فصل 03

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فصل 03

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CHAPTER THREE

Young Tom Causes Some Anxiety

The reader will not be surprised if we pass quickly over twelve years when nothing interesting happened. We shall now meet our hero, Tom, at about fourteen years of age.

To be honest, it was the opinion of all Mr Allworthy’s family that young Tom was born to be hanged. Indeed I am sorry to say there was too much reason for this. From his earliest years, Tom showed signs of crime. To give three examples, he had stolen some apples from a tree, a duck from a farm and a ball from the pocket of his companion, young Master Blifil.

In contrast, the young son of Captain and Mrs Blifil was praised by all the neighbourhood. He was quiet and good, and many people wondered why Mr Allworthy allowed his nephew to be educated with such a bad influence as Tom.

Yet Tom, bad as he is, must be our hero, so here is a story to help you to get to know him better.

About this time, Tom had only one friend among the servants, and this was Mr Allworthy’s gamekeeper, George Seagrim. Some said that Tom learned his bad ways from this man, whose idea of the meaning of ‘yours’ and ‘mine’ was rather loose. Indeed, the whole duck and most of the stolen apples were eaten by Black George and his family.

One day, young Tom went shooting with the gamekeeper near the edge of Mr Allworthy’s land. They surprised some birds, which flew into the neighbour’s land. Tom ran after them, the gamekeeper followed him and they both fired their guns.

The neighbour, who was riding nearby, heard the gunfire and came to look. He caught Tom with a dead bird, but he didn’t find the gamekeeper, who was hiding in the trees.

When he returned home, Tom admitted his crime to Mr Allworthy, but he insisted that he had been shooting alone. The gamekeeper was sent for, but he too denied being with Tom that afternoon. Mr Allworthy sent Tom to bed, and next morning he called him back and asked the same questions. Tom gave the same answers, even when he was whipped.

At last Mr Allworthy believed Tom was telling the truth. He apologized, and gave Tom a little horse as a present.

‘Oh, sir,’ Tom said, ‘you are too good to me.’ He very nearly told Mr Allworthy the truth, but then he remembered the gamekeeper and was silent. He felt very guilty.

The thing which put an end to Tom’s silence was a fight between himself and Master Blifil. Usually, Tom avoided fights with his younger companion because he really loved him, but one day, as they played together, Blifil called Tom a poor bastard. Tom immediately jumped on Blifil, and the result was a bloody nose.

Blifil ran to his uncle to complain. Tom told Mr Allworthy what Blifil had called him, but young Blifil said, ‘He is lying, Uncle, the same way as he lied when he said nobody was with him when he shot the bird. Black George, the gamekeeper, was there. Tom confessed it to me.’

‘Is this true, child?’ asked Mr Allworthy. ‘Why did you lie to me about it?’

Tom explained that it was a question of honour. He had promised the gamekeeper to keep quiet. ‘It was my idea to follow the birds, sir,’ he said. ‘Please, sir, let me be punished. Take my little horse away. But please, sir, forgive poor George.’

Mr Allworthy was quiet for some time. Then he told the boys to go away, and to be more friendly with each other. Towards the gamekeeper he was more severe. He called him to the house, paid him his wages and dismissed him.

The education of Tom and Master Blifil was in the hands of two men, Mr Thwackum and Mr Square, who lived in the house as part of the family. Mr Thwackum knew a lot about religion and morality, while Mr Square had studied philosophy and believed in reason more than in religion.

Mrs Blifil, now many years widowed, liked them both. She enjoyed the conversation of Mr Thwackum, and admired the good looks of Mr Square. Both men had their eye on the possibility of marrying her, and so they hated each other. But there was one point on which they agreed. In order to please the widow, they both took every opportunity to show her that they preferred her son. Poor Tom therefore suffered many more beatings than young Master Blifil.

The good Mr Allworthy called Tom his own boy, and in all things made him equal with Master Blifil. Mrs Blifil agreed with this, though everyone believed she secretly hated Tom. When he was young this may have been so. However, as he grew up and began to learn how to be charming to ladies, she grew fonder of him. By the time he was eighteen years old the whole country was talking of Mrs Blind’s liking for Tom, which made his two teachers hate him even more.

Tom worried greatly about Black George Seagrim and his unfortunate family, and tried to help them. First he sold his little horse to give them money for food, then he sold a fine Bible which Mr Allworthy had given him. He was punished for this with more beatings.

At the same time, Tom began to grow friendly with the neighbour whose dead bird had caused so much trouble, and so he met his neighbour’s daughter. But as this young lady is to be the heroine of our story, and probably we will all fall in love with her, it is not right to introduce her at the end of a chapter.

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