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Reading is the
fountain of wisdom.


(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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THAT was Tom's great secret -- the scheme to return home

with his brother pirates and attend their own funerals.

They had paddled over to the Missouri shore on a log,

at dusk on Saturday, landing five or six miles below

the village; they had slept in the woods at the edge of the town

till nearly daylight, and had then crept through back lanes

and alleys and finished their sleep in the gallery of the church

among a chaos of invalided benches.

At breakfast, Monday morning, Aunt Polly and

Mary were very loving to Tom, and very attentive to

his wants. There was an unusual amount of talk. In

the course of it Aunt Polly said:

"Well, I don't say it wasn't a fine joke, Tom, to keep

everybody suffering 'most a week so you boys had a

good time, but it is a pity you could be so hard-hearted

as to let me suffer so. If you could come over on a log

to go to your funeral, you could have come over and

give me a hint some way that you warn't dead, but only

run off."

"Yes, you could have done that, Tom," said Mary;

"and I believe you would if you had thought of it."

"Would you, Tom?" said Aunt Polly, her face lighting

wistfully. "Say, now, would you, if you'd thought of it?"

"I -- well, I don't know. 'Twould 'a' spoiled everything."

"Tom, I hoped you loved me that much," said Aunt

Polly, with a grieved tone that discomforted the boy.

"It would have been something if you'd cared enough

to THINK of it, even if you didn't DO it."

"Now, auntie, that ain't any harm," pleaded Mary;

"it's only Tom's giddy way -- he is always in such a rush

that he never thinks of anything."

"More's the pity. Sid would have thought. And

Sid would have come and DONE it, too. Tom, you'll

look back, some day, when it's too late, and wish you'd

cared a little more for me when it would have cost you

so little."

"Now, auntie, you know I do care for you," said Tom.

"I'd know it better if you acted more like it."

"I wish now I'd thought," said Tom, with a re-

pentant tone; "but I dreamt about you, anyway.

That's something, ain't it?"

"It ain't much -- a cat does that much -- but it's bet-

ter than nothing. What did you dream?"

"Why, Wednesday night I dreamt that you was

sitting over there by the bed, and Sid was sitting by

the woodbox, and Mary next to him."

"Well, so we did. So we always do. I'm glad

your dreams could take even that much trouble about us."

"And I dreamt that Joe Harper's mother was here."

"Why, she was here! Did you dream any more?"

"Oh, lots. But it's so dim, now."

"Well, try to recollect -- can't you?"

"Somehow it seems to me that the wind -- the wind

blowed the -- the --"

"Try harder, Tom! The wind did blow something. Come!"

Tom pressed his fingers on his forehead an anxious

minute, and then said:

"I've got it now! I've got it now! It blowed the candle!"

"Mercy on us! Go on, Tom -- go on!"

"And it seems to me that you said, 'Why, I believe

that that door --'"

"Go ON, Tom!"

"Just let me study a moment -- just a moment. Oh,

yes -- you said you believed the door was open."

"As I'm sitting here, I did! Didn't I, Mary! Go on!"

"And then -- and then -- well I won't be certain, but

it seems like as if you made Sid go and -- and --"

"Well? Well? What did I make him do, Tom?

What did I make him do?"

"You made him -- you -- Oh, you made him shut it."

"Well, for the land's sake! I never heard the beat

of that in all my days! Don't tell ME there ain't

anything in dreams, any more. Sereny Harper shall

know of this before I'm an hour older. I'd like to see

her get around THIS with her rubbage 'bout superstition.

Go on, Tom!"

"Oh, it's all getting just as bright as day, now.

Next you said I warn't BAD, only mischeevous and

harum-scarum, and not any more responsible than --

than -- I think it was a colt, or something."

"And so it was! Well, goodness gracious! Go on, Tom!"

"And then you began to cry."

"So I did. So I did. Not the first time, neither.

And then --"

"Then Mrs. Harper she began to cry, and said Joe

was just the same, and she wished she hadn't whipped

him for taking cream when she'd throwed it out her

own self --"

"Tom! The sperrit was upon you! You was a

prophesying -- that's what you was doing! Land alive,

go on, Tom!"

"Then Sid he said -- he said --"

"I don't think I said anything," said Sid.

"Yes you did, Sid," said Mary.

"Shut your heads and let Tom go on! What did he say, Tom?"

"He said -- I THINK he said he hoped I was better

off where I was gone to, but if I'd been better sometimes --"

"THERE, d'you hear that! It was his very words!"

"And you shut him up sharp."

"I lay I did! There must 'a' been an angel there.

There WAS an angel there, somewheres!"

"And Mrs. Harper told about Joe scaring her with

a firecracker, and you told about Peter and the Painkiller --"

"Just as true as I live!"

"And then there was a whole lot of talk 'bout drag-

ging the river for us, and 'bout having the funeral

Sunday, and then you and old Miss Harper hugged

and cried, and she went."

"It happened just so! It happened just so, as sure

as I'm a-sitting in these very tracks. Tom, you couldn't

told it more like if you'd 'a' seen it! And then what?

Go on, Tom!"

"Then I thought you prayed for me -- and I could

see you and hear every word you said. And you went

to bed, and I was so sorry that I took and wrote on a

piece of sycamore bark, 'We ain't dead -- we are only

off being pirates,' and put it on the table by the candle;

and then you looked so good, laying there asleep, that

I thought I went and leaned over and kissed you on the lips."

"Did you, Tom, DID you! I just forgive you every-

thing for that!" And she seized the boy in a crushing

embrace that made him feel like the guiltiest of villains.

"It was very kind, even though it was only a --

dream," Sid soliloquized just audibly.

"Shut up, Sid! A body does just the same in a

dream as he'd do if he was awake. Here's a big

Milum apple I've been saving for you, Tom, if you

was ever found again -- now go 'long to school. I'm

thankful to the good God and Father of us all I've got

you back, that's long-suffering and merciful to them

that believe on Him and keep His word, though good-

ness knows I'm unworthy of it, but if only the worthy

ones got His blessings and had His hand to help them

over the rough places, there's few enough would smile

here or ever enter into His rest when the long night

comes. Go 'long Sid, Mary, Tom -- take yourselves

off -- you've hendered me long enough."

The children left for school, and the old lady to call

on Mrs. Harper and vanquish her realism with Tom's

marvellous dream. Sid had better judgment than to

utter the thought that was in his mind as he left the

house. It was this: "Pretty thin -- as long a dream as

that, without any mistakes in it!"

What a hero Tom was become, now! He did not

go skipping and prancing, but moved with a dignified

swagger as became a pirate who felt that the public

eye was on him. And indeed it was; he tried not to

seem to see the looks or hear the remarks as he passed

along, but they were food and drink to him. Smaller

boys than himself flocked at his heels, as proud to be

seen with him, and tolerated by him, as if he had been

the drummer at the head of a procession or the elephant

leading a menagerie into town. Boys of his own size

pretended not to know he had been away at all; but

they were consuming with envy, nevertheless. They

would have given anything to have that swarthy sun-

tanned skin of his, and his glittering notoriety; and

Tom would not have parted with either for a circus.

At school the children made so much of him and of

Joe, and delivered such eloquent admiration from their

eyes, that the two heroes were not long in becoming in-

sufferably "stuck-up." They began to tell their ad-

ventures to hungry listeners -- but they only began; it

was not a thing likely to have an end, with imaginations

like theirs to furnish material. And finally, when they

got out their pipes and went serenely puffing around,

the very summit of glory was reached.

Tom decided that he could be independent of Becky

Thatcher now. Glory was sufficient. He would live

for glory. Now that he was distinguished, maybe she

would be wanting to "make up." Well, let her -- she

should see that he could be as indifferent as some other

people. Presently she arrived. Tom pretended not to

see her. He moved away and joined a group of boys

and girls and began to talk. Soon he observed that she

was tripping gayly back and forth with flushed face and

dancing eyes, pretending to be busy chasing school-

mates, and screaming with laughter when she made a

capture; but he noticed that she always made her capt-

ures in his vicinity, and that she seemed to cast a con-

scious eye in his direction at such times, too. It grati-

fied all the vicious vanity that was in him; and so,

instead of winning him, it only "set him up" the more

and made him the more diligent to avoid betraying that

he knew she was about. Presently she gave over sky-

larking, and moved irresolutely about, sighing once or

twice and glancing furtively and wistfully toward Tom.

Then she observed that now Tom was talking more

particularly to Amy Lawrence than to any one else.

She felt a sharp pang and grew disturbed and uneasy

at once. She tried to go away, but her feet were

treacherous, and carried her to the group instead. She

said to a girl almost at Tom's elbow -- with sham vivacity:

"Why, Mary Austin! you bad girl, why didn't you

come to Sunday-school?"

"I did come -- didn't you see me?"

"Why, no! Did you? Where did you sit?"

"I was in Miss Peters' class, where I always go.

I saw YOU."

"Did you? Why, it's funny I didn't see you. I

wanted to tell you about the picnic."

"Oh, that's jolly. Who's going to give it?"

"My ma's going to let me have one."

"Oh, goody; I hope she'll let ME come."

"Well, she will. The picnic's for me. She'll let any-

body come that I want, and I want you."

"That's ever so nice. When is it going to be?"

"By and by. Maybe about vacation."

"Oh, won't it be fun! You going to have all the

girls and boys?"

"Yes, every one that's friends to me -- or wants to

be"; and she glanced ever so furtively at Tom, but he

talked right along to Amy Lawrence about the terrible

storm on the island, and how the lightning tore the great

sycamore tree "all to flinders" while he was "standing

within three feet of it."

"Oh, may I come?" said Grace Miller.


"And me?" said Sally Rogers.


"And me, too?" said Susy Harper. "And Joe?"


And so on, with clapping of joyful hands till all the

group had begged for invitations but Tom and Amy.

Then Tom turned coolly away, still talking, and took

Amy with him. Becky's lips trembled and the tears

came to her eyes; she hid these signs with a forced gayety

and went on chattering, but the life had gone out of the

picnic, now, and out of everything else; she got away as

soon as she could and hid herself and had what her sex

call "a good cry." Then she sat moody, with wounded

pride, till the bell rang. She roused up, now, with a

vindictive cast in her eye, and gave her plaited tails a

shake and said she knew what SHE'D do.

At recess Tom continued his flirtation with Amy

with jubilant self-satisfaction. And he kept drifting

about to find Becky and lacerate her with the per-

formance. At last he spied her, but there was a

sudden falling of his mercury. She was sitting cosily

on a little bench behind the schoolhouse looking at a

picture-book with Alfred Temple -- and so absorbed

were they, and their heads so close together over

the book, that they did not seem to be conscious of

anything in the world besides. Jealousy ran red-hot

through Tom's veins. He began to hate himself for

throwing away the chance Becky had offered for a

reconciliation. He called himself a fool, and all the

hard names he could think of. He wanted to cry with

vexation. Amy chatted happily along, as they walked,

for her heart was singing, but Tom's tongue had lost

its function. He did not hear what Amy was saying, and

whenever she paused expectantly he could only stammer

an awkward assent, which was as often misplaced as

otherwise. He kept drifting to the rear of the school-

house, again and again, to sear his eyeballs with the

hateful spectacle there. He could not help it. And

it maddened him to see, as he thought he saw, that

Becky Thatcher never once suspected that he was even

in the land of the living. But she did see, nevertheless;

and she knew she was winning her fight, too, and was

glad to see him suffer as she had suffered.

Amy's happy prattle became intolerable. Tom hint-

ed at things he had to attend to; things that must

be done; and time was fleeting. But in vain -- the

girl chirped on. Tom thought, "Oh, hang her, ain't

I ever going to get rid of her?" At last he must be

attending to those things -- and she said artlessly that

she would be "around" when school let out. And he

hastened away, hating her for it.

"Any other boy!" Tom thought, grating his teeth.

"Any boy in the whole town but that Saint Louis

smarty that thinks he dresses so fine and is aristocracy!

Oh, all right, I licked you the first day you ever saw this

town, mister, and I'll lick you again! You just wait

till I catch you out! I'll just take and --"

And he went through the motions of thrashing an

imaginary boy -- pummelling the air, and kicking and

gouging. "Oh, you do, do you? You holler 'nough,

do you? Now, then, let that learn you!" And so the

imaginary flogging was finished to his satisfaction.

Tom fled home at noon. His conscience could

not endure any more of Amy's grateful happiness, and

his jealousy could bear no more of the other distress.

Becky resumed her picture inspections with Alfred,

but as the minutes dragged along and no Tom came to

suffer, her triumph began to cloud and she lost inter-

est; gravity and absent-mindedness followed, and then

melancholy; two or three times she pricked up her ear

at a footstep, but it was a false hope; no Tom came.

At last she grew entirely miserable and wished she

hadn't carried it so far. When poor Alfred, seeing

that he was losing her, he did not know how, kept ex-

claiming: "Oh, here's a jolly one! look at this!" she lost

patience at last, and said, "Oh, don't bother me! I

don't care for them!" and burst into tears, and got up

and walked away.

Alfred dropped alongside and was going to try to

comfort her, but she said:

"Go away and leave me alone, can't you! I hate you!"

So the boy halted, wondering what he could have

done -- for she had said she would look at pictures all

through the nooning -- and she walked on, crying.

Then Alfred went musing into the deserted school-

house. He was humiliated and angry. He easily

guessed his way to the truth -- the girl had simply made

a convenience of him to vent her spite upon Tom

Sawyer. He was far from hating Tom the less when

this thought occurred to him. He wished there was

some way to get that boy into trouble without much

risk to himself. Tom's spelling-book fell under his

eye. Here was his opportunity. He gratefully opened

to the lesson for the afternoon and poured ink upon the page.

Becky, glancing in at a window behind him at the

moment, saw the act, and moved on, without discover-

ing herself. She started homeward, now, intending to

find Tom and tell him; Tom would be thankful and

their troubles would be healed. Before she was half

way home, however, she had changed her mind. The

thought of Tom's treatment of her when she was talking

about her picnic came scorching back and filled her

with shame. She resolved to let him get whipped on

the damaged spelling-book's account, and to hate him

forever, into the bargain.



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