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    Book 1 - Chapter 3

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    Chapter 3
    Previous Chapter
    Mr. Riley Gives His Advice Concerning a School for Tom

    The gentleman in the ample white cravat and shirt-frill, taking his
    brandy-and-water so pleasantly with his good friend Tulliver, is Mr.
    Riley, a gentleman with a waxen complexion and fat hands, rather
    highly educated for an auctioneer and appraiser, but large-hearted
    enough to show a great deal of _bonhomie_ toward simple country
    acquaintances of hospitable habits. Mr. Riley spoke of such
    acquaintances kindly as "people of the old school."

    The conversation had come to a pause. Mr. Tulliver, not without a
    particular reason, had abstained from a seventh recital of the cool
    retort by which Riley had shown himself too many for Dix, and how
    Wakem had had his comb cut for once in his life, now the business of
    the dam had been settled by arbitration, and how there never would
    have been any dispute at all about the height of water if everybody
    was what they should be, and Old Harry hadn't made the lawyers.

    Mr. Tulliver was, on the whole, a man of safe traditional opinions;
    but on one or two points he had trusted to his unassisted intellect,
    and had arrived at several questionable conclusions; amongst the rest,
    that rats, weevils, and lawyers were created by Old Harry. Unhappily
    he had no one to tell him that this was rampant Manichæism, else he
    might have seen his error. But to-day it was clear that the good
    principle was triumphant: this affair of the water-power had been a
    tangled business somehow, for all it seemed--look at it one way--as
    plain as water's water; but, big a puzzle as it was, it hadn't got the
    better of Riley. Mr. Tulliver took his brandy-and-water a little
    stronger than usual, and, for a man who might be supposed to have a
    few hundreds lying idle at his banker's, was rather incautiously open
    in expressing his high estimate of his friend's business talents.

    But the dam was a subject of conversation that would keep; it could
    always be taken up again at the same point, and exactly in the same
    condition; and there was another subject, as you know, on which Mr.
    Tulliver was in pressing want of Mr. Riley's advice. This was his
    particular reason for remaining silent for a short space after his
    last draught, and rubbing his knees in a meditative manner. He was not
    a man to make an abrupt transition. This was a puzzling world, as he
    often said, and if you drive your wagon in a hurry, you may light on
    an awkward corner. Mr. Riley, meanwhile, was not impatient. Why should
    he be? Even Hotspur, one would think, must have been patient in his
    slippers on a warm hearth, taking copious snuff, and sipping
    gratuitous brandy-and-water.

    "There's a thing I've got i' my head," said Mr. Tulliver at last, in
    rather a lower tone than usual, as he turned his head and looked
    steadfastly at his companion.

    "Ah!" said Mr. Riley, in a tone of mild interest. He was a man with
    heavy waxen eyelids and high-arched eyebrows, looking exactly the same
    under all circumstances. This immovability of face, and the habit of
    taking a pinch of snuff before he gave an answer, made him trebly
    oracular to Mr. Tulliver.

    "It's a very particular thing," he went on; "it's about my boy Tom."

    At the sound of this name, Maggie, who was seated on a low stool close
    by the fire, with a large book open on her lap, shook her heavy hair
    back and looked up eagerly. There were few sounds that roused Maggie
    when she was dreaming over her book, but Tom's name served as well as
    the shrillest whistle; in an instant she was on the watch, with
    gleaming eyes, like a Skye terrier suspecting mischief, or at all
    events determined to fly at any one who threatened it toward Tom.

    "You see, I want to put him to a new school at Midsummer," said Mr.
    Tulliver; "he's comin' away from the 'cademy at Lady-day, an' I shall
    let him run loose for a quarter; but after that I want to send him to
    a downright good school, where they'll make a scholard of him."

    "Well," said Mr. Riley, "there's no greater advantage you can give him
    than a good education. Not," he added, with polite significance,--"not
    that a man can't be an excellent miller and farmer, and a shrewd,
    sensible fellow into the bargain, without much help from the

    "I believe you," said Mr. Tulliver, winking, and turning his head on
    one side; "but that's where it is. I don't _mean_ Tom to be a miller
    and farmer. I see no fun i' that. Why, if I made him a miller an'
    farmer, he'd be expectin' to take to the mill an' the land, an'
    a-hinting at me as it was time for me to lay by an' think o' my latter
    end. Nay, nay, I've seen enough o' that wi' sons. I'll never pull my
    coat off before I go to bed. I shall give Tom an eddication an' put
    him to a business, as he may make a nest for himself, an' not want to
    push me out o' mine. Pretty well if he gets it when I'm dead an' gone.
    I sha'n't be put off wi' spoon-meat afore I've lost my teeth."

    This was evidently a point on which Mr. Tulliver felt strongly; and
    the impetus which had given unusual rapidity and emphasis to his
    speech showed itself still unexhausted for some minutes afterward in a
    defiant motion of the head from side to side, and an occasional "Nay,
    nay," like a subsiding growl.

    These angry symptoms were keenly observed by Maggie, and cut her to
    the quick. Tom, it appeared, was supposed capable of turning his
    father out of doors, and of making the future in some way tragic by
    his wickedness. This was not to be borne; and Maggie jumped up from
    her stool, forgetting all about her heavy book, which fell with a bang
    within the fender, and going up between her father's knees, said, in a
    half-crying, half-indignant voice,--

    "Father, Tom wouldn't be naughty to you ever; I know he wouldn't."

    Mrs. Tulliver was out of the room superintending a choice supper-dish,
    and Mr. Tulliver's heart was touched; so Maggie was not scolded about
    the book. Mr. Riley quietly picked it up and looked at it, while the
    father laughed, with a certain tenderness in his hard-lined face, and
    patted his little girl on the back, and then held her hands and kept
    her between his knees.

    "What! they mustn't say any harm o' Tom, eh?" said Mr. Tulliver,
    looking at Maggie with a twinkling eye. Then, in a lower voice,
    turning to Mr. Riley, as though Maggie couldn't hear, "She understands
    what one's talking about so as never was. And you should hear her
    read,--straight off, as if she knowed it all beforehand. And allays at
    her book! But it's bad--it's bad," Mr. Tulliver added sadly, checking
    this blamable exultation. "A woman's no business wi' being so clever;
    it'll turn to trouble, I doubt. But bless you!"--here the exultation
    was clearly recovering the mastery,--"she'll read the books and
    understand 'em better nor half the folks as are growed up."

    Maggie's cheeks began to flush with triumphant excitement. She thought
    Mr. Riley would have a respect for her now; it had been evident that
    he thought nothing of her before.

    Mr. Riley was turning over the leaves of the book, and she could make
    nothing of his face, with its high-arched eyebrows; but he presently
    looked at her, and said,--

    "Come, come and tell me something about this book; here are some
    pictures,--I want to know what they mean."

    Maggie, with deepening color, went without hesitation to Mr. Riley's
    elbow and looked over the book, eagerly seizing one corner, and
    tossing back her mane, while she said,--

    "Oh, I'll tell you what that means. It's a dreadful picture, isn't it?
    But I can't help looking at it. That old woman in the water's a
    witch,--they've put her in to find out whether she's a witch or no;
    and if she swims she's a witch, and if she's drowned--and killed, you
    know--she's innocent, and not a witch, but only a poor silly old
    woman. But what good would it do her then, you know, when she was
    drowned? Only, I suppose, she'd go to heaven, and God would make it up
    to her. And this dreadful blacksmith with his arms akimbo,
    laughing,--oh, isn't he ugly?--I'll tell you what he is. He's the
    Devil _really_" (here Maggie's voice became louder and more emphatic),
    "and not a right blacksmith; for the Devil takes the shape of wicked
    men, and walks about and sets people doing wicked things, and he's
    oftener in the shape of a bad man than any other, because, you know,
    if people saw he was the Devil, and he roared at 'em, they'd run away,
    and he couldn't make 'em do what he pleased."

    Mr. Tulliver had listened to this exposition of Maggie's with
    petrifying wonder.

    "Why, what book is it the wench has got hold on?" he burst out at

    "The 'History of the Devil,' by Daniel Defoe,--not quite the right
    book for a little girl," said Mr. Riley. "How came it among your
    books, Mr. Tulliver?"

    Maggie looked hurt and discouraged, while her father said,--

    "Why, it's one o' the books I bought at Partridge's sale. They was all
    bound alike,--it's a good binding, you see,--and I thought they'd be
    all good books. There's Jeremy Taylor's 'Holy Living and Dying' among
    'em. I read in it often of a Sunday" (Mr. Tulliver felt somehow a
    familiarity with that great writer, because his name was Jeremy); "and
    there's a lot more of 'em,--sermons mostly, I think,--but they've all
    got the same covers, and I thought they were all o' one sample, as you
    may say. But it seems one mustn't judge by th' outside. This is a
    puzzlin' world."

    "Well," said Mr. Riley, in an admonitory, patronizing tone as he
    patted Maggie on the head, "I advise you to put by the 'History of the
    Devil,' and read some prettier book. Have you no prettier books?"

    "Oh, yes," said Maggie, reviving a little in the desire to vindicate
    the variety of her reading. "I know the reading in this book isn't
    pretty; but I like the pictures, and I make stories to the pictures
    out of my own head, you know. But I've got 'Æsop's Fables,' and a book
    about Kangaroos and things, and the 'Pilgrim's Progress.'"

    "Ah, a beautiful book," said Mr. Riley; "you can't read a better."

    "Well, but there's a great deal about the Devil in that," said Maggie,
    triumphantly, "and I'll show you the picture of him in his true shape,
    as he fought with Christian."

    Maggie ran in an instant to the corner of the room, jumped on a chair,
    and reached down from the small bookcase a shabby old copy of Bunyan,
    which opened at once, without the least trouble of search, at the
    picture she wanted.

    "Here he is," she said, running back to Mr. Riley, "and Tom colored
    him for me with his paints when he was at home last holidays,--the
    body all black, you know, and the eyes red, like fire, because he's
    all fire inside, and it shines out at his eyes."

    "Go, go!" said Mr. Tulliver, peremptorily, beginning to feel rather
    uncomfortable at these free remarks on the personal appearance of a
    being powerful enough to create lawyers; "shut up the book, and let's
    hear no more o' such talk. It is as I thought--the child 'ull learn
    more mischief nor good wi' the books. Go, go and see after your

    Maggie shut up the book at once, with a sense of disgrace, but not
    being inclined to see after her mother, she compromised the matter by
    going into a dark corner behind her father's chair, and nursing her
    doll, toward which she had an occasional fit of fondness in Tom's
    absence, neglecting its toilet, but lavishing so many warm kisses on
    it that the waxen cheeks had a wasted, unhealthy appearance.

    "Did you ever hear the like on't?" said Mr. Tulliver, as Maggie
    retired. "It's a pity but what she'd been the lad,--she'd ha' been a
    match for the lawyers, _she_ would. It's the wonderful'st thing"--here
    he lowered his voice--"as I picked the mother because she wasn't o'er
    'cute--bein' a good-looking woman too, an' come of a rare family for
    managing; but I picked her from her sisters o' purpose, 'cause she was
    a bit weak like; for I wasn't agoin' to be told the rights o' things
    by my own fireside. But you see when a man's got brains himself,
    there's no knowing where they'll run to; an' a pleasant sort o' soft
    woman may go on breeding you stupid lads and 'cute wenches, till it's
    like as if the world was turned topsy-turvy. It's an uncommon puzzlin'

    Mr. Riley's gravity gave way, and he shook a little under the
    application of his pinch of snuff before he said,--

    "But your lad's not stupid, is he? I saw him, when I was here last,
    busy making fishing-tackle; he seemed quite up to it."

    "Well, he isn't not to say stupid,--he's got a notion o' things out o'
    door, an' a sort o' common sense, as he'd lay hold o' things by the
    right handle. But he's slow with his tongue, you see, and he reads but
    poorly, and can't abide the books, and spells all wrong, they tell me,
    an' as shy as can be wi' strangers, an' you never hear him say 'cute
    things like the little wench. Now, what I want is to send him to a
    school where they'll make him a bit nimble with his tongue and his
    pen, and make a smart chap of him. I want my son to be even wi' these
    fellows as have got the start o' me with having better schooling. Not
    but what, if the world had been left as God made it, I could ha' seen
    my way, and held my own wi' the best of 'em; but things have got so
    twisted round and wrapped up i' unreasonable words, as aren't a bit
    like 'em, as I'm clean at fault, often an' often. Everything winds
    about so--the more straightforrad you are, the more you're puzzled."

    Mr. Tulliver took a draught, swallowed it slowly, and shook his head
    in a melancholy manner, conscious of exemplifying the truth that a
    perfectly sane intellect is hardly at home in this insane world.

    "You're quite in the right of it, Tulliver," observed Mr. Riley.
    "Better spend an extra hundred or two on your son's education, than
    leave it him in your will. I know I should have tried to do so by a
    son of mine, if I'd had one, though, God knows, I haven't your ready
    money to play with, Tulliver; and I have a houseful of daughters into
    the bargain."

    "I dare say, now, you know of a school as 'ud be just the thing for
    Tom," said Mr. Tulliver, not diverted from his purpose by any sympathy
    with Mr. Riley's deficiency of ready cash.

    Mr. Riley took a pinch of snuff, and kept Mr. Tulliver in suspense by
    a silence that seemed deliberative, before he said,--

    "I know of a very fine chance for any one that's got the necessary
    money and that's what you have, Tulliver. The fact is, I wouldn't
    recommend any friend of mine to send a boy to a regular school, if he
    could afford to do better. But if any one wanted his boy to get
    superior instruction and training, where he would be the companion of
    his master, and that master a first rate fellow, I know his man. I
    wouldn't mention the chance to everybody, because I don't think
    everybody would succeed in getting it, if he were to try; but I
    mention it to you, Tulliver, between ourselves."

    The fixed inquiring glance with which Mr. Tulliver had been watching
    his friend's oracular face became quite eager.

    "Ay, now, let's hear," he said, adjusting himself in his chair with
    the complacency of a person who is thought worthy of important

    "He's an Oxford man," said Mr. Riley, sententiously, shutting his
    mouth close, and looking at Mr. Tulliver to observe the effect of this
    stimulating information.

    "What! a parson?" said Mr. Tulliver, rather doubtfully.

    "Yes, and an M.A. The bishop, I understand, thinks very highly of him:
    why, it was the bishop who got him his present curacy."

    "Ah?" said Mr. Tulliver, to whom one thing was as wonderful as another
    concerning these unfamiliar phenomena. "But what can he want wi' Tom,

    "Why, the fact is, he's fond of teaching, and wishes to keep up his
    studies, and a clergyman has but little opportunity for that in his
    parochial duties. He's willing to take one or two boys as pupils to
    fill up his time profitably. The boys would be quite of the
    family,--the finest thing in the world for them; under Stelling's eye

    "But do you think they'd give the poor lad twice o' pudding?" said
    Mrs. Tulliver, who was now in her place again. "He's such a boy for
    pudding as never was; an' a growing boy like that,--it's dreadful to
    think o' their stintin' him."

    "And what money 'ud he want?" said Mr. Tulliver, whose instinct told
    him that the services of this admirable M.A. would bear a high price.

    "Why, I know of a clergyman who asks a hundred and fifty with his
    youngest pupils, and he's not to be mentioned with Stelling, the man I
    speak of. I know, on good authority, that one of the chief people at
    Oxford said, Stelling might get the highest honors if he chose. But he
    didn't care about university honors; he's a quiet man--not noisy."

    "Ah, a deal better--a deal better," said Mr. Tulliver; "but a hundred
    and fifty's an uncommon price. I never thought o' paying so much as

    "A good education, let me tell you, Tulliver,--a good education is
    cheap at the money. But Stelling is moderate in his terms; he's not a
    grasping man. I've no doubt he'd take your boy at a hundred, and
    that's what you wouldn't get many other clergymen to do. I'll write to
    him about it, if you like."

    Mr. Tulliver rubbed his knees, and looked at the carpet in a
    meditative manner.

    "But belike he's a bachelor," observed Mrs. Tulliver, in the interval;
    "an' I've no opinion o' housekeepers. There was my brother, as is dead
    an' gone, had a housekeeper once, an' she took half the feathers out
    o' the best bed, an' packed 'em up an' sent 'em away. An' it's unknown
    the linen she made away with--Stott her name was. It 'ud break my
    heart to send Tom where there's a housekeeper, an' I hope you won't
    think of it, Mr. Tulliver."

    "You may set your mind at rest on that score, Mrs. Tulliver," said Mr.
    Riley, "for Stelling is married to as nice a little woman as any man
    need wish for a wife. There isn't a kinder little soul in the world; I
    know her family well. She has very much your complexion,--light curly
    hair. She comes of a good Mudport family, and it's not every offer
    that would have been acceptable in that quarter. But Stelling's not an
    every-day man; rather a particular fellow as to the people he chooses
    to be connected with. But I _think_ he would have no objection to take
    your son; I _think_ he would not, on my representation."

    "I don't know what he could have _against_ the lad," said Mrs.
    Tulliver, with a slight touch of motherly indignation; "a nice
    fresh-skinned lad as anybody need wish to see."

    "But there's one thing I'm thinking on," said Mr. Tulliver, turning
    his head on one side and looking at Mr. Riley, after a long perusal of
    the carpet. "Wouldn't a parson be almost too high-learnt to bring up a
    lad to be a man o' business? My notion o' the parsons was as they'd
    got a sort o' learning as lay mostly out o' sight. And that isn't what
    I want for Tom. I want him to know figures, and write like print, and
    see into things quick, and know what folks mean, and how to wrap
    things up in words as aren't actionable. It's an uncommon fine thing,
    that is," concluded Mr. Tulliver, shaking his head, "when you can let
    a man know what you think of him without paying for it."

    "Oh, my dear Tulliver," said Mr. Riley, "you're quite under a mistake
    about the clergy; all the best schoolmasters are of the clergy. The
    schoolmasters who are not clergymen are a very low set of men

    "Ay, that Jacobs is, at the 'cademy," interposed Mr. Tulliver.

    "To be sure,--men who have failed in other trades, most likely. Now, a
    clergyman is a gentleman by profession and education; and besides
    that, he has the knowledge that will ground a boy, and prepare him for
    entering on any career with credit. There may be some clergymen who
    are mere bookmen; but you may depend upon it, Stelling is not one of
    them,--a man that's wide awake, let me tell you. Drop him a hint, and
    that's enough. You talk of figures, now; you have only to say to
    Stelling, 'I want my son to be a thorough arithmetician,' and you may
    leave the rest to him."

    Mr. Riley paused a moment, while Mr. Tulliver, some-what reassured as
    to clerical tutorship, was inwardly rehearsing to an imaginary Mr.
    Stelling the statement, "I want my son to know 'rethmetic."

    "You see, my dear Tulliver," Mr. Riley continued, "when you get a
    thoroughly educated man, like Stelling, he's at no loss to take up any
    branch of instruction. When a workman knows the use of his tools, he
    can make a door as well as a window."

    "Ay, that's true," said Mr. Tulliver, almost convinced now that the
    clergy must be the best of schoolmasters.

    "Well, I'll tell you what I'll do for you," said Mr. Riley, "and I
    wouldn't do it for everybody. I'll see Stelling's father-in-law, or
    drop him a line when I get back to Mudport, to say that you wish to
    place your boy with his son-in-law, and I dare say Stelling will write
    to you, and send you his terms."

    "But there's no hurry, is there?" said Mrs. Tulliver; "for I hope, Mr.
    Tulliver, you won't let Tom begin at his new school before Midsummer.
    He began at the 'cademy at the Lady-day quarter, and you see what
    good's come of it."

    "Ay, ay, Bessy, never brew wi' bad malt upo' Michael-masday, else
    you'll have a poor tap," said Mr. Tulliver, winking and smiling at Mr.
    Riley, with the natural pride of a man who has a buxom wife
    conspicuously his inferior in intellect. "But it's true there's no
    hurry; you've hit it there, Bessy."

    "It might be as well not to defer the arrangement too long," said Mr.
    Riley, quietly, "for Stelling may have propositions from other
    parties, and I know he would not take more than two or three boarders,
    if so many. If I were you, I think I would enter on the subject with
    Stelling at once: there's no necessity for sending the boy before
    Midsummer, but I would be on the safe side, and make sure that nobody
    forestalls you."

    "Ay, there's summat in that," said Mr. Tulliver.

    "Father," broke in Maggie, who had stolen unperceived to her father's
    elbow again, listening with parted lips, while she held her doll
    topsy-turvy, and crushed its nose against the wood of the
    chair,--"father, is it a long way off where Tom is to go? Sha'n't we
    ever go to see him?"

    "I don't know, my wench," said the father, tenderly. "Ask Mr. Riley;
    he knows."

    Maggie came round promptly in front of Mr. Riley, and said, "How far
    is it, please, sir?"

    "Oh, a long, long way off," that gentleman answered, being of opinion
    that children, when they are not naughty, should always be spoken to
    jocosely. "You must borrow the seven-leagued boots to get to him."

    "That's nonsense!" said Maggie, tossing her head haughtily, and
    turning away, with the tears springing in her eyes. She began to
    dislike Mr. Riley; it was evident he thought her silly and of no

    "Hush, Maggie! for shame of you, asking questions and chattering,"
    said her mother. "Come and sit down on your little stool, and hold
    your tongue, do. But," added Mrs. Tulliver, who had her own alarm
    awakened, "is it so far off as I couldn't wash him and mend him?"

    "About fifteen miles; that's all," said Mr. Riley. "You can drive
    there and back in a day quite comfortably. Or--Stelling is a
    hospitable, pleasant man--he'd be glad to have you stay."

    "But it's too far off for the linen, I doubt," said Mrs. Tulliver,

    The entrance of supper opportunely adjourned this difficulty, and
    relieved Mr. Riley from the labor of suggesting some solution or
    compromise,--a labor which he would otherwise doubtless have
    undertaken; for, as you perceive, he was a man of very obliging
    manners. And he had really given himself the trouble of recommending
    Mr. Stelling to his friend Tulliver without any positive expectation
    of a solid, definite advantage resulting to himself, notwithstanding
    the subtle indications to the contrary which might have misled a
    too-sagacious observer. For there is nothing more widely misleading
    than sagacity if it happens to get on a wrong scent; and sagacity,
    persuaded that men usually act and speak from distinct motives, with a
    consciously proposed end in view, is certain to waste its energies on
    imaginary game.

    Plotting covetousness and deliberate contrivance, in order to compass
    a selfish end, are nowhere abundant but in the world of the dramatist:
    they demand too intense a mental action for many of our
    fellow-parishioners to be guilty of them. It is easy enough to spoil
    the lives of our neighbors without taking so much trouble; we can do
    it by lazy acquiescence and lazy omission, by trivial falsities for
    which we hardly know a reason, by small frauds neutralized by small
    extravagances, by maladroit flatteries, and clumsily improvised
    insinuations. We live from hand to mouth, most of us, with a small
    family of immediate desires; we do little else than snatch a morsel to
    satisfy the hungry brood, rarely thinking of seed-corn or the next
    year's crop.

    Mr. Riley was a man of business, and not cold toward his own interest,
    yet even he was more under the influence of small promptings than of
    far-sighted designs. He had no private understanding with the Rev.
    Walter Stelling; on the contrary, he knew very little of that M.A. and
    his acquirements,--not quite enough, perhaps, to warrant so strong a
    recommendation of him as he had given to his friend Tulliver. But he
    believed Mr. Stelling to be an excellent classic, for Gadsby had said
    so, and Gadsby's first cousin was an Oxford tutor; which was better
    ground for the belief even than his own immediate observation would
    have been, for though Mr. Riley had received a tincture of the
    classics at the great Mudport Free School, and had a sense of
    understanding Latin generally, his comprehension of any particular
    Latin was not ready. Doubtless there remained a subtle aroma from his
    juvenile contact with the "De Senectute" and the fourth book of the
    "Æneid," but it had ceased to be distinctly recognizable as classical,
    and was only perceived in the higher finish and force of his
    auctioneering style. Then, Stelling was an Oxford man, and the Oxford
    men were always--no, no, it was the Cambridge men who were always good
    mathematicians. But a man who had had a university education could
    teach anything he liked; especially a man like Stelling, who had made
    a speech at a Mudport dinner on a political occasion, and had
    acquitted himself so well that it was generally remarked, this
    son-in-law of Timpson's was a sharp fellow. It was to be expected of a
    Mudport man, from the parish of St. Ursula, that he would not omit to
    do a good turn to a son-in-law of Timpson's, for Timpson was one of
    the most useful and influential men in the parish, and had a good deal
    of business, which he knew how to put into the right hands. Mr. Riley
    liked such men, quite apart from any money which might be diverted,
    through their good judgment, from less worthy pockets into his own;
    and it would be a satisfaction to him to say to Timpson on his return
    home, "I've secured a good pupil for your son-in-law." Timpson had a
    large family of daughters; Mr. Riley felt for him; besides, Louisa
    Timpson's face, with its light curls, had been a familiar object to
    him over the pew wainscot on a Sunday for nearly fifteen years; it was
    natural her husband should be a commendable tutor. Moreover, Mr. Riley
    knew of no other schoolmaster whom he had any ground for recommending
    in preference; why, then, should be not recommend Stelling? His friend
    Tulliver had asked him for an opinion; it is always chilling, in
    friendly intercourse, to say you have no opinion to give. And if you
    deliver an opinion at all, it is mere stupidity not to do it with an
    air of conviction and well-founded knowledge. You make it your own in
    uttering it, and naturally get fond of it. Thus Mr. Riley, knowing no
    harm of Stelling to begin with, and wishing him well, so far as he had
    any wishes at all concerning him, had no sooner recommended him than
    he began to think with admiration of a man recommended on such high
    authority, and would soon have gathered so warm an interest on the
    subject, that if Mr. Tulliver had in the end declined to send Tom to
    Stelling, Mr. Riley would have thought his "friend of the old school"
    a thoroughly pig-headed fellow.

    If you blame Mr. Riley very severely for giving a recommendation on
    such slight grounds, I must say you are rather hard upon him. Why
    should an auctioneer and appraiser thirty years ago, who had as good
    as forgotten his free-school Latin, be expected to manifest a delicate
    scrupulosity which is not always exhibited by gentlemen of the learned
    professions, even in our present advanced stage of morality?

    Besides, a man with the milk of human kindness in him can scarcely
    abstain from doing a good-natured action, and one cannot be
    good-natured all round. Nature herself occasionally quarters an
    inconvenient parasite on an animal toward whom she has otherwise no
    ill will. What then? We admire her care for the parasite. If Mr. Riley
    had shrunk from giving a recommendation that was not based on valid
    evidence, he would not have helped Mr. Stelling to a paying pupil, and
    that would not have been so well for the reverend gentleman. Consider,
    too, that all the pleasant little dim ideas and complacencies--of
    standing well with Timpson, of dispensing advice when he was asked for
    it, of impressing his friend Tulliver with additional respect, of
    saying something, and saying it emphatically, with other inappreciably
    minute ingredients that went along with the warm hearth and the
    brandy-and-water to make up Mr. Riley's consciousness on this
    occasion--would have been a mere blank.
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