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One day Tom has a desire to hunt for buried treasure. He encounters Huck Finn, and the two discuss possible places to find treasure, what form the loot might take, and how kings have hundreds of diamonds but only one name. They then set off for the nearest dead-limbed tree, since such trees are typical hiding places for treasure. When they arrive, they discuss what they would do with the treasure. Huck plans to spend it all on pie and soda, and Tom decides that he would get married, an idea that Huck finds absurd.
That afternoon, the boys dig in a number of places around the tree but find nothing. At first, Tom blames a witch, and he then realizes that they are going about it all wrong: they need to find where the shadow of the tree limb falls at midnight. They return that night and dig for a time, again without result. Eventually frustration and fear of the darkened woods make them give up, but they hesitantly agree to try next in the “ha’nted” house, a deserted building nearby.
The following day, Tom and Huck set out for the house, only to realize that it is Friday—the most unlucky day of the week. They decide to pretend they are Robin Hood for the rest of the afternoon and make their way to the haunted house on Saturday. They explore the house’s deserted ground floor, then head upstairs as two mysterious men enter downstairs. One is “a ragged, unkempt creature, with nothing very pleasant about his face”; the other is a deaf and mute Spaniard with a long white beard and green goggles who has been hanging around St. Petersburg recently. The boys watch the two strangers through the floorboards. When the deaf and mute Spaniard speaks, the boys recognize his voice—it is Injun Joe’s.
Terrified, the boys listen as the two men talk about criminal activities, including a “dangerous” job that Injun Joe plans. After a while, the two men doze off. Tom wants to leave, but Huck is too frightened that the men might wake up. Eventually, the men wake and prepare to go. Before they leave, they bury some money they have stolen—$600 in silver—because it is too heavy to carry. While hiding it, they encounter an iron box, which they unearth using the tools that the boys left on the ground floor. The box is full of gold coins, and the boys think, ecstatically, that the two men will rebury it. However, Injun Joe notices that the boys’ tools are new and have fresh earth on them, and he decides that someone must be hanging around the house. Injun Joe even starts to go upstairs, but the steps collapse under his weight. He gives up, deciding to take the treasure to another hiding place: “Number Two—under the cross.”
The men leave with the loot, and Huck and Tom descend, wishing furiously that they had not left their tools behind for Injun Joe to find. They resolve to keep an eye out for the “Spaniard” in the hopes of following him to “Number Two.” Then the awful thought occurs to Tom that perhaps Injun Joe’s planned “job” will be on Tom and Huck. The boys talk it over, and Huck decides that since only Tom testified, Injun Joe’s wrath will probably be directed only at him. Huck’s words, of course, offer little comfort to Tom.
Initially, Tom’s desire to hunt for treasure appears to be just another juvenile adventure along the lines of the boys’ trip to Jackson’s Island. It is only when Injun Joe appears that we realize that the narrative is no longer skipping from adventure to adventure but is instead driving toward an ending. By offering different settings in which the action unfolds, Twain allows us to see Tom’s developing maturity and the effects that it has on his interactions with his friends, Becky, and his family. Twain allows us to trace this development in these various relationships without prioritizing one over the others, thus establishing the importance of each facet in a boy’s life.
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