When Tom finds out that Becky Thatcher is ill, he puts aside all of his interests and involvements, as well as his fear of Injun Joe. Aunt Polly notices this drastic change in his behavior and, thinking him ill, gives him a dose from one of her favorite cures. Tom's melancholy disappears, and he perks up immediately. Tom enjoys the medicine so much that he pesters his aunt for another dose. She finally tells him where it is so that he can administer it himself. While doing so, Tom gives the family cat a taste, and the cat spreads "chaos and destruction" everywhere.
Later, when Tom sees Becky at school, he performs all sorts of antics to attract her attention, but she ignores him.
This chapter acts as an interlude between the Injun Joe murder plot and the future plot involving the boys on Jackson's Island.
With the episode about the painkillers, Twain returns to telling wonderful anecdotes. Regardless of what the pain might be, all nineteenth-century quack medicines (or patent medicines, for that matter) had one quality in common: They were about 90 percent pure alcohol. Although these medicines had no therapeutic or medicinal values, they at least made the patient feel less pain. In the case of Tom and the cat, the medicine made them feel elated, joyous, and rambunctious. Of course, they were drunk.
inveterate to be addicted to or to become a habit.
balm of Gilead anything healing or soothing.