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Chapter 3

Busy at War and Love

TOM PRESENTED HIMSELF before Aunt Polly, who was sitting by an open
window in a pleasant rearward apartment, which was bed-room, breakfastroom,
dining-room, and library, combined. The balmy summer air, the restful quiet,
the odor of the flowers, and the drowsing murmur of the bees had had their
effect, and she was nodding over her knitting-for she had no company but the
cat, and it was asleep in her lap. Her spectacles were propped up on her gray
head for safety. She had thought that of course Tom had deserted long ago, and
she wondered at seeing him place himself in her power again in this intrepid
way. 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 placed small trust in such evidence. She
went out to see for herself; and she would have been content to find twenty per
cent of Tom’s statement true. When she found the entire fence whitewashed, and
not only whitewashed but elaborately coated and recoated, and even a streak
added to the ground, her astonishment was almost unspeakable. She said: “Well,
I never! There’s no getting round it, you can work when you’re a mind to, Tom.”
And then she diluted the compliment by adding, “But it’s powerful seldom
you’re a mind to, I’m bound to say. Well, go ‘long and play; but mind you get
back sometime in a week, or I’ll tan you.” She was so overcome by the splendor
of his achievement that she took him into the closet and selected a choice apple
and delivered it to him, along with an improving lecture upon the added value
and flavor a treat took to itself when it came without sin through virtuous effort.
And while she closed with a happy Scriptural flourish, he “hooked” a doughnut.
Then he skipped out, and saw Sid just starting up the outside stairway that led
to the back rooms on the second floor. Clods were handy and the air was full of
them in a twinkling. They raged around Sid like a hail-storm; and before Aunt
Polly could collect her surprised faculties and sally to the rescue, six or seven
clods had taken personal effect and Tom was over the fence and gone. There was
a gate, but as a general thing he was too crowded for time to make use of it. His
soul was at peace, now that he had settled with Sid for calling attention to his
black thread and getting him into trouble.

Tom skirted the block, and came round into a muddy alley that led by the back
of his aunt’s cow-stable; he presently got safely beyond the reach of capture and
punishment, and hasted toward the public square of the village, where two
“military” companies of boys had met for conflict, according to previous
appointment. Tom was General of one of these armies, Joe Harper (a bosom
friend,) General of the other. These two great commanders did not condescend
to fight in person-that being better suited to the still smaller fry-but sat together
on an eminence and conducted the field operations by orders delivered through
aides-de-camp. Tom’s army won a great victory, after a long and hard-fought

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