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    Book 3 - Chapter 4

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    Chapter 24
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    A Vanishing Gleam

    Mr. Tulliver, even between the fits of spasmodic rigidity which had
    recurred at intervals ever since he had been found fallen from his
    horse, was usually in so apathetic a condition that the exits and
    entrances into his room were not felt to be of great importance. He
    had lain so still, with his eyes closed, all this morning, that Maggie
    told her aunt Moss she must not expect her father to take any notice
    of them.

    They entered very quietly, and Mrs. Moss took her seat near the head
    of the bed, while Maggie sat in her old place on the bed, and put her
    hand on her father's without causing any change in his face.

    Mr. Glegg and Tom had also entered, treading softly, and were busy
    selecting the key of the old oak chest from the bunch which Tom had
    brought from his father's bureau. They succeeded in opening the
    chest,--which stood opposite the foot of Mr. Tulliver's bed,--and
    propping the lid with the iron holder, without much noise.

    "There's a tin box," whispered Mr. Glegg; "he'd most like put a small
    thing like a note in there. Lift it out, Tom; but I'll just lift up
    these deeds,--they're the deeds o' the house and mill, I suppose,--and
    see what there is under 'em."

    Mr. Glegg had lifted out the parchments, and had fortunately drawn
    back a little, when the iron holder gave way, and the heavy lid fell
    with a loud bang that resounded over the house.

    Perhaps there was something in that sound more than the mere fact of
    the strong vibration that produced the instantaneous effect on the
    frame of the prostrate man, and for the time completely shook off the
    obstruction of paralysis. The chest had belonged to his father and his
    father's father, and it had always been rather a solemn business to
    visit it. All long-known objects, even a mere window fastening or a
    particular door-latch, have sounds which are a sort of recognized
    voice to us,--a voice that will thrill and awaken, when it has been
    used to touch deep-lying fibres. In the same moment, when all the eyes
    in the room were turned upon him, he started up and looked at the
    chest, the parchments in Mr. Glegg's hand, and Tom holding the tin
    box, with a glance of perfect consciousness and recognition.

    "What are you going to do with those deeds?" he said, in his ordinary
    tone of sharp questioning whenever he was irritated. "Come here, Tom.
    What do you do, going to my chest?"

    Tom obeyed, with some trembling; it was the first time his father had
    recognized him. But instead of saying anything more to him, his father
    continued to look with a growing distinctness of suspicion at Mr.
    Glegg and the deeds.

    "What's been happening, then?" he said sharply. "What are you meddling
    with my deeds for? Is Wakem laying hold of everything? Why don't you
    tell me what you've been a-doing?" he added impatiently, as Mr. Glegg
    advanced to the foot of the bed before speaking.

    "No, no, friend Tulliver," said Mr. Glegg, in a soothing tone.
    "Nobody's getting hold of anything as yet. We only came to look and
    see what was in the chest. You've been ill, you know, and we've had to
    look after things a bit. But let's hope you'll soon be well enough to
    attend to everything yourself."

    Mr. Tulliver looked around him meditatively, at Tom, at Mr. Glegg, and
    at Maggie; then suddenly appearing aware that some one was seated by
    his side at the head of the bed he turned sharply round and saw his

    "Eh, Gritty!" he said, in the half-sad, affectionate tone in which he
    had been wont to speak to her. "What! you're there, are you? How could
    you manage to leave the children?"

    "Oh, brother!" said good Mrs. Moss, too impulsive to be prudent, "I'm
    thankful I'm come now to see you yourself again; I thought you'd never
    know us any more."

    "What! have I had a stroke?" said Mr. Tulliver, anxiously, looking at
    Mr. Glegg.

    "A fall from your horse--shook you a bit,--that's all, I think," said
    Mr. Glegg. "But you'll soon get over it, let's hope."

    Mr. Tulliver fixed his eyes on the bed-clothes, and remained silent
    for two or three minutes. A new shadow came over his face. He looked
    up at Maggie first, and said in a lower tone, "You got the letter,
    then, my wench?"

    "Yes, father," she said, kissing him with a full heart. She felt as if
    her father were come back to her from the dead, and her yearning to
    show him how she had always loved him could be fulfilled.

    "Where's your mother?" he said, so preoccupied that he received the
    kiss as passively as some quiet animal might have received it.

    "She's downstairs with my aunts, father. Shall I fetch her?"

    "Ay, ay; poor Bessy!" and his eyes turned toward Tom as Maggie left
    the room.

    "You'll have to take care of 'em both if I die, you know, Tom. You'll
    be badly off, I doubt. But you must see and pay everybody. And
    mind,--there's fifty pound o' Luke's as I put into the business,--he
    gave me a bit at a time, and he's got nothing to show for it. You must
    pay him first thing."

    Uncle Glegg involuntarily shook his head, and looked more concerned
    than ever, but Tom said firmly:

    "Yes, father. And haven't you a note from my uncle Moss for three
    hundred pounds? We came to look for that. What do you wish to be done
    about it, father?"

    "Ah! I'm glad you thought o' that, my lad," said Mr. Tulliver. "I
    allays meant to be easy about that money, because o' your aunt. You
    mustn't mind losing the money, if they can't pay it,--and it's like
    enough they can't. The note's in that box, mind! I allays meant to be
    good to you, Gritty," said Mr. Tulliver, turning to his sister; "but
    you know you aggravated me when you would have Moss."

    At this moment Maggie re-entered with her mother, who came in much
    agitated by the news that her husband was quite himself again.

    "Well, Bessy," he said, as she kissed him, "you must forgive me if
    you're worse off than you ever expected to be. But it's the fault o'
    the law,--it's none o' mine," he added angrily. "It's the fault o'
    raskills. Tom, you mind this: if ever you've got the chance, you make
    Wakem smart. If you don't, you're a good-for-nothing son. You might
    horse-whip him, but he'd set the law on you,--the law's made to take
    care o' raskills."

    Mr. Tulliver was getting excited, and an alarming flush was on his
    face. Mr. Glegg wanted to say something soothing, but he was prevented
    by Mr. Tulliver's speaking again to his wife. "They'll make a shift to
    pay everything, Bessy," he said, "and yet leave you your furniture;
    and your sisters'll do something for you--and Tom'll grow up--though
    what he's to be I don't know--I've done what I could--I've given him a
    eddication--and there's the little wench, she'll get married--but it's
    a poor tale----"

    The sanative effect of the strong vibration was exhausted, and with
    the last words the poor man fell again, rigid and insensible. Though
    this was only a recurrence of what had happened before, it struck all
    present as if it had been death, not only from its contrast with the
    completeness of the revival, but because his words had all had
    reference to the possibility that his death was near. But with poor
    Tulliver death was not to be a leap; it was to be a long descent under
    thickening shadows.

    Mr. Turnbull was sent for; but when he heard what had passed, he said
    this complete restoration, though only temporary, was a hopeful sign,
    proving that there was no permanent lesion to prevent ultimate

    Among the threads of the past which the stricken man had gathered up,
    he had omitted the bill of sale; the flash of memory had only lit up
    prominent ideas, and he sank into forgetfulness again with half his
    humiliation unlearned.

    But Tom was clear upon two points,--that his uncle Moss's note must be
    destroyed; and that Luke's money must be paid, if in no other way, out
    of his own and Maggie's money now in the savings bank. There were
    subjects, you perceive, on which Tom was much quicker than on the
    niceties of classical construction, or the relations of a mathematical
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