The adventures of tom sa.., p.4
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       The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Part 6., p.4

           Mark Twain
 
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  CHAPTER XXVI

  ABOUT noon the next day the boys arrived at the dead tree; they hadcome 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 liftedhis 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 wasFriday."

  "Blame it, a body can't be too careful, Huck. We might 'a' got into anawful scrape, tackling such a thing on a Friday."

  "MIGHT! Better say we WOULD! There's some lucky days, maybe, butFriday ain't."

  "Any fool knows that. I don't reckon YOU was the first that found itout, Huck."

  "Well, I never said I was, did I? And Friday ain't all, neither. I hada rotten bad dream last night--dreampt about rats."

  "No! Sure sign of trouble. Did they fight?"

  "No."

  "Well, that's good, Huck. When they don't fight it's only a sign thatthere's trouble around, you know. All we got to do is to look mightysharp and keep out of it. We'll drop this thing for to-day, 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 thebest. 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 inEngland, with one hand tied behind him; and he could take his yew bowand plug a ten-cent 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 thatdime only on the edge he would set down and cry--and curse. But we'llplay Robin Hood--it's nobby fun. I'll learn you."

  "I'm agreed."

  So they played Robin Hood all the afternoon, now and then casting ayearning eye down upon the haunted house and passing a remark about themorrow's prospects and possibilities there. As the sun began to sinkinto the west they took their way homeward athwart the long shadows ofthe trees and soon were buried from sight in the forests of CardiffHill.

  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 intheir last hole, not with great hope, but merely because Tom said therewere so many cases where people had given up a treasure after gettingdown within six inches of it, and then somebody else had come along andturned it up with a single thrust of a shovel. The thing failed thistime, however, so the boys shouldered their tools and went away feelingthat they had not trifled with fortune, but had fulfilled all therequirements that belong to the business of treasure-hunting.

  When they reached the haunted house there was something so weird andgrisly about the dead silence that reigned there under the baking sun,and something so depressing about the loneliness and desolation of theplace, that they were afraid, for a moment, to venture in. Then theycrept to the door and took a trembling peep. They saw a weed-grown,floorless room, unplastered, an ancient fireplace, vacant windows, aruinous staircase; and here, there, and everywhere hung ragged andabandoned cobwebs. They presently entered, softly, with quickenedpulses, 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 theplace a critical and interested examination, rather admiring their ownboldness, and wondering at it, too. Next they wanted to look up-stairs.This was something like cutting off retreat, but they got to daringeach other, and of course there could be but one result--they threwtheir tools into a corner and made the ascent. Up there were the samesigns of decay. In one corner they found a closet that promisedmystery, but the promise was a fraud--there was nothing in it. Theircourage was up now and well in hand. They were about to go down andbegin 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 toknot-holes in the planking, and lay waiting, in a misery of fear.

  "They've stopped.... No--coming.... Here they are. Don't whisperanother word, Huck. My goodness, I wish I was out of this!"

  Two men entered. Each boy said to himself: "There's the old deaf anddumb Spaniard that's been about town once or twice lately--never sawt'other man before."

  "T'other" was a ragged, unkempt creature, with nothing very pleasantin his face. The Spaniard was wrapped in a serape; he had bushy whitewhiskers; long white hair flowed from under his sombrero, and he woregreen 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 thewall, and the speaker continued his remarks. His manner became lessguarded and his words more distinct as he proceeded:

  "No," said he, "I've thought it all over, and I don't like it. It'sdangerous."

  "Dangerous!" grunted the "deaf and dumb" Spaniard--to the vastsurprise of the boys. "Milksop!"

  This voice made the boys gasp and quake. It was Injun Joe's! There wassilence for some time. Then Joe said:

  "What's any more dangerous than that job up yonder--but nothing's comeof 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!--anybodywould suspicion us that saw us."

  "I know that. But there warn't any other place as handy after thatfool of a job. I want to quit this shanty. I wanted to yesterday, onlyit warn't any use trying to stir out of here, with those infernal boysplaying over there on the hill right in full view."

  "Those infernal boys" quaked again under the inspiration of thisremark, and thought how lucky it was that they had remembered it wasFriday and concluded to wait a day. They wished in their hearts theyhad waited a year.

  The two men got out some food and made a luncheon. After a long andthoughtful silence, Injun Joe said:

  "Look here, lad--you go back up the river where you belong. Wait theretill you hear from me. I'll take the chances on dropping into this townjust once more, for a look. We'll do that 'dangerous' job after I'vespied around a little and think things look well for it. Then forTexas! We'll leg it together!"

  This was satisfactory. Both men presently fell to yawning, and InjunJoe said:

  "I'm dead for sleep! It's your turn to watch."

  He curled down in the weeds and soon began to snore. His comradestirred him once or twice and he became quiet. Presently the watcherbegan to nod; his head drooped lower and lower, both men began to snorenow.

  The boys drew a long, grateful breath. Tom whispered:

  "Now's our chance--come!"

  Huck said:

  "I can't--I'd die if they was to wake."

  Tom urged--Huck held back. At last Tom rose slowly and softly, andstarted alone. But the first step he made wrung such a hideous creakfrom the crazy floor that he sank down almost dead with fright. Henever made a second attempt. The boys lay there counting the draggingmoments till it seemed to them that time must be done and eternitygrowing gray; and then they were grateful to note that at last the sunwas setting.

  Now one snore ceased. Injun Joe sat up, stared around--smiled grimlyupon his comrade, whose head was drooping upon his knees--stirred himup with his foot and said:

  "Here! YOU'RE a watchman, ain't you! All right, though--nothing'shappened."

  "My!
have I been asleep?"

  "Oh, partly, partly. Nearly time for us to be moving, pard. What'll wedo with what little swag we've got left?"

  "I don't know--leave it here as we've always done, I reckon. No use totake it away till we start south. Six hundred and fifty in silver'ssomething 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 rightchance at that job; accidents might happen; 'tain't in such a very goodplace; 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 hearth-stones and took out a bag thatjingled pleasantly. He subtracted from it twenty or thirty dollars forhimself 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 bowie-knife.

  The boys forgot all their fears, all their miseries in an instant.With gloating eyes they watched every movement. Luck!--the splendor ofit was beyond all imagination! Six hundred dollars was money enough tomake half a dozen boys rich! Here was treasure-hunting under thehappiest auspices--there would not be any bothersome uncertainty as towhere to dig. They nudged each other every moment--eloquent nudges andeasily understood, for they simply meant--"Oh, but ain't you glad NOWwe're here!"

  Joe's knife struck upon something.

  "Hello!" said he.

  "What is it?" said his comrade.

  "Half-rotten plank--no, it's a box, I believe. Here--bear a hand andwe'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 boysabove 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 amongstthe weeds in the corner the other side of the fireplace--I saw it aminute ago."

  He ran and brought the boys' pick and shovel. Injun Joe took the pick,looked it over critically, shook his head, muttered something tohimself, and then began to use it. The box was soon unearthed. It wasnot very large; it was iron bound and had been very strong before theslow years had injured it. The men contemplated the treasure awhile inblissful silence.

  "Pard, there's thousands of dollars here," said Injun Joe.

  "'Twas always said that Murrel's gang used to be around here onesummer," 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 half-breed frowned. Said he:

  "You don't know me. Least you don't know all about that thing. 'Tain'trobbery altogether--it's REVENGE!" and a wicked light flamed in hiseyes. "I'll need your help in it. When it's finished--then Texas. Gohome 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 freshearth on it! [The boys were sick with terror in a moment.] Whatbusiness has a pick and a shovel here? What business with fresh earthon them? Who brought them here--and where are they gone? Have you heardanybody?--seen anybody? What! bury it again and leave them to come andsee the ground disturbed? Not exactly--not exactly. We'll take it to myden."

  "Why, of course! Might have thought of that before. You mean NumberOne?"

  "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 cautiouslypeeping out. Presently he said:

  "Who could have brought those tools here? Do you reckon they can beup-stairs?"

  The boys' breath forsook them. Injun Joe put his hand on his knife,halted a moment, undecided, and then turned toward the stairway. Theboys thought of the closet, but their strength was gone. The steps camecreaking up the stairs--the intolerable distress of the situation wokethe stricken resolution of the lads--they were about to spring for thecloset, when there was a crash of rotten timbers and Injun Joe landedon the ground amid the debris of the ruined stairway. He gatheredhimself up cursing, and his comrade said:

  "Now what's the use of all that? If it's anybody, and they're upthere, 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 myopinion, whoever hove those things in here caught a sight of us andtook us for ghosts or devils or something. I'll bet they're runningyet."

  Joe grumbled awhile; then he agreed with his friend that what daylightwas left ought to be economized in getting things ready for leaving.Shortly afterward they slipped out of the house in the deepeningtwilight, and moved toward the river with their precious box.

  Tom and Huck rose up, weak but vastly relieved, and stared after themthrough the chinks between the logs of the house. Follow? Not they.They were content to reach ground again without broken necks, and takethe townward track over the hill. They did not talk much. They were toomuch absorbed in hating themselves--hating the ill luck that made themtake the spade and the pick there. But for that, Injun Joe never wouldhave suspected. He would have hidden the silver with the gold to waitthere till his "revenge" was satisfied, and then he would have had themisfortune to find that money turn up missing. Bitter, bitter luck thatthe tools were ever brought there!

  They resolved to keep a lookout for that Spaniard when he should cometo town spying out for chances to do his revengeful job, and follow himto "Number Two," wherever that might be. Then a ghastly thoughtoccurred 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 tobelieve that he might possibly mean somebody else--at least that hemight at least mean nobody but Tom, since only Tom had testified.

  Very, very small comfort it was to Tom to be alone in danger! Companywould be a palpable improvement, he thought.

 
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