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    Book 3 - Chapter 8

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    Chapter 28
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    Daylight on the Wreck

    It was a clear frosty January day on which Mr. Tulliver first came
    downstairs. The bright sun on the chestnut boughs and the roofs
    opposite his window had made him impatiently declare that he would be
    caged up no longer; he thought everywhere would be more cheery under
    this sunshine than his bedroom; for he knew nothing of the bareness
    below, which made the flood of sunshine importunate, as if it had an
    unfeeling pleasure in showing the empty places, and the marks where
    well-known objects once had been. The impression on his mind that it
    was but yesterday when he received the letter from Mr. Gore was so
    continually implied in his talk, and the attempts to convey to him the
    idea that many weeks had passed and much had happened since then had
    been so soon swept away by recurrent forgetfulness, that even Mr.
    Turnbull had begun to despair of preparing him to meet the facts by
    previous knowledge. The full sense of the present could only be
    imparted gradually by new experience,--not by mere words, which must
    remain weaker than the impressions left by the _old_ experience. This
    resolution to come downstairs was heard with trembling by the wife and
    children. Mrs. Tulliver said Tom must not go to St. Ogg's at the usual
    hour, he must wait and see his father downstairs; and Tom complied,
    though with an intense inward shrinking from the painful scene. The
    hearts of all three had been more deeply dejected than ever during the
    last few days. For Guest & Co. had not bought the mill; both mill and
    land had been knocked down to Wakem, who had been over the premises,
    and had laid before Mr. Deane and Mr. Glegg, in Mrs. Tulliver's
    presence, his willingness to employ Mr. Tulliver, in case of his
    recovery, as a manager of the business. This proposition had
    occasioned much family debating. Uncles and aunts were almost
    unanimously of opinion that such an offer ought not to be rejected
    when there was nothing in the way but a feeling in Mr. Tulliver's
    mind, which, as neither aunts nor uncles shared it, was regarded as
    entirely unreasonable and childish,--indeed, as a transferring toward
    Wakem of that indignation and hatred which Mr. Tulliver ought properly
    to have directed against himself for his general quarrelsomeness, and
    his special exhibition of it in going to law. Here was an opportunity
    for Mr. Tulliver to provide for his wife and daughter without any
    assistance from his wife's relations, and without that too evident
    descent into pauperism which makes it annoying to respectable people
    to meet the degraded member of the family by the wayside. Mr.
    Tulliver, Mrs. Glegg considered, must be made to feel, when he came to
    his right mind, that he could never humble himself enough; for _that_
    had come which she had always foreseen would come of his insolence in
    time past "to them as were the best friends he'd got to look to." Mr
    Glegg and Mr. Deane were less stern in their views, but they both of
    them thought Tulliver had done enough harm by his hot-tempered
    crotchets and ought to put them out of the question when a livelihood
    was offered him; Wakem showed a right feeling about the matter,--_he_
    had no grudge against Tulliver.

    Tom had protested against entertaining the proposition. He shouldn't
    like his father to be under Wakem; he thought it would look
    mean-spirited; but his mother's main distress was the utter
    impossibility of ever "turning Mr. Tulliver round about Wakem," or
    getting him to hear reason; no, they would all have to go and live in
    a pigsty on purpose to spite Wakem, who spoke "so as nobody could be
    fairer." Indeed, Mrs. Tulliver's mind was reduced to such confusion by
    living in this strange medium of unaccountable sorrow, against which
    she continually appealed by asking, "Oh dear, what _have_ I done to
    deserve worse than other women?" that Maggie began to suspect her poor
    mother's wits were quite going.

    "Tom," she said, when they were out of their father's room together,
    "we _must_ try to make father understand a little of what has happened
    before he goes downstairs. But we must get my mother away. She will
    say something that will do harm. Ask Kezia to fetch her down, and keep
    her engaged with something in the kitchen."

    Kezia was equal to the task. Having declared her intention of staying
    till the master could get about again, "wage or no wage," she had
    found a certain recompense in keeping a strong hand over her mistress,
    scolding her for "moithering" herself, and going about all day without
    changing her cap, and looking as if she was "mushed." Altogether, this
    time of trouble was rather a Saturnalian time to Kezia; she could
    scold her betters with unreproved freedom. On this particular occasion
    there were drying clothes to be fetched in; she wished to know if one
    pair of hands could do everything in-doors and out, and observed that
    _she_ should have thought it would be good for Mrs. Tulliver to put on
    her bonnet, and get a breath of fresh air by doing that needful piece
    of work. Poor Mrs. Tulliver went submissively downstairs; to be
    ordered about by a servant was the last remnant of her household
    dignities,--she would soon have no servant to scold her. Mr. Tulliver
    was resting in his chair a little after the fatigue of dressing, and
    Maggie and Tom were seated near him, when Luke entered to ask if he
    should help master downstairs.

    "Ay, ay, Luke; stop a bit, sit down," said Mr. Tulliver pointing his
    stick toward a chair, and looking at him with that pursuant gaze which
    convalescent persons often have for those who have tended them,
    reminding one of an infant gazing about after its nurse. For Luke had
    been a constant night-watcher by his master's bed.

    "How's the water now, eh, Luke?" said Mr. Tulliver. "Dix hasn't been
    choking you up again, eh?"

    "No, sir, it's all right."

    "Ay, I thought not; he won't be in a hurry at that again, now Riley's
    been to settle him. That was what I said to Riley yesterday--I
    said----"

    Mr. Tulliver leaned forward, resting his elbows on the armchair, and
    looking on the ground as if in search of something, striving after
    vanishing images like a man struggling against a doze. Maggie looked
    at Tom in mute distress, their father's mind was so far off the
    present, which would by-and-by thrust itself on his wandering
    consciousness! Tom was almost ready to rush away, with that impatience
    of painful emotion which makes one of the differences between youth
    and maiden, man and woman.

    "Father," said Maggie, laying her hand on his, "don't you remember
    that Mr. Riley is dead?"

    "Dead?" said Mr. Tulliver, sharply, looking in her face with a
    strange, examining glance.

    "Yes, he died of apoplexy nearly a year ago. I remember hearing you
    say you had to pay money for him; and he left his daughters badly off;
    one of them is under-teacher at Miss Firniss's, where I've been to
    school, you know."

    "Ah?" said her father, doubtfully, still looking in her face. But as
    soon as Tom began to speak he turned to look at _him_ with the same
    inquiring glances, as if he were rather surprised at the presence of
    these two young people. Whenever his mind was wandering in the far
    past, he fell into this oblivion of their actual faces; they were not
    those of the lad and the little wench who belonged to that past.

    "It's a long while since you had the dispute with Dix, father," said
    Tom. "I remember your talking about it three years ago, before I went
    to school at Mr. Stelling's. I've been at school there three years;
    don't you remember?"

    Mr. Tulliver threw himself backward again, losing the childlike
    outward glance under a rush of new ideas, which diverted him from
    external impressions.

    "Ay, ay," he said, after a minute or two, "I've paid a deal o'
    money--I was determined my son should have a good eddication; I'd none
    myself, and I've felt the miss of it. And he'll want no other fortin,
    that's what I say--if Wakem was to get the better of me again----"

    The thought of Wakem roused new vibrations, and after a moment's pause
    he began to look at the coat he had on, and to feel in his
    side-pocket. Then he turned to Tom, and said in his old sharp way,
    "Where have they put Gore's letter?"

    It was close at hand in a drawer, for he had often asked for it
    before.

    "You know what there is in the letter, father?" said Tom, as he gave
    it to him.

    "To be sure I do," said Mr. Tulliver, rather angrily. "What o' that?
    If Furley can't take to the property, somebody else can; there's
    plenty o' people in the world besides Furley. But it's hindering--my
    not being well--go and tell 'em to get the horse in the gig, Luke; I
    can get down to St. Ogg's well enough--Gore's expecting me."

    "No, dear father!" Maggie burst out entreatingly; "it's a very long
    while since all that; you've been ill a great many weeks,--more than
    two months; everything is changed."

    Mr. Tulliver looked at them all three alternately with a startled
    gaze; the idea that much had happened of which he knew nothing had
    often transiently arrested him before, but it came upon him now with
    entire novelty.

    "Yes, father," said Tom, in answer to the gaze. "You needn't trouble
    your mind about business until you are quite well; everything is
    settled about that for the present,--about the mill and the land and
    the debts."

    "What's settled, then?" said his father, angrily.

    "Don't you take on too much bout it, sir," said Luke. "You'd ha' paid
    iverybody if you could,--that's what I said to Master Tom,--I said
    you'd ha' paid iverybody if you could."

    Good Luke felt, after the manner of contented hard-working men whose
    lives have been spent in servitude, that sense of natural fitness in
    rank which made his master's downfall a tragedy to him. He was urged,
    in his slow way, to say something that would express his share in the
    family sorrow; and these words, which he had used over and over again
    to Tom when he wanted to decline the full payment of his fifty pounds
    out of the children's money, were the most ready to his tongue. They
    were just the words to lay the most painful hold on his master's
    bewildered mind.

    "Paid everybody?" he said, with vehement agitation, his face flushing,
    and his eye lighting up. "Why--what--have they made me a _bankrupt?_"

    "Oh, father, dear father!" said Maggie, who thought that terrible word
    really represented the fact; "bear it well, because we love you; your
    children will always love you. Tom will pay them all; he says he will,
    when he's a man."

    She felt her father beginning to tremble; his voice trembled too, as
    he said, after a few moments:

    "Ay, my little wench, but I shall never live twice o'er."

    "But perhaps you will live to see me pay everybody, father," said Tom,
    speaking with a great effort.

    "Ah, my lad," said Mr. Tulliver, shaking his head slowly, "but what's
    broke can never be whole again; it 'ud be your doing, not mine." Then
    looking up at him, "You're only sixteen; it's an up-hill fight for
    you, but you mustn't throw it at your father; the raskills have been
    too many for him. I've given you a good eddication,--that'll start
    you."

    Something in his throat half choked the last words; the flush, which
    had alarmed his children because it had so often preceded a recurrence
    of paralysis, had subsided, and his face looked pale and tremulous.
    Tom said nothing; he was still struggling against his inclination to
    rush away. His father remained quiet a minute or two, but his mind did
    not seem to be wandering again.

    "Have they sold me up, then?" he said more clamly, as if he were
    possessed simply by the desire to know what had happened.

    "Everything is sold, father; but we don't know all about the mill and
    the land yet," said Tom, anxious to ward off any question leading to
    the fact that Wakem was the purchaser.

    "You must not be surprised to see the room look very bare downstairs,
    father," said Maggie; "but there's your chair and the bureau;
    _they're_ not gone."

    "Let us go; help me down, Luke,--I'll go and see everything," said Mr.
    Tulliver, leaning on his stick, and stretching out his other hand
    toward Luke.

    "Ay, sir," said Luke, as he gave his arm to his master, "you'll make
    up your mind to't a bit better when you've seen iverything; you'll get
    used to't. That's what my mother says about her shortness o'
    breath,--she says she's made friends wi't now, though she fought
    again' it sore when it just come on."

    Maggie ran on before to see that all was right in the dreary parlor,
    where the fire, dulled by the frosty sunshine, seemed part of the
    general shabbiness. She turned her father's chair, and pushed aside
    the table to make an easy way for him, and then stood with a beating
    heart to see him enter and look round for the first time. Tom advanced
    before him, carrying the leg-rest, and stood beside Maggie on the
    hearth. Of those two young hearts Tom's suffered the most unmixed
    pain, for Maggie, with all her keen susceptibility, yet felt as if the
    sorrow made larger room for her love to flow in, and gave
    breathing-space to her passionate nature. No true boy feels that; he
    would rather go and slay the Nemean lion, or perform any round of
    heroic labors, than endure perpetual appeals to his pity, for evils
    over which he can make no conquest.

    Mr. Tulliver paused just inside the door, resting on Luke, and looking
    round him at all the bare places, which for him were filled with the
    shadows of departed objects,--the daily companions of his life. His
    faculties seemed to be renewing their strength from getting a footing
    on this demonstration of the senses.

    "Ah!" he said slowly, moving toward his chair, "they've sold me
    up--they've sold me up."

    Then seating himself, and laying down his stick, while Luke left the
    room, he looked round again.

    "They've left the big Bible," he said. "It's got everything in,--when
    I was born and married; bring it me, Tom."

    The quarto Bible was laid open before him at the fly-leaf, and while
    he was reading with slowly travelling eyes Mrs. Tulliver entered the
    room, but stood in mute surprise to find her husband down already, and
    with the great Bible before him.

    "Ah," he said, looking at a spot where his finger rested, "my mother
    was Margaret Beaton; she died when she was forty-seven,--hers wasn't a
    long-lived family; we're our mother's children, Gritty and me are,--we
    shall go to our last bed before long."

    He seemed to be pausing over the record of his sister's birth and
    marriage, as if it were suggesting new thoughts to him; then he
    suddenly looked up at Tom, and said, in a sharp tone of alarm:

    "They haven't come upo' Moss for the money as I lent him, have they?"

    "No, father," said Tom; "the note was burnt."

    Mr. Tulliver turned his eyes on the page again, and presently said:

    "Ah--Elizabeth Dodson--it's eighteen year since I married her----"

    "Come next Ladyday," said Mrs. Tulliver, going up to his side and
    looking at the page.

    Her husband fixed his eyes earnestly on her face.

    "Poor Bessy," he said, "you was a pretty lass then,--everybody said
    so,--and I used to think you kept your good looks rarely. But you're
    sorely aged; don't you bear me ill-will--I meant to do well by you--we
    promised one another for better or for worse----"

    "But I never thought it 'ud be so for worse as this," said poor Mrs.
    Tulliver, with the strange, scared look that had come over her of
    late; "and my poor father gave me away--and to come on so all at
    once----"

    "Oh, mother!" said Maggie, "don't talk in that way."

    "No, I know you won't let your poor mother speak--that's been the way
    all my life--your father never minded what I said--it 'ud have been o'
    no use for me to beg and pray--and it 'ud be no use now, not if I was
    to go down o' my hands and knees----"

    "Don't say so, Bessy," said Mr. Tulliver, whose pride, in these first
    moments of humiliation, was in abeyance to the sense of some justice
    in his wife's reproach. "It there's anything left as I could do to
    make you amends, I wouldn't say you nay."

    "Then we might stay here and get a living, and I might keep among my
    own sisters,--and me been such a good wife to you, and never crossed
    you from week's end to week's end--and they all say so--they say it
    'ud be nothing but right, only you're so turned against Wakem."

    "Mother," said Tom, severely, "this is not the time to talk about
    that."

    "Let her be," said Mr. Tulliver. "Say what you mean, Bessy."

    "Why, now the mill and the land's all Wakem's, and he's got everything
    in his hands, what's the use o' setting your face against him, when he
    says you may stay here, and speaks as fair as can be, and says you may
    manage the business, and have thirty shillings a-week, and a horse to
    ride about to market? And where have we got to put our heads? We must
    go into one o' the cottages in the village,--and me and my children
    brought down to that,--and all because you must set your mind against
    folks till there's no turning you."

    Mr. Tulliver had sunk back in his chair trembling.

    "You may do as you like wi' me, Bessy," he said, in a low voice; "I've
    been the bringing of you to poverty--this world's too many for me--I'm
    nought but a bankrupt; it's no use standing up for anything now."

    "Father," said Tom, "I don't agree with my mother or my uncles, and I
    don't think you ought to submit to be under Wakem. I get a pound
    a-week now, and you can find something else to do when you get well."

    "Say no more, Tom, say no more; I've had enough for this day. Give me
    a kiss, Bessy, and let us bear one another no ill-will; we shall never
    be young again--this world's been too many for me."
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