TWT logo

Together We Teach
Reading Room

Take time to read.
Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.


(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

< BACK    NEXT >




SATURDAY 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.

Tom appeared 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 mel-

ancholy 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 in-

significant 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 some-

body generally had to go after him. Tom said:

"Say, Jim, I'll fetch the water if you'll whitewash some."

Jim shook his head and said:

"Can't, Mars 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'."

"Oh, never 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."

"Oh, I dasn't, Mars Tom. Ole missis she'd take

an' tar de head off'n me. 'Deed she would."

"SHE! She 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 waver.

"White 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 --"

"And 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.

But Tom's 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 star-

board 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 executing them:

"Stop her, 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.

"Set her 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.

"Stop the 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 the gauge-cocks).

Tom went on whitewashing -- paid no attention to

the steamboat. Ben stared a moment and then said:

"Hi-YI! YOU'RE up a stump, ain't you!"

No answer. 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:

"Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?"

Tom wheeled suddenly and said:

"Why, it's you, Ben! I warn't noticing."

"Say -- I'm going in a-swimming, I am. Don't

you wish you could? But of course you'd druther

WORK -- wouldn't you? Course you would!"

Tom contemplated the boy a bit, and said:

"What do you call work?"

"Why, ain't THAT work?"

Tom resumed his whitewashing, and answered carelessly:

"Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain't. All I know,

is, it suits Tom Sawyer."

"Oh come, now, you don't mean to let on that you LIKE it?"

The brush continued to move.

"Like it? 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.

Preently he said:

"Say, Tom, let ME whitewash a little."

Tom considered, was about to consent; but he altered his mind:

"No -- no -- I 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."

"No -- is that so? Oh come, now -- lemme just

try. Only just a little -- I'd let YOU, if you was me, Tom."

"Ben, I'd 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 --"

"Oh, shucks, I'll be just as careful. Now lemme try.

Say -- I'll give you the core of my apple."

"Well, here -- No, Ben, now don't. I'm afeard --"

"I'll give 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 doorknob,

a dog-collar -- but no dog -- the handle of a knife,

four pieces of orange-peel, and a dilapidated old window


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.

The boy mused awhile over the substantial change

which had taken place in his worldly circumstances,

and then wended toward headquarters to report.



Top of Page

< BACK    NEXT >






Why not spread the word about Together We Teach?
Simply copy & paste our home page link below into your emails... 

Want the Together We Teach link to place on your website?
Copy & paste either home page link on your webpage...
Together We Teach 






Use these free website tools below for a more powerful experience at Together We Teach!

****Google™ search****

For a more specific search, try using quotation marks around phrases (ex. "You are what you read")


*** Google Translate™ translation service ***

 Translate text:


  Translate a web page:

****What's the Definition?****
(Simply insert the word you want to lookup)

 Search:   for   

S D Glass Enterprises

Privacy Policy

Warner Robins, GA, USA