Tom Sawyer, Detective

Chapter X

The Arrest of Uncle Silas

Mark Twain

THEM AWFUL WORDS froze us solid. We couldn’t move hand or foot for as much as half a minute. Then we kind of come to, and lifted the old man up and got him into his chair, and Benny petted him and kissed him and tried to comfort him, and poor old Aunt Sally she done the same; but, poor things, they was so broke up and scared and knocked out of their right minds that they didn’t hardly know what they was about. With Tom it was awful; it ’most petrified him to think maybe he had got his uncle into a thousand times more trouble than ever, and maybe it wouldn’t ever happened if he hadn’t been so ambitious to get celebrated, and let the corpse alone the way the others done. But pretty soon he sort of come to himself again and says:

“Uncle Silas, don’t you say another word like that. It’s dangerous, and there ain’t a shadder of truth in it.”

Aunt Sally and Benny was thankful to hear him say that, and they said the same; but the old man he wagged his head sorrowful and hopeless, and the tears run down his face, and he says;

“No—I done it; poor Jubiter, I done it!”

It was dreadful to hear him say it. Then he went on and told about it, and said it happened the day me and Tom come—along about sundown. He said Jubiter pestered him and aggravated him till he was so mad he just sort of lost his mind and grabbed up a stick and hit him over the head with all his might, and Jubiter dropped in his tracks. Then he was scared and sorry, and got down on his knees and lifted his head up, and begged him to speak and say he wasn’t dead; and before long he come to, and when he see who it was holding his head, he jumped like he was ’most scared to death, and cleared the fence and tore into the woods, and was gone. So he hoped he wasn’t hurt bad.

“But laws,” he says, “it was only just fear that gave him that last little spurt of strength, and of course it soon played out and he laid down in the bush, and there wasn’t anybody to help him, and he died.”

Then the old man cried and grieved, and said he was a murderer and the mark of Cain was on him, and he had disgraced his family and was going to be found out and hung. But Tom said:

“No, you ain’t going to be found out. You didn’t kill him. One lick wouldn’t kill him. Somebody else done it.”

“Oh, yes,” he says, “I done it—nobody else. Who else had anything against him? Who else could have anything against him?”

He looked up kind of like he hoped some of us could mention somebody that could have a grudge against that harmless no-account, but of course it warn’t no use—he had us; we couldn’t say a word. He noticed that, and he saddened down again, and I never see a face so miserable and so pitiful to see. Tom had a sudden idea, and says:

“But hold on!—somebody buried him. Now who—”

He shut off sudden. I knowed the reason. It give me the cold shudders when he said them words, because right away I remembered about us seeing Uncle Silas prowling around with a long-handled shovel away in the night that night. And I knowed Benny seen him, too, because she was talking about it one day. The minute Tom shut off he changed the subject and went to begging Uncle Silas to keep mum, and the rest of us done the same, and said he must, and said it wasn’t his business to tell on himself, and if he kept mum nobody would ever know; but if it was found out and any harm come to him it would break the family’s hearts and kill them, and yet never do anybody any good. So at last he promised. We was all of us more comfortable, then, and went to work to cheer up the old man. We told him all he’d got to do was to keep still, and it wouldn’t be long till the whole thing would blow over and be forgot. We all said there wouldn’t anybody ever suspect Uncle Silas, nor ever dream of such a thing, he being so good and kind, and having such a good character; and Tom says, cordial and hearty, he says:

“Why, just look at it a minute; just consider. Here is Uncle Silas, all these years a preacher—at his own expense; all these years doing good with all his might and every way he can think of—at his own expense, all the time; always been loved by everybody, and respected; always been peaceable and minding his own business, the very last man in this whole deestrict to touch a person, and everybody knows it. Suspect him? Why, it ain’t any more possible than—”

“By authority of the State of Arkansaw, I arrest you for the murder of Jubiter Dunlap!” shouts the sheriff at the door.

It was awful. Aunt Sally and Benny flung themselves at Uncle Silas, screaming and crying, and hugged him and hung to him, and Aunt Sally said go away, she wouldn’t ever give him up, they shouldn’t have him, and the niggers they come crowding and crying to the door and—well, I couldn’t stand it; it was enough to break a person’s heart; so I got out.

They took him up to the little one-horse jail in the village, and we all went along to tell him good-bye; and Tom was feeling elegant, and says to me, “We’ll have a most noble good time and heaps of danger some dark night getting him out of there, Huck, and it’ll be talked about everywheres and we will be celebrated;” but the old man busted that scheme up the minute he whispered to him about it. He said no, it was his duty to stand whatever the law done to him, and he would stick to the jail plumb through to the end, even if there warn’t no door to it. It disappointed Tom and graveled him a good deal, but he had to put up with it.

But he felt responsible and bound to get his uncle Silas free; and he told Aunt Sally, the last thing, not to worry, because he was going to turn in and work night and day and beat this game and fetch Uncle Silas out innocent; and she was very loving to him and thanked him and said she knowed he would do his very best. And she told us to help Benny take care of the house and the children, and then we had a good-bye cry all around and went back to the farm, and left her there to live with the jailer’s wife a month till the trial in October.

Tom Sawyer, Detective - Contents    |     Chapter XI - Tom Sawyer Discovers the Murderers

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