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


(Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

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TOM arrived at home in a dreary mood, and the first thing

his aunt said to him showed him that he had brought his

sorrows to an unpromising market:

"Tom, I've a notion to skin you alive!"

"Auntie, what have I done?"

"Well, you've done enough. Here I go over to Se-

reny Harper, like an old softy, expecting I'm going to

make her believe all that rubbage about that dream,

when lo and behold you she'd found out from Joe that

you was over here and heard all the talk we had that

night. Tom, I don't know what is to become of a boy

that will act like that. It makes me feel so bad to think

you could let me go to Sereny Harper and make such a

fool of myself and never say a word."

This was a new aspect of the thing. His smartness

of the morning had seemed to Tom a good joke be-

fore, and very ingenious. It merely looked mean and

shabby now. He hung his head and could not think

of anything to say for a moment. Then he said:

"Auntie, I wish I hadn't done it -- but I didn't think."

"Oh, child, you never think. You never think of

anything but your own selfishness. You could think

to come all the way over here from Jackson's Island in

the night to laugh at our troubles, and you could think

to fool me with a lie about a dream; but you couldn't

ever think to pity us and save us from sorrow."

"Auntie, I know now it was mean, but I didn't

mean to be mean. I didn't, honest. And besides, I

didn't come over here to laugh at you that night."

"What did you come for, then?"

"It was to tell you not to be uneasy about us, be-

cause we hadn't got drownded."

"Tom, Tom, I would be the thankfullest soul in this

world if I could believe you ever had as good a thought

as that, but you know you never did -- and I know it, Tom."

"Indeed and 'deed I did, auntie -- I wish I may never

stir if I didn't."

"Oh, Tom, don't lie -- don't do it. It only makes

things a hundred times worse."

"It ain't a lie, auntie; it's the truth. I wanted to

keep you from grieving -- that was all that made me come."

"I'd give the whole world to believe that -- it would

cover up a power of sins, Tom. I'd 'most be glad you'd

run off and acted so bad. But it ain't reasonable; be-

cause, why didn't you tell me, child?"

"Why, you see, when you got to talking about the

funeral, I just got all full of the idea of our coming and

hiding in the church, and I couldn't somehow bear to

spoil it. So I just put the bark back in my pocket and

kept mum."

"What bark?"

"The bark I had wrote on to tell you we'd gone

pirating. I wish, now, you'd waked up when I kissed

you -- I do, honest."

The hard lines in his aunt's face relaxed and a sudden

tenderness dawned in her eyes.

"DID you kiss me, Tom?"

"Why, yes, I did."

"Are you sure you did, Tom?"

"Why, yes, I did, auntie -- certain sure."

"What did you kiss me for, Tom?"

"Because I loved you so, and you laid there moaning

and I was so sorry."

The words sounded like truth. The old lady could

not hide a tremor in her voice when she said:

"Kiss me again, Tom! -- and be off with you to

school, now, and don't bother me any more."

The moment he was gone, she ran to a closet and

got out the ruin of a jacket which Tom had gone

pirating in. Then she stopped, with it in her hand,

and said to herself:

"No, I don't dare. Poor boy, I reckon he's lied

about it -- but it's a blessed, blessed lie, there's such a

comfort come from it. I hope the Lord -- I KNOW the

Lord will forgive him, because it was such good-

heartedness in him to tell it. But I don't want to find

out it's a lie. I won't look."

She put the jacket away, and stood by musing a

minute. Twice she put out her hand to take the

garment again, and twice she refrained. Once more

she ventured, and this time she fortified herself with

the thought: "It's a good lie -- it's a good lie -- I won't

let it grieve me." So she sought the jacket pocket. A

moment later she was reading Tom's piece of bark

through flowing tears and saying: "I could forgive the

boy, now, if he'd committed a million sins!"



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