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Tom stirred up the other pirates and they all clattered away with a shout, and in
a minute or two were stripped and chasing after and tumbling over each other in
the shallow limpid water of the white sand-bar. They felt no longing for the little
village sleeping in the distance beyond the majestic waste of water. A vagrant
current or a slight rise in the river had carried off their raft, but this only
gratified them, since its going was something like burning the bridge between
them and civilization.
They came back to camp wonderfully refreshed, glad-hearted, and ravenous;
and they soon had the camp-fire blazing up again. Huck found a spring of clear
cold water close by, and the boys made cups of broad oak or hickory leaves, and
felt that water, sweetened with such a wild-wood charm as that, would be a
good enough substitute for coffee. While Joe was slicing bacon for breakfast,
Tom and Huck asked him to hold on a minute; they stepped to a promising nook
in the river bank and threw in their lines; almost immediately they had reward.
Joe had not had time to get impatient before they were back again with some
handsome bass, a couple of sun-perch and a small catfish-provision enough for
quite a family. They fried the fish with the bacon and were astonished; for no
fish had ever seemed so delicious before. They did not know that the quicker a
fresh water fish is on the fire after he is caught the better he is; and they reflected
little upon what a sauce open air sleeping, open air exercise, bathing, and a large
ingredient of hunger makes, too.
They lay around in the shade, after breakfast, while Huck had a smoke, and then
went off through the woods on an exploring expedition. They tramped gaily
along, over decaying logs, through tangled underbrush, among solemn
monarchs of the forest, hung from their crowns to the ground with a drooping
regalia of grape-vines. Now and then they came upon snug nooks carpeted with
grass and jeweled with flowers.
They found plenty of things to be delighted with but nothing to be astonished at.
They discovered that the island was about three miles long and a quarter of a
mile wide, and that the shore it lay closest to was only separated from it by a
narrow channel hardly two hundred yards wide. They took a swim about every
hour, so it was close upon the middle of the afternoon when they got back to
They were too hungry to stop to fish, but they fared sumptuously upon cold
ham, and then threw themselves down in the shade to talk. But the talk soon
began to drag, and then died. The stillness, the solemnity that brooded in the
woods, and the sense of loneliness, began to tell upon the spirits of the boys.
They fell to thinking. A sort of undefined longing crept upon them. This took
dim shape, presently-it was budding homesickness. Even Finn the Red-Handed
was dreaming of his door-steps and empty hogsheads. But they were all
ashamed of their weakness, and none was brave enough to speak his thought.
For some time, now, the boys had been dully conscious of a peculiar sound in
the distance, just as one sometimes is of the ticking of a clock which he takes no
distinct note of. But now this mysterious sound became more pronounced, and
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