Tom is having a terrible time at school with Mr. Stelling.
Tom’s old school was not too bad overall. And Tom finds school boring and useless.
Turns out that Tom is the only pupil at Mr. Stelling’s, which makes his situation really awkward.
Mr. Stelling is a nice guy but he doesn’t really understand how to interact with kids, and he has a very narrow view of education. Tom has to learn lots of traditional stuff, like Latin, and do a lot of rote memorization.
Tom is confused by Mr. Stelling, who is very firm in the schoolroom, but is nice and jokes with Tom at dinner. Tom has a life crisis and worries that he’s somehow wrong about everything.
Mr. Tulliver is under the impression that Tom is getting a very different sort of education. He wants Tom to learn things like math and accounting. But he doesn’t express himself very well and Mr. Stelling is under the impression that Latin grammar and Greek geometry is exactly what Mr. Tulliver had in mind for Tom.
Tom makes slow progress and Mr. Stelling is convinced that Tom is an idiot.
Since he fails continually and frustrates Mr. Stelling, Tom becomes depressed and embarrassed.
Tom becomes so desperate that he even prays for help with his Latin grammar.
Tom misses the mill and his dog and playing outside and being a boy.
His only friend at the Stelling’s house is their baby daughter, Laura. Mrs. Stelling makes Tom babysit her a lot and Tom actually enjoys playing with her. Tom misses his own sister.
Finally, Maggie comes to visit Tom. Mr. Tulliver brings her and notes that Tom’s schooling is going well, even though Tom complains about it.
Maggie announces that she’ll help Tom with school and he’s annoyed.
Mr. Stelling is charmed by Maggie.
Tom and Maggie go to the study and discuss his school books.
After talking about Latin, Maggie announces that she’ll be a clever woman one day and won’t be in a perpetual bad mood like her aunts.
Tom says she’ll be conceited and he won’t like her at all. Maggie says that’s mean and he has to like her since they’re related.
Maggie then goes off to read Tom’s Latin grammar book and enjoys learning new words.
Maggie then helps Tom study and their study session is a bit of a train wreck, since Tom can’t remember anything and Maggie keeps mispronouncing things. Tom keeps insulting Maggie since she’s showing off how smart she is.
Maggie stays with the Stellings for a fortnight, or two weeks.
Mrs. Stelling finds Maggie odd.
Mr. Stelling likes Maggie, but he points out that girls are shallow and can’t really learn anything in depth.
Maggie is upset by this and Tom laughs at her.
Finally, it’s Christmas and Tom gets to go home for a vacation. He’s thrilled to be back and the mill is very pretty in the winter, so says the narrator.