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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
CHAPTER 30: Tom and Becky In The Cave
Huck returns to the Welshman’s house at dawn to find out what has happened. He is offered breakfast and eats hungrily. The Welshman tells Huck that he had looked for him the previous night, but Huck confesses that he ran away, out of fear, when he heard the guns go off. The Welshman then recounts the events that occurred at Widow Douglas’ house. He and his sons drew near to the two men; then the Welshman could not hold back a sneeze, which frightened the culprits away. Although they fired after them, they could not hit or capture the two men. The Welshman then asks Huck if he could describe the two men. Huck tells that one of them is the "deaf and dumb" Spaniard; but Huck again pleads that his identity be kept a secret. They agree to do so, but tell him that he ought to take credit for what he has done.
When the Welshman questions Huck how he came to follow the two men, he tells them that since the townspeople do not treat him properly, it bothers him and he cannot sleep at night. When disturbed, he often goes for a walk, as he did last night. The two men walked past him. One of them was carrying something under one arm, and he thought they might have stolen it; therefore, he followed them. The Welshman explains that he discovered a package in the bushes near the widow’s house. It contained only tools, the kind to be used in a burglary. In the conversation Huck reveals that the "deaf and dumb" Spaniard can actually speak and is none other than Injun Joe; the Welshman is astonished at the news.
Just as they finish breakfast, there is a knock on the door. Huck immediately hides himself. On opening the door, the Welshman sees a lot of people and among them, the Widow. She has come to thank him for saving her life. The Welshman tells her that she actually needs to thank someone else, but cannot reveal his identity as he is sworn to secrecy.
Being a Sunday, all the townspeople come to church. At the end of the service, Mrs. Thatcher goes up to Mrs. Harper and asks if her daughter is going to sleep all day. Mrs. Harper expresses surprise at this question. When Aunt Polly also comes and asks about the whereabouts of Tom, they realize that the two children have not come home and are probably still in the cave. Immediately, a search party of 200 people is formed to look for Becky and Tom in the cave. For three days and nights they search without success. They almost give up hope of ever finding them alive.
When the Welshman comes home from the search, he finds that Huck Finn is still at his house. He is very ill, with a high fever, and the Widow Douglas is caring for him. When Huck hears that the Temperance Tavern is raided and liquor is discovered, Huck wants to know whether anything else has been discovered there. To his utter disappointment, the widow tells him "No". She also cries at the mention of Tom’s name, but, because of his illness, she does not tell Huck about his being lost in the cave.
This chapter is a continuation of the last one. Huck returns to the Welshman’s house the following morning to find out the details of what happened the previous night. He is sad to find out that the two culprits have escaped unharmed. He knows that he and Tom are, therefore, still at risk of incurring Injun Joe’s wrath. He is also disappointed to learn that when the Temperance Tavern is raided, Injun Joe nor the treasure were discovered there. As sick as he is, Huck cannot get the treasure off his mind.
The chapter is also a follow-up on the Becky and Tom tale. After church, Mrs. Thatcher discovers that Becky has not spent the night at the Harpers, as she assumed. Likewise, Aunt Polly realizes that Tom is no where to be found. It is quickly ascertained that the children did not emerge from the cave with the others or ride the ferry home. Everyone assumes that Becky and Tom are lost in the cave. A search party of 200, virtually every man in town including the doctor, goes to look for the pair. They search, to no avail, for three days and nights. By the end of the chapter, people are beginning to give up hope of ever finding them alive.
It is important to notice how Huck responds to the attention given to him in this chapter. When he goes to the Welshman’s house, he is genuinely welcomed, and Huck cannot remember ever being greeted in such a warm manner. He accepts the offer of a nice breakfast and chats with the host as he eats. When the Welshman again tells him he should take credit for his role in saving the Widow Douglas, he once again declines and makes him promise not to tell; the Welshman agrees. The primary motivator for Huck’s silence is his fear of Injun Joe. In addition, Huck is basically shy and does not like to be the center of attention, unlike Tom who loves to bask in glory.
When Huck grows gravely ill, the gentle Widow Douglas takes care of Huck, and he deeply appreciates her kindness and attention. In the past, she has been one of the few people in town who has been nice to Huck. She has always chatted with him and often fed him. Huck was determined to save her from Injun Joe’s revenge because of her kindness; ironically, she has no idea that she is caring for her savior. She is only playing nursemaid out of the goodness of her heart.