II. 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 Id meant to make a miller and farmer of him, for hes 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 wouldnt 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. Theyre pretty nigh all one, and theyre 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. Hes 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. Oggs, and considered sweet things).
Well, Mr. Tulliver, you know best: Ive no objections. But hadnt 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? Theres a couple o fowl wants killing!
Dear heart! said Mrs. Tulliver, shocked at this sanguinary rhetoric, how can you talk so, Mr. Tulliver? But its your way to speak disrespectful o my family; and sister Glegg throws all the blame upome, though Im sure Im as innocent as the babe unborn. For nobodys ever heard me say as it wasnt lucky for my children to have aunts and uncles as can live independent. Howiver, if Toms 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 theyd be one as yallow as th other before theyd been washed half-a-dozen times. And then, when the box is goin backard 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 wont send him out o reach o the carriers cart, if other things fit in, said Mr. Tulliver. But you mustnt put a spoke i the wheel about the washin, if we cant get a school near enough. Thats the fault I have to find wi you, Bessy; if you see a stick i the road, youre allays thinkin you cant step over it. Youd want me not to hire a good wagoner, cause hed got a mole on his face.
Dear heart! said Mrs. Tulliver, in mild surprise, when did I iver make objections to a man because hed got a mole on his face? Im sure Im rether fond o the moles; for my brother, as is dead an gone, had a mole on his brow. But I cant remember your iver offering to hire a wagoner with a mole, Mr. Tulliver. There was John Gibbs hadnt 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 hadnt died o th inflammation, as we paid Dr. Turnbull for attending him, hed 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 didnt mean justly the mole; I meant it to stand for summat else; but niver mindits puzzling work, talking is. What Im thinking on, is how to find the right sort o school to send Tom to, for I might be taen in again, as Ive been wi th academy. Ill have nothing to do wi a cademy again: whativer school I send Tom to, it shant be a cademy; it shall be a place where the lads spend their time i summat else besides blacking the familys shoes, and getting up the potatoes. Its 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 Ill do: Ill talk it over wi Riley; hes coming to-morrow, t arbitrate about the dam.
Well, Mr. Tulliver, Ive put the sheets out for the best bed, and Kezias got em hanging at the fire. They arent the best sheets, but theyre 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 theyll do to lay us out in. An if you was to die to-morrow, Mr. Tulliver, theyre 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 Ive hit it, Bessy, was his first remark after a short silence. Rileys as likely a man as any to know o some school; hes 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 dont mean much, so as you cant 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 shouldnt 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 its all a mess, and then hide it with a bib; I know Riley does. And then, if Toms to go and live at Mudport, like Riley, hell 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, Ive no thoughts of his going to Mudport: I mean him to set up his office at St. Oggs, close by us, an live at home. But, continued Mr. Tulliver after a pause, what Im a bit afraid on is, as Tom hasnt got the right sort o brains for a smart fellow. I doubt hes 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; hes wonderful for liking a deal o salt in his broth. That was my brothers way, and my fathers before him.
It seems a bit a pity, though, said Mr. Tulliver, as the lad should take after the mothers side instead o the little wench. Thats the worst ont wi crossing o breeds: you can never justly calkilate whatll come ont. The little un takes after my side, now: shes twice as cute as Tom. Too cute for a woman, Im afraid, continued Mr. Tulliver, turning his head dubiously first on one side and then on the other. Its no mischief much while shes a little un; but an over-cute womans no better nor a long-tailed sheep,shell fetch none the bigger price for that.
Yes, it is a mischief while shes 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 dont know where she is now, an its pretty nigh tea-time. Ah, I thought so,wanderin up an down by the water, like a wild thing: Shell tumble in some day.
You talk o cuteness, Mr. Tulliver, she observed as she sat down, but Im sure the childs half an idiot i some things; for if I send her upstairs to fetch anything, she forgets what shes 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 Im 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 dont 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; shes a straight, black-eyed wench as anybody need wish to see. I dont know i what shes behind other folkss children; and she can read almost as well as the parson.
How can you talk so, Mr. Tulliver? Shes too big a gellgone nine, and tall of her ageto have her hair cut short; an theres her cousin Lucys 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; Im 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, wheres the use o my telling you to keep away from the water?
Maggies hair, as she threw off her bonnet, painfully confirmed her mothers accusation. Mrs. Tulliver, desiring her daughter to have a curled crop, like other folkss 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 thinkinof, to throw your bonnet down there? Take it upstairs, theres 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.
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.