and hopeless moment

an inspiration burst upon him! Nothing less than a

great, magnificent inspiration.

He took up his brush and went tranquilly to work.

Ben Rogers hove in sight presently -- the very boy,

of all boys, whose ridicule he had been dreading.

Ben's gait was the hop-skip-and-jump -- proof enough

that his heart was light and his anticipations high. He

was eating an apple, and giving a long, melodious

whoop, at intervals, followed by a deep-toned ding-

dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a

steamboat. As he drew near, he slackened speed,

took the middle of the street, leaned far over to star-

board and rounded to ponderously and with laborious

pomp and circumstance -- for he was personating the

Big Missouri, and considered himself to be drawing

nine feet of water. He was boat and captain and

engine-bells combined, so he had to imagine himself

standing on his own hurricane-deck giving the orders

and executing them:

"Stop her, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling!" The headway ran

almost out, and he drew up slowly toward the sidewalk.

"Ship up to back! Ting-a-ling-ling!" His arms

straightened and stiffened down his sides.

"Set her back on the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling!

Chow! ch-chow-wow! Chow!" His right hand, mean-

time, describing stately circles -- for it was representing

a forty-foot wheel.

"Let her go back on the labboard! Ting-a-ling-

ling! Chow-ch-chow-chow!" The left hand began

to describe circles.

"Stop the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Stop the

labboard! Come ahead on the stabboard! Stop her!

Let your outside turn over slow! Ting-a-ling-ling!

Chow-ow-ow! Get out that head-line! LIVELY now!

Come -- out with your spring-line -- what're you about

there! Take a turn round that stump with the bight

of it! Stand by that stage, now -- let her go! Done

with the engines, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling! SH'T! S'H'T!

SH'T!" (trying the gauge-cocks).

Tom went on whitewashing -- paid no attention to

the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said:

"Hi-YI! YOU'RE up a stump, ain't you!"

No answer. Tom surveyed his last touch with the

eye of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle

sweep and surveyed the result, as before. Ben ranged

up alongside of him. Tom's mouth watered for the

apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said:

"Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?"

Tom wheeled suddenly and said:

"Why, it's you, Ben! I warn't noticing."

"Say -- I'm going in a-swimming, I am. Don't

you wish you could? But of course you'd druther

WORK -- wouldn't you? Course you would!"

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

"What do you call work?"

"Why, ain't THAT work?"

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered care-


"Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain't. All I know,

is, it suits Tom Sawyer."

"Oh come, now, you don't mean to let on that you

LIKE it?"

The brush continued to move.

"Like it? Well, I don't see why I oughtn't to like it.

Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?"

That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped

nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily

back and forth -- stepped back to note the effect --

added a touch here and there -- criticised the effect

again -- Ben watching every move and getting more

and more interested, more and more absorbed. Pres-

ently he said:

"Say, Tom, let ME whitewash a little."

Tom considered, was about to consent; but he

altered his mind:

"No -- no -- I reckon it wouldn't hardly do, Ben.

You see, Aunt Polly's awful particular about this

fence -- right here on the street, you know -- but if it

was the back fence I wouldn't mind and SHE wouldn't.

Yes, she's awful particular about this fence; it's got to

be done very careful; I reckon there ain't one boy in a

thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it the way

it's got to be done."

"No -- is that so? Oh come, now -- lemme just

try. Only just a little -- I'd let YOU, if you was me,


"Ben, I'd like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly

-- well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn't let him;

Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn't let Sid. Now

don't you see how I'm fixed? If you was to tackle this

fence and anything was to happen to it --"

"Oh, shucks, I'll be just as careful. Now lemme try.

Say -- I'll give you the core of my apple."

"Well, here -- No, Ben, now don't. I'm afeard --"

"I'll give you ALL of it!"

Tom gave up the brush with reluctance in his face,

but alacrity in his heart. And while the late steamer

Big Missouri worked and sweated in the sun, the

retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by,

dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the

slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack

of material; boys happened along every little while;

they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By

the time Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next

chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good repair; and

when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a

dead rat and a string to swing it with -- and so on, and

so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the

afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken

boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth.

He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve

marbles, part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass

to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn't

unlock anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper

of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six

fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-

knob, a dog-collar -- but no dog -- the handle of a knife,

four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window


He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while --

plenty of company -- and the fence had three coats of

whitewash on it! If he hadn't run out of whitewash he

would have bankrupted every boy in the village.

Tom said to himself that it was not such a hollow

world, after all. He had discovered a great law of

human action, without knowing it -- namely, that in

order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is only

necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If

he had been a great and wise philosopher, like the

writer of this book, he would now have comprehended

that Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to

do, and that Play consists of whatever a body is not

obliged to do. And this would help him to understand

why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a

tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing

Mont Blanc is only amusement. There are wealthy

gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-

coaches twenty or thirty miles on a daily line, in the

summer, because the privilege costs them considerable

money; but if they were offered wages for the service,

that would turn it into work and then they would


The boy mused awhile over the substantial change

which had taken place in his worldly circumstances,

and then wended toward headquarters to report.