That was Tom's great secret — the scheme to return home with his brothe_irates and attend their own funerals. They had paddled over to the Missour_hore on a log, at dusk on Saturday, landing five or six miles below th_illage; they had slept in the woods at the edge of the town till nearl_aylight, and had then crept through back lanes and alleys and finished thei_leep in the gallery of the church among a chaos of invalided benches.
At breakfast, Monday morning, Aunt Polly and Mary were very loving to Tom, an_ery attentive to his wants. There was an unusual amount of talk. In th_ourse of it Aunt Polly said:
"Well, I don't say it wasn't a fine joke, Tom, to keep everybody suffering
'most a week so you boys had a good time, but it is a pity you could be s_ard-hearted as to let me suffer so. If you could come over on a log to go t_our funeral, you could have come over and give me a hint some way that yo_arn't dead, but only run off."
"Yes, you could have done that, Tom," said Mary; "and I believe you would i_ou had thought of it."
"Would you, Tom?" said Aunt Polly, her face lighting wistfully. "Say, now, would you, if you'd thought of it?"
"I — well, I don't know. 'Twould 'a' spoiled everything."
"Tom, I hoped you loved me that much," said Aunt Polly, with a grieved ton_hat discomforted the boy. "It would have been something if you'd cared enoug_o think of it, even if you didn't do it."
"Now, auntie, that ain't any harm," pleaded Mary; "it's only Tom's giddy way — he is always in such a rush that he never thinks of anything."
"More's the pity. Sid would have thought. And Sid would have come and done it, too. Tom, you'll look back, some day, when it's too late, and wish you'd care_ little more for me when it would have cost you so little."
"Now, auntie, you know I do care for you," said Tom.
"I'd know it better if you acted more like it."
"I wish now I'd thought," said Tom, with a repentant tone; "but I dreamt abou_ou, anyway. That's something, ain't it?"
"It ain't much — a cat does that much — but it's better than nothing. What di_ou dream?"
"Why, Wednesday night I dreamt that you was sitting over there by the bed, an_id was sitting by the woodbox, and Mary next to him."
"Well, so we did. So we always do. I'm glad your dreams could take even tha_uch trouble about us."
"And I dreamt that Joe Harper's mother was here."
"Why, she was here! Did you dream any more?"
"Oh, lots. But it's so dim, now."
"Well, try to recollect — can't you?"
"Somehow it seems to me that the wind — the wind blowed the — the —"
"Try harder, Tom! The wind did blow something. Come!"
Tom pressed his fingers on his forehead an anxious minute, and then said:
"I've got it now! I've got it now! It blowed the candle!"
"Mercy on us! Go on, Tom — go on!"
"And it seems to me that you said, 'Why, I believe that that door —'"
"Go on, Tom!"
"Just let me study a moment — just a moment. Oh, yes — you said you believe_he door was open."
"As I'm sitting here, I did! Didn't I, Mary! Go on!"
"And then — and then — well I won't be certain, but it seems like as if yo_ade Sid go and — and —"
"Well? Well? What did I make him do, Tom? What did I make him do?"
"You made him — you — Oh, you made him shut it."
"Well, for the land's sake! I never heard the beat of that in all my days!
Don't tell me there ain't anything in dreams, any more. Sereny Harper shal_now of this before I'm an hour older. I'd like to see her get around thi_ith her rubbage 'bout superstition. Go on, Tom!"
"Oh, it's all getting just as bright as day, now. Next you said I warn't bad, only mischeevous and harum-scarum, and not any more responsible than — than — I think it was a colt, or something."
"And so it was! Well, goodness gracious! Go on, Tom!"
"And then you began to cry."
"So I did. So I did. Not the first time, neither. And then —"
"Then Mrs. Harper she began to cry, and said Joe was just the same, and sh_ished she hadn't whipped him for taking cream when she'd throwed it out he_wn self —"
"Tom! The sperrit was upon you! You was a prophesying — that's what you wa_oing! Land alive, go on, Tom!"
"Then Sid he said — he said —"
"I don't think I said anything," said Sid.
"Yes you did, Sid," said Mary.
"Shut your heads and let Tom go on! What did he say, Tom?"
"He said — I think he said he hoped I was better off where I was gone to, bu_f I'd been better sometimes —"
"There, d'you hear that! It was his very words!"
"And you shut him up sharp."
"I lay I did! There must 'a' been an angel there. There was an angel there, somewheres!"
"And Mrs. Harper told about Joe scaring her with a firecracker, and you tol_bout Peter and the Painkiller —"
"Just as true as I live!"
"And then there was a whole lot of talk 'bout dragging the river for us, and
'bout having the funeral Sunday, and then you and old Miss Harper hugged an_ried, and she went."
"It happened just so! It happened just so, as sure as I'm a-sitting in thes_ery tracks. Tom, you couldn't told it more like if you'd 'a' seen it! An_hen what? Go on, Tom!"
"Then I thought you prayed for me — and I could see you and hear every wor_ou said. And you went to bed, and I was so sorry that I took and wrote on _iece of sycamore bark, 'We ain't dead — we are only off being pirates,' an_ut it on the table by the candle; and then you looked so good, laying ther_sleep, that I thought I went and leaned over and kissed you on the lips."
"Did you, Tom, did you! I just forgive you everything for that!" And sh_eized the boy in a crushing embrace that made him feel like the guiltiest o_illains.
"It was very kind, even though it was only a — dream," Sid soliloquized jus_udibly.
"Shut up, Sid! A body does just the same in a dream as he'd do if he wa_wake. Here's a big Milum apple I've been saving for you, Tom, if you was eve_ound again — now go 'long to school. I'm thankful to the good God and Fathe_f us all I've got you back, that's long-suffering and merciful to them tha_elieve on Him and keep His word, though goodness knows I'm unworthy of it, but if only the worthy ones got His blessings and had His hand to help the_ver the rough places, there's few enough would smile here or ever enter int_is rest when the long night comes. Go 'long Sid, Mary, Tom — take yourselve_ff — you've hendered me long enough."
The children left for school, and the old lady to call on Mrs. Harper an_anquish her realism with Tom's marvellous dream. Sid had better judgment tha_o utter the thought that was in his mind as he left the house. It was this:
"Pretty thin — as long a dream as that, without any mistakes in it!"
What a hero Tom was become, now! He did not go skipping and prancing, bu_oved with a dignified swagger as became a pirate who felt that the public ey_as on him. And indeed it was; he tried not to seem to see the looks or hea_he remarks as he passed along, but they were food and drink to him. Smalle_oys than himself flocked at his heels, as proud to be seen with him, an_olerated by him, as if he had been the drummer at the head of a procession o_he elephant leading a menagerie into town. Boys of his own size pretended no_o know he had been away at all; but they were consuming with envy, nevertheless. They would have given anything to have that swarthy suntanne_kin of his, and his glittering notoriety; and Tom would not have parted wit_ither for a circus.
At school the children made so much of him and of Joe, and delivered suc_loquent admiration from their eyes, that the two heroes were not long i_ecoming insufferably "stuck-up." They began to tell their adventures t_ungry listeners — but they only began; it was not a thing likely to have a_nd, with imaginations like theirs to furnish material. And finally, when the_ot out their pipes and went serenely puffing around, the very summit of glor_as reached.
Tom decided that he could be independent of Becky Thatcher now. Glory wa_ufficient. He would live for glory. Now that he was distinguished, maybe sh_ould be wanting to "make up." Well, let her — she should see that he could b_s indifferent as some other people. Presently she arrived. Tom pretended no_o see her. He moved away and joined a group of boys and girls and began t_alk. Soon he observed that she was tripping gayly back and forth with flushe_ace and dancing eyes, pretending to be busy chasing schoolmates, an_creaming with laughter when she made a capture; but he noticed that sh_lways made her captures in his vicinity, and that she seemed to cast _onscious eye in his direction at such times, too. It gratified all th_icious vanity that was in him; and so, instead of winning him, it only "se_im up" the more and made him the more diligent to avoid betraying that h_new she was about. Presently she gave over skylarking, and moved irresolutel_bout, sighing once or twice and glancing furtively and wistfully toward Tom.
Then she observed that now Tom was talking more particularly to Amy Lawrenc_han to any one else. She felt a sharp pang and grew disturbed and uneasy a_nce. She tried to go away, but her feet were treacherous, and carried her t_he group instead. She said to a girl almost at Tom's elbow — with sha_ivacity:
"Why, Mary Austin! you bad girl, why didn't you come to Sunday-school?"
"I did come — didn't you see me?"
"Why, no! Did you? Where did you sit?"
"I was in Miss Peters' class, where I always go. I saw you."
"Did you? Why, it's funny I didn't see you. I wanted to tell you about th_icnic."
"Oh, that's jolly. Who's going to give it?"
"My ma's going to let me have one."
"Oh, goody; I hope she'll let me come."
"Well, she will. The picnic's for me. She'll let anybody come that I want, an_ want you."
"That's ever so nice. When is it going to be?"
"By and by. Maybe about vacation."
"Oh, won't it be fun! You going to have all the girls and boys?"
"Yes, every one that's friends to me — or wants to be"; and she glanced eve_o furtively at Tom, but he talked right along to Amy Lawrence about th_errible storm on the island, and how the lightning tore the great sycamor_ree "all to flinders" while he was "standing within three feet of it."
"Oh, may I come?" said Grace Miller.
"And me?" said Sally Rogers.
"And me, too?" said Susy Harper. "And Joe?"
And so on, with clapping of joyful hands till all the group had begged fo_nvitations but Tom and Amy. Then Tom turned coolly away, still talking, an_ook Amy with him. Becky's lips trembled and the tears came to her eyes; sh_id these signs with a forced gayety and went on chattering, but the life ha_one out of the picnic, now, and out of everything else; she got away as soo_s she could and hid herself and had what her sex call "a good cry." Then sh_at moody, with wounded pride, till the bell rang. She roused up, now, with _indictive cast in her eye, and gave her plaited tails a shake and said sh_new what she'd do.
At recess Tom continued his flirtation with Amy with jubilant self- satisfaction. And he kept drifting about to find Becky and lacerate her wit_he performance. At last he spied her, but there was a sudden falling of hi_ercury. She was sitting cosily on a little bench behind the schoolhous_ooking at a picture-book with Alfred Temple — and so absorbed were they, an_heir heads so close together over the book, that they did not seem to b_onscious of anything in the world besides. Jealousy ran red-hot through Tom'_eins. He began to hate himself for throwing away the chance Becky had offere_or a reconciliation. He called himself a fool, and all the hard names h_ould think of. He wanted to cry with vexation. Amy chatted happily along, a_hey walked, for her heart was singing, but Tom's tongue had lost it_unction. He did not hear what Amy was saying, and whenever she pause_xpectantly he could only stammer an awkward assent, which was as ofte_isplaced as otherwise. He kept drifting to the rear of the schoolhouse, agai_nd again, to sear his eyeballs with the hateful spectacle there. He could no_elp it. And it maddened him to see, as he thought he saw, that Becky Thatche_ever once suspected that he was even in the land of the living. But she di_ee, nevertheless; and she knew she was winning her fight, too, and was gla_o see him suffer as she had suffered.
Amy's happy prattle became intolerable. Tom hinted at things he had to atten_o; things that must be done; and time was fleeting. But in vain — the gir_hirped on. Tom thought, "Oh, hang her, ain't I ever going to get rid of her?"
At last he must be attending to those things — and she said artlessly that sh_ould be "around" when school let out. And he hastened away, hating her fo_t.
"Any other boy!" Tom thought, grating his teeth. "Any boy in the whole tow_ut that Saint Louis smarty that thinks he dresses so fine and is aristocracy!
Oh, all right, I licked you the first day you ever saw this town, mister, an_'ll lick you again! You just wait till I catch you out! I'll just take and —"
And he went through the motions of thrashing an imaginary boy — pummelling th_ir, and kicking and gouging. "Oh, you do, do you? You holler 'nough, do you?
Now, then, let that learn you!" And so the imaginary flogging was finished t_is satisfaction.
Tom fled home at noon. His conscience could not endure any more of Amy'_rateful happiness, and his jealousy could bear no more of the other distress.
Becky resumed her picture inspections with Alfred, but as the minutes dragge_long and no Tom came to suffer, her triumph began to cloud and she los_nterest; gravity and absent-mindedness followed, and then melancholy; two o_hree times she pricked up her ear at a footstep, but it was a false hope; n_om came. At last she grew entirely miserable and wished she hadn't carried i_o far. When poor Alfred, seeing that he was losing her, he did not know how, kept exclaiming: "Oh, here's a jolly one! look at this!" she lost patience a_ast, and said, "Oh, don't bother me! I don't care for them!" and burst int_ears, and got up and walked away.
Alfred dropped alongside and was going to try to comfort her, but she said:
"Go away and leave me alone, can't you! I hate you!"
So the boy halted, wondering what he could have done — for she had said sh_ould look at pictures all through the nooning — and she walked on, crying.
Then Alfred went musing into the deserted schoolhouse. He was humiliated an_ngry. He easily guessed his way to the truth — the girl had simply made _onvenience of him to vent her spite upon Tom Sawyer. He was far from hatin_om the less when this thought occurred to him. He wished there was some wa_o get that boy into trouble without much risk to himself. Tom's spelling-boo_ell under his eye. Here was his opportunity. He gratefully opened to th_esson for the afternoon and poured ink upon the page.
Becky, glancing in at a window behind him at the moment, saw the act, an_oved on, without discovering herself. She started homeward, now, intending t_ind Tom and tell him; Tom would be thankful and their troubles would b_ealed. Before she was half way home, however, she had changed her mind. Th_hought of Tom's treatment of her when she was talking about her picnic cam_corching back and filled her with shame. She resolved to let him get whippe_n the damaged spelling-book's account, and to hate him forever, into th_argain.