The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Part 2. eBook: Page1

Mark Twain (2004)




  Produced by David Widger

  THE ADVENTURES OF TOM SAWYER BY MARK TWAIN (Samuel Langhorne Clemens)

  Part 2

  CHAPTER IV

  THE sun rose upon a tranquil world, and beamed down upon the peacefulvillage like a benediction. Breakfast over, Aunt Polly had familyworship: it began with a prayer built from the ground up of solidcourses of Scriptural quotations, welded together with a thin mortar oforiginality; and from the summit of this she delivered a grim chapterof the Mosaic Law, as from Sinai.

  Then Tom girded up his loins, so to speak, and went to work to "gethis verses." Sid had learned his lesson days before. Tom bent all hisenergies to the memorizing of five verses, and he chose part of theSermon 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 humanthought, and his hands were busy with distracting recreations. Marytook his book to hear him recite, and he tried to find his way throughthe 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--"

  "THEIRS--"

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

  "SHALL!"

  "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, forthey shall--a--shall WHAT? Why don't you tell me, Mary?--what do youwant to be so mean for?"

  "Oh, Tom, you poor thick-headed thing, I'm not teasing you. I wouldn'tdo 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 ofcuriosity and prospective gain he did it with such spirit that heaccomplished a shining success. Mary gave him a brand-new "Barlow"knife worth twelve and a half cents; and the convulsion of delight thatswept his system shook him to his foundations. True, the knife wouldnot cut anything, but it was a "sure-enough" Barlow, and there wasinconceivable grandeur in that--though where the Western boys ever gotthe idea that such a weapon could possibly be counterfeited to itsinjury is an imposing mystery and will always remain so, perhaps. Tomcontrived to scarify the cupboard with it, and was arranging to beginon the bureau, when he was called off to dress for Sunday-school.

  Mary gave him a tin basin of water and a piece of soap, and he wentoutside the door and set the basin on a little bench there; then hedipped the soap in the water and laid it down; turned up his sleeves;poured out the water on the ground, gently, and then entered thekitchen and began to wipe his face diligently on the towel behind thedoor. But Mary removed the towel and said:

  "Now ain't you ashamed, Tom. You mustn't be so bad. Water won't hurtyou."

  Tom was a trifle disconcerted. The basin was refilled, and this timehe stood over it a little while, gathering resolution; took in a bigbreath and began. When he entered the kitchen presently, with both eyesshut and groping for the towel with his hands, an honorable testimonyof suds and water was dripping from his face. But when he emerged fromthe towel, he was not yet satisfactory, for the clean territory stoppedshort at his chin and his jaws, like a mask; below and beyond this linethere was a dark expanse of unirrigated soil that spread downward infront and backward around his neck. Mary took him in hand, and when shewas done with him he was a man and a brother, without distinction ofcolor, and his saturated hair was neatly brushed, and its short curlswrought into a dainty and symmetrical general effect. [He privatelysmoothed out the curls, with labor and difficulty, and plastered hishair close down to his head; for he held curls to be effeminate, andhis own filled his life with bitterness.] Then Mary got out a suit ofhis clothing that had been used only on Sundays during two years--theywere simply called his "other clothes"--and so by that we know thesize of his wardrobe. The girl "put him to rights" after he had dressedhimself; she buttoned his neat roundabout up to his chin, turned hisvast shirt collar down over his shoulders, brushed him off and crownedhim with his speckled straw hat. He now looked exceedingly improved anduncomfortable. He was fully as uncomfortable as he looked; for therewas a restraint about whole clothes and cleanliness that galled him. Hehoped that Mary would forget his shoes, but the hope was blighted; shecoated them thoroughly with tallow, as was the custom, and brought themout. He lost his temper and said he was always being made to doeverything 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 threechildren set out for Sunday-school--a place that Tom hated with hiswhole heart; but Sid and Mary were fond of it.

  Sabbath-school hours were from nine to half-past ten; and then churchservice. Two of the children always remained for the sermonvoluntarily, and the other always remained too--for stronger reasons.The church's high-backed, uncushioned pews would seat about threehundred persons; the edifice was but a small, plain affair, with a sortof pine board tree-box on top of it for a steeple. At the door Tomdropped back a step and accosted a Sunday-dressed comrade:

  "Say, Billy, got a yaller ticket?"

  "Yes."

  "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, andsome small trifle or other for a couple of blue ones. He waylaid otherboys as they came, and went on buying tickets of various colors ten orfifteen minutes longer. He entered the church, now, with a swarm ofclean and noisy boys and girls, proceeded to his seat and started aquarrel with the first boy that came handy. The teacher, a grave,elderly man, interfered; then turned his back a moment and Tom pulled aboy's hair in the next bench, and was absorbed in his book when the boyturned around; stuck a pin in another boy, presently, in order to hearhim say "Ouch!" and got a new reprimand from his teacher. Tom's wholeclass were of a pattern--restless, noisy, and troublesome. When theycame to recite their lessons, not one of them knew his versesperfectly, but had to be prompted all along. However, they worriedthrough, and each got his reward--in small blue tickets, each with apassage of Scripture on it; each blue ticket was pay for two verses ofthe recitation. Ten blue tickets equalled a red one, and could beexchanged for it; ten red tickets equalled a yellow one; for ten yellowtickets the superintendent gave a very plainly bound Bible (worth fortycents in those easy times) to the pupil. How many of my readers wouldhave the industry and application to memorize two thousand verses, evenfor a Dore Bible? And yet Mary had acquired two Bibles in this way--itwas the patient work of two years--and a boy of German parentage hadwon four or five. He once recited three thousand verses withoutstopping; but the strain upon his mental faculties was too great, andhe was little better than an idiot from that day forth--a grievousmisfortune for the school, for on great occasions, before company, thesuperintendent (as Tom expressed it)
had always made this boy come outand "spread himself." Only the older pupils managed to keep theirtickets and stick to their tedious work long enough to get a Bible, andso the delivery of one of these prizes was a rare and noteworthycircumstance; the successful pupil was so great and conspicuous forthat day that on the spot every scholar's heart was fired with a freshambition that often lasted a couple of weeks. It is possible that Tom'smental stomach had never really hungered for one of those prizes, butunquestionably his entire being had for many a day longed for the gloryand the eclat that came with it.

  In due course the superintendent stood up in front of the pulpit, witha closed hymn-book in his hand and his forefinger inserted between itsleaves, and commanded