with that boy, I wonder? You TOM!"
The old lady
pulled her spectacles down and looked over them
about the room; then she put them up and looked out under
them. She seldom or never looked THROUGH them for so small a thing as a boy;
they were her state pair, the pride of her heart, and were built for "style," not
service—she could have seen through a pair of stove-lids just as well.
She looked perplexed for a moment, and then said, not fiercely, but still loud
enough for the furniture to hear:
"Well, I lay
if I get hold of you I'll—"
She did not
finish, for by this time she was bending down and
punching under the bed with the broom, and so she needed breath
to punctuate the punches with. She resurrected nothing but the cat.
"I never did
see the beat of that boy!"
She went to
the open door and stood in it and looked out among
the tomato vines and "jimpson" weeds that constituted the
garden. No Tom. So she lifted up her voice at an angle calculated for distance and
There was a
slight noise behind her and she turned just in time
to seize a small boy by the slack of his roundabout and arrest
might 'a' thought of that closet. What you been
doing in there?"
Look at your hands. And look at your mouth. What IS
know. It's jam—that's what it is. Forty times I've
said if you didn't let that jam alone I'd skin you. Hand me that
hovered in the air—the peril was desperate—
behind you, aunt!"
The old lady
whirled round, and snatched her skirts out of
danger. The lad fled on the instant, scrambled up the high
board-fence, and disappeared over it.
Polly stood surprised a moment, and then broke into
a gentle laugh.
boy, can't I never learn anything? Ain't he played
me tricks enough like
that for me to be looking out for him by this time?
But old fools is the biggest fools there is. Can't learn an old
dog new tricks, as the saying is. But my goodness, he never plays them alike, two
days, and how is a body to know what's coming? He 'pears to know just how
long he can torment me before I get my dander up, and he knows if he can make out to
put me off for a minute or make me laugh, it's all down again and I can't hit
him a lick. I ain't doing my duty by that boy, and that's the Lord's truth,
goodness knows. Spare the rod and spile the child, as the Good Book says. I'm a
laying up sin and suffering for us both, I know. He's full of the Old Scratch, but
laws-a-me! he's my own dead sister's boy, poor thing, and I ain't got the heart to
lash him, somehow. Every time I let him off, my conscience does hurt me so,
and every time I hit him my old heart most breaks. Well-a-well, man that is
born of woman is of few days and full of trouble, as the Scripture says, and I
reckon it's so. He'll play hookey this evening, * and [* Southwestern for
"afternoon"] I'll just be obleeged to make him work, tomorrow, to punish him. It's
mighty hard to make him work Saturdays, when all the boys is having
holiday, but he hates work more than he hates anything else, and I've GOT to do some
of my duty by him, or I'll be the ruination of the child."
Tom did play
hookey, and he had a very good time. He got back
home barely in season to help Jim, the small colored boy,
saw next-day's wood and split the kindlings before supper—at least he was there
in time to tell his adventures to Jim while Jim did three-fourths of the work.
Tom's younger brother (or rather half-brother) Sid was already through with
his part of the work (picking up chips), for he was a quiet boy, and had no
adventurous, trouble-some ways.
was eating his supper, and stealing sugar as
opportunity offered, Aunt Polly asked him questions that were full of
guile, and very deep—for she wanted to trap him into damaging revealments. Like
many other simple-hearted souls, it was her pet vanity to believe she was endowed
with a talent for dark and mysterious diplomacy, and she loved to
contemplate her most transparent devices as marvels of low cunning. Said she:
"Tom, it was
middling warm in school, warn't it?"
warm, warn't it?"
want to go in a-swimming, Tom?"
A bit of a
scare shot through Tom—a touch of uncomfortable
suspicion. He searched Aunt Polly's face, but it told him
nothing. So he said:
not very much."
The old lady
reached out her hand and felt Tom's shirt, and said:
ain't too warm now, though." And it flattered her to
reflect that she had discovered that the shirt was dry without
anybody knowing that that was what she had in her mind. But in spite of her, Tom
knew where the wind lay, now. So he forestalled what might be the next move:
"Some of us
pumped on our heads—mine's damp yet. See?"
was vexed to think she had overlooked that bit of
circumstantial evidence, and missed a trick. Then she had a
didn't have to undo your shirt collar where I sewed
it, to pump on your head, did you? Unbutton your jacket!"
vanished out of Tom's face. He opened his jacket.
His shirt collar was securely sewed.
Well, go 'long with you. I'd made sure you'd played
hookey and been a-swimming. But I forgive ye, Tom. I reckon
you're a kind of a singed cat, as the saying is—better'n you look. THIS time."
She was half
sorry her sagacity had miscarried, and half glad
that Tom had stumbled into obedient conduct for once.
if I didn't think you sewed his collar with white
thread, but it's black."
"Why, I did
sew it with white! Tom!"
But Tom did
not wait for the rest. As he went out at the door he
lick you for that."
In a safe
place Tom examined two large needles which were
thrust into the lapels of his jacket, and had thread bound about
them—one needle carried white thread and the other black. He said:
noticed if it hadn't been for Sid. Confound it!
sometimes she sews it with white, and sometimes she sews it with
black. I wish to gee-miny she'd stick to one or t'other—I can't keep the run
of 'em. But I bet you I'll lam Sid for that. I'll learn him!"
He was not
the Model Boy of the village. He knew the model boy
very well though—and loathed him.
minutes, or even less, he had forgotten all his
troubles. Not because his troubles were one whit less heavy and
bitter to him than a man's are to a man, but because a new and powerful interest
bore them down and drove them out of his mind for the time—just as men's
misfortunes are forgotten in the excitement of new enterprises. This new
interest was a valued novelty in whistling, which he had just acquired from a
negro, and he was suffering to practise it un-disturbed. It consisted in a
peculiar bird-like turn, a sort of liquid warble, produced by touching the
tongue to the roof of the mouth at short intervals in the midst of the music—the
reader probably remembers how to do it, if he has ever been a boy. Diligence and
attention soon gave him the knack of it, and he strode down the street with his
mouth full of harmony and his soul full of gratitude. He felt much as an
astronomer feels who has discovered a new planet—no doubt, as far as strong, deep,
unalloyed pleasure is concerned, the advantage was with the boy, not the
evenings were long. It was not dark, yet. Presently
Tom checked his whistle. A stranger was before him—a boy a
shade larger than himself. A new-comer of any age or either sex was an
im-pressive curiosity in the poor little shabby village of St. Petersburg. This
boy was well dressed, too—well dressed on a week-day. This was simply as-
tounding. His cap was a dainty thing, his close-buttoned blue cloth roundabout was
new and natty, and so were his pantaloons. He had shoes on—and it was only
Friday. He even wore a necktie, a bright bit of ribbon. He had a citified air
about him that ate into Tom's vitals. The more Tom stared at the splendid
marvel, the higher he turned up his nose at his finery and the shabbier and
shabbier his own outfit seemed to him to grow. Neither boy spoke. If one moved, the
other moved—but only sidewise, in a circle; they kept face to face and eye to eye
all the time. Finally Tom said:
"I can lick
"I'd like to
see you try it."
"Well, I can
"Yes I can."
uncomfortable pause. Then Tom said:
of your business, maybe."
"Well I 'low
I'll MAKE it my business."
"If you say
much, I will."
"Much—much—MUCH. There now."
think you're mighty smart, DON'T you? I could lick
you with one hand tied behind me, if I wanted to."
don't you DO it? You SAY you can do it."
WILL, if you fool with me."
seen whole families in the same fix."
think you're SOME, now, DON'T you? Oh, what a hat!"
lump that hat if you don't like it. I dare you to
knock it off—and anybody that'll take a dare will suck eggs."
fighting liar and dasn't take it up."
give me much more of your sass I'll take and bounce
a rock off'n your head."
COURSE you will."
don't you DO it then? What do you keep SAYING you
will for? Why don't you DO it? It's because you're afraid."
pause, and more eying and sidling around each other.
Presently they were shoulder to shoulder. Tom said:
stood, each with a foot placed at an angle as a
brace, and both shoving with might and main, and glowering at each
other with hate. But neither could get an advantage. After struggling till both
were hot and flushed, each relaxed his strain with watchful caution, and Tom
coward and a pup. I'll tell my big brother on you,
and he can thrash you with his little finger, and I'll make him
do it, too."
"What do I
care for your big brother? I've got a brother that's
bigger than he is—and what's more, he can throw him over
that fence, too." [Both brothers were imaginary.]
so don't make it so."
Tom drew a
line in the dust with his big toe, and said:
"I dare you
to step over that, and I'll lick you till you can't
stand up. Anybody that'll take a dare will steal
The new boy
stepped over promptly, and said:
said you'd do it, now let's see you do it."
crowd me now; you better look out."
SAID you'd do it—why don't you do it?"
for two cents I WILL do it."
The new boy
took two broad coppers out of his pocket and held
them out with derision. Tom struck them to the ground. In
an instant both boys were rolling and tumbling in the dirt, gripped together
like cats; and for the space of a minute they tugged and tore at each other's
hair and clothes, punched and scratched each other's nose, and covered
themselves with dust and glory.
Presently the confusion took form, and
through the fog of battle Tom appeared, seated astride the new boy, and pounding him
with his fists. "Holler 'nuff!" said he.
The boy only
struggled to free himself. He was crying—mainly from
'nuff!"—and the pounding went on.
At last the
stranger got out a smothered "'Nuff!" and Tom let
him up and said:
learn you. Better look out who you're fooling with
The new boy
went off brushing the dust from his clothes,
sobbing, snuffling, and occasionally looking back and shaking his
head and threatening what he would do to Tom the "next time he caught him out." To
which Tom responded with jeers, and started off in high feather, and as soon as
his back was turned the new boy snatched up a stone, threw it and hit him
between the shoulders and then turned tail and ran like an antelope. Tom chased the
traitor home, and thus found out where he lived. He then held a position at
the gate for some time, daring the enemy to come outside, but the enemy only
made faces at him through the window and declined. At last the enemy's mother
appeared, and called Tom a bad, vicious, vulgar child, and ordered him away.
So he went away; but he said he "'lowed" to "lay" for that boy.
He got home
pretty late that night, and when he climbed
cautiously in at the window, he uncovered an ambuscade, in the
person of his aunt; and when she saw the state his clothes were in her resolution
to turn his Saturday holiday into captivity at hard labor became adamantine in
morning was come, and all the summer world was
bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every
heart; and if the heart was young the music issued at the lips. There was cheer
in every face and a spring in every step. The locust-trees were in bloom
and the fragrance of the blossoms filled the air. Cardiff Hill, beyond the
village and above it, was green with vegetation and it lay just far enough away to
seem a Delectable Land, dreamy, reposeful, and inviting.
on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a
long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all
gladness left him and a deep melancholy settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of
board fence nine feet high. Life to him seemed hollow, and existence but a
burden. Sighing, he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank;
repeated the operation; did it again; compared the insignificant whitewashed streak
with the far-reaching continent of unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a
tree-box discouraged. Jim came skipping out at the gate with a tin pail, and singing
Buffalo Gals. Bringing water from the town pump had always been hateful work in
Tom's eyes, before, but now it did not strike him so. He remembered that there
was company at the pump. White, mulatto, and negro boys and girls were always
there waiting their turns, resting, trading playthings, quarrelling,
fighting, skylarking. And he remembered that although the pump was only a
hundred and fifty yards off, Jim never got back with a bucket of water under
an hour—and even then somebody generally had to go after him. Tom said:
I'll fetch the water if you'll whitewash some."
his head and said:
Tom. Ole missis, she tole me I got to go an' git dis
water an' not stop foolin' roun' wid anybody. She say she
spec' Mars Tom gwine to ax me to whitewash, an' so she tole me go 'long an'
'tend to my own business—she 'lowed SHE'D 'tend to de whitewashin'."
you mind what she said, Jim. That's the way she
always talks. Gimme the bucket—I won't be gone only a a minute.
SHE won't ever know."
dasn't, Mars Tom. Ole missis she'd take an' tar de
head off'n me. 'Deed she would."
never licks anybody—whacks 'em over the head with
her thimble—and who cares for that, I'd like to know. She talks
awful, but talk don't hurt—anyways it don't if she don't cry. Jim, I'll give you
a marvel. I'll give you a white alley!"
Jim began to
alley, Jim! And it's a bully taw."
"My! Dat's a
mighty gay marvel, I tell you! But Mars Tom I's
powerful 'fraid ole missis—"
besides, if you will I'll show you my sore toe."
Jim was only
human—this attraction was too much for him. He put
down his pail, took the white alley, and bent over the toe
with absorbing interest while the bandage was being unwound. In another moment
he was flying down the street with his pail and a tingling rear, Tom was
whitewashing with vigor, and Aunt Polly was retiring from the field with a slipper in
her hand and triumph in her eye.
energy did not last. He began to think of the fun he
had planned for this day, and his sorrows multiplied. Soon
the free boys would come tripping along on all sorts of delicious expeditions,
and they would make a world of fun of him for having to work—the very thought of
it burnt him like fire. He got out his worldly wealth and examined it—bits of
toys, marbles, and trash; enough to buy an exchange of WORK, maybe, but not half
enough to buy so much as half an hour of pure freedom. So he returned his
straitened means to his pocket, and gave up the idea of trying to buy the boys.
At this dark and hopeless moment an inspiration burst upon him! Nothing less than
a great, magnificent inspiration.
He took up
his brush and went tranquilly to work. Ben Rogers
hove in sight presently—the very boy, of all boys, whose
ridicule he had been dreading. Ben's gait was the hop-skip-and-jump—proof enough
that his heart was light and his anticipations high. He was eating an apple,
and giving a long, melodious whoop, at intervals, followed by a deep-toned
ding-dong-dong, ding-dong-dong, for he was personating a steamboat. As he drew near,
he slackened speed, took the middle of the street, leaned far over to
starboard and rounded to ponderously and with laborious pomp and circumstance—for
he was personating the Big Missouri, and considered himself to be
drawing nine feet of water. He was boat and captain and engine-bells combined, so he
had to imagine himself standing on his own hurricane-deck giving the orders and
sir! Ting-a-ling-ling!" The headway ran almost out,
and he drew up slowly toward the sidewalk.
"Ship up to
back! Ting-a-ling-ling!" His arms straightened and
stiffened down his sides.
back on the stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Chow!
ch-chow-wow! Chow!" His right hand, mean-time, describing stately
circles—for it was representing a forty-foot wheel.
"Let her go
back on the labboard! Ting-a-ling-ling!
Chow-ch-chow-chow!" The left hand began to describe circles.
stabboard! Ting-a-ling-ling! Stop the labboard! Come
ahead on the stabboard! Stop her! Let your outside turn
over slow! Ting-a-ling- ling! Chow-ow-ow! Get out that head-line! LIVELY
now! Come—out with your spring-line—what're you about there! Take a
turn round that stump with the bight of it! Stand by that stage, now—let her go!
Done with the engines, sir! Ting-a-ling-ling! SH'T! S'H'T! SH'T!" (trying
Tom went on
whitewashing—paid no attention to the steamboat. Ben
stared a moment and then said: "Hi-YI! YOU'RE up a stump,
Tom surveyed his last touch with the eye of an
artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and surveyed
the result, as before. Ben ranged up alongside of him. Tom's mouth watered for the
apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said:
chap, you got to work, hey?"
suddenly and said:
you, Ben! I warn't noticing."
going in a-swimming, I am. Don't you wish you could?
But of course you'd druther WORK—wouldn't you? Course you
contemplated the boy a bit, and said:
"What do you
his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:
it is, and maybe it ain't. All I know, is, it suits
now, you don't mean to let on that you LIKE it?"
continued to move.
Well, I don't see why I oughtn't to like it. Does a
boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?"
That put the
thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his
apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth—stepped back to
note the effect—added a touch here and there—criticised the effect again—Ben
watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more absorbed.
Presently he said:
let ME whitewash a little."
considered, was about to consent; but he altered his
reckon it wouldn't hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt
Polly's awful particular about this fence—right here on the
street, you know—but if it was the back fence I wouldn't mind and SHE wouldn't.
Yes, she's awful particular about this fence; it's got to be done very careful;
I reckon there ain't one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand, that can do it
the way it's got to be done."
so? Oh come, now—lemme just try. Only just a
little—I'd let YOU, if you was me, Tom."
like to, honest injun; but Aunt Polly—well, Jim
wanted to do it, but she wouldn't let him; Sid wanted to do it,
and she wouldn't let Sid. Now don't you see how I'm fixed? If you was to tackle
this fence and anything was to happen to it—"
I'll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say—I'll
give you the core of my apple."
here—No, Ben, now don't. I'm afeard—"
you ALL of it!"
Tom gave up
the brush with reluctance in his face, but alacrity
in his heart. And while the late steamer Big Missouri
worked and sweated in the sun, the retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade
close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the slaughter of more
innocents. There was no lack of material; boys happened along every little
while; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was
fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite, in good
repair; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a
string to swing it with—and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the
middle of the afternoon came, from being a poor poverty-stricken boy in the
morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before
mentioned, twelve marbles, part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue bottle-glass to
look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a fragment of
chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a couple of
tadpoles, six fire-crackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass door-knob, a
dog-collar—but no dog—the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated
old window sash.
He had had a
nice, good, idle time all the while—plenty of
company—and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! If he
hadn't run out of whitewash he would have bankrupted every boy in the village.
Tom said to
himself that it was not such a hollow world, after
all. He had discovered a great law of human action,
without knowing it—namely, that in order to make a man or a boy covet a thing, it is
only necessary to make the thing difficult to attain. If he had been a great
and wise philosopher, like the writer of this book, he would now have
comprehended that Work consists of whatever a body is OBLIGED to do, and that
Play consists of whatever a body is not obliged to do. And this would help him to
understand why constructing artificial flowers or performing on a
tread-mill is work, while rolling ten-pins or climbing Mont Blanc is only amusement.
There are wealthy gentlemen in England who drive four-horse passenger-coaches twenty
or thirty miles on a daily line, in the summer, because the privilege costs
them considerable money; but if they were offered wages for the service, that
would turn it into work and then they would resign.
mused awhile over the substantial change which had
taken place in his worldly circumstances, and then wended toward
headquarters to report.
presented himself before Aunt Polly, who was sitting
by an open window in a pleasant rearward apartment, which was
bedroom, breakfast-room, dining-room, and library, combined. The balmy summer air, the
restful quiet, the odor of the flowers, and the drowsing murmur of the bees
had had their effect, and she was nodding over her knitting—for she had no
company but the cat, and it was asleep in her lap. Her spectacles were propped up on
her gray head for safety. She had thought that of course Tom had deserted long
ago, and she wondered at seeing him place himself in her power again in this
intrepid way. He said: "Mayn't I go and play now, aunt?"
a'ready? How much have you done?"
lie to me—I can't bear it."
aunt; it IS all done."
placed small trust in such evidence. She went out to
see for herself; and she would have been content to find
twenty per cent. of Tom's statement true. When she found the entire fence
white-washed, and not only whitewashed but elaborately coated and recoated, and even a
streak added to the ground, her astonishment was almost unspeakable. She
never! There's no getting round it, you can work
when you're a mind to, Tom." And then she diluted the compliment by
adding, "But it's powerful seldom you're a mind to, I'm bound to say. Well, go
'long and play; but mind you get back some time in a week, or I'll tan you."
She was so
overcome by the splendor of his achievement that she
took him into the closet and selected a choice apple and
delivered it to him, along with an improving lecture upon the added value and
flavor a treat took to itself when it came without sin through virtuous effort. And
while she closed with a happy Scriptural flourish, he "hooked" a doughnut.
skipped out, and saw Sid just starting up the
outside stairway that led to the back rooms on the second floor. Clods
were handy and the air was full of them in a twinkling. They raged around Sid
like a hail-storm; and before Aunt Polly could collect her surprised faculties
and sally to the rescue, six or seven clods had taken personal effect, and
Tom was over the fence and gone. There was a gate, but as a general thing he
was too crowded for time to make use of it. His soul was at peace, now that he had
settled with Sid for calling attention to his black thread and getting him
the block, and came round into a muddy alley that
led by the back of his aunt's cow-stable. He presently got
safely beyond the reach of capture and punishment, and hastened toward the public
square of the village, where two "military" companies of boys had met for
conflict, according to previous appointment. Tom was General of one of these
armies, Joe Harper (a bosom friend) General of the other. These two great
commanders did not condescend to fight in person—that being better suited to the still
smaller fry—but sat together on an eminence and conducted the field operations
by orders delivered through aides-de-camp. Tom's army won a great
victory, after a long and hard-fought battle. Then the dead were counted, prisoners
exchanged, the terms of the next disagreement agreed upon, and the day for the
necessary battle appointed; after which the armies fell into line and marched
away, and Tom turned homeward alone.
As he was
passing by the house where Jeff Thatcher lived, he
saw a new girl in the garden—a lovely little blue-eyed creature
with yellow hair plaited into two long-tails, white summer frock and
embroidered pan-talettes. The fresh-crowned hero fell without firing a shot. A certain
Amy Lawrence vanished out of his heart and left not even a memory of herself
behind. He had thought he loved her to distraction; he had regarded his passion
as adoration; and behold it was only a poor little evanescent partiality. He had
been months winning her; she had confessed hardly a week ago; he had been the
happiest and the proudest boy in the world only seven short days, and here in
one instant of time she had gone out of his heart like a casual stranger whose
visit is done.
worshipped this new angel with furtive eye, till he
saw that she had discovered
him; then he pretended he did not know she was
present, and began to "show off" in all sorts of absurd boyish
ways, in order to win her admiration. He kept up this grotesque foolishness for
some time; but by-and-by, while he was in the midst of some dangerous gymnastic
performances, he glanced aside and saw that the little girl was wending her way
toward the house. Tom came up to the fence and leaned on it, grieving, and hoping
she would tarry yet awhile longer. She halted a moment on the steps and then
moved toward the door. Tom heaved a great sigh as she put her foot on the
threshold. But his face lit up, right away, for she tossed a pansy over the fence a
moment before she disappeared.
The boy ran
around and stopped within a foot or two of the
flower, and then shaded his eyes with his hand and began to
look down street as if he had discovered something of interest going on in
that direction. Presently he picked up a straw and began trying to balance it on
his nose, with his head tilted far back; and as he moved from side to side, in
his efforts, he edged nearer and nearer toward the pansy; finally his bare
foot rested upon it, his pliant toes closed upon it, and he hopped away with the
treasure and disappeared round the corner. But only for a minute—only while he
could button the flower inside his jacket, next his heart—or next his stomach,
possibly, for he was not much posted in anatomy, and not hypercritical, anyway.
now, and hung about the fence till nightfall,
"showing off," as before; but the girl never exhibited herself
again, though Tom comforted himself a little with the hope that she had been near
some window, meantime, and been aware of his attentions. Finally he strode
home reluctantly, with his poor head full of visions.
supper his spirits were so high that his aunt
wondered "what had got into the child." He took a good scolding
about clodding Sid, and did not seem to mind it in the least. He tried to steal sugar
under his aunt's very nose, and got his knuckles rapped for it. He said:
don't whack Sid when he takes it."
don't torment a body the way you do. You'd be always
into that sugar if I warn't watching you."
she stepped into the kitchen, and Sid, happy in his
immunity, reached for the sugar-bowl—a sort of glorying over
Tom which was wellnigh unbearable. But Sid's fingers slipped and the bowl
dropped and broke. Tom was in ecstasies. In such ecstasies that he even controlled his
tongue and was silent. He said to himself that he would not speak a word, even
when his aunt came in, but would sit perfectly still till she asked who did
the mischief; and then he would tell, and there would be nothing so good in the
world as to see that pet model "catch it." He was so brimful of exultation that he
could hardly hold himself when the old lady came back and stood above the wreck
discharging lightnings of wrath from over her spectacles. He said to himself,
"Now it's coming!" And the next instant he was sprawling on the floor! The
potent palm was uplifted to strike again when Tom cried out:
now, what 'er you belting ME for?—Sid broke it!"
paused, perplexed, and Tom looked for healing pity.
But when she got her tongue again, she only said:
you didn't get a lick amiss, I reckon. You been into
some other audacious mischief when I wasn't around, like
conscience reproached her, and she yearned to say
something kind and loving; but she judged that this would be
construed into a confession that she had been in the wrong, and discipline forbade
that. So she kept silence, and went about her affairs with a troubled heart.
Tom sulked in a corner and exalted his woes. He knew that in her heart his aunt
was on her knees to him, and he was morosely gratified by the consciousness of
it. He would hang out no signals, he would take notice of none. He knew that a
yearning glance fell upon him, now and then, through a film of tears, but he refused
recognition of it. He pictured himself lying sick unto death and his aunt
bending over him beseeching one little forgiving word, but he would turn his
face to the wall, and die with that word unsaid. Ah, how would she feel then? And
he pictured himself brought home from the river, dead, with his curls all wet,
and his sore heart at rest. How she would throw herself upon him, and how her
tears would fall like rain, and her lips pray God to give her back her boy
and she would never, never abuse him any more! But he would lie there cold and
white and make no sign—a poor little sufferer, whose griefs were at an end. He so
worked upon his feelings with the pathos of these dreams, that he had to keep
swallowing, he was so like to choke; and his eyes swam in a blur of water, which
overflowed when he winked, and ran down and trickled from the end of his nose.
And such a luxury to him was this petting of his sorrows, that he could not
bear to have any worldly cheeriness or any grating delight intrude upon it; it was
too sacred for such contact; and so, presently, when his cousin Mary danced in,
all alive with the joy of seeing home again after an age-long visit of one week to
the country, he got up and moved in clouds and darkness out at one door as she
brought song and sunshine in at the other.
far from the accustomed haunts of boys, and sought
desolate places that were in harmony with his spirit. A log
raft in the river invited him, and he seated himself on its outer edge and
contemplated the dreary vastness of the stream, wishing, the while, that he could
only be drowned, all at once and unconsciously, without undergoing the
uncomfortable routine devised by nature. Then he thought of his flower. He got it out,
rumpled and wilted, and it mightily increased his dismal felicity. He
wondered if she would pity him if she knew? Would she cry, and wish that she had a
right to put her arms around his neck and comfort him? Or would she turn
coldly away like all the hollow world? This picture brought such an agony of
pleasurable suffering that he worked it over and over again in his mind and set it up
in new and varied lights, till he wore it threadbare. At last he rose up
sighing and departed in the darkness.
half-past nine or ten o'clock he came along the
deserted street to where the Adored Unknown lived; he paused a moment;
no sound fell upon his listening ear; a candle was casting a dull glow upon
the curtain of a second-story window. Was the sacred presence there? He climbed the
fence, threaded his stealthy way through the plants, till he stood under that
window; he looked up at it long, and with emotion; then he laid him down on
the ground under it, disposing himself upon his back, with his hands clasped
upon his breast and holding his poor wilted flower. And thus he would die—out
in the cold world, with no shelter over his homeless head, no friendly hand to
wipe the death-damps from his brow, no loving face to bend pityingly over him
when the great agony came. And thus SHE would see him when she looked out upon
the glad morning, and oh! would she drop one little tear upon his poor, lifeless
form, would she heave one little
sigh to see a bright young life so rudely
blighted, so untimely cut down?
went up, a maid-servant's discordant voice profaned
the holy calm, and a deluge of water drenched the prone
strangling hero sprang up with a relieving snort.
There was a whiz as of a missile in the air, mingled with the murmur
of a curse, a sound as of shivering glass followed, and a small, vague form went
over the fence and shot away in the gloom.
after, as Tom, all undressed for bed, was surveying
his drenched garments by the light of a tallow dip, Sid
woke up; but if he had any dim idea of making any "references to allusions," he
thought better of it and held his peace, for there was danger in Tom's eye.
in without the added vexation of prayers, and Sid
made mental note of the omission.
THE sun rose
upon a tranquil world, and beamed down upon the
peaceful village like a benediction. Breakfast over, Aunt
Polly had family worship: it began with a prayer built from the ground up of solid
courses of Scriptural quotations, welded together with a thin mortar of
originality; and from the summit of this she delivered a grim chapter of the Mosaic
Law, as from Sinai.
girded up his loins, so to speak, and went to work
to "get his verses." Sid had learned his lesson days before. Tom
bent all his energies to the memorizing of five verses, and he chose part
of the Sermon on the Mount, because he could find no verses that were shorter. At
the end of half an hour Tom had a vague general idea of his lesson, but no
more, for his mind was traversing the whole field of human thought, and his hands
were busy with distracting recreations. Mary took his book to hear him
recite, and he tried to find his way through the fog:
blessed are the poor—a—a—"
blessed are the poor in spirit, for they—they—"
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn, for
"S, H, A—"
"For they S,
H—Oh, I don't know what it is!"
for they shall—for they shall—a—a—shall
mourn—a—a—blessed are they that shall—they that—a—they that shall mourn,
for they shall—a—shall WHAT? Why don't you tell me, Mary?—what do you want to
be so mean for?"
you poor thick-headed thing, I'm not teasing you. I
wouldn't do that. You must go and learn it again. Don't you be
discouraged, Tom, you'll manage it—and if you do, I'll give you something
ever so nice. There, now, that's a good boy."
What is it, Mary, tell me what it is."
mind, Tom. You know if I say it's nice, it is nice."
"You bet you
that's so, Mary. All right, I'll tackle it again."
And he did
"tackle it again"—and under the double pressure of
curiosity and prospective gain he did it with such spirit
that he accomplished a shining success. Mary gave him a brand-new "Barlow"
knife worth twelve and a half cents; and the convulsion of delight that swept his
system shook him to his foundations. True, the knife would not cut
anything, but it was a "sure-enough" Barlow, and there was inconceivable grandeur
in that—though where the Western boys ever got the idea that such a weapon
could possibly be counterfeited to its injury is an imposing mystery and will always
remain so, perhaps. Tom contrived to scarify the cupboard with it, and was
arranging to begin on the bureau, when he was called off to dress for Sunday-school.
him a tin basin of water and a piece of soap, and he
went outside the door and set the basin on a little bench
there; then he dipped the soap in the water and laid it down; turned up his
sleeves; poured out the water on the ground, gently, and then entered the kitchen
and began to wipe his face diligently on the towel behind the door. But
Mary removed the towel and said:
you ashamed, Tom. You mustn't be so bad. Water won't
Tom was a
trifle disconcerted. The basin was refilled, and
this time he stood over it a little while, gathering resolution;
took in a big breath and began. When he entered the kitchen presently, with
both eyes shut and groping for the towel with his hands, an honorable testimony
of suds and water was dripping from his face. But when he emerged from the towel,
he was not yet satisfactory, for the clean territory stopped short at his chin
and his jaws, like a mask; below and beyond this line there was a dark expanse
of unirrigated soil that spread downward in front and backward around his
neck. Mary took him in hand, and when she was done with him he was a man and a
brother, without distinction of color, and his saturated hair was neatly brushed,
and its short curls wrought into a dainty and symmetrical general effect. [He
privately smoothed out the curls, with labor and difficulty, and plastered his
hair close down to his head; for he held curls to be effeminate, and his own
filled his life with bitterness.] Then Mary got out a suit of his clothing that had
been used only on Sundays during two years—they were simply called his "other
clothes"—and so by that we know the size of his wardrobe. The girl "put him to
rights" after he had dressed himself; she buttoned his neat roundabout up to his
chin, turned his vast shirt collar down over his shoulders, brushed him off and
crowned him with his speckled straw hat. He now looked exceedingly improved and
uncomfortable. He was fully as uncomfortable as he looked; for there was a
restraint about whole clothes and cleanliness that galled him. He hoped that
Mary would forget his shoes, but the hope was blighted; she coated them thoroughly
with tallow, as was the custom, and brought them out. He lost his temper and
said he was always being made to do everything he didn't want to do. But Mary
Tom—that's a good boy."
So he got
into the shoes snarling. Mary was soon ready, and
the three children set out for Sunday-school—a place that Tom
hated with his whole heart; but Sid and Mary were fond of it.
Sabbath-school hours were from nine to half-past
ten; and then church service. Two of the children always remained for the
sermon voluntarily, and the other always remained too—for stronger reasons. The
church's high-backed, uncushioned pews would seat about three hundred persons;
the edifice was but a small, plain affair, with a sort of pine board tree-box on
top of it for a steeple. At the door Tom dropped back a step and accosted a
got a yaller ticket?"
take for her?"
lickrish and a fish-hook."
exhibited. They were satisfactory, and the property
changed hands. Then Tom traded a couple of white alleys for three red
tickets, and some small trifle or other for a couple of blue ones. He waylaid
other boys as they came, and went on buying tickets of various colors ten or
fifteen minutes longer. He entered the church, now, with a swarm of clean and noisy
boys and girls, proceeded to his seat and started a quarrel with the first boy
that came handy. The teacher, a grave, elderly man, interfered; then turned
his back a moment and Tom pulled a boy's hair in the next bench, and was
absorbed in his book when the boy turned around; stuck a pin in another boy,
presently, in order to hear him say "Ouch!" and got a new reprimand from his teacher.
Tom's whole class were of a pattern—restless, noisy, and troublesome.
When they came to recite their lessons, not one of them knew his verses
perfectly, but had to be prompted all along. However, they worried through, and
each got his reward—in small blue tickets, each with a passage of Scripture on
it; each blue ticket was pay for two verses of the recitation. Ten blue
tickets equalled a red one, and could be exchanged for it; ten red tickets equalled a
yellow one; for ten yellow tickets the superintendent gave a very plainly bound
Bible (worth forty cents in those easy times) to the pupil. How many of my
readers would have the industry and application to memorize two thousand verses,
even for a Dore Bible? And yet Mary had acquired two Bibles in this way—it was
the patient work of two years—and a boy of German parentage had won four or five.
He once recited three thousand verses without stopping; but the strain upon
his mental faculties was too great, and he was little better than an idiot from
that day forth—a grievous misfortune for the school, for on great occasions,
before company, the superintendent (as Tom expressed it) had always made this boy
come out and "spread himself." Only the older pupils managed to keep their
tickets and stick to their tedious work long enough to get a Bible, and so the
delivery of one of these prizes was a rare and noteworthy circumstance; the
successful pupil was so great and conspicuous for that day that on the spot
every scholar's heart was fired with a fresh ambition that often lasted a couple of
weeks. It is possible that Tom's mental stomach had never really hungered for
one of those prizes, but unquestionably his entire being had for many
a day longed for the glory and the eclat that came with it.
course the superintendent stood up in front of the
pulpit, with a closed hymn-book in his hand and his forefinger
inserted between its leaves, and commanded attention. When a Sunday-school
superintendent makes his customary little speech, a hymn-book in the hand is as
necessary as is the inevitable sheet of music in the hand of a singer who
stands forward on the platform and sings a solo at a concert—though why, is a
mystery: for neither the hymn-book nor the sheet of music is ever referred to by
the sufferer. This superintendent was a slim creature of thirty-five, with a
sandy goatee and short sandy hair; he wore a stiff standing-collar whose upper edge
almost reached his ears and whose sharp points curved forward abreast the
corners of his mouth—a fence that compelled a straight lookout ahead, and a
turning of the whole body when a side view was required; his chin was propped on a
spreading cravat which was as broad and as long as a bank-note, and had fringed
ends; his boot toes were turned sharply up, in the fashion of the day, like
sleigh-runners—an effect patiently and laboriously produced by the young men by
sitting with their toes pressed against a wall for hours together. Mr.
Walters was very earnest of mien, and very sincere and honest at heart; and he held
sacred things and places in such reverence, and so separated them from worldly
matters, that unconsciously to himself his Sunday-school voice had acquired
a peculiar intonation which was wholly absent on week-days. He began after
children, I want you all to sit up just as straight
and pretty as you can and give me all your attention for a minute
or two. There—that is it. That is the way good little boys and girls should do.
I see one little girl who is looking out of the window—I am afraid she
thinks I am out there somewhere—perhaps up in one of the trees
making a speech to the little birds. [Applausive titter.] I want to tell you how
good it makes me feel to see so many bright, clean little faces assembled in a
place like this, learning to do right and be good." And so forth and so on. It is
not necessary to set down the rest of the oration. It was of a pattern which
does not vary, and so it is familiar to us all.
third of the speech was marred by the resumption of
fights and other recreations among certain of the bad boys,
and by fidgetings and whisperings that extended far and wide, washing even to
the bases of isolated and incorruptible rocks like Sid and Mary. But
now every sound ceased suddenly, with the subsidence of Mr. Walters' voice, and the
conclusion of the speech was received with a burst of silent gratitude.
A good part
of the whispering had been occasioned by an event
which was more or less rare—the entrance of visitors: lawyer
Thatcher, accompanied by a very feeble and aged man; a fine, portly,
middle-aged gentleman with iron-gray hair; and a dignified lady who was doubtless the
latter's wife. The lady was leading a child. Tom had been restless and full of
chafings and repinings; conscience-smitten, too—he could not meet Amy
Lawrence's eye, he could not brook her loving gaze. But when he saw this small
newcomer his soul was all ablaze with bliss in a moment. The next moment he
was "showing off" with all his might—cuffing boys, pulling hair, making
faces—in a word, using every art that seemed likely to fascinate a girl and win her
applause. His exaltation had but one alloy—the memory of his humiliation in
this angel's garden—and that record in sand was fast washing out, under the waves
of happiness that were sweeping over it now.
were given the highest seat of honor, and as soon as
Mr. Walters' speech was finished, he introduced them to
the school. The middle-aged man turned out to be a prodigious personage—no
less a one than the county judge—altogether the most august creation
these children had ever looked upon—and they wondered what kind of material
he was made of—and they half wanted to hear him roar, and were half afraid he
might, too. He was from Constantinople, twelve miles away—so he had
travelled, and seen the world—these very eyes had looked upon the county
court-house—which was said to have a tin roof. The awe which these reflections
inspired was attested by the impressive silence and the ranks of staring eyes. This
was the great Judge Thatcher, brother of their own lawyer. Jeff Thatcher
immediately went forward, to be familiar with the great man and be envied by
the school. It would have been music to his soul to hear the whisperings:
him, Jim! He's a going up there. Say—look! he's a
going to shake hands with him—he IS shaking hands with him! By
jings, don't you wish you was Jeff?"
fell to "showing off," with all sorts of official
bustlings and activities, giving orders, delivering
judgments, discharging directions here, there, everywhere that he could find a
target. The librarian "showed off"—running hither and thither with his arms
full of books and making a deal of the splutter and fuss that insect authority
delights in. The young lady teachers "showed off"—bending sweetly over pupils that
were lately being boxed, lifting pretty warning fingers at bad little boys and
patting good ones lovingly. The young gentlemen teachers "showed off" with
small scoldings and other little displays of authority and fine attention to
discipline—and most of the teachers, of both sexes, found business up at the
library, by the pulpit; and it was business that frequently had to be done over
again two or three times (with much seeming vexation). The little girls "showed
off" in various ways, and the little boys "showed off" with such diligence that
the air was thick with paper wads and
of scufflings. And above it all the great man sat
and beamed a majestic judicial smile upon all the house,
and warmed himself in the sun of his own grandeur—for he was "showing off," too.
only one thing wanting to make Mr. Walters' ecstasy
complete, and that was a chance to deliver a Bible-prize and
exhibit a prodigy. Several pupils had a few yellow tickets, but none had enough—he
had been around among the star pupils inquiring. He would have given worlds,
now, to have that German lad back again with a sound mind.
And now at
this moment, when hope was dead, Tom Sawyer came
forward with nine yellow tickets, nine red tickets, and ten
blue ones, and demanded a Bible. This was a thunderbolt out of a clear sky. Walters
was not expecting an application from this source for the next ten years. But
there was no getting around it—here were the certified checks, and they were good
for their face. Tom was therefore elevated to a place with the Judge and the
other elect, and the great news was announced from headquarters. It was the most
stunning surprise of the decade, and so profound was the sensation that it
lifted the new hero up to the judicial one's altitude, and the school had two
marvels to gaze upon in place of one. The boys were all eaten up with envy—but those
that suffered the bitterest pangs were those who perceived too late that they
themselves had contributed to this hated splendor by trading tickets to Tom for
the wealth he had amassed in selling whitewashing privileges. These
despised themselves, as being the dupes of a wily fraud, a guileful snake in the
was delivered to Tom with as much effusion as the
superintendent could pump up under the circumstances; but it
lacked somewhat of the true gush, for the poor fellow's instinct taught him that
there was a mystery here that could not well bear the light, perhaps; it was
simply preposterous that this boy had warehoused two thousand sheaves of Scriptural
wisdom on his premises—a dozen would strain his capacity, without a doubt.
was proud and glad, and she tried to make Tom see it
in her face—but he wouldn't look. She wondered; then
she was just a grain troubled; next a dim suspicion came and went—came
again; she watched; a furtive glance told her worlds—and then her heart broke, and
she was jealous, and angry, and the tears came and she hated everybody. Tom
most of all (she thought).
introduced to the Judge; but his tongue was tied,
his breath would hardly come, his heart quaked—partly because
of the awful greatness of the man, but mainly because he was her parent. He
would have liked to fall down and worship him, if it were in the dark. The
Judge put his hand on Tom's head and called him a fine little man, and asked him
what his name was. The boy stammered, gasped, and got it out:
"Oh, no, not
it. I thought there was more to it, maybe. That's
very well. But you've another one I daresay, and you'll tell
it to me, won't you?"
gentleman your other name, Thomas," said Walters,
"and say sir. You mustn't forget your manners."
That's a good boy. Fine boy. Fine, manly little
fellow. Two thousand verses is a great many—very, very great many.
And you never can be sorry for the trouble you took to learn them; for knowledge
is worth more than anything there is in the world; it's what makes great men
and good men; you'll be a great man and a good man yourself, some day, Thomas,
and then you'll look back and say, It's all owing to the precious Sunday-school
privileges of my boyhood—it's all owing to my dear teachers that taught me to
learn—it's all owing to the good superintendent, who encouraged me, and
watched over me, and gave me a beautiful Bible—a splendid elegant Bible—to keep and
have it all for my own, always—it's all owing to right bringing up! That is what
you will say, Thomas—and you wouldn't take any money for those two
thousand verses—no indeed you wouldn't. And now you wouldn't mind telling me and this
lady some of the things you've learned—no, I know you wouldn't—for we are
proud of little boys that learn. Now, no doubt you know the names of all the twelve
disciples. Won't you tell us the names of the first two that were appointed?"
tugging at a button-hole and looking sheepish. He
blushed, now, and his eyes fell. Mr. Walters' heart sank within
him. He said to himself, it is not possible that the boy can answer the simplest
question—why DID the Judge ask him? Yet he felt obliged to speak up and say:
gentleman, Thomas—don't be afraid."
"Now I know
you'll tell me," said the lady. "The names of the
first two disciples were—"
Let us draw
the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene.
half-past ten the cracked bell of the small church
began to ring, and presently the people began to gather for the
morning sermon. The Sunday-school children distributed themselves about the
house and occupied pews with their parents, so as to be under supervision. Aunt
Polly came, and Tom and Sid and Mary sat with her—Tom being placed next the
aisle, in order that he might be as far away from the open window and the
seductive outside summer scenes as possible. The crowd filed up the aisles: the
aged and needy postmaster, who had seen better days; the mayor and his wife—for
they had a mayor there, among other unnecessaries; the justice of the peace; the
widow Douglass, fair, smart, and forty, a generous, good-hearted soul and
well-to-do, her hill mansion the only palace in the town, and the most hospitable
and much the most lavish in the matter of festivities that St. Petersburg
could boast; the bent and venerable Major and Mrs. Ward; lawyer Riverson, the new
notable from a distance; next the belle of the village, followed by a troop of
lawn-clad and ribbon-decked young heart-breakers; then all the young clerks in
town in a body—for they had stood in the vestibule sucking their cane-heads, a
circling wall of oiled and simpering admirers, till the last girl had
run their gantlet; and last of all came the Model Boy, Willie Mufferson, taking
as heedful care of his mother as if she were cut glass. He always brought his
mother to church, and was the pride of all the matrons. The boys all hated him, he
was so good. And besides, he had been "thrown up to them" so much. His white
handkerchief was hanging out of his pocket behind, as usual on
Sundays—accidentally. Tom had no handkerchief, and
looked upon boys who had as snobs.
congregation being fully assembled, now, the bell
rang once more, to warn laggards and stragglers, and then a solemn
hush fell upon the church which was only broken by the tittering and whispering
of the choir in the gallery. The choir always tittered and whispered all
through service. There was once a church choir that was not ill-bred, but I have
forgotten where it was, now. It was a great many years ago, and I can scarcely
remember anything about it, but I think it was in some foreign country.
gave out the hymn, and read it through with a
relish, in a peculiar style which was much admired in that part of
the country. His voice began on a medium key and climbed steadily up till it
reached a certain point, where it bore with strong emphasis upon the topmost
word and then plunged down as if from
Shall I be
car-ri-ed toe the skies, on flow'ry BEDS of ease,
others fight to win the prize, and sail thro'
regarded as a wonderful reader. At church
"sociables" he was always called upon to read poetry; and when he was
through, the ladies would lift up their hands and let them fall helplessly in
their laps, and "wall" their eyes, and shake their heads, as much as to say,
"Words cannot express it; it is too beautiful, TOO beautiful for this mortal
hymn had been sung, the Rev. Mr. Sprague turned
himself into a bulletin-board, and read off "notices" of
meetings and societies and things till it seemed that the list would stretch out to
the crack of doom—a queer custom which is still kept up in America, even in
cities, away here in this age of abundant newspapers. Often, the less there is
to justify a traditional custom, the harder it is to get rid of it.
And now the
minister prayed. A good, generous prayer it was, and
went into details: it pleaded for the church, and the
little children of the church; for the other churches of the village; for the
village itself; for the county; for the State; for the State officers; for the
United States; for the churches of the United States; for Congress; for the
President; for the officers of the Government; for poor sailors, tossed by
stormy seas; for the oppressed millions groaning under the heel of European
monarchies and Oriental despotisms; for such as have the light and the good tidings, and
yet have not eyes to see nor ears to hear withal; for the heathen in the far
islands of the sea; and closed with a supplication that the words he was about to
speak might find grace and favor, and be as seed sown in fertile ground,
yielding in time a grateful harvest of good. Amen.
There was a
rustling of dresses, and the standing congregation
sat down. The boy whose history this book relates did not enjoy
the prayer, he only endured it—if he even did that much. He was restive all
through it; he kept tally of the details of the prayer, unconsciously—for he
was not listening, but he knew the ground of old, and the clergyman's regular
route over it—and when a little trifle of new matter was interlarded, his ear
detected it and his whole nature resented it; he considered additions unfair,
and scoundrelly. In the midst of the prayer a fly had lit on the back of the
pew in front of him and tortured his spirit by calmly rubbing its hands together,
embracing its head with its arms, and polishing it so vigorously that it seemed
to almost part company with the body, and the slender thread of a neck was
exposed to view; scraping its wings with its hind legs and smoothing them to its
body as if they had been coat-tails; going through its whole toilet as
tranquilly as if it knew it was perfectly safe. As indeed it was; for as
sorely as Tom's hands itched to grab for it they did not dare—he believed his soul
would be instantly destroyed if he did such a thing while the prayer was going
on. But with the closing sentence his hand began to curve and steal forward;
and the instant the "Amen" was out the fly was a prisoner of war. His aunt
detected the act and made him let it go.
gave out his text and droned along monotonously
through an argument that was so prosy that many a head by and by
began to nod—and yet it was an argument that dealt in limitless fire and
brimstone and thinned the predestined elect down to a company so small as to be
hardly worth the saving. Tom counted the pages of the sermon; after church he
always knew how many pages there had been, but he seldom knew anything else about
the discourse. However, this time he was really interested for a little while.
The minister made a grand and moving picture of the assembling together of
the world's hosts at the millennium when the lion and the lamb should lie down
together and a little child should lead them. But the pathos, the lesson, the
moral of the great spectacle were lost upon the boy; he only thought of the
conspicuousness of the principal character before the on-looking nations; his
face lit with the thought, and he said to himself that he wished he could be
that child, if it was a tame lion.
lapsed into suffering again, as the dry argument was
resumed. Presently he bethought him of a treasure he had and got
it out. It was a large black beetle with formidable jaws—a "pinchbug," he
called it. It was in a percussion-cap box. The first thing the
beetle did was to take him by the finger. A natural fillip followed, the beetle
went floundering into the aisle and lit on its back, and the hurt finger went
into the boy's mouth. The beetle lay there working its helpless legs, unable
to turn over. Tom eyed it, and longed for it; but it was safe out of his
reach. Other people uninterested in the sermon found relief in the beetle, and
they eyed it too. Presently a vagrant poodle dog came idling along, sad at heart,
lazy with the summer softness and the quiet, weary of captivity, sighing for
change. He spied the beetle; the drooping tail lifted and wagged. He surveyed
the prize; walked around it; smelt at it from a safe distance; walked around it
again; grew bolder, and took a closer smell; then lifted his lip and made a
gingerly snatch at it, just missing it; made another, and another; began to enjoy
the diversion; subsided to his stomach with the beetle between his paws, and
continued his experiments; grew weary at last, and then indifferent and
absent-minded. His head nodded, and little by little his chin descended and
touched the enemy, who seized it. There was a sharp yelp, a flirt of the poodle's
head, and the beetle fell a couple of yards away, and lit on its back once more.
The neighboring spectators shook with a gentle inward joy, several faces went
behind fans and hand-kerchiefs, and Tom was entirely happy. The dog looked foolish,
and probably felt so; but there was resentment in his heart, too, and a craving
for revenge. So he went to the beetle and began a wary attack on it again;
jumping at it from every point of a circle, lighting with his fore-paws within an
inch of the creature, making even closer snatches at it with his teeth, and
jerking his head till his ears flapped again. But he grew tired once more, after a
while; tried to amuse himself with a fly but found no relief; followed an ant
around, with his nose close to the floor, and quickly wearied of that; yawned,
sighed, forgot the beetle entirely, and sat down on it. Then there was a wild
yelp of agony and the poodle went sailing up the aisle; the yelps continued,
and so did the dog; he crossed the house in front of the altar; he flew down the
other aisle; he crossed before the doors; he clamored up the home-stretch; his
anguish grew with his progress, till presently he was but a woolly comet moving in
its orbit with the gleam and the speed of light. At last the frantic sufferer
sheered from its course, and sprang into its master's lap; he flung it out of the
window, and the voice of distress quickly thinned away and died in the
By this time
the whole church was red-faced and suffocating with
suppressed laughter, and the sermon had come to a dead
standstill. The discourse was resumed presently, but it went lame and
halting, all possibility of impressiveness being at an end; for even the
gravest sentiments were constantly being received with a smothered burst of
unholy mirth, under cover of some remote pew-back, as if the poor parson had
said a rarely facetious thing. It was a genuine relief to the whole congregation
when the ordeal was over and the benediction pronounced.
went home quite cheerful, thinking to himself that
there was some satisfaction about divine service when there
was a bit of variety in it. He had but one marring thought; he was willing that
the dog should play with his pinchbug, but he did not think it was upright
in him to carry it off.
morning found Tom Sawyer miserable. Monday morning
always found him so—because it began another week's slow
suffering in school. He generally began that day with wishing he had had no
intervening holiday, it made the going into captivity and fetters again so much more
thinking. Presently it occurred to him that he
wished he was sick; then he could stay home from school. Here was a
vague possibility. He canvassed his system. No ailment was found, and he
investigated again. This time he thought he could detect colicky symptoms, and he began
to encourage them with considerable hope. But they soon grew feeble, and
presently died wholly away. He reflected further. Suddenly he discovered something.
One of his upper front teeth was loose. This was lucky; he was about to begin
to groan, as a "starter," as he called it, when it occurred to him that if he
came into court with that argument, his aunt would pull it out, and
that would hurt. So he thought he would hold the tooth in reserve for the
present, and seek further. Nothing offered for some little time, and then he
remembered hearing the doctor tell about a certain thing that laid up a patient
for two or three weeks and threatened to make him lose a finger. So the
boy eagerly drew his sore toe from under the sheet and held it up for
inspection. But now he did not know the necessary symptoms. However, it seemed well
worth while to chance it, so he fell to groaning with considerable spirit.
slept on unconscious.
louder, and fancied that he began to feel pain in
panting with his exertions by this time. He took a
rest and then swelled himself up and fetched a succession of
aggravated. He said, "Sid, Sid!" and shook him. This
course worked well, and Tom began to groan again. Sid yawned,
stretched, then brought himself up on his elbow with a snort, and began to stare at
Tom. Tom went on groaning. Sid said:
Tom!" [No response.] "Here, Tom! TOM! What is the
matter, Tom?" And he shook him and looked in his face
Sid. Don't joggle me."
the matter, Tom? I must call auntie."
mind. It'll be over by and by, maybe. Don't call
"But I must!
DON'T groan so, Tom, it's awful. How long you been
Ouch! Oh, don't stir so, Sid, you'll kill me."
didn't you wake me sooner? Oh, Tom, DON'T! It makes
my flesh crawl to hear you. Tom, what is the matter?"
you everything, Sid. [Groan.] Everything you've ever
done to me. When I'm gone—"
you ain't dying, are you? Don't, Tom—oh, don't.
everybody, Sid. [Groan.] Tell 'em so, Sid. And Sid,
you give my window-sash and my cat with one eye to that
new girl that's come to town, and tell her—"
But Sid had
snatched his clothes and gone. Tom was suffering in
reality, now, so handsomely was his imagination working, and
so his groans had gathered quite a genuine tone.
downstairs and said:
Polly, come! Tom's dying!"
Don't wait—come quick!"
don't believe it!"
But she fled
upstairs, nevertheless, with Sid and Mary at her
heels. And her face grew white, too, and her lip trembled.
When she reached the bedside she gasped out:
Tom, what's the matter with you?"
matter with you—what is the matter with you, child?"
my sore toe's mortified!"
The old lady
sank down into a chair and laughed a little, then
cried a little, then did both together. This restored her and
"Tom, what a
turn you did give me. Now you shut up that nonsense
and climb out of this."
ceased and the pain vanished from the toe. The boy
felt a little foolish, and he said:
it SEEMED mortified, and it hurt so I never minded
my tooth at all."
indeed! What's the matter with your tooth?"
them's loose, and it aches perfectly awful."
there, now, don't begin that groaning again. Open
your mouth. Well—your tooth IS loose, but you're not going to die
about that. Mary, get me a silk thread, and a chunk of fire out of the
auntie, don't pull it out. It don't hurt any more. I
wish I may never stir if it does. Please don't, auntie.
I don't want to stay home from school."
don't, don't you? So all this row was because you
thought you'd get to stay home from school and go a-fishing? Tom,
Tom, I love you so, and you seem to try every way you can to break my old heart
with your outrageousness." By this time the dental instruments were ready. The
old lady made one end of the silk thread fast to Tom's tooth with a loop and
tied the other to the bedpost. Then she seized the chunk of fire and suddenly
thrust it almost into the boy's face. The tooth hung dangling by the bedpost, now.
trials bring their compensations. As Tom wended to
school after breakfast, he was the envy of every boy he
met because the gap in his upper row of teeth enabled him to expectorate in a new
and admirable way. He gathered quite a following of lads interested in the
exhibition; and one that had cut his finger and had been a centre of fascination
and homage up to this time, now found himself suddenly without an adherent,
and shorn of his glory. His heart was heavy, and he said with a disdain which
he did not feel that it wasn't anything to spit like Tom Sawyer; but another
boy said, "Sour grapes!" and he wandered away a dismantled hero.
came upon the juvenile pariah of the village,
Huckleberry Finn, son of the town drunkard. Huckleberry was
cordially hated and dreaded by all the mothers of the town, because he was idle and
lawless and vulgar and bad—and because all their children admired him so,
and delighted in his forbidden society, and wished they dared to be like
him. Tom was like the rest of the respectable boys, in that he envied
Huckleberry his gaudy outcast condition, and was under strict orders not to play with him.
So he played with him every time he got a chance. Huckleberry was always
dressed in the cast-off clothes of full-grown men, and they were in perennial
bloom and fluttering with rags. His hat was a vast ruin with a wide crescent
lopped out of its brim; his coat, when he wore one, hung nearly to his heels and had
the rearward buttons far down the back; but one suspender supported his
trousers; the seat of the trousers bagged low and contained nothing, the fringed legs
dragged in the dirt when not rolled up.
came and went, at his own free will. He slept on
doorsteps in fine weather and in empty hogsheads in wet; he did
not have to go to school or to church, or call any being master or obey
anybody; he could go fishing or swimming when and where he chose, and stay as
long as it suited him; nobody forbade him to fight; he could sit up as late
as he pleased; he was always the first boy that went barefoot in the spring
and the last to resume leather in the fall; he never had to wash, nor put on clean
clothes; he could swear wonderfully. In a word, everything that goes
to make life precious that boy had. So thought every harassed, hampered,
respectable boy in St. Petersburg.
the romantic outcast:
yourself, and see how you like it."
him, Huck. My, he's pretty stiff. Where'd you get
off'n a boy."
"I give a
blue ticket and a bladder that I got at the
get the blue ticket?"
off'n Ben Rogers two weeks ago for a hoop-stick."
dead cats good for, Huck?"
Cure warts with."
"No! Is that
so? I know something that's better."
"I bet you
don't. What is it?"
"Spunk-water! I wouldn't give a dern for
wouldn't, wouldn't you? D'you ever try it?"
hain't. But Bob Tanner did."
told Jeff Thatcher, and Jeff told Johnny Baker, and
Johnny told Jim Hollis, and Jim told Ben Rogers, and Ben told
a nigger, and the nigger told me.
of it? They'll all lie. Leastways all but the
nigger. I don't know HIM. But I never see a nigger that WOULDN'T
lie. Shucks! Now you tell me how Bob Tanner done it, Huck."
took and dipped his hand in a rotten stump where the
face to the stump?"
I reckon so."
"Did he say
reckon he did. I don't know."
about trying to cure warts with spunk-water such a
blame fool way as that! Why, that ain't a-going to do any good.
You got to go all by yourself, to the middle of the woods, where you know
there's a spunk- water stump, and just as it's midnight you back up against the
stump and jam your hand in and say:
'Barley-corn, barley-corn, injun-meal shorts,
Spunk-water, spunk-water, swaller these warts,'
walk away quick, eleven steps, with your eyes shut,
and then turn around three times and walk home without
speaking to anybody. Because if you speak the charm's busted."
sounds like a good way; but that ain't the way Bob
you can bet he didn't, becuz he's the wartiest boy
in this town; and he wouldn't have a wart on him if he'd knowed
how to work spunk-water. I've took off thousands of warts off of my hands that
way, Huck. I play with frogs so much that I've always got considerable many warts.
Sometimes I take 'em off with a bean."
good. I've done that."
What's your way?"
and split the bean, and cut the wart so as to get
some blood, and then you put the blood on one piece of the bean
and take and dig a hole and bury it 'bout midnight at the crossroads in the dark
of the moon, and then you burn up the rest of the bean. You see that piece
that's got the blood on it will keep drawing and drawing, trying to fetch the
other piece to it, and so that helps the blood to draw the wart, and pretty soon
off she comes."
it, Huck—that's it; though when you're burying it if
you say 'Down bean; off wart; come no more to bother me!'
it's better. That's the way Joe Harper does, and he's been nearly to
Coonville and most everywheres. But say—how do you cure 'em with dead cats?"
take your cat and go and get in the grave-yard 'long
about midnight when somebody that was wicked has been
buried; and when it's midnight a devil will come, or maybe two or three, but you
can't see 'em, you can only hear something like the wind, or maybe hear 'em
talk; and when they're taking that feller away, you heave your cat after 'em and
say, 'Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow cat, I'm done with
ye!' That'll fetch ANY wart."
right. D'you ever try it, Huck?"
"No, but old
Mother Hopkins told me."
reckon it's so, then. Becuz they say she's a witch."
Tom, I KNOW she is. She witched pap. Pap says so his
own self. He come along one day, and he see she was
a-witching him, so he took up a rock, and if she hadn't dodged, he'd a got her. Well,
that very night he rolled off'n a shed wher' he was a layin drunk, and broke
awful. How did he know she was a-witching him?"
can tell, easy. Pap says when they keep looking at
you right stiddy, they're a-witching you. Specially if they
mumble. Becuz when they mumble they're saying the Lord's Prayer backards."
when you going to try the cat?"
reckon they'll come after old Hoss Williams
buried him Saturday. Didn't they get him Saturday
you talk! How could their charms work till
midnight?—and THEN it's Sunday. Devils don't slosh around much of a
Sunday, I don't reckon."
thought of that. That's so. Lemme go with you?"
course—if you ain't afeard."
'Tain't likely. Will you meow?"
meow back, if you get a chance. Last time, you kep'
me a-meowing around till old Hays went to throwing rocks
at me and says 'Dern that cat!' and so I hove a brick through his window—but
don't you tell."
"I won't. I
couldn't meow that night, becuz auntie was watching
me, but I'll meow this time. Say—what's that?"
"Out in the
take for him?"
know. I don't want to sell him."
It's a mighty small tick, anyway."
can run a tick down that don't belong to them. I'm
satisfied with it. It's a good enough tick for me."
there's ticks a plenty. I could have a thousand of
'em if I wanted to."
don't you? Becuz you know mighty well you can't.
This is a pretty early tick, I reckon. It's the first one I've
seen this year."
Huck—I'll give you my tooth for him."
Tom got out
a bit of paper and carefully unrolled it.
Huckleberry viewed it wistfully. The temptation was very strong. At
last he said:
his lip and showed the vacancy.
right," said Huckleberry, "it's a trade."
the tick in the percussion-cap box that had lately
been the pinchbug's prison, and the boys separated,
each feeling wealthier than before.
reached the little isolated frame school-house, he
strode in briskly, with the manner of one who had come with all
honest speed. He hung his hat on a peg and flung himself into his seat with
business-like alacrity. The master, throned on high in his great splint-bottom
arm-chair, was dozing, lulled by the drowsy hum of study. The interruption roused
that when his name was pronounced in full, it meant
here. Now, sir, why are you late again, as usual?"
about to take refuge in a lie, when he saw two long
tails of yellow hair hanging down a back that he recognized by the
electric sympathy of love; and by that form was THE ONLY VACANT PLACE on the
girls' side of the school-house. He instantly said:
TO TALK WITH HUCKLEBERRY FINN!"
pulse stood still, and he stared helplessly. The
buzz of study ceased. The pupils wondered if this foolhardy
boy had lost his mind. The master said:
talk with Huckleberry Finn."
There was no
mistaking the words.
Sawyer, this is the most astounding confession I
have ever listened to. No mere ferule will answer for this offence.
Take off your jacket."
arm performed until it was tired and the stock of
switches notably diminished. Then the order followed:
go and sit with the girls! And let this be a warning
that rippled around the room appeared to abash the
boy, but in reality that result was caused rather more by
his worshipful awe of his unknown idol and the dread pleasure that lay in his
high good fortune. He sat down upon the end of the pine bench and the girl
hitched herself away from him with a toss of her head. Nudges and winks and whispers
traversed the room, but Tom sat still, with his arms upon the long, low desk
before him, and seemed to study his book.
By and by
attention ceased from him, and the accustomed school
murmur rose upon the dull air once more. Presently the boy
began to steal furtive glances at the girl. She observed it, "made a mouth" at him
and gave him the back of her head for the space of a minute. When she
cautiously faced around again, a peach lay before her. She thrust it away. Tom gently
put it back. She thrust it away again, but with less animosity. Tom patiently
returned it to its place. Then she let it remain. Tom scrawled on his slate,
"Please take it—I got more." The girl glanced at the words, but made no sign. Now
the boy began to draw something on the slate, hiding his work with his left
hand. For a time the girl refused to notice; but her human curiosity presently
began to manifest itself by hardly perceptible signs. The boy worked on,
apparently unconscious. The girl made a sort of non-committal attempt to see, but the
boy did not betray that he was aware of it. At last she gave in and
"Let me see
uncovered a dismal caricature of a house with two
gable ends to it and a corkscrew of smoke issuing from the
chimney. Then the girl's interest began to fasten itself upon the work and she
forgot everything else. When it was finished, she gazed a moment, then whispered:
nice—make a man."
erected a man in the front yard, that resembled a
derrick. He could have stepped over the house; but the girl was
not hypercritical; she was satisfied with the monster, and whispered:
beautiful man—now make me coming along."
Tom drew an
hour-glass with a full moon and straw limbs to it
and armed the spreading fingers with a portentous fan. The
so nice—I wish I could draw."
whispered Tom, "I'll learn you."
"At noon. Do
you go home to dinner?"
if you will."
a whack. What's your name?"
Thatcher. What's yours? Oh, I know. It's Thomas
name they lick me by. I'm Tom when I'm good. You
call me Tom, will you?"
began to scrawl something on the slate, hiding the
words from the girl. But she was not backward this time. She
begged to see. Tom said:
"Yes it is."
ain't. You don't want to see."
"Yes I do,
indeed I do. Please let me."
won't—deed and deed and double deed won't."
tell anybody at all? Ever, as long as you live?"
"No, I won't
ever tell ANYbody. Now let me."
don't want to see!"
you treat me so, I WILL see." And she put her small
hand upon his and a little scuffle ensued, Tom pretending to
resist in earnest but letting his hand slip by degrees till these words were
revealed: "I LOVE YOU."
"Oh, you bad
thing!" And she hit his hand a smart rap, but
reddened and looked pleased, nevertheless.
Just at this
juncture the boy felt a slow, fateful grip closing
on his ear, and a steady lifting impulse. In that wise he was
borne across the house and deposited in his own seat, under a peppering
fire of giggles from the whole school. Then the master stood over him during
a few awful moments, and finally moved away to his throne without saying a
word. But although Tom's ear tingled, his heart was jubilant.
school quieted down Tom made an honest effort to
study, but the turmoil within him was too great. In turn he took his
place in the reading class and
made a botch of it; then in the geography
class and turned lakes into mountains, mountains into rivers, and rivers into
continents, till chaos was come again; then in the spelling class, and got "turned
down," by a succession of mere baby words, till he brought up at the foot and
yielded up the pewter medal which he had worn with ostentation for months.
Tom tried to fasten his mind on his book, the more
his ideas wandered. So at last, with a sigh and a yawn,
he gave it up. It seemed to him that the noon recess would never come. The
air was utterly dead. There was not a breath stirring. It was the sleepiest of
sleepy days. The drowsing murmur of the five and twenty studying scholars soothed the
soul like the spell that is in the murmur of bees. Away off in the flaming
sunshine, Cardiff Hill lifted its soft green sides through a shimmering veil of
heat, tinted with the purple of distance; a few birds floated on lazy wing
high in the air; no other living thing was visible but some cows, and they
were asleep. Tom's heart ached to be free, or else to have something of interest
to do to pass the dreary time. His hand wandered into his pocket and his face
lit up with a glow of gratitude that was prayer, though he did not know it. Then
furtively the percussion-cap box came out. He released the tick and put him on
the long flat desk. The creature probably glowed with a gratitude that
amounted to prayer, too, at this moment, but it was premature: for when he started
thankfully to travel off, Tom turned him aside with a pin and made him take a new
friend sat next him, suffering just as Tom had been,
and now he was deeply and gratefully interested in this
entertainment in an instant. This bosom friend was Joe Harper. The two boys were
sworn friends all the week, and embattled enemies on Saturdays. Joe took a
pin out of his lapel and began to assist in exercising the prisoner. The sport
grew in interest momently. Soon Tom said that they were interfering with each
other, and neither getting the fullest benefit of the tick. So he put Joe's slate on
the desk and drew a line down the middle of it from top to bottom.
he, "as long as he is on your side you can stir him
up and I'll let him alone; but if you let him get away and
get on my side, you're to leave him alone as long as I can keep him from crossing
go ahead; start him up."
escaped from Tom, presently, and crossed the
equator. Joe harassed him awhile, and then he got away and crossed back
again. This change of base occurred often. While one boy was worrying
the tick with absorbing interest, the other would look on with interest as strong,
the two heads bowed together over the slate, and the two souls dead to all
things else. At last luck seemed to settle and abide with Joe. The tick tried
this, that, and the other course, and got as excited and as anxious as the boys
themselves, but time and again just as he would have victory in his very grasp, so
to speak, and Tom's fingers would be twitching to begin, Joe's pin would deftly
head him off, and keep possession. At last Tom could stand it no longer. The
temptation was too strong. So he reached out and lent a hand with his pin. Joe was
angry in a moment. Said he:
let him alone."
"I only just
want to stir him up a little, Joe."
"No, sir, it
ain't fair; you just let him alone."
"Blame it, I
ain't going to stir him much."
alone, I tell you."
shall—he's on my side of the line."
Joe Harper, whose is that tick?"
care whose tick he is—he's on my side of the line,
and you sha'n't touch him."
just bet I will, though. He's my tick and I'll do
what I blame please with him, or die!"
whack came down on Tom's shoulders, and its
duplicate on Joe's; and for the space of two minutes the dust
continued to fly from the two jackets and the whole school to enjoy it. The boys had
been too absorbed to notice the hush that had stolen upon the school awhile before
when the master came tiptoeing down the room and stood over them. He had
contemplated a good part of the performance before he contributed his bit of
variety to it.
broke up at noon, Tom flew to Becky Thatcher, and
whispered in her ear:
"Put on your
bonnet and let on you're going home; and when you
get to the corner, give the rest of 'em the slip, and
turn down through the lane and come back. I'll go the other way and come it over
'em the same way."
So the one
went off with one group of scholars, and the other
with another. In a little while the two met at the bottom of the
lane, and when they reached the school they had it all to themselves. Then
they sat together, with a slate before them, and Tom gave Becky the pencil
and held her hand in his, guiding it, and so created another surprising house. When
the interest in art began to wane, the two fell to talking. Tom was swimming in
bliss. He said:
"Do you love
"No! I hate
"Well, I do,
too—LIVE ones. But I mean dead ones, to swing round
your head with a string."
"No, I don't
care for rats much, anyway. What I like is
should say so! I wish I had some now."
I've got some. I'll let you chew it awhile, but you
must give it back to me."
agreeable, so they chewed it turn about, and dangled
their legs against the bench in excess of contentment.
ever at a circus?" said Tom.
"Yes, and my
pa's going to take me again some time, if I'm good."
"I been to
the circus three or four times—lots of times. Church
ain't shucks to a circus. There's things going on at a circus
all the time. I'm going to be a clown in a circus when I grow up."
you! That will be nice. They're so lovely, all
so. And they get slathers of money—most a dollar a
day, Ben Rogers says. Say, Becky, was you ever engaged?"
engaged to be married."
so. I don't know. What is it like?"
it ain't like anything. You only just tell a boy you
won't ever have anybody but him, ever ever ever, and then you
kiss and that's all. Anybody can do it."
do you kiss for?"
you know, is to—well, they always do that."
everybody that's in love with each other. Do you
remember what I wrote on the slate?"
some other time."
NOW. Please, Becky—I'll whisper it, I'll whisper it
ever so easy."
hesitating, Tom took silence for consent, and passed
his arm about her waist and whispered the tale ever so softly,
with his mouth close to her ear. And then he added:
whisper it to me—just the same."
resisted, for a while, and then said:
your face away so you can't see, and then I will.
But you mustn't ever tell anybody—WILL you, Tom? Now you won't,
indeed I won't. Now, Becky."
his face away. She bent timidly around till her
breath stirred his curls and whispered, "I—love—you!"
sprang away and ran around and around the desks and
benches, with Tom after her, and took refuge in a corner at
last, with her little white apron to her face. Tom clasped her about her neck and
it's all done—all over but the kiss. Don't you be
afraid of that—it ain't anything at all. Please, Becky." And he
tugged at her apron and the hands.
By and by
she gave up, and let her hands drop; her face, all
glowing with the struggle, came up and submitted. Tom kissed
the red lips and said:
all done, Becky. And always after this, you know,
you ain't ever to love anybody but me, and you ain't ever to
marry anybody but me, ever never and forever. Will you?"
never love anybody but you, Tom, and I'll never
marry anybody but you—and you ain't to ever marry anybody but
Of course. That's PART of it. And always coming to
school or when we're going home, you're to walk with me,
when there ain't anybody looking—and you choose me and I choose you at parties,
because that's the way you do when you're engaged."
nice. I never heard of it before."
ever so gay! Why, me and Amy Lawrence—"
The big eyes
told Tom his blunder and he stopped, confused.
Then I ain't the first you've ever been engaged to!"
began to cry. Tom said:
cry, Becky, I don't care for her any more."
do, Tom—you know you do."
Tom tried to
put his arm about her neck, but she pushed him away
and turned her face to the wall, and went on crying. Tom
tried again, with soothing words in his mouth, and was repulsed again. Then his
pride was up, and he strode away and went outside. He stood about, restless and
uneasy, for a while, glancing at the door, every now and then, hoping she would
repent and come to find him. But she did not. Then he began to feel badly and fear
that he was in the wrong. It was a hard struggle with him to make new advances,
now, but he nerved himself to it and entered. She was still standing back
there in the corner, sobbing, with her face to the wall. Tom's heart smote him. He
went to her and stood a moment, not knowing exactly how to proceed. Then he said
don't care for anybody but you."
"Becky"—pleadingly. "Becky, won't you say
Tom got out
his chiefest jewel, a brass knob from the top of an
andiron, and passed it around her so that she could see
it, and said:
Becky, won't you take it?"
it to the floor. Then Tom marched out of the house
and over the hills and far away, to return to school no more
that day. Presently Becky began to suspect. She ran to the door; he was not in
sight; she flew around to the play-yard; he was not there. Then she called:
intently, but there was no answer. She had no
companions but silence and loneliness. So she sat down to
cry again and upbraid herself; and by this time the scholars began to gather again,
and she had to hide her griefs and still her broken heart and take up the cross
of a long, dreary, aching afternoon, with none among the strangers
about her to exchange sorrows with.
hither and thither through lanes until he was well
out of the track of returning scholars, and then fell into a
moody jog. He crossed a small "branch" two or three times, because of a
prevailing juvenile superstition that to cross water baffled pursuit. Half an hour
later he was disappearing behind the Douglas mansion on the summit of Cardiff
Hill, and the school-house was hardly distinguishable away off in the valley
behind him. He entered a dense wood, picked his pathless way to the centre
of it, and sat down on a mossy spot under a spreading oak. There was not even a
zephyr stirring; the dead noonday heat had even stilled the songs of the birds;
nature lay in a trance that was broken by no sound but the occasional far-off
hammering of a wood-pecker, and this seemed to render the pervading silence
and sense of loneliness the more profound. The boy's soul was steeped in
melancholy; his feelings were in happy accord with his surroundings. He sat long
with his elbows on his knees and his chin in his hands, meditating. It seemed to
him that life was but a trouble, at best, and he more than half envied Jimmy
Hodges, so lately released; it must be very peaceful, he thought, to lie and slumber
and dream forever and ever, with the wind whispering through the trees and
caressing the grass and the flowers over the grave, and nothing to bother and
grieve about, ever any more. If he only had a clean Sunday-school record he
could be willing to go, and be done with it all. Now as to this girl. What had he
done? Nothing. He had meant the best in the world, and been treated like a
dog—like a very dog. She would be sorry some day—maybe when it was too late.
Ah, if he could only die TEMPORARILY!
elastic heart of youth cannot be compressed into one
constrained shape long at a time. Tom presently began to drift
insensibly back into the concerns of this life again. What if he turned his
back, now, and disappeared mysteriously? What if he went away—ever so
far away, into unknown countries beyond the seas—and never came back any more!
How would she feel then! The idea of being a clown recurred to him now, only to
fill him with disgust. For frivolity and jokes and spotted tights were
an offense, when they intruded themselves upon a spirit that was exalted
into the vague august realm of the romantic. No, he would be a soldier, and
return after long years, all war-worn and illustrious. No—better still, he would
join the Indians, and hunt buffaloes and go on the warpath in the mountain ranges
and the trackless great plains of the Far West, and away in the future come
back a great chief, bristling with feathers, hideous with paint, and prance into
Sunday-school, some drowsy summer morning, with a blood-curdling war-whoop, and
sear the eyeballs of all his companions with unappeasable envy. But no,
there was something gaudier even than this. He would be a pirate! That was it! NOW
his future lay plain before him, and glowing with unimaginable splendor. How
his name would fill the world, and make people shudder! How gloriously he would
go plowing the dancing seas, in his long, low, black-hulled racer, the Spirit of
the Storm, with his grisly flag flying at the fore! And at the zenith of his
fame, how he would suddenly appear at the old village and stalk into church,
brown and weather-beaten, in his black velvet doublet and trunks, his great
jack-boots, his crimson sash, his belt bristling with horse-pistols, his
crime-rusted cutlass at his side, his slouch hat with waving plumes, his black flag
unfurled, with the skull and crossbones on it, and hear with swelling ecstasy the
whisperings, "It's Tom Sawyer the Pirate!—the Black Avenger of the Spanish
Yes, it was
settled; his career was determined. He would run
away from home and enter upon it. He would start the very next
morning. Therefore he must now begin to get ready. He would collect his resources
together. He went to a rotten log near at hand and began to dig under one end
of it with his Barlow knife. He soon struck wood that sounded hollow. He put his
hand there and uttered this incantation impressively:
come here, come! What's here, stay here!"
scraped away the dirt, and exposed a pine shingle.
He took it up and disclosed a shapely little treasure-house
whose bottom and sides were of shingles. In it lay a marble. Tom's
astonishment was bound-less! He scratched his head with a perplexed air, and said:
tossed the marble away pettishly, and stood
cogitating. The truth was, that a superstition of his had failed, here,
which he and all his comrades had always looked upon as infallible. If you
buried a marble with certain necessary incantations, and left it alone a fortnight,
and then opened the place with the incantation he had just used, you would find
that all the marbles you had ever lost had gathered themselves together there,
meantime, no matter how widely they had been separated. But now, this thing had
actually and unquestionably failed. Tom's whole structure of faith was shaken to
its foundations. He had many a time heard of this thing succeeding but never of
its failing before. It did not occur to him that he had tried it several times
before, himself, but could never find the hiding-places afterward. He puzzled over
the matter some time, and finally decided that some witch had interfered and
broken the charm. He thought he would satisfy himself on that point; so he searched
around till he found a small sandy spot with a little funnel-shaped depression
in it. He laid himself down and put his mouth close to this depression and
doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know! Doodle-bug,
doodle-bug, tell me what I want to know!"
began to work, and presently a small black bug
appeared for a second and then darted under again in a fright.
tell! So it WAS a witch that done it. I just knowed
He well knew
the futility of trying to contend against witches,
so he gave up discouraged. But it occurred to him that he
might as well have the marble he had just thrown away, and therefore he went and
made a patient search for it. But he could not find it. Now he went back to his
treasure-house and carefully placed himself just as he had been standing when he
tossed the marble away; then he took another marble from his pocket and
tossed it in the same way, saying:
find your brother!"
where it stopped, and went there and looked. But it
must have fallen short or gone too far; so he tried twice
more. The last repetition was successful. The two marbles lay within a foot
of each other.
the blast of a toy tin trumpet came faintly down the
green aisles of the
forest. Tom flung off his jacket and trousers,
turned a suspender into a belt, raked away some brush behind the rotten
log, disclosing a rude bow and arrow, a lath sword and a tin trumpet, and in
a moment had seized these things and bounded away, barelegged, with fluttering
shirt. He presently halted under a great elm, blew an answering blast, and then
began to tiptoe and look warily out, this way and that. He said cautiously—to
an imaginary company:
merry men! Keep hid till I blow."
Joe Harper, as airily clad and elaborately armed as
Tom. Tom called:
comes here into Sherwood Forest without my pass?"
Guisborne wants no man's pass. Who art thou
hold such language," said Tom, prompting—for they
talked "by the book," from memory.
thou that dares to hold such language?"
I am Robin Hood, as thy caitiff carcase soon shall
thou indeed that famous outlaw? Right gladly will I
dispute with thee the passes of the merry wood. Have at thee!"
their lath swords, dumped their other traps on the
ground, struck a fencing attitude, foot to foot, and began a
grave, careful combat, "two up and two down." Presently Tom said:
you've got the hang, go it lively!"
"went it lively," panting and perspiring with the
work. By and by Tom shouted:
Why don't you fall?"
Why don't you fall yourself? You're getting the
worst of it."
ain't anything. I can't fall; that ain't the way it
is in the book. The book says, 'Then with one back-handed
stroke he slew poor Guy of Guisborne.' You're to turn around and let me hit you in
There was no
getting around the authorities, so Joe turned,
received the whack and fell.
Joe, getting up, "you got to let me kill YOU. That's
can't do that, it ain't in the book."
blamed mean—that's all."
Joe, you can be Friar Tuck or Much the miller's son,
and lam me with a quarter-staff; or I'll be the Sheriff of
Nottingham and you be Robin Hood a little while and kill me."
satisfactory, and so these adventures were carried
out. Then Tom became Robin Hood again, and was allowed by the
treacherous nun to bleed his strength away through his neglected wound. And at last
Joe, representing a whole tribe of weeping outlaws, dragged him sadly forth,
gave his bow into his feeble hands, and Tom said, "Where this arrow falls, there
bury poor Robin Hood under the greenwood tree." Then he shot the arrow and
fell back and would have died, but he lit on a nettle and sprang up too gaily
for a corpse.
dressed themselves, hid their accoutrements, and
went off grieving that there were no outlaws any more, and wondering
what modern civilization could claim to have done to compensate for their
loss. They said they would rather be outlaws a year in Sherwood Forest than
President of the United States forever.
nine, that night, Tom and Sid were sent to bed, as
usual. They said their prayers, and Sid was soon asleep. Tom
lay awake and waited, in restless impatience. When it seemed to him that it
must be nearly daylight, he heard the clock strike ten! This was despair. He would
have tossed and fidgeted, as his nerves demanded, but he was afraid he might
wake Sid. So he lay still, and stared up into the dark. Everything was
dismally still. By and by, out of the stillness, little, scarcely perceptible
noises began to emphasize themselves. The ticking of the clock began to bring
itself into notice. Old beams began to crack mysteriously. The stairs creaked
faintly. Evidently spirits were abroad. A measured, muffled snore issued from Aunt
Polly's chamber. And now the tiresome chirping of a cricket that no human ingenuity
could locate, began. Next the ghastly ticking of a death-watch in the wall
at the bed's head made Tom shudder—it meant that somebody's days were
numbered. Then the howl of a far-off dog rose on the night air, and was answered
by a fainter howl from a remoter distance. Tom was in an agony. At last he was
satisfied that time had ceased and eternity begun; he began to doze, in spite of
himself; the clock chimed eleven, but he did not hear it. And then there came,
mingling with his half-formed dreams, a most melancholy caterwauling. The
raising of a neighboring window disturbed him. A cry of "Scat! you devil!"
and the crash of an empty bottle against the back of his aunt's woodshed
brought him wide awake, and a single minute later he was dressed and out of the
window and creeping along the roof of the "ell" on all fours. He "meow'd" with
caution once or twice, as he went; then jumped to the roof of the woodshed and thence
to the ground. Huckleberry Finn was there, with his dead cat. The boys moved
off and disappeared in the gloom. At the end of half an hour they were wading
through the tall grass of the graveyard.
It was a
graveyard of the old-fashioned Western kind. It was
on a hill, about a mile and a half from the village. It had a
crazy board fence around it, which leaned inward in places, and outward the rest
of the time, but stood upright nowhere. Grass and weeds grew rank over the
whole cemetery. All the old graves were sunken in, there was not a tombstone on
the place; round-topped, worm-eaten boards staggered over the graves, leaning for
support and finding none. "Sacred to the memory of" So-and-So had been painted
on them once, but it could no longer have been read, on the most of them,
now, even if there had been light.
A faint wind
moaned through the trees, and Tom feared it might be
the spirits of the dead, complaining at being disturbed. The
boys talked little, and only under their breath, for the time and the place and
the pervading solemnity and silence oppressed their spirits. They found the sharp
new heap they were seeking, and ensconced themselves within the protection of
three great elms that grew in a bunch within a few feet of the grave.
waited in silence for what seemed a long time. The
hooting of a distant owl was all the sound that troubled
the dead stillness. Tom's reflections grew oppressive. He must force
some talk. So he said in a whisper:
you believe the dead people like it for us to be
"I wisht I
knowed. It's awful solemn like, AIN'T it?"
"I bet it
There was a
considerable pause, while the boys canvassed this
matter inwardly. Then Tom whispered:
Hucky—do you reckon Hoss Williams hears us talking?"
he does. Least his sperrit does."
Tom, after a
"I wish I'd
said Mister Williams. But I never meant any harm.
Everybody calls him Hoss."
can't be too partic'lar how they talk 'bout
these-yer dead people, Tom."
This was a
damper, and conversation died again.
Tom seized his comrade's arm and said:
"What is it,
Tom?" And the two clung together with beating
'tis again! Didn't you hear it?"
you hear it."
they're coming! They're coming, sure. What'll we
Think they'll see us?"
they can see in the dark, same as cats. I wisht I
be afeard. I don't believe they'll bother us. We
ain't doing any harm. If we keep perfectly still, maybe they
won't notice us at all."
to, Tom, but, Lord, I'm all of a shiver."
bent their heads together and scarcely breathed. A
muffled sound of voices floated up from the far end of the
there!" whispered Tom. "What is it?"
devil-fire. Oh, Tom, this is awful."
figures approached through the gloom, swinging an
old-fashioned tin lantern that freckled the ground with
innumerable little spangles of light. Presently Huckleberry whispered with a
devils sure enough. Three of 'em! Lordy, Tom, we're
goners! Can you pray?"
but don't you be afeard. They ain't going to hurt
us. 'Now I lay me down to sleep, I—'"
"What is it,
HUMANS! One of 'em is, anyway. One of 'em's old Muff
so, is it?"
"I bet I
know it. Don't you stir nor budge. He ain't sharp
enough to notice us. Drunk, the same as usual, likely—blamed old
I'll keep still. Now they're stuck. Can't find it.
Here they come again. Now they're hot. Cold again. Hot
again. Red hot! They're p'inted right, this time. Say, Huck, I know another o' them
voices; it's Injun Joe."
so—that murderin' half-breed! I'd druther they was
devils a dern sight. What kin they be up to?"
died wholly out, now, for the three men had reached
the grave and stood within a few feet of the boys'
is," said the third voice; and the owner of it held
the lantern up and revealed the face of young Doctor Robinson.
Injun Joe were carrying a handbarrow with a rope and
a couple of shovels on it. They cast down their load and
began to open the grave. The doctor put the lantern at the head of the grave and
came and sat down with his back against one of the elm trees. He was so close
the boys could have touched him.
men!" he said, in a low voice; "the moon might come
out at any moment."
a response and went on digging. For some time there
was no noise but the grating sound of the spades
discharging their freight of mould and gravel. It was very monotonous. Finally a
spade struck upon the coffin with a dull woody accent, and within another minute
or two the men had hoisted it out
on the ground. They pried off the lid with
their shovels, got out the body and dumped it rudely on the ground. The moon
drifted from behind the clouds and exposed the pallid face. The barrow was got
ready and the corpse placed on it, covered with a blanket, and bound to its
place with the rope. Potter took out a large spring-knife and cut off the dangling
end of the rope and then said:
cussed thing's ready, Sawbones, and you'll just out
with another five, or here she stays."
talk!" said Injun Joe.
what does this mean?" said the doctor. "You required
your pay in advance, and I've paid you."
you done more than that," said Injun Joe,
approaching the doctor, who was now standing. "Five years ago you drove
me away from your father's kitchen one night, when I come to ask for something
to eat, and you said I warn't there for any good; and when I swore I'd get even
with you if it took a hundred years, your father had me jailed for a vagrant. Did
you think I'd forget? The Injun blood ain't in me for nothing. And now I've
GOT you, and you got to SETTLE, you know!"
threatening the doctor, with his fist in his face,
by this time. The doctor struck out suddenly and stretched the
ruffian on the ground. Potter dropped his knife, and exclaimed:
don't you hit my pard!" and the next moment he had
grappled with the doctor and the two were struggling with might
and main, trampling the grass and tearing the ground with their heels. Injun
Joe sprang to his feet, his eyes flaming with passion, snatched up Potter's
knife, and went creeping, catlike and stooping, round and round about the
combatants, seeking an opportunity. All at once the doctor flung himself free, seized
the heavy headboard of Williams' grave and felled Potter to the earth with
it—and in the same instant the half-breed saw his chance and drove the knife
to the hilt in the young man's breast. He reeled and fell partly upon
Potter, flooding him with his blood, and in the same moment the clouds blotted out the
dreadful spectacle and the two frightened boys went speeding away in the
when the moon emerged again, Injun Joe was standing
over the two forms, contemplating them. The doctor
murmured inarticulately, gave a long gasp or two and was still. The half-breed
is settled—damn you."
robbed the body. After which he put the fatal knife
in Potter's open right hand, and sat down on the dismantled
coffin. Three—four—five minutes passed, and then Potter began to stir and
moan. His hand closed upon the knife; he raised it, glanced at it, and let it fall,
with a shudder. Then he sat up, pushing the body from him, and gazed at it,
and then around him, confusedly. His eyes met Joe's.
is this, Joe?" he said.
dirty business," said Joe, without moving.
you do it for?"
"I! I never
That kind of talk won't wash."
trembled and grew white.
I'd got sober. I'd no business to drink to-night.
But it's in my head yet—worse'n when we started here. I'm all in
a muddle; can't recollect anything of it, hardly. Tell me, Joe—HONEST, now, old
feller—did I do it? Joe, I never meant to—'pon my soul and honor, I never
meant to, Joe. Tell me how it was, Joe. Oh, it's awful—and him so young and
two was scuffling, and he fetched you one with the
headboard and you fell flat; and then up you come, all reeling
and staggering like, and snatched the knife and jammed it into him, just as he
fetched you another awful clip—and here you've laid, as dead as a wedge til
didn't know what I was a-doing. I wish I may die
this minute if I did. It was all on account of the whiskey and the
excitement, I reckon. I never used a weepon in my life before, Joe. I've fought,
but never with weepons. They'll all say that. Joe, don't tell! Say you won't
tell, Joe—that's a good feller. I always liked you, Joe, and stood up for you,
too. Don't you remember? You WON'T tell, WILL you, Joe?" And the poor creature
dropped on his knees before the stolid murderer, and clasped his appealing
always been fair and square with me, Muff Potter,
and I won't go back on you. There, now, that's as fair as a
man can say."
you're an angel. I'll bless you for this the longest
day I live." And Potter began to cry.
that's enough of that. This ain't any time for
blubbering. You be off yonder way and I'll go this. Move, now,
and don't leave any tracks behind you."
started on a trot that quickly increased to a run.
The half-breed stood looking after him. He muttered:
"If he's as
much stunned with the lick and fuddled with the rum
as he had the look of being, he won't think of the knife
till he's gone so far he'll be afraid to come back after it to such a place by
Two or three
minutes later the murdered man, the blanketed
corpse, the lidless coffin, and the open grave were under no
inspection but the moon's. The stillness was complete again, too.
THE two boys
flew on and on, toward the village, speechless with
horror. They glanced backward over their shoulders from
time to time, apprehensively, as if they feared they might be followed. Every
stump that started up in their path seemed a man and an enemy, and made them
catch their breath; and as they sped by some outlying cottages that lay near the
village, the barking of the aroused watch-dogs seemed to give wings to their
"If we can
only get to the old tannery before we break down!"
whispered Tom, in short catches between breaths. "I can't stand
it much longer."
Huckleberry's hard pantings were his only reply, and
the boys fixed their eyes on the goal of their hopes and bent to their
work to win it. They gained steadily on it, and at last, breast to
breast, they burst through the open door and fell grateful and exhausted in the
sheltering shadows beyond. By and by their pulses slowed down, and Tom whispered:
"Huckleberry, what do you reckon'll come of this?"
Robinson dies, I reckon hanging'll come of it."
"Why, I KNOW
a while, then he said:
you talking about? S'pose something happened and
Injun Joe DIDN'T hang? Why, he'd kill us some time or other,
just as dead sure as we're a laying here."
what I was thinking to myself, Huck."
tells, let Muff Potter do it, if he's fool enough.
He's generally drunk enough."
nothing—went on thinking. Presently he whispered:
Potter don't know it. How can he tell?"
reason he don't know it?"
he'd just got that whack when Injun Joe done it.
D'you reckon he could see anything? D'you reckon he knowed
that's so, Tom!"
besides, look-a-here—maybe that whack done for HIM!"
likely, Tom. He had liquor in him; I could see that;
and besides, he always has. Well, when pap's full, you might
take and belt him over the head with a church and you couldn't phase him. He
says so, his own self. So it's the same with Muff Potter, of course. But if a
man was dead sober, I reckon maybe that whack might fetch him; I dono."
another reflective silence, Tom said:
sure you can keep mum?"
"Tom, we GOT
to keep mum. You know that. That Injun devil
wouldn't make any more of drownding us than a couple of cats, if we
was to squeak 'bout this and they didn't hang him. Now, look-a-here, Tom, less
take and swear to one another—that's what we got to do—swear to
It's the best thing. Would you just hold hands and
swear that we—"
"Oh no, that
wouldn't do for this. That's good enough for little
rubbishy common things—specially with gals, cuz THEY go back
on you anyway, and blab if they get in a huff—but there orter be writing 'bout a
big thing like this. And blood."
being applauded this idea. It was deep, and dark,
and awful; the hour, the circumstances, the surroundings,
were in keeping with it. He picked up a clean pine shingle that lay in the
moon-light, took a little fragment of "red keel" out of his pocket, got the moon on his
work, and painfully scrawled these lines, emphasizing each slow down-stroke by
clamping his tongue between his teeth, and letting up the pressure on the
up-strokes. [See next page.]
and Tom Sawyer swears they will keep mum about This
and They wish They may Drop down dead in Their Tracks if
They ever Tell and Rot."
was filled with admiration of Tom's facility in
writing, and the sublimity of his language. He at once took a
pin from his lapel and was going to prick his flesh, but Tom said:
Don't do that. A pin's brass. It might have
verdigrease on it."
p'ison. That's what it is. You just swaller some of
it once—you'll see."
unwound the thread from one of his needles, and each
boy pricked the ball of his thumb and squeezed out a drop of
blood. In time, after many squeezes, Tom managed to sign his initials, using the ball
of his little finger for a pen. Then he showed Huckleberry how to make an H
and an F, and the oath was complete. They buried the shingle close to the wall,
with some dismal ceremonies and incantations, and the fetters that bound
their tongues were considered to be locked and the key thrown away.
crept stealthily through a break in the other end of
the ruined building, now, but they did not notice it.
whispered Huckleberry, "does this keep us from EVER
it does. It don't make any difference WHAT happens,
we got to keep mum. We'd drop down dead—don't YOU know
reckon that's so."
continued to whisper for some little time. Presently
a dog set up a long, lugubrious howl just outside—within ten feet
of them. The boys clasped each other suddenly, in an agony of fright.
"Which of us
does he mean?" gasped Huckleberry.
through the crack. Quick!"
can't DO it, Huck!"
Tom. There 'tis again!"
I'm thankful!" whispered Tom. "I know his voice.
It's Bull Harbison." *
[* If Mr.
Harbison owned a slave named Bull, Tom would have
spoken of him as "Harbison's Bull," but a son or a dog of that
name was "Bull Harbison."]
good—I tell you, Tom, I was most scared to death;
I'd a bet anything it was a STRAY dog."
howled again. The boys' hearts sank once more.
that ain't no Bull Harbison!" whispered Huckleberry.
with fear, yielded, and put his eye to the crack.
His whisper was hardly audible when he said:
IT S A STRAY DOG!"
quick! Who does he mean?"
must mean us both—we're right together."
"Oh, Tom, I
reckon we're goners. I reckon there ain't no mistake
'bout where I'LL go to. I been so wicked."
it! This comes of playing hookey and doing
everything a feller's told NOT to do. I might a been good, like Sid, if
I'd a tried—but no, I wouldn't, of course. But if ever I get off this time, I
lay I'll just WALLER in Sunday-schools!" And Tom began to snuffle a
and Huckleberry began to snuffle too. "Consound it,
Tom Sawyer, you're just old pie, 'long-side o' what I am.
Oh, LORDY, lordy, lordy, I wisht I only had half your chance."
off and whispered:
Hucky, look! He's got his BACK to us!"
looked, with joy in his heart.
has, by jingoes! Did he before?"
did. But I, like a fool, never thought. Oh, this is
bully, you know. NOW who can he mean?"
stopped. Tom pricked up his ears.
that?" he whispered.
like—like hogs grunting. No—it's somebody snoring,
"That IS it!
Where 'bouts is it, Huck?"
it's down at 'tother end. Sounds so, anyway. Pap
used to sleep there, sometimes, 'long with the hogs, but laws
bless you, he just lifts things when HE snores. Besides, I reckon he ain't ever
coming back to this town any more."
of adventure rose in the boys' souls once more.
you das't to go if I lead?"
like to, much. Tom, s'pose it's Injun Joe!"
But presently the temptation rose up strong again
and the boys agreed to try, with the understanding that
they would take to their heels if the snoring stopped. So they went tiptoeing
stealthily down, the one behind the other. When they had got to within five steps
of the snorer, Tom stepped on a stick, and it broke with a sharp snap. The
man moaned, writhed a little, and his face came into the moonlight. It was Muff
Potter. The boys' hearts had stood still, and their hopes too, when the man
moved, but their fears passed away now. They tip-toed out, through the broken
weather-boarding, and stopped at a little distance to exchange a parting word. That
long, lugubrious howl rose on the night air again! They turned and saw the
strange dog standing within a few feet of where Potter was lying, and FACING Potter,
with his nose pointing heavenward.
geeminy, it's HIM!" exclaimed both boys, in a
Tom—they say a stray dog come howling around Johnny
Miller's house, 'bout midnight, as much as two weeks ago; and a
whippoorwill come in and lit on the banisters and sung, the very same evening;
and there ain't anybody dead there yet."
know that. And suppose there ain't. Didn't Gracie
Miller fall in the kitchen fire and burn herself terrible the
very next Saturday?"
she ain't DEAD. And what's more, she's getting
you wait and see. She's a goner, just as dead sure
as Muff Potter's a goner. That's what the niggers say, and
they know all about these kind of things, Huck."
separated, cogitating. When Tom crept in at his
bedroom window the night was almost spent. He undressed with
excessive caution, and fell asleep congratulating himself that nobody knew of
his escapade. He was not aware that the gently-snoring Sid was awake, and had
been so for an hour.
awoke, Sid was dressed and gone. There was a late
look in the light, a late sense in the atmosphere. He was
startled. Why had he not been called—persecuted till he was up, as usual?
The thought filled him with bodings. Within five minutes he was dressed and
down-stairs, feeling sore and drowsy. The family were still at table, but they had
finished breakfast. There was no voice of rebuke; but there were averted eyes; there
was a silence and an air of solemnity that struck a chill to the
culprit's heart. He sat down and tried to seem gay, but it was up-hill work; it roused
no smile, no response, and he lapsed into silence and let his heart sink
down to the depths.
breakfast his aunt took him aside, and Tom almost
brightened in the hope that he was going to be flogged; but it was
not so. His aunt wept over him and asked him how he could go and break her old
heart so; and finally told him to go on, and ruin himself and bring her gray hairs
with sorrow to the grave, for it was no use for her to try any more. This was
worse than a thousand whippings, and Tom's heart was sorer now than his body.
He cried, he pleaded for forgiveness, promised to reform over and over
again, and then received his dismissal, feeling that he had won but an
imperfect forgiveness and established but a feeble confidence.
He left the
presence too miserable to even feel revengeful
toward Sid; and so the latter's prompt retreat through the back
gate was unnecessary. He moped to school gloomy and sad, and took his flogging,
along with Joe Harper, for playing hookey the day before, with the air of one
whose heart was busy with heavier woes and wholly dead to trifles. Then he
betook himself to his seat, rested his elbows on his desk and his jaws in his hands,
and stared at the wall with the stony stare of suffering that has reached the
limit and can no further go. His elbow was pressing against some hard
substance. After a long time he slowly and sadly changed his position, and took up this
object with a sigh. It was in a paper. He unrolled it. A long, lingering,
colossal sigh followed, and his heart broke. It was his brass andiron knob!
feather broke the camel's back.