(Critical Survey of Literature, Revised Edition)

Tom, the son of a banker, was born at Rivermouth in New England. When he was eighteen months old, however, his family moved to New Orleans, and there he lived until he was ten, growing up in almost complete ignorance of everything that was not Southern. In his tenth year, he was sent North to live with his Grandfather Nutter. Tom soon learned to admire his hale, cheery grandfather and to respect his grandaunt, Miss Abigail. The fourth member of the household was Kitty Collins, the maid, an Irish girl happily married to a sailor until he sailed away one day and failed to return.

Tom’s grandfather sent him to school immediately to keep him out of mischief. At the Temple Grammar School, he made friends with many boys and incurred the enmity of two, Bill Conway and Seth Rodgers. Tom’s friends decided to put on a play, WILLIAM TELL, in Tom’s barn. Pepper Whitcomb, as Walter Tell, balanced an apple on his head, while Tom played the part of William. Tom’s arrow missed the apple and struck Pepper in the mouth. The theatricals ceased abruptly.

Bill Conway’s tyranny finally drove Tom to make preparations to fight his tormentor, and Phil Adams tutored Tom in the manly art of self-defense. The anticipated fight did not occur, however, until after Tom had experienced several more adventures.

As the Fourth of July approached, the boys in the Temple Grammar School could not concentrate on their studies. One of the boys placed a torpedo under the cloth on the desk, at the exact spot where Mr. Grimshaw usually struck with his heavy ruler. The resultant explosion created a commotion and nearly caused the strangulation of Charley Marden, who was at the water pail getting a drink.

On the night before the Fourth of July, Tom slipped out of bed and used Kitty’s clothesline to escape from his bedroom. He did not tie knots in the rope and, as a result, burned his hands in his descent. He went to the square, where a big bonfire was to be lit. When the fire burned down after a while, Tom and his friends took an old stagecoach from Ezra Wingate’s barn and used the vehicle as fuel. The boys were caught and put in jail, but they escaped. The next day, Ezra collected three dollars from the family of each boy who had aided in the theft. Ezra made a good profit, for he had previously offered the coach to anyone who would pay seventy-five cents for it. During the celebration of the Fourth, Tom accidentally stepped on a mine and was blown into the air and knocked unconscious. As a result, he was a hero among his friends for about two weeks.

Shortly after this experience, Tom was initiated into the mysterious order of the Centipedes, an organization notorious for the pranks of its members. One of these pranks was the stealing of the druggist’s gilt mortar and pestle, which the Centipedes placed over the Widow Conway’s front door. On the drugstore window shutters, they tacked a sign advertising for a seamstress. The town laughed, because everyone except Mr....

(The entire section is 1229 words.)