Chapter 8 Summary
Tom runs into a private spot in the forest and broods for a long time. He feels that Becky has treated him horribly, and that it might be better to be dead. This gets him wondering whether Becky would be sorry if he died, but of course there would be no way to find out. He wishes desperately that he could “die temporarily.” He knows that this is impossible, so he resolves instead to run away in hopes that he will someday come home and find out if Becky is sorry about treating him so badly. He considers and rejects the idea of becoming a circus clown, a soldier, and an Indian chief. Eventually he settles on being a pirate. When this is decided, he sets about preparing for his adventure.
Firstly, Tom needs to gather all of his possessions. He runs to a nearby rotting log and digs up a little box made of shingles. Inside he is shocked to find a single marble. Like all the boys in his town, he has long held a superstition that if he says certain incantation and then buries a single marble for two weeks, all the marbles he has ever lost will magically gather together. It perplexes him to realize that this has failed to work. He tosses the marble to the ground and thinks it over, eventually deciding that a witch must have interfered with his spell. He cannot do anything to stop a witch, so he does not try. He does, however, spend a great deal of time searching for the marble he has tossed away just now.
After Tom finds the marble, he hears the sound of a tin trumpet. This, he knows, is Joe Harper, calling him out to play Robin Hood. Stripping off his pants and coat, Tom arms himself with a toy bow and sword. He and Joe have a sword fight, and Tom—who is playing the part of Robin Hood—kills Joe. Afterward, Joe claims it is only fair for him to get to kill Tom, too. It would be impossible for Robin Hood to die, so the boys take turns being the hero as they play out several more scenes from the book, each reciting his characters’ lines as well as he remembers them.
When the boys get to the end of the story, they put away their weapons, pull their clothes back on, and walk away wishing that there were still outlaws in the world. They both agree that they would rather spend a year as outlaws in Sherwood Forest than be President of the United States for life.