Tom has a strong desire to dig for buried treasure. Huck agrees to go with him. They discuss what they would do with any treasure they found. Huck says he would spend it on pie and soda, and going to the circus. Tom says he would get married, a notion that Huck finds ridiculous. Huck asks who the girl is, but Tom only says he will tell him at some point in the future.
After some fruitless digging, they decide to try digging under an old tree on land belonging to the Widow Douglas. This too fails to yield any treasure. Tom thinks a witch has interfered. Then he recalls a superstition that the treasure is always buried where the shadow of the tree limb falls at midnight. They wait for midnight and try again, still without success. Tom suggests that on the following day they try digging at the "ha'nted house" nearby. Huck agrees.
The following day, Tom and Huck meet to go to the haunted house, but realize that it is Friday, thought to be an unlucky day. They decide to postpone digging until the next day, and play Robin Hood instead.
On Saturday, Tom and Huck go to the haunted house. While they are exploring upstairs, they hear some men approaching the door. They hide and wait, with their eyes to holes in the planking. They see two men enter: an old deaf and dumb Spaniard with a long white beard who has been seen around town, and an unknown man. The unknown man is dismissing some planned crime as too dangerous. The Spaniard, who turns out not to be deaf or dumb, replies contemptuously. The boys recognize his voice as Injun Joe's. The two men agree to carry out the dangerous job when it seems safe, and then to flee to Texas. Both men fall asleep, and the boys try to creep away, but Tom steps on a creaky floorboard and the noise wakes Injun Joe, who wakes his colleague. Neither man sees the boys.
The men discuss what to do with the money they have stolen, some six hundred and fifty dollars in silver. They decide to bury it there and then. As they are digging, Injun Joe's knife strikes something hard. It turns out to be a box containing thousands of dollars' worth of gold coins. The unknown man says it was probably left by another gang that used the house. He adds that Injun Joe will not now need to do the job they were planning. But Joe says he still intends to do it, for revenge. They are about to re-bury the box of gold when Injun Joe notices Tom and Huck's pick and shovel, with fresh earth on them. Joe is suspicious, and decides that they will take the treasure to his "number two" den, "under the cross."
Injun Joe wonders whether the people who brought the tools could be upstairs. To the boys' terror, he starts to climb the stairs, but the timber is rotten and the stairs collapse, leaving Joe sprawling on the ground. The men decide to ignore any intruders and leave.
Tom and Huck curse their ill luck in leaving the tools for Joe and his companion to find. They resolve to look out for the "Spaniard" and follow him to "number two." Tom fears that when Injun Joe talked of taking revenge, he meant on himself and Huck. Huck is comforted by the thought that only Tom testified, so he himself is safe - a thought which does not comfort Tom at all.
That night, Tom is tormented by the thought of narrowly missing possessing the treasure. He cannot quite believe that the huge quantity of gold he has seen can be real, and wonders if it was a dream. He finds Huck, who confirms that it was not. Tom wants to track the "Spaniard" to his "number two" den, to find the money. There are no numbered houses in the town, so Tom decides that "number two" must refer to a room in a tavern.
Tom sets off to inquire at the taverns. At the first, number two is occupied by a young lawyer. At the second, the tavern keeper's son tells him that number two is kept locked all the time, and he never saw anyone use it; he believes it may be haunted, and says there was a light in there the night before. Tom reports to Huck that this is probably Injun Joe's den. He knows that the back door of that room comes out into an alley. He says that he and Huck must collect all the keys they can find, go to the room at night, and try each key until one opens the door. Tom also plans that they should track Injun Joe if they see him, since they may be wrong about the room.
Analysis of Chapters 26-28
In pursuit of an apparently unrealistic childish dream of finding treasure, Tom once again encounters his nemesis, Injun Joe - raising the narrative to a higher pitch of danger and suspense. As if to underline the fact that the stakes have risen and that Tom is now facing a desperate threat, the concept of "treasure" has suddenly shifted, from the bits of trash valued and traded by children to a hoard of real gold and silver collected and unearthed by Injun Joe and his fellow criminals. Paradoxically, even though Tom is suddenly involved with real currency that operates within a real economic system, it appears in the 'adventure story' form of a hoard of buried treasure. So unlikely and romantic is this that even Tom wakes up the next morning thinking it has all been a dream. One effect of introducing the romantic prize of the treasure hoard is that Tom and Huck's previous games of pirates and Robin Hood suddenly seem to be not mere childish pastimes, but a rehearsal for this crucial moment in their lives. Certainly, they are not overwhelmed by this turn of events but are able to treat it as a challenge, to which Tom responds with ingenious plans.
Another shift marking the transition between the child's fantasy world and the brutal reality of the adult criminal underworld is the change in the nature of Tom's fears. When he begins his search for treasure, he appears to have lost the moral stature he gained during his court appearance and has regressed to his former childish superstitions about Friday being unlucky and a witch having "interfered" with the treasure. When Injun Joe appears on the scene, such worries seem utterly trivial; once more, Tom and Huck fear for their lives. The suspense is raised further by Injun Joe's remark that he is seeking revenge: could he mean on Tom and Huck?
As we have seen earlier, Twain's portrayal of Injun Joe is seen by many critics as racist, with Joe's "Injun blood" being linked to his vengeful and malicious nature. Reinforcing this racist thread is Injun Joe's choice of disguise, as a Spaniard. The disguise makes logical sense because of Joe's dark skin color, but it can hardly be a coincidence that the only two mentions of foreignness in the novel are inextricably linked with criminality.
To label Twain a racist would, however, be simplistic and inaccurate. Whenever Twain touched on the subject of race in his speeches and writings, his views were remarkable for their progressiveness and humanity, especially in light of the fact that he grew up in a slave-owning family in the slave-owning South. In The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the sequel to The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Huck, an outsider in society, helps Jim, a runaway slave and another outside, to escape his life of captivity. As a noble, selfless character, Jim is often viewed as the only genuine role model in the novel. He is not the creation of a fundamentally racist mind.
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer: Novel Summary: Chapter 26 - 28