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
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
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
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
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
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.