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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
This chapter serves as an interlude, allowing Tom and Huck to catch their breath-literally and figuratively. It also serves as a transition back to the civilized world of aunts, school, and young love.
The boys flee to an old tannery (where leather is made) on the outskirts of St. Petersburg. They mull over the murder and what they ought to do about it. They decide it's safest to keep quiet. "That Injun devil wouldn't make any more of drownding us than a couple of cats," Huck says. With their blood, they initial a pledge of silence that Tom writes on a pine shingle with red chalk. Huck, who doesn't understand how painful writing is for Tom, admires Tom's choice of words and the ease with which he seems (to Huck, at least) to write them.
The boys' superstitions cause them some fright when a dog howls outside the tannery. They believe that the howling of a stray dog spells death for anyone the dog is facing. The howling stops and is replaced with loud snoring. Relieved and feeling adventurous once more, they tiptoe to the snorer, who turns out to be Muff Potter. As they escape, they see the howling dog facing Potter and believe he's the one who's doomed.
Tom doesn't know that Sid is awake when he sneaks into their bedroom. In the morning, Polly lets him oversleep. After breakfast, she takes him aside and cries over his behavior. Her tears, to Tom, are "worse than a thousand whippings."
He mopes off to school, where the schoolmaster flogs him for playing hooky the previous afternoon. The final blow to his self- esteem comes when he sits down at his desk and finds that Becky Thatcher has returned the brass andiron knob he had given her.
NOTE: CONTRASTS BETWEEN TOM AND HUCK
This chapter gives you a chance to explore further the differences between Huck and Tom. Clearly, Tom is the more educated of the two. He thinks up the oath, writes it, and teaches Huck to scrawl his initials. But Huck has "street smarts." He knows how important it is for his and Tom's safety to keep his mouth shut. He also knows that ensuring silence requires a pledge as solemn as a blood oath. Tom's suggestion-"you just hold hands and swear"- is, as Huck points out, inappropriate for "a big thing like this." At this point in the story, Huck seems the more practical and down-to-earth of the two. As you read on, watch to see if he stays that way.