The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Part 7.
Mark Twain (Samuel Clemens)
Produced by David Widger
THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER
(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)
THAT night Tom and Huck were ready for their adventure. They hung
about the neighborhood of the tavern until after nine, one watching the
alley at a distance and the other the tavern door. Nobody entered the
alley or left it; nobody resembling the Spaniard entered or left the
tavern door. The night promised to be a fair one; so Tom went home with
the understanding that if a considerable degree of darkness came on,
Huck was to come and "maow," whereupon he would slip out and try the
keys. But the night remained clear, and Huck closed his watch and
retired to bed in an empty sugar hogshead about twelve.
Tuesday the boys had the same ill luck. Also Wednesday. But Thursday
night promised better. Tom slipped out in good season with his aunt's
old tin lantern, and a large towel to blindfold it with. He hid the
lantern in Huck's sugar hogshead and the watch began. An hour before
midnight the tavern closed up and its lights (the only ones
thereabouts) were put out. No Spaniard had been seen. Nobody had
entered or left the alley. Everything was auspicious. The blackness of
darkness reigned, the perfect stillness was interrupted only by
occasional mutterings of distant thunder.
Tom got his lantern, lit it in the hogshead, wrapped it closely in the
towel, and the two adventurers crept in the gloom toward the tavern.
Huck stood sentry and Tom felt his way into the alley. Then there was a
season of waiting anxiety that weighed upon Huck's spirits like a
mountain. He began to wish he could see a flash from the lantern--it
would frighten him, but it would at least tell him that Tom was alive
yet. It seemed hours since Tom had disappeared. Surely he must have
fainted; maybe he was dead; maybe his heart had burst under terror and
excitement. In his uneasiness Huck found himself drawing closer and
closer to the alley; fearing all sorts of dreadful things, and
momentarily expecting some catastrophe to happen that would take away
his breath. There was not much to take away, for he seemed only able to
inhale it by thimblefuls, and his heart would soon wear itself out, the
way it was beating. Suddenly there was a flash of light and Tom came
tearing by him: "Run!" said he; "run, for your life!"
He needn't have repeated it; once was enough; Huck was making thirty
or forty miles an hour before the repetition was uttered. The boys
never stopped till they reached the shed of a deserted slaughter-house
at the lower end of the village. Just as they got within its shelter
the storm burst and the rain poured down. As soon as Tom got his breath
"Huck, it was awful! I tried two of the keys, just as soft as I could;
but they seemed to make such a power of racket that I couldn't hardly
get my breath I was so scared. They wouldn't turn in the lock, either.
Well, without noticing what I was doing, I took hold of the knob, and
open comes the door! It warn't locked! I hopped in, and shook off the
towel, and, GREAT CAESAR'S GHOST!"
"What!--what'd you see, Tom?"
"Huck, I most stepped onto Injun Joe's hand!"
"Yes! He was lying there, sound asleep on the floor, with his old
patch on his eye and his arms spread out."
"Lordy, what did you do? Did he wake up?"
"No, never budged. Drunk, I reckon. I just grabbed that towel and
"I'd never 'a' thought of the towel, I bet!"
"Well, I would. My aunt would make me mighty sick if I lost it."
"Say, Tom, did you see that box?"
"Huck, I didn't wait to look around. I didn't see the box, I didn't
see the cross. I didn't see anything but a bottle and a tin cup on the
floor by Injun Joe; yes, I saw two barrels and lots more bottles in the
room. Don't you see, now, what's the matter with that ha'nted room?"
"Why, it's ha'nted with whiskey! Maybe ALL the Temperance Taverns have
got a ha'nted room, hey, Huck?"
"Well, I reckon maybe that's so. Who'd 'a' thought such a thing? But
say, Tom, now's a mighty good time to get that box, if Injun Joe's
"It is, that! You try it!"
"Well, no--I reckon not."
"And I reckon not, Huck. Only one bottle alongside of Injun Joe ain't
enough. If there'd been three, he'd be drunk enough and I'd do it."
There was a long pause for reflection, and then Tom said:
"Lookyhere, Huck, less not try that thing any more till we know Injun
Joe's not in there. It's too scary. Now, if we watch every night, we'll
be dead sure to see him go out, some time or other, and then we'll
snatch that box quicker'n lightning."
"Well, I'm agreed. I'll watch the whole night long, and I'll do it
every night, too, if you'll do the other part of the job."
"All right, I will. All you got to do is to trot up Hooper Street a
block and maow--and if I'm asleep, you throw some gravel at the window
and that'll fetch me."
"Agreed, and good as wheat!"
"Now, Huck, the storm's over, and I'll go home. It'll begin to be
daylight in a couple of hours. You go back and watch that long, will
"I said I would, Tom, and I will. I'll ha'nt that tavern every night
for a year! I'll sleep all day and I'll stand watch all night."
"That's all right. Now, where you going to sleep?"
"In Ben Rogers' hayloft. He lets me, and so does his pap's nigger man,
Uncle Jake. I tote water for Uncle Jake whenever he wants me to, and
any time I ask him he gives me a little something to eat if he can
spare it. That's a mighty good nigger, Tom. He likes me, becuz I don't
ever act as if I was above him. Sometime I've set right down and eat
WITH him. But you needn't tell that. A body's got to do things when
he's awful hungry he wouldn't want to do as a steady thing."
"Well, if I don't want you in the daytime, I'll let you sleep. I won't
come bothering around. Any time you see something's up, in the night,
just skip right around and maow."
THE first thing Tom heard on Friday morning was a glad piece of news
--Judge Thatcher's family had come back to town the night before. Both
Injun Joe and the treasure sunk into secondary importance for a moment,
and Becky took the chief place in the boy's interest. He saw her and
they had an exhausting good time playing "hi-spy" and "gully-keeper"
with a crowd of their school-mates. The day was completed and crowned
in a peculiarly satisfactory way: Becky teased her mother to appoint
the next day for the long-promised and long-delayed picnic, and she
consented. The child's delight was boundless; and Tom's not more
moderate. The invitations were sent out before sunset, and straightway
the young folks of the village were thrown into a fever of preparation
and pleasurable anticipation. Tom's excitement enabled him to keep
awake until a pretty late hour, and he had good hopes of hearing Huck's
"maow," and of having his treasure to astonish Becky and the picnickers
with, next day; but he was disappointed. No signal came that night.
Morning came, eventually, and by ten or eleven o'clock a giddy and
rollicking company were gathered at Judge Thatcher's, and everything
was ready for a start. It was not the custom for elderly people to mar
the picnics with their presence. The children were considered safe
enough under the wings of a few young ladies of eighteen and a few
young gentlemen of twenty-three or thereabouts. The old steam ferryboat
was chartered for the occasion; presently the gay throng filed up the
main street laden with provision-baskets. Sid was sick and had to miss
the fun; Mary remained at home to entertain him. The last thing Mrs.
Thatcher said to Becky, was:
"You'll not get back till late. Perhaps you'd better stay all night
with some of the girls that live near the ferry-landing, child."
"Then I'll stay with Susy Harper, mamma."
"Very well. And mind and behave yourself and don't be any trouble."
Presently, as they tripped along, Tom said to Becky:
"Say--I'll tell you what we'll do. 'Stead of going to Joe Harper's
we'll climb right up the hill and stop at the Widow Douglas'. She'll
have ice-cream! She has it most every day--dead loads of it. And she'll
be awful glad to have us."
"Oh, that will be fun!"
Then Becky reflected a moment and said:
"But what will mamma say?"
"How'll she ever know?"
The girl turned the idea over in her mind, and said reluctantly:
"I reckon it's wrong--but--"
"But shucks! Your mother won't know, and so what's the harm? All she
wants is that you'll be safe; and I bet you she'd 'a' said go there if
she'd 'a' thought of it. I know she would!"
The Widow Douglas' splendid hospitality was a tempting bait. It and
Tom's persuasions presently carried the day. So it was decided to say
nothing anybody about the night's programme. Presently it occurred to
Tom that maybe Huck might come this very night and give the signal. The
thought took a deal of the spirit out of his anticipations. Still he
could not bear to give up the fun at Widow Douglas'. And why should he
give it up, he reasoned--the signal did not come the night before, so
why should it be any more likely to come to-night? The sure fun of the
evening outweighed the uncertain treasure; and, boy-like, he determined
to yield to the stronger inclination and not allow himself to think of
the box of money another time that day.
Three miles below town the ferryboat stopped at the mouth of a woody
hollow and tied up. The crowd swarmed ashore and soon the forest
distances and craggy heights echoed far and near with shoutings and
laughter. All the different ways of getting hot and tired were gone
through with, and by-and-by the rovers straggled back to camp fortified
with responsible appetites, and then the destruction of the good things
began. After the feast there was a refreshing season of rest and chat
in the shade of spreading oaks. By-and-by somebody shouted:
"Who's ready for the cave?"
Everybody was. Bundles of candles were procured, and straightway there
was a general scamper up the hill. The mouth of the cave was up the
hillside--an opening shaped like a letter A. Its massive oaken door
stood unbarred. Within was a small chamber, chilly as an ice-house, and
walled by Nature with solid limestone that was dewy with a cold sweat.
It was romantic and mysterious to stand here in the deep gloom and look
out upon the green valley shining in the sun. But the impressiveness of
the situation quickly wore off, and the romping began again. The moment
a candle was lighted there was a general rush upon the owner of it; a
struggle and a gallant defence followed, but the candle was soon
knocked down or blown out, and then there was a glad clamor of laughter
and a new chase. But all things have an end. By-and-by the procession
went filing down the steep descent of the main avenue, the flickering
rank of lights dimly revealing the lofty walls of rock almost to their
point of junction sixty feet overhead. This main avenue was not more
than eight or ten feet wide. Every few steps other lofty and still
narrower crevices branched from it on either hand--for McDougal's cave
was but a vast labyrinth of crooked aisles that ran into each other and
out again and led nowhere. It was said that one might wander days and
nights together through its intricate tangle of rifts and chasms, and
never find the end of the cave; and that he might go down, and down,
and still down, into the earth, and it was just the same--labyrinth
under labyrinth, and no end to any of them. No man "knew" the cave.
That was an impossible thing. Most of the young men knew a portion of
it, and it was not customary to venture much beyond this known portion.
Tom Sawyer knew as much of the cave as any one.
The procession moved along the main avenue some three-quarters of a
mile, and then groups and couples began to slip aside into branch
avenues, fly along the dismal corridors, and take each other by
surprise at points where the corridors joined again. Parties were able
to elude each other for the space of half an hour without going beyond
the "known" ground.
By-and-by, one group after another came straggling back to the mouth
of the cave, panting, hilarious, smeared from head to foot with tallow
drippings, daubed with clay, and entirely delighted with the success of
the day. Then they were astonished to find that they had been taking no
note of time and that night was about at hand. The clanging bell had
been calling for half an hour. However, this sort of close to the day's
adventures was romantic and therefore satisfactory. When the ferryboat
with her wild freight pushed into the stream, nobody cared sixpence for
the wasted time but the captain of the craft.
Huck was already upon his watch when the ferryboat's lights went
glinting past the wharf. He heard no noise on board, for the young
people were as subdued and still as people usually are who are nearly
tired to death. He wondered what boat it was, and why she did not stop
at the wharf--and then he dropped her out of his mind and put his
attention upon his business. The night was growing cloudy and dark. Ten
o'clock came, and the noise of vehicles ceased, scattered lights began
to wink out, all straggling foot-passengers disappeared, the village
betook itself to its slumbers and left the small watcher alone with the
silence and the ghosts. Eleven o'clock came, and the tavern lights were
put out; darkness everywhere, now. Huck waited what seemed a weary long
time, but nothing happened. His faith was weakening. Was there any use?
Was there really any use? Why not give it up and turn in?
A noise fell upon his ear. He was all attention in an instant. The
alley door closed softly. He sprang to the corner of the brick store.
The next moment two men brushed by him, and one seemed to have
something under his arm. It must be that box! So they were going to
remove the treasure. Why call Tom now? It would be absurd--the men
would get away with the box and never be found again. No, he would
stick to their wake and follow them; he would trust to the darkness for
security from discovery. So communing with himself, Huck stepped out
and glided along behind the men, cat-like, with bare feet, allowing
them to keep just far enough ahead not to be invisible.
They moved up the river street three blocks, then turned to the left
up a cross-street. They went straight ahead, then, until they came to
the path that led up Cardiff Hill; this they took. They passed by the
old Welshman's house, half-way up the hill, without hesitating, and
still climbed upward. Good, thought Huck, they will bury it in the old
quarry. But they never stopped at the quarry. They passed on, up the
summit. They plunged into the narrow path between the tall sumach
bushes, and were at once hidden in the gloom. Huck closed up and
shortened his distance, now, for they would never be able to see him.
He trotted along awhile; then slackened his pace, fearing he was
gaining too fast; moved on a piece, then stopped altogether; listened;
no sound; none, save that he seemed to hear the beating of his own
heart. The hooting of an owl came over the hill--ominous sound! But no
footsteps. Heavens, was everything lost! He was about to spring with
winged feet, when a man cleared his throat not four feet from him!
Huck's heart shot into his throat, but he swallowed it again; and then
he stood there shaking as if a dozen agues had taken charge of him at
once, and so weak that he thought he must surely fall to the ground. He
knew where he was. He knew he was within five steps of the stile
leading into Widow Douglas' grounds. Very well, he thought, let them
bury it there; it won't be hard to find.
Now there was a voice--a very low voice--Injun Joe's:
"Damn her, maybe she's got company--there's lights, late as it is."
"I can't see any."
This was that stranger's voice--the stranger of the haunted house. A
deadly chill went to Huck's heart--this, then, was the "revenge" job!
His thought was, to fly. Then he remembered that the Widow Douglas had
been kind to him more than once, and maybe these men were going to
murder her. He wished he dared venture to warn her; but he knew he
didn't dare--they might come and catch him. He thought all this and
more in the moment that elapsed between the stranger's remark and Injun
Joe's next--which was--
"Because the bush is in your way. Now--this way--now you see, don't
"Yes. Well, there IS company there, I reckon. Better give it up."
"Give it up, and I just leaving this country forever! Give it up and
maybe never have another chance. I tell you again, as I've told you
before, I don't care for her swag--you may have it. But her husband was
rough on me--many times he was rough on me--and mainly he was the
justice of the peace that jugged me for a vagrant. And that ain't all.
It ain't a millionth part of it! He had me HORSEWHIPPED!--horsewhipped
in front of the jail, like a nigger!--with all the town looking on!
HORSEWHIPPED!--do you understand? He took advantage of me and died. But
I'll take it out of HER."
"Oh, don't kill her! Don't do that!"
"Kill? Who said anything about killing? I would kill HIM if he was
here; but not her. When you want to get revenge on a woman you don't
kill her--bosh! you go for her looks. You slit her nostrils--you notch
her ears like a sow!"
"By God, that's--"
"Keep your opinion to yourself! It will be safest for you. I'll tie
her to the bed. If she bleeds to death, is that my fault? I'll not cry,
if she does. My friend, you'll help me in this thing--for MY sake
--that's why you're here--I mightn't be able alone. If you flinch, I'll
kill you. Do you understand that? And if I have to kill you, I'll kill
her--and then I reckon nobody'll ever know much about who done this
"Well, if it's got to be done, let's get at it. The quicker the
better--I'm all in a shiver."
"Do it NOW? And company there? Look here--I'll get suspicious of you,
first thing you know. No--we'll wait till the lights are out--there's
Huck felt that a silence was going to ensue--a thing still more awful
than any amount of murderous talk; so he held his breath and stepped
gingerly back; planted his foot carefully and firmly, after balancing,
one-legged, in a precarious way and almost toppling over, first on one
side and then on the other. He took another step back, with the same
elaboration and the same risks; then another and another, and--a twig
snapped under his foot! His breath stopped and he listened. There was
no sound--the stillness was perfect. His gratitude was measureless. Now
he turned in his tracks, between the walls of sumach bushes--turned
himself as carefully as if he were a ship--and then stepped quickly but
cautiously along. When he emerged at the quarry he felt secure, and so
he picked up his nimble heels and flew. Down, down he sped, till he
reached the Welshman's. He banged at the door, and presently the heads
of the old man and his two stalwart sons were thrust from windows.
"What's the row there? Who's banging? What do you want?"
"Let me in--quick! I'll tell everything."
"Why, who are you?"
"Huckleberry Finn--quick, let me in!"
"Huckleberry Finn, indeed! It ain't a name to open many doors, I
judge! But let him in, lads, and let's see what's the trouble."
"Please don't ever tell I told you," were Huck's first words when he
got in. "Please don't--I'd be killed, sure--but the widow's been good
friends to me sometimes, and I want to tell--I WILL tell if you'll
promise you won't ever say it was me."
"By George, he HAS got something to tell, or he wouldn't act so!"
exclaimed the old man; "out with it and nobody here'll ever tell, lad."
Three minutes later the old man and his sons, well armed, were up the
hill, and just entering the sumach path on tiptoe, their weapons in
their hands. Huck accompanied them no further. He hid behind a great
bowlder and fell to listening. There was a lagging, anxious silence,
and then all of a sudden there was an explosion of firearms and a cry.
Huck waited for no particulars. He sprang away and sped down the hill
as fast as his legs could carry him.
AS the earliest suspicion of dawn appeared on Sunday morning, Huck
came groping up the hill and rapped gently at the old Welshman's door.
The inmates were asleep, but it was a sleep that was set on a
hair-trigger, on account of the exciting episode of the night. A call
came from a window:
Huck's scared voice answered in a low tone:
"Please let me in! It's only Huck Finn!"
"It's a name that can open this door night or day, lad!--and welcome!"
These were strange words to the vagabond boy's ears, and the
pleasantest he had ever heard. He could not recollect that the closing
word had ever been applied in his case before. The door was quickly
unlocked, and he entered. Huck was given a seat and the old man and his
brace of tall sons speedily dressed themselves.
"Now, my boy, I hope you're good and hungry, because breakfast will be
ready as soon as the sun's up, and we'll have a piping hot one, too
--make yourself easy about that! I and the boys hoped you'd turn up and
stop here last night."
"I was awful scared," said Huck, "and I run. I took out when the
pistols went off, and I didn't stop for three mile. I've come now becuz
I wanted to know about it, you know; and I come before daylight becuz I
didn't want to run across them devils, even if they was dead."
"Well, poor chap, you do look as if you'd had a hard night of it--but
there's a bed here for you when you've had your breakfast. No, they
ain't dead, lad--we are sorry enough for that. You see we knew right
where to put our hands on them, by your description; so we crept along
on tiptoe till we got within fifteen feet of them--dark as a cellar
that sumach path was--and just then I found I was going to sneeze. It
was the meanest kind of luck! I tried to keep it back, but no use
--'twas bound to come, and it did come! I was in the lead with my pistol
raised, and when the sneeze started those scoundrels a-rustling to get
out of the path, I sung out, 'Fire boys!' and blazed away at the place
where the rustling was. So did the boys. But they were off in a jiffy,
those villains, and we after them, down through the woods. I judge we
never touched them. They fired a shot apiece as they started, but their
bullets whizzed by and didn't do us any harm. As soon as we lost the
sound of their feet we quit chasing, and went down and stirred up the
constables. They got a posse together, and went off to guard the river
bank, and as soon as it is light the sheriff and a gang are going to
beat up the woods. My boys will be with them presently. I wish we had
some sort of description of those rascals--'twould help a good deal.
But you couldn't see what they were like, in the dark, lad, I suppose?"
"Oh yes; I saw them down-town and follered them."
"Splendid! Describe them--describe them, my boy!"
"One's the old deaf and dumb Spaniard that's ben around here once or
twice, and t'other's a mean-looking, ragged--"
"That's enough, lad, we know the men! Happened on them in the woods
back of the widow's one day, and they slunk away. Off with you, boys,
and tell the sheriff--get your breakfast to-morrow morning!"
The Welshman's sons departed at once. As they were leaving the room
Huck sprang up and exclaimed:
"Oh, please don't tell ANYbody it was me that blowed on them! Oh,
"All right if you say it, Huck, but you ought to have the credit of
what you did."
"Oh no, no! Please don't tell!"
When the young men were gone, the old Welshman said:
"They won't tell--and I won't. But why don't you want it known?"
Huck would not explain, further than to say that he already knew too
much about one of those men and would not have the man know that he
knew anything against him for the whole world--he would be killed for
knowing it, sure.
The old man promised secrecy once more, and said:
"How did you come to follow these fellows, lad? Were they looking
Huck was silent while he framed a duly cautious reply. Then he said:
"Well, you see, I'm a kind of a hard lot,--least everybody says so,
and I don't see nothing agin it--and sometimes I can't sleep much, on
account of thinking about it and sort of trying to strike out a new way
of doing. That was the way of it last night. I couldn't sleep, and so I
come along up-street 'bout midnight, a-turning it all over, and when I
got to that old shackly brick store by the Temperance Tavern, I backed
up agin the wall to have another think. Well, just then along comes
these two chaps slipping along close by me, with something under their
arm, and I reckoned they'd stole it. One was a-smoking, and t'other one
wanted a light; so they stopped right before me and the cigars lit up
their faces and I see that the big one was the deaf and dumb Spaniard,
by his white whiskers and the patch on his eye, and t'other one was a
rusty, ragged-looking devil."
"Could you see the rags by the light of the cigars?"
This staggered Huck for a moment. Then he said:
"Well, I don't know--but somehow it seems as if I did."
"Then they went on, and you--"
"Follered 'em--yes. That was it. I wanted to see what was up--they
sneaked along so. I dogged 'em to the widder's stile, and stood in the
dark and heard the ragged one beg for the widder, and the Spaniard
swear he'd spile her looks just as I told you and your two--"
"What! The DEAF AND DUMB man said all that!"
Huck had made another terrible mistake! He was trying his best to keep
the old man from getting the faintest hint of who the Spaniard might
be, and yet his tongue seemed determined to get him into trouble in
spite of all he could do. He made several efforts to creep out of his
scrape, but the old man's eye was upon him and he made blunder after
blunder. Presently the Welshman said:
"My boy, don't be afraid of me. I wouldn't hurt a hair of your head
for all the world. No--I'd protect you--I'd protect you. This Spaniard
is not deaf and dumb; you've let that slip without intending it; you
can't cover that up now. You know something about that Spaniard that
you want to keep dark. Now trust me--tell me what it is, and trust me
--I won't betray you."
Huck looked into the old man's honest eyes a moment, then bent over
and whispered in his ear:
"'Tain't a Spaniard--it's Injun Joe!"
The Welshman almost jumped out of his chair. In a moment he said:
"It's all plain enough, now. When you talked about notching ears and
slitting noses I judged that that was your own embellishment, because
white men don't take that sort of revenge. But an Injun! That's a
different matter altogether."
During breakfast the talk went on, and in the course of it the old man
said that the last thing which he and his sons had done, before going
to bed, was to get a lantern and examine the stile and its vicinity for
marks of blood. They found none, but captured a bulky bundle of--
If the words had been lightning they could not have leaped with a more
stunning suddenness from Huck's blanched lips. His eyes were staring
wide, now, and his breath suspended--waiting for the answer. The
Welshman started--stared in return--three seconds--five seconds--ten
"Of burglar's tools. Why, what's the MATTER with you?"
Huck sank back, panting gently, but deeply, unutterably grateful. The
Welshman eyed him gravely, curiously--and presently said:
"Yes, burglar's tools. That appears to relieve you a good deal. But
what did give you that turn? What were YOU expecting we'd found?"
Huck was in a close place--the inquiring eye was upon him--he would
have given anything for material for a plausible answer--nothing
suggested itself--the inquiring eye was boring deeper and deeper--a
senseless reply offered--there was no time to weigh it, so at a venture
he uttered it--feebly:
"Sunday-school books, maybe."
Poor Huck was too distressed to smile, but the old man laughed loud
and joyously, shook up the details of his anatomy from head to foot,
and ended by saying that such a laugh was money in a-man's pocket,
because it cut down the doctor's bill like everything. Then he added:
"Poor old chap, you're white and jaded--you ain't well a bit--no
wonder you're a little flighty and off your balance. But you'll come
out of it. Rest and sleep will fetch you out all right, I hope."
Huck was irritated to think he had been such a goose and betrayed such
a suspicious excitement, for he had dropped the idea that the parcel
brought from the tavern was the treasure, as soon as he had heard the
talk at the widow's stile. He had only thought it was not the treasure,
however--he had not known that it wasn't--and so the suggestion of a
captured bundle was too much for his self-possession. But on the whole
he felt glad the little episode had happened, for now he knew beyond
all question that that bundle was not THE bundle, and so his mind was
at rest and exceedingly comfortable. In fact, everything seemed to be
drifting just in the right direction, now; the treasure must be still
in No. 2, the men would be captured and jailed that day, and he and Tom
could seize the gold that night without any trouble or any fear of
Just as breakfast was completed there was a knock at the door. Huck
jumped for a hiding-place, for he had no mind to be connected even
remotely with the late event. The Welshman admitted several ladies and
gentlemen, among them the Widow Douglas, and noticed that groups of
citizens were climbing up the hill--to stare at the stile. So the news
had spread. The Welshman had to tell the story of the night to the
visitors. The widow's gratitude for her preservation was outspoken.
"Don't say a word about it, madam. There's another that you're more
beholden to than you are to me and my boys, maybe, but he don't allow
me to tell his name. We wouldn't have been there but for him."
Of course this excited a curiosity so vast that it almost belittled
the main matter--but the Welshman allowed it to eat into the vitals of
his visitors, and through them be transmitted to the whole town, for he
refused to part with his secret. When all else had been learned, the
"I went to sleep reading in bed and slept straight through all that
noise. Why didn't you come and wake me?"
"We judged it warn't worth while. Those fellows warn't likely to come
again--they hadn't any tools left to work with, and what was the use of
waking you up and scaring you to death? My three negro men stood guard
at your house all the rest of the night. They've just come back."
More visitors came, and the story had to be told and retold for a
couple of hours more.
There was no Sabbath-school during day-school vacation, but everybody
was early at church. The stirring event was well canvassed. News came
that not a sign of the two villains had been yet discovered. When the
sermon was finished, Judge Thatcher's wife dropped alongside of Mrs.
Harper as she moved down the aisle with the crowd and said:
"Is my Becky going to sleep all day? I just expected she would be
tired to death."
"Yes," with a startled look--"didn't she stay with you last night?"
Mrs. Thatcher turned pale, and sank into a pew, just as Aunt Polly,
talking briskly with a friend, passed by. Aunt Polly said:
"Good-morning, Mrs. Thatcher. Good-morning, Mrs. Harper. I've got a
boy that's turned up missing. I reckon my Tom stayed at your house last
night--one of you. And now he's afraid to come to church. I've got to
settle with him."
Mrs. Thatcher shook her head feebly and turned paler than ever.
"He didn't stay with us," said Mrs. Harper, beginning to look uneasy.
A marked anxiety came into Aunt Polly's face.
"Joe Harper, have you seen my Tom this morning?"
"When did you see him last?"
Joe tried to remember, but was not sure he could say. The people had
stopped moving out of church. Whispers passed along, and a boding
uneasiness took possession of every countenance. Children were
anxiously questioned, and young teachers. They all said they had not
noticed whether Tom and Becky were on board the ferryboat on the
homeward trip; it was dark; no one thought of inquiring if any one was
missing. One young man finally blurted out his fear that they were
still in the cave! Mrs. Thatcher swooned away. Aunt Polly fell to
crying and wringing her hands.
The alarm swept from lip to lip, from group to group, from street to
street, and within five minutes the bells were wildly clanging and the
whole town was up! The Cardiff Hill episode sank into instant
insignificance, the burglars were forgotten, horses were saddled,
skiffs were manned, the ferryboat ordered out, and before the horror
was half an hour old, two hundred men were pouring down highroad and
river toward the cave.
All the long afternoon the village seemed empty and dead. Many women
visited Aunt Polly and Mrs. Thatcher and tried to comfort them. They
cried with them, too, and that was still better than words. All the
tedious night the town waited for news; but when the morning dawned at
last, all the word that came was, "Send more candles--and send food."
Mrs. Thatcher was almost crazed; and Aunt Polly, also. Judge Thatcher
sent messages of hope and encouragement from the cave, but they
conveyed no real cheer.
The old Welshman came home toward daylight, spattered with
candle-grease, smeared with clay, and almost worn out. He found Huck
still in the bed that had been provided for him, and delirious with
fever. The physicians were all at the cave, so the Widow Douglas came
and took charge of the patient. She said she would do her best by him,
because, whether he was good, bad, or indifferent, he was the Lord's,
and nothing that was the Lord's was a thing to be neglected. The
Welshman said Huck had good spots in him, and the widow said:
"You can depend on it. That's the Lord's mark. He don't leave it off.
He never does. Puts it somewhere on every creature that comes from his
Early in the forenoon parties of jaded men began to straggle into the
village, but the strongest of the citizens continued searching. All the
news that could be gained was that remotenesses of the cavern were
being ransacked that had never been visited before; that every corner
and crevice was going to be thoroughly searched; that wherever one
wandered through the maze of passages, lights were to be seen flitting
hither and thither in the distance, and shoutings and pistol-shots sent
their hollow reverberations to the ear down the sombre aisles. In one
place, far from the section usually traversed by tourists, the names
"BECKY & TOM" had been found traced upon the rocky wall with
candle-smoke, and near at hand a grease-soiled bit of ribbon. Mrs.
Thatcher recognized the ribbon and cried over it. She said it was the
last relic she should ever have of her child; and that no other memorial
of her could ever be so precious, because this one parted latest from
the living body before the awful death came. Some said that now and
then, in the cave, a far-away speck of light would glimmer, and then a
glorious shout would burst forth and a score of men go trooping down the
echoing aisle--and then a sickening disappointment always followed; the
children were not there; it was only a searcher's light.
Three dreadful days and nights dragged their tedious hours along, and
the village sank into a hopeless stupor. No one had heart for anything.
The accidental discovery, just made, that the proprietor of the
Temperance Tavern kept liquor on his premises, scarcely fluttered the
public pulse, tremendous as the fact was. In a lucid interval, Huck
feebly led up to the subject of taverns, and finally asked--dimly
dreading the worst--if anything had been discovered at the Temperance
Tavern since he had been ill.
"Yes," said the widow.
Huck started up in bed, wild-eyed:
"What? What was it?"
"Liquor!--and the place has been shut up. Lie down, child--what a turn
you did give me!"
"Only tell me just one thing--only just one--please! Was it Tom Sawyer
that found it?"
The widow burst into tears. "Hush, hush, child, hush! I've told you
before, you must NOT talk. You are very, very sick!"
Then nothing but liquor had been found; there would have been a great
powwow if it had been the gold. So the treasure was gone forever--gone
forever! But what could she be crying about? Curious that she should
These thoughts worked their dim way through Huck's mind, and under the
weariness they gave him he fell asleep. The widow said to herself:
"There--he's asleep, poor wreck. Tom Sawyer find it! Pity but somebody
could find Tom Sawyer! Ah, there ain't many left, now, that's got hope
enough, or strength enough, either, to go on searching."
NOW to return to Tom and Becky's share in the picnic. They tripped
along the murky aisles with the rest of the company, visiting the
familiar wonders of the cave--wonders dubbed with rather
over-descriptive names, such as "The Drawing-Room," "The Cathedral,"
"Aladdin's Palace," and so on. Presently the hide-and-seek frolicking
began, and Tom and Becky engaged in it with zeal until the exertion
began to grow a trifle wearisome; then they wandered down a sinuous
avenue holding their candles aloft and reading the tangled web-work of
names, dates, post-office addresses, and mottoes with which the rocky
walls had been frescoed (in candle-smoke). Still drifting along and
talking, they scarcely noticed that they were now in a part of the cave
whose walls were not frescoed. They smoked their own names under an
overhanging shelf and moved on. Presently they came to a place where a
little stream of water, trickling over a ledge and carrying a limestone
sediment with it, had, in the slow-dragging ages, formed a laced and
ruffled Niagara in gleaming and imperishable stone. Tom squeezed his
small body behind it in order to illuminate it for Becky's
gratification. He found that it curtained a sort of steep natural
stairway which was enclosed between narrow walls, and at once the
ambition to be a discoverer seized him. Becky responded to his call,
and they made a smoke-mark for future guidance, and started upon their
quest. They wound this way and that, far down into the secret depths of
the cave, made another mark, and branched off in search of novelties to
tell the upper world about. In one place they found a spacious cavern,
from whose ceiling depended a multitude of shining stalactites of the
length and circumference of a man's leg; they walked all about it,
wondering and admiring, and presently left it by one of the numerous
passages that opened into it. This shortly brought them to a bewitching
spring, whose basin was incrusted with a frostwork of glittering
crystals; it was in the midst of a cavern whose walls were supported by
many fantastic pillars which had been formed by the joining of great
stalactites and stalagmites together, the result of the ceaseless
water-drip of centuries. Under the roof vast knots of bats had packed
themselves together, thousands in a bunch; the lights disturbed the
creatures and they came flocking down by hundreds, squeaking and
darting furiously at the candles. Tom knew their ways and the danger of
this sort of conduct. He seized Becky's hand and hurried her into the
first corridor that offered; and none too soon, for a bat struck
Becky's light out with its wing while she was passing out of the
cavern. The bats chased the children a good distance; but the fugitives
plunged into every new passage that offered, and at last got rid of the
perilous things. Tom found a subterranean lake, shortly, which
stretched its dim length away until its shape was lost in the shadows.
He wanted to explore its borders, but concluded that it would be best
to sit down and rest awhile, first. Now, for the first time, the deep
stillness of the place laid a clammy hand upon the spirits of the
children. Becky said:
"Why, I didn't notice, but it seems ever so long since I heard any of
"Come to think, Becky, we are away down below them--and I don't know
how far away north, or south, or east, or whichever it is. We couldn't
hear them here."
Becky grew apprehensive.
"I wonder how long we've been down here, Tom? We better start back."
"Yes, I reckon we better. P'raps we better."
"Can you find the way, Tom? It's all a mixed-up crookedness to me."
"I reckon I could find it--but then the bats. If they put our candles
out it will be an awful fix. Let's try some other way, so as not to go
"Well. But I hope we won't get lost. It would be so awful!" and the
girl shuddered at the thought of the dreadful possibilities.
They started through a corridor, and traversed it in silence a long
way, glancing at each new opening, to see if there was anything
familiar about the look of it; but they were all strange. Every time
Tom made an examination, Becky would watch his face for an encouraging
sign, and he would say cheerily:
"Oh, it's all right. This ain't the one, but we'll come to it right
But he felt less and less hopeful with each failure, and presently
began to turn off into diverging avenues at sheer random, in desperate
hope of finding the one that was wanted. He still said it was "all
right," but there was such a leaden dread at his heart that the words
had lost their ring and sounded just as if he had said, "All is lost!"
Becky clung to his side in an anguish of fear, and tried hard to keep
back the tears, but they would come. At last she said:
"Oh, Tom, never mind the bats, let's go back that way! We seem to get
worse and worse off all the time."
"Listen!" said he.
Profound silence; silence so deep that even their breathings were
conspicuous in the hush. Tom shouted. The call went echoing down the
empty aisles and died out in the distance in a faint sound that
resembled a ripple of mocking laughter.
"Oh, don't do it again, Tom, it is too horrid," said Becky.
"It is horrid, but I better, Becky; they might hear us, you know," and
he shouted again.
The "might" was even a chillier horror than the ghostly laughter, it
so confessed a perishing hope. The children stood still and listened;
but there was no result. Tom turned upon the back track at once, and
hurried his steps. It was but a little while before a certain
indecision in his manner revealed another fearful fact to Becky--he
could not find his way back!
"Oh, Tom, you didn't make any marks!"
"Becky, I was such a fool! Such a fool! I never thought we might want
to come back! No--I can't find the way. It's all mixed up."
"Tom, Tom, we're lost! we're lost! We never can get out of this awful
place! Oh, why DID we ever leave the others!"
She sank to the ground and burst into such a frenzy of crying that Tom
was appalled with the idea that she might die, or lose her reason. He
sat down by her and put his arms around her; she buried her face in his
bosom, she clung to him, she poured out her terrors, her unavailing
regrets, and the far echoes turned them all to jeering laughter. Tom
begged her to pluck up hope again, and she said she could not. He fell
to blaming and abusing himself for getting her into this miserable
situation; this had a better effect. She said she would try to hope
again, she would get up and follow wherever he might lead if only he
would not talk like that any more. For he was no more to blame than
she, she said.
So they moved on again--aimlessly--simply at random--all they could do
was to move, keep moving. For a little while, hope made a show of
reviving--not with any reason to back it, but only because it is its
nature to revive when the spring has not been taken out of it by age
and familiarity with failure.
By-and-by Tom took Becky's candle and blew it out. This economy meant
so much! Words were not needed. Becky understood, and her hope died
again. She knew that Tom had a whole candle and three or four pieces in
his pockets--yet he must economize.
By-and-by, fatigue began to assert its claims; the children tried to
pay attention, for it was dreadful to think of sitting down when time
was grown to be so precious, moving, in some direction, in any
direction, was at least progress and might bear fruit; but to sit down
was to invite death and shorten its pursuit.
At last Becky's frail limbs refused to carry her farther. She sat
down. Tom rested with her, and they talked of home, and the friends
there, and the comfortable beds and, above all, the light! Becky cried,
and Tom tried to think of some way of comforting her, but all his
encouragements were grown threadbare with use, and sounded like
sarcasms. Fatigue bore so heavily upon Becky that she drowsed off to
sleep. Tom was grateful. He sat looking into her drawn face and saw it
grow smooth and natural under the influence of pleasant dreams; and
by-and-by a smile dawned and rested there. The peaceful face reflected
somewhat of peace and healing into his own spirit, and his thoughts
wandered away to bygone times and dreamy memories. While he was deep in
his musings, Becky woke up with a breezy little laugh--but it was
stricken dead upon her lips, and a groan followed it.
"Oh, how COULD I sleep! I wish I never, never had waked! No! No, I
don't, Tom! Don't look so! I won't say it again."
"I'm glad you've slept, Becky; you'll feel rested, now, and we'll find
the way out."
"We can try, Tom; but I've seen such a beautiful country in my dream.
I reckon we are going there."
"Maybe not, maybe not. Cheer up, Becky, and let's go on trying."
They rose up and wandered along, hand in hand and hopeless. They tried
to estimate how long they had been in the cave, but all they knew was
that it seemed days and weeks, and yet it was plain that this could not
be, for their candles were not gone yet. A long time after this--they
could not tell how long--Tom said they must go softly and listen for
dripping water--they must find a spring. They found one presently, and
Tom said it was time to rest again. Both were cruelly tired, yet Becky
said she thought she could go a little farther. She was surprised to
hear Tom dissent. She could not understand it. They sat down, and Tom
fastened his candle to the wall in front of them with some clay.
Thought was soon busy; nothing was said for some time. Then Becky broke
"Tom, I am so hungry!"
Tom took something out of his pocket.
"Do you remember this?" said he.
Becky almost smiled.
"It's our wedding-cake, Tom."
"Yes--I wish it was as big as a barrel, for it's all we've got."
"I saved it from the picnic for us to dream on, Tom, the way grown-up
people do with wedding-cake--but it'll be our--"
She dropped the sentence where it was. Tom divided the cake and Becky
ate with good appetite, while Tom nibbled at his moiety. There was
abundance of cold water to finish the feast with. By-and-by Becky
suggested that they move on again. Tom was silent a moment. Then he
"Becky, can you bear it if I tell you something?"
Becky's face paled, but she thought she could.
"Well, then, Becky, we must stay here, where there's water to drink.
That little piece is our last candle!"
Becky gave loose to tears and wailings. Tom did what he could to
comfort her, but with little effect. At length Becky said:
"They'll miss us and hunt for us!"
"Yes, they will! Certainly they will!"
"Maybe they're hunting for us now, Tom."
"Why, I reckon maybe they are. I hope they are."
"When would they miss us, Tom?"
"When they get back to the boat, I reckon."
"Tom, it might be dark then--would they notice we hadn't come?"
"I don't know. But anyway, your mother would miss you as soon as they
A frightened look in Becky's face brought Tom to his senses and he saw
that he had made a blunder. Becky was not to have gone home that night!
The children became silent and thoughtful. In a moment a new burst of
grief from Becky showed Tom that the thing in his mind had struck hers
also--that the Sabbath morning might be half spent before Mrs. Thatcher
discovered that Becky was not at Mrs. Harper's.
The children fastened their eyes upon their bit of candle and watched
it melt slowly and pitilessly away; saw the half inch of wick stand
alone at last; saw the feeble flame rise and fall, climb the thin
column of smoke, linger at its top a moment, and then--the horror of
utter darkness reigned!
How long afterward it was that Becky came to a slow consciousness that
she was crying in Tom's arms, neither could tell. All that they knew
was, that after what seemed a mighty stretch of time, both awoke out of
a dead stupor of sleep and resumed their miseries once more. Tom said
it might be Sunday, now--maybe Monday. He tried to get Becky to talk,
but her sorrows were too oppressive, all her hopes were gone. Tom said
that they must have been missed long ago, and no doubt the search was
going on. He would shout and maybe some one would come. He tried it;
but in the darkness the distant echoes sounded so hideously that he
tried it no more.
The hours wasted away, and hunger came to torment the captives again.
A portion of Tom's half of the cake was left; they divided and ate it.
But they seemed hungrier than before. The poor morsel of food only
By-and-by Tom said:
"SH! Did you hear that?"
Both held their breath and listened. There was a sound like the
faintest, far-off shout. Instantly Tom answered it, and leading Becky
by the hand, started groping down the corridor in its direction.
Presently he listened again; again the sound was heard, and apparently
a little nearer.
"It's them!" said Tom; "they're coming! Come along, Becky--we're all
The joy of the prisoners was almost overwhelming. Their speed was
slow, however, because pitfalls were somewhat common, and had to be
guarded against. They shortly came to one and had to stop. It might be
three feet deep, it might be a hundred--there was no passing it at any
rate. Tom got down on his breast and reached as far down as he could.
No bottom. They must stay there and wait until the searchers came. They
listened; evidently the distant shoutings were growing more distant! a
moment or two more and they had gone altogether. The heart-sinking
misery of it! Tom whooped until he was hoarse, but it was of no use. He
talked hopefully to Becky; but an age of anxious waiting passed and no
sounds came again.
The children groped their way back to the spring. The weary time
dragged on; they slept again, and awoke famished and woe-stricken. Tom
believed it must be Tuesday by this time.
Now an idea struck him. There were some side passages near at hand. It
would be better to explore some of these than bear the weight of the
heavy time in idleness. He took a kite-line from his pocket, tied it to
a projection, and he and Becky started, Tom in the lead, unwinding the
line as he groped along. At the end of twenty steps the corridor ended
in a "jumping-off place." Tom got down on his knees and felt below, and
then as far around the corner as he could reach with his hands
conveniently; he made an effort to stretch yet a little farther to the
right, and at that moment, not twenty yards away, a human hand, holding
a candle, appeared from behind a rock! Tom lifted up a glorious shout,
and instantly that hand was followed by the body it belonged to--Injun
Joe's! Tom was paralyzed; he could not move. He was vastly gratified
the next moment, to see the "Spaniard" take to his heels and get
himself out of sight. Tom wondered that Joe had not recognized his
voice and come over and killed him for testifying in court. But the
echoes must have disguised the voice. Without doubt, that was it, he
reasoned. Tom's fright weakened every muscle in his body. He said to
himself that if he had strength enough to get back to the spring he
would stay there, and nothing should tempt him to run the risk of
meeting Injun Joe again. He was careful to keep from Becky what it was
he had seen. He told her he had only shouted "for luck."
But hunger and wretchedness rise superior to fears in the long run.
Another tedious wait at the spring and another long sleep brought
changes. The children awoke tortured with a raging hunger. Tom believed
that it must be Wednesday or Thursday or even Friday or Saturday, now,
and that the search had been given over. He proposed to explore another
passage. He felt willing to risk Injun Joe and all other terrors. But
Becky was very weak. She had sunk into a dreary apathy and would not be
roused. She said she would wait, now, where she was, and die--it would
not be long. She told Tom to go with the kite-line and explore if he
chose; but she implored him to come back every little while and speak
to her; and she made him promise that when the awful time came, he
would stay by her and hold her hand until all was over.
Tom kissed her, with a choking sensation in his throat, and made a
show of being confident of finding the searchers or an escape from the
cave; then he took the kite-line in his hand and went groping down one
of the passages on his hands and knees, distressed with hunger and sick
with bodings of coming doom.
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