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“Turn Out! They’re Found!”
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
heart-breaking 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
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