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About the Author
After the Civil War, Samuel Clemens (1835-1910) left his small town to seek work as a riverboat pilot. As Mark Twain, the Missouri native found his place in the world. Author, journalist, lecturer, wit, and sage, Twain created enduring works that have enlightened and amused readers of all ages for generations.
Date of Birth:November 30, 1835
Date of Death:April 21, 1910
Place of Birth:Florida, Missouri
Place of Death:Redding, Connecticut
Read an Excerpt
By MARK TWAIN, John Green
Dover Publications, Inc.Copyright © 1996 Dover Publications, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Tom Whitewashes a Fence
"What's wrong with that boy, I wonder? You, TOM!"
No answer. The old lady pulled her spectacles down and looked over them about the room.
"Well, if I get hold of you I'll—"
She did not finish, for by this time she was bending down and punching under the bed with the broom.
"I never did see the likes of that boy!"
She went to the open door and stood in it and looked out among the tomato vines and weeds that made up her garden. No Tom. So she lifted her voice and shouted:
There was a slight noise behind her and she turned just in time to seize a small boy by the slack of his jacket and stop his flight.
"There! I might 'a' thought of that closet. What you been doing in there?"
"Nothing! Look at your hands. And look at your mouth. What is that business?"
"I don't know, aunt."
"Well, I know. It's jam—that's what it is. Forty times I've said if you didn't let that jam alone I'd skin you. Hand me that switch."
The switch hovered in the air above the boy—the peril was near- "My ! Look behind you, aunt!"
The old lady whirled round, and snatched her skirts out of danger. The lad fled, instantly, scrambled up the high board fence, and disappeared over it.
His aunt Polly stood surprised a moment, and then broke into a gentle laugh.
"Hang the boy, can't I never learn anything? Ain't he played me tricks enough like that for me to be looking out for him by this time? But my goodness, he never plays them alike, two days, and how is a body to know what's coming? He 'pears to know just how long he can torment me before I get my dander up, and he knows if he can make out to put me off for a minute or make me laugh, it's all down again and I can't hit him a lick. I ain't doing my duty by that boy, and that's the Lord's truth, goodness knows. Spare the rod and spile the child, as the Good Book says. But laws! he's my own dead sister's boy, poor thing, and I ain't got the heart to lash him, somehow. He'll play hooky this afternoon, and I'll be obliged to make him work, tomorrow, to punish him. It's mighty hard to make him work Saturdays, when all the boys is having holiday, but he hates work more than he hates anything else."
Tom did play hooky, and he had a very good time. He got back home barely in time to help Jim, a small black boy, saw next day's wood and split the kindlings before supper-at least he was there in time to tell his adventures to Jim while Jim did three-fourths of the work. Tom's younger brother (or rather, half brother), Sid, was already through with his part of the work (picking up wood chips), for he was a quiet boy and had no adventurous, troublesome ways.
When Saturday morning came, all the summer world was bright and fresh, and brimming with life. There was a song in every heart; and if the heart was young the music issued at the lips. There was cheer in every face and a spring in every step.
Tom appeared on the sidewalk with a bucket of whitewash and a long-handled brush. He surveyed the fence, and all gladness left him and a deep sadness settled down upon his spirit. Thirty yards of board fence nine feet high. Sighing he dipped his brush and passed it along the topmost plank; repeated the operation; did it again; compared the tiny whitewashed streak with the far-reaching country of the unwhitewashed fence, and sat down on a tree-box discouraged. Jim came skipping out at the gate with a tin pail, and singing. Bringing water from the town pump had always been hateful work in Tom's eyes before, but now it did not strike him so. He remembered that there was company at the pump. White, mulatto, and Negro boys and girls were always there waiting their turns, resting, trading playthings, quarreling, fighting, fooling.
Tom said: "Say, Jim, I'll fetch the water if you'll whitewash some."
Jim shook his head and said: "Can't, Marse Tom. Ole missis, she tole me I got to go an' git dis water an' not stop foolin' round wid anybody. She say she 'spected Marse Tom gwine to ax me to whitewash, an' so she tole me go 'long an' 'tend to my own business—she said she'd tend to de whitewashin'."
"Oh, never you mind what she said, Jim. That's the way she always talks. Gimme the bucket—I won't be gone only a minute. She won't ever know. I'll give you a white marble! I'll show you my sore toe."
Jim was only human-this attraction was too much for him. He put down his pail, took the marble, and bent over the toe while the bandage was being unwound. In another moment he was flying down the street with his pail and tingling rear, Tom was whitewashing, and Aunt Polly was returning to the house with a slipper in her hand.
But Tom's energy did not last. He began to think of the fun he had planned for this day, and his sorrows increased. Soon the boys would come tripping along on all sorts of wonderful outings, and they would make a world of fun of him for having to work. And then inspiration burst upon him!
He took up his brush and went calmly to work. Ben Rogers came in sight soon-the very boy, of all boys, whose teasing he had been dreading. Ben was eating an apple, and giving long, cheerful whoops.
Tom went on whitewashing-paid no attention to Ben. The boy stared a moment and then said: "Hi-yi! You're up a stump, ain't you!"
No answer. Tom looked over his last touch with the eye of an artist, then he gave his brush another gentle sweep and looked over the result, as before. Ben went up alongside of him. Tom's mouth watered for the apple, but he stuck to his work. Ben said, "Hello, old chap, you got to work, hey?"
Tom wheeled suddenly and said, "Why, it's you, Ben! I warn't noticing."
"Say—I'm going in a-swimming, I am. Don't you wish you could? But of course you'd druther work—wouldn't you? Course you would!"
Tom looked at the boy a bit, and said, "What do you call work?"
"Why, ain't that work?"
Tom began again his whitewashing, and answered, "Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain't. All I know is, it suits Tom Sawyer."
"Oh, come now, you don't mean to let on that you like it?"
The brush continued to move.
"Like it? Well, I don't see why I oughtn't to like it. Does a boy get a chance to whitewash a fence every day?"
That put the thing in a new light. Ben stopped nibbling his apple. Tom swept his brush daintily back and forth-stepped back to note the effect-added a touch here and there—Ben watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more pulled in. Soon he said, "Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little."
Tom considered, was about to say yes; but he changed his mind: "No—no—I reckon it wouldn't hardly do, Ben. You see, Aunt Polly's awful particular about this fence-right here on the street, you know-but if it was the back fence I wouldn't mind and she wouldn't. Yes, she's awful particular about this fence; it's got to be done very careful; I reckon there ain't one boy in a thousand, maybe two thousand that can do it the way it's got to be done."
"No—is that so? Oh, come now—temme just try. Only just a little—I'd let you, if you was me, Tom."
"Ben, I'd like to, honest Injun; but Aunt Polly—well, Jim wanted to do it, but she wouldn't let him; Sid wanted to do it, and she wouldn't let Sid. Now don't you see how I'm fixed? If you was to tackle this fence and anything was to happen to it—"
"Oh, shucks, I'll be just as careful. Now lemme try. Say—I'll give you the core of my apple."
"Well, here—No, Ben, now don't. I'm afeared—"
"I'll give you all of it!"
Tom gave up the brush. While Ben worked and sweated in the sun, Tom sat on a barrel close by, dangled his legs, munched his apple, and planned the trap of more boys. There was no lack of them; they came to jeer, but remained to whitewash. By the time Ben was tired out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher for a kite; and when he played out, Johnny Miller bought in for a dead rat and a string to swing it with-and so on, and so on, hour after hour. And when the middle of the afternoon came, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had besides the things before mentioned, twelve marbles, part of a jew's-harp, a piece of blue bottle glass to look through, a spool, a key that wouldn't unlock anything, a piece of chalk, a glass stopper of a bottle, a tin soldier, a couple of tadpoles, six firecrackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass doorknob, a dog collar-but no dog—the handle of a knife, four pieces of orange peel, and an old window sash.
He had had a nice, good, idle time all the while-plenty of company-and the fence had three coats of whitewash on it! Tom had discovered a great law of human action, without knowing it-namely, that in order to make a man or a boy want a thing, it is only necessary to make the thing difficult to get.
Tom presented himself before Aunt Polly, who was sitting by an open window in a pleasant rear room. The warm summer air, the quiet, and the odor of the flowers had had their effect, and she was napping over her knitting. She had thought that of course Tom had run off long ago, and she was surprised to see him place himself in her power again.
He said, "Mayn't I go and play now, aunt?"
"What, a'ready? How much have you done?"
"It's all done, aunt."
"Tom, don't lie to me—I can't bear it."
"I ain't, aunt; it is all done."
Aunt Polly went out to see for herself. She was astonished!
"Well, I never! There's no getting around it, you can work when you're a mind to, Tom.-But it's powerful seldom you're in mind to, I'm bound to say. Well, go 'long and play."
As Tom was passing by the house where Jeff Thatcher lived, he saw a new girl in the garden—a lovely little blue-eyed creature with yellow hair plaited into two long tails, and white summer dress.
He admired this angel without letting on that he was till he saw that she had seen him. Then he pretended he did not know she was there, and began to show off in all sorts of silly boyish ways, in order to win her admiration. He kept up this foolishness for some time; but by and by, while he was in the middle of some dangerous gymnastic stunts, he glanced over and saw that the little girl was making her way toward the house. Tom came up to the fence and leaned on it, hoping she would wait a while longer. She halted a moment on the steps and then moved toward the door. Tom heaved a great sigh as she put her foot on the threshold. But his face lit up right away, for she tossed a pansy over the fence a moment before she disappeared.CHAPTER 2
Tom Meets Becky Thatcher
MONDAY MORNING found Tom Sawyer miserable. Monday mornings always found him so—because it began another week's slow suffering in school. He generally began that day with wishing he had had no holiday, it made the going into prison and chains again so much more hateful.
Tom lay thinking. Soon he thought that he wished he was sick. Here was a possibility. He tried to find a stomach ache, but no, he was fine. Suddenly he discovered something. One of his upper front teeth was loose. This was lucky; he was about to begin to groan as a "starter," as he called it, when it occurred to him that if he told his aunt about it, she would pull it out, and that would hurt. So he thought he would hold the tooth in reserve and look for another trouble. Then he remembered hearing the doctor tell about a thing that laid up a patient for two or three weeks and almost made the patient lose a finger. So the boy drew his sore toe from under the sheet and held it up. He fell to groaning.
But Sid, lying beside him, slept on.
Tom groaned louder, and imagined that he began to feel pain in the toe.
No result from Sid.
Tom was aggravated. He said, "Sid, Sid!" and shook him. Tom began to groan again. Sid yawned, stretched, then brought himself up on his elbow with a snort, and began to stare at Tom. Tom went on groaning.
Sid said, "Tom! Say, Tom!" (No response.) "Here, Tom! Tom! What is the matter, Tom?" And he shook him and looked in his face.
Tom moaned out, "Oh, don't, Sid. Don't joggle me."
"Why, what's the matter, Tom? I must call auntie."
"No—never mind. It'll be over by and by, maybe. Don't call anybody."
"But I must! Don't groan so, Tom, it's awful. How long you been this way?"
"Hours. Ouch! Oh, don't stir so, Sid, you'll kill me."
"Tom, why didn't you wake me sooner? Oh, Tom, don't! What is the matter?"
"I forgive you everything, Sid. (Groan.) Everything you've ever done to me. When I'm gone—"
"Oh, Tom, you ain't dying, are you? Don't, Tom-oh, don't. Maybe—"
"I forgive everybody, Sid. (Groan.) Tell 'em so, Sid. And, Sid, you give my window sash and my cat with one eye to that new girl that's come to town, and tell her—"
But Sid had snatched his clothes and gone. He flew downstairs and said, "Oh, Aunt Polly, come! Tom's dying!"
"Yes'm. Don't wait-come quick!"
"Rubbage! I don't believe it!"
But she fled upstairs with Sid and Mary at her heels. And her face grew white, too, and her lip trembled. When she reached the bedside she gasped out, "You, Tom! Tom, what's the matter with you?"
"Oh, auntie, I'm—"
"What's the matter with you, child?"
"Oh, auntie, my sore toe's mortified!"
The old lady sank down into a chair and laughed a little, then cried a little, then did both together. "Tom, what a turn you did give me. Now you shut up that nonsense and climb out of this bed."
The groans stopped and the pain disappeared from the toe. The boy felt a little foolish, and he said, "Aunt Polly, it seemed mortified, and it hurt so I never minded my tooth at all."
"Your tooth, indeed! What's the matter with your tooth?"
"One of them's loose, and it aches perfectly awful."
"There, there, now, don't begin that groaning again. Open your mouth. Well-your tooth is loose, but you're not going to die about that. Mary, get me a silk thread, and a chunk of hot coal out of the kitchen."
Tom said, "Oh, please, auntie, don't pull it out. It don't hurt any more. I wish I may never stir if it does. Please, don't, auntie. I don't want to stay home from school."
"Oh, you don't, don't you? So all this was because you thought you'd get to stay home from school and go a-fishing? Tom, Tom, I love you so, and you seem to try every way you can to break my old heart." By this time the dental instruments were ready. The old lady tied one end of the silk thread to Tom's tooth with a loop and tied the other to the bedpost. Then she seized the chunk of coal and suddenly thrust it almost into the boy's face. The tooth hung dangling by the bedpost now.
But all suffering brings its rewards. As Tom went to school after breakfast, he was the envy of every boy he met because the gap in his upper row of teeth enabled him to spit in a new way. He gathered quite a following of lads interested in this show.
Shortly Tom came upon the young outcast of the village, Huckleberry Finn, son of the town drunkard. Huckleberry was hated and dreaded by all the mothers of the town, because he was idle and lawless and crude and bad-and because all their children admired him so, and delighted in his company, and wished they dared to be like him. Tom was like the rest of the respectable boys, in that he envied Huckleberry and was under strict orders not to play with him. So he played with him every time he got the chance. Huckleberry was always dressed in the castoff clothes of full-grown men, and they were fluttering and ragged. His hat had a wide crescent torn out of its brim; his coat, when he wore one, hung nearly to his heels and had the rear buttons far down the back; only one suspender supported his pants; the seat of his pants bagged low and contained nothing; the fringed legs dragged in the dirt when not rolled up.
Huckleberry came and went, at his own free will. He slept on doorsteps in fine weather and in empty barrels in wet weather; he did not have to go to school or church, or call anybody master or obey anybody. He could go fishing or swimming when and where he chose, and stay as long as it suited him; nobody forbade him to fight; he could sit up as late as he pleased. He was always the first boy that went barefoot in the spring and the last to put on shoes in the fall. He never had to wash, nor put on clean clothes; he could swear wonderfully. In a word, everything that goes to make life good that boy had. So thought every respectable boy in St. Petersburg.
Tom called out, "Hello, Huckleberry!"
"Hello, yourself, and see how you like it."
"What's that you got?"
"Lemme see him, Huck. My, he's pretty stiff. Where'd you get him?"
"Bought him off a boy."
"Say—what is dead cats good for, Huck?"
"Good for? Cure warts with."
"But say-how do you cure 'em with dead cats?"
Excerpted from Tom Sawyer by MARK TWAIN, John Green. Copyright © 1996 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of ContentsWhether forming a pirate gang to search for buried treasure or spending a quiet time at home, sharing his medicine with Aunt Polly’s cat, the irrepressible Tom Sawyer evokes the world of boyhood in nineteenth-century rural America. In this classic story, Mark Twain re-created a long-ago world of freshly whitewashed fences and Sunday school picnics into which sordid characters and violent incidents sometimes intruded. The tale powerfully appeals to both adult nostalgia and young imaginations. Readers explore this memorable setting with a slyly humorous born storyteller as their guide.
Tom and Huck Finn conceal themselves in the town cemetery, where they witness a grave robbery and a murder. Later, the boys, feeling unappreciated, hide out on a forested island while the townspeople conduct a frantic search and finally mourn them as dead. The friends triumphantly return to town to attend their own funeral, in time for a dramatic trial for the graveyard murder. A three-day ordeal ensues when Tom and his sweetheart, Becky Thatcher, lose their way in the very cave that conceals the murderer.
With its hilarious accounts of boyish pranks and its shrewd assessments of human nature, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer has captivated generations of readers of all ages. This inexpensive edition of the classic novel offers a not-to-be-missed opportunity to savor a witty and action-packed account of small-town boyhood in a bygone era.