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Chapter 30

  • As the earliest suspicion of dawn appeared on Sunday morning, Huck cam_roping up the hill and rapped gently at the old Welshman's door. The inmate_ere asleep, but it was a sleep that was set on a hair-trigger, on account o_he exciting episode of the night. A call came from a window: "Who's there!"
  • Huck's scared voice answered in a low tone:
  • "Please let me in! It's only Huck Finn!"
  • "It's a name that can open this door night or day, lad! — and welcome!"
  • These were strange words to the vagabond boy's ears, and the pleasantest h_ad ever heard. He could not recollect that the closing word had ever bee_pplied in his case before. The door was quickly unlocked, and he entered.
  • Huck was given a seat and the old man and his brace of tall sons speedil_ressed themselves.
  • "Now, my boy, I hope you're good and hungry, because breakfast will be read_s soon as the sun's up, and we'll have a piping hot one, too — make yoursel_asy about that! I and the boys hoped you'd turn up and stop here last night."
  • "I was awful scared," said Huck, "and I run. I took out when the pistols wen_ff, and I didn't stop for three mile. I've come now becuz I wanted to kno_bout it, you know; and I come before daylight becuz I didn't want to ru_cross them devils, even if they was dead."
  • "Well, poor chap, you do look as if you'd had a hard night of it — but there'_ bed here for you when you've had your breakfast. No, they ain't dead, lad — we are sorry enough for that. You see we knew right where to put our hands o_hem, by your description; so we crept along on tiptoe till we got withi_ifteen feet of them — dark as a cellar that sumach path was — and just then _ound I was going to sneeze. It was the meanest kind of luck! I tried to kee_t back, but no use — 'twas bound to come, and it did come! I was in the lea_ith my pistol raised, and when the sneeze started those scoundrels a-rustlin_o get out of the path, I sung out, 'Fire boys!' and blazed away at the plac_here the rustling was. So did the boys. But they were off in a jiffy, thos_illains, and we after them, down through the woods. I judge we never touche_hem. They fired a shot apiece as they started, but their bullets whizzed b_nd didn't do us any harm. As soon as we lost the sound of their feet we qui_hasing, and went down and stirred up the constables. They got a poss_ogether, and went off to guard the river bank, and as soon as it is light th_heriff and a gang are going to beat up the woods. My boys will be with the_resently. I wish we had some sort of description of those rascals — 'twoul_elp a good deal. But you couldn't see what they were like, in the dark, lad, I suppose?"
  • "Oh yes; I saw them down-town and follered them."
  • "Splendid! Describe them — describe them, my boy!"
  • "One's the old deaf and dumb Spaniard that's ben around here once or twice, and t'other's a mean-looking, ragged —"
  • "That's enough, lad, we know the men! Happened on them in the woods back o_he widow's one day, and they slunk away. Off with you, boys, and tell th_heriff — get your breakfast to-morrow morning!"
  • The Welshman's sons departed at once. As they were leaving the room Huc_prang up and exclaimed:
  • "Oh, please don't tell anybody it was me that blowed on them! Oh, please!"
  • "All right if you say it, Huck, but you ought to have the credit of what yo_id."
  • "Oh no, no! Please don't tell!"
  • When the young men were gone, the old Welshman said:
  • "They won't tell — and I won't. But why don't you want it known?"
  • Huck would not explain, further than to say that he already knew too muc_bout one of those men and would not have the man know that he knew anythin_gainst him for the whole world — he would be killed for knowing it, sure.
  • The old man promised secrecy once more, and said:
  • "How did you come to follow these fellows, lad? Were they looking suspicious?"
  • Huck was silent while he framed a duly cautious reply. Then he said:
  • "Well, you see, I'm a kind of a hard lot, — least everybody says so, and _on't see nothing agin it — and sometimes I can't sleep much, on account o_hinking about it and sort of trying to strike out a new way of doing. Tha_as the way of it last night. I couldn't sleep, and so I come along up-street
  • 'bout midnight, a-turning it all over, and when I got to that old shackl_rick store by the Temperance Tavern, I backed up agin the wall to hav_nother think. Well, just then along comes these two chaps slipping alon_lose by me, with something under their arm, and I reckoned they'd stole it.
  • One was a-smoking, and t'other one wanted a light; so they stopped righ_efore me and the cigars lit up their faces and I see that the big one was th_eaf and dumb Spaniard, by his white whiskers and the patch on his eye, an_'other one was a rusty, ragged-looking devil."
  • "Could you see the rags by the light of the cigars?"
  • This staggered Huck for a moment. Then he said:
  • "Well, I don't know — but somehow it seems as if I did."
  • "Then they went on, and you —"
  • "Follered 'em — yes. That was it. I wanted to see what was up — they sneake_long so. I dogged 'em to the widder's stile, and stood in the dark and hear_he ragged one beg for the widder, and the Spaniard swear he'd spile her look_ust as I told you and your two —"
  • "What! The deaf and dumb man said all that!"
  • Huck had made another terrible mistake! He was trying his best to keep the ol_an from getting the faintest hint of who the Spaniard might be, and yet hi_ongue seemed determined to get him into trouble in spite of all he could do.
  • He made several efforts to creep out of his scrape, but the old man's eye wa_pon him and he made blunder after blunder. Presently the Welshman said:
  • "My boy, don't be afraid of me. I wouldn't hurt a hair of your head for al_he world. No — I'd protect you — I'd protect you. This Spaniard is not dea_nd dumb; you've let that slip without intending it; you can't cover that u_ow. You know something about that Spaniard that you want to keep dark. No_rust me — tell me what it is, and trust me — I won't betray you."
  • Huck looked into the old man's honest eyes a moment, then bent over an_hispered in his ear:
  • "'Tain't a Spaniard — it's Injun Joe!"
  • The Welshman almost jumped out of his chair. In a moment he said:
  • "It's all plain enough, now. When you talked about notching ears and slittin_oses I judged that that was your own embellishment, because white men don'_ake that sort of revenge. But an Injun! That's a different matte_ltogether."
  • During breakfast the talk went on, and in the course of it the old man sai_hat the last thing which he and his sons had done, before going to bed, wa_o get a lantern and examine the stile and its vicinity for marks of blood.
  • They found none, but captured a bulky bundle of —
  • "Of what?"
  • If the words had been lightning they could not have leaped with a mor_tunning suddenness from Huck's blanched lips. His eyes were staring wide, now, and his breath suspended — waiting for the answer. The Welshman started — stared in return — three seconds — five seconds — ten — then replied:
  • "Of burglar's tools. Why, what's the matter with you?"
  • Huck sank back, panting gently, but deeply, unutterably grateful. The Welshma_yed him gravely, curiously — and presently said:
  • "Yes, burglar's tools. That appears to relieve you a good deal. But what di_ive you that turn? What were you expecting we'd found?"
  • Huck was in a close place — the inquiring eye was upon him — he would hav_iven anything for material for a plausible answer — nothing suggested itself — the inquiring eye was boring deeper and deeper — a senseless reply offered — there was no time to weigh it, so at a venture he uttered it — feebly:
  • "Sunday-school books, maybe."
  • Poor Huck was too distressed to smile, but the old man laughed loud an_oyously, shook up the details of his anatomy from head to foot, and ended b_aying that such a laugh was money in a-man's pocket, because it cut down th_octor's bill like everything. Then he added:
  • "Poor old chap, you're white and jaded — you ain't well a bit — no wonde_ou're a little flighty and off your balance. But you'll come out of it. Res_nd sleep will fetch you out all right, I hope."
  • Huck was irritated to think he had been such a goose and betrayed such _uspicious excitement, for he had dropped the idea that the parcel brough_rom the tavern was the treasure, as soon as he had heard the talk at th_idow's stile. He had only thought it was not the treasure, however — he ha_ot known that it wasn't — and so the suggestion of a captured bundle was to_uch for his self-possession. But on the whole he felt glad the little episod_ad happened, for now he knew beyond all question that that bundle was not th_undle, and so his mind was at rest and exceedingly comfortable. In fact, everything seemed to be drifting just in the right direction, now; th_reasure must be still in No. 2, the men would be captured and jailed tha_ay, and he and Tom could seize the gold that night without any trouble or an_ear of interruption.
  • Just as breakfast was completed there was a knock at the door. Huck jumped fo_ hiding-place, for he had no mind to be connected even remotely with the lat_vent. The Welshman admitted several ladies and gentlemen, among them th_idow Douglas, and noticed that groups of citizens were climbing up the hill — to stare at the stile. So the news had spread. The Welshman had to tell th_tory of the night to the visitors. The widow's gratitude for her preservatio_as outspoken.
  • "Don't say a word about it, madam. There's another that you're more beholde_o than you are to me and my boys, maybe, but he don't allow me to tell hi_ame. We wouldn't have been there but for him."
  • Of course this excited a curiosity so vast that it almost belittled the mai_atter — but the Welshman allowed it to eat into the vitals of his visitors, and through them be transmitted to the whole town, for he refused to part wit_is secret. When all else had been learned, the widow said:
  • "I went to sleep reading in bed and slept straight through all that noise. Wh_idn't you come and wake me?"
  • "We judged it warn't worth while. Those fellows warn't likely to come again — they hadn't any tools left to work with, and what was the use of waking you u_nd scaring you to death? My three negro men stood guard at your house all th_est of the night. They've just come back."
  • More visitors came, and the story had to be told and retold for a couple o_ours more.
  • There was no Sabbath-school during day-school vacation, but everybody wa_arly at church. The stirring event was well canvassed. News came that not _ign of the two villains had been yet discovered. When the sermon wa_inished, Judge Thatcher's wife dropped alongside of Mrs. Harper as she move_own the aisle with the crowd and said:
  • "Is my Becky going to sleep all day? I just expected she would be tired t_eath."
  • "Your Becky?"
  • "Yes," with a startled look — "didn't she stay with you last night?"
  • "Why, no."
  • Mrs. Thatcher turned pale, and sank into a pew, just as Aunt Polly, talkin_riskly with a friend, passed by. Aunt Polly said:
  • "Good-morning, Mrs. Thatcher. Good-morning, Mrs. Harper. I've got a boy that'_urned up missing. I reckon my Tom stayed at your house last night — one o_ou. And now he's afraid to come to church. I've got to settle with him."
  • Mrs. Thatcher shook her head feebly and turned paler than ever.
  • "He didn't stay with us," said Mrs. Harper, beginning to look uneasy. A marke_nxiety came into Aunt Polly's face.
  • "Joe Harper, have you seen my Tom this morning?"
  • "No'm."
  • "When did you see him last?"
  • Joe tried to remember, but was not sure he could say. The people had stoppe_oving out of church. Whispers passed along, and a boding uneasiness too_ossession of every countenance. Children were anxiously questioned, and youn_eachers. They all said they had not noticed whether Tom and Becky were o_oard the ferryboat on the homeward trip; it was dark; no one thought o_nquiring if any one was missing. One young man finally blurted out his fea_hat they were still in the cave! Mrs. Thatcher swooned away. Aunt Polly fel_o crying and wringing her hands.
  • The alarm swept from lip to lip, from group to group, from street to street, and within five minutes the bells were wildly clanging and the whole town wa_p! The Cardiff Hill episode sank into instant insignificance, the burglar_ere forgotten, horses were saddled, skiffs were manned, the ferryboat ordere_ut, and before the horror was half an hour old, two hundred men were pourin_own highroad and river toward the cave.
  • All the long afternoon the village seemed empty and dead. Many women visite_unt Polly and Mrs. Thatcher and tried to comfort them. They cried with them, too, and that was still better than words. All the tedious night the tow_aited for news; but when the morning dawned at last, all the word that cam_as, "Send more candles — and send food." Mrs. Thatcher was almost crazed; an_unt Polly, also. Judge Thatcher sent messages of hope and encouragement fro_he cave, but they conveyed no real cheer.
  • The old Welshman came home toward daylight, spattered with candle-grease, smeared with clay, and almost worn out. He found Huck still in the bed tha_ad been provided for him, and delirious with fever. The physicians were al_t the cave, so the Widow Douglas came and took charge of the patient. Sh_aid she would do her best by him, because, whether he was good, bad, o_ndifferent, he was the Lord's, and nothing that was the Lord's was a thing t_e neglected. The Welshman said Huck had good spots in him, and the wido_aid:
  • "You can depend on it. That's the Lord's mark. He don't leave it off. He neve_oes. Puts it somewhere on every creature that comes from his hands."
  • Early in the forenoon parties of jaded men began to straggle into the village, but the strongest of the citizens continued searching. All the news that coul_e gained was that remotenesses of the cavern were being ransacked that ha_ever been visited before; that every corner and crevice was going to b_horoughly searched; that wherever one wandered through the maze of passages, lights were to be seen flitting hither and thither in the distance, an_houtings and pistol-shots sent their hollow reverberations to the ear dow_he sombre aisles. In one place, far from the section usually traversed b_ourists, the names "Becky & Tom" had been found traced upon the rocky wal_ith candle-smoke, and near at hand a grease-soiled bit of ribbon. Mrs.
  • Thatcher recognized the ribbon and cried over it. She said it was the las_elic she should ever have of her child; and that no other memorial of he_ould ever be so precious, because this one parted latest from the living bod_efore the awful death came. Some said that now and then, in the cave, a far- away speck of light would glimmer, and then a glorious shout would burst fort_nd a score of men go trooping down the echoing aisle — and then a sickenin_isappointment always followed; the children were not there; it was only _earcher's light.
  • Three dreadful days and nights dragged their tedious hours along, and th_illage sank into a hopeless stupor. No one had heart for anything. Th_ccidental discovery, just made, that the proprietor of the Temperance Taver_ept liquor on his premises, scarcely fluttered the public pulse, tremendou_s the fact was. In a lucid interval, Huck feebly led up to the subject o_averns, and finally asked — dimly dreading the worst — if anything had bee_iscovered at the Temperance Tavern since he had been ill.
  • "Yes," said the widow.
  • Huck started up in bed, wild-eyed:
  • "What? What was it?"
  • "Liquor! — and the place has been shut up. Lie down, child — what a turn yo_id give me!"
  • "Only tell me just one thing — only just one — please! Was it Tom Sawyer tha_ound it?"
  • The widow burst into tears. "Hush, hush, child, hush! I've told you before, you must not talk. You are very, very sick!"
  • Then nothing but liquor had been found; there would have been a great powwo_f it had been the gold. So the treasure was gone forever — gone forever! Bu_hat could she be crying about? Curious that she should cry.
  • These thoughts worked their dim way through Huck's mind, and under th_eariness they gave him he fell asleep. The widow said to herself:
  • "There — he's asleep, poor wreck. Tom Sawyer find it! Pity but somebody coul_ind Tom Sawyer! Ah, there ain't many left, now, that's got hope enough, o_trength enough, either, to go on searching."