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    Book 1 - Chapter 10

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    Chapter 10
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    Maggie Behaves Worse Than She Expected

    The startling object which thus made an epoch for uncle Pullet was no
    other than little Lucy, with one side of her person, from her small
    foot to her bonnet-crown, wet and discolored with mud, holding out two
    tiny blackened hands, and making a very piteous face. To account for
    this unprecedented apparition in aunt Pullet's parlor, we must return
    to the moment when the three children went to play out of doors, and
    the small demons who had taken possession of Maggie's soul at an early
    period of the day had returned in all the greater force after a
    temporary absence. All the disagreeable recollections of the morning
    were thick upon her, when Tom, whose displeasure toward her had been
    considerably refreshed by her foolish trick of causing him to upset
    his cowslip wine, said, "Here, Lucy, you come along with me," and
    walked off to the area where the toads were, as if there were no
    Maggie in existence. Seeing this, Maggie lingered at a distance
    looking like a small Medusa with her snakes cropped. Lucy was
    naturally pleased that cousin Tom was so good to her, and it was very
    amusing to see him tickling a fat toad with a piece of string when the
    toad was safe down the area, with an iron grating over him. Still Lucy
    wished Maggie to enjoy the spectacle also, especially as she would
    doubtless find a name for the toad, and say what had been his past
    history; for Lucy had a delighted semibelief in Maggie's stories about
    the live things they came upon by accident,--how Mrs. Earwig had a
    wash at home, and one of her children had fallen into the hot copper,
    for which reason she was running so fast to fetch the doctor. Tom had
    a profound contempt for this nonsense of Maggie's, smashing the earwig
    at once as a superfluous yet easy means of proving the entire
    unreality of such a story; but Lucy, for the life of her, could not
    help fancying there was something in it, and at all events thought it
    was very pretty make-believe. So now the desire to know the history of
    a very portly toad, added to her habitual affectionateness, made her
    run back to Maggie and say, "Oh, there is such a big, funny toad,
    Maggie! Do come and see!"

    Maggie said nothing, but turned away from her with a deeper frown. As
    long as Tom seemed to prefer Lucy to her, Lucy made part of his
    unkindness. Maggie would have thought a little while ago that she
    could never be cross with pretty little Lucy, any more than she could
    be cruel to a little white mouse; but then, Tom had always been quite
    indifferent to Lucy before, and it had been left to Maggie to pet and
    make much of her. As it was, she was actually beginning to think that
    she should like to make Lucy cry by slapping or pinching her,
    especially as it might vex Tom, whom it was of no use to slap, even if
    she dared, because he didn't mind it. And if Lucy hadn't been there,
    Maggie was sure he would have got friends with her sooner.

    Tickling a fat toad who is not highly sensitive is an amusement that
    it is possible to exhaust, and Tom by and by began to look round for
    some other mode of passing the time. But in so prim a garden, where
    they were not to go off the paved walks, there was not a great choice
    of sport. The only great pleasure such a restriction suggested was the
    pleasure of breaking it, and Tom began to meditate an insurrectionary
    visit to the pond, about a field's length beyond the garden.

    "I say, Lucy," he began, nodding his head up and down with great
    significance, as he coiled up his string again, "what do you think I
    mean to do?"

    "What, Tom?" said Lucy, with curiosity.

    "I mean to go to the pond and look at the pike. You may go with me if
    you like," said the young sultan.

    "Oh, Tom, _dare_ you?" said Lucy. "Aunt said we mustn't go out of the

    "Oh, I shall go out at the other end of the garden," said Tom. "Nobody
    'ull see us. Besides, I don't care if they do,--I'll run off home."

    "But _I_ couldn't run," said Lucy, who had never before been exposed
    to such severe temptation.

    "Oh, never mind; they won't be cross with _you_," said Tom. "You say I
    took you."

    Tom walked along, and Lucy trotted by his side, timidly enjoying the
    rare treat of doing something naughty,--excited also by the mention of
    that celebrity, the pike, about which she was quite uncertain whether
    it was a fish or a fowl.

    Maggie saw them leaving the garden, and could not resist the impulse
    to follow. Anger and jealousy can no more bear to lose sight of their
    objects than love, and that Tom and Lucy should do or see anything of
    which she was ignorant would have been an intolerable idea to Maggie.
    So she kept a few yards behind them, unobserved by Tom, who was
    presently absorbed in watching for the pike,--a highly interesting
    monster; he was said to be so very old, so very large, and to have
    such a remarkable appetite. The pike, like other celebrities, did not
    show when he was watched for, but Tom caught sight of something in
    rapid movement in the water, which attracted him to another spot on
    the brink of the pond.

    "Here, Lucy!" he said in a loud whisper, "come here! take care! keep
    on the grass!--don't step where the cows have been!" he added,
    pointing to a peninsula of dry grass, with trodden mud on each side of
    it; for Tom's contemptuous conception of a girl included the attribute
    of being unfit to walk in dirty places.

    Lucy came carefully as she was bidden, and bent down to look at what
    seemed a golden arrow-head darting through the water. It was a
    water-snake, Tom told her; and Lucy at last could see the serpentine
    wave of its body, very much wondering that a snake could swim. Maggie
    had drawn nearer and nearer; she _must_ see it too, though it was
    bitter to her, like everything else, since Tom did not care about her
    seeing it. At last she was close by Lucy; and Tom, who had been aware
    of her approach, but would not notice it till he was obliged, turned
    round and said,--

    "Now, get away, Maggie; there's no room for you on the grass here.
    Nobody asked _you_ to come."

    There were passions at war in Maggie at that moment to have made a
    tragedy, if tragedies were made by passion only; but the essential
    [Greek text] which was present in the passion was wanting to the action;
    the utmost Maggie could do, with a fierce thrust of her small brown arm,
    was to push poor little pink-and-white Lucy into the cow-trodden mud.

    Then Tom could not restrain himself, and gave Maggie two smart slaps
    on the arm as he ran to pick up Lucy, who lay crying helplessly.
    Maggie retreated to the roots of a tree a few yards off, and looked on
    impenitently. Usually her repentance came quickly after one rash deed,
    but now Tom and Lucy had made her so miserable, she was glad to spoil
    their happiness,--glad to make everybody uncomfortable. Why should she
    be sorry? Tom was very slow to forgive _her_, however sorry she might
    have been.

    "I shall tell mother, you know, Miss Mag," said Tom, loudly and
    emphatically, as soon as Lucy was up and ready to walk away. It was
    not Tom's practice to "tell," but here justice clearly demanded that
    Maggie should be visited with the utmost punishment; not that Tom had
    learned to put his views in that abstract form; he never mentioned
    "justice," and had no idea that his desire to punish might be called
    by that fine name. Lucy was too entirely absorbed by the evil that had
    befallen her,--the spoiling of her pretty best clothes, and the
    discomfort of being wet and dirty,--to think much of the cause, which
    was entirely mysterious to her. She could never have guessed what she
    had done to make Maggie angry with her; but she felt that Maggie was
    very unkind and disagreeable, and made no magnanimous entreaties to
    Tom that he would not "tell," only running along by his side and
    crying piteously, while Maggie sat on the roots of the tree and looked
    after them with her small Medusa face.

    "Sally," said Tom, when they reached the kitchen door, and Sally
    looked at them in speechless amaze, with a piece of bread-and-butter
    in her mouth and a toasting-fork in her hand,--"Sally, tell mother it
    was Maggie pushed Lucy into the mud."

    "But Lors ha' massy, how did you get near such mud as that?" said
    Sally, making a wry face, as she stooped down and examined the _corpus

    Tom's imagination had not been rapid and capacious enough to include
    this question among the foreseen consequences, but it was no sooner
    put than he foresaw whither it tended, and that Maggie would not be
    considered the only culprit in the case. He walked quietly away from
    the kitchen door, leaving Sally to that pleasure of guessing which
    active minds notoriously prefer to ready-made knowledge.

    Sally, as you are aware, lost no time in presenting Lucy at the parlor
    door, for to have so dirty an object introduced into the house at
    Garum Firs was too great a weight to be sustained by a single mind.

    "Goodness gracious!" aunt Pullet exclaimed, after preluding by an
    inarticulate scream; "keep her at the door, Sally! Don't bring her off
    the oil-cloth, whatever you do."

    "Why, she's tumbled into some nasty mud," said Mrs. Tulliver, going up
    to Lucy to examine into the amount of damage to clothes for which she
    felt herself responsible to her sister Deane.

    "If you please, 'um, it was Miss Maggie as pushed her in," said Sally;
    "Master Tom's been and said so, and they must ha' been to the pond,
    for it's only there they could ha' got into such dirt."

    "There it is, Bessy; it's what I've been telling you," said Mrs.
    Pullet, in a tone of prophetic sadness; "it's your children,--there's
    no knowing what they'll come to."

    Mrs. Tulliver was mute, feeling herself a truly wretched mother. As
    usual, the thought pressed upon her that people would think she had
    done something wicked to deserve her maternal troubles, while Mrs.
    Pullet began to give elaborate directions to Sally how to guard the
    premises from serious injury in the course of removing the dirt.
    Meantime tea was to be brought in by the cook, and the two naughty
    children were to have theirs in an ignominious manner in the kitchen.
    Mrs. Tulliver went out to speak to these naughty children, supposing
    them to be close at hand; but it was not until after some search that
    she found Tom leaning with rather a hardened, careless air against the
    white paling of the poultry-yard, and lowering his piece of string on
    the other side as a means of exasperating the turkey-cock.

    "Tom, you naughty boy, where's your sister?" said Mrs. Tulliver, in a
    distressed voice.

    "I don't know," said Tom; his eagerness for justice on Maggie had
    diminished since he had seen clearly that it could hardly be brought
    about without the injustice of some blame on his own conduct.

    "Why, where did you leave her?" said the mother, looking round.

    "Sitting under the tree, against the pond," said Tom, apparently
    indifferent to everything but the string and the turkey-cock.

    "Then go and fetch her in this minute, you naughty boy. And how could
    you think o' going to the pond, and taking your sister where there was
    dirt? You know she'll do mischief if there's mischief to be done."

    It was Mrs. Tulliver's way, if she blamed Tom, to refer his
    misdemeanor, somehow or other, to Maggie.

    The idea of Maggie sitting alone by the pond roused an habitual fear
    in Mrs. Tulliver's mind, and she mounted the horse-block to satisfy
    herself by a sight of that fatal child, while Tom walked--not very
    quickly--on his way toward her.

    "They're such children for the water, mine are," she said aloud,
    without reflecting that there was no one to hear her; "they'll be
    brought in dead and drownded some day. I wish that river was far

    But when she not only failed to discern Maggie, but presently saw Tom
    returning from the pool alone, this hovering fear entered and took
    complete possession of her, and she hurried to meet him.

    "Maggie's nowhere about the pond, mother," said Tom; "she's gone

    You may conceive the terrified search for Maggie, and the difficulty
    of convincing her mother that she was not in the pond. Mrs. Pullet
    observed that the child might come to a worse end if she lived, there
    was no knowing; and Mr. Pullet, confused and overwhelmed by this
    revolutionary aspect of things,--the tea deferred and the poultry
    alarmed by the unusual running to and fro,--took up his spud as an
    instrument of search, and reached down a key to unlock the goose-pen,
    as a likely place for Maggie to lie concealed in.

    Tom, after a while, started the idea that Maggie was gone home
    (without thinking it necessary to state that it was what he should
    have done himself under the circumstances), and the suggestion was
    seized as a comfort by his mother.

    "Sister, for goodness' sake let 'em put the horse in the carriage and
    take me home; we shall perhaps find her on the road. Lucy can't walk
    in her dirty clothes," she said, looking at that innocent victim, who
    was wrapped up in a shawl, and sitting with naked feet on the sofa.

    Aunt Pullet was quite willing to take the shortest means of restoring
    her premises to order and quiet, and it was not long before Mrs.
    Tulliver was in the chaise, looking anxiously at the most distant
    point before her. What the father would say if Maggie was lost, was a
    question that predominated over every other.
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    Chapter 10
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