The Mill on the Floss HTML version

II.7. The Golden Gates Are Passed
So Tom went on even to the fifth half-year--till he was turned sixteen--at King's
Lorton, while Maggie was growing with a rapidity which her aunts considered
highly reprehensible, at Miss Firniss's boarding-school in the ancient town of
Laceham on the Floss, with cousin Lucy for her companion. In her early letters to
Tom she had always sent her love to Philip, and asked many questions about
him, which were answered by brief sentences about Tom's toothache, and a turf-
house which he was helping to build in the garden, with other items of that kind.
She was pained to hear Tom say in the holidays that Philip was as queer as ever
again, and often cross. They were no longer very good friends, she perceived;
and when she reminded Tom that he ought always to love Philip for being so
good to him when his foot was bad, he answered: "Well, it isn't my fault; I don't
do anything to him." She hardly ever saw Philip during the remainder of their
school-life; in the Midsummer holidays he was always away at the seaside, and
at Christmas she could only meet him at long intervals in the street of St. Ogg's.
When they did meet, she remembered her promise to kiss him, but, as a young
lady who had been at a boarding-school, she knew now that such a greeting was
out of the question, and Philip would not expect it. The promise was void, like so
many other sweet, illusory promises of our childhood; void as promises made in
Eden before the seasons were divided, and when the starry blossoms grew side
by side with the ripening peach,--impossible to be fulfilled when the golden gates
had been passed.
But when their father was actually engaged in the long-threatened lawsuit, and
Wakem, as the agent at once of Pivart and Old Harry, was acting against him,
even Maggie felt, with some sadness, that they were not likely ever to have any
intimacy with Philip again; the very name of Wakem made her father angry, and
she had once heard him say that if that crook-backed son lived to inherit his
father's ill-gotten gains, there would be a curse upon him. "Have as little to do
with him at school as you can, my lad," he said to Tom; and the command was
obeyed the more easily because Mr. Sterling by this time had two additional
pupils; for though this gentleman's rise in the world was not of that meteor-like
rapidity which the admirers of his extemporaneous eloquence had expected for a
preacher whose voice demanded so wide a sphere, he had yet enough of
growing prosperity to enable him to increase his expenditure in continued
disproportion to his income.
As for Tom's school course, it went on with mill-like monotony, his mind
continuing to move with a slow, half-stifled pulse in a medium uninteresting or
unintelligible ideas. But each vacation he brought home larger and larger
drawings with the satiny rendering of landscape, and water-colors in vivid greens,
together with manuscript books full of exercises and problems, in which the
handwriting was all the finer because he gave his whole mind to it. Each vacation
he brought home a new book or two, indicating his progress through different