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Chapter 20

Tom Takes Becky’s Punishment

THERE WAS SOMETHING about Aunt Polly’s manner, when she kissed Tom,
that swept away his low spirits and made him lighthearted and happy again.

He started to school and had the luck of coming upon Becky Thatcher at the
head of Meadow Lane. His mood always determined his manner. Without a
moment’s hesitation he ran to her and said: “I acted mighty mean to-day, Becky,
and I’m so sorry. I won’t ever, ever do that way again, as long as ever I live-
please make up, won’t you?” The girl stopped and looked him scornfully in the
face: “I’ll thank you to keep yourself to yourself, Mr. Thomas Sawyer. I’ll never
speak to you again.” She tossed her head and passed on. Tom was so stunned
that he had not even presence of mind enough to say “Who cares, Miss Smarty?”
until the right time to say it had gone by. So he said nothing. But he was in a fine
rage, nevertheless. He moped into the school-yard wishing she were a boy, and
imagining how he would trounce her if she were. He presently encountered her
and delivered a stinging remark as he passed. She hurled one in return, and the
angry breach was complete.

It seemed to Becky, in her hot resentment, that she could hardly wait for school
to “take in,” she was so impatient to see Tom flogged for the injured spelling-

If she had had lingering notion of exposing Alfred Temple, Tom’s offensive fling
had driven it entirely away.

Poor girl, she did not know how fast she was nearing trouble herself. The
master, Mr. Dobbins, had reached middle age with an unsatisfied ambition. The
darling of his desires was to be a doctor, but poverty had decreed that he should
be nothing higher than a village schoolmaster. Every day he took a mysterious
book out of his desk and absorbed himself in it at times when no classes were

He kept that book under lock and key. There was not an urchin in school but
was perishing to have a glimpse of it, but the chance never came. Every boy and
girl had a theory about the nature of that book; but no two theories were alike,
and there was no way of getting at the facts in the case. Now, as Becky was
passing by the desk, which stood near the door, she noticed that the key was in
the lock! It was a precious moment. She glanced around; found herself alone,
and the next instant she had the book in her hands. The title page-Professor
somebody’s “Anatomy”- carried no information to her mind; so she began to
turn the leaves. She came at once upon a handsomely engraved and colored
frontispiece-a human figure, stark naked. At that moment a shadow fell on the
page and Tom Sawyer stepped in at the door, and caught a glimpse of the
picture. Becky snatched at the book to close it, and had the hard luck to tear the
pictured page half down the middle. She thrust the volume into the desk, turned
the key, and burst out crying with shame and vexation.

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