Chapter 31 Summary

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 673

Before dawn the next morning, Huck Finn knocks again at the Welshman’s door. When he answers Huck, the Welshman cries out that he will open his door to him any time. He welcomes a startled Huck inside and invites him to breakfast. As the Welshman and his sons prepare the food, he describes the encounter with the attempted burglars in the night. He and his sons exchanged gunshots with the criminals, but nobody was hit, and the criminals got away. He asks Huck if he knows who it was, and Huck says it was the deaf-dumb Spaniard and his raggedy friend. Hearing this, the Welshman sends his sons to tell the sheriff. Before they go, Huck begs them not to tell anyone who gave them this information.

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When the young men are gone, the Welshman gives Huck breakfast and asks him to explain how he came to be following the men. Huck does not want to explain about the treasure, so he claims that he was wandering around town in the middle of the night, thinking about how he wanted to be a good boy instead of a bad one. He claims that he saw two men come out of a tavern with a bundle, and he got a look of them by the light of their cigars. Thinking they looked suspicious, he followed them until he heard them talking about their awful plans.

Huck’s story is half full of lies, and the Welshman catches most of them. He acts surprised that Huck could get a good look at people by cigar light. Later he is stunned when Huck claims to have heard a deaf and dumb man speak. Huck stammers and tries to make up a new story to cover his tracks, but the Welshman makes him stop. He promises to protect Huck, and the boy reluctantly admits knowing that the Spaniard is Injun Joe in disguise.

The Welshman mentions that one of the people searching for the burglars found a package near the Widow Douglas’s house. Huck cries out in shock, thinking that the package might contain the treasure. The Welshman calms him and says it was only a bundle of burglar’s tools. When Huck refuses to say what he thought the package might contain, the Welshman decides that the boy must simply be tired out and hysterical from the fear and excitement of the night.

Soon after this conversation, the Widow Douglas and several of her friends knock on the Welshman’s door. Huck hides and listens as the Welshman explains what happened. As promised, he refuses to say who warned him about the criminals, but he drops a few hints about the person’s goodness and heroism. Naturally nobody thinks of Huckleberry Finn.

At church the next morning, Mrs. Thatcher and Aunt Polly ask Tom’s and Becky’s friends if anyone has seen them. Nobody has, and upon reflection, nobody remembers them being on the ferry home, either. The conversation grows more and more anxious, and eventually someone shouts that Tom and Becky could still be in the cave. Everyone gathers supplies and rushes to begin a search.

The Welshman is among the searchers, and he does not return home until late that night. When he comes inside, he finds Huckleberry Finn still there, sick with a fever. He asks the Widow Douglas to look after the boy, and she promises to do so, saying that even if he is bad, he is part of God’s creation and therefore worthy of being helped. The Welshman says that Huck has good in him, and the widow agrees.

For three days, men search McDougal’s cave for Tom and Becky. They find the two children’s names written on a wall far from the entrance, but they do not find the children themselves. Three days later, Huck is well enough to ask about Tom, but the Widow Douglas just shushes him. She does not have the heart to tell Huck that Tom is probably dead.

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