The Mill on the Floss HTML version

V.2. Aunt Glegg Learns the Breadth of Bob's Thumb
While Maggie's life-struggles had lain almost entirely within her own soul, one
shadowy army fighting another, and the slain shadows forever rising again, Tom
was engaged in a dustier, noisier warfare, grappling with more substantial
obstacles, and gaining more definite conquests. So it has been since the days of
Hecuba, and of Hector, Tamer of horses; inside the gates, the women with
streaming hair and uplifted hands offering prayers, watching the world's combat
from afar, filling their long, empty days with memories and fears; outside, the
men, in fierce struggle with things divine and human, quenching memory in the
stronger light of purpose, losing the sense of dread and even of wounds in the
hurrying ardor of action.
From what you have seen of Tom, I think he is not a youth of whom you would
prophesy failure in anything he had thoroughly wished; the wagers are likely to
be on his side, notwithstanding his small success in the classics. For Tom had
never desired success in this field of enterprise; and for getting a fine flourishing
growth of stupidity there is nothing like pouring out on a mind a good amount of
subjects in which it feels no interest. But now Tom's strong will bound together
his integrity, his pride, his family regrets, and his personal ambition, and made
them one force, concentrating his efforts and surmounting discouragements. His
uncle Deane, who watched him closely, soon began to conceive hopes of him,
and to be rather proud that he had brought into the employment of the firm a
nephew who appeared to be made of such good commercial stuff. The real
kindness of placing him in the warehouse first was soon evident to Tom, in the
hints his uncle began to throw out, that after a time he might perhaps be trusted
to travel at certain seasons, and buy in for the firm various vulgar commodities
with which I need not shock refined ears in this place; and it was doubtless with a
view to this result that Mr. Deane, when he expected to take his wine alone,
would tell Tom to step in and sit with him an hour, and would pass that hour in
much lecturing and catechising concerning articles of export and import, with an
occasional excursus of more indirect utility on the relative advantages to the
merchants of St. Ogg's of having goods brought in their own and in foreign
bottoms,--a subject on which Mr. Deane, as a ship-owner, naturally threw off a
few sparks when he got warmed with talk and wine.
Already, in the second year, Tom's salary was raised; but all, except the price of
his dinner and clothes, went home into the tin box; and he shunned comradeship,
lest it should lead him into expenses in spite of himself. Not that Tom was
moulded on the spoony type of the Industrious Apprentice; he had a very strong
appetite for pleasure,--would have liked to be a Tamer of horses and to make a
distinguished figure in all neighboring eyes, dispensing treats and benefits to
others with well-judged liberality, and being pronounced one of the finest young