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Chapter 4

Showing off in Sunday School

THE SUN ROSE upon a tranquil world, and beamed down upon the peaceful
village like a benediction. Breakfast over, Aunt Polly had family worship; it
began with a prayer built from the ground up of solid courses of Scriptural
quotations welded together with a thin mortar of originality; and from the
summit of this she delivered a grim chapter of the Mosaic Law, as from Sinai.
Then Tom girded up his loins, so to speak, and went to work to “get his verses.”
Sid had learned his lesson days before. Tom bent all his energies to the
memorizing of five verses, and he chose part of the Sermon on the Mount,
because he could find no verses that were shorter. At the end of half an hour
Tom had a vague general idea of his lesson, but no more, for his mind was
traversing the whole field of human thought, and his hands were busy with
distracting recreations. Mary took his book to hear him recite, and he tried to
find his way through the fog: “Blessed are the-a-a-” “Poor”“Yes-poor; blessed
are the poor-a-a-” “In spirit-”

“In spirit; blessed are the poor in spirit, for they-they-” “Theirs-” “For theirs.
Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are they that mourn, for they-they-” “Sh-” “For they-a-” “S, H, A-” “For
they S, H,- O I don’t know what it is!” “Shall!” “O, shall! for they shall-for they
shall-a-a-shall mourn-a-a-blessed are they that shall-they that-a-they that
shall mourn, for they shall-a-shall what? Why don’t you tell me Mary?- what
do you want to be so mean for?” “O, Tom, you poor thick-headed thing, I’m not
teasing you. I wouldn’t do that. You must go and learn it again. Don’t you be
discouraged, Tom, you’ll manage it-and if you do, I’ll give you something ever
so nice. There, now, that’s a good boy.” “All right! What is it, Mary, tell me what
it is.” “Never you mind, Tom. You know if I say it’s nice, it is nice.” “You bet
you that’s so, Mary. All right, I’ll tackle it again.”

And he did “tackle it again”- and under the double pressure of curiosity and
prospective gain, he did it with such spirit that he accomplished a shining

Mary gave him a brand-new “Barlow” knife worth twelve and a half cents; and
the convulsion of delight that swept his system shook him to his foundations.
True, the knife would not cut anything, but it was a “sure-enough” Barlow, and
there was inconceivable grandeur in that-though where the western boys ever
got the idea that such a weapon could possibly be counterfeited to its injury, is
an imposing mystery and will always remain so, perhaps. Tom contrived to
scarify the cupboard with it, and was arranging to begin on the bureau, when he
was called off to dress for Sunday-School.

Mary gave him a tin basin of water and a piece of soap, and he went outside the
door and set the basin on a little bench there; then he dipped the soap in the
water and laid it down; turned up his sleeves; poured out the water on the

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