Not a member?     Existing members login below:

The Mill on the Floss

II.4. "The Young Idea"
The alterations of feeling in that first dialogue between Tom and Philip continued
to make their intercourse even after many weeks of schoolboy intimacy. Tom
never quite lost the feeling that Philip, being the son of a "rascal," was his natural
enemy; never thoroughly overcame his repulsion to Philip's deformity. He was a
boy who adhered tenaciously to impressions once received; as with all minds in
which mere perception predominates over thought and emotion, the external
remained to him rigidly what it was in the first instance. But then it was
impossible not to like Philip's company when he was in a good humor; he could
help one so well in one's Latin exercises, which Tom regarded as a kind of
puzzle that could only be found out by a lucky chance; and he could tell such
wonderful fighting stories about Hal of the Wynd, for example, and other heroes
who were especial favorites with Tom, because they laid about them with heavy
strokes. He had small opinion of Saladin, whose cimeter could cut a cushion in
two in an instant; who wanted to cut cushions? That was a stupid story, and he
didn't care to hear it again. But when Robert Bruce, on the black pony, rose in his
stirrups, and lifting his good battle-axe, cracked at once the helmet and the skull
of the too hasty knight at Bannockburn, then Tom felt all the exaltation of
sympathy, and if he had had a cocoanut at hand, he would have cracked it at
once with the poker. Philip in his happier moods indulged Tom to the top of his
bent, heightening the crash and bang and fury of every fight with all the artillery
of epithets and similes at his command. But he was not always in a good humor
or happy mood. The slight spurt of peevish susceptibility which had escaped him
in their first interview was a symptom of a perpetually recurring mental ailment,
half of it nervous irritability, half of it the heart-bitterness produced by the sense
of his deformity. In these fits of susceptibility every glance seemed to him to be
charged either with offensive pity or with ill-repressed disgust; at the very least it
was an indifferent glance, and Philip felt indifference as a child of the south feels
the chill air of a northern spring. Poor Tom's blundering patronage when they
were out of doors together would sometimes make him turn upon the well-
meaning lad quite savagely; and his eyes, usually sad and quiet, would flash with
anything but playful lightning. No wonder Tom retained his suspicions of the
humpback.
But Philip's self-taught skill in drawing was another link between them; for Tom
found, to his disgust, that his new drawing-master gave him no dogs and
donkeys to draw, but brooks and rustic bridges and ruins, all with a general
softness of black-lead surface, indicating that nature, if anything, was rather
satiny; and as Tom's feeling for the picturesque in landscape was at present
quite latent, it is not surprising that Mr. Goodrich's productions seemed to him an
uninteresting form of art. Mr. Tulliver, having a vague intention that Tom should
be put to some business which included the drawing out of plans and maps, had
complained to Mr. Riley, when he saw him at Mudport, that Tom seemed to be
 
 
Remove