TOM SAWYER, DETECTIVE
by Mark Twain(Samuel Langhorne Clemens) (1835 – 1910)
with 21 Illustrations by A. B. Frost (1851 – 1928)
First published 1896
The text of this book, published before 1923, is in the public domain world-wide because the author died more than 100 years ago. The illustrations are in the public domain in countries where copyright is Life+70 or less, and in the USA.
Mark Twain is most noted for his novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and its sequel, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1885), the latter often called "the Great American Novel." Among dozens of titles, some of his works include The Innocents Abroad, A Tramp Abroad, Roughing It, Life on the Mississippi, The Prince and the Pauper, A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and many more.
This is another of Twain’s minor works, nearly forgotten today. In the fourth and final book of the Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn adventures, Twain slips into the detective/mystery genre popularized by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle several years previously. This is a burlesque of Sherlock Holmes, with Tom standing in for the almost preternaturally observant detective, and Huck as the perfect Watson.
While the boys are traveling south by steamboat to visit Tom’s aunt and uncle, they become intrigued by a mysterious fellow passenger, and soon learn about a diamond theft. Shortly after their arrival, a murder is discovered. Not only is Uncle Silas accused of the murder, he confesses! Tom is determined to solve all the mysteries. Not content to simply investigate, he is also a budding Perry Mason, and performs as a lawyer at the trial, with an obligatory climactic courtroom scene.
This is not as overtly humorous as the other Tom & Huck books, but bubbles with subtle satire. A very short pleasant read, suitable for for fans of Twain, fans of Tom & Huck, and fans of (not too challenging) mysteries.
... Don’t you know what that is? It’s spring fever. That is what the name of it is. And when you’ve got it, you want—oh, you don’t quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so! It seems to you that mainly what you want is to get away; get away from the same old tedious things you’re so used to seeing and so tired of, and set something new. That is the idea; you want to go and be a wanderer; you want to go wandering far away to strange countries where everything is mysterious and wonderful and romantic. And if you can’t do that, you’ll put up with considerable less; you’ll go anywhere you can go, just so as to get away, and be thankful of the chance, too.
Well, me and Tom Sawyer had the spring fever, and had it bad, too; but it warn’t any use to think about Tom trying to get away, because, as he said, his Aunt Polly wouldn’t let him quit school and go traipsing off somers wasting time; so we was pretty blue. We was setting on the front steps one day about sundown talking this way, when out comes his aunt Polly with a letter in her hand and says:
“Tom, I reckon you’ve got to pack up and go down to Arkansaw—your aunt Sally wants you.”
I ’most jumped out of my skin for joy. I reckoned Tom would fly at his aunt and hug her head off; but if you believe me he set there like a rock, and never said a word. It made me fit to cry to see him act so foolish, with such a noble chance as this opening up. Why, we might lose it if he didn’t speak up and show he was thankful and grateful. But he set there and studied and studied till I was that distressed I didn’t know what to do; then he says, very ca’m, and I could a shot him for it:
“Well,” he says, “I’m right down sorry, Aunt Polly, but I reckon I got to be excused—for the present.”
His aunt Polly was knocked so stupid and so mad at the cold impudence of it that she couldn’t say a word for as much as a half a minute, and this gave me a chance to nudge Tom and whisper:
“Ain’t you got any sense? Sp’iling such a noble chance as this and throwing it away?”
But he warn’t disturbed. He mumbled back:
“Huck Finn, do you want me to let her see how bad I want to go? Why, she’d begin to doubt, right away, and imagine a lot of sicknesses and dangers and objections, and first you know she’d take it all back. You lemme alone; I reckon I know how to work her.”
Now I never would ’a’ thought of that. But he was right. Tom Sawyer was always right—the levelest head I ever see, and always at himself and ready for anything you might spring on him. By this time his aunt Polly was all straight again, and she let fly. She says:
“You’ll be excused! You will! Well, I never heard the like of it in all my days! The idea of you talking like that to me! Now take yourself off and pack your traps; and if I hear another word out of you about what you’ll be excused from and what you won’t, I lay I’ll excuse you—with a hickory!”
She hit his head a thump with her thimble as we dodged by, and he let on to be whimpering as we struck for the stairs. Up in his room he hugged me, he was so out of his head for gladness because he was going traveling. And he says:
“Before we get away she’ll wish she hadn’t let me go, but she won’t know any way to get around it now. After what she’s said, her pride won’t let her take it back.”
Tom was packed in ten minutes, all except what his aunt and Mary would finish up for him; then we waited ten more for her to get cooled down and sweet and gentle again; for Tom said it took her ten minutes to unruffle in times when half of her feathers was up, but twenty when they was all up, and this was one of the times when they was all up.
Based on text from Project Gutenberg; proofed against pdf scan from Internet Archive. Formatted punctuation, restored italics. All illustrations are centered. Cross-linked inline ToC. Embedded font for titling and initial caps. Small drop-caps and Large initial-caps versions.
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