The boys’ breath forsook them

THERE comes a time in every rightly-constructed boy’s life when he has
a raging desire to go somewhere and dig for hidden treasure. This desire
suddenly came upon Tom one day. He sallied out to find Joe Harper,
but failed of success. Next he sought Ben Rogers; he had gone fishing.
Presently he stumbled upon Huck Finn the Red-Handed. Huck would
answer. Tom took him to a private place and opened the matter to him
confidentially. Huck was willing. Huck was always willing to take a hand
in any enterprise that offered entertainment and required no capital,
for he had a troublesome superabundance of that sort of time which is
not money. “Where’ll we dig?” said Huck.

“Oh, most anywhere.”

“Why, is it hid all around?”

“No, indeed it ain’t. It’s hid in mighty particular places,
Huck–sometimes on islands, sometimes in rotten chests under the end of
a limb of an old dead tree, just where the shadow falls at midnight; but
mostly under the floor in ha’nted houses.”

“Who hides it?”

“Why, robbers, of course–who’d you reckon? Sunday-school

“I don’t know. If ‘twas mine I wouldn’t hide it; I’d spend it and have a
good time.”

“So would I. But robbers don’t do that way. They always hide it and
leave it there.”

“Don’t they come after it any more?”

“No, they think they will, but they generally forget the marks, or else
they die. Anyway, it lays there a long time and gets rusty; and by and
by somebody finds an old yellow paper that tells how to find the marks–a
paper that’s got to be ciphered over about a week because it’s mostly
signs and hy’roglyphics.”


“Hy’roglyphics–pictures and things, you know, that don’t seem to mean

“Have you got one of them papers, Tom?”


“Well then, how you going to find the marks?”

“I don’t want any marks. They always bury it under a ha’nted house or on
an island, or under a dead tree that’s got one limb sticking out. Well,
we’ve tried Jackson’s Island a little, and we can try it again some
time; and there’s the old ha’nted house up the Still-House branch, and
there’s lots of dead-limb trees–dead loads of ‘em.”

“Is it under all of them?”

“How you talk! No!”

“Then how you going to know which one to go for?”

“Go for all of ‘em!”

“Why, Tom, it’ll take all summer.”

“Well, what of that? Suppose you find a brass pot with a hundred dollars
in it, all rusty and gray, or rotten chest full of di’monds. How’s

Huck’s eyes glowed.

“That’s bully. Plenty bully enough for me. Just you gimme the hundred
dollars and I don’t want no di’monds.”

“All right. But I bet you I ain’t going to throw off on di’monds. Some
of ‘em’s worth twenty dollars apiece–there ain’t any, hardly, but’s
worth six bits or a dollar.”

“No! Is that so?”

“Cert’nly–anybody’ll tell you so. Hain’t you ever seen one, Huck?”

“Not as I remember.”

“Oh, kings have slathers of them.”

“Well, I don’ know no kings, Tom.”

“I reckon you don’t. But if you was to go to Europe you’d see a raft of
‘em hopping around.”

“Do they hop?”

“Hop?–your granny! No!”

“Well, what did you say they did, for?”

“Shucks, I only meant you’d _see_ ‘em–not hopping, of course–what do
they want to hop for?–but I mean you’d just see ‘em–scattered around,
you know, in a kind of a general way. Like that old humpbacked Richard.”

“Richard? What’s his other name?”

“He didn’t have any other name. Kings don’t have any but a given name.”


“But they don’t.”

“Well, if they like it, Tom, all right; but I don’t want to be a king
and have only just a given name, like a nigger. But say–where you going
to dig first?”

“Well, I don’t know. S’pose we tackle that old dead-limb tree on the
hill t’other side of Still-House branch?”

“I’m agreed.”

So they got a crippled pick and a shovel, and set out on their
three-mile tramp. They arrived hot and panting, and threw themselves
down in the shade of a neighboring elm to rest and have a smoke.

“I like this,” said Tom.

“So do I.”

“Say, Huck, if we find a treasure here, what you going to do with your

“Well, I’ll have pie and a glass of soda every day, and I’ll go to every
circus that comes along. I bet I’ll have a gay time.”

“Well, ain’t you going to save any of it?”

“Save it? What for?”

“Why, so as to have something to live on, by and by.”

“Oh, that ain’t any use. Pap would come back to thish-yer town some day
and get his claws on it if I didn’t hurry up, and I tell you he’d clean
it out pretty quick. What you going to do with yourn, Tom?”

“I’m going to buy a new drum, and a sure’nough sword, and a red necktie
and a bull pup, and get married.”


“That’s it.”

“Tom, you–why, you ain’t in your right mind.”

“Wait–you’ll see.”

“Well, that’s the foolishest thing you could do. Look at pap and my
mother. Fight! Why, they used to fight all the time. I remember, mighty

“That ain’t anything. The girl I’m going to marry won’t fight.”

“Tom, I reckon they’re all alike. They’ll all comb a body. Now you
better think ‘bout this awhile. I tell you you better. What’s the name
of the gal?”

“It ain’t a gal at all–it’s a girl.”

“It’s all the same, I reckon; some says gal, some says girl–both’s
right, like enough. Anyway, what’s her name, Tom?”

“I’ll tell you some time–not now.”

“All right–that’ll do. Only if you get married I’ll be more lonesomer
than ever.”

“No you won’t. You’ll come and live with me. Now stir out of this and
we’ll go to digging.”

They worked and sweated for half an hour. No result. They toiled another
halfhour. Still no result. Huck said:

“Do they always bury it as deep as this?”

“Sometimes–not always. Not generally. I reckon we haven’t got the right

So they chose a new spot and began again. The labor dragged a little,
but still they made progress. They pegged away in silence for some time.
Finally Huck leaned on his shovel, swabbed the beaded drops from his
brow with his sleeve, and said:

“Where you going to dig next, after we get this one?”

“I reckon maybe we’ll tackle the old tree that’s over yonder on Cardiff
Hill back of the widow’s.”

“I reckon that’ll be a good one. But won’t the widow take it away from
us, Tom? It’s on her land.”

“_She_ take it away! Maybe she’d like to try it once. Whoever finds one
of these hid treasures, it belongs to him. It don’t make any difference
whose land it’s on.”

That was satisfactory. The work went on. By and by Huck said:

“Blame it, we must be in the wrong place again. What do you think?”

“It is mighty curious, Huck. I don’t understand it. Sometimes witches
interfere. I reckon maybe that’s what’s the trouble now.”

“Shucks! Witches ain’t got no power in the daytime.”

“Well, that’s so. I didn’t think of that. Oh, I know what the matter is!
What a blamed lot of fools we are! You got to find out where the shadow
of the limb falls at midnight, and that’s where you dig!”

“Then consound it, we’ve fooled away all this work for nothing. Now hang
it all, we got to come back in the night. It’s an awful long way. Can
you get out?”

“I bet I will. We’ve got to do it tonight, too, because if somebody sees
these holes they’ll know in a minute what’s here and they’ll go for it.”

“Well, I’ll come around and maow tonight.”

“All right. Let’s hide the tools in the bushes.”

The boys were there that night, about the appointed time. They sat in
the shadow waiting. It was a lonely place, and an hour made solemn by
old traditions. Spirits whispered in the rustling leaves, ghosts lurked
in the murky nooks, the deep baying of a hound floated up out of the
distance, an owl answered with his sepulchral note. The boys were
subdued by these solemnities, and talked little. By and by they judged
that twelve had come; they marked where the shadow fell, and began to
dig. Their hopes commenced to rise. Their interest grew stronger, and
their industry kept pace with it. The hole deepened and still deepened,
but every time their hearts jumped to hear the pick strike upon
something, they only suffered a new disappointment. It was only a stone
or a chunk. At last Tom said:

“It ain’t any use, Huck, we’re wrong again.”

“Well, but we _can’t_ be wrong. We spotted the shadder to a dot.”

“I know it, but then there’s another thing.”

“What’s that?”.

“Why, we only guessed at the time. Like enough it was too late or too

Huck dropped his shovel.

“That’s it,” said he. “That’s the very trouble. We got to give this one
up. We can’t ever tell the right time, and besides this kind of thing’s
too awful, here this time of night with witches and ghosts a-fluttering
around so. I feel as if something’s behind me all the time;  and I’m
afeard to turn around, becuz maybe there’s others in front a-waiting for
a chance. I been creeping all over, ever since I got here.”

“Well, I’ve been pretty much so, too, Huck. They most always put in a
dead man when they bury a treasure under a tree, to look out for it.”


“Yes, they do. I’ve always heard that.”

“Tom, I don’t like to fool around much where there’s dead people. A
body’s bound to get into trouble with ‘em, sure.”

“I don’t like to stir ‘em up, either. S’pose this one here was to stick
his skull out and say something!”

“Don’t Tom! It’s awful.”

“Well, it just is. Huck, I don’t feel comfortable a bit.”

“Say, Tom, let’s give this place up, and try somewheres else.”

“All right, I reckon we better.”

“What’ll it be?”

Tom considered awhile; and then said:

“The ha’nted house. That’s it!”

“Blame it, I don’t like ha’nted houses, Tom. Why, they’re a dern sight
worse’n dead people. Dead people might talk, maybe, but they don’t come
sliding around in a shroud, when you ain’t noticing, and peep over your
shoulder all of a sudden and grit their teeth, the way a ghost does. I
couldn’t stand such a thing as that, Tom–nobody could.”

“Yes, but, Huck, ghosts don’t travel around only at night. They won’t
hender us from digging there in the daytime.”

“Well, that’s so. But you know mighty well people don’t go about that
ha’nted house in the day nor the night.”

“Well, that’s mostly because they don’t like to go where a man’s been
murdered, anyway–but nothing’s ever been seen around that house except
in the night–just some blue lights slipping by the windows–no regular

“Well, where you see one of them blue lights flickering around, Tom,
you can bet there’s a ghost mighty close behind it. It stands to reason.
Becuz you know that they don’t anybody but ghosts use ‘em.”

“Yes, that’s so. But anyway they don’t come around in the daytime, so
what’s the use of our being afeard?”

“Well, all right. We’ll tackle the ha’nted house if you say so–but I
reckon it’s taking chances.”

They had started down the hill by this time. There in the middle of the
moonlit valley below them stood the “ha’nted” house, utterly isolated,
its fences gone long ago, rank weeds smothering the very doorsteps, the
chimney crumbled to ruin, the window-sashes vacant, a corner of the roof
caved in. The boys gazed awhile, half expecting to see a blue light flit
past a window; then talking in a low tone, as befitted the time and the
circumstances, they struck far off to the right, to give the haunted
house a wide berth, and took their way homeward through the woods that
adorned the rearward side of Cardiff Hill.

ABOUT noon the next day the boys arrived at the dead tree; they had come
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 lifted his
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 was

“Blame it, a body can’t be too careful, Huck. We might ‘a’ got into an
awful scrape, tackling such a thing on a Friday.”

“_Might_! Better say we _would_! There’s some lucky days, maybe, but
Friday ain’t.”

“Any fool knows that. I don’t reckon _you_ was the first that found it
out, Huck.”

“Well, I never said I was, did I? And Friday ain’t all, neither. I had a
rotten bad dream last night–dreampt about rats.”

“No! Sure sign of trouble. Did they fight?”


“Well, that’s good, Huck. When they don’t fight it’s only a sign that
there’s trouble around, you know. All we got to do is to look mighty
sharp and keep out of it. We’ll drop this thing for today, 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 the
best. 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 in
England, with one hand tied behind him; and he could take his yew bow
and 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 that
dime only on the edge he would set down and cry–and curse. But we’ll
play 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 a
yearning eye down upon the haunted house and passing a remark about the
morrow’s prospects and possibilities there. As the sun began to sink
into the west they took their way homeward athwart the long shadows
of the trees and soon were buried from sight in the forests of Cardiff

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 in their
last hole, not with great hope, but merely because Tom said there were
so many cases where people had given up a treasure after getting down
within six inches of it, and then somebody else had come along and
turned it up with a single thrust of a shovel. The thing failed this
time, however, so the boys shouldered their tools and went away feeling
that they had not trifled with fortune, but had fulfilled all the
requirements that belong to the business of treasure-hunting.

When they reached the haunted house there was something so weird and
grisly about the dead silence that reigned there under the baking sun,
and something so depressing about the loneliness and desolation of the
place, that they were afraid, for a moment, to venture in. Then they
crept to the door and took a trembling peep. They saw a weedgrown,
floorless room, unplastered, an ancient fireplace, vacant windows,
a ruinous staircase; and here, there, and everywhere hung ragged and
abandoned cobwebs. They presently entered, softly, with quickened
pulses, 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 the
place a critical and interested examination, rather admiring their own
boldness, and wondering at it, too. Next they wanted to look upstairs.
This was something like cutting off retreat, but they got to daring
each other, and of course there could be but one result–they threw their
tools into a corner and made the ascent. Up there were the same signs of
decay. In one corner they found a closet that promised mystery, but the
promise was a fraud–there was nothing in it. Their courage was up now
and well in hand. They were about to go down and begin 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 to
knotholes in the planking, and lay waiting, in a misery of fear.

“They’ve stopped…. No–coming…. Here they are. Don’t whisper another
word, Huck. My goodness, I wish I was out of this!”

Two men entered. Each boy said to himself: “There’s the old deaf and
dumb Spaniard that’s been about town once or twice lately–never saw
t’other man before.”

“T’other” was a ragged, unkempt creature, with nothing very pleasant
in his face. The Spaniard was wrapped in a serape; he had bushy white
whiskers; long white hair flowed from under his sombrero, and he wore
green 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 the
wall, and the speaker continued his remarks. His manner became less
guarded and his words more distinct as he proceeded:

“No,” said he, “I’ve thought it all over, and I don’t like it. It’s

“Dangerous!” grunted the “deaf and dumb” Spaniard–to the vast surprise
of the boys. “Milksop!”

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

“What’s any more dangerous than that job up yonder–but nothing’s come of

“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!–anybody
would suspicion us that saw us.”

“I know that. But there warn’t any other place as handy after that fool
of a job. I want to quit this shanty. I wanted to yesterday, only it
warn’t any use trying to stir out of here, with those infernal boys
playing over there on the hill right in full view.”

“Those infernal boys” quaked again under the inspiration of this remark,
and thought how lucky it was that they had remembered it was Friday and
concluded to wait a day. They wished in their hearts they had waited a

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

“Look here, lad–you go back up the river where you belong. Wait there
till you hear from me. I’ll take the chances on dropping into this town
just once more, for a look. We’ll do that ‘dangerous’ job after I’ve
spied around a little and think things look well for it. Then for Texas!
We’ll leg it together!”

This was satisfactory. Both men presently fell to yawning, and Injun Joe

“I’m dead for sleep! It’s your turn to watch.”

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

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, and
started alone. But the first step he made wrung such a hideous creak
from the crazy floor that he sank down almost dead with fright. He never
made a second attempt. The boys lay there counting the dragging moments
till it seemed to them that time must be done and eternity growing gray;
and then they were grateful to note that at last the sun was setting.

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

“Here! _You’re_ a watchman, ain’t you! All right, though–nothing’s

“My! have I been asleep?”

“Oh, partly, partly. Nearly time for us to be moving, pard. What’ll we
do with what little swag we’ve got left?”

“I don’t know–leave it here as we’ve always done, I reckon. No use to
take it away till we start south. Six hundred and fifty in silver’s
something 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 right
chance at that job; accidents might happen; ‘tain’t in such a very good
place; 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 that jingled
pleasantly. He subtracted from it twenty or thirty dollars for himself
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 of it was
beyond all imagination! Six hundred dollars was money enough to make
half a dozen boys rich! Here was treasure-hunting under the happiest
auspices–there would not be any bothersome uncertainty as to where to
dig. They nudged each other every moment–eloquent nudges and easily
understood, for they simply meant–“Oh, but ain’t you glad _now_ we’re

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 and we’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 boys
above 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 amongst
the weeds in the corner the other side of the fireplace–I saw it a
minute ago.”

He ran and brought the boys’ pick and shovel. Injun Joe took the
pick, looked it over critically, shook his head, muttered something to
himself, and then began to use it. The box was soon unearthed. It was
not very large; it was iron bound and had been very strong before the
slow years had injured it. The men contemplated the treasure awhile in
blissful silence.

“Pard, there’s thousands of dollars here,” said Injun Joe.

“‘Twas always said that Murrel’s gang used to be around here one
summer,” 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 halfbreed frowned. Said he:

“You don’t know me. Least you don’t know all about that thing. ‘Tain’t
robbery altogether–it’s _revenge_!” and a wicked light flamed in his
eyes. “I’ll need your help in it. When it’s finished–then Texas. Go home
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 fresh
earth on it! [The boys were sick with terror in a moment.] What business
has a pick and a shovel here? What business with fresh earth on
them? Who brought them here–and where are they gone? Have you heard
anybody?–seen anybody? What! bury it again and leave them to come and
see the ground disturbed? Not exactly–not exactly. We’ll take it to my

“Why, of course! Might have thought of that before. You mean Number

“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 cautiously peeping
out. Presently he said:

“Who could have brought those tools here? Do you reckon they can be

The boys’ breath forsook them. Injun Joe put his hand on his knife,
halted a moment, undecided, and then turned toward the stairway. The
boys thought of the closet, but their strength was gone. The steps came
creaking up the stairs–the intolerable distress of the situation woke
the stricken resolution of the lads–they were about to spring for the
closet, when there was a crash of rotten timbers and Injun Joe landed on
the ground amid the debris of the ruined stairway. He gathered himself
up cursing, and his comrade said:

“Now what’s the use of all that? If it’s anybody, and they’re up there,
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 my opinion, whoever
hove those things in here caught a sight of us and took us for ghosts or
devils or something. I’ll bet they’re running yet.”

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

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

They resolved to keep a lookout for that Spaniard when he should come to
town spying out for chances to do his revengeful job, and follow him to
“Number Two,” wherever that might be. Then a ghastly thought occurred to

“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 to believe
that he might possibly mean somebody else–at least that he might at
least mean nobody but Tom, since only Tom had testified.

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