Tuesday afternoon came, and waned to the twilight. The village of St.
Petersburg still mourned. The lost children had not been found. Public
prayers had been offered up for them, and many and many a private prayer
that had the petitioner's whole heart in it; but still no good news came
from the cave. The majority of the searchers had given up the quest and
gone back to their daily avocations, saying that it was plain the children
could never be found. Mrs. Thatcher was very ill, and a great part of the
time delirious. People said it was heartbreaking to hear her call her
child, and raise her head and listen a whole minute at a time, then lay it
wearily down again with a moan. Aunt Polly had drooped into a settled
melancholy, and her gray hair had grown almost white. The village went to
its rest on Tuesday night, sad and forlorn.
Away in the middle of the night a wild peal burst from the village
bells, and in a moment the streets were swarming with frantic half-clad
people, who shouted, "Turn out! turn out! they're found! they're found!"
Tin pans and horns were added to the din, the population massed itself and
moved toward the river, met the children coming in an open carriage drawn
by shouting citizens, thronged around it, joined its homeward march, and
swept magnificently up the main street roaring huzzah after huzzah!
The village was illuminated; nobody went to bed again; it was the
greatest night the little town had ever seen. During the first half-hour a
procession of villagers filed through Judge Thatcher's house, seized the
saved ones and kissed them, squeezed Mrs. Thatcher's hand, tried to speak
but couldn't-and drifted out raining tears all over the place.
Aunt Polly's happiness was complete, and Mrs. Thatcher's nearly so. It
would be complete, however, as soon as the messenger dispatched with the
great news to the cave should get the word to her husband. Tom lay upon a
sofa with an eager auditory about him and told the history of the
wonderful adventure, putting in many striking additions to adorn it
withal; and closed with a description of how he left Becky and went on an
exploring expedition; how he followed two avenues as far as his kite-line
would reach; how he followed a third to the fullest stretch of the
kite-line, and was about to turn back when he glimpsed a far-off speck
that looked like daylight; dropped the line and groped toward it, pushed
his head and shoulders through a small hole, and saw the broad Mississippi
rolling by! And if it had only happened to be night he would not have seen
that speck of daylight and would not have explored that passage any more!
He told how he went back for Becky and broke the good news and she told
him not to fret her with such stuff, for she was tired, and knew she was
going to die, and wanted to. He described how he labored with her and
convinced her; and how she almost died for joy when she had groped to
where she actually saw the blue speck of daylight; how he pushed his way
out at the hole and then helped her out; how they sat there and cried for
gladness; how some men came along in a skiff and Tom hailed them and told
them their situation and their famished condition; how the men didn't
believe the wild tale at first, "because," said they, "you are five miles
down the river below the valley the cave is in"-then took them aboard,
rowed to a house, gave them supper, made them rest till two or three hours
after dark and then brought them home.
Before day-dawn, Judge Thatcher and the handful of searchers with him
were tracked out, in the cave, by the twine clews they had strung behind
them, and informed of the great news.
Three days and nights of toil and hunger in the cave were not to be
shaken off at once, as Tom and Becky soon discovered. They were bedridden
all of Wednesday and Thursday, and seemed to grow more and more tired and
worn, all the time. Tom got about, a little, on Thursday, was down-town
Friday, and nearly as whole as ever Saturday; but Becky did not leave her
room until Sunday, and then she looked as if she had passed through a
Tom learned of Huck's sickness and went to see him on Friday, but could
not be admitted to the bedroom; neither could he on Saturday or Sunday. He
was admitted daily after that, but was warned to keep still about his
adventure and introduce no exciting topic. The Widow Douglas stayed by to
see that he obeyed. At home Tom learned of the Cardiff Hill event; also
that the "ragged man's" body had eventually been found in the river near
the ferrylanding; he had been drowned while trying to escape, perhaps.
About a fortnight after Tom's rescue from the cave, he started off to
visit Huck, who had grown plenty strong enough, now, to hear exciting
talk, and Tom had some that would interest him, he thought. Judge
Thatcher's house was on Tom's way, and he stopped to see Becky. The Judge
and some friends set Tom to talking, and some one asked him ironically if
he wouldn't like to go to the cave again. Tom said he thought he wouldn't
mind it. The Judge said:
"Well, there are others just like you, Tom, I've not the least doubt.
But we have taken care of that. Nobody will get lost in that cave any
"Because I had its big door sheathed with boiler iron two weeks ago,
and triple-locked-and I've got the keys."
Tom turned as white as a sheet.
"What's the matter, boy! Here, run, somebody! Fetch a glass of water!"
The water was brought and thrown into Tom's face.
"Ah, now you're all right. What was the matter with you, Tom?"
"Oh, Judge, Injun Joe's in the cave!"