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 "hispy" and "gully-keeper" with a crowd of their schoolmates. 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
"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
"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, boylike, 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"
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
"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 you?"
"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
"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 no hurry."
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