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


(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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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.

Then Tom 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 dis-

tracting recreations. Mary took his book to hear

him recite, and he tried to find his way through the fog:

"Blessed are the -- a -- a --"

"Poor" --

"Yes -- poor; blessed are the poor -- a -- a --"

"In spirit --"

"In spirit; blessed are the poor in spirit, for they -- they --"


"For THEIRS. Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs

is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn,

for they -- they --"

"Sh --"

"For they -- a --"

"S, H, A --"

"For they S, H -- Oh, I don't know what it is!"


"Oh, SHALL! 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?"

"Oh, Tom, 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."

"All right! What is it, Mary, tell me what it is."

"Never you 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


Mary gave 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:

"Now ain't you ashamed, Tom. You mustn't be

so bad. Water won't hurt you."

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 him-

self; 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 said, persuasively:

"Please, 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 Sunday-dressed comrade:

"Say, Billy, got a yaller ticket?"


"What'll you take for her?"

"What'll you give?"

"Piece of lickrish and a fish-hook."

"Less see 'em."

Tom 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 unques-

tionably his entire being had for many a day longed for

the glory and the eclat that came with it.

In due 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 superin-

tendent 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 this fashion:

"Now, 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.

The latter third of the speech was marred by the

resumption of fights and other recreations among

certain of the bad boys, and by fidgetings and whis-

perings 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 con-

clusion of the speech was received with a burst of silent


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 gentle-

man 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 new-comer 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.

The visitors 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:

"Look at 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?"

Mr. Walters fell to "showing off," with all sorts of

official bustlings and activities, giving orders, de-

livering 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

the murmur 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.

There was 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 there-

fore elevated to a place with the Judge and the other

elect, and the great news was announced from head-

quarters. 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 grass.

The prize 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.

Amy Lawrence 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).

Tom was 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 Tom -- it is --"


"Ah, that's 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?"

"Tell the gentleman your other name, Thomas,"

said Walters, "and say sir. You mustn't forget

your manners."

"Thomas Sawyer -- sir."

"That's it! 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 knowl-

edge 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 en-

couraged 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


Tom was 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:

"Answer the gentleman, Thomas -- don't be afraid."

Tom still hung fire.

"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.



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