Summary—Chapter 4: Showing Off in Sunday School

Mr. Walters fell to “showing off,” with all sorts of official bustlings and activities. . . . The librarian “showed off”. . . . The young lady teachers “showed off”. . . . The little girls “showed off” in various ways, and the little boys “showed off.”

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Sunday morning arrives, and Tom prepares for Sunday school with the help of his cousin Mary. As Tom struggles halfheartedly to learn his Bible verses, Mary encourages and entices him with the promise of “something ever so nice.” Tom’s work ethic then improves, and he manages to memorize the verses. Mary gives him a “Barlow” knife as reward. Tom then dresses for church, and he, Mary, and Sid hurry off to Sunday school, which Tom loathes.

Before class begins, Tom trades all the spoils he has gained from his whitewashing scam for tickets. The tickets are given as rewards for well-recited Bible verses, and a student who has memorized two thousand verses and received the appropriate tickets can trade them in for a copy of the Bible, awarded with honor in front of the entire class.

Judge Thatcher, the uncle of Tom’s friend Jeff Thatcher, visits Tom’s class that day. The judge’s family includes his daughter, Becky—the beautiful girl Tom notices the previous afternoon. The class treats the judge as a celebrity—the students, teachers, and superintendent make a great attempt at showing off for him. As usual, Tom is the best show-off—by trading for tickets before class, Tom has accumulated enough to earn a Bible. Mr. Walters, Tom’s Sunday school teacher, is flabbergasted when Tom approaches with the tickets. He knows that Tom has not memorized the appropriate number of verses, but since Tom has the required tickets, and since Mr. Walters is eager to impress Judge Thatcher, the Bible-awarding ceremony proceeds.

The Judge pats Tom on the head and compliments him on his diligence. He gives him the chance to show off his purported knowledge, asking him, “No doubt you know the names of all the twelve disciples. Won’t you tell us the names of the first two that were appointed?” Tom does not know their names, of course, and eventually blurts out the first two names that come to his mind: David and Goliath. The narrator pleads, “Let us draw the curtain of charity over the rest of the scene.”

Summary—Chapter 5: The Pinch-bug and His Prey

After Sunday school comes the church service, which includes a long, tedious sermon. At one point, the minister describes how, at the millennium (the 1,000-year period during which Christ will reign over the earth, according to Christianity) the lion and the lamb will lie down together and a little child shall lead them. Tom wishes that he could be that child—as long as the lion were tame.

Bored, Tom takes from his pocket a box containing a “pinchbug,” or a large black beetle. The insect pinches him and slips from his grasp to the middle of the aisle at the same time that a stray poodle wanders into the church. The dog investigates the pinchbug, receives one pinch, circles the insect warily, and then eventually sits on it. The bug latches onto the poodle’s behind, and the unfortunate dog runs yelping through the church until its master flings it out a window. The general laughter disrupts the sermon completely, and Tom goes home happy, despite the loss of his bug.