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Chapter 28

In the Lair of Injun Joe

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 “meow,”
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

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 slaughter-house 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!”

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