Chapter 17 Summary

That night at midnight, Joe wakes up with the feeling that something is wrong. He awakens the others, who agree that the air feels strange. As they sit, huddled together, they see lightning and hear thunder. Winds rise, and rain begins to fall hard. Tom shouts to the others to go to the tent—which happens to be a little scrap of sail they have tied up in the bushes to cover their possessions. They all run, tripping and fearful, in opposite directions. By the time they each reach the tent, they are wet and miserable, and their only comfort is the fact that they are not alone. They cannot talk over the noise of the storm, so they sit shivering to wait it out.

The storm is unusually violent. The wind whips past the boys so hard that their sail tent eventually comes untied and flies away. The boys run again, but this time they grab each other’s hands and stay together. They take shelter under an old oak tree, quaking in fear as lightning and wind topple some of the other trees around them.

When at last the storm stops, the boys return to camp to find their possessions broken or in disarray, and their fire out. They wish they had prepared better for bad weather. Luckily for them, after some investigation, they find that there are still a few burning coals against a log that they have been using to shelter their flames. They coax these coals to life, and soon they have a roaring fire again. They warm themselves and eat.

When the excitement of their latest adventure wears off, the boys feel homesick again. Tom tries all his usual suggestions, but they fail to cheer Huck and Joe. Eventually Tom hits on the idea of giving up piracy for a while and being Indians instead. This appeals to his friends, so they strip naked and pain their bodies with mud. They each become chiefs, and they spend the day happily warring with each other.

That afternoon, a new difficulty arises. The boys want to eat dinner, but they all know that it is impossible for warring Indian chiefs to make peace unless they smoke a pipe together. Tom and Joe see no way around this requirement, so they reluctantly sit down and puff on their corn-cob pipes again. To their relief, they find that they can now stomach the smoke. They still feel a little sick, but not sick enough to pretend to hunt for Joe’s knife in the bushes. Cheered by this development, they resolve to continue practicing. After supper, they smoke again. They sit into the night, happily chattering and bragging together.