"What'll you give?"
"Piece of lickrish and a fish-hook."
"Less see 'em."
Tom exhibited. They were satisfactory, and the property changed hands.
Then Tom traded a couple of white alleys for three red tickets, and some
small trifle or other for a couple of blue ones. He waylaid other
boys as they came, and went on buying tickets of various colors ten
or fifteen minutes longer. He entered the church, now, with a swarm
of clean and noisy boys and girls, proceeded to his seat and started
a quarrel with the first boy that came handy. The teacher, a grave,
elderly man, interfered; then turned his back a moment and Tom pulled a
boy's hair in the next bench, and was absorbed in his book when the boy
turned around; stuck a pin in another boy, presently, in order to hear
him say "Ouch!" and got a new reprimand from his teacher. Tom's whole
class were of a pattern--restless, noisy, and troublesome. When they came
to recite their lessons, not one of them knew his verses perfectly, but
had to be prompted all along. However, they worried through, and each
got his reward--in small blue tickets, each with a passage of Scripture
on it; each blue ticket was pay for two verses of the recitation. Ten
blue tickets equalled a red one, and could be exchanged for it; ten red
tickets equalled a yellow one; for ten yellow tickets the superintendent
gave a very plainly bound Bible (worth forty cents in those easy
times) to the pupil. How many of my readers would have the industry and
application to memorize two thousand verses, even for a Dore Bible? And
yet Mary had acquired two Bibles in this way--it was the patient work of
two years--and a boy of German parentage had won four or five. He once
recited three thousand verses without stopping; but the strain upon his
mental faculties was too great, and he was little better than an idiot
from that day forth--a grievous misfortune for the school, for on great
occasions, before company, the superintendent (as Tom expressed it)
had always made this boy come out and "spread himself." Only the older
pupils managed to keep their tickets and stick to their tedious work
long enough to get a Bible, and so the delivery of one of these prizes
was a rare and noteworthy circumstance; the successful pupil was so
great and conspicuous for that day that on the spot every scholar's
heart was fired with a fresh ambition that often lasted a couple
of weeks. It is possible that Tom's mental stomach had never really
hungered for one of those prizes, but unquestionably his entire being
had for many a day longed for the glory and the eclat that came with it.