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


(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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BUT there was no hilarity in the little town that same tranquil

Saturday afternoon. The Harpers, and Aunt Polly's family,

were being put into mourning, with great grief and many tears.

An unusual quiet possessed the village, although it was

ordinarily quiet enough, in all conscience. The villagers

conducted their concerns with an absent air, and talked little;

but they sighed often. The Saturday holiday seemed a burden

to the children. They had no heart in their sports,

and gradually gave them up.

In the afternoon Becky Thatcher found herself

moping about the deserted schoolhouse yard, and

feeling very melancholy. But she found nothing there

to comfort her. She soliloquized:

"Oh, if I only had a brass andiron-knob again! But

I haven't got anything now to remember him by."

And she choked back a little sob.

Presently she stopped, and said to herself:

"It was right here. Oh, if it was to do over again,

I wouldn't say that -- I wouldn't say it for the whole

world. But he's gone now; I'll never, never, never see

him any more."

This thought broke her down, and she wandered

away, with tears rolling down her cheeks. Then quite

a group of boys and girls -- playmates of Tom's and Joe's

-- came by, and stood looking over the paling fence

and talking in reverent tones of how Tom did so-and-so

the last time they saw him, and how Joe said this and

that small trifle (pregnant with awful prophecy, as they

could easily see now!) -- and each speaker pointed out

the exact spot where the lost lads stood at the time, and

then added something like "and I was a-standing just

so -- just as I am now, and as if you was him -- I was as

close as that -- and he smiled, just this way -- and then

something seemed to go all over me, like -- awful, you

know -- and I never thought what it meant, of course,

but I can see now!"

Then there was a dispute about who saw the dead

boys last in life, and many claimed that dismal dis-

tinction, and offered evidences, more or less tampered

with by the witness; and when it was ultimately decided

who DID see the departed last, and exchanged the last

words with them, the lucky parties took upon them-

selves a sort of sacred importance, and were gaped at

and envied by all the rest. One poor chap, who had no

other grandeur to offer, said with tolerably manifest

pride in the remembrance:

"Well, Tom Sawyer he licked me once."

But that bid for glory was a failure. Most of the

boys could say that, and so that cheapened the dis-

tinction too much. The group loitered away, still re-

calling memories of the lost heroes, in awed voices.

When the Sunday-school hour was finished, the next

morning, the bell began to toll, instead of ringing in

the usual way. It was a very still Sabbath, and the

mournful sound seemed in keeping with the musing

hush that lay upon nature. The villagers began to

gather, loitering a moment in the vestibule to converse

in whispers about the sad event. But there was no

whispering in the house; only the funereal rustling of

dresses as the women gathered to their seats disturbed

the silence there. None could remember when the

little church had been so full before. There was finally

a waiting pause, an expectant dumbness, and then Aunt

Polly entered, followed by Sid and Mary, and they by

the Harper family, all in deep black, and the whole

congregation, the old minister as well, rose reverently

and stood until the mourners were seated in the front

pew. There was another communing silence, broken

at intervals by muffled sobs, and then the minister

spread his hands abroad and prayed. A moving hymn

was sung, and the text followed: "I am the Resurrection

and the Life."

As the service proceeded, the clergyman drew such

pictures of the graces, the winning ways, and the rare

promise of the lost lads that every soul there, thinking

he recognized these pictures, felt a pang in remembering

that he had persistently blinded himself to them always

before, and had as persistently seen only faults and

flaws in the poor boys. The minister related many a

touching incident in the lives of the departed, too, which

illustrated their sweet, generous natures, and the people

could easily see, now, how noble and beautiful those

episodes were, and remembered with grief that at the

time they occurred they had seemed rank rascalities,

well deserving of the cowhide. The congregation be-

came more and more moved, as the pathetic tale went

on, till at last the whole company broke down and joined

the weeping mourners in a chorus of anguished sobs,

the preacher himself giving way to his feelings, and

crying in the pulpit.

There was a rustle in the gallery, which nobody

noticed; a moment later the church door creaked; the

minister raised his streaming eyes above his hand-

kerchief, and stood transfixed! First one and then

another pair of eyes followed the minister's, and then

almost with one impulse the congregation rose and

stared while the three dead boys came marching up

the aisle, Tom in the lead, Joe next, and Huck, a ruin

of drooping rags, sneaking sheepishly in the rear!

They had been hid in the unused gallery listening to

their own funeral sermon!

Aunt Polly, Mary, and the Harpers threw themselves

upon their restored ones, smothered them with kisses

and poured out thanksgivings, while poor Huck stood

abashed and uncomfortable, not knowing exactly what

to do or where to hide from so many unwelcoming eyes.

He wavered, and started to slink away, but Tom seized

him and said:

"Aunt Polly, it ain't fair. Somebody's got to be glad to see


"And so they shall. I'm glad to see him, poor

motherless thing!" And the loving attentions Aunt

Polly lavished upon him were the one thing capable of

making him more uncomfortable than he was before.

Suddenly the minister shouted at the top of his voice:

"Praise God from whom all blessings flow -- SING! --

and put your hearts in it!"

And they did. Old Hundred swelled up with a

triumphant burst, and while it shook the rafters Tom

Sawyer the Pirate looked around upon the envying

juveniles about him and confessed in his heart that this

was the proudest moment of his life.

As the "sold" congregation trooped out they said

they would almost be willing to be made ridiculous

again to hear Old Hundred sung like that once more.

Tom got more cuffs and kisses that day -- according

to Aunt Polly's varying moods -- than he had earned

before in a year; and he hardly knew which expressed

the most gratefulness to God and affection for himself.



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