The Mill on the Floss HTML version

I.5. Tom Comes Home
Tom was to arrive early in the afternoon, and there was another fluttering heart
besides Maggie's when it was late enough for the sound of the gig-wheels to be
expected; for if Mrs. Tulliver had a strong feeling, it was fondness for her boy. At
last the sound came,--that quick light bowling of the gig-wheels,--and in spite of
the wind, which was blowing the clouds about, and was not likely to respect Mrs.
Tulliver's curls and cap-strings, she came outside the door, and even held her
hand on Maggie's offending head, forgetting all the griefs of the morning.
"There he is, my sweet lad! But, Lord ha' mercy! he's got never a collar on; it's
been lost on the road, I'll be bound, and spoilt the set."
Mrs. Tulliver stood with her arms open; Maggie jumped first on one leg and then
on the other; while Tom descended from the gig, and said, with masculine
reticence as to the tender emotions, "Hallo! Yap--what! are you there?"
Nevertheless he submitted to be kissed willingly enough, though Maggie hung on
his neck in rather a strangling fashion, while his blue-gray eyes wandered toward
the croft and the lambs and the river, where he promised himself that he would
begin to fish the first thing to-morrow morning. He was one of those lads that
grow everywhere in England, and at twelve or thirteen years of age look as much
alike as goslings,--a lad with light-brown hair, cheeks of cream and roses, full
lips, indeterminate nose and eyebrows,--a physiognomy in which it seems
impossible to discern anything but the generic character to boyhood; as different
as possible from poor Maggie's phiz, which Nature seemed to have moulded and
colored with the most decided intention. But that same Nature has the deep
cunning which hides itself under the appearance of openness, so that simple
people think they can see through her quite well, and all the while she is secretly
preparing a refutation of their confident prophecies. Under these average boyish
physiognomies that she seems to turn off by the gross, she conceals some of her
most rigid, inflexible purposes, some of her most unmodifiable characters; and
the dark-eyed, demonstrative, rebellious girl may after all turn out to be a passive
being compared with this pink-and-white bit of masculinity with the indeterminate
"Maggie," said Tom, confidentially, taking her into a corner, as soon as his
mother was gone out to examine his box and the warm parlor had taken off the
chill he had felt from the long drive, "you don't know what I've got in my pockets,"
nodding his head up and down as a means of rousing her sense of mystery.
"No," said Maggie. "How stodgy they look, Tom! Is it marls (marbles) or
cobnuts?" Maggie's heart sank a little, because Tom always said it was "no good"
playing with her at those games, she played so badly.
"Marls! no; I've swopped all my marls with the little fellows, and cobnuts are no
fun, you silly, only when the nuts are green. But see here!" He drew something
half out of his right-hand pocket.
"What is it?" said Maggie, in a whisper. "I can see nothing but a bit of yellow."