Twain describes Becky Thatcher’s picnic as being “giddy and rollicking.”
At first, it’s all fun. Becky, Tom, and friends walk gaily into McDougal’s Cave, where they write their names with lamp smoke. But when Tom feels the urge to explore, they get lost in the eerie darkness and are frightened by thousands of bats. Becky sniffles, “Tom, Tom, we’re lost! we’re lost! We never can get out of this awful place! Oh, why did we ever leave the others!”
Tom, however, eagerly assuming the role of a gallant knight, is rock solid. So when a plaintive Becky says, “Tom, I’m so hungry!” the darling boy pulls cake out of his pocket.
Do you remember this,” said he
Becky almost smiled.
“It’s our wedding cake, Tom.”
“Yes—I wish it was as big as a barrel, for it’s all we’ve got.”
“I saved it from the pic-nic for us to dream on Tom, the way grown up people do with wedding cake—but it’ll be our–”
She dropped the sentence where it was. Tom divided the cake, and Becky ate with good appetite, while Tom nibbled at his moiety. There was abundance of cold water to finish the feast with.”
Why Tom keeps cake in his pocket is Twain’s whimsy, or a sly allusion to Marie Antoinette’s remark “Let them eat cake.” It’s a creaky allusion.
Of course, Tom is resourceful and gropes through dark passages until he finds daylight.
PS: What Tom does not tell Becky is that he’s found treasure. He keeps this secret for Huck Finn, and when they return to the cave, they secure the gold and share a reward. Out of the loop, Becky gets no share of the gold.
Featured Image: True W. Williams. “Attacked by Natives,” In The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Hartford, Connecticut: American Publishing Co., 1876. Twain thought that Williams got his characters right!
See Mark Twain. The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Hartford, Connecticut: American Publishing Co., 1876.