THE harder Tom tried to fasten his mind on his book, the more his ideas
wandered. So at last, with a sigh and a yawn, he gave it up. It seemed
to him that the noon recess would never come. The air was utterly dead.
There was not a breath stirring. It was the sleepiest of sleepy days.
The drowsing murmur of the five and twenty studying scholars soothed
the soul like the spell that is in the murmur of bees. Away off in the
flaming sunshine, Cardiff Hill lifted its soft green sides through a
shimmering veil of heat, tinted with the purple of distance; a few birds
floated on lazy wing high in the air; no other living thing was visible
but some cows, and they were asleep. Tom's heart ached to be free, or
else to have something of interest to do to pass the dreary time.
His hand wandered into his pocket and his face lit up with a glow of
gratitude that was prayer, though he did not know it. Then furtively
the percussion-cap box came out. He released the tick and put him on
the long flat desk. The creature probably glowed with a gratitude that
amounted to prayer, too, at this moment, but it was premature: for when
he started thankfully to travel off, Tom turned him aside with a pin and
made him take a new direction.
Tom's bosom friend sat next him, suffering just as Tom had been, and
now he was deeply and gratefully interested in this entertainment in
an instant. This bosom friend was Joe Harper. The two boys were sworn
friends all the week, and embattled enemies on Saturdays. Joe took a
pin out of his lapel and began to assist in exercising the prisoner.
The sport grew in interest momently. Soon Tom said that they were
interfering with each other, and neither getting the fullest benefit
of the tick. So he put Joe's slate on the desk and drew a line down the
middle of it from top to bottom.