Summary—Chapter 14: Happy Camp of the Freebooters
The next day, the boys wake on Jackson’s Island and find that their raft has disappeared, but the discovery hardly bothers them. In fact, they find relief in being severed from their last link to St. Petersburg. Huck finds a spring nearby, and the boys go fishing and come up with a bountiful and delicious catch. After breakfast, Tom and Joe explore the island and find pirate life nearly perfect. In the afternoon, however, their enthusiasm and conversation fade, and they begin to feel the first stirrings of homesickness.
In the late afternoon, a large group of boats appears on the river, and, after some confusion, the boys realize that the townspeople are searching for them, assuming they have drowned. This realization actually raises the boys’ spirits and makes them feel, temporarily, like heroes. After dinner, however, both Tom and Joe begin to consider the people who may be missing them terribly. Hesitantly, Joe suggests the possibility of returning home, but Tom dismisses the suggestion. That night, however, Tom decides to cross the river back to town to observe the local reaction to their absence. Before he leaves, he writes messages on two sycamore scrolls, then puts one in his pocket and one in Joe’s hat.
Summary—Chapter 15: Tom’s Stealthy Visit Home
Tom swims from the end of a sandbar to the nearby Illinois shore and stows away on a ferry to cross back to the Missouri side. At home, Tom finds Aunt Polly, Sid, Mary, and Mrs. Harper sitting together. He hides under a bed and listens to their conversation. With the exception of Sid, they all talk about how much they miss the boys and wish they had been kinder to them. Tom learns that the search crew has found the raft downstream, so everyone assumes that the boys capsized in midstream and drowned.
After the company has gone to bed, Tom goes to his aunt’s bedside and almost places one of his sycamore scrolls on her table, but he decides against it. He returns to the island, finds Huck and Joe making breakfast, and tells them of his adventures.
Summary—Chapter 16: First Pipes—“I’ve Lost My Knife”
The boys find turtle eggs on the sandbar that afternoon and eat fried eggs for supper that night and for breakfast the following morning. They strip naked, swim, and have wrestling matches and a mock circus on the beach. Homesickness mounts, however, and Tom finds himself writing “BECKY” in the sand. Joe suggests again that they return home, and this time Huck sides with him. The two boys prepare to cross the river, and Tom, feeling suddenly lonely and desperate, calls to them to stop. He then tells them of a secret plan that he has devised. After hearing his plan (we do not yet know what it entails), both boys agree to stay and their spirits are rejuvenated.
That afternoon, Tom and Joe ask Huck to teach them how to smoke. Huck makes them pipes, and they sit together smoking and commenting on how easy it is. They imagine the effect they will produce when they go home and smoke casually in front of their friends. Eventually, however, both boys begin to feel sick, drop their pipes, and declare that they need to go look for Joe’s knife. Huck finds them later, fast asleep in separate parts of the forest, probably after having vomited. That evening, Huck takes out his pipe and offers to prepare theirs for them, but both boys say they feel too sick—because of something they ate, they claim.