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(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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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 pe-

culiarly 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 dis-

appointed. 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 ferry-

boat 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 there-

fore 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 ferry-

boat's lights went glinting past the wharf. He heard

no noise on board, for the young people were as sub-

dued 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 noth-

ing 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 hesi-

tating, 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 sum-

mit. 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 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

this business."

"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 him.



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