Tom Sawyer 2-03
Album/MovieTom Sawyer
ArtistsMark Twain
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Chapter 3
Tom presented himself before Aunt Polly, who
was sitting by an open window in a pleasant
rearward apartment, which was bedroom,
breakfast-room, dining-room, and library,
combined. The balmy summer air, the restful
quiet, the odor of the flowers, and the drowsing
murmur of the bees had had their effect, and she
was nodding over her knitting - for she had no
company but the cat, and it was asleep in her
lap. Her spectacles were propped up on her gray
head for safety. She had thought that of course
Tom had deserted long ago, and she wondered at
seeing him place himself in her power again in
this intrepid way. He said: "Mayn't I go and
play now, aunt?" "What, a'ready? How much have
you done?" "It's all done, aunt." "Tom, don't
lie to me - I can't bear it." "I ain't, aunt; it
is all done." Aunt Polly placed small trust in
such evidence. She went out to see for herself;
and she would have been content to find twenty
per cent. of Tom's statement true. When she
found the entire fence whitewashed, and not only
whitewashed but elaborately coated and recoated,
and even a streak added to the ground, her
astonishment was almost unspeakable. She said:
"Well, I never! There's no getting round it, you
can work when you're a mind to, Tom." And then
she diluted the compliment by adding, "But it's
powerful seldom you're a mind to, I'm bound to
say. Well, go 'long and play; but mind you get
back some time in a week, or I'll tan you." She
was so overcome by the splendor of his
achievement that she took him into the closet
and selected a choice apple and delivered it to
him, along with an improving lecture upon the
added value and flavor a treat took to itself
when it came without sin through virtuous
effort. And while she closed with a happy
Scriptural flourish, he "hooked" a doughnut.
Then he skipped out, and saw Sid just starting
up the outside stairway that led to the back
rooms on the second floor. Clods were handy and
the air was full of them in a twinkling. They
raged around Sid like a hail-storm; and before
Aunt Polly could collect her surprised faculties
and sally to the rescue, six or seven clods had
taken personal effect, and Tom was over the
fence and gone. There was a gate, but as a
general thing he was too crowded for time to
make use of it. His soul was at peace, now that
he had settled with Sid for calling attention to
his black thread and getting him into trouble.
Tom skirted the block, and came round into a
muddy alley that led by the back of his aunt's
cowstable. He presently got safely beyond the
reach of capture and punishment, and hastened
toward the public square of the village, where
two "military" companies of boys had met for
conflict, according to previous appointment. Tom
was General of one of these armies, Joe Harper
(a bosom friend) General of the other. These two
great commanders did not condescend to fight in
person - that being better suited to the still
smaller fry - but sat together on an eminence
and conducted the field operations by orders
delivered through aides-de-camp. Tom's army won
a great victory, after a long and hard-fought
battle. Then the dead were counted, prisoners
exchanged, the terms of the next disagreement
agreed upon, and the day for the necessary
battle appointed; after which the armies fell
into line and marched away, and Tom turned
homeward alone. As he was passing by the house
where Jeff Thatcher lived, he saw a new girl in
the garden - a lovely little blue-eyed creature
with yellow hair plaited into two long-tails,
white summer frock and embroidered pantalettes.
The fresh-crowned hero fell without firing a
shot. A certain Amy Lawrence vanished out of his
heart and left not even a memory of herself
behind. He had thought he loved her to
distraction; he had regarded his passion as
adoration; and behold it was only a poor little
evanescent partiality. He had been months
winning her; she had confessed hardly a week
ago; he had been the happiest and the proudest
boy in the world only seven short days, and here
in one instant of time she had gone out of his
heart like a casual stranger whose visit is
done. He worshipped this new angel with furtive
eye, till he saw that she had discovered him;
then he pretended he did not know she was
present, and began to "show off" in all sorts of
absurd boyish ways, in order to win her
admiration. He kept up this grotesque
foolishness for some time; but by-and-by, while
he was in the midst of some dangerous gymnastic
performances, he glanced aside and saw that the
little girl was wending her way toward the
house. Tom came up to the fence and leaned on
it, grieving, and hoping she would tarry yet
awhile longer. She halted a moment on the steps
and then moved toward the door. Tom heaved a
great sigh as she put her foot on the threshold.
But his face lit up, right away, for she tossed
a pansy over the fence a moment before she
disappeared. The boy ran around and stopped
within a foot or two of the flower, and then
shaded his eyes with his hand and began to look
down street as if he had discovered something of
interest going on in that direction. Presently
he picked up a straw and began trying to balance
it on his nose, with his head tilted far back;
and as he moved from side to side, in his
efforts, he edged nearer and nearer toward the
pansy; finally his bare foot rested upon it, his
pliant toes closed upon it, and he hopped away
with the treasure and disappeared round the
corner. But only for a minute - only while he
could button the flower inside his jacket, next
his heart - or next his stomach, possibly, for
he was not much posted in anatomy, and not
hypercritical, anyway. He returned, now, and
hung about the fence till nightfall, "showing
off," as before; but the girl never exhibited
herself again, though Tom comforted himself a
little with the hope that she had been near some
window, meantime, and been aware of his
attentions. Finally he strode home reluctantly,
with his poor head full of visions. All through
supper his spirits were so high that his aunt
wondered "what had got into the child." He took
a good scolding about clodding Sid, and did not
seem to mind it in the least. He tried to steal
sugar under his aunt's very nose, and got his
knuckles rapped for it. He said: "Aunt, you
don't whack Sid when he takes it." "Well, Sid
don't torment a body the way you do. You'd be
always into that sugar if I warn't watching
you." Presently she stepped into the kitchen,
and Sid, happy in his immunity, reached for the
sugar-bowl - a sort of glorying over Tom which
was wellnigh unbearable. But Sid's fingers
slipped and the bowl dropped and broke. Tom was
in ecstasies. In such ecstasies that he even
controlled his tongue and was silent. He said to
himself that he would not speak a word, even
when his aunt came in, but would sit perfectly
still till she asked who did the mischief; and
then he would tell, and there would be nothing
so good in the world as to see that pet model
"catch it." He was so brimful of exultation that
he could hardly hold himself when the old lady
came back and stood above the wreck discharging
lightnings of wrath from over her spectacles. He
said to himself, "Now it's coming!" And the next
instant he was sprawling on the floor! The
potent palm was uplifted to strike again when
Tom cried out: "Hold on, now, what 'er you
belting me for? - Sid broke it!" Aunt Polly
paused, perplexed, and Tom looked for healing
pity. But when she got her tongue again, she
only said: "Umf! Well, you didn't get a lick
amiss, I reckon. You been into some other
audacious mischief when I wasn't around, like
enough." Then her conscience reproached her, and
she yearned to say something kind and loving;
but she judged that this would be construed into
a confession that she had been in the wrong, and
discipline forbade that. So she kept silence,
and went about her affairs with a troubled
heart. Tom sulked in a corner and exalted his
woes. He knew that in her heart his aunt was on
her knees to him, and he was morosely gratified
by the consciousness of it. He would hang out no
signals, he would take notice of none. He knew
that a yearning glance fell upon him, now and
then, through a film of tears, but he refused
recognition of it. He pictured himself lying
sick unto death and his aunt bending over him
beseeching one little forgiving word, but he
would turn his face to the wall, and die with
that word unsaid. Ah, how would she feel then?
And he pictured himself brought home from the
river, dead, with his curls all wet, and his
sore heart at rest. How she would throw herself
upon him, and how her tears would fall like
rain, and her lips pray God to give her back her
boy and she would never, never abuse him any
more! But he would lie there cold and white and
make no sign - a poor little sufferer, whose
griefs were at an end. He so worked upon his
feelings with the pathos of these dreams, that
he had to keep swallowing, he was so like to
choke; and his eyes swam in a blur of water,
which overflowed when he winked, and ran down
and trickled from the end of his nose. And such
a luxury to him was this petting of his sorrows,
that he could not bear to have any worldly
cheeriness or any grating delight intrude upon
it; it was too sacred for such contact; and so,
presently, when his cousin Mary danced in, all
alive with the joy of seeing home again after an
age-long visit of one week to the country, he
got up and moved in clouds and darkness out at
one door as she brought song and sunshine in at
the other. He wandered far from the accustomed
haunts of boys, and sought desolate places that
were in harmony with his spirit. A log raft in
the river invited him, and he seated himself on
its outer edge and contemplated the dreary
vastness of the stream, wishing, the while, that
he could only be drowned, all at once and
unconsciously, without undergoing the
uncomfortable routine devised by nature. Then he
thought of his flower. He got it out, rumpled
and wilted, and it mightily increased his dismal
felicity. He wondered if she would pity him if
she knew? Would she cry, and wish that she had a
right to put her arms around his neck and
comfort him? Or would she turn coldly away like
all the hollow world? This picture brought such
an agony of pleasurable suffering that he worked
it over and over again in his mind and set it up
in new and varied lights, till he wore it
threadbare. At last he rose up sighing and
departed in the darkness. About half-past nine
or ten o'clock he came along the deserted street
to where the Adored Unknown lived; he paused a
moment; no sound fell upon his listening ear; a
candle was casting a dull glow upon the curtain
of a second-story window. Was the sacred
presence there? He climbed the fence, threaded
his stealthy way through the plants, till he
stood under that window; he looked up at it
long, and with emotion; then he laid him down on
the ground under it, disposing himself upon his
back, with his hands clasped upon his breast and
holding his poor wilted flower. And thus he
would die - out in the cold world, with no
shelter over his homeless head, no friendly hand
to wipe the death-damps from his brow, no loving
face to bend pityingly over him when the great
agony came. And thus she would see him when she
looked out upon the glad morning, and oh! would
she drop one little tear upon his poor, lifeless
form, would she heave one little sigh to see a
bright young life so rudely blighted, so
untimely cut down? The window went up, a
maid-servant's discordant voice profaned the
holy calm, and a deluge of water drenched the
prone martyr's remains! The strangling hero
sprang up with a relieving snort. There was a
whiz as of a missile in the air, mingled with
the murmur of a curse, a sound as of shivering
glass followed, and a small, vague form went
over the fence and shot away in the gloom. Not
long after, as Tom, all undressed for bed, was
surveying his drenched garments by the light of
a tallow dip, Sid woke up; but if he had any dim
idea of making any "references to allusions," he
thought better of it and held his peace, for
there was danger in Tom's eye. Tom turned in
without the added vexation of prayers, and Sid
made mental note of the omission.

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