Chapter XXIV
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 well-nigh 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 awe-inspiring 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.