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THE STORY - CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
This chapter provides the climax to the story of Becky and Tom's courtship. Also, Twain begins to resolve many of the novel's remaining questions here.
Late Tuesday afternoon, the scene shifts from the cave to the town. The children are still lost, and the villagers are heartsick. Becky's mother is delirious with grief.
At night, the villagers are aroused from their beds by a "wild peal" of bells-a signal that Becky and Tom have been found. It's the climax of this plot line. The children are paraded through town in an open carriage pulled not by horses but by St. Petersburg citizens. On the "greatest night the little town had ever seen," no one returns to bed. After the parade, a procession of townspeople passes through Becky's house to congratulate and hug the children.
Lying on the couch, Tom fills in the villagers-and you-on the details of their rescue. He followed three corridors the length of his kite line, finally glimpsing a speck of daylight at the end of the third corridor. The exit led to a bluff (cliff overlooking the Mississippi River. He returned for Becky, who was hard to budge because she had prepared herself mentally for death. Outside, after crying "for gladness," they hailed a rowboat and learned from the two men in it that they were five miles south of the cave entrance.
The men rowed them to a house, fed them, and made them rest. After dark, they returned to St. Petersburg.
NOTE: FICTION vs. REALITY
Twain may have combined three true stories here. In his youth, he and a girl became lost in Hannibal's cave, A search party found them just before their last candle went out. Hannibal's Injun Joe got lost in the cave, too. He managed to survive by eating bats. A town drunk named "General" Gaines was lost in the cave for a week. He "finally pushed his handkerchief out of a hole in a hilltop near Saverton, several miles down the river from the cave's mouth," Twain writes in his Autobiography, "and somebody saw it and dug him out."
Some townspeople bring Judge Thatcher the good news in the cave, where he and a handful of diehard searchers have been seeking the children. The children are exhausted from their ordeal. Tom stays in bed until Friday; Becky doesn't leave hers until Sunday.
Tom tries to visit Huck on Friday, but his friend is too sick to see him until Monday. Widow Douglas won't let Tom talk about his adventure for fear that it might excite Huck. Tom hears about the Cardiff Hill adventure at home and learns that Injun Joe's sidekick, the "ragged man," was found drowned in the river, where he apparently fell while trying to escape.
Two weeks after his escape from the cave, Tom learns that Judge Thatcher has had the cave sealed with an iron door. Tom is shocked. "Injun Joe's in the cave!" he blurts out.
NOTE: TOM'S REACTION
What does Tom's reaction to the news of the iron door reveal about his character? Although he is frightened to death of the murderer, he seems genuinely upset. The second paragraph of Chapter 33 should give you an insight into Tom's reaction.