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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 contemplated the boy a bit, and said: “What do
you call work?” “Why ain’t that work?” Tom resumed his whitewashing, and
answered carelessly: “Well, maybe it is, and maybe it ain’t. All I know, is, it suits
Tom Sawyer.” “O, 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-criticised the effect again-Ben
watching every move and getting more and more interested, more and more
absorbed. Presently he said: “Say, Tom, let me whitewash a little.” Tom
considered, was about to consent; but he altered 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-lemme
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-” “O, 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 afeard-” “I’ll give you all of it!” Tom gave
up the brush with reluctance in his face but alacrity in his heart.

And while the late steamer “Big Missouri” worked and sweated in the sun, the
retired artist sat on a barrel in the shade close by, dangled his legs, munched his
apple, and planned the slaughter of more innocents. There was no lack of
material; boys happened along every little while; they came to jeer, but remained
to whitewash.

By the time Ben was fagged out, Tom had traded the next chance to Billy Fisher
for a kite, in good repair; 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, from being a poor poverty-stricken
boy in the morning, Tom was literally rolling in wealth. He had beside the
things before mentioned, twelve marbles, part of a jews-harp, a piece of blue
bottle-glass to look through, a spool cannon, a key that wouldn’t unlock
anything, a fragment of chalk, a glass stopper of a decanter, a tin soldier, a
couple of tadpoles, six firecrackers, a kitten with only one eye, a brass doorknob,
a dog-collar-but no dogthe handle of a knife, four pieces of orange peel, and a
dilapidated old window sash.

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