Chapter 10 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 518

Tom and Huck run until they are unable to run any longer. When they need to stop, they sneak into an old tannery building to catch their breath. Huck guesses that Injun Joe will be hung if Dr. Robinson dies. Tom agrees, but points out that Muff Potter was probably knocked out at the time of the stabbing. He wonders who will tell. After discussing for a while, both boys agree that it would be foolish of them to do it. If they tell and then Injun Joe escapes, he will surely kill them both.

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Tom and Huck decide to swear an oath that they will never tell anyone what they have seen. Tom suggests shaking on it, but Huck says that there “orter be writing about a big thing like this.” He adds that they should seal the deal by signing in blood. This seems right to Tom, who is impressed by the gravity and darkness of the situation. He finds a shingle and writes out the following message:

Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer swears they will keep mum about This and They wish They may Drop down dead in Their Tracks if They ever Tell and Rot.

The boys prick their fingers and write their initials in blood. Tom has to teach Huck how to write H and F for the occasion. When they are finished, they bury the shingle and speak several incantations over it to make it impossible to change their minds. Afterward, both seem to believe that they will truly die if they ever tell anyone what they have seen.

Tom and Huck sit whispering late into the night. After a while, they hear howling outside. This terrifies them because they both believe that the howling of a stray dog predicts death. They try to convince themselves that the dog is not a stray, but it is. Realizing this, they quake in fear, wondering which of them it means. They take turns lamenting all the bad deeds they have done in their lives.

The dog goes on howling, and eventually Tom notices that its back is to the boys. Moments later, he and Huck hear the sound of snoring. They quickly decide that the stray’s howling is predicting the death of the snorer. Thus relieved, they grow curious. They sneak up on the sleeper to see who he is. When they see Muff Potter, they are both surprised.

It is almost morning by the time Tom sneaks into his bedroom. He falls quickly asleep, unaware that Sid has watched him come in. Sid tells Aunt Polly about Tom’s midnight wanderings, and in the morning Aunt Polly cries and demands to know why Tom insists on being so bad. In Tom’s mind, his aunt’s crying is “worse than a thousand whippings.”

Nothing goes right for Tom after that. At school he and Joe Harper are both whipped for taking yesterday afternoon off to play Robin Hood. Afterward Tom sits down dejected and finds the old knob he gave to Becky Harper. This evidence of final rejection breaks Tom's poor heart.

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