The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, Mark Twain, Part XI

Tom Sawyer

Every day on Daily Readers' Book Club we offer an article length section of a book until that book is done.  We are currently reading Mark Twain's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer.  This book will have 90 parts.

"Yes."

"What'll you take for her?"

"What'll you give?"

"Piece of lickrish and a fish-hook."

"Less see 'em."

Tom exhibited.  They were satisfactory, and the property changed hands.
Then Tom traded a couple of white alleys for three red tickets, and
some small trifle or other for a couple of blue ones.  He waylaid other
boys as they came, and went on buying tickets of various colors ten or
fifteen minutes longer.  He entered the church, now, with a swarm of
clean and noisy boys and girls, proceeded to his seat and started a
quarrel with the first boy that came handy.  The teacher, a grave,
elderly man, interfered; then turned his back a moment and Tom pulled a
boy's hair in the next bench, and was absorbed in his book when the boy
turned around; stuck a pin in another boy, presently, in order to hear
him say "Ouch!" and got a new reprimand from his teacher.  Tom's whole
class were of a pattern--restless, noisy, and troublesome.  When they
came to recite their lessons, not one of them knew his verses
perfectly, but had to be prompted all along.  However, they worried
through, and each got his reward--in small blue tickets, each with a
passage of Scripture on it; each blue ticket was pay for two verses of
the recitation.  Ten blue tickets equalled a red one, and could be
exchanged for it; ten red tickets equalled a yellow one; for ten yellow
tickets the superintendent gave a very plainly bound Bible (worth forty
cents in those easy times) to the pupil.  How many of my readers would
have the industry and application to memorize two thousand verses, even
for a Dore Bible?  And yet Mary had acquired two Bibles in this way--it
was the patient work of two years--and a boy of German parentage had
won four or five.  He once recited three thousand verses without
stopping; but the strain upon his mental faculties was too great, and
he was little better than an idiot from that day forth--a grievous
misfortune for the school, for on great occasions, before company, the
superintendent (as Tom expressed it) had always made this boy come out
and "spread himself." Only the older pupils managed to keep their
tickets and stick to their tedious work long enough to get a Bible, and
so the delivery of one of these prizes was a rare and noteworthy
circumstance; the successful pupil was so great and conspicuous for
that day that on the spot every scholar's heart was fired with a fresh
ambition that often lasted a couple of weeks.  It is possible that Tom's
mental stomach had never really hungered for one of those prizes, but
unquestionably his entire being had for many a day longed for the glory
and the eclat that came with it.

In due course the superintendent stood up in front of the pulpit, with
a closed hymn-book in his hand and his forefinger inserted between its
leaves, and commanded attention.  When a Sunday-school superintendent
makes his customary little speech, a hymn-book in the hand is as
necessary as is the inevitable sheet of music in the hand of a singer
who stands forward on the platform and sings a solo at a concert
--though why, is a mystery: for neither the hymn-book nor the sheet of
music is ever referred to by the sufferer.  This superintendent was a
slim creature of thirty-five, with a sandy goatee and short sandy hair;
he wore a stiff standing-collar whose upper edge almost reached his
ears and whose sharp points curved forward abreast the corners of his
mouth--a fence that compelled a straight lookout ahead, and a turning
of the whole body when a side view was required; his chin was propped
on a spreading cravat which was as broad and as long as a bank-note,
and had fringed ends; his boot toes were turned sharply up, in the
fashion of the day, like sleigh-runners--an effect patiently and
laboriously produced by the young men by sitting with their toes
pressed against a wall for hours together.  Mr. Walters was very earnest
of mien, and very sincere and honest at heart; and he held sacred
things and places in such reverence, and so separated them from worldly
matters, that unconsciously to himself his Sunday-school voice had
acquired a peculiar intonation which was wholly absent on week-days.  He
began after this fashion:

"Now, children, I want you all to sit up just as straight and pretty
as you can and give me all your attention for a minute or two.  There
--that is it.  That is the way good little boys and girls should do.  I see
one little girl who is looking out of the window--I am afraid she
thinks I am out there somewhere--perhaps up in one of the trees making
a speech to the little birds. [Applausive titter.] I want to tell you
how good it makes me feel to see so many bright, clean little faces
assembled in a place like this, learning to do right and be good." And
so forth and so on.  It is not necessary to set down the rest of the
oration.  It was of a pattern which does not vary, and so it is familiar
to us all.


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7 comments

Avatar of FlossyFlossy
December 19th, 2012  11:48 AM

Tom pulled a boy’s hair in the next bench

So he was a top?


Avatar of MissAdviceMissAdvice
December 19th, 2012  3:50 PM

boys as they came

This is outright pornography. Let’s call the libraries!


Avatar of MyNameIsMeMyNameIsMe
December 20th, 2012  1:07 AM

I am consistently amazed how you guys find these passages. I will never be able to read a book the same way again.