The Mill on the Floss HTML version
II.3. The New Schoolfellow
It was a cold, wet January day on which Tom went back to school; a day quite in
keeping with this severe phase of his destiny. If he had not carried in his pocket a
parcel of sugar-candy and a small Dutch doll for little Laura, there would have
been no ray of expected pleasure to enliven the general gloom. But he liked to
think how Laura would put out her lips and her tiny hands for the bits of
sugarcandy; and to give the greater keenness to these pleasures of imagination,
he took out the parcel, made a small hole in the paper, and bit off a crystal or
two, which had so solacing an effect under the confined prospect and damp
odors of the gig-umbrella, that he repeated the process more than once on his
"Well, Tulliver, we're glad to see you again," said Mr. Stelling, heartily. "Take off
your wrappings and come into the study till dinner. You'll find a bright fire there,
and a new companion."
Tom felt in an uncomfortable flutter as he took off his woollen comforter and other
wrappings. He had seen Philip Wakem at St. Ogg's, but had always turned his
eyes away from him as quickly as possible. He would have disliked having a
deformed boy for his companion, even if Philip had not been the son of a bad
man. And Tom did not see how a bad man's son could be very good. His own
father was a good man, and he would readily have fought any one who said the
contrary. He was in a state of mingled embarrassment and defiance as he
followed Mr. Stelling to the study.
"Here is a new companion for you to shake hands with, Tulliver," said that
gentleman on entering the study,--"Master Philip Wakem. I shall leave you to
make acquaintance by yourselves. You already know something of each other, I
imagine; for you are neighbors at home."
Tom looked confused and awkward, while Philip rose and glanced at him timidly.
Tom did not like to go up and put out his hand, and he was not prepared to say,
"How do you do?" on so short a notice.
Mr. Stelling wisely turned away, and closed the door behind him; boys' shyness
only wears off in the absence of their elders.
Philip was at once too proud and too timid to walk toward Tom. He thought, or
rather felt, that Tom had an aversion to looking at him; every one, almost,
disliked looking at him; and his deformity was more conspicuous when he
walked. So they remained without shaking hands or even speaking, while Tom
went to the fire and warmed himself, every now and then casting furtive glances
at Philip, who seemed to be drawing absently first one object and then another
on a piece of paper he had before him. He had seated himself again, and as he
drew, was thinking what he could say to Tom, and trying to overcome his own
repugnance to making the first advances.
Tom began to look oftener and longer at Philip's face, for he could see it without
noticing the hump, and it was really not a disagreeable face,--very old-looking,