1 - 2 - 4
BUT there was no hilarity in the little town that same tranquil Saturday afternoon. The Harpers, and Aunt Polly's family, were being put into mourning, with great grief and many tears. An unusual quiet possessed the village, although it was ordinarily quiet enough, in all conscience. The villagers conducted their concerns with an absent air, and talked little; but they sighed often. The Saturday holiday seemed a burden to the children. They had no heart in their sports, and gradually gave them up.
In the afternoon Becky Thatcher found herself moping about the deserted schoolhouse yard, and feeling very melancholy. But she found nothing there to comfort her. She soliloquized:
"Oh, if I only had a brass andironknob again! But I haven't got anything now to remember him by." And she choked back a little sob.
Presently she stopped, and said to herself:
"It was right here. Oh, if it was to do over again, I wouldn't say that -- I wouldn't say it for the whole world. But he's gone now; I'll never, never, never see him any more."
This thought broke her down, and she wandered away, with tears rolling down her cheeks. Then quite a group of boys and girls -- playmates of Tom's and Joe's -- came by, and stood looking over the paling fence and talking in reverent tones of how Tom did soandso the last time they saw him, and how Joe said this and that small trifle (pregnant with awful prophecy, as they could easily see now!) -- and each speaker pointed out the exact spot where the lost lads stood at the time, and then added something like "and I was astanding just so -- just as I am now, and as if you was him -- I was as close as that -- and he smiled, just this way -- and then something seemed to go all over me, like -- awful, you know -- and I never thought what it meant, of course, but I can see now!"
Then there was a dispute about who saw the dead boys last in life, and many claimed that dismal distinction, and offered evidences, more or less tampered with by the witness; and when it was ultimately decided who DID see the departed last, and exchanged the last words with them, the lucky parties took upon themselves a sort of sacred importance, and were gaped at and envied by all the rest. One poor chap, who had no other grandeur to offer, said with tolerably manifest pride in the remembrance:
"Well, Tom Sawyer he licked me once."
But that bid for glory was a failure. Most of the boys could say that, and so that cheapened the distinction too much. The group loitered away, still recalling memories of the lost heroes, in awed voices.
When the Sundayschool hour was finished, the next morning, the bell began to toll, instead of ringing in the usual way. It was a very still Sabbath, and the mournful sound seemed in keeping with the musing hush that lay upon nature. The villagers began to gather, loitering a moment in the vestibule to converse in whispers about the sad event. But there was no whispering in the house; only the funereal rustling of dresses as the women gathered to their seats disturbed the silence there. None could remember when the little church had been so full before. There was finally a waiting pause, an expectant dumbness, and then Aunt Polly entered, followed by Sid and Mary, and they by the Harper family, all in deep black, and the whole congregation, the old minister as well, rose reverently and stood until the mourners were seated in the front pew. There was another communing silence, broken at intervals by muffled sobs, and then the minister spread his hands abroad and prayed. A moving hymn was sung, and the text followed: "I am the Resurrection and the Life."
As the service proceeded, the clergyman drew such pictures of the graces, the winning ways, and the rare promise of the lost lads that every soul there, thinking he recognized these pictures, felt a pang in remembering that he had persistently blinded himself to them always before, and had as persistently seen only faults and flaws in the poor boys. The minister related many a touching incident in the lives of the departed, too, which illustrated their sweet, generous natures, and the people could easily see, now, how noble and beautiful those episodes were, and remembered with grief that at the time they occurred they had seemed rank rascalities, well deserving of the cowhide. The congregation became more and more moved, as the pathetic tale went on, till at last the whole company broke down and joined the weeping mourners in a chorus of anguished sobs, the preacher himself giving way to his feelings, and crying in the pulpit.
There was a rustle in the gallery, which nobody noticed; a moment later the church door creaked; the minister raised his streaming eyes above his handkerchief, and stood transfixed! First one and then another pair of eyes followed the minister's, and then almost with one impulse the congregation rose and stared while the three dead boys came marching up the aisle, Tom in the lead, Joe next, and Huck, a ruin of drooping rags, sneaking sheepishly in the rear! They had been hid in the unused gallery listening to their own funeral sermon!
Aunt Polly, Mary, and the Harpers threw themselves upon their restored ones, smothered them with kisses and poured out thanksgivings, while poor Huck stood abashed and uncomfortable, not knowing exactly what to do or where to hide from so many unwelcoming eyes. He wavered, and started to slink away, but Tom seized him and said:
"Aunt Polly, it ain't fair. Somebody's got to be glad to see Huck."
"And so they shall. I'm glad to see him, poor motherless thing!" And the loving attentions Aunt Polly lavished upon him were the one thing capable of making him more uncomfortable than he was before.
Suddenly the minister shouted at the top of his voice: "Praise God from whom all blessings flow -- SING! -- and put your hearts in it!"
And they did. Old Hundred swelled up with a triumphant burst, and while it shook the rafters Tom Sawyer the Pirate looked around upon the envying juveniles about him and confessed in his heart that this was the proudest moment of his life.
As the "sold" congregation trooped out they said they would almost be willing to be made ridiculous again to hear Old Hundred sung like that once more.
Tom got more cuffs and kisses that day -- according to Aunt Polly's varying moods -- than he had earned before in a year; and he hardly knew which expressed the most gratefulness to God and affection for himself.
THAT was Tom's great secret -- the scheme to return home with his brother pirates and attend their own funerals. They had paddled over to the Missouri shore on a log, at dusk on Saturday, landing five or six miles below the village; they had slept in the woods at the edge of the town till nearly daylight, and had then crept through back lanes and alleys and finished their sleep in the gallery of the church among a chaos of invalided benches.
At breakfast, Monday morning, Aunt Polly and Mary were very loving to Tom, and very attentive to his wants. There was an unusual amount of talk. In the course of it Aunt Polly said:
"Well, I don't say it wasn't a fine joke, Tom, to keep everybody suffering 'most a week so you boys had a good time, but it is a pity you could be so hardhearted as to let me suffer so. If you could come over on a log to go to your funeral, you could have come over and give me a hint some way that you warn't dead, but only run off."
"Yes, you could have done that, Tom," said Mary; "and I believe you would if you had thought of it."
"Would you, Tom?" said Aunt Polly, her face lighting wistfully. "Say, now, would you, if you'd thought of it?"
"I -- well, I don't know. 'Twould 'a' spoiled everything."
"Tom, I hoped you loved me that much," said Aunt Polly, with a grieved tone that discomforted the boy. "It would have been something if you'd cared enough to THINK of it, even if you didn't DO it."
"Now, auntie, that ain't any harm," pleaded Mary; "it's only Tom's giddy way -- he is always in such a rush that he never thinks of anything."
"More's the pity. Sid would have thought. And Sid would have come and DONE it, too. Tom, you'll look back, some day, when it's too late, and wish you'd cared a little more for me when it would have cost you so little."
"Now, auntie, you know I do care for you," said Tom.
"I'd know it better if you acted more like it."
"I wish now I'd thought," said Tom, with a repentant tone; "but I dreamt about you, anyway. That's something, ain't it?"
"It ain't much -- a cat does that much -- but it's better than nothing. What did you dream?"
"Why, Wednesday night I dreamt that you was sitting over there by the bed, and Sid was sitting by the woodbox, and Mary next to him."
"Well, so we did. So we always do. I'm glad your dreams could take even that much trouble about us."
"And I dreamt that Joe Harper's mother was here."
"Why, she was here! Did you dream any more?"
"Oh, lots. But it's so dim, now."
"Well, try to recollect -- can't you?"
"Somehow it seems to me that the wind -- the wind blowed the -- the --"
"Try harder, Tom! The wind did blow something. Come!"
Tom pressed his fingers on his forehead an anxious minute, and then said:
"I've got it now! I've got it now! It blowed the candle!"
"Mercy on us! Go on, Tom -- go on!"
"And it seems to me that you said, 'Why, I believe that that door --'"
"Go ON, Tom!"
"Just let me study a moment -- just a moment. Oh, yes -- you said you believed the door was open."
"As I'm sitting here, I did! Didn't I, Mary! Go on!"
"And then -- and then -- well I won't be certain, but it seems like as if you made Sid go and -- and --"
"Well? Well? What did I make him do, Tom? What did I make him do?"
"You made him -- you -- Oh, you made him shut it."
"Well, for the land's sake! I never heard the beat of that in all my days! Don't tell ME there ain't anything in dreams, any more. Sereny Harper shall know of this before I'm an hour older. I'd like to see her get around THIS with her rubbage 'bout superstition. Go on, Tom!"
"Oh, it's all getting just as bright as day, now. Next you said I warn't BAD, only mischeevous and harumscarum, and not any more responsible than -- than -- I think it was a colt, or something."
"And so it was! Well, goodness gracious! Go on, Tom!"
"And then you began to cry."
"So I did. So I did. Not the first time, neither. And then --"
"Then Mrs. Harper she began to cry, and said Joe was just the same, and she wished she hadn't whipped him for taking cream when she'd throwed it out her own self --"
"Tom! The sperrit was upon you! You was a prophesying -- that's what you was doing! Land alive, go on, Tom!"
"Then Sid he said -- he said --"
"I don't think I said anything," said Sid.
"Yes you did, Sid," said Mary.
"Shut your heads and let Tom go on! What did he say, Tom?"
"He said -- I THINK he said he hoped I was better off where I was gone to, but if I'd been better sometimes --"
"THERE, d'you hear that! It was his very words!"
"And you shut him up sharp."
"I lay I did! There must 'a' been an angel there. There WAS an angel there, somewheres!"
"And Mrs. Harper told about Joe scaring her with a firecracker, and you told about Peter and the Painkiller --"
"Just as true as I live!"
"And then there was a whole lot of talk 'bout dragging the river for us, and 'bout having the funeral Sunday, and then you and old Miss Harper hugged and cried, and she went."
"It happened just so! It happened just so, as sure as I'm asitting in these very tracks. Tom, you couldn't told it more like if you'd 'a' seen it! And then what? Go on, Tom!"
"Then I thought you prayed for me -- and I could see you and hear every word you said. And you went to bed, and I was so sorry that I took and wrote on a piece of sycamore bark, 'We ain't dead -- we are only off being pirates,' and put it on the table by the candle; and then you looked so good, laying there asleep, that I thought I went and leaned over and kissed you on the lips."
"Did you, Tom, DID you! I just forgive you everything for that!" And she seized the boy in a crushing embrace that made him feel like the guiltiest of villains.
"It was very kind, even though it was only a -- dream," Sid soliloquized just audibly.
"Shut up, Sid! A body does just the same in a dream as he'd do if he was awake. Here's a big Milum apple I've been saving for you, Tom, if you was ever found again -- now go 'long to school. I'm thankful to the good God and Father of us all I've got you back, that's longsuffering and merciful to them that believe on Him and keep His word, though goodness knows I'm unworthy of it, but if only the worthy ones got His blessings and had His hand to help them over the rough places, there's few enough would smile here or ever enter into His rest when the long night comes. Go 'long Sid, Mary, Tom -- take yourselves off -- you've hendered me long enough."
The children left for school, and the old lady to call on Mrs. Harper and vanquish her realism with Tom's marvellous dream. Sid had better judgment than to utter the thought that was in his mind as he left the house. It was this: "Pretty thin -- as long a dream as that, without any mistakes in it!"
What a hero Tom was become, now! He did not go skipping and prancing, but moved with a dignified swagger as became a pirate who felt that the public eye was on him. And indeed it was; he tried not to seem to see the looks or hear the remarks as he passed along, but they were food and drink to him. Smaller boys than himself flocked at his heels, as proud to be seen with him, and tolerated by him, as if he had been the drummer at the head of a procession or the elephant leading a menagerie into town. Boys of his own size pretended not to know he had been away at all; but they were consuming with envy, nevertheless. They would have given anything to have that swarthy suntanned skin of his, and his glittering notoriety; and Tom would not have parted with either for a circus.
At school the children made so much of him and of Joe, and delivered such eloquent admiration from their eyes, that the two heroes were not long in becoming insufferably "stuckup." They began to tell their adventures to hungry listeners -- but they only began; it was not a thing likely to have an end, with imaginations like theirs to furnish material. And finally, when they got out their pipes and went serenely puffing around, the very summit of glory was reached.
Tom decided that he could be independent of Becky Thatcher now. Glory was sufficient. He would live for glory. Now that he was distinguished, maybe she would be wanting to "make up." Well, let her -- she should see that he could be as indifferent as some other people. Presently she arrived. Tom pretended not to see her. He moved away and joined a group of boys and girls and began to talk. Soon he observed that she was tripping gayly back and forth with flushed face and dancing eyes, pretending to be busy chasing schoolmates, and screaming with laughter when she made a capture; but he noticed that she always made her captures in his vicinity, and that she seemed to cast a conscious eye in his direction at such times, too. It gratified all the vicious vanity that was in him; and so, instead of winning him, it only "set him up" the more and made him the more diligent to avoid betraying that he knew she was about. Presently she gave over skylarking, and moved irresolutely about, sighing once or twice and glancing furtively and wistfully toward Tom. Then she observed that now Tom was talking more particularly to Amy Lawrence than to any one else. She felt a sharp pang and grew disturbed and uneasy at once. She tried to go away, but her feet were treacherous, and carried her to the group instead. She said to a girl almost at Tom's elbow -- with sham vivacity:
"Why, Mary Austin! you bad girl, why didn't you come to Sundayschool?"
"I did come -- didn't you see me?"
"Why, no! Did you? Where did you sit?"
"I was in Miss Peters' class, where I always go. I saw YOU."
"Did you? Why, it's funny I didn't see you. I wanted to tell you about the picnic."
"Oh, that's jolly. Who's going to give it?"
"My ma's going to let me have one."
"Oh, goody; I hope she'll let ME come."
"Well, she will. The picnic's for me. She'll let anybody come that I want, and I want you."
"That's ever so nice. When is it going to be?"
"By and by. Maybe about vacation."
"Oh, won't it be fun! You going to have all the girls and boys?"
"Yes, every one that's friends to me -- or wants to be"; and she glanced ever so furtively at Tom, but he talked right along to Amy Lawrence about the terrible storm on the island, and how the lightning tore the great sycamore tree "all to flinders" while he was "standing within three feet of it."
"Oh, may I come?" said Grace Miller.
"And me?" said Sally Rogers.
"And me, too?" said Susy Harper. "And Joe?"
And so on, with clapping of joyful hands till all the group had begged for invitations but Tom and Amy. Then Tom turned coolly away, still talking, and took Amy with him. Becky's lips trembled and the tears came to her eyes; she hid these signs with a forced gayety and went on chattering, but the life had gone out of the picnic, now, and out of everything else; she got away as soon as she could and hid herself and had what her sex call "a good cry." Then she sat moody, with wounded pride, till the bell rang. She roused up, now, with a vindictive cast in her eye, and gave her plaited tails a shake and said she knew what SHE'D do.
At recess Tom continued his flirtation with Amy with jubilant selfsatisfaction. And he kept drifting about to find Becky and lacerate her with the performance. At last he spied her, but there was a sudden falling of his mercury. She was sitting cosily on a little bench behind the schoolhouse looking at a picturebook with Alfred Temple -- and so absorbed were they, and their heads so close together over the book, that they did not seem to be conscious of anything in the world besides. Jealousy ran redhot through Tom's veins. He began to hate himself for throwing away the chance Becky had offered for a reconciliation. He called himself a fool, and all the hard names he could think of. He wanted to cry with vexation. Amy chatted happily along, as they walked, for her heart was singing, but Tom's tongue had lost its function. He did not hear what Amy was saying, and whenever she paused expectantly he could only stammer an awkward assent, which was as often misplaced as otherwise. He kept drifting to the rear of the schoolhouse, again and again, to sear his eyeballs with the hateful spectacle there. He could not help it. And it maddened him to see, as he thought he saw, that Becky Thatcher never once suspected that he was even in the land of the living. But she did see, nevertheless; and she knew she was winning her fight, too, and was glad to see him suffer as she had suffered.
Amy's happy prattle became intolerable. Tom hinted at things he had to attend to; things that must be done; and time was fleeting. But in vain -- the girl chirped on. Tom thought, "Oh, hang her, ain't I ever going to get rid of her?" At last he must be attending to those things -- and she said artlessly that she would be "around" when school let out. And he hastened away, hating her for it.
"Any other boy!" Tom thought, grating his teeth. "Any boy in the whole town but that Saint Louis smarty that thinks he dresses so fine and is aristocracy! Oh, all right, I licked you the first day you ever saw this town, mister, and I'll lick you again! You just wait till I catch you out! I'll just take and --"
And he went through the motions of thrashing an imaginary boy -- pummelling the air, and kicking and gouging. "Oh, you do, do you? You holler 'nough, do you? Now, then, let that learn you!" And so the imaginary flogging was finished to his satisfaction.
Tom fled home at noon. His conscience could not endure any more of Amy's grateful happiness, and his jealousy could bear no more of the other distress. Becky resumed her picture inspections with Alfred, but as the minutes dragged along and no Tom came to suffer, her triumph began to cloud and she lost interest; gravity and absentmindedness followed, and then melancholy; two or three times she pricked up her ear at a footstep, but it was a false hope; no Tom came. At last she grew entirely miserable and wished she hadn't carried it so far. When poor Alfred, seeing that he was losing her, he did not know how, kept exclaiming: "Oh, here's a jolly one! look at this!" she lost patience at last, and said, "Oh, don't bother me! I don't care for them!" and burst into tears, and got up and walked away.
Alfred dropped alongside and was going to try to comfort her, but she said:
"Go away and leave me alone, can't you! I hate you!"
So the boy halted, wondering what he could have done -- for she had said she would look at pictures all through the nooning -- and she walked on, crying. Then Alfred went musing into the deserted schoolhouse. He was humiliated and angry. He easily guessed his way to the truth -- the girl had simply made a convenience of him to vent her spite upon Tom Sawyer. He was far from hating Tom the less when this thought occurred to him. He wished there was some way to get that boy into trouble without much risk to himself. Tom's spellingbook fell under his eye. Here was his opportunity. He gratefully opened to the lesson for the afternoon and poured ink upon the page.
Becky, glancing in at a window behind him at the moment, saw the act, and moved on, without discovering herself. She started homeward, now, intending to find Tom and tell him; Tom would be thankful and their troubles would be healed. Before she was half way home, however, she had changed her mind. The thought of Tom's treatment of her when she was talking about her picnic came scorching back and filled her with shame. She resolved to let him get whipped on the damaged spellingbook's account, and to hate him forever, into the bargain.
TOM arrived at home in a dreary mood, and the first thing his aunt said to him showed him that he had brought his sorrows to an unpromising market:
"Tom, I've a notion to skin you alive!"
"Auntie, what have I done?"
"Well, you've done enough. Here I go over to Sereny Harper, like an old softy, expecting I'm going to make her believe all that rubbage about that dream, when lo and behold you she'd found out from Joe that you was over here and heard all the talk we had that night. Tom, I don't know what is to become of a boy that will act like that. It makes me feel so bad to think you could let me go to Sereny Harper and make such a fool of myself and never say a word."
This was a new aspect of the thing. His smartness of the morning had seemed to Tom a good joke before, and very ingenious. It merely looked mean and shabby now. He hung his head and could not think of anything to say for a moment. Then he said:
"Auntie, I wish I hadn't done it -- but I didn't think."
"Oh, child, you never think. You never think of anything but your own selfishness. You could think to come all the way over here from Jackson's Island in the night to laugh at our troubles, and you could think to fool me with a lie about a dream; but you couldn't ever think to pity us and save us from sorrow."
"Auntie, I know now it was mean, but I didn't mean to be mean. I didn't, honest. And besides, I didn't come over here to laugh at you that night."
"What did you come for, then?"
"It was to tell you not to be uneasy about us, because we hadn't got drownded."
"Tom, Tom, I would be the thankfullest soul in this world if I could believe you ever had as good a thought as that, but you know you never did -- and I know it, Tom."
"Indeed and 'deed I did, auntie -- I wish I may never stir if I didn't."
"Oh, Tom, don't lie -- don't do it. It only makes things a hundred times worse."
"It ain't a lie, auntie; it's the truth. I wanted to keep you from grieving -- that was all that made me come."
"I'd give the whole world to believe that -- it would cover up a power of sins, Tom. I'd 'most be glad you'd run off and acted so bad. But it ain't reasonable; because, why didn't you tell me, child?"
"Why, you see, when you got to talking about the funeral, I just got all full of the idea of our coming and hiding in the church, and I couldn't somehow bear to spoil it. So I just put the bark back in my pocket and kept mum."
"The bark I had wrote on to tell you we'd gone pirating. I wish, now, you'd waked up when I kissed you -- I do, honest."
The hard lines in his aunt's face relaxed and a sudden tenderness dawned in her eyes.
"DID you kiss me, Tom?"
"Why, yes, I did."
"Are you sure you did, Tom?"
"Why, yes, I did, auntie -- certain sure."
"What did you kiss me for, Tom?"
"Because I loved you so, and you laid there moaning and I was so sorry."
The words sounded like truth. The old lady could not hide a tremor in her voice when she said:
"Kiss me again, Tom! -- and be off with you to school, now, and don't bother me any more."
The moment he was gone, she ran to a closet and got out the ruin of a jacket which Tom had gone pirating in. Then she stopped, with it in her hand, and said to herself:
"No, I don't dare. Poor boy, I reckon he's lied about it -- but it's a blessed, blessed lie, there's such a comfort come from it. I hope the Lord -- I KNOW the Lord will forgive him, because it was such goodheartedness in him to tell it. But I don't want to find out it's a lie. I won't look."
She put the jacket away, and stood by musing a minute. Twice she put out her hand to take the garment again, and twice she refrained. Once more she ventured, and this time she fortified herself with the thought: "It's a good lie -- it's a good lie -- I won't let it grieve me." So she sought the jacket pocket. A moment later she was reading Tom's piece of bark through flowing tears and saying: "I could forgive the boy, now, if he'd committed a million sins!"
THERE was something about Aunt Polly's manner, when she kissed Tom, that swept away his low spirits and made him lighthearted and happy again. He started to school and had the luck of coming upon Becky Thatcher at the head of Meadow Lane. His mood always determined his manner. Without a moment's hesitation he ran to her and said:
"I acted mighty mean today, Becky, and I'm so sorry. I won't ever, ever do that way again, as long as ever I live -- please make up, won't you?"
The girl stopped and looked him scornfully in the face:
"I'll thank you to keep yourself TO yourself, Mr. Thomas Sawyer. I'll never speak to you again."
She tossed her head and passed on. Tom was so stunned that he had not even presence of mind enough to say "Who cares, Miss Smarty?" until the right time to say it had gone by. So he said nothing. But he was in a fine rage, nevertheless. He moped into the schoolyard wishing she were a boy, and imagining how he would trounce her if she were. He presently encountered her and delivered a stinging remark as he passed. She hurled one in return, and the angry breach was complete. It seemed to Becky, in her hot resentment, that she could hardly wait for school to "take in," she was so impatient to see Tom flogged for the injured spellingbook. If she had had any lingering notion of exposing Alfred Temple, Tom's offensive fling had driven it entirely away.
Poor girl, she did not know how fast she was nearing trouble herself. The master, Mr. Dobbins, had reached middle age with an unsatisfied ambition. The darling of his desires was, to be a doctor, but poverty had decreed that he should be nothing higher than a village schoolmaster. Every day he took a mysterious book out of his desk and absorbed himself in it at times when no classes were reciting. He kept that book under lock and key. There was not an urchin in school but was perishing to have a glimpse of it, but the chance never came. Every boy and girl had a theory about the nature of that book; but no two theories were alike, and there was no way of getting at the facts in the case. Now, as Becky was passing by the desk, which stood near the door, she noticed that the key was in the lock! It was a precious moment. She glanced around; found herself alone, and the next instant she had the book in her hands. The titlepage -- Professor Somebody's ANATOMY -- carried no information to her mind; so she began to turn the leaves. She came at once upon a handsomely engraved and colored frontispiece -- a human figure, stark naked. At that moment a shadow fell on the page and Tom Sawyer stepped in at the door and caught a glimpse of the picture. Becky snatched at the book to close it, and had the hard luck to tear the pictured page half down the middle. She thrust the volume into the desk, turned the key, and burst out crying with shame and vexation.
"Tom Sawyer, you are just as mean as you can be, to sneak up on a person and look at what they're looking at."
"How could I know you was looking at anything?"
"You ought to be ashamed of yourself, Tom Sawyer; you know you're going to tell on me, and oh, what shall I do, what shall I do! I'll be whipped, and I never was whipped in school."
Then she stamped her little foot and said:
"BE so mean if you want to! I know something that's going to happen. You just wait and you'll see! Hateful, hateful, hateful!" -- and she flung out of the house with a new explosion of crying.
Tom stood still, rather flustered by this onslaught. Presently he said to himself:
"What a curious kind of a fool a girl is! Never been licked in school! Shucks! What's a licking! That's just like a girl -- they're so thinskinned and chickenhearted. Well, of course I ain't going to tell old Dobbins on this little fool, because there's other ways of getting even on her, that ain't so mean; but what of it? Old Dobbins will ask who it was tore his book. Nobody'll answer. Then he'll do just the way he always does -- ask first one and then t'other, and when he comes to the right girl he'll know it, without any telling. Girls' faces always tell on them. They ain't got any backbone. She'll get licked. Well, it's a kind of a tight place for Becky Thatcher, because there ain't any way out of it." Tom conned the thing a moment longer, and then added: "All right, though; she'd like to see me in just such a fix -- let her sweat it out!"
Tom joined the mob of skylarking scholars outside. In a few moments the master arrived and school "took in." Tom did not feel a strong interest in his studies. Every time he stole a glance at the girls' side of the room Becky's face troubled him. Considering all things, he did not want to pity her, and yet it was all he could do to help it. He could get up no exultation that was really worthy the name. Presently the spellingbook discovery was made, and Tom's mind was entirely full of his own matters for a while after that. Becky roused up from her lethargy of distress and showed good interest in the proceedings. She did not expect that Tom could get out of his trouble by denying that he spilt the ink on the book himself; and she was right. The denial only seemed to make the thing worse for Tom. Becky supposed she would be glad of that, and she tried to believe she was glad of it, but she found she was not certain. When the worst came to the worst, she had an impulse to get up and tell on Alfred Temple, but she made an effort and forced herself to keep still -- because, said she to herself, "he'll tell about me tearing the picture sure. I wouldn't say a word, not to save his life!"
Tom took his whipping and went back to his seat not at all brokenhearted, for he thought it was possible that he had unknowingly upset the ink on the spellingbook himself, in some skylarking bout -- he had denied it for form's sake and because it was custom, and had stuck to the denial from principle.
A whole hour drifted by, the master sat nodding in his throne, the air was drowsy with the hum of study. By and by, Mr. Dobbins straightened himself up, yawned, then unlocked his desk, and reached for his book, but seemed undecided whether to take it out or leave it. Most of the pupils glanced up languidly, but there were two among them that watched his movements with intent eyes. Mr. Dobbins fingered his book absently for a while, then took it out and settled himself in his chair to read! Tom shot a glance at Becky. He had seen a hunted and helpless rabbit look as she did, with a gun levelled at its head. Instantly he forgot his quarrel with her. Quick -- something must be done! done in a flash, too! But the very imminence of the emergency paralyzed his invention. Good! -- he had an inspiration! He would run and snatch the book, spring through the door and fly. But his resolution shook for one little instant, and the chance was lost -- the master opened the volume. If Tom only had the wasted opportunity back again! Too late. There was no help for Becky now, he said. The next moment the master faced the school. Every eye sank under his gaze. There was that in it which smote even the innocent with fear. There was silence while one might count ten -- the master was gathering his wrath. Then he spoke: "Who tore this book?"
There was not a sound. One could have heard a pin drop. The stillness continued; the master searched face after face for signs of guilt.
"Benjamin Rogers, did you tear this book?"
A denial. Another pause.
"Joseph Harper, did you?"
Another denial. Tom's uneasiness grew more and more intense under the slow torture of these proceedings. The master scanned the ranks of boys -- considered a while, then turned to the girls:
A shake of the head.
The same sign.
"Susan Harper, did you do this?"
Another negative. The next girl was Becky Thatcher. Tom was trembling from head to foot with excitement and a sense of the hopelessness of the situation.
"Rebecca Thatcher" [Tom glanced at her face -- it was white with terror] -- "did you tear -- no, look me in the face" [her hands rose in appeal] -- "did you tear this book?"
A thought shot like lightning through Tom's brain. He sprang to his feet and shouted -- "I done it!"
The school stared in perplexity at this incredible folly. Tom stood a moment, to gather his dismembered faculties; and when he stepped forward to go to his punishment the surprise, the gratitude, the adoration that shone upon him out of poor Becky's eyes seemed pay enough for a hundred floggings. Inspired by the splendor of his own act, he took without an outcry the most merciless flaying that even Mr. Dobbins had ever administered; and also received with indifference the added cruelty of a command to remain two hours after school should be dismissed -- for he knew who would wait for him outside till his captivity was done, and not count the tedious time as loss, either.
Tom went to bed that night planning vengeance against Alfred Temple; for with shame and repentance Becky had told him all, not forgetting her own treachery; but even the longing for vengeance had to give way, soon, to pleasanter musings, and he fell asleep at last with Becky's latest words lingering dreamily in his ear --
"Tom, how COULD you be so noble!"
VACATION was approaching. The schoolmaster, always severe, grew severer and more exacting than ever, for he wanted the school to make a good showing on "Examination" day. His rod and his ferule were seldom idle now -- at least among the smaller pupils. Only the biggest boys, and young ladies of eighteen and twenty, escaped lashing. Mr. Dobbins' lashings were very vigorous ones, too; for although he carried, under his wig, a perfectly bald and shiny head, he had only reached middle age, and there was no sign of feebleness in his muscle. As the great day approached, all the tyranny that was in him came to the surface; he seemed to take a vindictive pleasure in punishing the least shortcomings. The consequence was, that the smaller boys spent their days in terror and suffering and their nights in plotting revenge. They threw away no opportunity to do the master a mischief. But he kept ahead all the time. The retribution that followed every vengeful success was so sweeping and majestic that the boys always retired from the field badly worsted. At last they conspired together and hit upon a plan that promised a dazzling victory. They swore in the signpainter's boy, told him the scheme, and asked his help. He had his own reasons for being delighted, for the master boarded in his father's family and had given the boy ample cause to hate him. The master's wife would go on a visit to the country in a few days, and there would be nothing to interfere with the plan; the master always prepared himself for great occasions by getting pretty well fuddled, and the signpainter's boy said that when the dominie had reached the proper condition on Examination Evening he would "manage the thing" while he napped in his chair; then he would have him awakened at the right time and hurried away to school.
In the fulness of time the interesting occasion arrived. At eight in the evening the schoolhouse was brilliantly lighted, and adorned with wreaths and festoons of foliage and flowers. The master sat throned in his great chair upon a raised platform, with his blackboard behind him. He was looking tolerably mellow. Three rows of benches on each side and six rows in front of him were occupied by the dignitaries of the town and by the parents of the pupils. To his left, back of the rows of citizens, was a spacious temporary platform upon which were seated the scholars who were to take part in the exercises of the evening; rows of small boys, washed and dressed to an intolerable state of discomfort; rows of gawky big boys; snowbanks of girls and young ladies clad in lawn and muslin and conspicuously conscious of their bare arms, their grandmothers' ancient trinkets, their bits of pink and blue ribbon and the flowers in their hair. All the rest of the house was filled with nonparticipating scholars.
The exercises began. A very little boy stood up and sheepishly recited, "You'd scarce expect one of my age to speak in public on the stage," etc. -- accompanying himself with the painfully exact and spasmodic gestures which a machine might have used -- supposing the machine to be a trifle out of order. But he got through safely, though cruelly scared, and got a fine round of applause when he made his manufactured bow and retired.
A little shamefaced girl lisped, "Mary had a little lamb," etc., performed a compassioninspiring curtsy, got her meed of applause, and sat down flushed and happy.
Tom Sawyer stepped forward with conceited confidence and soared into the unquenchable and indestructible "Give me liberty or give me death" speech, with fine fury and frantic gesticulation, and broke down in the middle of it. A ghastly stagefright seized him, his legs quaked under him and he was like to choke. True, he had the manifest sympathy of the house but he had the house's silence, too, which was even worse than its sympathy. The master frowned, and this completed the disaster. Tom struggled awhile and then retired, utterly defeated. There was a weak attempt at applause, but it died early.
"The Boy Stood on the Burning Deck" followed; also "The Assyrian Came Down," and other declamatory gems. Then there were reading exercises, and a spelling fight. The meagre Latin class recited with honor. The prime feature of the evening was in order, now -- original "compositions" by the young ladies. Each in her turn stepped forward to the edge of the platform, cleared her throat, held up her manuscript (tied with dainty ribbon), and proceeded to read, with labored attention to "expression" and punctuation. The themes were the same that had been illuminated upon similar occasions by their mothers before them, their grandmothers, and doubtless all their ancestors in the female line clear back to the Crusades. "Friendship" was one; "Memories of Other Days"; "Religion in History"; "Dream Land"; "The Advantages of Culture"; "Forms of Political Government Compared and Contrasted"; "Melancholy"; "Filial Love"; "Heart Longings," etc., etc.
A prevalent feature in these compositions was a nursed and petted melancholy; another was a wasteful and opulent gush of "fine language"; another was a tendency to lug in by the ears particularly prized words and phrases until they were worn entirely out; and a peculiarity that conspicuously marked and marred them was the inveterate and intolerable sermon that wagged its crippled tail at the end of each and every one of them. No matter what the subject might be, a brainracking effort was made to squirm it into some aspect or other that the moral and religious mind could contemplate with edification. The glaring insincerity of these sermons was not sufficient to compass the banishment of the fashion from the schools, and it is not sufficient today; it never will be sufficient while the world stands, perhaps. There is no school in all our land where the young ladies do not feel obliged to close their compositions with a sermon; and you will find that the sermon of the most frivolous and the least religious girl in the school is always the longest and the most relentlessly pious. But enough of this. Homely truth is unpalatable.
Let us return to the "Examination." The first composition that was read was one entitled "Is this, then, Life?" Perhaps the reader can endure an extract from it:
"In the common walks of life, with what delightful emotions does the youthful mind look forward to some anticipated scene of festivity! Imagination is busy sketching rosetinted pictures of joy. In fancy, the voluptuous votary of fashion sees herself amid the festive throng, 'the observed of all observers.' Her graceful form, arrayed in snowy robes, is whirling through the mazes of the joyous dance; her eye is brightest, her step is lightest in the gay assembly.
"In such delicious fancies time quickly glides by, and the welcome hour arrives for her entrance into the Elysian world, of which she has had such bright dreams. How fairylike does everything appear to her enchanted vision! Each new scene is more charming than the last. But after a while she finds that beneath this goodly exterior, all is vanity, the flattery which once charmed her soul, now grates harshly upon her ear; the ballroom has lost its charms; and with wasted health and imbittered heart, she turns away with the conviction that earthly pleasures cannot satisfy the longings of the soul!"
And so forth and so on. There was a buzz of gratification from time to time during the reading, accompanied by whispered ejaculations of "How sweet!" "How eloquent!" "So true!" etc., and after the thing had closed with a peculiarly afflicting sermon the applause was enthusiastic.
Then arose a slim, melancholy girl, whose face had the "interesting" paleness that comes of pills and indigestion, and read a "poem." Two stanzas of it will do:
"A MISSOURI MAIDEN'S FAREWELL TO ALABAMA
"Alabama, goodbye! I love thee well! But yet for a while do I leave thee now! Sad, yes, sad thoughts of thee my heart doth swell, And burning recollections throng my brow! For I have wandered through thy flowery woods; Have roamed and read near Tallapoosa's stream; Have listened to Tallassee's warring floods, And wooed on Coosa's side Aurora's beam.
"Yet shame I not to bear an o'erfull heart, Nor blush to turn behind my tearful eyes; 'Tis from no stranger land I now must part, 'Tis to no strangers left I yield these sighs. Welcome and home were mine within this State, Whose vales I leave -- whose spires fade fast from me And cold must be mine eyes, and heart, and tete, When, dear Alabama! they turn cold on thee!"
There were very few there who knew what "tete" meant, but the poem was very satisfactory, nevertheless.
Next appeared a darkcomplexioned, blackeyed, blackhaired young lady, who paused an impressive moment, assumed a tragic expression, and began to read in a measured, solemn tone:
"Dark and tempestuous was night. Around the throne on high not a single star quivered; but the deep intonations of the heavy thunder constantly vibrated upon the ear; whilst the terrific lightning revelled in angry mood through the cloudy chambers of heaven, seeming to scorn the power exerted over its terror by the illustrious Franklin! Even the boisterous winds unanimously came forth from their mystic homes, and blustered about as if to enhance by their aid the wildness of the scene.
"At such a time,so dark,so dreary, for human sympathy my very spirit sighed; but instead thereof,
"'My dearest friend, my counsellor, my comforter and guide -- My joy in grief, my second bliss in joy,' came to my side. She moved like one of those bright beings pictured in the sunny walks of fancy's Eden by the romantic and young, a queen of beauty unadorned save by her own transcendent loveliness. So soft was her step, it failed to make even a sound, and but for the magical thrill imparted by her genial touch, as other unobtrusive beauties, she would have glided away unperceived -- unsought. A strange sadness rested upon her features, like icy tears upon the robe of December, as she pointed to the contending elements without, and bade me contemplate the two beings presented."
This nightmare occupied some ten pages of manuscript and wound up with a sermon so destructive of all hope to nonPresbyterians that it took the first prize. This composition was considered to be the very finest effort of the evening. The mayor of the village, in delivering the prize to the author of it, made a warm speech in which he said that it was by far the most "eloquent" thing he had ever listened to, and that Daniel Webster himself might well be proud of it.
It may be remarked, in passing, that the number of compositions in which the word "beauteous" was overfondled, and human experience referred to as "life's page," was up to the usual average.
Now the master, mellow almost to the verge of geniality, put his chair aside, turned his back to the audience, and began to draw a map of America on the blackboard, to exercise the geography class upon. But he made a sad business of it with his unsteady hand, and a smothered titter rippled over the house. He knew what the matter was, and set himself to right it. He sponged out lines and remade them; but he only distorted them more than ever, and the tittering was more pronounced. He threw his entire attention upon his work, now, as if determined not to be put down by the mirth. He felt that all eyes were fastened upon him; he imagined he was succeeding, and yet the tittering continued; it even manifestly increased. And well it might. There was a garret above, pierced with a scuttle over his head; and down through this scuttle came a cat, suspended around the haunches by a string; she had a rag tied about her head and jaws to keep her from mewing; as she slowly descended she curved upward and clawed at the string, she swung downward and clawed at the intangible air. The tittering rose higher and higher -- the cat was within six inches of the absorbed teacher's head -- down, down, a little lower, and she grabbed his wig with her desperate claws, clung to it, and was snatched up into the garret in an instant with her trophy still in her possession! And how the light did blaze abroad from the master's bald pate -- for the signpainter's boy had GILDED it!
That broke up the meeting. The boys were avenged. Vacation had come.
NOTE:-- The pretended "compositions" quoted in this chapter are taken without alteration from a volume entitled "Prose and Poetry, by a Western Lady" -- but they are exactly and precisely after the schoolgirl pattern, and hence are much happier than any mere imitations could be.
TOM joined the new order of Cadets of Temperance, being attracted by the showy character of their "regalia." He promised to abstain from smoking, chewing, and profanity as long as he remained a member. Now he found out a new thing -- namely, that to promise not to do a thing is the surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing. Tom soon found himself tormented with a desire to drink and swear; the desire grew to be so intense that nothing but the hope of a chance to display himself in his red sash kept him from withdrawing from the order. Fourth of July was coming; but he soon gave that up -- gave it up before he had worn his shackles over fortyeight hours -- and fixed his hopes upon old Judge Frazer, justice of the peace, who was apparently on his deathbed and would have a big public funeral, since he was so high an official. During three days Tom was deeply concerned about the Judge's condition and hungry for news of it. Sometimes his hopes ran high -- so high that he would venture to get out his regalia and practise before the lookingglass. But the Judge had a most discouraging way of fluctuating. At last he was pronounced upon the mend -- and then convalescent. Tom was disgusted; and felt a sense of injury, too. He handed in his resignation at once -- and that night the Judge suffered a relapse and died. Tom resolved that he would never trust a man like that again.
The funeral was a fine thing. The Cadets paraded in a style calculated to kill the late member with envy. Tom was a free boy again, however -- there was something in that. He could drink and swear, now -- but found to his surprise that he did not want to. The simple fact that he could, took the desire away, and the charm of it.
Tom presently wondered to find that his coveted vacation was beginning to hang a little heavily on his hands.
He attempted a diary -- but nothing happened during three days, and so he abandoned it.
The first of all the negro minstrel shows came to town, and made a sensation. Tom and Joe Harper got up a band of performers and were happy for two days.
Even the Glorious Fourth was in some sense a failure, for it rained hard, there was no procession in consequence, and the greatest man in the world (as Tom supposed), Mr. Benton, an actual United States Senator, proved an overwhelming disappointment -- for he was not twentyfive feet high, nor even anywhere in the neighborhood of it.
A circus came. The boys played circus for three days afterward in tents made of rag carpeting -- admission, three pins for boys, two for girls -- and then circusing was abandoned.
A phrenologist and a mesmerizer came -- and went again and left the village duller and drearier than ever.
There were some boysandgirls' parties, but they were so few and so delightful that they only made the aching voids between ache the harder.
Becky Thatcher was gone to her Constantinople home to stay with her parents during vacation -- so there was no bright side to life anywhere.
The dreadful secret of the murder was a chronic misery. It was a very cancer for permanency and pain.
Then came the measles.
During two long weeks Tom lay a prisoner, dead to the world and its happenings. He was very ill, he was interested in nothing. When he got upon his feet at last and moved feebly downtown, a melancholy change had come over everything and every creature. There had been a "revival," and everybody had "got religion," not only the adults, but even the boys and girls. Tom went about, hoping against hope for the sight of one blessed sinful face, but disappointment crossed him everywhere. He found Joe Harper studying a Testament, and turned sadly away from the depressing spectacle. He sought Ben Rogers, and found him visiting the poor with a basket of tracts. He hunted up Jim Hollis, who called his attention to the precious blessing of his late measles as a warning. Every boy he encountered added another ton to his depression; and when, in desperation, he flew for refuge at last to the bosom of Huckleberry Finn and was received with a Scriptural quotation, his heart broke and he crept home and to bed realizing that he alone of all the town was lost, forever and forever.
And that night there came on a terrific storm, with driving rain, awful claps of thunder and blinding sheets of lightning. He covered his head with the bedclothes and waited in a horror of suspense for his doom; for he had not the shadow of a doubt that all this hubbub was about him. He believed he had taxed the forbearance of the powers above to the extremity of endurance and that this was the result. It might have seemed to him a waste of pomp and ammunition to kill a bug with a battery of artillery, but there seemed nothing incongruous about the getting up such an expensive thunderstorm as this to knock the turf from under an insect like himself.
By and by the tempest spent itself and died without accomplishing its object. The boy's first impulse was to be grateful, and reform. His second was to wait -- for there might not be any more storms.
The next day the doctors were back; Tom had relapsed. The three weeks he spent on his back this time seemed an entire age. When he got abroad at last he was hardly grateful that he had been spared, remembering how lonely was his estate, how companionless and forlorn he was. He drifted listlessly down the street and found Jim Hollis acting as judge in a juvenile court that was trying a cat for murder, in the presence of her victim, a bird. He found Joe Harper and Huck Finn up an alley eating a stolen melon. Poor lads! they -- like Tom -- had suffered a relapse.
AT last the sleepy atmosphere was stirred -- and vigorously: the murder trial came on in the court. It became the absorbing topic of village talk immediately. Tom could not get away from it. Every reference to the murder sent a shudder to his heart, for his troubled conscience and fears almost persuaded him that these remarks were put forth in his hearing as "feelers"; he did not see how he could be suspected of knowing anything about the murder, but still he could not be comfortable in the midst of this gossip. It kept him in a cold shiver all the time. He took Huck to a lonely place to have a talk with him. It would be some relief to unseal his tongue for a little while; to divide his burden of distress with another sufferer. Moreover, he wanted to assure himself that Huck had remained discreet.
"Huck, have you ever told anybody about -- that?"
"You know what."
"Oh -- 'course I haven't."
"Never a word?"
"Never a solitary word, so help me. What makes you ask?"
"Well, I was afeard."
"Why, Tom Sawyer, we wouldn't be alive two days if that got found out. YOU know that."
Tom felt more comfortable. After a pause:
"Huck, they couldn't anybody get you to tell, could they?"
"Get me to tell? Why, if I wanted that halfbreed devil to drownd me they could get me to tell. They ain't no different way."
"Well, that's all right, then. I reckon we're safe as long as we keep mum. But let's swear again, anyway. It's more surer."
So they swore again with dread solemnities.
"What is the talk around, Huck? I've heard a power of it."
"Talk? Well, it's just Muff Potter, Muff Potter, Muff Potter all the time. It keeps me in a sweat, constant, so's I want to hide som'ers."
"That's just the same way they go on round me. I reckon he's a goner. Don't you feel sorry for him, sometimes?"
"Most always -- most always. He ain't no account; but then he hain't ever done anything to hurt anybody. Just fishes a little, to get money to get drunk on -- and loafs around considerable; but lord, we all do that -- leastways most of us -- preachers and such like. But he's kind of good -- he give me half a fish, once, when there warn't enough for two; and lots of times he's kind of stood by me when I was out of luck."
"Well, he's mended kites for me, Huck, and knitted hooks on to my line. I wish we could get him out of there."
"My! we couldn't get him out, Tom. And besides, 'twouldn't do any good; they'd ketch him again."
"Yes -- so they would. But I hate to hear 'em abuse him so like the dickens when he never done -- that."
"I do too, Tom. Lord, I hear 'em say he's the bloodiest looking villain in this country, and they wonder he wasn't ever hung before."
"Yes, they talk like that, all the time. I've heard 'em say that if he was to get free they'd lynch him."
"And they'd do it, too."
The boys had a long talk, but it brought them little comfort. As the twilight drew on, they found themselves hanging about the neighborhood of the little isolated jail, perhaps with an undefined hope that something would happen that might clear away their difficulties. But nothing happened; there seemed to be no angels or fairies interested in this luckless captive.
The boys did as they had often done before -- went to the cell grating and gave Potter some tobacco and matches. He was on the ground floor and there were no guards.
His gratitude for their gifts had always smote their consciences before -- it cut deeper than ever, this time. They felt cowardly and treacherous to the last degree when Potter said:
"You've been mighty good to me, boys -- better'n anybody else in this town. And I don't forget it, I don't. Often I says to myself, says I, 'I used to mend all the boys' kites and things, and show 'em where the good fishin' places was, and befriend 'em what I could, and now they've all forgot old Muff when he's in trouble; but Tom don't, and Huck don't -- THEY don't forget him, says I, 'and I don't forget them.' Well, boys, I done an awful thing -- drunk and crazy at the time -- that's the only way I account for it -- and now I got to swing for it, and it's right. Right, and BEST, too, I reckon -- hope so, anyway. Well, we won't talk about that. I don't want to make YOU feel bad; you've befriended me. But what I want to say, is, don't YOU ever get drunk -- then you won't ever get here. Stand a litter furder west -- so -- that's it; it's a prime comfort to see faces that's friendly when a body's in such a muck of trouble, and there don't none come here but yourn. Good friendly faces -- good friendly faces. Git up on one another's backs and let me touch 'em. That's it. Shake hands -- yourn'll come through the bars, but mine's too big. Little hands, and weak -- but they've helped Muff Potter a power, and they'd help him more if they could."
Tom went home miserable, and his dreams that night were full of horrors. The next day and the day after, he hung about the courtroom, drawn by an almost irresistible impulse to go in, but forcing himself to stay out. Huck was having the same experience. They studiously avoided each other. Each wandered away, from time to time, but the same dismal fascination always brought them back presently. Tom kept his ears open when idlers sauntered out of the courtroom, but invariably heard distressing news -- the toils were closing more and more relentlessly around poor Potter. At the end of the second day the village talk was to the effect that Injun Joe's evidence stood firm and unshaken, and that there was not the slightest question as to what the jury's verdict would be.
Tom was out late, that night, and came to bed through the window. He was in a tremendous state of excitement. It was hours before he got to sleep. All the village flocked to the courthouse the next morning, for this was to be the great day. Both sexes were about equally represented in the packed audience. After a long wait the jury filed in and took their places; shortly afterward, Potter, pale and haggard, timid and hopeless, was brought in, with chains upon him, and seated where all the curious eyes could stare at him; no less conspicuous was Injun Joe, stolid as ever. There was another pause, and then the judge arrived and the sheriff proclaimed the opening of the court. The usual whisperings among the lawyers and gathering together of papers followed. These details and accompanying delays worked up an atmosphere of preparation that was as impressive as it was fascinating.
Now a witness was called who testified that he found Muff Potter washing in the brook, at an early hour of the morning that the murder was discovered, and that he immediately sneaked away. After some further questioning, counsel for the prosecution said:
"Take the witness."
The prisoner raised his eyes for a moment, but dropped them again when his own counsel said:
"I have no questions to ask him."
The next witness proved the finding of the knife near the corpse. Counsel for the prosecution said:
"Take the witness."
"I have no questions to ask him," Potter's lawyer replied.
A third witness swore he had often seen the knife in Potter's possession.
"Take the witness."
Counsel for Potter declined to question him. The faces of the audience began to betray annoyance. Did this attorney mean to throw away his client's life without an effort?
Several witnesses deposed concerning Potter's guilty behavior when brought to the scene of the murder. They were allowed to leave the stand without being crossquestioned.
Every detail of the damaging circumstances that occurred in the graveyard upon that morning which all present remembered so well was brought out by credible witnesses, but none of them were crossexamined by Potter's lawyer. The perplexity and dissatisfaction of the house expressed itself in murmurs and provoked a reproof from the bench. Counsel for the prosecution now said:
"By the oaths of citizens whose simple word is above suspicion, we have fastened this awful crime, beyond all possibility of question, upon the unhappy prisoner at the bar. We rest our case here."
A groan escaped from poor Potter, and he put his face in his hands and rocked his body softly to and fro, while a painful silence reigned in the courtroom. Many men were moved, and many women's compassion testified itself in tears. Counsel for the defence rose and said:
"Your honor, in our remarks at the opening of this trial, we foreshadowed our purpose to prove that our client did this fearful deed while under the influence of a blind and irresponsible delirium produced by drink. We have changed our mind. We shall not offer that plea." [Then to the clerk:] "Call Thomas Sawyer!"
A puzzled amazement awoke in every face in the house, not even excepting Potter's. Every eye fastened itself with wondering interest upon Tom as he rose and took his place upon the stand. The boy looked wild enough, for he was badly scared. The oath was administered.
"Thomas Sawyer, where were you on the seventeenth of June, about the hour of midnight?"
Tom glanced at Injun Joe's iron face and his tongue failed him. The audience listened breathless, but the words refused to come. After a few moments, however, the boy got a little of his strength back, and managed to put enough of it into his voice to make part of the house hear:
"In the graveyard!"
"A little bit louder, please. Don't be afraid. You were --"
"In the graveyard."
A contemptuous smile flitted across Injun Joe's face.
"Were you anywhere near Horse Williams' grave?"
"Speak up -- just a trifle louder. How near were you?"
"Near as I am to you."
"Were you hidden, or not?"
"I was hid."
"Behind the elms that's on the edge of the grave."
Injun Joe gave a barely perceptible start.
"Any one with you?"
"Yes, sir. I went there with --"
"Wait -- wait a moment. Never mind mentioning your companion's name. We will produce him at the proper time. Did you carry anything there with you."
Tom hesitated and looked confused.
"Speak out, my boy -- don't be diffident. The truth is always respectable. What did you take there?"
"Only a -- a -- dead cat."
There was a ripple of mirth, which the court checked.
"We will produce the skeleton of that cat. Now, my boy, tell us everything that occurred -- tell it in your own way -- don't skip anything, and don't be afraid."
Tom began -- hesitatingly at first, but as he warmed to his subject his words flowed more and more easily; in a little while every sound ceased but his own voice; every eye fixed itself upon him; with parted lips and bated breath the audience hung upon his words, taking no note of time, rapt in the ghastly fascinations of the tale. The strain upon pent emotion reached its climax when the boy said:
"-- and as the doctor fetched the board around and Muff Potter fell, Injun Joe jumped with the knife and --"
Crash! Quick as lightning the halfbreed sprang for a window, tore his way through all opposers, and was gone!
TOM was a glittering hero once more -- the pet of the old, the envy of the young. His name even went into immortal print, for the village paper magnified him. There were some that believed he would be President, yet, if he escaped hanging.
As usual, the fickle, unreasoning world took Muff Potter to its bosom and fondled him as lavishly as it had abused him before. But that sort of conduct is to the world's credit; therefore it is not well to find fault with it.
Tom's days were days of splendor and exultation to him, but his nights were seasons of horror. Injun Joe infested all his dreams, and always with doom in his eye. Hardly any temptation could persuade the boy to stir abroad after nightfall. Poor Huck was in the same state of wretchedness and terror, for Tom had told the whole story to the lawyer the night before the great day of the trial, and Huck was sore afraid that his share in the business might leak out, yet, notwithstanding Injun Joe's flight had saved him the suffering of testifying in court. The poor fellow had got the attorney to promise secrecy, but what of that? Since Tom's harassed conscience had managed to drive him to the lawyer's house by night and wring a dread tale from lips that had been sealed with the dismalest and most formidable of oaths, Huck's confidence in the human race was wellnigh obliterated.
Daily Muff Potter's gratitude made Tom glad he had spoken; but nightly he wished he had sealed up his tongue.
Half the time Tom was afraid Injun Joe would never be captured; the other half he was afraid he would be. He felt sure he never could draw a safe breath again until that man was dead and he had seen the corpse.
Rewards had been offered, the country had been scoured, but no Injun Joe was found. One of those omniscient and aweinspiring marvels, a detective, came up from St. Louis, moused around, shook his head, looked wise, and made that sort of astounding success which members of that craft usually achieve. That is to say, he "found a clew." But you can't hang a "clew" for murder, and so after that detective had got through and gone home, Tom felt just as insecure as he was before.
The slow days drifted on, and each left behind it a slightly lightened weight of apprehension.
THERE comes a time in every rightlyconstructed boy's life when he has a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure. This desire suddenly came upon Tom one day. He sallied out to find Joe Harper, but failed of success. Next he sought Ben Rogers; he had gone fishing. Presently he stumbled upon Huck Finn the RedHanded. Huck would answer. Tom took him to a private place and opened the matter to him confidentially. Huck was willing. Huck was always willing to take a hand in any enterprise that offered entertainment and required no capital, for he had a troublesome superabundance of that sort of time which is not money. "Where'll we dig?" said Huck.
"Oh, most anywhere."
"Why, is it hid all around?"
"No, indeed it ain't. It's hid in mighty particular places, Huck -- sometimes on islands, sometimes in rotten chests under the end of a limb of an old dead tree, just where the shadow falls at midnight; but mostly under the floor in ha'nted houses."
"Who hides it?"
"Why, robbers, of course -- who'd you reckon? Sundayschool sup'rintendents?"
"I don't know. If 'twas mine I wouldn't hide it; I'd spend it and have a good time."
"So would I. But robbers don't do that way. They always hide it and leave it there."
"Don't they come after it any more?"
"No, they think they will, but they generally forget the marks, or else they die. Anyway, it lays there a long time and gets rusty; and by and by somebody finds an old yellow paper that tells how to find the marks -- a paper that's got to be ciphered over about a week because it's mostly signs and hy'roglyphics."
"Hy'roglyphics -- pictures and things, you know, that don't seem to mean anything."
"Have you got one of them papers, Tom?"
"Well then, how you going to find the marks?"
"I don't want any marks. They always bury it under a ha'nted house or on an island, or under a dead tree that's got one limb sticking out. Well, we've tried Jackson's Island a little, and we can try it again some time; and there's the old ha'nted house up the StillHouse branch, and there's lots of deadlimb trees -- dead loads of 'em."
"Is it under all of them?"
"How you talk! No!"
"Then how you going to know which one to go for?"
"Go for all of 'em!"
"Why, Tom, it'll take all summer."
"Well, what of that? Suppose you find a brass pot with a hundred dollars in it, all rusty and gray, or rotten chest full of di'monds. How's that?"
Huck's eyes glowed.
"That's bully. Plenty bully enough for me. Just you gimme the hundred dollars and I don't want no di'monds."
"All right. But I bet you I ain't going to throw off on di'monds. Some of 'em's worth twenty dollars apiece -- there ain't any, hardly, but's worth six bits or a dollar."
"No! Is that so?"
"Cert'nly -- anybody'll tell you so. Hain't you ever seen one, Huck?"
"Not as I remember."
"Oh, kings have slathers of them."
"Well, I don' know no kings, Tom."
"I reckon you don't. But if you was to go to Europe you'd see a raft of 'em hopping around."
"Do they hop?"
"Hop? -- your granny! No!"
"Well, what did you say they did, for?"
"Shucks, I only meant you'd SEE 'em -- not hopping, of course -- what do they want to hop for? -- but I mean you'd just see 'em -- scattered around, you know, in a kind of a general way. Like that old humpbacked Richard."
"Richard? What's his other name?"
"He didn't have any other name. Kings don't have any but a given name."
"But they don't."
"Well, if they like it, Tom, all right; but I don't want to be a king and have only just a given name, like a nigger. But say -- where you going to dig first?"
"Well, I don't know. S'pose we tackle that old deadlimb tree on the hill t'other side of StillHouse branch?"
So they got a crippled pick and a shovel, and set out on their threemile tramp. They arrived hot and panting, and threw themselves down in the shade of a neighboring elm to rest and have a smoke.
"I like this," said Tom.
"So do I."
"Say, Huck, if we find a treasure here, what you going to do with your share?"
"Well, I'll have pie and a glass of soda every day, and I'll go to every circus that comes along. I bet I'll have a gay time."
"Well, ain't you going to save any of it?"
"Save it? What for?"
"Why, so as to have something to live on, by and by."
"Oh, that ain't any use. Pap would come back to thishyer town some day and get his claws on it if I didn't hurry up, and I tell you he'd clean it out pretty quick. What you going to do with yourn, Tom?"
"I'm going to buy a new drum, and a sure'nough sword, and a red necktie and a bull pup, and get married."
"Tom, you -- why, you ain't in your right mind."
"Wait -- you'll see."
"Well, that's the foolishest thing you could do. Look at pap and my mother. Fight! Why, they used to fight all the time. I remember, mighty well."
"That ain't anything. The girl I'm going to marry won't fight."
"Tom, I reckon they're all alike. They'll all comb a body. Now you better think 'bout this awhile. I tell you you better. What's the name of the gal?"
"It ain't a gal at all -- it's a girl."
"It's all the same, I reckon; some says gal, some says girl -- both's right, like enough. Anyway, what's her name, Tom?"
"I'll tell you some time -- not now."
"All right -- that'll do. Only if you get married I'll be more lonesomer than ever."
"No you won't. You'll come and live with me. Now stir out of this and we'll go to digging."
They worked and sweated for half an hour. No result. They toiled another halfhour. Still no result. Huck said:
"Do they always bury it as deep as this?"
"Sometimes -- not always. Not generally. I reckon we haven't got the right place."
So they chose a new spot and began again. The labor dragged a little, but still they made progress. They pegged away in silence for some time. Finally Huck leaned on his shovel, swabbed the beaded drops from his brow with his sleeve, and said:
"Where you going to dig next, after we get this one?"
"I reckon maybe we'll tackle the old tree that's over yonder on Cardiff Hill back of the widow's."
"I reckon that'll be a good one. But won't the widow take it away from us, Tom? It's on her land."
"SHE take it away! Maybe she'd like to try it once. Whoever finds one of these hid treasures, it belongs to him. It don't make any difference whose land it's on."
That was satisfactory. The work went on. By and by Huck said:
"Blame it, we must be in the wrong place again. What do you think?"
"It is mighty curious, Huck. I don't understand it. Sometimes witches interfere. I reckon maybe that's what's the trouble now."
"Shucks! Witches ain't got no power in the daytime."
"Well, that's so. I didn't think of that. Oh, I know what the matter is! What a blamed lot of fools we are! You got to find out where the shadow of the limb falls at midnight, and that's where you dig!"
"Then consound it, we've fooled away all this work for nothing. Now hang it all, we got to come back in the night. It's an awful long way. Can you get out?"
"I bet I will. We've got to do it tonight, too, because if somebody sees these holes they'll know in a minute what's here and they'll go for it."
"Well, I'll come around and maow tonight."
"All right. Let's hide the tools in the bushes."
The boys were there that night, about the appointed time. They sat in the shadow waiting. It was a lonely place, and an hour made solemn by old traditions. Spirits whispered in the rustling leaves, ghosts lurked in the murky nooks, the deep baying of a hound floated up out of the distance, an owl answered with his sepulchral note. The boys were subdued by these solemnities, and talked little. By and by they judged that twelve had come; they marked where the shadow fell, and began to dig. Their hopes commenced to rise. Their interest grew stronger, and their industry kept pace with it. The hole deepened and still deepened, but every time their hearts jumped to hear the pick strike upon something, they only suffered a new disappointment. It was only a stone or a chunk. At last Tom said:
"It ain't any use, Huck, we're wrong again."
"Well, but we CAN'T be wrong. We spotted the shadder to a dot."
"I know it, but then there's another thing."
"Why, we only guessed at the time. Like enough it was too late or too early."
Huck dropped his shovel.
"That's it," said he. "That's the very trouble. We got to give this one up. We can't ever tell the right time, and besides this kind of thing's too awful, here this time of night with witches and ghosts afluttering around so. I feel as if something's behind me all the time;and I'm afeard to turn around, becuz maybe there's others in front awaiting for a chance. I been creeping all over, ever since I got here."
"Well, I've been pretty much so, too, Huck. They most always put in a dead man when they bury a treasure under a tree, to look out for it."
"Yes, they do. I've always heard that."
"Tom, I don't like to fool around much where there's dead people. A body's bound to get into trouble with 'em, sure."
"I don't like to stir 'em up, either. S'pose this one here was to stick his skull out and say something!"
"Don't Tom! It's awful."
"Well, it just is. Huck, I don't feel comfortable a bit."
"Say, Tom, let's give this place up, and try somewheres else."
"All right, I reckon we better."
"What'll it be?"
Tom considered awhile; and then said:
"The ha'nted house. That's it!"
"Blame it, I don't like ha'nted houses, Tom. Why, they're a dern sight worse'n dead people. Dead people might talk, maybe, but they don't come sliding around in a shroud, when you ain't noticing, and peep over your shoulder all of a sudden and grit their teeth, the way a ghost does. I couldn't stand such a thing as that, Tom -- nobody could."
"Yes, but, Huck, ghosts don't travel around only at night. They won't hender us from digging there in the daytime."
"Well, that's so. But you know mighty well people don't go about that ha'nted house in the day nor the night."
"Well, that's mostly because they don't like to go where a man's been murdered, anyway -- but nothing's ever been seen around that house except in the night -- just some blue lights slipping by the windows -- no regular ghosts."
"Well, where you see one of them blue lights flickering around, Tom, you can bet there's a ghost mighty close behind it. It stands to reason. Becuz you know that they don't anybody but ghosts use 'em."
"Yes, that's so. But anyway they don't come around in the daytime, so what's the use of our being afeard?"
"Well, all right. We'll tackle the ha'nted house if you say so -- but I reckon it's taking chances."
They had started down the hill by this time. There in the middle of the moonlit valley below them stood the "ha'nted" house, utterly isolated, its fences gone long ago, rank weeds smothering the very doorsteps, the chimney crumbled to ruin, the windowsashes vacant, a corner of the roof caved in. The boys gazed awhile, half expecting to see a blue light flit past a window; then talking in a low tone, as befitted the time and the circumstances, they struck far off to the right, to give the haunted house a wide berth, and took their way homeward through the woods that adorned the rearward side of Cardiff Hill.
ABOUT noon the next day the boys arrived at the dead tree; they had come for their tools. Tom was impatient to go to the haunted house; Huck was measurably so, also -- but suddenly said:
"Lookyhere, Tom, do you know what day it is?"
Tom mentally ran over the days of the week, and then quickly lifted his eyes with a startled look in them --
"My! I never once thought of it, Huck!"
"Well, I didn't neither, but all at once it popped onto me that it was Friday."
"Blame it, a body can't be too careful, Huck. We might 'a' got into an awful scrape, tackling such a thing on a Friday."
"MIGHT! Better say we WOULD! There's some lucky days, maybe, but Friday ain't."
"Any fool knows that. I don't reckon YOU was the first that found it out, Huck."
"Well, I never said I was, did I? And Friday ain't all, neither. I had a rotten bad dream last night -- dreampt about rats."
"No! Sure sign of trouble. Did they fight?"
"Well, that's good, Huck. When they don't fight it's only a sign that there's trouble around, you know. All we got to do is to look mighty sharp and keep out of it. We'll drop this thing for today, and play. Do you know Robin Hood, Huck?"
"No. Who's Robin Hood?"
"Why, he was one of the greatest men that was ever in England -- and the best. He was a robber."
"Cracky, I wisht I was. Who did he rob?"
"Only sheriffs and bishops and rich people and kings, and such like. But he never bothered the poor. He loved 'em. He always divided up with 'em perfectly square."
"Well, he must 'a' been a brick."
"I bet you he was, Huck. Oh, he was the noblest man that ever was. They ain't any such men now, I can tell you. He could lick any man in England, with one hand tied behind him; and he could take his yew bow and plug a tencent piece every time, a mile and a half."
"What's a YEW bow?"
"I don't know. It's some kind of a bow, of course. And if he hit that dime only on the edge he would set down and cry -- and curse. But we'll play Robin Hood -- it's nobby fun. I'll learn you."
So they played Robin Hood all the afternoon, now and then casting a yearning eye down upon the haunted house and passing a remark about the morrow's prospects and possibilities there. As the sun began to sink into the west they took their way homeward athwart the long shadows of the trees and soon were buried from sight in the forests of Cardiff Hill.
On Saturday, shortly after noon, the boys were at the dead tree again. They had a smoke and a chat in the shade, and then dug a little in their last hole, not with great hope, but merely because Tom said there were so many cases where people had given up a treasure after getting down within six inches of it, and then somebody else had come along and turned it up with a single thrust of a shovel. The thing failed this time, however, so the boys shouldered their tools and went away feeling that they had not trifled with fortune, but had fulfilled all the requirements that belong to the business of treasurehunting.
When they reached the haunted house there was something so weird and grisly about the dead silence that reigned there under the baking sun, and something so depressing about the loneliness and desolation of the place, that they were afraid, for a moment, to venture in. Then they crept to the door and took a trembling peep. They saw a weedgrown, floorless room, unplastered, an ancient fireplace, vacant windows, a ruinous staircase; and here, there, and everywhere hung ragged and abandoned cobwebs. They presently entered, softly, with quickened pulses, talking in whispers, ears alert to catch the slightest sound, and muscles tense and ready for instant retreat.
In a little while familiarity modified their fears and they gave the place a critical and interested examination, rather admiring their own boldness, and wondering at it, too. Next they wanted to look upstairs. This was something like cutting off retreat, but they got to daring each other, and of course there could be but one result -- they threw their tools into a corner and made the ascent. Up there were the same signs of decay. In one corner they found a closet that promised mystery, but the promise was a fraud -- there was nothing in it. Their courage was up now and well in hand. They were about to go down and begin work when --
"Sh!" said Tom.
"What is it?" whispered Huck, blanching with fright.
"Sh! ... There! ... Hear it?"
"Yes! ... Oh, my! Let's run!"
"Keep still! Don't you budge! They're coming right toward the door."
The boys stretched themselves upon the floor with their eyes to knotholes in the planking, and lay waiting, in a misery of fear.
"They've stopped.... No -- coming.... Here they are. Don't whisper another word, Huck. My goodness, I wish I was out of this!"
Two men entered. Each boy said to himself: "There's the old deaf and dumb Spaniard that's been about town once or twice lately -- never saw t'other man before."
"T'other" was a ragged, unkempt creature, with nothing very pleasant in his face. The Spaniard was wrapped in a serape; he had bushy white whiskers; long white hair flowed from under his sombrero, and he wore green goggles. When they came in, "t'other" was talking in a low voice; they sat down on the ground, facing the door, with their backs to the wall, and the speaker continued his remarks. His manner became less guarded and his words more distinct as he proceeded:
"No," said he, "I've thought it all over, and I don't like it. It's dangerous."
"Dangerous!" grunted the "deaf and dumb" Spaniard -- to the vast surprise of the boys. "Milksop!"
This voice made the boys gasp and quake. It was Injun Joe's! There was silence for some time. Then Joe said:
"What's any more dangerous than that job up yonder -- but nothing's come of it."
"That's different. Away up the river so, and not another house about. 'Twon't ever be known that we tried, anyway, long as we didn't succeed."
"Well, what's more dangerous than coming here in the daytime! -- anybody would suspicion us that saw us."
"I know that. But there warn't any other place as handy after that fool of a job. I want to quit this shanty. I wanted to yesterday, only it warn't any use trying to stir out of here, with those infernal boys playing over there on the hill right in full view."
"Those infernal boys" quaked again under the inspiration of this remark, and thought how lucky it was that they had remembered it was Friday and concluded to wait a day. They wished in their hearts they had waited a year.
The two men got out some food and made a luncheon. After a long and thoughtful silence, Injun Joe said:
"Look here, lad -- you go back up the river where you belong. Wait there till you hear from me. I'll take the chances on dropping into this town just once more, for a look. We'll do that 'dangerous' job after I've spied around a little and think things look well for it. Then for Texas! We'll leg it together!"
This was satisfactory. Both men presently fell to yawning, and Injun Joe said:
"I'm dead for sleep! It's your turn to watch."
He curled down in the weeds and soon began to snore. His comrade stirred him once or twice and he became quiet. Presently the watcher began to nod; his head drooped lower and lower, both men began to snore now.
The boys drew a long, grateful breath. Tom whispered:
"Now's our chance -- come!"
"I can't -- I'd die if they was to wake."
Tom urged -- Huck held back. At last Tom rose slowly and softly, and started alone. But the first step he made wrung such a hideous creak from the crazy floor that he sank down almost dead with fright. He never made a second attempt. The boys lay there counting the dragging moments till it seemed to them that time must be done and eternity growing gray; and then they were grateful to note that at last the sun was setting.
Now one snore ceased. Injun Joe sat up, stared around -- smiled grimly upon his comrade, whose head was drooping upon his knees -- stirred him up with his foot and said:
"Here! YOU'RE a watchman, ain't you! All right, though -- nothing's happened."
"My! have I been asleep?"
"Oh, partly, partly. Nearly time for us to be moving, pard. What'll we do with what little swag we've got left?"
"I don't know -- leave it here as we've always done, I reckon. No use to take it away till we start south. Six hundred and fifty in silver's something to carry."
"Well -- all right -- it won't matter to come here once more."
"No -- but I'd say come in the night as we used to do -- it's better."
"Yes: but look here; it may be a good while before I get the right chance at that job; accidents might happen; 'tain't in such a very good place; we'll just regularly bury it -- and bury it deep."
"Good idea," said the comrade, who walked across the room, knelt down, raised one of the rearward hearthstones and took out a bag that jingled pleasantly. He subtracted from it twenty or thirty dollars for himself and as much for Injun Joe, and passed the bag to the latter, who was on his knees in the corner, now, digging with his bowieknife.
The boys forgot all their fears, all their miseries in an instant. With gloating eyes they watched every movement. Luck! -- the splendor of it was beyond all imagination! Six hundred dollars was money enough to make half a dozen boys rich! Here was treasurehunting under the happiest auspices -- there would not be any bothersome uncertainty as to where to dig. They nudged each other every moment -- eloquent nudges and easily understood, for they simply meant -- "Oh, but ain't you glad NOW we're here!"
Joe's knife struck upon something.
"Hello!" said he.
"What is it?" said his comrade.
"Halfrotten plank -- no, it's a box, I believe. Here -- bear a hand and we'll see what it's here for. Never mind, I've broke a hole."
He reached his hand in and drew it out --
"Man, it's money!"
The two men examined the handful of coins. They were gold. The boys above were as excited as themselves, and as delighted.
Joe's comrade said:
"We'll make quick work of this. There's an old rusty pick over amongst the weeds in the corner the other side of the fireplace -- I saw it a minute ago."
He ran and brought the boys' pick and shovel. Injun Joe took the pick, looked it over critically, shook his head, muttered something to himself, and then began to use it. The box was soon unearthed. It was not very large; it was iron bound and had been very strong before the slow years had injured it. The men contemplated the treasure awhile in blissful silence.
"Pard, there's thousands of dollars here," said Injun Joe.
"'Twas always said that Murrel's gang used to be around here one summer," the stranger observed.
"I know it," said Injun Joe; "and this looks like it, I should say."
"Now you won't need to do that job."
The halfbreed frowned. Said he:
"You don't know me. Least you don't know all about that thing. 'Tain't robbery altogether -- it's REVENGE!" and a wicked light flamed in his eyes. "I'll need your help in it. When it's finished -- then Texas. Go home to your Nance and your kids, and stand by till you hear from me."
"Well -- if you say so; what'll we do with this -- bury it again?"
"Yes. [Ravishing delight overhead.] NO! by the great Sachem, no! [Profound distress overhead.] I'd nearly forgot. That pick had fresh earth on it! [The boys were sick with terror in a moment.] What business has a pick and a shovel here? What business with fresh earth on them? Who brought them here -- and where are they gone? Have you heard anybody? -- seen anybody? What! bury it again and leave them to come and see the ground disturbed? Not exactly -- not exactly. We'll take it to my den."
"Why, of course! Might have thought of that before. You mean Number One?"
"No -- Number Two -- under the cross. The other place is bad -- too common."
"All right. It's nearly dark enough to start."
Injun Joe got up and went about from window to window cautiously peeping out. Presently he said:
"Who could have brought those tools here? Do you reckon they can be upstairs?"
The boys' breath forsook them. Injun Joe put his hand on his knife, halted a moment, undecided, and then turned toward the stairway. The boys thought of the closet, but their strength was gone. The steps came creaking up the stairs -- the intolerable distress of the situation woke the stricken resolution of the lads -- they were about to spring for the closet, when there was a crash of rotten timbers and Injun Joe landed on the ground amid the debris of the ruined stairway. He gathered himself up cursing, and his comrade said:
"Now what's the use of all that? If it's anybody, and they're up there, let them STAY there -- who cares? If they want to jump down, now, and get into trouble, who objects? It will be dark in fifteen minutes -- and then let them follow us if they want to. I'm willing. In my opinion, whoever hove those things in here caught a sight of us and took us for ghosts or devils or something. I'll bet they're running yet."
Joe grumbled awhile; then he agreed with his friend that what daylight was left ought to be economized in getting things ready for leaving. Shortly afterward they slipped out of the house in the deepening twilight, and moved toward the river with their precious box.
Tom and Huck rose up, weak but vastly relieved, and stared after them through the chinks between the logs of the house. Follow? Not they. They were content to reach ground again without broken necks, and take the townward track over the hill. They did not talk much. They were too much absorbed in hating themselves -- hating the ill luck that made them take the spade and the pick there. But for that, Injun Joe never would have suspected. He would have hidden the silver with the gold to wait there till his "revenge" was satisfied, and then he would have had the misfortune to find that money turn up missing. Bitter, bitter luck that the tools were ever brought there!
They resolved to keep a lookout for that Spaniard when he should come to town spying out for chances to do his revengeful job, and follow him to "Number Two," wherever that might be. Then a ghastly thought occurred to Tom.
"Revenge? What if he means US, Huck!"
"Oh, don't!" said Huck, nearly fainting.
They talked it all over, and as they entered town they agreed to believe that he might possibly mean somebody else -- at least that he might at least mean nobody but Tom, since only Tom had testified.
Very, very small comfort it was to Tom to be alone in danger! Company would be a palpable improvement, he thought.
THE adventure of the day mightily tormented Tom's dreams that night. Four times he had his hands on that rich treasure and four times it wasted to nothingness in his fingers as sleep forsook him and wakefulness brought back the hard reality of his misfortune. As he lay in the early morning recalling the incidents of his great adventure, he noticed that they seemed curiously subdued and far away -- somewhat as if they had happened in another world, or in a time long gone by. Then it occurred to him that the great adventure itself must be a dream! There was one very strong argument in favor of this idea -- namely, that the quantity of coin he had seen was too vast to be real. He had never seen as much as fifty dollars in one mass before, and he was like all boys of his age and station in life, in that he imagined that all references to "hundreds" and "thousands" were mere fanciful forms of speech, and that no such sums really existed in the world. He never had supposed for a moment that so large a sum as a hundred dollars was to be found in actual money in any one's possession. If his notions of hidden treasure had been analyzed, they would have been found to consist of a handful of real dimes and a bushel of vague, splendid, ungraspable dollars.
But the incidents of his adventure grew sensibly sharper and clearer under the attrition of thinking them over, and so he presently found himself leaning to the impression that the thing might not have been a dream, after all. This uncertainty must be swept away. He would snatch a hurried breakfast and go and find Huck. Huck was sitting on the gunwale of a flatboat, listlessly dangling his feet in the water and looking very melancholy. Tom concluded to let Huck lead up to the subject. If he did not do it, then the adventure would be proved to have been only a dream.
Silence, for a minute.
"Tom, if we'd 'a' left the blame tools at the dead tree, we'd 'a' got the money. Oh, ain't it awful!"
"'Tain't a dream, then, 'tain't a dream! Somehow I most wish it was. Dog'd if I don't, Huck."
"What ain't a dream?"
"Oh, that thing yesterday. I been half thinking it was."
"Dream! If them stairs hadn't broke down you'd 'a' seen how much dream it was! I've had dreams enough all night -- with that patcheyed Spanish devil going for me all through 'em -- rot him!"
"No, not rot him. FIND him! Track the money!"
"Tom, we'll never find him. A feller don't have only one chance for such a pile -- and that one's lost. I'd feel mighty shaky if I was to see him, anyway."
"Well, so'd I; but I'd like to see him, anyway -- and track him out -- to his Number Two."
"Number Two -- yes, that's it. I been thinking 'bout that. But I can't make nothing out of it. What do you reckon it is?"
"I dono. It's too deep. Say, Huck -- maybe it's the number of a house!"
"Goody! ... No, Tom, that ain't it. If it is, it ain't in this onehorse town. They ain't no numbers here."
"Well, that's so. Lemme think a minute. Here -- it's the number of a room -- in a tavern, you know!"
"Oh, that's the trick! They ain't only two taverns. We can find out quick."
"You stay here, Huck, till I come."
Tom was off at once. He did not care to have Huck's company in public places. He was gone half an hour. He found that in the best tavern, No. 2 had long been occupied by a young lawyer, and was still so occupied. In the less ostentatious house, No. 2 was a mystery. The tavernkeeper's young son said it was kept locked all the time, and he never saw anybody go into it or come out of it except at night; he did not know any particular reason for this state of things; had had some little curiosity, but it was rather feeble; had made the most of the mystery by entertaining himself with the idea that that room was "ha'nted"; had noticed that there was a light in there the night before.
"That's what I've found out, Huck. I reckon that's the very No. 2 we're after."
"I reckon it is, Tom. Now what you going to do?"
Tom thought a long time. Then he said:
"I'll tell you. The back door of that No. 2 is the door that comes out into that little close alley between the tavern and the old rattle trap of a brick store. Now you get hold of all the doorkeys you can find, and I'll nip all of auntie's, and the first dark night we'll go there and try 'em. And mind you, keep a lookout for Injun Joe, because he said he was going to drop into town and spy around once more for a chance to get his revenge. If you see him, you just follow him; and if he don't go to that No. 2, that ain't the place."
"Lordy, I don't want to foller him by myself!"
"Why, it'll be night, sure. He mightn't ever see you -- and if he did, maybe he'd never think anything."
"Well, if it's pretty dark I reckon I'll track him. I dono -- I dono. I'll try."
"You bet I'll follow him, if it's dark, Huck. Why, he might 'a' found out he couldn't get his revenge, and be going right after that money."
"It's so, Tom, it's so. I'll foller him; I will, by jingoes!"
"Now you're TALKING! Don't you ever weaken, Huck, and I won't."
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 slaughterhouse 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 he said:
"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 started!"
"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 drunk."
"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 you?"
"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."
<PRECEDENT / SUITE>
no copyright 2001 textz.com - no rights reserved
no copyright 2001 sami.is.free.fr - no rights reserved