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There were some boys-and-girls’ parties, but they were so few and so delightful
that they only made the aching voids between ache the harder.
Becky Thatcher was gone to her Constantinople home to stay with her parents
during vacation-so there was no bright side to life anywhere.
The dreadful secret of the murder was a chronic misery. It was a very cancer for
permanency and pain.
Then came the measles.
During two long weeks Tom lay a prisoner, dead to the world and its
happenings. He was very ill, he was interested in nothing. When he got upon his
feet at last and moved feebly down town, a melancholy change had come over
everything and every creature. There had been a “revival,” and everybody had
“got religion”; not only the adults, but even the boys and girls. Tom went about,
hoping against hope for the sight of one blessed sinful face, but disappointment
crossed him everywhere. He found Joe Harper studying a Testament, and
turned sadly away from the depressing spectacle. He sought Ben Rogers, and
found him visiting the poor with a basket of tracts. He hunted up Jim Hollis,
who called his attention to the precious blessing of his late measles as a warning.
Every boy he encountered added another ton to his depression; and when, in
desperation, he flew for refuge at last to the bosom of Huckleberry Finn and was
received with a scriptural quotation, his heart broke and he crept home and to
bed realizing that he alone of all the town was lost, forever and forever.
And that night there came on a terrific storm, with driving rain, awful claps of
thunder and blinding sheets of lightning. He covered his head with the
bedclothes and waited in a horror of suspense for his doom; for he had not the
shadow of a doubt that all this hubbub was about him. He believed he had taxed
the forbearance of the powers above to the extremity of endurance and that this
was the result. It might have seemed to him a waste of pomp and ammunition to
kill a bug with a battery of artillery, but there seemed nothing incongruous
about the getting up such an expensive thunderstorm as this to knock the turf
from under an insect like himself.
By and by the tempest spent itself and died without accomplishing its object.
The boy’s first impulse was to be grateful, and reform. His second was to waitfor
there might not be any more storms.
The next day the doctors were back; Tom had relapsed. The three weeks he
spent on his back this time seemed an entire age. When he got abroad at last he
was hardly grateful that he had been spared, remembering how lonely was his
estate, how companionless and forlorn he was. He drifted listlessly down the
street and found Jim Hollis acting as judge in a juvenile court that was trying a
cat for murder, in the presence of her victim, a bird. He found Joe Harper and
Huck Finn up an alley eating a stolen melon. Poor lads! they-like Tom-had
suffered a relapse.
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