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“A guard! Well, that IS good. So somebody’s got to set up all night and never get any sleep, just so as to watch them. I think that’s foolishness. Why can’t a body take a club and ransom them as soon as they get here?”

I have no idea what "take a club" means here. I checked online. It doesn't seem to be an idiom.

Note that the English variant is kinda old. Here is the modern version:

“A guard! Well, that IS a good idea. So someone has got to stay up all night and never get any sleep, just to keep an eye on them. I think that’s ridiculous. Why can’t we just take a club and ransom them as soon as they get here?”

This is from The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Here is the linked to it: https://www.sparknotes.com/nofear/lit/huckfinn/chapter-2/page_3/

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    You must tell us where a sentence you are asking about is quoted from. Who supplied the 'modernised' version? (Presumably it means literally 'pick up a club' - a heavy weapon for hitting people with.) Mar 5, 2022 at 17:23
  • @KateBunting I have edited the post. Mar 6, 2022 at 1:19
  • Ah, that makes it clear - as explained in Randomhead's answer. Mar 6, 2022 at 8:15

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"Take a club" in this case means exactly what Kate Bunting and SoronelHaetir have suggested: to pick up a club, a "heavy stick intended for use as a weapon or plaything." The verb to take has 55 main meanings listed at Wiktionary, and the meaning here is the very first one:

  1. (transitive) To get into one's hands, possession or control, with or without force.
    They took Charlton's gun from his cold, dead hands.

The confusing part is the implication that the club itself will be used to "ransom" the people who have been kidnapped and brought to the cave. The speakers—Tom Sawyer and Ben Rogers and the rest of the Gang—don't actually know what that word means! They assume it has something to do with killing the people, and Ben Rogers suggests that they "ransom" the people with a club. He thinks this means they will beat the people with the club until they are dead.

But of course the verb to ransom does not mean that! It means "3. To exact a ransom (payment) in exchange for the freedom of." But the boys do not know the correct meaning and they misuse the word, which makes for some humorous dialogue.

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I would read it as to threaten the prisoner with being hit with a club unless they (or someone on their behalf) pays up, that the "take" simply means to "hold onto" (a shortened form of "take-in-hand").

Normally I would read "take a club" as meaning someone actually got hit, as in "I've no desire to take a club", or more likely "he took a club to the head", but that meaning doesn't really make sense in the cited sentence. And note that if this is a translated work something may well be getting lost from the original.

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  • I have given the link to the original text Mar 6, 2022 at 1:20

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