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    Book 2 - Chapter 4

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    Chapter 17
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    "The Young Idea"

    The alterations of feeling in that first dialogue between Tom and
    Philip continued to make their intercourse even after many weeks of
    schoolboy intimacy. Tom never quite lost the feeling that Philip,
    being the son of a "rascal," was his natural enemy; never thoroughly
    overcame his repulsion to Philip's deformity. He was a boy who adhered
    tenaciously to impressions once received; as with all minds in which
    mere perception predominates over thought and emotion, the external
    remained to him rigidly what it was in the first instance. But then it
    was impossible not to like Philip's company when he was in a good
    humor; he could help one so well in one's Latin exercises, which Tom
    regarded as a kind of puzzle that could only be found out by a lucky
    chance; and he could tell such wonderful fighting stories about Hal of
    the Wynd, for example, and other heroes who were especial favorites
    with Tom, because they laid about them with heavy strokes. He had
    small opinion of Saladin, whose cimeter could cut a cushion in two in
    an instant; who wanted to cut cushions? That was a stupid story, and
    he didn't care to hear it again. But when Robert Bruce, on the black
    pony, rose in his stirrups, and lifting his good battle-axe, cracked
    at once the helmet and the skull of the too hasty knight at
    Bannockburn, then Tom felt all the exaltation of sympathy, and if he
    had had a cocoanut at hand, he would have cracked it at once with the
    poker. Philip in his happier moods indulged Tom to the top of his
    bent, heightening the crash and bang and fury of every fight with all
    the artillery of epithets and similes at his command. But he was not
    always in a good humor or happy mood. The slight spurt of peevish
    susceptibility which had escaped him in their first interview was a
    symptom of a perpetually recurring mental ailment, half of it nervous
    irritability, half of it the heart-bitterness produced by the sense of
    his deformity. In these fits of susceptibility every glance seemed to
    him to be charged either with offensive pity or with ill-repressed
    disgust; at the very least it was an indifferent glance, and Philip
    felt indifference as a child of the south feels the chill air of a
    northern spring. Poor Tom's blundering patronage when they were out of
    doors together would sometimes make him turn upon the well-meaning lad
    quite savagely; and his eyes, usually sad and quiet, would flash with
    anything but playful lightning. No wonder Tom retained his suspicions
    of the humpback.

    But Philip's self-taught skill in drawing was another link between
    them; for Tom found, to his disgust, that his new drawing-master gave
    him no dogs and donkeys to draw, but brooks and rustic bridges and
    ruins, all with a general softness of black-lead surface, indicating
    that nature, if anything, was rather satiny; and as Tom's feeling for
    the picturesque in landscape was at present quite latent, it is not
    surprising that Mr. Goodrich's productions seemed to him an
    uninteresting form of art. Mr. Tulliver, having a vague intention that
    Tom should be put to some business which included the drawing out of
    plans and maps, had complained to Mr. Riley, when he saw him at
    Mudport, that Tom seemed to be learning nothing of that sort;
    whereupon that obliging adviser had suggested that Tom should have
    drawing-lessons. Mr. Tulliver must not mind paying extra for drawing;
    let Tom be made a good draughtsman, and he would be able to turn his
    pencil to any purpose. So it was ordered that Tom should have
    drawing-lessons; and whom should Mr. Stelling have selected as a
    master if not Mr. Goodrich, who was considered quite at the head of
    his profession within a circuit of twelve miles round King's Lorton?
    By which means Tom learned to make an extremely fine point to his
    pencil, and to represent landscape with a "broad generality," which,
    doubtless from a narrow tendency in his mind to details, he thought
    extremely dull.

    All this, you remember, happened in those dark ages when there were no
    schools of design; before schoolmasters were invariably men of
    scrupulous integrity, and before the clergy were all men of enlarged
    minds and varied culture. In those less favored days, it is no fable
    that there were other clergymen besides Mr. Stelling who had narrow
    intellects and large wants, and whose income, by a logical confusion
    to which Fortune, being a female as well as blindfold, is peculiarly
    liable, was proportioned not to their wants but to their intellect,
    with which income has clearly no inherent relation. The problem these
    gentlemen had to solve was to readjust the proportion between their
    wants and their income; and since wants are not easily starved to
    death, the simpler method appeared to be to raise their income. There
    was but one way of doing this; any of those low callings in which men
    are obliged to do good work at a low price were forbidden to
    clergymen; was it their fault if their only resource was to turn out
    very poor work at a high price? Besides, how should Mr. Stelling be
    expected to know that education was a delicate and difficult business,
    any more than an animal endowed with a power of boring a hole through
    a rock should be expected to have wide views of excavation? Mr.
    Stelling's faculties had been early trained to boring in a straight
    line, and he had no faculty to spare. But among Tom's contemporaries,
    whose fathers cast their sons on clerical instruction to find them
    ignorant after many days, there were many far less lucky than Tom
    Tulliver. Education was almost entirely a matter of luck--usually of
    ill-luck--in those distant days. The state of mind in which you take a
    billiard-cue or a dice-box in your hand is one of sober certainty
    compared with that of old-fashioned fathers, like Mr. Tulliver, when
    they selected a school or a tutor for their sons. Excellent men, who
    had been forced all their lives to spell on an impromptu-phonetic
    system, and having carried on a successful business in spite of this
    disadvantage, had acquired money enough to give their sons a better
    start in life than they had had themselves, must necessarily take
    their chance as to the conscience and the competence of the
    schoolmaster whose circular fell in their way, and appeared to promise
    so much more than they would ever have thought of asking for,
    including the return of linen, fork, and spoon. It was happy for them
    if some ambitious draper of their acquaintance had not brought up his
    son to the Church, and if that young gentleman, at the age of
    four-and-twenty, had not closed his college dissipations by an
    imprudent marriage; otherwise, these innocent fathers, desirous of
    doing the best for their offspring, could only escape the draper's son
    by happening to be on the foundation of a grammar-school as yet
    unvisited by commissioners, where two or three boys could have, all to
    themselves, the advantages of a large and lofty building, together
    with a head-master, toothless, dim-eyed and deaf, whose erudite
    indistinctness and inattention were engrossed by them at the rate of
    three hundred pounds a-head,--a ripe scholar, doubtless, when first
    appointed; but all ripeness beneath the sun has a further stage less
    esteemed in the market.

    Tom Tulliver, then, compared with many other British youths of his
    time who have since had to scramble through life with some fragments
    of more or less relevant knowledge, and a great deal of strictly
    relevant ignorance, was not so very unlucky. Mr. Stelling was a
    broad-chested, healthy man, with the bearing of a gentleman, a
    conviction that a growing boy required a sufficiency of beef, and a
    certain hearty kindness in him that made him like to see Tom looking
    well and enjoying his dinner; not a man of refined conscience, or with
    any deep sense of the infinite issues belonging to every-day duties,
    not quite competent to his high offices; but incompetent gentlemen
    must live, and without private fortune it is difficult to see how they
    could all live genteelly if they had nothing to do with education or
    government. Besides, it was the fault of Tom's mental constitution
    that his faculties could not be nourished on the sort of knowledge Mr.
    Stelling had to communicate. A boy born with a deficient power of
    apprehending signs and abstractions must suffer the penalty of his
    congenital deficiency, just as if he had been born with one leg
    shorter than the other. A method of education sanctioned by the long
    practice of our venerable ancestors was not to give way before the
    exceptional dulness of a boy who was merely living at the time then
    present. And Mr. Stelling was convinced that a boy so stupid at signs
    and abstractions must be stupid at everything else, even if that
    reverend gentleman could have taught him everything else. It was the
    practice of our venerable ancestors to apply that ingenious instrument
    the thumb-screw, and to tighten and tighten it in order to elicit
    non-existent facts; they had a fixed opinion to begin with, that the
    facts were existent, and what had they to do but to tighten the
    thumb-screw? In like manner, Mr. Stelling had a fixed opinion that all
    boys with any capacity could learn what it was the only regular thing
    to teach; if they were slow, the thumb-screw must be tightened,--the
    exercises must be insisted on with increased severity, and a page of
    Virgil be awarded as a penalty, to encourage and stimulate a too
    languid inclination to Latin verse.

    The thumb-screw was a little relaxed, however, during this second
    half-year. Philip was so advanced in his studies, and so apt, that Mr.
    Stelling could obtain credit by his facility, which required little
    help, much more easily than by the troublesome process of overcoming
    Tom's dulness. Gentlemen with broad chests and ambitious intentions do
    sometimes disappoint their friends by failing to carry the world
    before them. Perhaps it is that high achievements demand some other
    unusual qualification besides an unusual desire for high prizes;
    perhaps it is that these stalwart gentlemen are rather indolent, their
    _divinæ particulum auræ_ being obstructed from soaring by a too hearty
    appetite. Some reason or other there was why Mr. Stelling deferred the
    execution of many spirited projects,--why he did not begin the editing
    of his Greek play, or any other work of scholarship, in his leisure
    hours, but, after turning the key of his private study with much
    resolution, sat down to one of Theodore Hook's novels. Tom was
    gradually allowed to shuffle through his lessons with less rigor, and
    having Philip to help him, he was able to make some show of having
    applied his mind in a confused and blundering way, without being
    cross-examined into a betrayal that his mind had been entirely neutral
    in the matter. He thought school much more bearable under this
    modification of circumstances; and he went on contentedly enough,
    picking up a promiscuous education chiefly from things that were not
    intended as education at all. What was understood to be his education
    was simply the practice of reading, writing, and spelling, carried on
    by an elaborate appliance of unintelligible ideas, and by much failure
    in the effort to learn by rote.

    Nevertheless, there was a visible improvement in Tom under this
    training; perhaps because he was not a boy in the abstract, existing
    solely to illustrate the evils of a mistaken education, but a boy made
    of flesh and blood, with dispositions not entirely at the mercy of

    There was a great improvement in his bearing, for example; and some
    credit on this score was due to Mr. Poulter, the village schoolmaster,
    who, being an old Peninsular soldier, was employed to drill Tom,--a
    source of high mutual pleasure. Mr. Poulter, who was understood by the
    company at the Black Swan to have once struck terror into the hearts
    of the French, was no longer personally formidable. He had rather a
    shrunken appearance, and was tremulous in the mornings, not from age,
    but from the extreme perversity of the King's Lorton boys, which
    nothing but gin could enable him to sustain with any firmness. Still,
    he carried himself with martial erectness, had his clothes
    scrupulously brushed, and his trousers tightly strapped; and on the
    Wednesday and Saturday afternoons, when he came to Tom, he was always
    inspired with gin and old memories, which gave him an exceptionally
    spirited air, as of a superannuated charger who hears the drum. The
    drilling-lessons were always protracted by episodes of warlike
    narrative, much more interesting to Tom than Philip's stories out of
    the Iliad; for there were no cannon in the Iliad, and besides, Tom had
    felt some disgust on learning that Hector and Achilles might possibly
    never have existed. But the Duke of Wellington was really alive, and
    Bony had not been long dead; therefore Mr. Poulter's reminiscences of
    the Peninsular War were removed from all suspicion of being mythical.
    Mr. Poulter, it appeared, had been a conspicuous figure at Talavera,
    and had contributed not a little to the peculiar terror with which his
    regiment of infantry was regarded by the enemy. On afternoons when his
    memory was more stimulated than usual, he remembered that the Duke of
    Wellington had (in strict privacy, lest jealousies should be awakened)
    expressed his esteem for that fine fellow Poulter. The very surgeon
    who attended him in the hospital after he had received his
    gunshot-wound had been profoundly impressed with the superiority of
    Mr. Poulter's flesh,--no other flesh would have healed in anything
    like the same time. On less personal matters connected with the
    important warfare in which he had been engaged, Mr. Poulter was more
    reticent, only taking care not to give the weight of his authority to
    any loose notions concerning military history. Any one who pretended
    to a knowledge of what occurred at the siege of Badajos was especially
    an object of silent pity to Mr. Poulter; he wished that prating person
    had been run down, and had the breath trampled out of him at the first
    go-off, as he himself had,--he might talk about the siege of Badajos
    then! Tom did not escape irritating his drilling-master occasionally,
    by his curiosity concerning other military matters than Mr. Poulter's
    personal experience.

    "And General Wolfe, Mr. Poulter,--wasn't he a wonderful fighter?" said
    Tom, who held the notion that all the martial heroes commemorated on
    the public-house signs were engaged in the war with Bony.

    "Not at all!" said Mr. Poulter, contemptuously. "Nothing o' the sort!
    Heads up!" he added, in a tone of stern command, which delighted Tom,
    and made him feel as if he were a regiment in his own person.

    "No, no!" Mr. Poulter would continue, on coming to a pause in his
    discipline; "they'd better not talk to me about General Wolfe. He did
    nothing but die of his wound; that's a poor haction, I consider. Any
    other man 'ud have died o' the wounds I've had. One of my sword-cuts
    'ud ha' killed a fellow like General Wolfe."

    "Mr. Poulter," Tom would say, at any allusion to the sword, "I wish
    you'd bring your sword and do the sword-exercise!"

    For a long while Mr. Poulter only shook his head in a significant
    manner at this request, and smiled patronizingly, as Jupiter may have
    done when Semele urged her too ambitious request. But one afternoon,
    when a sudden shower of heavy rain had detained Mr. Poulter twenty
    minutes longer than usual at the Black Swan, the sword was
    brought,--just for Tom to look at.

    "And this is the real sword you fought with in all the battles, Mr.
    Poulter?" said Tom, handling the hilt. "Has it ever cut a Frenchman's
    head off?"

    "Head off? Ah! and would, if he'd had three heads."

    "But you had a gun and bayonet besides?" said Tom. "_I_ should like
    the gun and bayonet best, because you could shoot 'em first and spear
    'em after. Bang! Ps-s-s-s!" Tom gave the requisite pantomime to
    indicate the double enjoyment of pulling the trigger and thrusting the

    "Ah, but the sword's the thing when you come to close fighting," said
    Mr. Poulter, involuntarily falling in with Tom's enthusiasm, and
    drawing the sword so suddenly that Tom leaped back with much agility.

    "Oh, but, Mr. Poulter, if you're going to do the exercise," said Tom,
    a little conscious that he had not stood his ground as became an
    Englishman, "let me go and call Philip. He'll like to see you, you

    "What! the humpbacked lad?" said Mr. Poulter, contemptuously; "what's
    the use of _his_ looking on?"

    "Oh, but he knows a great deal about fighting," said Tom, "and how
    they used to fight with bows and arrows, and battle-axes."

    "Let him come, then. I'll show him something different from his bows
    and arrows," said Mr. Poulter, coughing and drawing himself up, while
    he gave a little preliminary play to his wrist.

    Tom ran in to Philip, who was enjoying his afternoon's holiday at the
    piano, in the drawing-room, picking out tunes for himself and singing
    them. He was supremely happy, perched like an amorphous bundle on the
    high stool, with his head thrown back, his eyes fixed on the opposite
    cornice, and his lips wide open, sending forth, with all his might,
    impromptu syllables to a tune of Arne's which had hit his fancy.

    "Come, Philip," said Tom, bursting in; "don't stay roaring 'la la'
    there; come and see old Poulter do his sword-exercise in the

    The jar of this interruption, the discord of Tom's tones coming across
    the notes to which Philip was vibrating in soul and body, would have
    been enough to unhinge his temper, even if there had been no question
    of Poulter the drilling-master; and Tom, in the hurry of seizing
    something to say to prevent Mr. Poulter from thinking he was afraid of
    the sword when he sprang away from it, had alighted on this
    proposition to fetch Philip, though he knew well enough that Philip
    hated to hear him mention his drilling-lessons. Tom would never have
    done so inconsiderate a thing except under the severe stress of his
    personal pride.

    Philip shuddered visibly as he paused from his music. Then turning
    red, he said, with violent passion,--

    "Get away, you lumbering idiot! Don't come bellowing at me; you're not
    fit to speak to anything but a cart-horse!"

    It was not the first time Philip had been made angry by him, but Tom
    had never before been assailed with verbal missiles that he understood
    so well.

    "I'm fit to speak to something better than you, you poor-spirited
    imp!" said Tom, lighting up immediately at Philip's fire. "You know I
    won't hit you, because you're no better than a girl. But I'm an honest
    man's son, and _your_ father's a rogue; everybody says so!"

    Tom flung out of the room, and slammed the door after him, made
    strangely heedless by his anger; for to slam doors within the hearing
    of Mrs. Stelling, who was probably not far off, was an offence only to
    be wiped out by twenty lines of Virgil. In fact, that lady did
    presently descend from her room, in double wonder at the noise and the
    subsequent cessation of Philip's music. She found him sitting in a
    heap on the hassock, and crying bitterly.

    "What's the matter, Wakem? what was that noise about? Who slammed the

    Philip looked up, and hastily dried his eyes. "It was Tulliver who
    came in--to ask me to go out with him."

    "And what are you in trouble about?" said Mrs. Stelling.

    Philip was not her favorite of the two pupils; he was less obliging
    than Tom, who was made useful in many ways. Still, his father paid
    more than Mr. Tulliver did, and she meant him to feel that she behaved
    exceedingly well to him. Philip, however, met her advances toward a
    good understanding very much as a caressed mollusk meets an invitation
    to show himself out of his shell. Mrs. Stelling was not a loving,
    tender-hearted woman; she was a woman whose skirt sat well, who
    adjusted her waist and patted her curls with a preoccupied air when
    she inquired after your welfare. These things, doubtless, represent a
    great social power, but it is not the power of love; and no other
    power could win Philip from his personal reserve.

    He said, in answer to her question, "My toothache came on, and made me
    hysterical again."

    This had been the fact once, and Philip was glad of the recollection;
    it was like an inspiration to enable him to excuse his crying. He had
    to accept eau-de-Cologne and to refuse creosote in consequence; but
    that was easy.

    Meanwhile Tom, who had for the first time sent a poisoned arrow into
    Philip's heart, had returned to the carriage-house, where he found Mr.
    Poulter, with a fixed and earnest eye, wasting the perfections of his
    sword-exercise on probably observant but inappreciative rats. But Mr.
    Poulter was a host in himself; that is to say, he admired himself more
    than a whole army of spectators could have admired him. He took no
    notice of Tom's return, being too entirely absorbed in the cut and
    thrust,--the solemn one, two, three, four; and Tom, not without a
    slight feeling of alarm at Mr. Poulter's fixed eye and hungry-looking
    sword, which seemed impatient for something else to cut besides the
    air, admired the performance from as great a distance as possible. It
    was not until Mr. Poulter paused and wiped the perspiration from his
    forehead, that Tom felt the full charm of the sword-exercise, and
    wished it to be repeated.

    "Mr. Poulter," said Tom, when the sword was being finally sheathed, "I
    wish you'd lend me your sword a little while to keep."

    "No no, young gentleman," said Mr. Poulter, shaking his head
    decidedly; "you might do yourself some mischief with it."

    "No, I'm sure I wouldn't; I'm sure I'd take care and not hurt myself.
    I shouldn't take it out of the sheath much, but I could ground arms
    with it, and all that."

    "No, no, it won't do, I tell you; it won't do," said Mr. Poulter,
    preparing to depart. "What 'ud Mr. Stelling say to me?"

    "Oh, I say, do, Mr. Poulter! I'd give you my five-shilling piece if
    you'd let me keep the sword a week. Look here!" said Tom, reaching out
    the attractively large round of silver. The young dog calculated the
    effect as well as if he had been a philosopher.

    "Well," said Mr. Poulter, with still deeper gravity, "you must keep it
    out of sight, you know."

    "Oh yes, I'll keep it under the bed," said Tom, eagerly, "or else at
    the bottom of my large box."

    "And let me see, now, whether you can draw it out of the sheath
    without hurting yourself." That process having been gone through more
    than once, Mr. Poulter felt that he had acted with scrupulous
    conscientiousness, and said, "Well, now, Master Tulliver, if I take
    the crown-piece, it is to make sure as you'll do no mischief with the

    "Oh no, indeed, Mr. Poulter," said Tom, delightedly handing him the
    crown-piece, and grasping the sword, which, he thought, might have
    been lighter with advantage.

    "But if Mr. Stelling catches you carrying it in?" said Mr. Poulter,
    pocketing the crown-piece provisionally while he raised this new

    "Oh, he always keeps in his upstairs study on Saturday afternoon,"
    said Tom, who disliked anything sneaking, but was not disinclined to a
    little stratagem in a worthy cause. So he carried off the sword in
    triumph mixed with dread--dread that he might encounter Mr. or Mrs.
    Stelling--to his bedroom, where, after some consideration, he hid it
    in the closet behind some hanging clothes. That night he fell asleep
    in the thought that he would astonish Maggie with it when she
    came,--tie it round his waist with his red comforter, and make her
    believe that the sword was his own, and that he was going to be a
    soldier. There was nobody but Maggie who would be silly enough to
    believe him, or whom he dared allow to know he had a sword; and Maggie
    was really coming next week to see Tom, before she went to a
    boarding-school with Lucy.

    If you think a lad of thirteen would have been so childish, you must
    be an exceptionally wise man, who, although you are devoted to a civil
    calling, requiring you to look bland rather than formidable, yet
    never, since you had a beard, threw yourself into a martial attitude,
    and frowned before the looking-glass. It is doubtful whether our
    soldiers would be maintained if there were not pacific people at home
    who like to fancy themselves soldiers. War, like other dramatic
    spectacles, might possibly cease for want of a "public."
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