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Chapter 12

  • One of the reasons why Tom's mind had drifted away from its secret trouble_as, that it had found a new and weighty matter to interest itself about.
  • Becky Thatcher had stopped coming to school. Tom had struggled with his prid_ few days, and tried to "whistle her down the wind," but failed. He began t_ind himself hanging around her father's house, nights, and feeling ver_iserable. She was ill. What if she should die! There was distraction in th_hought. He no longer took an interest in war, nor even in piracy. The char_f life was gone; there was nothing but dreariness left. He put his hoop away,
  • and his bat; there was no joy in them any more. His aunt was concerned. Sh_egan to try all manner of remedies on him. She was one of those people wh_re infatuated with patent medicines and all new-fangled methods of producin_ealth or mending it. She was an inveterate experimenter in these things. Whe_omething fresh in this line came out she was in a fever, right away, to tr_t; not on herself, for she was never ailing, but on anybody else that cam_andy. She was a subscriber for all the "Health" periodicals and phrenologica_rauds; and the solemn ignorance they were inflated with was breath to he_ostrils. All the "rot" they contained about ventilation, and how to go t_ed, and how to get up, and what to eat, and what to drink, and how muc_xercise to take, and what frame of mind to keep one's self in, and what sor_f clothing to wear, was all gospel to her, and she never observed that he_ealth-journals of the current month customarily upset everything they ha_ecommended the month before. She was as simple-hearted and honest as the da_as long, and so she was an easy victim. She gathered together her quac_eriodicals and her quack medicines, and thus armed with death, went about o_er pale horse, metaphorically speaking, with "hell following after." But sh_ever suspected that she was not an angel of healing and the balm of Gilead i_isguise, to the suffering neighbors. The water treatment was new, now, an_om's low condition was a windfall to her. She had him out at daylight ever_orning, stood him up in the woodshed and drowned him with a deluge of col_ater; then she scrubbed him down with a towel like a file, and so brought hi_o; then she rolled him up in a wet sheet and put him away under blankets til_he sweated his soul clean and "the yellow stains of it came through hi_ores" — as Tom said.
  • Yet notwithstanding all this, the boy grew more and more melancholy and pal_nd dejected. She added hot baths, sitz baths, shower baths, and plunges. Th_oy remained as dismal as a hearse. She began to assist the water with a sli_atmeal diet and blister-plasters. She calculated his capacity as she would _ug's, and filled him up every day with quack cure-alls.
  • Tom had become indifferent to persecution by this time. This phase filled th_ld lady's heart with consternation. This indifference must be broken up a_ny cost. Now she heard of Pain-killer for the first time. She ordered a lo_t once. She tasted it and was filled with gratitude. It was simply fire in _iquid form. She dropped the water treatment and everything else, and pinne_er faith to Pain-killer. She gave Tom a teaspoonful and watched with th_eepest anxiety for the result. Her troubles were instantly at rest, her sou_t peace again; for the "indifference" was broken up. The boy could not hav_hown a wilder, heartier interest, if she had built a fire under him.
  • Tom felt that it was time to wake up; this sort of life might be romanti_nough, in his blighted condition, but it was getting to have too littl_entiment and too much distracting variety about it. So he thought ove_arious plans for relief, and finally hit pon that of professing to be fond o_ain-killer. He asked for it so often that he became a nuisance, and his aun_nded by telling him to help himself and quit bothering her. If it had bee_id, she would have had no misgivings to alloy her delight; but since it wa_om, she watched the bottle clandestinely. She found that the medicine di_eally diminish, but it did not occur to her that the boy was mending th_ealth of a crack in the sitting-room floor with it.
  • One day Tom was in the act of dosing the crack when his aunt's yellow cat cam_long, purring, eying the teaspoon avariciously, and begging for a taste. To_aid:
  • "Don't ask for it unless you want it, Peter."
  • But Peter signified that he did want it.
  • "You better make sure."
  • Peter was sure.
  • "Now you've asked for it, and I'll give it to you, because there ain'_nything mean about me; but if you find you don't like it, you mustn't blam_nybody but your own self."
  • Peter was agreeable. So Tom pried his mouth open and poured down the Pain-
  • killer. Peter sprang a couple of yards in the air, and then delivered a war-
  • whoop and set off round and round the room, banging against furniture,
  • upsetting flower-pots, and making general havoc. Next he rose on his hind fee_nd pranced around, in a frenzy of enjoyment, with his head over his shoulde_nd his voice proclaiming his unappeasable happiness. Then he went tearin_round the house again spreading chaos and destruction in his path. Aunt Poll_ntered in time to see him throw a few double summersets, deliver a fina_ighty hurrah, and sail through the open window, carrying the rest of th_lower-pots with him. The old lady stood petrified with astonishment, peerin_ver her glasses; Tom lay on the floor expiring with laughter.
  • "Tom, what on earth ails that cat?"
  • "I don't know, aunt," gasped the boy.
  • "Why, I never see anything like it. What did make him act so?"
  • "Deed I don't know, Aunt Polly; cats always act so when they're having a goo_ime."
  • "They do, do they?" There was something in the tone that made To_pprehensive.
  • "Yes'm. That is, I believe they do."
  • "You do?"
  • "Yes'm."
  • The old lady was bending down, Tom watching, with interest emphasized b_nxiety. Too late he divined her "drift." The handle of the telltale teaspoo_as visible under the bed-valance. Aunt Polly took it, held it up. Tom winced,
  • and dropped his eyes. Aunt Polly raised him by the usual handle — his ear —
  • and cracked his head soundly with her thimble.
  • "Now, sir, what did you want to treat that poor dumb beast so, for?"
  • "I done it out of pity for him — because he hadn't any aunt."
  • "Hadn't any aunt! — you numskull. What has that got to do with it?"
  • "Heaps. Because if he'd had one she'd a burnt him out herself! She'd a roaste_is bowels out of him 'thout any more feeling than if he was a human!"
  • Aunt Polly felt a sudden pang of remorse. This was putting the thing in a ne_ight; what was cruelty to a cat might be cruelty to a boy, too. She began t_often; she felt sorry. Her eyes watered a little, and she put her hand o_om's head and said gently:
  • "I was meaning for the best, Tom. And, Tom, it did do you good."
  • Tom looked up in her face with just a perceptible twinkle peeping through hi_ravity.
  • "I know you was meaning for the best, aunty, and so was I with Peter. It don_im good, too. I never see him get around so since —"
  • "Oh, go 'long with you, Tom, before you aggravate me again. And you try an_ee if you can't be a good boy, for once, and you needn't take any mor_edicine."
  • Tom reached school ahead of time. It was noticed that this strange thing ha_een occurring every day latterly. And now, as usual of late, he hung abou_he gate of the schoolyard instead of playing with his comrades. He was sick,
  • he said, and he looked it. He tried to seem to be looking everywhere bu_hither he really was looking — down the road. Presently Jeff Thatcher hove i_ight, and Tom's face lighted; he gazed a moment, and then turned sorrowfull_way. When Jeff arrived, Tom accosted him; and "led up" warily t_pportunities for remark about Becky, but the giddy lad never could see th_ait. Tom watched and watched, hoping whenever a frisking frock came in sight,
  • and hating the owner of it as soon as he saw she was not the right one. A_ast frocks ceased to appear, and he dropped hopelessly into the dumps; h_ntered the empty schoolhouse and sat down to suffer. Then one more froc_assed in at the gate, and Tom's heart gave a great bound. The next instant h_as out, and "going on" like an Indian; yelling, laughing, chasing boys,
  • jumping over the fence at risk of life and limb, throwing handsprings,
  • standing on his head — doing all the heroic things he could conceive of, an_eeping a furtive eye out, all the while, to see if Becky Thatcher wa_oticing. But she seemed to be unconscious of it all; she never looked. Coul_t be possible that she was not aware that he was there? He carried hi_xploits to her immediate vicinity; came war-whooping around, snatched a boy'_ap, hurled it to the roof of the schoolhouse, broke through a group of boys,
  • tumbling them in every direction, and fell sprawling, himself, under Becky'_ose, almost upsetting her — and she turned, with her nose in the air, and h_eard her say: "Mf! some people think they're mighty smart — always showin_ff!"
  • Tom's cheeks burned. He gathered himself up and sneaked off, crushed an_restfallen.