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time I let him off, my conscience does hurt me so, and every time I hit him my
old heart most breaks. Well-a-well, man that is born of woman is of few days
and full of trouble, as the Scripture says, and I reckon it’s so. He’ll play hookey
this evening, and I’ll just be obleeged to make him work, to-morrow, 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, and I’ve got to do
some of my duty by him, or I’ll be the ruination of the child.” Tom did play
hookey, and he had a very good time. He got back home barely in season to help
Jim, the small colored 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, halfbrother) Sid,
was already through with his part of the work (picking up chips), for he was a
quiet boy, and had no adventurous, troublesome ways.

While Tom was eating his supper, and stealing sugar as opportunity offered,
Aunt Polly asked him questions that were full of guile, and very deep-for she
wanted to trap him into damaging revealments.

Like many other simple-hearted souls, it was her pet vanity to believe she was
endowed with a talent for dark and mysterious diplomacy and she loved to
contemplate her most transparent devices as marvels of low cunning. Said she:
“Tom, it was middling warm in school, warn’t it?” “Yes’m.” “Powerful warm,
warn’t it?” “Yes’m.” “Didn’t you want to go in a-swimming, Tom?” A bit of a
scare shot through Tom-a touch of uncomfortable suspicion. He searched Aunt
Bolly’s face, but it told him nothing. So he said: “No’m-well, not very much.”
The old lady reached out her hand and felt Tom’s shirt, and said: “But you ain’t
too warm now, though.” And it flattered her to reflect that she had discovered
that the shirt was dry without anybody knowing that that was what she had in
her mind. But in spite of her, Tom knew where the wind lay, now.

So he forestalled what might be the next move: “Some of us pumped on our
heads-mine’s damp yet. See?”

Aunt Polly was vexed to think she had overlooked that bit of circumstantial
evidence, and missed a trick. Then she had a new inspiration: “Tom, you didn’t
have to undo your shirt collar where I sewed it, to pump on your head, did you?
Unbutton your jacket!” The trouble vanished out of Tom’s face. He opened his
jacket. His shirt collar was securely sewed.

“Bother! Well, go ‘long with you. I’d made sure you’d played hookey and been
a-swimming. But I forgive ye, Tom. I reckon you’re a kind of a singed cat, as the
saying is-better’n you look. This time.” She was half sorry her sagacity had
miscarried, and half glad that Tom had stumbled into obedient conduct for once.
But Sidney said: “Well, now, if I didn’t think you sewed his collar with white
thread, but it’s black.” “Why I did sew it with white! Tom!” But Tom did not
wait for the rest. As he went out at the door he said: “Siddy, I’ll lick you for
that.” In a safe place Tom examined two large needles which were thrust into the
lappels of his jacket, and had thread bound about them-one needle carried
white thread and the other black. He said: “She’d never noticed, if it hadn’t been

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