The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

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Chapter 10 Summary

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.

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...

(The entire section is 518 words.)