Nonfiction > Lionel Strachey, et al., eds. > The World’s Wit and Humor > British
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The World’s Wit and Humor: An Encyclopedia in 15 Volumes.  1906.
Vols. VI–IX: British
 
Tom Tulliver Impersonates the Duke of Wellington
By George Eliot (Mary Ann Cross) (1819–1880)
 

“I SAY, Magsie,” said Tom, shutting his books and putting them away with the energy and decision of a perfect master in the art of leaving off, “I’ve done my lessons now. Come up-stairs with me.”
  1
  “What is it?” said Maggie, when they were outside the door, a slight suspicion crossing her mind as she remembered Tom’s preliminary visit up-stairs. “It isn’t a trick you’re going to play me, now?”  2
  “No, no, Maggie,” said Tom, in his most coaxing tone; “it’s something you’ll like ever so.”  3
  He put his arm round her neck, and she put hers round his waist, and, twined together in this way, they went up-stairs.  4
  “I say, Magsie, you must not tell anybody, you know,” said Tom, “else I shall get fifty lines.”  5
  “Is it alive?” said Maggie, whose imagination had settled for the moment on the idea that Tom kept a ferret clandestinely.  6
  “Oh, I sha’n’t tell you,” said he. “Now you go into that corner and hide your face, while I reach it out,” he added, as he locked the bedroom door behind them. “I’ll tell you when to turn round. You mustn’t squeal out, you know.”  7
  “Oh, but if you frighten me, I shall,” said Maggie, beginning to look rather serious.  8
  “You won’t be frightened, you silly thing,” said Tom. “Go and hide your face, and mind you don’t peep.”  9
  “Of course I sha’n’t peep,” said Maggie disdainfully. And she buried her face in the pillow like a person of strict honour.  10
  But Tom looked round warily as he walked to the closet; then he stepped into the narrow space, and almost closed the door. Maggie kept her face buried without the aid of principle, for in that dream-suggestive attitude she had soon forgotten where she was, and her thoughts were busy with the poor deformed boy who was so clever, when Tom called out, “Now then, Magsie!”  11
  Nothing but long meditation and preconcerted arrangement of effects could have enabled Tom to present so striking a figure as he did to Maggie when she looked up. Dissatisfied with the pacific aspect of a face which had no more than the faintest hint of flaxen eyebrow, together with a pair of amiable blue-gray eyes and round pink cheeks that refused to look formidable, let him frown as he would before the looking-glass (Philip had once told him of a man who had a horse-shoe frown, and Tom had tried with all his frowning-might to make a horse-shoe on his forehead), he had had recourse to that unfailing source of the terrible, burnt cork, and had made himself a pair of black eyebrows that met in a satisfactory manner over his nose, and were matched by a less carefully adjusted blackness about the chin. He had wound a red handkerchief round his cloth cap to give it the air of a turban, and his red comforter across his breast as a scarf—an amount of red which, with the tremendous frown on his brow, and the decision with which he grasped the sword, as he held it with its point resting on the ground, would suffice to convey an approximative idea of his fierce and bloodthirsty disposition.  12
  Maggie looked bewildered for a moment, and Tom enjoyed that moment keenly; but in the next she laughed, clapped her hands together, and said, “Oh, Tom, you’ve made yourself like Bluebeard at the show.”  13
  It was clear she had not been struck with the presence of the sword—it was not unsheathed. Her frivolous mind required a more direct appeal to its sense of the terrible, and Tom prepared for his master-stroke. Frowning with a double amount of intention, if not of corrugation, he (carefully) drew the sword from its sheath and pointed it at Maggie.  14
  “Oh, Tom, please don’t!” exclaimed Maggie, in a tone of suppressed dread, shrinking away from him into the opposite corner. “I shall scream—I’m sure I shall! Oh, don’t! I wish I’d never come up-stairs!”  15
  The corners of Tom’s mouth showed an inclination to a smile of complacency that was immediately checked as inconsistent with the severity of a great warrior. Slowly he let down the scabbard on the floor, lest it should make too much noise, and then said sternly:  16
  “I’m the Duke of Wellington! March!” stamping forward with the right leg a little bent, and the sword still pointing toward Maggie, who, trembling, and with tear-filled eyes, got upon the bed, as the only means of widening the space between them.  17
  Tom, happy in this spectator of his military performances, even though the spectator was only Maggie, proceeded, with the utmost exertion of his force, to such an exhibition of the cut and thrust as would necessarily be expected of the Duke of Wellington.  18
  “Tom, I will not bear it, I will scream,” said Maggie, at the first movement of the sword. “You’ll hurt yourself; you’ll cut your head off!”  19
  “One—two,” said Tom resolutely, though at “two” his wrist trembled a little. “Three” came more slowly, and with it the sword swung downward, and Maggie gave a loud shriek. The sword had fallen, with its edge on Tom’s foot, and in a moment after he had fallen too. Maggie leaped from the bed, still shrieking, and immediately there was a rush of footsteps toward the room. Mr. Stelling, from his up-stairs study, was the first to enter. He found both the children on the floor. Tom had fainted, and Maggie was shaking him by the collar of his jacket, screaming, with wild eyes.  20
 
 
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