The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot Book 2: School-Time: Chapter 3 - The New Schoolfellow

"Oh, I don't mind," said Philip, unable to choke a laugh; "I can remember things easily. And there are some lessons I'm very fond of. I'm very fond of Greek history, and everything about the Greeks. I should like to have been a Greek and fought the Persians, and then have come home and have written tragedies, or else have been listened to by everybody for my wisdom, like Socrates, and have died a grand death." (Philip, you perceive, was not without a wish to impress the well-made barbarian with a sense of his mental superiority.)

"Why, were the Greeks great fighters?" said Tom, who saw a vista in this direction. "Is there anything like David and Goliath and Samson in the Greek history? Those are the only bits I like in the history of the Jews."

"Oh, there are very fine stories of that sort about the Greeks, — about the heroes of early times who killed the wild beasts, as Samson did. And in the Odyssey — that's a beautiful poem — there's a more wonderful giant than Goliath, — Polypheme, who had only one eye in the middle of his forehead; and Ulysses, a little fellow, but very wise and cunning, got a red-hot pine-tree and stuck it into this one eye, and made him roar like a thousand bulls."

"Oh, what fun!" said Tom, jumping away from the table, and stamping first with one leg and then the other. "I say, can you tell me all about those stories? Because I sha'n't learn Greek, you know. Shall I?" he added, pausing in his stamping with a sudden alarm, lest the contrary might be possible. "Does every gentleman learn Greek? Will Mr. Stelling make me begin with it, do you think?"

"No, I should think not, very likely not," said Philip. "But you may read those stories without knowing Greek. I've got them in English."

"Oh, but I don't like reading; I'd sooner have you tell them me. But only the fighting ones, you know. My sister Maggie is always wanting to tell me stories, but they're stupid things. Girls' stories always are. Can you tell a good many fighting stories?"

"Oh yes," said Philip; "lots of them, besides the Greek stories. I can tell you about Richard Cœur-de-Lion and Saladin, and about William Wallace and Robert Bruce and James Douglas, — I know no end."

"You're older than I am, aren't you?" said Tom.

"Why, how old are you? I'm fifteen."

"I'm only going in fourteen," said Tom. "But I thrashed all the fellows at Jacob's — that's where I was before I came here. And I beat 'em all at bandy and climbing. And I wish Mr. Stelling would let us go fishing. I could show you how to fish. You could fish, couldn't you? It's only standing, and sitting still, you know."

Tom, in his turn, wished to make the balance dip in his favor. This hunchback must not suppose that his acquaintance with fighting stories put him on a par with an actual fighting hero, like Tom Tulliver. Philip winced under this allusion to his unfitness for active sports, and he answered almost peevishly, —

"I can't bear fishing. I think people look like fools sitting watching a line hour after hour, or else throwing and throwing, and catching nothing."

"Ah, but you wouldn't say they looked like fools when they landed a big pike, I can tell you," said Tom, who had never caught anything that was "big" in his life, but whose imagination was on the stretch with indignant zeal for the honor of sport. Wakem's son, it was plain, had his disagreeable points, and must be kept in due check. Happily for the harmony of this first interview, they were now called to dinner, and Philip was not allowed to develop farther his unsound views on the subject of fishing. But Tom said to himself, that was just what he should have expected from a hunchback.

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