Everybody praised Brace Dunlap for being so good to that stranger. He let him have a little log-cabin all to himself, and had his niggers take care of it, and fetch him all the vittles he wanted.
Dummy was at our house some, because old Uncle Silas was so afflicted himself, these days, that anybody else that was afflicted was a comfort to him. Me and Tom didn’t let on that we had knowed him before, and he didn’t let on that he had knowed us before. The family talked their troubles out before him the same as if he wasn’t there, but we reckoned it wasn’t any harm for him to hear what they said. Generly he didn’t seem to notice, but sometimes he did.
Well, two or three days went along, and everybody got to getting uneasy about Jubiter Dunlap. Everybody was asking everybody if they had any idea what had become of him. No, they hadn’t, they said: and they shook their heads and said there was something powerful strange about it. Another and another day went by; then there was a report got around that praps he was murdered. You bet it made a big stir! Everybody’s tongue was clacking away after that. Saturday two or three gangs turned out and hunted the woods to see if they could run across his remainders. Me and Tom helped, and it was noble good times and exciting. Tom he was so brimful of it he couldn’t eat nor rest. He said if we could find that corpse we would be celebrated, and more talked about than if we got drownded.
The others got tired and give it up; but not Tom Sawyer—that warn’t his style. Saturday night he didn’t sleep any, hardly, trying to think up a plan; and towards daylight in the morning he struck it. He snaked me out of bed and was all excited, and says:
“Quick, Huck, snatch on your clothes—I’ve got it! Bloodhound!”
In two minutes we was tearing up the river road in the dark towards the village. Old Jeff Hooker had a bloodhound, and Tom was going to borrow him. I says:
“The trail’s too old, Tom—and besides, it’s rained, you know.”
“It don’t make any difference, Huck. If the body’s hid in the woods anywhere around the hound will find it. If he’s been murdered and buried, they wouldn’t bury him deep, it ain’t likely, and if the dog goes over the spot he’ll scent him, sure. Huck, we’re going to be celebrated, sure as you’re born!”
He was just a-blazing; and whenever he got afire he was most likely to get afire all over. That was the way this time. In two minutes he had got it all ciphered out, and wasn’t only just going to find the corpse—no, he was going to get on the track of that murderer and hunt him down, too; and not only that, but he was going to stick to him till—“Well,” I says, “you better find the corpse first; I reckon that’s a-plenty for to-day. For all we know, there ain’t any corpse and nobody hain’t been murdered. That cuss could ’a’ gone off somers and not been killed at all.”
That graveled him, and he says:
“Huck Finn, I never see such a person as you to want to spoil everything. As long as you can’t see anything hopeful in a thing, you won’t let anybody else. What good can it do you to throw cold water on that corpse and get up that selfish theory that there ain’t been any murder? None in the world. I don’t see how you can act so. I wouldn’t treat you like that, and you know it. Here we’ve got a noble good opportunity to make a ruputation, and—”
“Oh, go ahead,” I says. “I’m sorry, and I take it all back. I didn’t mean nothing. Fix it any way you want it. He ain’t any consequence to me. If he’s killed, I’m as glad of it as you are; and if he—”
“I never said anything about being glad; I only—”
“Well, then, I’m as sorry as you are. Any way you druther have it, that is the way I druther have it. He—”
“There ain’t any druthers about it, Huck Finn; nobody said anything about druthers. And as for—”
He forgot he was talking, and went tramping along, studying. He begun to get excited again, and pretty soon he says:
“Huck, it’ll be the bulliest thing that ever happened if we find the body after everybody else has quit looking, and then go ahead and hunt up the murderer. It won’t only be an honor to us, but it’ll be an honor to Uncle Silas because it was us that done it. It’ll set him up again, you see if it don’t.”
But Old Jeff Hooker he throwed cold water on the whole business when we got to his blacksmith shop and told him what we come for.
“You can take the dog,” he says, “but you ain’t a-going to find any corpse, because there ain’t any corpse to find. Everybody’s quit looking, and they’re right. Soon as they come to think, they knowed there warn’t no corpse. And I’ll tell you for why. What does a person kill another person for, Tom Sawyer?—answer me that.”
“Answer up! You ain’t no fool. What does he kill him for?”
“Well, sometimes it’s for revenge, and—”
“Wait. One thing at a time. Revenge, says you; and right you are. Now who ever had anything agin that poor trifling no-account? Who do you reckon would want to kill him?—that rabbit!”
Tom was stuck. I reckon he hadn’t thought of a person having to have a reason for killing a person before, and now he sees it warn’t likely anybody would have that much of a grudge against a lamb like Jubiter Dunlap. The blacksmith says, by and by:
“The revenge idea won’t work, you see. Well, then, what’s next? Robbery? B’gosh, that must ’a’ been it, Tom! Yes, sirree, I reckon we’ve struck it this time. Some feller wanted his gallus-buckles, and so he—”
But it was so funny he busted out laughing, and just went on laughing and laughing and laughing till he was ’most dead, and Tom looked so put out and cheap that I knowed he was ashamed he had come, and he wished he hadn’t. But old Hooker never let up on him. He raked up everything a person ever could want to kill another person about, and any fool could see they didn’t any of them fit this case, and he just made no end of fun of the whole business and of the people that had been hunting the body; and he said:
“If they’d had any sense they’d ’a’ knowed the lazy cuss slid out because he wanted a loafing spell after all this work. He’ll come pottering back in a couple of weeks, and then how’ll you fellers feel? But, laws bless you, take the dog, and go and hunt his remainders. Do, Tom.”
Then he busted out, and had another of them forty-rod laughs of hisn. Tom couldn’t back down after all this, so he said, “All right, unchain him;” and the blacksmith done it, and we started home and left that old man laughing yet.
It was a lovely dog. There ain’t any dog that’s got a lovelier disposition than a bloodhound, and this one knowed us and liked us. He capered and raced around ever so friendly, and powerful glad to be free and have a holiday; but Tom was so cut up he couldn’t take any intrust in him, and said he wished he’d stopped and thought a minute before he ever started on such a fool errand. He said old Jeff Hooker would tell everybody, and we’d never hear the last of it.
So we loafed along home down the back lanes, feeling pretty glum and not talking. When we was passing the far corner of our tobacker field we heard the dog set up a long howl in there, and we went to the place and he was scratching the ground with all his might, and every now and then canting up his head sideways and fetching another howl.
It was a long square, the shape of a grave; the rain had made it sink down and show the shape. The minute we come and stood there we looked at one another and never said a word. When the dog had dug down only a few inches he grabbed something and pulled it up, and it was an arm and a sleeve. Tom kind of gasped out, and says:
“Come away, Huck—it’s found.”
I just felt awful. We struck for the road and fetched the first men that come along. They got a spade at the crib and dug out the body, and you never see such an excitement. You couldn’t make anything out of the face, but you didn’t need to. Everybody said:
“Poor Jubiter; it’s his clothes, to the last rag!”
Some rushed off to spread the news and tell the justice of the peace and have an inquest, and me and Tom lit out for the house. Tom was all afire and ’most out of breath when we come tearing in where Uncle Silas and Aunt Sally and Benny was. Tom sung out:
“Me and Huck’s found Jubiter Dunlap’s corpse all by ourselves with a bloodhound, after everybody else had quit hunting and given it up; and if it hadn’t a been for us it never would ’a’ been found; and he was murdered too—they done it with a club or something like that; and I’m going to start in and find the murderer, next, and I bet I’ll do it!”
Aunt Sally and Benny sprung up pale and astonished, but Uncle Silas fell right forward out of his chair on to the floor and groans out:
“Oh, my God, you’ve found him now!”