Chapter XVIII
 
That  was Tom's great secret-the scheme to return home with his brother
pirates and attend their own funerals. They had paddled over to the
Missouri shore on a log, at dusk on Saturday, landing five or six miles
below the village; they had slept in the woods at the edge of the town
till nearly daylight, and had then crept through back lanes and alleys and
finished their sleep 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, and very attentive to his wants. There was an unusual amount of talk.
In the course 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 so hard-hearted as to let me suffer so. If you could come over on
a log to go to your funeral, you could have come over and give me a hint
some way that you warn't dead, but only run off."
"Yes, you could have done that, Tom," said Mary; "and I believe you
would if you 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
tone that discomforted the boy. "It would have been something if you'd
cared enough to 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 cared a 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 about you, anyway. That's something, ain't it?"
"It ain't much-a cat does that much-but it's better than nothing. What
did you dream?"
"Why, Wednesday night I dreamt that you was sitting over there by the
bed, and Sid 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
that much 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
believed the 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 you
made 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 shall know of this before I'm an hour older. I'd like to see her
get around THIS with 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
she wished she hadn't whipped him for taking cream when she'd throwed it
out her own self-"
"Tom! The sperrit was upon you! You was a prophesying-that's what you
was doing! 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,
but if 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
told about 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 and cried, and she went."
"It happened just so! It happened just so, as sure as I'm a-sitting in
these very tracks. Tom, you couldn't told it more like if you'd 'a' seen
it! And then what? Go on, Tom!"
"Then I thought you prayed for me-and I could see you and hear every
word you said. And you went to bed, and I was so sorry that I took and
wrote on a piece of sycamore bark, 'We ain't dead-we are only off being
pirates,' and put it on the table by the candle; and then you looked so
good, laying there asleep, 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
she seized the boy in a crushing embrace that made him feel like the
guiltiest of villains.
"It was very kind, even though it was only a-dream," Sid soliloquized
just audibly.
"Shut up, Sid! A body does just the same in a dream as he'd do if he
was awake. Here's a big Milum apple I've been saving for you, Tom, if you
was ever found again-now go 'long to school. I'm thankful to the good God
and Father of us all I've got you back, that's long-suffering and merciful
to them that believe 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 them over the rough places, there's few enough would smile
here or ever enter into His rest when the long night comes. Go 'long Sid,
Mary, Tom-take yourselves off-you've hendered me long enough."
The children left for school, and the old lady to call on Mrs. Harper
and vanquish her realism with Tom's marvellous dream. Sid had better
judgment than to 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,
but moved with a dignified swagger as became a pirate who felt that the
public eye was on him. And indeed it was; he tried not to seem to see the
looks or hear the remarks as he passed along, but they were food and drink
to him. Smaller boys than himself flocked at his heels, as proud to be
seen with him, and tolerated by him, as if he had been the drummer at the
head of a procession or the elephant leading a menagerie into town. Boys
of his own size pretended not to know he had been away at all; but they
were consuming with envy, nevertheless. They would have given anything to
have that swarthy suntanned skin of his, and his glittering notoriety; and
Tom would not have parted with either for a circus.
At school the children made so much of him and of Joe, and delivered
such eloquent admiration from their eyes, that the two heroes were not
long in becoming insufferably "stuck-up." They began to tell their
adventures to hungry listeners-but they only began; it was not a thing
likely to have an end, with imaginations like theirs to furnish material.
And finally, when they got out their pipes and went serenely puffing
around, the very summit of glory was reached.
Tom decided that he could be independent of Becky Thatcher now. Glory
was sufficient. He would live for glory. Now that he was distinguished,
maybe she would be wanting to "make up." Well, let her-she should see that
he could be as indifferent as some other people. Presently she arrived.
Tom pretended not to see her. He moved away and joined a group of boys and
girls and began to talk. Soon he observed that she was tripping gayly back
and forth with flushed face and dancing eyes, pretending to be busy
chasing schoolmates, and screaming with laughter when she made a capture;
but he noticed that she always made her captures in his vicinity, and that
she seemed to cast a conscious eye in his direction at such times, too. It
gratified all the vicious vanity that was in him; and so, instead of
winning him, it only "set him up" the more and made him the more diligent
to avoid betraying that he knew she was about. Presently she gave over
skylarking, and moved irresolutely about, sighing once or twice and
glancing furtively and wistfully toward Tom. Then she observed that now
Tom was talking more particularly to Amy Lawrence than to any one else.
She felt a sharp pang and grew disturbed and uneasy at once. She tried to
go away, but her feet were treacherous, and carried her to the group
instead. She said to a girl almost at Tom's elbow-with sham vivacity:
"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
the picnic."
"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, and I 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
ever so furtively at Tom, but he talked right along to Amy Lawrence about
the terrible storm on the island, and how the lightning tore the great
sycamore tree "all to flinders" while he was "standing within three feet
of it."
"Oh, may I come?" said Grace Miller.
"Yes."
"And me?" said Sally Rogers.
"Yes."
"And me, too?" said Susy Harper. "And Joe?"
"Yes."
And so on, with clapping of joyful hands till all the group had begged
for invitations but Tom and Amy. Then Tom turned coolly away, still
talking, and took Amy with him. Becky's lips trembled and the tears came
to her eyes; she hid these signs with a forced gayety and went on
chattering, but the life had gone out of the picnic, now, and out of
everything else; she got away as soon as she could and hid herself and had
what her sex call "a good cry." Then she sat moody, with wounded pride,
till the bell rang. She roused up, now, with a vindictive cast in her eye,
and gave her plaited tails a shake and said she knew 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 with the performance. At last he spied her, but there was a sudden
falling of his mercury. She was sitting cosily on a little bench behind
the schoolhouse looking at a picture-book with Alfred Temple-and so
absorbed were they, and their heads so close together over the book, that
they did not seem to be conscious of anything in the world besides.
Jealousy ran red-hot through Tom's veins. He began to hate himself for
throwing away the chance Becky had offered for a reconciliation. He called
himself a fool, and all the hard names he could think of. He wanted to cry
with vexation. Amy chatted happily along, as they walked, for her heart
was singing, but Tom's tongue had lost its function. He did not hear what
Amy was saying, and whenever she paused expectantly he could only stammer
an awkward assent, which was as often misplaced as otherwise. He kept
drifting to the rear of the schoolhouse, again and again, to sear his
eyeballs with the hateful spectacle there. He could not help it. And it
maddened him to see, as he thought he saw, that Becky Thatcher never once
suspected that he was even in the land of the living. But she did see,
nevertheless; and she knew she was winning her fight, too, and was glad to
see him suffer as she had suffered.
Amy's happy prattle became intolerable. Tom hinted at things he had to
attend to; things that must be done; and time was fleeting. But in
vain-the girl chirped 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 she would be "around" when school let out. And he
hastened away, hating her for it.
"Any other boy!" Tom thought, grating his teeth. "Any boy in the whole
town but 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, and I'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 the air, 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 to his satisfaction.
Tom fled home at noon. His conscience could not endure any more of
Amy's grateful happiness, and his jealousy could bear no more of the other
distress. Becky resumed her picture inspections with Alfred, but as the
minutes dragged along and no Tom came to suffer, her triumph began to
cloud and she lost interest; gravity and absent-mindedness followed, and
then melancholy; two or three times she pricked up her ear at a footstep,
but it was a false hope; no Tom came. At last she grew entirely miserable
and wished she hadn't carried it so 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 at last, and said, "Oh, don't bother
me! I don't care for them!" and burst into tears, 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
she would look at pictures all through the nooning-and she walked on,
crying. Then Alfred went musing into the deserted schoolhouse. He was
humiliated and angry. He easily guessed his way to the truth-the girl had
simply made a convenience of him to vent her spite upon Tom Sawyer. He was
far from hating Tom the less when this thought occurred to him. He wished
there was some way to get that boy into trouble without much risk to
himself. Tom's spelling-book fell under his eye. Here was his opportunity.
He gratefully opened to the lesson for the afternoon and poured ink upon
the page.
Becky, glancing in at a window behind him at the moment, saw the act,
and moved on, without discovering herself. She started homeward, now,
intending to find Tom and tell him; Tom would be thankful and their
troubles would be healed. Before she was half way home, however, she had
changed her mind. The thought of Tom's treatment of her when she was
talking about her picnic came scorching back and filled her with shame.
She resolved to let him get whipped on the damaged spelling-book's
account, and to hate him forever, into the bargain.