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    Book 1 - Chapter 2

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    Chapter 2
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    Mr. Tulliver, of Dorlcote Mill, Declares His Resolution about Tom

    "What I want, you know," said Mr. Tulliver,--"what I want is to give
    Tom a good eddication; an eddication as'll be a bread to him. That was
    what I was thinking of when I gave notice for him to leave the academy
    at Lady-day. I mean to put him to a downright good school at
    Midsummer. The two years at th' academy 'ud ha' done well enough, if
    I'd meant to make a miller and farmer of him, for he's had a fine
    sight more schoolin' nor _I_ ever got. All the learnin' _my_ father
    ever paid for was a bit o' birch at one end and the alphabet at th'
    other. But I should like Tom to be a bit of a scholard, so as he might
    be up to the tricks o' these fellows as talk fine and write with a
    flourish. It 'ud be a help to me wi' these lawsuits, and arbitrations,
    and things. I wouldn't make a downright lawyer o' the lad,--I should
    be sorry for him to be a raskill,--but a sort o' engineer, or a
    surveyor, or an auctioneer and vallyer, like Riley, or one o' them
    smartish businesses as are all profits and no outlay, only for a big
    watch-chain and a high stool. They're pretty nigh all one, and they're
    not far off being even wi' the law, _I_ believe; for Riley looks
    Lawyer Wakem i' the face as hard as one cat looks another. _He's_ none
    frightened at him."

    Mr. Tulliver was speaking to his wife, a blond comely woman in a
    fan-shaped cap (I am afraid to think how long it is since fan-shaped
    caps were worn, they must be so near coming in again. At that time,
    when Mrs. Tulliver was nearly forty, they were new at St. Ogg's, and
    considered sweet things).

    "Well, Mr. Tulliver, you know best: _I've_ no objections. But hadn't I
    better kill a couple o' fowl, and have th' aunts and uncles to dinner
    next week, so as you may hear what sister Glegg and sister Pullet have
    got to say about it? There's a couple o' fowl _wants_ killing!"

    "You may kill every fowl i' the yard if you like, Bessy; but I shall
    ask neither aunt nor uncle what I'm to do wi' my own lad," said Mr.
    Tulliver, defiantly.

    "Dear heart!" said Mrs. Tulliver, shocked at this sanguinary rhetoric,
    "how can you talk so, Mr. Tulliver? But it's your way to speak
    disrespectful o' my family; and sister Glegg throws all the blame
    upo'me, though I'm sure I'm as innocent as the babe unborn. For
    nobody's ever heard me say as it wasn't lucky for my children to have
    aunts and uncles as can live independent. Howiver, if Tom's to go to a
    new school, I should like him to go where I can wash him and mend him;
    else he might as well have calico as linen, for they'd be one as
    yallow as th' other before they'd been washed half-a-dozen times. And
    then, when the box is goin' back'ard and forrard, I could send the lad
    a cake, or a pork-pie, or an apple; for he can do with an extry bit,
    bless him! whether they stint him at the meals or no. My children can
    eat as much victuals as most, thank God!"

    "Well, well, we won't send him out o' reach o' the carrier's cart, if
    other things fit in," said Mr. Tulliver. "But you mustn't put a spoke
    i' the wheel about the washin,' if we can't get a school near enough.
    That's the fault I have to find wi' you, Bessy; if you see a stick i'
    the road, you're allays thinkin' you can't step over it. You'd want me
    not to hire a good wagoner, 'cause he'd got a mole on his face."

    "Dear heart!" said Mrs. Tulliver, in mild surprise, "when did I iver
    make objections to a man because he'd got a mole on his face? I'm sure
    I'm rether fond o' the moles; for my brother, as is dead an' gone, had
    a mole on his brow. But I can't remember your iver offering to hire a
    wagoner with a mole, Mr. Tulliver. There was John Gibbs hadn't a mole
    on his face no more nor you have, an' I was all for having you hire
    _him_; an' so you did hire him, an' if he hadn't died o' th'
    inflammation, as we paid Dr. Turnbull for attending him, he'd very
    like ha' been drivin' the wagon now. He might have a mole somewhere
    out o' sight, but how was I to know that, Mr. Tulliver?"

    "No, no, Bessy; I didn't mean justly the mole; I meant it to stand for
    summat else; but niver mind--it's puzzling work, talking is. What I'm
    thinking on, is how to find the right sort o' school to send Tom to,
    for I might be ta'en in again, as I've been wi' th' academy. I'll have
    nothing to do wi' a 'cademy again: whativer school I send Tom to, it
    sha'n't be a 'cademy; it shall be a place where the lads spend their
    time i' summat else besides blacking the family's shoes, and getting
    up the potatoes. It's an uncommon puzzling thing to know what school
    to pick."

    Mr. Tulliver paused a minute or two, and dived with both hands into
    his breeches pockets as if he hoped to find some suggestion there.
    Apparently he was not disappointed, for he presently said, "I know
    what I'll do: I'll talk it over wi' Riley; he's coming to-morrow, t'
    arbitrate about the dam."

    "Well, Mr. Tulliver, I've put the sheets out for the best bed, and
    Kezia's got 'em hanging at the fire. They aren't the best sheets, but
    they're good enough for anybody to sleep in, be he who he will; for as
    for them best Holland sheets, I should repent buying 'em, only they'll
    do to lay us out in. An' if you was to die to-morrow, Mr. Tulliver,
    they're mangled beautiful, an' all ready, an' smell o' lavender as it
    'ud be a pleasure to lay 'em out; an' they lie at the left-hand corner
    o' the big oak linen-chest at the back: not as I should trust anybody
    to look 'em out but myself."

    As Mrs. Tulliver uttered the last sentence, she drew a bright bunch of
    keys from her pocket, and singled out one, rubbing her thumb and
    finger up and down it with a placid smile while she looked at the
    clear fire. If Mr. Tulliver had been a susceptible man in his conjugal
    relation, he might have supposed that she drew out the key to aid her
    imagination in anticipating the moment when he would be in a state to
    justify the production of the best Holland sheets. Happily he was not
    so; he was only susceptible in respect of his right to water-power;
    moreover, he had the marital habit of not listening very closely, and
    since his mention of Mr. Riley, had been apparently occupied in a
    tactile examination of his woollen stockings.

    "I think I've hit it, Bessy," was his first remark after a short
    silence. "Riley's as likely a man as any to know o' some school; he's
    had schooling himself, an' goes about to all sorts o' places,
    arbitratin' and vallyin' and that. And we shall have time to talk it
    over to-morrow night when the business is done. I want Tom to be such
    a sort o' man as Riley, you know,--as can talk pretty nigh as well as
    if it was all wrote out for him, and knows a good lot o' words as
    don't mean much, so as you can't lay hold of 'em i' law; and a good
    solid knowledge o' business too."

    "Well," said Mrs. Tulliver, "so far as talking proper, and knowing
    everything, and walking with a bend in his back, and setting his hair
    up, I shouldn't mind the lad being brought up to that. But them
    fine-talking men from the big towns mostly wear the false
    shirt-fronts; they wear a frill till it's all a mess, and then hide it
    with a bib; I know Riley does. And then, if Tom's to go and live at
    Mudport, like Riley, he'll have a house with a kitchen hardly big
    enough to turn in, an' niver get a fresh egg for his breakfast, an'
    sleep up three pair o' stairs,--or four, for what I know,--and be
    burnt to death before he can get down."

    "No, no," said Mr. Tulliver, "I've no thoughts of his going to
    Mudport: I mean him to set up his office at St. Ogg's, close by us,
    an' live at home. But," continued Mr. Tulliver after a pause, "what
    I'm a bit afraid on is, as Tom hasn't got the right sort o' brains for
    a smart fellow. I doubt he's a bit slowish. He takes after your
    family, Bessy."

    "Yes, that he does," said Mrs. Tulliver, accepting the last
    proposition entirely on its own merits; "he's wonderful for liking a
    deal o' salt in his broth. That was my brother's way, and my father's
    before him."

    "It seems a bit a pity, though," said Mr. Tulliver, "as the lad should
    take after the mother's side instead o' the little wench. That's the
    worst on't wi' crossing o' breeds: you can never justly calkilate
    what'll come on't. The little un takes after my side, now: she's twice
    as 'cute as Tom. Too 'cute for a woman, I'm afraid," continued Mr.
    Tulliver, turning his head dubiously first on one side and then on the
    other. "It's no mischief much while she's a little un; but an
    over-'cute woman's no better nor a long-tailed sheep,--she'll fetch
    none the bigger price for that."

    "Yes, it _is_ a mischief while she's a little un, Mr. Tulliver, for it
    runs to naughtiness. How to keep her in a clean pinafore two hours
    together passes my cunning. An' now you put me i' mind," continued
    Mrs. Tulliver, rising and going to the window, "I don't know where she
    is now, an' it's pretty nigh tea-time. Ah, I thought so,--wanderin' up
    an' down by the water, like a wild thing: She'll tumble in some day."

    Mrs. Tulliver rapped the window sharply, beckoned, and shook her
    head,--a process which she repeated more than once before she returned
    to her chair.

    "You talk o' 'cuteness, Mr. Tulliver," she observed as she sat down,
    "but I'm sure the child's half an idiot i' some things; for if I send
    her upstairs to fetch anything, she forgets what she's gone for, an'
    perhaps 'ull sit down on the floor i' the sunshine an' plait her hair
    an' sing to herself like a Bedlam creatur', all the while I'm waiting
    for her downstairs. That niver run i' my family, thank God! no more
    nor a brown skin as makes her look like a mulatter. I don't like to
    fly i' the face o' Providence, but it seems hard as I should have but
    one gell, an' her so comical."

    "Pooh, nonsense!" said Mr. Tulliver; "she's a straight, black-eyed
    wench as anybody need wish to see. I don't know i' what she's behind
    other folks's children; and she can read almost as well as the

    "But her hair won't curl all I can do with it, and she's so franzy
    about having it put i' paper, and I've such work as never was to make
    her stand and have it pinched with th' irons."

    "Cut it off--cut it off short," said the father, rashly.

    "How can you talk so, Mr. Tulliver? She's too big a gell--gone nine,
    and tall of her age--to have her hair cut short; an' there's her
    cousin Lucy's got a row o' curls round her head, an' not a hair out o'
    place. It seems hard as my sister Deane should have that pretty child;
    I'm sure Lucy takes more after me nor my own child does. Maggie,
    Maggie," continued the mother, in a tone of half-coaxing fretfulness,
    as this small mistake of nature entered the room, "where's the use o'
    my telling you to keep away from the water? You'll tumble in and be
    drownded some day, an' then you'll be sorry you didn't do as mother
    told you."

    Maggie's hair, as she threw off her bonnet, painfully confirmed her
    mother's accusation. Mrs. Tulliver, desiring her daughter to have a
    curled crop, "like other folks's children," had had it cut too short
    in front to be pushed behind the ears; and as it was usually straight
    an hour after it had been taken out of paper, Maggie was incessantly
    tossing her head to keep the dark, heavy locks out of her gleaming
    black eyes,--an action which gave her very much the air of a small
    Shetland pony.

    "Oh, dear, oh, dear, Maggie, what are you thinkin'of, to throw your
    bonnet down there? Take it upstairs, there's a good gell, an' let your
    hair be brushed, an' put your other pinafore on, an' change your
    shoes, do, for shame; an' come an' go on with your patchwork, like a
    little lady."

    "Oh, mother," said Maggie, in a vehemently cross tone, "I don't _want_
    to do my patchwork."

    "What! not your pretty patchwork, to make a counterpane for your aunt

    "It's foolish work," said Maggie, with a toss of her mane,--"tearing
    things to pieces to sew 'em together again. And I don't want to do
    anything for my aunt Glegg. I don't like her."

    Exit Maggie, dragging her bonnet by the string, while Mr. Tulliver
    laughs audibly.

    "I wonder at you, as you'll laugh at her, Mr. Tulliver," said the
    mother, with feeble fretfulness in her tone. "You encourage her i'
    naughtiness. An' her aunts will have it as it's me spoils her."

    Mrs. Tulliver was what is called a good-tempered person,--never cried,
    when she was a baby, on any slighter ground than hunger and pins; and
    from the cradle upward had been healthy, fair, plump, and dull-witted;
    in short, the flower of her family for beauty and amiability. But milk
    and mildness are not the best things for keeping, and when they turn
    only a little sour, they may disagree with young stomachs seriously. I
    have often wondered whether those early Madonnas of Raphael, with the
    blond faces and somewhat stupid expression, kept their placidity
    undisturbed when their strong-limbed, strong-willed boys got a little
    too old to do without clothing. I think they must have been given to
    feeble remonstrance, getting more and more peevish as it became more
    and more ineffectual.
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