The Blankenships picked up a precarious living fishing and hunting, and lived at first in a miserable house of bark, under a tree, but later moved into quite a pretentious building back of the new Clemens home on Hill Street. It was really an old barn of a place—poor and ramshackle even then; but now, more than sixty years later, a part of it is still standing. The siding of the part that stands is of black walnut, which must have been very plentiful in that long-ago time. Old drunken Ben Blankenship never dreamed that pieces of his house would be carried off as relics because of the literary fame of his son Tom—a fame founded on irresponsibility and inconsequence. Orion Clemens, who was concerned with missionary work about this time, undertook to improve the Blankenships spiritually. Sam adopted them, outright, and took them to his heart. He was likely to be there at any hour of the day, and he and Tom had cat-call signals at night which would bring him out on the back single-story roof, and down a little arbor and flight of steps, to the group of boon companions which, besides Tom, included John Briggs, the Bowen boys, Will Pitts, and one or two other congenial spirits. They were not vicious boys; they were not really bad boys; they were only mischievous, fun-loving boys-thoughtless, and rather disregardful of the comforts and the rights of others.
TOM SAWYER’S BAND
They ranged from Holliday’s Hill on the north to the Cave on the south, and over the fields and through all the woods about. They navigated the river from Turtle Island to Glasscock’s Island (now Pearl, or Tom Sawyer’s Island), and far below; they penetrated the wilderness of the Illinois shore. They could run like wild turkeys and swim like ducks; they could handle a boat as if born in one. No orchard or melon patch was entirely safe from them; no dog or slave patrol so vigilant that they did not sooner or later elude it. They borrowed boats when their owners were not present. Once when they found this too much trouble, they decided to own a boat, and one Sunday gave a certain borrowed craft a coat of red paint (formerly it had been green), and secluded it for a season up Bear Creek. They borrowed the paint also, and the brush, though they carefully returned these the same evening about nightfall, so the painter could have them Monday morning. Tom Blankenship rigged up a sail for the new craft, and Sam Clemens named it Cecilia, after which they didn’t need to borrow boats any more, though the owner of it did; and he sometimes used to observe as he saw it pass that, if it had been any other color but red, he would have sworn it was his.