TWT logo

Together We Teach
Reading Room

Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.


(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

< BACK    NEXT >




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 ambi-

tion 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 be-

witching 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 fan-

tastic 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 creat-

ures 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 the others."

"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 through there."

"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 away!"

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 shout-

ed. 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 comfort-

ing her, but all his encouragements were grown thread-

bare 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 the silence:

"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 abun-

dance 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 said:

"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:


"Well, Becky?"

"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 got home."

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 tor-

ment 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 whetted desire.

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 right now!"

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 weak-

ened 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 chil-

dren 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.



Top of Page

< BACK    NEXT >






Why not spread the word about Together We Teach?
Simply copy & paste our home page link below into your emails... 

Want the Together We Teach link to place on your website?
Copy & paste either home page link on your webpage...
Together We Teach 






Use these free website tools below for a more powerful experience at Together We Teach!

****Google™ search****

For a more specific search, try using quotation marks around phrases (ex. "You are what you read")


*** Google Translate™ translation service ***

 Translate text:


  Translate a web page:

****What's the Definition?****
(Simply insert the word you want to lookup)

 Search:   for   

S D Glass Enterprises

Privacy Policy

Warner Robins, GA, USA