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Chapter XXII
 
 Tom  joined  the  new order of Cadets of Temperance, being attracted by
the showy character of their "regalia." He promised to abstain from
smoking, chewing, and profanity as long as he remained a member. Now he
found out a new thing-namely, that to promise not to do a thing is the
surest way in the world to make a body want to go and do that very thing.
Tom soon found himself tormented with a desire to drink and swear; the
desire grew to be so intense that nothing but the hope of a chance to
display himself in his red sash kept him from withdrawing from the order.
Fourth of July was coming; but he soon gave that up-gave it up before he
had worn his shackles over forty-eight hours-and fixed his hopes upon old
Judge Frazer, justice of the peace, who was apparently on his deathbed and
would have a big public funeral, since he was so high an official. During
three days Tom was deeply concerned about the Judge's condition and hungry
for news of it. Sometimes his hopes ran high-so high that he would venture
to get out his regalia and practise before the lookingglass. But the Judge
had a most discouraging way of fluctuating. At last he was pronounced upon
the mend-and then convalescent. Tom was disgusted; and felt a sense of
injury, too. He handed in his resignation at once-and that night the Judge
suffered a relapse and died. Tom resolved that he would never trust a man
like that again.
The funeral was a fine thing. The Cadets paraded in a style calculated
to kill the late member with envy. Tom was a free boy again, however-there
was something in that. He could drink and swear, now-but found to his
surprise that he did not want to. The simple fact that he could, took the
desire away, and the charm of it.
Tom presently wondered to find that his coveted vacation was beginning
to hang a little heavily on his hands.
He attempted a diary-but nothing happened during three days, and so he
abandoned it.
The first of all the negro minstrel shows came to town, and made a
sensation. Tom and Joe Harper got up a band of performers and were happy
for two days.
Even the Glorious Fourth was in some sense a failure, for it rained
hard, there was no procession in consequence, and the greatest man in the
world (as Tom supposed), Mr. Benton, an actual United States Senator,
proved an overwhelming disappointment-for he was not twenty-five feet
high, nor even anywhere in the neighborhood of it.
A circus came. The boys played circus for three days afterward in tents
made of rag carpeting-admission, three pins for boys, two for girls-and
then circusing was abandoned.
A phrenologist and a mesmerizer came-and went again and left the
village duller and drearier than ever.
There were some boys-and-girls' parties, but they were so few and so
delightful that they only made the aching voids between ache the harder.
Becky Thatcher was gone to her Constantinople home to stay with her
parents during vacation-so there was no bright side to life anywhere.
The dreadful secret of the murder was a chronic misery. It was a very
cancer for permanency and pain.
Then came the measles.
During two long weeks Tom lay a prisoner, dead to the world and its
happenings. He was very ill, he was interested in nothing. When he got
upon his feet at last and moved feebly down-town, a melancholy change had
come over everything and every creature. There had been a "revival," and
everybody had "got religion," not only the adults, but even the boys and
girls. Tom went about, hoping against hope for the sight of one blessed
sinful face, but disappointment crossed him everywhere. He found Joe
Harper studying a Testament, and turned sadly away from the depressing
spectacle. He sought Ben Rogers, and found him visiting the poor with a
basket of tracts. He hunted up Jim Hollis, who called his attention to the
precious blessing of his late measles as a warning. Every boy he
encountered added another ton to his depression; and when, in desperation,
he flew for refuge at last to the bosom of Huckleberry Finn and was
received with a Scriptural quotation, his heart broke and he crept home
and to bed realizing that he alone of all the town was lost, forever and
forever.
And that night there came on a terrific storm, with driving rain, awful
claps of thunder and blinding sheets of lightning. He covered his head
with the bedclothes and waited in a horror of suspense for his doom; for
he had not the shadow of a doubt that all this hubbub was about him. He
believed he had taxed the forbearance of the powers above to the extremity
of endurance and that this was the result. It might have seemed to him a
waste of pomp and ammunition to kill a bug with a battery of artillery,
but there seemed nothing incongruous about the getting up such an
expensive thunderstorm as this to knock the turf from under an insect like
himself.
By and by the tempest spent itself and died without accomplishing its
object. The boy's first impulse was to be grateful, and reform. His second
was to wait-for there might not be any more storms.
The next day the doctors were back; Tom had relapsed. The three weeks
he spent on his back this time seemed an entire age. When he got abroad at
last he was hardly grateful that he had been spared, remembering how
lonely was his estate, how companionless and forlorn he was. He drifted
listlessly down the street and found Jim Hollis acting as judge in a
juvenile court that was trying a cat for murder, in the presence of her
victim, a bird. He found Joe Harper and Huck Finn up an alley eating a
stolen melon. Poor lads! they-like Tom-had suffered a relapse.