Gradually their talk died out and they became
tired. The pipe dropped from the fingers of the Red-Handed, and he slept the
sleep of the conscience-free and the weary.
The Terror of the Seas and the Black Avenger of the Spanish Main had more
difficulty in getting to sleep.
They said their prayers inwardly, and lying down, because there was nobody there
with authority to make them kneel and pray aloud. They actually felt like not
saying them at all, but they were afraid to. They didn’t want to be hit by a
thunderbolt from heaven.
Just before falling asleep, they were visited by uncomfortable thoughts that
played on their conscience. They began to feel afraid that they had done wrong
to run away. Next, they thought of the stolen meat, and then the real torture
They tried to argue it away by reminding their conscience that they had stolen
sweetmeats and apples many times in the past. But their conscience was not
It seemed to them, in the end, that there was no avoiding the fact that taking
sweetmeats was only "playing," while taking bacon and hams and such valuables
was real stealing, and there was a command against that in the Bible.
So, they inwardly decided that so long as they stayed pirates, they should not
commit the crime of stealing.
Then their conscience forgave them and these curiously inconsistent pirates fell
peacefully to sleep.
When Tom woke up in the morning, he wondered where he was. He sat up and rubbed
his eyes and looked around.
Then he understood. It was a cool grey dawn, and there was a delicious sense of
rest and peace in the calm and silence of the woods.
Not a leaf moved; not a sound disturbed great Nature's meditation. The leaves
and grass were full with morning dew. A white layer of ashes covered the fire,
and a thin blue breath of smoke rose straight into the air.
Joe and Huck still slept.
Far away in the forest a bird called; another answered; presently the hammering
sound of a woodpecker was heard. A little green worm came crawling over a wet
leaf, lifting two-thirds of his body into the air from time to time and "sniffing
around," then continued again.
The worm approached Tom who sat as still as a stone, with his hopes rising and
falling as the creature either came toward him or preferred to change direction
and go somewhere else.
Finally, it lifted its curved body in the air and then came decisively down on
Tom's leg and began a journey over him. He was happy because that meant that he
was going to have a new suit of clothes for sure. A smart pirate’s uniform.
Now a procession of ants appeared, from nowhere in particular, and went about
their work. One struggled manfully by with a dead spider five times as big as
itself in its arms, and pulled it straight up a tree-trunk.
A brown spotted ladybird climbed up some grass and Tom bent down close to it and
said, "Ladybird, ladybird, fly away home, your house is on fire, your children's
alone," and she flew off to check on it which did not surprise the boy. He’d
known for a long time that this insect believed everything it heard.
A beetle came next, pushing its ball, and Tom touched the creature to see it
close its legs against its body and pretend to be dead.
The birds were totally awake by this time. One of them flew to a tree over Tom's
head, and sang happily with its friends in the neighbouring tree.
Then a smaller bird flew down and stopped on a twig almost within the boy's
reach. It put its head to one side and looked at the strangers with curiosity.
A grey squirrel and a fox came running along, sitting up at intervals to inspect
and chatter at the boys. These wild creatures had probably never seen a human
being before and didn’t know whether to be afraid or not.
All Nature was wide awake now. Sunlight pierced down through the thick forest
and a few butterflies also arrived at the scene.
Tom woke up the other pirates and they all shouted and chatted away together. In
a minute or two the boys had undressed and were playing together in the shallow
water of the white sandbar.
They paid no attention to the little village sleeping in the distance beyond the
water. The movement of the water and a rise in the river had carried off their
raft, but this made them happy, since its going was something like burning the
bridge between them and civilization.
... to be continued!
* The text has been adapted from the Adventures
of Tom Sawyer
by Mark Twain
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