A dervish was stumping it along through the Desert, on foot, one blazing hot day, and he had come a thousand miles and was pretty poor, and hungry, and ornery and tired, and along about where we are now he run across a camel-driver with a hundred camels, and asked him for some a’ms. But the cameldriver he asked to be excused. The dervish said:
“Don’t you own these camels?”
“Yes, they’re mine.”
“Are you in debt?”
“Well, a man that owns a hundred camels and ain’t in debt is rich—and not only rich, but very rich. Ain’t it so?”
The camel-driver owned up that it was so. Then the dervish says:
“God has made you rich, and He has made me poor. He has His reasons, and they are wise, blessed be His name. But He has willed that His rich shall help His poor, and you have turned away from me, your brother, in my need, and He will remember this, and you will lose by it.”
That made the camel-driver feel shaky, but all the same he was born hoggish after money and didn’t like to let go a cent; so he begun to whine and explain, and said times was hard, and although he had took a full freight down to Balsora and got a fat rate for it, he couldn’t git no return freight, and so he warn’t making no great things out of his trip. So the dervish starts along again, and says:
“All right, if you want to take the risk; but I reckon you’ve made a mistake this time, and missed a chance.”
Of course the camel-driver wanted to know what kind of a chance he had missed, because maybe there was money in it; so he run after the dervish, and begged him so hard and earnest to take pity on him that at last the dervish gave in, and says:
“Do you see that hill yonder? Well, in that hill is all the treasures of the earth, and I was looking around for a man with a particular good kind heart and a noble, generous disposition, because if I could find just that man, I’ve got a kind of a salve I could put on his eyes and he could see the treasures and get them out.”
So then the camel-driver was in a sweat; and he cried, and begged, and took on, and went down on his knees, and said he was just that kind of a man, and said he could fetch a thousand people that would say he wasn’t ever described so exact before.
“Well, then,” says the dervish, “all right. If we load the hundred camels, can I have half of them?”
The driver was so glad he couldn’t hardly hold in, and says:
“Now you’re shouting.”
So they shook hands on the bargain, and the dervish got out his box and rubbed the salve on the driver’s right eye, and the hill opened and he went in, and there, sure enough, was piles and piles of gold and jewels sparkling like all the stars in heaven had fell down.
So him and the dervish laid into it, and they loaded every camel till he couldn’t carry no more; then they said good-bye, and each of them started off with his fifty. But pretty soon the camel-driver come a-running and overtook the dervish and says:
“You ain’t in society, you know, and you don’t really need all you’ve got. Won’t you be good, and let me have ten of your camels?”
“Well,” the dervish says, “I don’t know but what you say is reasonable enough.”
So he done it, and they separated and the dervish started off again with his forty. But pretty soon here comes the camel-driver bawling after him again, and whines and slobbers around and begs another ten off of him, saying thirty camel loads of treasures was enough to see a dervish through, because they live very simple, you know, and don’t keep house, but board around and give their note.
But that warn’t the end yet. That ornery hound kept coming and coming till he had begged back all the camels and had the whole hundred. Then he was satisfied, and ever so grateful, and said he wouldn’t ever forgit the dervish as long as he lived, and nobody hadn’t been so good to him before, and liberal. So they shook hands good-bye, and separated and started off again.
But do you know, it warn’t ten minutes till the camel-driver was unsatisfied again—he was the lowdownest reptyle in seven counties—and he come arunning again. And this time the thing he wanted was to get the dervish to rub some of the salve on his other eye.
“Why?” said the dervish.
“Oh, you know,” says the driver.
“Well, you can’t fool me,” says the driver. “You’re trying to keep back something from me, you know it mighty well. You know, I reckon, that if I had the salve on the other eye I could see a lot more things that’s valuable. Come—please put it on.”
The dervish says:
“I wasn’t keeping anything back from you. I don’t mind telling you what would happen if I put it on. You’d never see again. You’d be stone-blind the rest of your days.”
But do you know that beat wouldn’t believe him. No, he begged and begged, and whined and cried, till at last the dervish opened his box and told him to put it on, if he wanted to. So the man done it, and sure enough he was as blind as a bat in a minute.
Then the dervish laughed at him and mocked at him and made fun of him; and says:
“Good-bye—a man that’s blind hain’t got no use for jewelry.”
And he cleared out with the hundred camels, and left that man to wander around poor and miserable and friendless the rest of his days in the Desert.
Jim said he’d bet it was a lesson to him.
“Yes,” Tom says, “and like a considerable many lessons a body gets. They ain’t no account, because the thing don’t ever happen the same way again—and can’t. The time Hen Scovil fell down the chimbly and crippled his back for life, everybody said it would be a lesson to him. What kind of a lesson? How was he going to use it? He couldn’t climb chimblies no more, and he hadn’t no more backs to break.”
“All de same, Mars Tom, dey is sich a thing as learnin’ by expe’ence. De Good Book say de burnt chile shun de fire.”
“Well, I ain’t denying that a thing’s a lesson if it’s a thing that can happen twice just the same way. There’s lots of such things, and they educate a person, that’s what Uncle Abner always said; but there’s forty million lots of the other kind—the kind that don’t happen the same way twice—and they ain’t no real use, they ain’t no more instructive than the small-pox. When you’ve got it, it ain’t no good to find out you ought to been vaccinated, and it ain’t no good to git vaccinated afterward, because the small-pox don’t come but once. But, on the other hand, Uncle Abner said that the person that had took a bull by the tail once had learnt sixty or seventy times as much as a person that hadn’t, and said a person that started in to carry a cat home by the tail was gitting knowledge that was always going to be useful to him, and warn’t ever going to grow dim or doubtful. But I can tell you, Jim, Uncle Abner was down on them people that’s all the time trying to dig a lesson out of everything that happens, no matter whether—”
But Jim was asleep. Tom looked kind of ashamed, because you know a person always feels bad when he is talking uncommon fine and thinks the other person is admiring, and that other person goes to sleep that way. Of course he oughtn’t to go to sleep, because it’s shabby; but the finer a person talks the certainer it is to make you sleep, and so when you come to look at it it ain’t nobody’s fault in particular; both of them’s to blame.
Jim begun to snore—soft and blubbery at first, then a long rasp, then a stronger one, then a half a dozen horrible ones like the last water sucking down the plug-hole of a bath-tub, then the same with more power to it, and some big coughs and snorts flung in, the way a cow does that is choking to death; and when the person has got to that point he is at his level best, and can wake up a man that is in the next block with a dipperful of loddanum in him, but can’t wake himself up although all that awful noise of his’n ain’t but three inches from his own ears. And that is the curiosest thing in the world, seems to me. But you rake a match to light the candle, and that little bit of a noise will fetch him. I wish I knowed what was the reason of that, but there don’t seem to be no way to find out. Now there was Jim alarming the whole Desert, and yanking the animals out, for miles and miles around, to see what in the nation was going on up there; there warn’t nobody nor nothing that was as close to the noise as he was, and yet he was the only cretur that wasn’t disturbed by it. We yelled at him and whooped at him, it never done no good; but the first time there come a little wee noise that wasn’t of a usual kind it woke him up. No, sir, I’ve thought it all over, and so has Tom, and there ain’t no way to find out why a snorer can’t hear himself snore.
Jim said he hadn’t been asleep; he just shut his eyes so he could listen better.
Tom said nobody warn’t accusing him.
That made him look like he wished he hadn’t said anything. And he wanted to git away from the subject, I reckon, because he begun to abuse the camel-driver, just the way a person does when he has got catched in something and wants to take it out of somebody else. He let into the camel-driver the hardest he knowed how, and I had to agree with him; and he praised up the dervish the highest he could, and I had to agree with him there, too. But Tom says:
“I ain’t so sure. You call that dervish so dreadful liberal and good and unselfish, but I don’t quite see it. He didn’t hunt up another poor dervish, did he? No, he didn’t. If he was so unselfish, why didn’t he go in there himself and take a pocketful of jewels and go along and be satisfied? No, sir, the person he was hunting for was a man with a hundred camels. He wanted to get away with all the treasure he could.”
“Why, Mars Tom, he was willin’ to divide, fair and square; he only struck for fifty camels.”
“Because he knowed how he was going to get all of them by and by.”
“Mars Tom, he tole de man de truck would make him bline.”
“Yes, because he knowed the man’s character. It was just the kind of a man he was hunting for—a man that never believes in anybody’s word or anybody’s honorableness, because he ain’t got none of his own. I reckon there’s lots of people like that dervish. They swindle, right and left, but they always make the other person seem to swindle himself. They keep inside of the letter of the law all the time, and there ain’t no way to git hold of them. They don’t put the salve on—oh, no, that would be sin; but they know how to fool you into putting it on, then it’s you that blinds yourself. I reckon the dervish and the camel-driver was just a pair—a fine, smart, brainy rascal, and a dull, coarse, ignorant one, but both of them rascals, just the same.”
“Mars Tom, does you reckon dey’s any o’ dat kind o’ salve in de worl’ now?”
“Yes, Uncle Abner says there is. He says they’ve got it in New York, and they put it on country people’s eyes and show them all the railroads in the world, and they go in and git them, and then when they rub the salve on the other eye the other man bids them goodbye and goes off with their railroads. Here’s the treasure-hill now. Lower away!”
We landed, but it warn’t as interesting as I thought it was going to be, because we couldn’t find the place where they went in to git the treasure. Still, it was plenty interesting enough, just to see the mere hill itself where such a wonderful thing happened. Jim said he wou’dn’t ’a’ missed it for three dollars, and I felt the same way.
And to me and Jim, as wonderful a thing as any was the way Tom could come into a strange big country like this and go straight and find a little hump like that and tell it in a minute from a million other humps that was almost just like it, and nothing to help him but only his own learning and his own natural smartness. We talked and talked it over together, but couldn’t make out how he done it. He had the best head on him I ever see; and all he lacked was age, to make a name for himself equal to Captain Kidd or George Washington. I bet you it would ’a’ crowded either of them to find that hill, with all their gifts, but it warn’t nothing to Tom Sawyer; he went across Sahara and put his finger on it as easy as you could pick a nigger out of a bunch of angels.
We found a pond of salt water close by and scraped up a raft of salt around the edges, and loaded up the lion’s skin and the tiger’s so as they would keep till Jim could tan them.