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Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.


(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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AS the earliest suspicion of dawn appeared on Sunday

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:

"Who's there!"

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 your-

self 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 de-

scription; 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! Hap-

pened 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, please!"

"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 any-

thing 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 suspicious?"

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 think-

ing 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. Pres-

ently 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 pro-

tect 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 --

"Of WHAT?"

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 -- then replied:

"Of burglar's tools. Why, what's the MATTER with you?"

Huck sank back, panting gently, but deeply, un-

utterably 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 sense-

less 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, be-

cause 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 interruption.

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 preser-

vation 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 widow said:

"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 ex-

pected she would be tired to death."

"Your Becky?"

"Yes," with a startled look -- "didn't she stay with you

last night?"

"Why, no."

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, be-

ginning 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 anx-

iously 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 in-

significance, 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 encourage-

ment 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 some-

where on every creature that comes from his hands."

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 acci-

dental 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 cry.

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."



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