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me, to think I went and whipped him for taking that cream, never once
recollecting that I throwed it out myself because it was sour, and I never to see
him again in this world, never, never, poor abused boy!” And Mrs. Harper
sobbed as if her heart would break.

“I hope Tom’s better off where he is,” said Sid, “but if he’d been better in some
ways-” “Sid!” Tom felt the glare of the old lady’s eye, though he could not see it.
“Not a word against my Tom, now that he’s gone! God’ll take care of him-never
you trouble yourself, sir! Oh, Mrs. Harper, I don’t know how to give him up, I
don’t know how to give him up! He was such a comfort to me, although he
tormented my old heart out of me, ‘most.” “The Lord giveth and the Lord hath
taken away. Blessed be the name of the Lord! But it’s so hard-O, it’s so hard!
Only last Saturday my Joe busted a firecracker right under my nose and I
knocked him sprawling. Little did I know then, how soon-O, if it was to do over
again I’d hug him and bless him for it.” “Yes, yes, yes, I know just how you feel,
Mrs. Harper, I know just exactly how you feel. No longer ago than yesterday
noon, my Tom took and filled the cat full of Pain-Killer, and I did think the
cretur would tear the house down. And God forgive me, I cracked Tom’s head
with my thimble, poor boy, poor dead boy. But he’s out of all his troubles now.
And the last words I ever heard him say was to reproach-”

But this memory was too much for the old lady, and she broke entirely down.
Tom was snuffling, now, himself-and more in pity of himself than anybody else.
He could hear Mary crying, and putting in a kindly word for him from time to
time. He began to have a nobler opinion of himself than ever before. Still he was
sufficiently touched by his aunt’s grief to long to rush out from under the bed
and overwhelm her with joy-and the theatrical gorgeousness of the thing
appealed strongly to his nature, too, but he resisted and lay still.

He went on listening, and gathered by odds and ends that it was conjectured at
first that the boys had got drowned while taking a swim; then the small raft had
been missed; next, certain boys said the missing lads had promised that the
village should “hear something” soon; the wise-heads had “put this and that
together” and decided that the lads had gone off on that raft and would turn up
at the next town below, presently; but toward noon the raft had been found,
lodged against the Missouri shore some five or six miles below the village,- and
then hope perished; they must be drowned, else hunger would have driven
them home by nightfall if not sooner. It was believed that the search for the
bodies had been a fruitless effort merely because the drowning must have
occurred in mid-channel, since the boys, being good swimmers, would
otherwise have escaped to shore.

This was Wednesday night. If the bodies continued missing until Sunday, all
hope would be given over, and the funerals would be preached on that morning.
Tom shuddered.

Mrs. Harper gave a sobbing good-night and turned to go. Then with a mutual
impulse the two bereaved women flung themselves into each other’s arms and
had a good, consoling cry, and then parted. Aunt Polly was tender far beyond

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