Then he sat up and stared back at Grannie, and as an exhibition of nonchalance and high spirit, put out his tongue at her.
Grannie only looked at him.
And, bit by bit, the tongue withdrew, and only the gaping mouth was left, and above it a pair of frightened green eyes, transmitting to the perverse little soul within new impressions and vague terrors.
Before long his left arm went up over his face to shut out the sight of Grannie’s dreadful staring eyes, and when, after a sufficient interval, he ventured a peep at her and found her eyes still fixed on him, he howled, “Take it off! Take it off!” and slipped his anchors and slid to the floor, hunching his back at this tormentor who could beat him on his own ground.
For that week he gave no trouble to any one. But after it he never went near Grannie’s room, and for years he never spoke to her. When he passed her open door, or in front of her window, he hunched his shoulder protectively and averted his eyes.
Resenting control in any shape or form, Tom naturally objected to school.
His stepmother would have had him go—for his own sake as well as hers. But his father took a not unusual Sark view of the matter.
“What’s the odds?” said he. “He’ll have the farm. Book-learning will be no use to him,” and in spite of Nancy’s protests—which Tom regarded as simply the natural outcrop of her ill-will towards him—the boy grew up untaught and uncontrolled, and knowing none but the worst of all masters—himself.
On occasion, when the tale of provocation reached its limit, his father thrashed him, until there came a day when Tom upset the usual course of proceedings by snatching the stick out of his father’s hands, and would have belaboured him in turn if he had not been promptly knocked down.
After that his father judged it best for all concerned that he should flight his troublesome wings outside for a while. So he sent him off in a trading-ship, in the somewhat forlorn hope that a knowledge of the world would knock some of the devil out of him—a hope which, like many another, fell short of accomplishment.
The world knocks a good deal out of a man, but it also knocks a good deal in. Tom came back from his voyaging knowing a good many things that he had not known when he started—a little English among others—and most of the others things which had been more profitably left unlearnt.
HOW NANCE CAME TO BE HERSELF
And little Nance?
The most persistent memories of Nance’s childhood were her fear and hatred of Tom, and her passionate love for her mother,—and Bernel when he came.
“My own,” she called these two, and regarded even her father as somewhat outside that special pale; esteemed Grannie as an Olympian, benevolently inclined, but dwelling on a remote and loftier plane; and feared and detested Tom as an open enemy.