She struck it to the floor

MONDAY morning found Tom Sawyer miserable. Monday morning always found
him so–because it began another week’s slow suffering in school. He
generally began that day with wishing he had had no intervening holiday,
it made the going into captivity and fetters again so much more odious.

Tom lay thinking. Presently it occurred to him that he wished he was
sick; then he could stay home from school. Here was a vague possibility.
He canvassed his system. No ailment was found, and he investigated
again. This time he thought he could detect colicky symptoms, and he
began to encourage them with considerable hope. But they soon grew
feeble, and presently died wholly away. He reflected further. Suddenly
he discovered something. One of his upper front teeth was loose. This
was lucky; he was about to begin to groan, as a “starter,” as he
called it, when it occurred to him that if he came into court with that
argument, his aunt would pull it out, and that would hurt. So he thought
he would hold the tooth in reserve for the present, and seek further.
Nothing offered for some little time, and then he remembered hearing
the doctor tell about a certain thing that laid up a patient for two or
three weeks and threatened to make him lose a finger. So the boy eagerly
drew his sore toe from under the sheet and held it up for inspection.
But now he did not know the necessary symptoms. However, it seemed
well worth while to chance it, so he fell to groaning with considerable

But Sid slept on unconscious.

Tom groaned louder, and fancied that he began to feel pain in the toe.

No result from Sid.

Tom was panting with his exertions by this time. He took a rest and then
swelled himself up and fetched a succession of admirable groans.

Sid snored on.

Tom was aggravated. He said, “Sid, Sid!” and shook him. This course
worked well, and Tom began to groan again. Sid yawned, stretched, then
brought himself up on his elbow with a snort, and began to stare at Tom.
Tom went on groaning. Sid said:

“Tom! Say, Tom!” [No response.] “Here, Tom! TOM! What is the matter,
Tom?” And he shook him and looked in his face anxiously.

Tom moaned out:

“Oh, don’t, Sid. Don’t joggle me.”

“Why, what’s the matter, Tom? I must call auntie.”

“No–never mind. It’ll be over by and by, maybe. Don’t call anybody.”

“But I must! _Don’t_ groan so, Tom, it’s awful. How long you been this

“Hours. Ouch! Oh, don’t stir so, Sid, you’ll kill me.”

“Tom, why didn’t you wake me sooner? Oh, Tom, _don’t!_ It makes my flesh
crawl to hear you. Tom, what is the matter?”

“I forgive you everything, Sid. [Groan.] Everything you’ve ever done to
me. When I’m gone–”

“Oh, Tom, you ain’t dying, are you? Don’t, Tom–oh, don’t. Maybe–”

“I forgive everybody, Sid. [Groan.] Tell ‘em so, Sid. And Sid, you give
my window-sash and my cat with one eye to that new girl that’s come to
town, and tell her–”

But Sid had snatched his clothes and gone. Tom was suffering in reality,
now, so handsomely was his imagination working, and so his groans had
gathered quite a genuine tone.

Sid flew downstairs and said:

“Oh, Aunt Polly, come! Tom’s dying!”


“Yes’m. Don’t wait–come quick!”

“Rubbage! I don’t believe it!”

But she fled upstairs, nevertheless, with Sid and Mary at her heels.
And her face grew white, too, and her lip trembled. When she reached the
bedside she gasped out:

“You, Tom! Tom, what’s the matter with you?”

“Oh, auntie, I’m–”

“What’s the matter with you–what is the matter with you, child?”

“Oh, auntie, my sore toe’s mortified!”

The old lady sank down into a chair and laughed a little, then cried a
little, then did both together. This restored her and she said:

“Tom, what a turn you did give me. Now you shut up that nonsense and
climb out of this.”

The groans ceased and the pain vanished from the toe. The boy felt a
little foolish, and he said:

“Aunt Polly, it _seemed_ mortified, and it hurt so I never minded my
tooth at all.”

“Your tooth, indeed! What’s the matter with your tooth?”

“One of them’s loose, and it aches perfectly awful.”

“There, there, now, don’t begin that groaning again. Open your mouth.
Well–your tooth _is_ loose, but you’re not going to die about that.
Mary, get me a silk thread, and a chunk of fire out of the kitchen.”

Tom said:

“Oh, please, auntie, don’t pull it out. It don’t hurt any more. I wish
I may never stir if it does. Please don’t, auntie. I don’t want to stay
home from school.”

“Oh, you don’t, don’t you? So all this row was because you thought you’d
get to stay home from school and go a-fishing? Tom, Tom, I love you so,
and you seem to try every way you can to break my old heart with your
outrageousness.” By this time the dental instruments were ready. The old
lady made one end of the silk thread fast to Tom’s tooth with a loop
and tied the other to the bedpost. Then she seized the chunk of fire and
suddenly thrust it almost into the boy’s face. The tooth hung dangling
by the bedpost, now.

But all trials bring their compensations. As Tom wended to school after
breakfast, he was the envy of every boy he met because the gap in his
upper row of teeth enabled him to expectorate in a new and admirable
way. He gathered quite a following of lads interested in the exhibition;
and one that had cut his finger and had been a centre of fascination and
homage up to this time, now found himself suddenly without an adherent,
and shorn of his glory. His heart was heavy, and he said with a disdain
which he did not feel that it wasn’t anything to spit like Tom Sawyer;
but another boy said, “Sour grapes!” and he wandered away a dismantled

Shortly Tom came upon the juvenile pariah of the village, Huckleberry
Finn, son of the town drunkard. Huckleberry was cordially hated and
dreaded by all the mothers of the town, because he was idle and lawless
and vulgar and bad–and because all their children admired him so, and
delighted in his forbidden society, and wished they dared to be like
him. Tom was like the rest of the respectable boys, in that he envied
Huckleberry his gaudy outcast condition, and was under strict orders
not to play with him. So he played with him every time he got a chance.
Huckleberry was always dressed in the cast-off clothes of full-grown
men, and they were in perennial bloom and fluttering with rags. His hat
was a vast ruin with a wide crescent lopped out of its brim; his coat,
when he wore one, hung nearly to his heels and had the rearward buttons
far down the back; but one suspender supported his trousers; the seat of
the trousers bagged low and contained nothing, the fringed legs dragged
in the dirt when not rolled up.

Huckleberry came and went, at his own free will. He slept on doorsteps
in fine weather and in empty hogsheads in wet; he did not have to go to
school or to church, or call any being master or obey anybody; he could
go fishing or swimming when and where he chose, and stay as long as it
suited him; nobody forbade him to fight; he could sit up as late as he
pleased; he was always the first boy that went barefoot in the spring
and the last to resume leather in the fall; he never had to wash, nor
put on clean clothes; he could swear wonderfully. In a word, everything
that goes to make life precious that boy had. So thought every harassed,
hampered, respectable boy in St. Petersburg.

Tom hailed the romantic outcast:

“Hello, Huckleberry!”

“Hello yourself, and see how you like it.”

“What’s that you got?”

“Dead cat.”

“Lemme see him, Huck. My, he’s pretty stiff. Where’d you get him?”

“Bought him off’n a boy.”

“What did you give?”

“I give a blue ticket and a bladder that I got at the slaughter-house.”

“Where’d you get the blue ticket?”

“Bought it off’n Ben Rogers two weeks ago for a hoop-stick.”

“Say–what is dead cats good for, Huck?”

“Good for? Cure warts with.”

“No! Is that so? I know something that’s better.”

“I bet you don’t. What is it?”

“Why, spunk-water.”

“Spunk-water! I wouldn’t give a dern for spunk-water.”

“You wouldn’t, wouldn’t you? D’you ever try it?”

“No, I hain’t. But Bob Tanner did.”

“Who told you so!”

“Why, he told Jeff Thatcher, and Jeff told Johnny Baker, and Johnny
told Jim Hollis, and Jim told Ben Rogers, and Ben told a nigger, and the
nigger told me. There now!”

“Well, what of it? They’ll all lie. Leastways all but the nigger. I
don’t know _him_. But I never see a nigger that _wouldn’t_ lie. Shucks!
Now you tell me how Bob Tanner done it, Huck.”

“Why, he took and dipped his hand in a rotten stump where the rain-water

“In the daytime?”


“With his face to the stump?”

“Yes. Least I reckon so.”

“Did he say anything?”

“I don’t reckon he did. I don’t know.”

“Aha! Talk about trying to cure warts with spunk-water such a blame fool
way as that! Why, that ain’t a-going to do any good. You got to go all
by yourself, to the middle of the woods, where you know there’s a
spunk-water stump, and just as it’s midnight you back up against the stump
and jam your hand in and say:

‘Barley-corn, barley-corn, injun-meal shorts, Spunk-water, spunk-water,
swaller these warts,’

and then walk away quick, eleven steps, with your eyes shut, and then
turn around three times and walk home without speaking to anybody.
Because if you speak the charm’s busted.”

“Well, that sounds like a good way; but that ain’t the way Bob Tanner

“No, sir, you can bet he didn’t, becuz he’s the wartiest boy in this
town; and he wouldn’t have a wart on him if he’d knowed how to work
spunk-water. I’ve took off thousands of warts off of my hands that way,
Huck. I play with frogs so much that I’ve always got considerable many
warts. Sometimes I take ‘em off with a bean.”

“Yes, bean’s good. I’ve done that.”

“Have you? What’s your way?”

“You take and split the bean, and cut the wart so as to get some blood,
and then you put the blood on one piece of the bean and take and dig
a hole and bury it ‘bout midnight at the crossroads in the dark of the
moon, and then you burn up the rest of the bean. You see that piece
that’s got the blood on it will keep drawing and drawing, trying to
fetch the other piece to it, and so that helps the blood to draw the
wart, and pretty soon off she comes.”

“Yes, that’s it, Huck–that’s it; though when you’re burying it if you
say ‘Down bean; off wart; come no more to bother me!’ it’s better.
That’s the way Joe Harper does, and he’s been nearly to Coonville and
most everywheres. But say–how do you cure ‘em with dead cats?”

“Why, you take your cat and go and get in the grave-yard ‘long about
midnight when somebody that was wicked has been buried; and when it’s
midnight a devil will come, or maybe two or three, but you can’t see
‘em, you can only hear something like the wind, or maybe hear ‘em talk;
and when they’re taking that feller away, you heave your cat after ‘em
and say, ‘Devil follow corpse, cat follow devil, warts follow cat, I’m
done with ye!’ That’ll fetch _any_ wart.”

“Sounds right. D’you ever try it, Huck?”

“No, but old Mother Hopkins told me.”

“Well, I reckon it’s so, then. Becuz they say she’s a witch.”

“Say! Why, Tom, I _know_ she is. She witched pap. Pap says so his own
self. He come along one day, and he see she was a-witching him, so he
took up a rock, and if she hadn’t dodged, he’d a got her. Well, that
very night he rolled off’n a shed wher’ he was a layin drunk, and broke
his arm.”

“Why, that’s awful. How did he know she was a-witching him?”

“Lord, pap can tell, easy. Pap says when they keep looking at you right
stiddy, they’re a-witching you. Specially if they mumble. Becuz when
they mumble they’re saying the Lord’s Prayer backards.”

“Say, Hucky, when you going to try the cat?”

“To-night. I reckon they’ll come after old Hoss Williams to-night.”

“But they buried him Saturday. Didn’t they get him Saturday night?”

“Why, how you talk! How could their charms work till midnight?–and
_then_ it’s Sunday. Devils don’t slosh around much of a Sunday, I don’t

“I never thought of that. That’s so. Lemme go with you?”

“Of course–if you ain’t afeard.”

“Afeard! ‘Tain’t likely. Will you meow?”

“Yes–and you meow back, if you get a chance. Last time, you kep’ me
a-meowing around till old Hays went to throwing rocks at me and says
‘Dern that cat!’ and so I hove a brick through his window–but don’t you

“I won’t. I couldn’t meow that night, becuz auntie was watching me, but
I’ll meow this time. Say–what’s that?”

“Nothing but a tick.”

“Where’d you get him?”

“Out in the woods.”

“What’ll you take for him?”

“I don’t know. I don’t want to sell him.”

“All right. It’s a mighty small tick, anyway.”

“Oh, anybody can run a tick down that don’t belong to them. I’m
satisfied with it. It’s a good enough tick for me.”

“Sho, there’s ticks a plenty. I could have a thousand of ‘em if I wanted

“Well, why don’t you? Becuz you know mighty well you can’t. This is a
pretty early tick, I reckon. It’s the first one I’ve seen this year.”

“Say, Huck–I’ll give you my tooth for him.”

“Less see it.”

Tom got out a bit of paper and carefully unrolled it. Huckleberry viewed
it wistfully. The temptation was very strong. At last he said:

“Is it genuwyne?”

Tom lifted his lip and showed the vacancy.

“Well, all right,” said Huckleberry, “it’s a trade.”

Tom enclosed the tick in the percussion-cap box that had lately been the
pinchbug’s prison, and the boys separated, each feeling wealthier than

When Tom reached the little isolated frame school-house, he strode in
briskly, with the manner of one who had come with all honest speed. He
hung his hat on a peg and flung himself into his seat with business-like
alacrity. The master, throned on high in his great splint-bottom
arm-chair, was dozing, lulled by the drowsy hum of study. The
interruption roused him.

“Thomas Sawyer!”

Tom knew that when his name was pronounced in full, it meant trouble.


“Come up here. Now, sir, why are you late again, as usual?”

Tom was about to take refuge in a lie, when he saw two long tails of
yellow hair hanging down a back that he recognized by the electric
sympathy of love; and by that form was _the only vacant place_ on the
girls’ side of the school-house. He instantly said:

“_I stopped to talk with Huckleberry Finn!_”

The master’s pulse stood still, and he stared helplessly. The buzz of
study ceased. The pupils wondered if this foolhardy boy had lost his
mind. The master said:

“You–you did what?”

“Stopped to talk with Huckleberry Finn.”

There was no mistaking the words.

“Thomas Sawyer, this is the most astounding confession I have ever
listened to. No mere ferule will answer for this offence. Take off your

The master’s arm performed until it was tired and the stock of switches
notably diminished. Then the order followed:

“Now, sir, go and sit with the girls! And let this be a warning to you.”

The titter that rippled around the room appeared to abash the boy, but
in reality that result was caused rather more by his worshipful awe
of his unknown idol and the dread pleasure that lay in his high good
fortune. He sat down upon the end of the pine bench and the girl hitched
herself away from him with a toss of her head. Nudges and winks and
whispers traversed the room, but Tom sat still, with his arms upon the
long, low desk before him, and seemed to study his book.

By and by attention ceased from him, and the accustomed school murmur
rose upon the dull air once more. Presently the boy began to steal
furtive glances at the girl. She observed it, “made a mouth” at him
and gave him the back of her head for the space of a minute. When she
cautiously faced around again, a peach lay before her. She thrust it
away. Tom gently put it back. She thrust it away again, but with less
animosity. Tom patiently returned it to its place. Then she let it
remain. Tom scrawled on his slate, “Please take it–I got more.” The
girl glanced at the words, but made no sign. Now the boy began to draw
something on the slate, hiding his work with his left hand. For a time
the girl refused to notice; but her human curiosity presently began
to manifest itself by hardly perceptible signs. The boy worked on,
apparently unconscious. The girl made a sort of non-committal attempt
to see, but the boy did not betray that he was aware of it. At last she
gave in and hesitatingly whispered:

“Let me see it.”

Tom partly uncovered a dismal caricature of a house with two gable ends
to it and a corkscrew of smoke issuing from the chimney. Then the girl’s
interest began to fasten itself upon the work and she forgot everything
else. When it was finished, she gazed a moment, then whispered:

“It’s nice–make a man.”

The artist erected a man in the front yard, that resembled a derrick. He
could have stepped over the house; but the girl was not hypercritical;
she was satisfied with the monster, and whispered:

“It’s a beautiful man–now make me coming along.”

Tom drew an hour-glass with a full moon and straw limbs to it and armed
the spreading fingers with a portentous fan. The girl said:

“It’s ever so nice–I wish I could draw.”

“It’s easy,” whispered Tom, “I’ll learn you.”

“Oh, will you? When?”

“At noon. Do you go home to dinner?”

“I’ll stay if you will.”

“Good–that’s a whack. What’s your name?”

“Becky Thatcher. What’s yours? Oh, I know. It’s Thomas Sawyer.”

“That’s the name they lick me by. I’m Tom when I’m good. You call me
Tom, will you?”


Now Tom began to scrawl something on the slate, hiding the words from
the girl. But she was not backward this time. She begged to see. Tom

“Oh, it ain’t anything.”

“Yes it is.”

“No it ain’t. You don’t want to see.”

“Yes I do, indeed I do. Please let me.”

“You’ll tell.”

“No I won’t–deed and deed and double deed won’t.”

“You won’t tell anybody at all? Ever, as long as you live?”

“No, I won’t ever tell _any_body. Now let me.”

“Oh, _you_ don’t want to see!”

“Now that you treat me so, I _will_ see.” And she put her small hand
upon his and a little scuffle ensued, Tom pretending to resist in
earnest but letting his hand slip by degrees till these words were
revealed: “_I love you_.”

“Oh, you bad thing!” And she hit his hand a smart rap, but reddened and
looked pleased, nevertheless.

Just at this juncture the boy felt a slow, fateful grip closing on his
ear, and a steady lifting impulse. In that wise he was borne across the
house and deposited in his own seat, under a peppering fire of giggles
from the whole school. Then the master stood over him during a few awful
moments, and finally moved away to his throne without saying a word. But
although Tom’s ear tingled, his heart was jubilant.

As the school quieted down Tom made an honest effort to study, but
the turmoil within him was too great. In turn he took his place in the
reading class and made a botch of it; then in the geography class and
turned lakes into mountains, mountains into rivers, and rivers into
continents, till chaos was come again; then in the spelling class, and
got “turned down,” by a succession of mere baby words, till he brought
up at the foot and yielded up the pewter medal which he had worn with
ostentation for months.

THE harder Tom tried to fasten his mind on his book, the more his ideas
wandered. So at last, with a sigh and a yawn, he gave it up. It seemed
to him that the noon recess would never come. The air was utterly dead.
There was not a breath stirring. It was the sleepiest of sleepy days.
The drowsing murmur of the five and twenty studying scholars soothed
the soul like the spell that is in the murmur of bees. Away off in the
flaming sunshine, Cardiff Hill lifted its soft green sides through a
shimmering veil of heat, tinted with the purple of distance; a few birds
floated on lazy wing high in the air; no other living thing was visible
but some cows, and they were asleep. Tom’s heart ached to be free, or
else to have something of interest to do to pass the dreary time.
His hand wandered into his pocket and his face lit up with a glow of
gratitude that was prayer, though he did not know it. Then furtively
the percussion-cap box came out. He released the tick and put him on
the long flat desk. The creature probably glowed with a gratitude that
amounted to prayer, too, at this moment, but it was premature: for when
he started thankfully to travel off, Tom turned him aside with a pin and
made him take a new direction.

Tom’s bosom friend sat next him, suffering just as Tom had been, and
now he was deeply and gratefully interested in this entertainment in
an instant. This bosom friend was Joe Harper. The two boys were sworn
friends all the week, and embattled enemies on Saturdays. Joe took a
pin out of his lapel and began to assist in exercising the prisoner.
The sport grew in interest momently. Soon Tom said that they were
interfering with each other, and neither getting the fullest benefit
of the tick. So he put Joe’s slate on the desk and drew a line down the
middle of it from top to bottom.

“Now,” said he, “as long as he is on your side you can stir him up and
I’ll let him alone; but if you let him get away and get on my side,
you’re to leave him alone as long as I can keep him from crossing over.”

“All right, go ahead; start him up.”

The tick escaped from Tom, presently, and crossed the equator. Joe
harassed him awhile, and then he got away and crossed back again. This
change of base occurred often. While one boy was worrying the tick with
absorbing interest, the other would look on with interest as strong, the
two heads bowed together over the slate, and the two souls dead to all
things else. At last luck seemed to settle and abide with Joe. The
tick tried this, that, and the other course, and got as excited and as
anxious as the boys themselves, but time and again just as he would
have victory in his very grasp, so to speak, and Tom’s fingers would
be twitching to begin, Joe’s pin would deftly head him off, and keep
possession. At last Tom could stand it no longer. The temptation was too
strong. So he reached out and lent a hand with his pin. Joe was angry in
a moment. Said he:

“Tom, you let him alone.”

“I only just want to stir him up a little, Joe.”

“No, sir, it ain’t fair; you just let him alone.”

“Blame it, I ain’t going to stir him much.”

“Let him alone, I tell you.”

“I won’t!”

“You shall–he’s on my side of the line.”

“Look here, Joe Harper, whose is that tick?”

“I don’t care whose tick he is–he’s on my side of the line, and you
sha’n’t touch him.”

“Well, I’ll just bet I will, though. He’s my tick and I’ll do what I
blame please with him, or die!”

A tremendous whack came down on Tom’s shoulders, and its duplicate on
Joe’s; and for the space of two minutes the dust continued to fly from
the two jackets and the whole school to enjoy it. The boys had been
too absorbed to notice the hush that had stolen upon the school awhile
before when the master came tiptoeing down the room and stood over them.
He had contemplated a good part of the performance before he contributed
his bit of variety to it.

When school broke up at noon, Tom flew to Becky Thatcher, and whispered
in her ear:

“Put on your bonnet and let on you’re going home; and when you get to
the corner, give the rest of ‘em the slip, and turn down through the
lane and come back. I’ll go the other way and come it over ‘em the same

So the one went off with one group of scholars, and the other with
another. In a little while the two met at the bottom of the lane, and
when they reached the school they had it all to themselves. Then they
sat together, with a slate before them, and Tom gave Becky the pencil
and held her hand in his, guiding it, and so created another surprising
house. When the interest in art began to wane, the two fell to talking.
Tom was swimming in bliss. He said:

“Do you love rats?”

“No! I hate them!”

“Well, I do, too–_live_ ones. But I mean dead ones, to swing round your
head with a string.”

“No, I don’t care for rats much, anyway. What I like is chewing-gum.”

“Oh, I should say so! I wish I had some now.”

“Do you? I’ve got some. I’ll let you chew it awhile, but you must give
it back to me.”

That was agreeable, so they chewed it turn about, and dangled their legs
against the bench in excess of contentment.

“Was you ever at a circus?” said Tom.

“Yes, and my pa’s going to take me again some time, if I’m good.”

“I been to the circus three or four times–lots of times. Church ain’t
shucks to a circus. There’s things going on at a circus all the time.
I’m going to be a clown in a circus when I grow up.”

“Oh, are you! That will be nice. They’re so lovely, all spotted up.”

“Yes, that’s so. And they get slathers of money–most a dollar a day, Ben
Rogers says. Say, Becky, was you ever engaged?”

“What’s that?”

“Why, engaged to be married.”


“Would you like to?”

“I reckon so. I don’t know. What is it like?”

“Like? Why it ain’t like anything. You only just tell a boy you won’t
ever have anybody but him, ever ever ever, and then you kiss and that’s
all. Anybody can do it.”

“Kiss? What do you kiss for?”

“Why, that, you know, is to–well, they always do that.”


“Why, yes, everybody that’s in love with each other. Do you remember
what I wrote on the slate?”


“What was it?”

“I sha’n’t tell you.”

“Shall I tell _you_?”

“Ye–yes–but some other time.”

“No, now.”

“No, not now–to-morrow.”

“Oh, no, _now_. Please, Becky–I’ll whisper it, I’ll whisper it ever so

Becky hesitating, Tom took silence for consent, and passed his arm about
her waist and whispered the tale ever so softly, with his mouth close to
her ear. And then he added:

“Now you whisper it to me–just the same.”

She resisted, for a while, and then said:

“You turn your face away so you can’t see, and then I will. But you
mustn’t ever tell anybody–_will_ you, Tom? Now you won’t, _will_ you?”

“No, indeed, indeed I won’t. Now, Becky.”

He turned his face away. She bent timidly around till her breath stirred
his curls and whispered, “I–love–you!”

Then she sprang away and ran around and around the desks and benches,
with Tom after her, and took refuge in a corner at last, with her little
white apron to her face. Tom clasped her about her neck and pleaded:

“Now, Becky, it’s all done–all over but the kiss. Don’t you be afraid
of that–it ain’t anything at all. Please, Becky.” And he tugged at her
apron and the hands.

By and by she gave up, and let her hands drop; her face, all glowing
with the struggle, came up and submitted. Tom kissed the red lips and

“Now it’s all done, Becky. And always after this, you know, you ain’t
ever to love anybody but me, and you ain’t ever to marry anybody but me,
ever never and forever. Will you?”

“No, I’ll never love anybody but you, Tom, and I’ll never marry anybody
but you–and you ain’t to ever marry anybody but me, either.”

“Certainly. Of course. That’s _part_ of it. And always coming to school
or when we’re going home, you’re to walk with me, when there ain’t
anybody looking–and you choose me and I choose you at parties, because
that’s the way you do when you’re engaged.”

“It’s so nice. I never heard of it before.”

“Oh, it’s ever so gay! Why, me and Amy Lawrence–”

The big eyes told Tom his blunder and he stopped, confused.

“Oh, Tom! Then I ain’t the first you’ve ever been engaged to!”

The child began to cry. Tom said:

“Oh, don’t cry, Becky, I don’t care for her any more.”

“Yes, you do, Tom–you know you do.”

Tom tried to put his arm about her neck, but she pushed him away and
turned her face to the wall, and went on crying. Tom tried again, with
soothing words in his mouth, and was repulsed again. Then his pride was
up, and he strode away and went outside. He stood about, restless and
uneasy, for a while, glancing at the door, every now and then, hoping
she would repent and come to find him. But she did not. Then he began
to feel badly and fear that he was in the wrong. It was a hard struggle
with him to make new advances, now, but he nerved himself to it and
entered. She was still standing back there in the corner, sobbing, with
her face to the wall. Tom’s heart smote him. He went to her and stood a
moment, not knowing exactly how to proceed. Then he said hesitatingly:

“Becky, I–I don’t care for anybody but you.”

No reply–but sobs.

“Becky”–pleadingly. “Becky, won’t you say something?”

More sobs.

Tom got out his chiefest jewel, a brass knob from the top of an andiron,
and passed it around her so that she could see it, and said:

“Please, Becky, won’t you take it?”

She struck it to the floor. Then Tom marched out of the house and over
the hills and far away, to return to school no more that day. Presently
Becky began to suspect. She ran to the door; he was not in sight; she
flew around to the play-yard; he was not there. Then she called:

“Tom! Come back, Tom!”

She listened intently, but there was no answer. She had no companions
but silence and loneliness. So she sat down to cry again and upbraid
herself; and by this time the scholars began to gather again, and she
had to hide her griefs and still her broken heart and take up the cross
of a long, dreary, aching afternoon, with none among the strangers about
her to exchange sorrows with.