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    Book 1 - Chapter 11

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    Chapter 11
    Previous Chapter
    Maggie Tries to Run away from Her Shadow

    Maggie'S intentions, as usual, were on a larger scale than Tom
    imagined. The resolution that gathered in her mind, after Tom and Lucy
    had walked away, was not so simple as that of going home. No! she
    would run away and go to the gypsies, and Tom should never see her any
    more. That was by no means a new idea to Maggie; she had been so often
    told she was like a gypsy, and "half wild," that when she was
    miserable it seemed to her the only way of escaping opprobrium, and
    being entirely in harmony with circumstances, would be to live in a
    little brown tent on the commons; the gypsies, she considered, would
    gladly receive her and pay her much respect on account of her superior
    knowledge. She had once mentioned her views on this point to Tom and
    suggested that he should stain his face brown, and they should run
    away together; but Tom rejected the scheme with contempt, observing
    that gypsies were thieves, and hardly got anything to eat and had
    nothing to drive but a donkey. To-day however, Maggie thought her
    misery had reached a pitch at which gypsydom was her refuge, and she
    rose from her seat on the roots of the tree with the sense that this
    was a great crisis in her life; she would run straight away till she
    came to Dunlow Common, where there would certainly be gypsies; and
    cruel Tom, and the rest of her relations who found fault with her,
    should never see her any more. She thought of her father as she ran
    along, but she reconciled herself to the idea of parting with him, by
    determining that she would secretly send him a letter by a small
    gypsy, who would run away without telling where she was, and just let
    him know that she was well and happy, and always loved him very much.

    Maggie soon got out of breath with running, but by the time Tom got to
    the pond again she was at the distance of three long fields, and was
    on the edge of the lane leading to the highroad. She stopped to pant a
    little, reflecting that running away was not a pleasant thing until
    one had got quite to the common where the gypsies were, but her
    resolution had not abated; she presently passed through the gate into
    the lane, not knowing where it would lead her, for it was not this way
    that they came from Dorlcote Mill to Garum Firs, and she felt all the
    safer for that, because there was no chance of her being overtaken.
    But she was soon aware, not without trembling, that there were two men
    coming along the lane in front of her; she had not thought of meeting
    strangers, she had been too much occupied with the idea of her friends
    coming after her. The formidable strangers were two shabby-looking men
    with flushed faces, one of them carrying a bundle on a stick over his
    shoulder; but to her surprise, while she was dreading their
    disapprobation as a runaway, the man with the bundle stopped, and in a
    half-whining, half-coaxing tone asked her if she had a copper to give
    a poor man. Maggie had a sixpence in her pocket,--her uncle Glegg's
    present,--which she immediately drew out and gave this poor man with a
    polite smile, hoping he would feel very kindly toward her as a
    generous person. "That's the only money I've got," she said
    apologetically. "Thank you, little miss," said the man, in a less
    respectful and grateful tone than Maggie anticipated, and she even
    observed that he smiled and winked at his companion. She walked on
    hurriedly, but was aware that the two men were standing still,
    probably to look after her, and she presently heard them laughing
    loudly. Suddenly it occurred to her that they might think she was an
    idiot; Tom had said that her cropped hair made her look like an idiot,
    and it was too painful an idea to be readily forgotten. Besides, she
    had no sleeves on,--only a cape and bonnet. It was clear that she was
    not likely to make a favorable impression on passengers, and she
    thought she would turn into the fields again, but not on the same side
    of the lane as before, lest they should still be uncle Pullet's
    fields. She turned through the first gate that was not locked, and
    felt a delightful sense of privacy in creeping along by the hedgerows,
    after her recent humiliating encounter. She was used to wandering
    about the fields by herself, and was less timid there than on the
    highroad. Sometimes she had to climb over high gates, but that was a
    small evil; she was getting out of reach very fast, and she should
    probably soon come within sight of Dunlow Common, or at least of some
    other common, for she had heard her father say that you couldn't go
    very far without coming to a common. She hoped so, for she was getting
    rather tired and hungry, and until she reached the gypsies there was
    no definite prospect of bread and butter. It was still broad daylight,
    for aunt Pullet, retaining the early habits of the Dodson family, took
    tea at half-past four by the sun, and at five by the kitchen clock;
    so, though it was nearly an hour since Maggie started, there was no
    gathering gloom on the fields to remind her that the night would come.
    Still, it seemed to her that she had been walking a very great
    distance indeed, and it was really surprising that the common did not
    come within sight. Hitherto she had been in the rich parish of Garum,
    where was a great deal of pasture-land, and she had only seen one
    laborer at a distance. That was fortunate in some respects, as
    laborers might be too ignorant to understand the propriety of her
    wanting to go to Dunlow Common; yet it would have been better if she
    could have met some one who would tell her the way without wanting to
    know anything about her private business. At last, however, the green
    fields came to an end, and Maggie found herself looking through the
    bars of a gate into a lane with a wide margin of grass on each side of
    it. She had never seen such a wide lane before, and, without her
    knowing why, it gave her the impression that the common could not be
    far off; perhaps it was because she saw a donkey with a log to his
    foot feeding on the grassy margin, for she had seen a donkey with that
    pitiable encumbrance on Dunlow Common when she had been across it in
    her father's gig. She crept through the bars of the gate and walked on
    with new spirit, though not without haunting images of Apollyon, and a
    highwayman with a pistol, and a blinking dwarf in yellow with a mouth
    from ear to ear, and other miscellaneous dangers. For poor little
    Maggie had at once the timidity of an active imagination and the
    daring that comes from overmastering impulse. She had rushed into the
    adventure of seeking her unknown kindred, the gypsies; and now she was
    in this strange lane, she hardly dared look on one side of her, lest
    she should see the diabolical blacksmith in his leathern apron
    grinning at her with arms akimbo. It was not without a leaping of the
    heart that she caught sight of a small pair of bare legs sticking up,
    feet uppermost, by the side of a hillock; they seemed something
    hideously preternatural,--a diabolical kind of fungus; for she was too
    much agitated at the first glance to see the ragged clothes and the
    dark shaggy head attached to them. It was a boy asleep, and Maggie
    trotted along faster and more lightly, lest she should wake him; it
    did not occur to her that he was one of her friends the gypsies, who
    in all probability would have very genial manners. But the fact was
    so, for at the next bend in the lane Maggie actually saw the little
    semicircular black tent with the blue smoke rising before it, which
    was to be her refuge from all the blighting obloquy that had pursued
    her in civilized life. She even saw a tall female figure by the column
    of smoke, doubtless the gypsy-mother, who provided the tea and other
    groceries; it was astonishing to herself that she did not feel more
    delighted. But it was startling to find the gypsies in a lane, after
    all, and not on a common; indeed, it was rather disappointing; for a
    mysterious illimitable common, where there were sand-pits to hide in,
    and one was out of everybody's reach, had always made part of Maggie's
    picture of gypsy life. She went on, however, and thought with some
    comfort that gypsies most likely knew nothing about idiots, so there
    was no danger of their falling into the mistake of setting her down at
    the first glance as an idiot. It was plain she had attracted
    attention; for the tall figure, who proved to be a young woman with a
    baby on her arm, walked slowly to meet her. Maggie looked up in the
    new face rather tremblingly as it approached, and was reassured by the
    thought that her aunt Pullet and the rest were right when they called
    her a gypsy; for this face, with the bright dark eyes and the long
    hair, was really something like what she used to see in the glass
    before she cut her hair off.

    "My little lady, where are you going to?" the gypsy said, in a tone of
    coaxing deference.

    It was delightful, and just what Maggie expected; the gypsies saw at
    once that she was a little lady, and were prepared to treat her
    accordingly.

    "Not any farther," said Maggie, feeling as if she were saying what she
    had rehearsed in a dream. "I'm come to stay with _you_, please."

    "That's pretty; come, then. Why, what a nice little lady you are, to
    be sure!" said the gypsy, taking her by the hand. Maggie thought her
    very agreeable, but wished she had not been so dirty.

    There was quite a group round the fire when she reached it. An old
    gypsy woman was seated on the ground nursing her knees, and
    occasionally poking a skewer into the round kettle that sent forth an
    odorous steam; two small shock-headed children were lying prone and
    resting on their elbows something like small sphinxes; and a placid
    donkey was bending his head over a tall girl, who, lying on her back,
    was scratching his nose and indulging him with a bite of excellent
    stolen hay. The slanting sunlight fell kindly upon them, and the scene
    was really very pretty and comfortable, Maggie thought, only she hoped
    they would soon set out the tea-cups. Everything would be quite
    charming when she had taught the gypsies to use a washing-basin, and
    to feel an interest in books. It was a little confusing, though, that
    the young woman began to speak to the old one in a language which
    Maggie did not understand, while the tall girl, who was feeding the
    donkey, sat up and stared at her without offering any salutation. At
    last the old woman said,--

    "What! my pretty lady, are you come to stay with us? Sit ye down and
    tell us where you come from."

    It was just like a story; Maggie liked to be called pretty lady and
    treated in this way. She sat down and said,--

    "I'm come from home because I'm unhappy, and I mean to be a gypsy.
    I'll live with you if you like, and I can teach you a great many
    things."

    "Such a clever little lady," said the woman with the baby sitting down
    by Maggie, and allowing baby to crawl; "and such a pretty bonnet and
    frock," she added, taking off Maggie's bonnet and looking at it while
    she made an observation to the old woman, in the unknown language. The
    tall girl snatched the bonnet and put it on her own head hind-foremost
    with a grin; but Maggie was determined not to show any weakness on
    this subject, as if she were susceptible about her bonnet.

    "I don't want to wear a bonnet," she said; "I'd rather wear a red
    handkerchief, like yours" (looking at her friend by her side). "My
    hair was quite long till yesterday, when I cut it off; but I dare say
    it will grow again very soon," she added apologetically, thinking it
    probable the gypsies had a strong prejudice in favor of long hair. And
    Maggie had forgotten even her hunger at that moment in the desire to
    conciliate gypsy opinion.

    "Oh, what a nice little lady!--and rich, I'm sure," said the old
    woman. "Didn't you live in a beautiful house at home?"

    "Yes, my home is pretty, and I'm very fond of the river, where we go
    fishing, but I'm often very unhappy. I should have liked to bring my
    books with me, but I came away in a hurry, you know. But I can tell
    you almost everything there is in my books, I've read them so many
    times, and that will amuse you. And I can tell you something about
    Geography too,--that's about the world we live in,--very useful and
    interesting. Did you ever hear about Columbus?"

    Maggie's eyes had begun to sparkle and her cheeks to flush,--she was
    really beginning to instruct the gypsies, and gaining great influence
    over them. The gypsies themselves were not without amazement at this
    talk, though their attention was divided by the contents of Maggie's
    pocket, which the friend at her right hand had by this time emptied
    without attracting her notice.

    "Is that where you live, my little lady?" said the old woman, at the
    mention of Columbus.

    "Oh, no!" said Maggie, with some pity; "Columbus was a very wonderful
    man, who found out half the world, and they put chains on him and
    treated him very badly, you know; it's in my Catechism of Geography,
    but perhaps it's rather too long to tell before tea--_I want my tea
    so_."

    The last words burst from Maggie, in spite of herself, with a sudden
    drop from patronizing instruction to simple peevishness.

    "Why, she's hungry, poor little lady," said the younger woman. "Give
    her some o' the cold victual. You've been walking a good way, I'll be
    bound, my dear. Where's your home?"

    "It's Dorlcote Mill, a good way off," said Maggie. "My father is Mr.
    Tulliver, but we mustn't let him know where I am, else he'll fetch me
    home again. Where does the queen of the gypsies live?"

    "What! do you want to go to her, my little lady?" said the younger
    woman. The tall girl meanwhile was constantly staring at Maggie and
    grinning. Her manners were certainly not agreeable.

    "No," said Maggie, "I'm only thinking that if she isn't a very good
    queen you might be glad when she died, and you could choose another.
    If I was a queen, I'd be a very good queen, and kind to everybody."

    "Here's a bit o' nice victual, then," said the old woman, handing to
    Maggie a lump of dry bread, which she had taken from a bag of scraps,
    and a piece of cold bacon.

    "Thank you,' said Maggie, looking at the food without taking it; "but
    will you give me some bread-and-butter and tea instead? I don't like
    bacon."

    "We've got no tea nor butter," said the old woman, with something like
    a scowl, as if she were getting tired of coaxing.

    "Oh, a little bread and treacle would do," said Maggie.

    "We han't got no treacle," said the old woman, crossly, whereupon
    there followed a sharp dialogue between the two women in their unknown
    tongue, and one of the small sphinxes snatched at the bread-and-bacon,
    and began to eat it. At this moment the tall girl, who had gone a few
    yards off, came back, and said something which produced a strong
    effect. The old woman, seeming to forget Maggie's hunger, poked the
    skewer into the pot with new vigor, and the younger crept under the
    tent and reached out some platters and spoons. Maggie trembled a
    little, and was afraid the tears would come into her eyes. Meanwhile
    the tall girl gave a shrill cry, and presently came running up the boy
    whom Maggie had passed as he was sleeping,--a rough urchin about the
    age of Tom. He stared at Maggie, and there ensued much incomprehensible
    chattering. She felt very lonely, and was quite sure she should begin to
    cry before long; the gypsies didn't seem to mind her at all, and she felt
    quite weak among them. But the springing tears were checked by new
    terror, when two men came up, whose approach had been the cause
    of the sudden excitement. The elder of the two carried a bag, which
    he flung down, addressing the women in a loud and scolding tone,
    which they answered by a shower of treble sauciness; while a black
    cur ran barking up to Maggie, and threw her into a tremor that only
    found a new cause in the curses with which the younger man called
    the dog off, and gave him a rap with a great stick he held in his hand.

    Maggie felt that it was impossible she should ever be queen of these
    people, or ever communicate to them amusing and useful knowledge.

    Both the men now seemed to be inquiring about Maggie, for they looked
    at her, and the tone of the conversation became of that pacific kind
    which implies curiosity on one side and the power of satisfying it on
    the other. At last the younger woman said in her previous deferential,
    coaxing tone,--

    "This nice little lady's come to live with us; aren't you glad?"

    "Ay, very glad," said the younger man, who was looking at Maggie's
    silver thimble and other small matters that had been taken from her
    pocket. He returned them all except the thimble to the younger woman,
    with some observation, and she immediately restored them to Maggie's
    pocket, while the men seated themselves, and began to attack the
    contents of the kettle,--a stew of meat and potatoes,--which had been
    taken off the fire and turned out into a yellow platter.

    Maggie began to think that Tom must be right about the gypsies; they
    must certainly be thieves, unless the man meant to return her thimble
    by and by. She would willingly have given it to him, for she was not
    at all attached to her thimble; but the idea that she was among
    thieves prevented her from feeling any comfort in the revival of
    deference and attention toward her; all thieves, except Robin Hood,
    were wicked people. The women saw she was frightened.

    "We've got nothing nice for a lady to eat," said the old woman, in her
    coaxing tone. "And she's so hungry, sweet little lady."

    "Here, my dear, try if you can eat a bit o' this," said the younger
    woman, handing some of the stew on a brown dish with an iron spoon to
    Maggie, who, remembering that the old woman had seemed angry with her
    for not liking the bread-and-bacon, dared not refuse the stew, though
    fear had chased away her appetite. If her father would but come by in
    the gig and take her up! Or even if Jack the Giantkiller, or Mr.
    Greatheart, or St. George who slew the dragon on the half-pennies,
    would happen to pass that way! But Maggie thought with a sinking heart
    that these heroes were never seen in the neighborhood of St. Ogg's;
    nothing very wonderful ever came there.

    Maggie Tulliver, you perceive, was by no means that well trained,
    well-informed young person that a small female of eight or nine
    necessarily is in these days; she had only been to school a year at
    St. Ogg's, and had so few books that she sometimes read the
    dictionary; so that in travelling over her small mind you would have
    found the most unexpected ignorance as well as unexpected knowledge.
    She could have informed you that there was such a word as "polygamy,"
    and being also acquainted with "polysyllable," she had deduced the
    conclusion that "poly" mean "many"; but she had had no idea that
    gypsies were not well supplied with groceries, and her thoughts
    generally were the oddest mixture of clear-eyed acumen and blind
    dreams.

    Her ideas about the gypsies had undergone a rapid modification in the
    last five minutes. From having considered them very respectful
    companions, amenable to instruction, she had begun to think that they
    meant perhaps to kill her as soon as it was dark, and cut up her body
    for gradual cooking; the suspicion crossed her that the fierce-eyed
    old man was in fact the Devil, who might drop that transparent
    disguise at any moment, and turn either into the grinning blacksmith,
    or else a fiery-eyed monster with dragon's wings. It was no use trying
    to eat the stew, and yet the thing she most dreaded was to offend the
    gypsies, by betraying her extremely unfavorable opinion of them; and
    she wondered, with a keenness of interest that no theologian could
    have exceeded, whether, if the Devil were really present, he would
    know her thoughts.

    "What! you don't like the smell of it, my dear," said the young woman,
    observing that Maggie did not even take a spoonful of the stew. "Try a
    bit, come."

    "No, thank you," said Maggie, summoning all her force for a desperate
    effort, and trying to smile in a friendly way. "I haven't time, I
    think; it seems getting darker. I think I must go home now, and come
    again another day, and then I can bring you a basket with some
    jam-tarts and things."

    Maggie rose from her seat as she threw out this illusory prospect,
    devoutly hoping that Apollyon was gullible; but her hope sank when the
    old gypsy-woman said, "Stop a bit, stop a bit, little lady; we'll take
    you home, all safe, when we've done supper; you shall ride home, like
    a lady."

    Maggie sat down again, with little faith in this promise, though she
    presently saw the tall girl putting a bridle on the donkey, and
    throwing a couple of bags on his back.

    "Now, then, little missis," said the younger man, rising, and leading
    the donkey forward, "tell us where you live; what's the name o' the
    place?"

    "Dorlcote Mill is my home," said Maggie, eagerly. "My father is Mr.
    Tulliver; he lives there."

    "What! a big mill a little way this side o' St. Ogg's?"

    "Yes," said Maggie. "Is it far off? I think I should like to walk
    there, if you please."

    "No, no, it'll be getting dark, we must make haste. And the donkey'll
    carry you as nice as can be; you'll see."

    He lifted Maggie as he spoke, and set her on the donkey. She felt
    relieved that it was not the old man who seemed to be going with her,
    but she had only a trembling hope that she was really going home.

    "Here's your pretty bonnet," said the younger woman, putting that
    recently despised but now welcome article of costume on Maggie's head;
    "and you'll say we've been very good to you, won't you? and what a
    nice little lady we said you was."

    "Oh yes, thank you," said Maggie, "I'm very much obliged to you. But I
    wish you'd go with me too." She thought anything was better than going
    with one of the dreadful men alone; it would be more cheerful to be
    murdered by a larger party.

    "Ah, you're fondest o' _me_, aren't you?" said the woman. "But I can't
    go; you'll go too fast for me."

    It now appeared that the man also was to be seated on the donkey,
    holding Maggie before him, and she was as incapable of remonstrating
    against this arrangement as the donkey himself, though no nightmare
    had ever seemed to her more horrible. When the woman had patted her on
    the back, and said "Good-by," the donkey, at a strong hint from the
    man's stick, set off at a rapid walk along the lane toward the point
    Maggie had come from an hour ago, while the tall girl and the rough
    urchin, also furnished with sticks, obligingly escorted them for the
    first hundred yards, with much screaming and thwacking.

    Not Leonore, in that preternatural midnight excursion with her phantom
    lover, was more terrified than poor Maggie in this entirely natural
    ride on a short-paced donkey, with a gypsy behind her, who considered
    that he was earning half a crown. The red light of the setting sun
    seemed to have a portentous meaning, with which the alarming bray of
    the second donkey with the log on its foot must surely have some
    connection. Two low thatched cottages--the only houses they passed in
    this lane--seemed to add to its dreariness; they had no windows to
    speak of, and the doors were closed; it was probable that they were
    inhabitated by witches, and it was a relief to find that the donkey
    did not stop there.

    At last--oh, sight of joy!--this lane, the longest in the world, was
    coming to an end, was opening on a broad highroad, where there was
    actually a coach passing! And there was a finger-post at the
    corner,--she had surely seen that finger-post before,--"To St. Ogg's,
    2 miles." The gypsy really meant to take her home, then; he was
    probably a good man, after all, and might have been rather hurt at the
    thought that she didn't like coming with him alone. This idea became
    stronger as she felt more and more certain that she knew the road
    quite well, and she was considering how she might open a conversation
    with the injured gypsy, and not only gratify his feelings but efface
    the impression of her cowardice, when, as they reached a cross-road.
    Maggie caught sight of some one coming on a white-faced horse.

    "Oh, stop, stop!" she cried out. "There's my father! Oh, father,
    father!"

    The sudden joy was almost painful, and before her father reached her,
    she was sobbing. Great was Mr. Tulliver's wonder, for he had made a
    round from Basset, and had not yet been home.

    "Why, what's the meaning o' this?" he said, checking his horse, while
    Maggie slipped from the donkey and ran to her father's stirrup.

    "The little miss lost herself, I reckon," said the gypsy. "She'd come
    to our tent at the far end o' Dunlow Lane, and I was bringing her
    where she said her home was. It's a good way to come after being on
    the tramp all day."

    "Oh yes, father, he's been very good to bring me home," said
    Maggie,--"a very kind, good man!"

    "Here, then, my man," said Mr. Tulliver, taking out five shillings.
    "It's the best day's work _you_ ever did. I couldn't afford to lose
    the little wench; here, lift her up before me."

    "Why, Maggie, how's this, how's this?" he said, as they rode along,
    while she laid her head against her father and sobbed. "How came you
    to be rambling about and lose yourself?"

    "Oh, father," sobbed Maggie, "I ran away because I was so unhappy; Tom
    was so angry with me. I couldn't bear it."

    "Pooh, pooh," said Mr. Tulliver, soothingly, "you mustn't think o'
    running away from father. What 'ud father do without his little
    wench?"

    "Oh no, I never will again, father--never."

    Mr. Tulliver spoke his mind very strongly when he reached home that
    evening; and the effect was seen in the remarkable fact that Maggie
    never heard one reproach from her mother, or one taunt from Tom, about
    this foolish business of her running away to the gypsies. Maggie was
    rather awe-stricken by this unusual treatment, and sometimes thought
    that her conduct had been too wicked to be alluded to.
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