In the cave, Tom and Becky wander around with the others for a while, and then they meander off by themselves. Seeing some other places, Tom plays at being a discoverer and investigates new paths with Becky following him. They find wonderful natural stairs, waterfalls, springs, stalactites, and finally, they run into some bats from which they flee, failing to mark their whereabouts. They try to find their way out and can't. First Tom and then Becky realize that they are lost. Becky falls to the ground and cries while Tom tries to comfort her by telling her it is all his fault.
They begin to wander again, hoping to find a familiar landmark. Tom takes Becky's candle and blows it out to conserve that source of light. After a while, Becky has to sit down, and she falls asleep. When she awakens, she and Tom stumble on until they find a spring: Tom explains to Becky that they must stay close to water because their candles are almost gone. They are both very hungry, and Tom shares a piece of cake that he had saved from the picnic. Suddenly, Becky realizes that her mother will think she is spending the night at the Harper's house and that they won't be missed until sometime Sunday. They sleep again and then share the last bite of the cake. Suddenly, they hear voices in the background. The two begin shouting, but to no avail, and the sounds fade away.
Tom decides to explore side passages, leaving Becky sitting by the spring. At the end of one corridor, he sees a human holding a candle; he shouts loudly and to his horror it is Injun Joe. The shouting has also frightened Injun Joe, who runs away. After some time, Tom is so hungry and Becky is so weak that he leaves her and explores other passages. Becky feels that she will now die, and she makes Tom promise to return to her soon and hold her during her final moments. Acting as bravely as he can, he leaves her to try to find an exit.
Three days have passed, and the villagers are in mourning for the loss of Becky and Tom. Mrs. Thatcher is ill, and Aunt Polly is distraught. Then "in the middle of the night, a wild peal burst from the village bells" and there were shouts: "Turn out! turn out! they're found! they're found!" A messenger goes to the cave to inform Judge Thatcher, who is still searching.
Using all types of exaggerations and embroidering the story as much as possible, Tom tells of his and Becky's wonderful adventure. He thoroughly enjoys the attention of the people who listened intently to his every word.
Three days and nights in the cave have drained the strength of both Tom and Becky; Tom gets better in three days, but it takes a week for Becky to regain her strength. Meanwhile, Tom has heard of Huck's illness, and he visits him, but the Widow Douglas refuses to allow Tom to tell about his awesome adventure in the cave. Tom does hear that the ragged man was found drowned in the river while trying to escape. About two weeks later, Tom goes by to visit Becky. Judge Thatcher tells him that he has had the cave locked and secured so that no other children can get inside. "Tom turned as white as a sheet" and explains that "Injun Joe is in the cave."
The true importance of this chapter is Twain's narration. The reader is very concerned over the fate of Becky and Tom, and we experience all of the fears and dangers that they face. Twain is able to make the threat of their starving very real, and we sense the hunger in the manner in which they greedily eat the piece of picnic cake, knowing that there is no more real food except the bit that Tom nobly saves from his share. The appearance of Injun Joe in the cave ties together the murder scene in the graveyard, the discovery of the gold treasure, and the location of the treasure. In addition, it adds suspense to the episode.
In these episodes, Tom's character rises to new heights. He is mature in protecting Becky; he is noble in his concern for her because her welfare is of utmost importance to him; he takes full blame and responsibility for their predicament; and he even tries to encourage and bolster her sagging spirit. In contrast to his youthful behavior earlier, he now conducts himself in a mature and truly admirable manner. Our esteem for Tom grows still further when we see his reaction to learning that Injun Joe has been trapped in the cave. While he has dreaded and feared Injun Joe and even though he recognizes the evil within Joe, Tom's reaction is one of horror when he discovers that another person, even the despicable Injun Joe, is trapped as he and Becky had been trapped.
Likewise, Becky rises in our estimation. She had earlier been seen as a petulant, spoiled, somewhat selfish girl, and she had allowed Tom to take her punishment. Now she refuses to blame Tom for their situation and shares in the blame. She does not question Tom's judgments, and she faces her death calmly.
stalactite an icicle-shaped mineral deposit, usually a calcium compound, that hangs from the roof of a cavern and is formed by the evaporation of dripping water that is full of minerals.