"I only just want to stir him up a little, JoeI'
" No, sir,it ain't fair; you just let him alone."
"Blame it, I ain't going to stir him much."
"Let him alone, I tell you!"
" I won't! "
" You shall—he's on my side of the line."
" Look here, Joe Harper, whose is that tick? "
"Idon't care whose tick he is—he's on my side of the line, and you shan't touch him." ,
"Well I'll just bet I will, though. He's my tick and I'll do what I blame please with him, or die! "
A tremendous whack came down on Tom's shoulders, and its duplicate on Joe's; and for the space of two minutes the dust continued to fly from the two jackets and the whole school to enjoy it. The boys had been too absorbed to notice the hush that had stolen upon the school a while before when the master came tip-toeing down the room and stood over them. He had contemplated a good part of the performance before he contributed his bit of variety to it.
When school broke up at noon, Tom flew to Becky Thatcher, and whispered in her ear:
" Put on your bonnet and let on you're going home; and when you get to the corner, give the rest of 'em the slip, and turn down through the lane and come back. I'll go the other way and come it over 'em the same way."
So the one went off with one group of scholars, and the other with another. In a little while the two met at the bottom of the lane, and when they reached the school they had it all to themselves. Then they sat together, with a slate before them, and Tom gave Becky the pencil and held her hand in his, guiding it, and so created another surprising house. When the interest in art began to wane, the two fell to talking. Tom was swimming in bliss. He said;
"Do you love rats?"
"No! I hate them!"
" Well, I do too—live ones. But I mean dead ones, to swing round your head with a string."