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Then they waited in silence for what seemed a long time. The hooting of a
distant owl was all the sound that troubled the dead stillness. Tom’s reflections
grew oppressive. He must force some talk. So he said in a whisper: “Hucky, do
you believe the dead people like it for us to be here?” Huckleberry whispered:
“I wisht I knowed. It’s awful solemn like, ain’t it?” “I bet it is.” There was a
considerable pause, while the boys canvassed this matter inwardly. Then Tom
whispered: “Say, Hucky-do you reckon Hoss Williams hears us talking?” “O’
course he does. Least his sperrit does.” Tom, after a pause: “I wish I’d said
Mister Williams. But I never meant any harm. Everybody calls him Hoss.” “A
body can’t be too partic’lar how they talk ‘bout these-yer dead people, Tom.”
This was a damper, and conversation died again, Presently Tom seized his
comrade’s arm and said: “Sh!”
“What is it, Tom?” And the two clung together with beating hearts.
“Sh! There ‘tis again! Didn’t you hear it?” “I-” “There! Now you hear it.” “Lord,
Tom they’re coming!
They’re coming, sure. What’ll we do?” “I dono. Think they’ll see us?” “O, Tom,
they can see in the dark, same as cats. I wisht I hadn’t come.” “O, don’t be
afeard. I don’t believe they’ll bother us. We ain’t doing any harm. If we keep
perfectly still, maybe they won’t notice us at all.” “I’ll try to, Tom, but Lord I’m
all of a shiver.” “Listen!” The boys bent their heads together and scarcely
breathed. A muffled sound of voices floated up from the far end of the
“Look! See there!” whispered Tom. “What is it?” “It’s devil-fire. O, Tom, this is
awful.” Some vague figures approached through the gloom, swinging an old-
fashioned tin lantern that freckled the ground with innumerable little spangles
Presently Huckleberry whispered with a shudder: “It’s the devils sure enough.
Three of ‘em! Lordy, Tom, we’re goners! Can you pray?” “I’ll try, but don’t you
be afeard. They ain’t going to hurt us. Now I lay me down to sleep, I-” “Sh!”
“What is it, Huck?” “They’re humans! One of ‘em is, anyway. One of ‘em’s old
Muff Potter’s voice.” “No-‘tain’t so, is it?” “I bet I know it. Don’t you stir nor
budge. He ain’t sharp enough to notice us.
Drunk, same as usual, likely-blamed old rip!” “All right, I’ll keep still. Now
they’re stuck. Can’t find it. Here they come again. Now they’re hot. Cold again.
Hot again. Red hot! They’re p’inted right, this time. Say Huck, I know another o’
them voices; it’s Injun Joe.” “That’s so-that murderin’ half-breed! I’d druther
they was devils, a dem sight. What kin they be up to?” The whispers died
wholly out, now, for the three men had reached the grave and stood within a
few feet of the boys’ hiding-place.
“Here it is,” said the third voice; and the owner of it held the lantern up and
revealed the face of young Dr. Robinson.
Potter and Injun Joe were carrying a handbarrow with a rope and a couple of
shovels on it. They cast down their load and began to open the grave. The doctor
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