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Chapter 8

A Pirate Bold To Be

TOM DODGED HITHER and thither through lanes until he was well out of the
track of returning scholars, and then fell into a moody jog. He crossed a small
“branch” two or three times, because of a prevailing juvenile superstition that to
cross water baffled pursuit. Half an hour later he was disappearing behind the
Douglas mansion on the summit of Cardiff Hill, and the school-house was
hardly distinguishable away off in the valley behind him. He entered a dense
wood, picked his pathless way to the centre of it, and sat down on a mossy spot
under a spreading oak. There was not even a zephyr stirring; the dead noonday
heat had even stilled the songs of the birds; nature lay in a trance that was
broken by no sound but the occasional far-off hammering of a woodpecker, and
this seemed to render the pervading silence and sense of loneliness the more
profound. The boy’s soul was steeped in melancholy; his feelings were in happy
accord with his surroundings. He sat long with his elbows on his knees and his
chin in his hands, meditating. It seemed to him that life was but a trouble, at
best, and he more than half envied Jimmy Hodges, so lately released; it must be
very peaceful, he thought, to lie and slumber and dream forever and ever, with
the wind whispering through the trees and caressing the grass and the flowers
over the grave, and nothing to bother and grieve about, ever any more. If he
only had a clean Sundayschool record he could be willing to go, and be done
with it all. Now as to this girl. What had he done? Nothing. He had meant the
best in the world, and been treated like a dog-like a very dog. She would be
sorry some day-maybe when it was too late. Ah, if he could only die

But the elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one constrained shape
long at a time. Tom presently began to drift insensibly back into the concerns of
this life again. What if he turned his back, now, and disappeared mysteriously?
What if he went away-ever so far away, into unknown countries beyond the
seas-and never came back any more! How would she feel then! The idea of
being a clown recurred to him now, only to fill him with disgust. For frivolity,
and jokes, and spotted tights were an offense, when they intruded themselves
upon a spirit that was exalted into the vague august realm of the romantic. No,
he would be a soldier, and return, after long years, all war-worn and illustrious.
Nobetter still, he would join the Indians, and hunt buffaloes and go on the war-
path in the mountain ranges and the trackless great plains of the Far West, and
away in the future come back a great chief, bristling with feathers, hideous with
paint, and prance into Sunday-school, some drowsy summer morning, with a
blood-curdling war-whoop, and sear the eye-balls of all his companions with
unappeasable envy.

But no, there was something gaudier even than this. He would be a pirate! That
was it! Now his future lay plain before him, and glowing with unimaginable

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