The Mill on the Floss HTML version

III.5. Tom Applies His Knife to the Oyster
The next day, at ten o'clock, Tom was on his way to St. Ogg's, to see his uncle
Deane, who was to come home last night, his aunt had said; and Tom had made
up his mind that his uncle Deane was the right person to ask for advice about
getting some employment. He was in a great way of business; he had not the
narrow notions of uncle Glegg; and he had risen in the world on a scale of
advancement which accorded with Tom's ambition.
It was a dark, chill, misty morning, likely to end in rain,--one of those mornings
when even happy people take refuge in their hopes. And Tom was very unhappy;
he felt the humiliation as well as the prospective hardships of his lot with all the
keenness of a proud nature; and with all his resolute dutifulness toward his father
there mingled an irrepressible indignation against him which gave misfortune the
less endurable aspect of a wrong. Since these were the consequences of going
to law, his father was really blamable, as his aunts and uncles had always said
he was; and it was a significant indication of Tom's character, that though he
thought his aunts ought to do something more for his mother, he felt nothing like
Maggie's violent resentment against them for showing no eager tenderness and
generosity. There were no impulses in Tom that led him to expect what did not
present itself to him as a right to be demanded. Why should people give away
their money plentifully to those who had not taken care of their own money? Tom
saw some justice in severity; and all the more, because he had confidence in
himself that he should never deserve that just severity. It was very hard upon him
that he should be put at this disadvantage in life by his father's want of prudence;
but he was not going to complain and to find fault with people because they did
not make everything easy for him. He would ask no one to help him, more than to
give him work and pay him for it. Poor Tom was not without his hopes to take
refuge in under the chill damp imprisonment of the December fog, which seemed
only like a part of his home troubles. At sixteen, the mind that has the strongest
affinity for fact cannot escape illusion and self-flattery; and Tom, in sketching his
future, had no other guide in arranging his facts than the suggestions of his own
brave self-reliance. Both Mr. Glegg and Mr. Deane, he knew, had been very poor
once; he did not want to save money slowly and retire on a moderate fortune like
his uncle Glegg, but he would be like his uncle Deane--get a situation in some
great house of business and rise fast. He had scarcely seen anything of his uncle
Deane for the last three years--the two families had been getting wider apart; but
for this very reason Tom was the more hopeful about applying to him. His uncle
Glegg, he felt sure, would never encourage any spirited project, but he had a
vague imposing idea of the resources at his uncle Deane's command. He had
heard his father say, long ago, how Deane had made himself so valuable to
Guest & Co. that they were glad enough to offer him a share in the business; that
was what Tom resolved he would do. It was intolerable to think of being poor and
looked down upon all one's life. He would provide for his mother and sister, and