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The peaceful atmosphere of Jackson's Island is suddenly disrupted by a "deep sullen boom floating down out of the distance." As the boys investigate further, they find that the sounds are coming from cannons being shot over the waters of the Mississippi River a practice used to bring the bodies of drowning victims afloat. Tom comes to realize that the search party is for them, with the residents of St. Petersburg presuming the missing boys have drowned in river. Tom feels a sense of remorse for making Aunt Polly worry and fret about his safety.