The two boys ran quickly toward the village,
speechless with horror. They looked over their shoulders from time to time,
apprehensively, as if they feared they might be followed.
Every tree and stone that they saw on the path looked like a man and an enemy,
and made them catch their breath. As they ran past some cottages that were near
the village, the barking of the watch-dogs seemed to give wings to their feet.
"If we can only get to the old stables before we break down!" whispered Tom, in
short catches between breaths. "I can't stand it much longer."
Huckleberry's hard breaths were his only reply, and the boys fixed their eyes on
the goal of their hopes and tried as hard as they could to get there.
They got close, and at last, together, they ran through the open door and fell
grateful and exhausted inside.
After a time, their pulses slowed down and they began breathing normally. Tom
whispered, "Huckleberry, what do you think will happen?"
"If Doctor Robinson dies, I think there’ll be a hanging."
"Yes, I’m sure, Tom."
Tom thought a while, then he said, "Who'll tell? Us?"
"What are you talking about? Suppose something happened and Injun Joe didn’t
hang? He'd kill us sooner or later, I’m just as sure as we're laying here."
"That's just what I was thinking to myself, Huck."
"If anybody tells, let Muff Potter do it, if he's stupid enough. He's generally
Tom said nothing and went on thinking. Soon he whispered, "Huck, Muff Potter
doesn't know. How can he say anything?"
"What's the reason he doesn't know?"
"Because he'd just been hit on the head when Injun Joe did it. Do you think he
could see anything? Do you think he knew anything?"
"That's true, Tom!"
"Anyway, maybe that hit on the head killed him, too!"
"No, I don’t think so, Tom. He was really drunk, I could see that. When he’s
drunk you could hit him on the head with a church and it wouldn’t affect him. He
says so himself. But if a man was totally sober, I think maybe that hit might
kill him. I don’t know."
After another reflective silence, Tom said, "Hucky, you sure you can keep the
"Tom, we’ve got to keep the secret. You know that. That Injun devil would drown
us like a couple of cats, if we spoke about this and they didn't hang him. Tom,
let’s swear to one another, that's what we must do, swear to keep quiet."
"I agree. It's the best thing. Would you just hold hands and swear that we...
"Oh no, that won’t work for this. That's good enough for little common things,
especially with girls because they cheat on you anyway, and speak if they get
annoyed. We must write something about a big thing like this. And put blood."
Tom completely agreed with this idea. It was deep, and dark, and awful. The
time, the circumstances, the surroundings, were all in like with it.
He picked up a clean piece of wood that lay in the moonlight, took a small piece
of chalk out of his pocket and, with the light of the moon to help him, started
"Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer swear that they will keep quiet about This and They
wish They may Drop down dead immediately if They ever Tell."
Huckleberry was filled with admiration of Tom's ability to write, and his
wonderful use of language. He at once took a pin from his jacket and was going
to prick his skin, but Tom said, "Hold on! Don't do that. A pin might have
verdigrease on it."
"It's poison. That's what it is. It’s dangerous. You only need to put it in your
mouth once and you’ll see."
So Tom unwound the thread from one of his needles, and each boy pricked his
thumb and squeezed out a drop of blood. In time, after many squeezes, Tom
managed to sign his initials, using the tip of his little finger for a pen.
Then he showed Huckleberry how to make an H and an F, and the oath was complete.
They buried the piece of wood close to the wall. They considered their tongues
to be silent, the secret locked and the key thrown away.
A figure moved quietly at the other end of the building, but the boys did not
"Tom," whispered Huckleberry, "does this stop us from ever telling - always?"
"Of course it does. It doesn't make any difference waht happens, we must keep
the secret. If not, we’d die. Don’t you know that?"
"Yes, I think that's true."
They continued to whisper for a while. Suddenly, a dog started to bark and howl
just outside, within ten feet of them.
The boys held each other tightly in a grip of fear.
... to be continued!
* The text has been adapted from the Adventures
of Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain
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