The Mill on the Floss HTML version

Book II: School-Time
II.1. Tom's "First Half"
Tom Tulliver'S sufferings during the first quarter he was at King's Lorton, under
the distinguished care of the Rev. Walter Stelling, were rather severe. At Mr.
Jacob's academy life had not presented itself to him as a difficult problem; there
were plenty of fellows to play with, and Tom being good at all active games,--
fighting especially,--had that precedence among them which appeared to him
inseparable from the personality of Tom Tulliver. Mr. Jacobs himself, familiarly
known as Old Goggles, from his habit of wearing spectacles, imposed no painful
awe; and if it was the property of snuffy old hypocrites like him to write like
copperplate and surround their signatures with arabesques, to spell without
forethought, and to spout "my name is Norval" without bungling, Tom, for his
part, was glad he was not in danger of those mean accomplishments. He was not
going to be a snuffy schoolmaster, he, but a substantial man, like his father, who
used to go hunting when he was younger, and rode a capital black mare,--as
pretty a bit of horse-flesh as ever you saw; Tom had heard what her points were
a hundred times. He meant to go hunting too, and to be generally respected.
When people were grown up, he considered, nobody inquired about their writing
and spelling; when he was a man, he should be master of everything, and do just
as he liked. It had been very difficult for him to reconcile himself to the idea that
his school-time was to be prolonged and that he was not to be brought up to his
father's business, which he had always thought extremely pleasant; for it was
nothing but riding about, giving orders, and going to market; and he thought that
a clergyman would give him a great many Scripture lessons, and probably make
him learn the Gospel and Epistle on a Sunday, as well as the Collect. But in the
absence of specific information, it was impossible for him to imagine that school
and a schoolmaster would be something entirely different from the academy of
Mr. Jacobs. So, not to be at a deficiency, in case of his finding genial
companions, he had taken care to carry with him a small box of percussion-caps;
not that there was anything particular to be done with them, but they would serve
to impress strange boys with a sense of his familiarity with guns. Thus poor Tom,
though he saw very clearly through Maggie's illusions, was not without illusions of
his own, which were to be cruelly dissipated by his enlarged experience at King's
He had not been there a fortnight before it was evident to him that life,
complicated not only with the Latin grammar but with a new standard of English
pronunciation, was a very difficult business, made all the more obscure by a thick
mist of bash fulness. Tom, as you have observed, was never an exception
among boys for ease of address; but the difficulty of enunciating a monosyllable
in reply to Mr. or Mrs. Stelling was so great, that he even dreaded to be asked at