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Tom had become indifferent to persecution, by this time. This phase filled the
old lady’s heart with consternation. This indifference must be broken up at any
cost. Now she heard of Pain-Killer for the first time. She ordered a lot at once.
She tasted it and was filled with gratitude. It was simply fire in a liquid form.
She dropped the water treatment and everything else, and pinned her faith to
Pain-Killer. She gave Tom a tea-spoonful and watched with the deepest anxiety
for the result. Her troubles were instantly at rest, her soul at peace again; for the
“indifference” was broken up. The boy could not have shown a wilder, heartier
interest, if she had build a fire under him.
Tom felt that it was time to wake up; this sort of life might be romantic enough,
in his blighted condition, but it was getting to have too little sentiment and too
much distracting variety about it. So he thought over various plans for relief,
and finally hit upon that of professing to be fond of Pain-Killer. He asked for it
so often that he became a nuisance, and his aunt ended by telling him to help
himself and quit bothering her. If it had been Sid, she would have had no
misgivings to alloy her delight; but since it was Tom, she watched the bottle
clandestinely. She found that the medicine did really diminish, but it did not
occur to her that the boy was mending the health of a crack in the sitting-room
floor with it.
One day Tom was in the act of dosing the crack when his aunt’s yellow cat came
along, puffing, eyeing the tea-spoon avariciously, and begging for a taste.
Tom said: “Don’t ask for it unless you want it, Peter.” But Peter signified that he
did want it.
“You better make sure.” Peter was sure.
“Now you’ve asked for it, and I’ll give it to you, because there ain’t anything
mean about me; but if you find you don’t like it, you musn’t blame anybody but
your own self.” Peter was agreeable. So Tom pried his mouth open and poured
down the PainKiller. Peter sprang a couple of yards into the air, and then
delivered a war-whoop and set off round and round the room, banging against
furniture, upsetting flowerpots and making general havoc. Next he rose on his
hind feet and pranced around, in a frenzy of enjoyment, with his head over his
shoulder and his voice proclaiming his unappeasable happiness. Then he went
tearing around the house again spreading chaos and destruction in his path.
Aunt Polly entered in time to see him throw a few double summersets, deliver a
final mighty hurrah, and sail through the open window, carrying the rest of the
flower-pots with him. The old lady stood petrified with astonishment, peering
over her glasses; Tom lay on the floor expiring with laughter.
“Tom, what on earth ails that cat?” “I don’t know, aunt,” gasped the boy.
“Why I never see anything like it. What did make him act so?” “Deed I don’t
know Aunt Polly; cats always act so when they’re having a good time.” “They
do, do they?” There was something in the tone that made Tom apprehensive.
“Yes’m. That is, I believe they do.” “You do?” “Yes’m.” The old lady was
bending down, Tom watching, with interest emphasized by anxiety. Too late he
divined her “drift.” The handle of the tell-tale tea-spoon was visible under the
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