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The Holy Land

Tom Sawyer Abroad by Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens) was published in 1894. Tom, Huck, and Jim fly to Africa in a hot air balloon, where they survive encounters with lions, robbers, and fleas to see some of the world’s greatest wonders, including the Pyramids and the Sphinx. Like Huckleberry Finn and Tom Sawyer, Detective, the story is told using the first-person narrative voice of Huck Finn.

The following excerpts, which sadly show little has changed in more than a hundred years, are from the first chapter “Tom seeks new adventures.”


DO you reckon Tom Sawyer was satisfied after all them adventures? I mean the adventures we had down the river, and the time we set the darky Jim free and Tom got shot in the leg. No, he wasn’t. It only just p’isoned him for more. That was all the effect it had. You see, when we three came back up the river in glory, as you may say, from that long travel, and the village received us with a torchlight procession and speeches, and everybody hurrah’d and shouted, it made us heroes, and that was what Tom Sawyer had always been hankering to be.

For a while he WAS satisfied. Everybody made much of him, and he tilted up his nose and stepped around the town as though he owned it. Some called him Tom Sawyer the Traveler, and that just swelled him up fit to bust. You see he laid over me and Jim considerable, because we only went down the river on a raft and came back by the steamboat, but Tom went by the steamboat both ways. The boys envied me and Jim a good deal, but land! they just knuckled to the dirt before TOM.

[eleven paragraphs ommitted]

Pretty soon he got to worrying and fretting right along day in and day out, and when I asked him what WAS he in such a state about, he said it ‘most broke his heart to think how time was slipping away, and him getting older and older, and no wars breaking out and no way of making a name for himself that he could see. Now that is the way boys is always thinking, but he was the first one I ever heard come out and say it.

So then he set to work to get up a plan to make him celebrated; and pretty soon he struck it, and offered to take me and Jim in. Tom Sawyer was always free and generous that way. There’s a-plenty of boys that’s mighty good and friendly when YOU’VE got a good thing, but when a good thing happens to come their way they don’t say a word to you, and try to hog it all. That warn’t ever Tom Sawyer’s way, I can say that for him. There’s plenty of boys that will come hankering and groveling around you when you’ve got an apple and beg the core off of you; but when they’ve got one, and you beg for the core and remind them how you give them a core one time, they say thank you ‘most to death, but there ain’t a-going to be no core. But I notice they always git come up with; all you got to do is to wait.

Well, we went out in the woods on the hill, and Tom told us what it was. It was a crusade.

“What’s a crusade?” I says.

He looked scornful, the way he’s always done when he was ashamed of a person, and says:

“Huck Finn, do you mean to tell me you don’t know what a crusade is?”

“No,” says I, “I don’t. And I don’t care to, nuther. I’ve lived till now and done without it, and had my health, too. But as soon as you tell me, I’ll know, and that’s soon enough. I don’t see any use in finding out things and clogging up my head with them when I mayn’t ever have any occasion to use ’em. There was Lance Williams, he learned how to talk Choctaw here till one come and dug his grave for him. Now, then, what’s a crusade? But I can tell you one thing before you begin; if it’s a patent-right, there’s no money in it. Bill Thompson he –”

“Patent-right!” says he. “I never see such an idiot. Why, a crusade is a kind of war.”

I thought he must be losing his mind. But no, he was in real earnest, and went right on, perfectly ca’m.

“A crusade is a war to recover the Holy Land from the paynim.”

“Which Holy Land?”

“Why, the Holy Land — there ain’t but one.”

“What do we want of it?”

“Why, can’t you understand? It’s in the hands of the paynim, and it’s our duty to take it away from them.”

“How did we come to let them git hold of it?”

“We didn’t come to let them git hold of it. They always had it.”

“Why, Tom, then it must belong to them, don’t it?”

“Why of course it does. Who said it didn’t?”

I studied over it, but couldn’t seem to git at the right of it, no way. I says:

“It’s too many for me, Tom Sawyer. If I had a farm and it was mine, and another person wanted it, would it be right for him to –”

“Oh, shucks! you don’t know enough to come in when it rains, Huck Finn. It ain’t a farm, it’s entirely different. You see, it’s like this. They own the land, just the mere land, and that’s all they DO own; but it was our folks, our Jews and Christians, that made it holy, and so they haven’t any business to be there defiling it. It’s a shame, and we ought not to stand it a minute. We ought to march against them and take it away from them.”

“Why, it does seem to me it’s the most mixed-up thing I ever see! Now, if I had a farm and another person –”

“Don’t I tell you it hasn’t got anything to do with farming? Farming is business, just common low-down business: that’s all it is, it’s all you can say for it; but this is higher, this is religious, and totally different.”

“Religious to go and take the land away from people that owns it?”

“Certainly; it’s always been considered so.”

Jim he shook his head, and says:

“Mars Tom, I reckon dey’s a mistake about it somers — dey mos’ sholy is. I’s religious myself, en I knows plenty religious people, but I hain’t run across none dat acts like dat.”

It made Tom hot, and he says:

“Well, it’s enough to make a body sick, such mullet-headed ignorance! If either of you’d read anything about history, you’d know that Richard Cur de Loon, and the Pope, and Godfrey de Bulleyn, and lots more of the most noble-hearted and pious people in the world, hacked and hammered at the paynims for more than two hundred years trying to take their land away from them, and swum neck-deep in blood the whole time — and yet here’s a couple of sap-headed country yahoos out in the backwoods of Missouri setting themselves up to know more about the rights and wrongs of it than they did! Talk about cheek!”

Well, of course, that put a more different light on it, and me and Jim felt pretty cheap and ignorant, and wished we hadn’t been quite so chipper. I couldn’t say nothing, and Jim he couldn’t for a while; then he says:

“Well, den, I reckon it’s all right; beca’se ef dey didn’t know, dey ain’t no use for po’ ignorant folks like us to be trying to know; en so, ef it’s our duty, we got to go en tackle it en do de bes’ we can. Same time, I feel as sorry for dem paynims as Mars Tom. De hard part gwine to be to kill folks dat a body hain’t been ‘quainted wid and dat hain’t done him no harm. Dat’s it, you see. Ef we wuz to go ‘mongst ’em, jist we three, en say we’s hungry, en ast ’em for a bite to eat, why, maybe dey’s jist like yuther people. Don’t you reckon dey is? Why, DEY’D give it, I know dey would, en den –”

“Then what?”

“Well, Mars Tom, my idea is like dis. It ain’t no use, we CAN’T kill dem po’ strangers dat ain’t doin’ us no harm, till we’ve had practice — I knows it perfectly well, Mars Tom — ‘deed I knows it perfectly well. But ef we takes a’ axe or two, jist you en me en Huck, en slips acrost de river to-night arter de moon’s gone down, en kills dat sick fam’ly dat’s over on the Sny, en burns dey house down, en –”

“Oh, you make me tired!” says Tom. “I don’t want to argue any more with people like you and Huck Finn, that’s always wandering from the subject, and ain’t got any more sense than to try to reason out a thing that’s pure theology by the laws that protect real estate!”

Now that’s just where Tom Sawyer warn’t fair. Jim didn’t mean no harm, and I didn’t mean no harm. We knowed well enough that he was right and we was wrong, and all we was after was to get at the HOW of it, and that was all; and the only reason he couldn’t explain it so we could understand it was because we was ignorant — yes, and pretty dull, too, I ain’t denying that; but, land! that ain’t no crime, I should think.

But he wouldn’t hear no more about it — just said if we had tackled the thing in the proper spirit, he would ‘a’ raised a couple of thousand knights and put them in steel armor from head to heel, and made me a lieutenant and Jim a sutler, and took the command himself and brushed the whole paynim outfit into the sea like flies and come back across the world in a glory like sunset. But he said we didn’t know enough to take the chance when we had it, and he wouldn’t ever offer it again. And he didn’t. When he once got set, you couldn’t budge him.

But I didn’t care much. I am peaceable, and don’t get up rows with people that ain’t doing nothing to me. I allowed if the paynim was satisfied I was, and we would let it stand at that.

Now Tom he got all that notion out of Walter Scott’s book, which he was always reading. And it WAS a wild notion, because in my opinion he never could’ve raised the men, and if he did, as like as not he would’ve got licked. I took the book and read all about it, and as near as I could make it out, most of the folks that shook farming to go crusading had a mighty rocky time of it.

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