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    Book 3 - Chapter 9

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    Chapter 29
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    An Item Added to the Family Register

    That first moment of renunciation and submission was followed by days
    of violent struggle in the miller's mind, as the gradual access of
    bodily strength brought with it increasing ability to embrace in one
    view all the conflicting conditions under which he found himself.
    Feeble limbs easily resign themselves to be tethered, and when we are
    subdued by sickness it seems possible to us to fulfil pledges which
    the old vigor comes back and breaks. There were times when poor
    Tulliver thought the fulfilment of his promise to Bessy was something
    quite too hard for human nature; he had promised her without knowing
    what she was going to say,--she might as well have asked him to carry
    a ton weight on his back. But again, there were many feelings arguing
    on her side, besides the sense that life had been made hard to her by
    having married him. He saw a possibility, by much pinching, of saving
    money out of his salary toward paying a second dividend to his
    creditors, and it would not be easy elsewhere to get a situation such
    as he could fill.

    He had led an easy life, ordering much and working little, and had no
    aptitude for any new business. He must perhaps take to day-labor, and
    his wife must have help from her sisters,--a prospect doubly bitter to
    him, now they had let all Bessy's precious things be sold, probably
    because they liked to set her against him, by making her feel that he
    had brought her to that pass. He listened to their admonitory talk,
    when they came to urge on him what he was bound to do for poor Bessy's
    sake, with averted eyes, that every now and then flashed on them
    furtively when their backs were turned. Nothing but the dread of
    needing their help could have made it an easier alternative to take
    their advice.

    But the strongest influence of all was the love of the old premises
    where he had run about when he was a boy, just as Tom had done after
    him. The Tullivers had lived on this spot for generations, and he had
    sat listening on a low stool on winter evenings while his father
    talked of the old half-timbered mill that had been there before the
    last great floods which damaged it so that his grandfather pulled it
    down and built the new one. It was when he got able to walk about and
    look at all the old objects that he felt the strain of his clinging
    affection for the old home as part of his life, part of himself. He
    couldn't bear to think of himself living on any other spot than this,
    where he knew the sound of every gate door, and felt that the shape
    and color of every roof and weather-stain and broken hillock was good,
    because his growing senses had been fed on them. Our instructed
    vagrancy, which was hardly time to linger by the hedgerows, but runs
    away early to the tropics, and is at home with palms and
    banyans,--which is nourished on books of travel and stretches the
    theatre of its imagination to the Zambesi,--can hardly get a dim
    notion of what an old-fashioned man like Tulliver felt for this spot,
    where all his memories centred, and where life seemed like a familiar
    smooth-handled tool that the fingers clutch with loving ease. And just
    now he was living in that freshened memory of the far-off time which
    comes to us in the passive hours of recovery from sickness.

    "Ay, Luke," he said one afternoon, as he stood looking over the
    orchard gate, "I remember the day they planted those apple-trees. My
    father was a huge man for planting,--it was like a merry-making to him
    to get a cart full o' young trees; and I used to stand i' the cold
    with him, and follow him about like a dog."

    Then he turned round, and leaning against the gate-post, looked at the
    opposite buildings.

    "The old mill 'ud miss me, I think, Luke. There's a story as when the
    mill changes hands, the river's angry; I've heard my father say it
    many a time. There's no telling whether there mayn't be summat _in_
    the story, for this is a puzzling world, and Old Harry's got a finger
    in it--it's been too many for me, I know."

    "Ay, sir," said Luke, with soothing sympathy, "what wi' the rust on
    the wheat, an' the firin' o' the ricks an' that, as I've seen i' my
    time,--things often looks comical; there's the bacon fat wi' our last
    pig run away like butter,--it leaves nought but a scratchin'."

    "It's just as if it was yesterday, now," Mr. Tulliver went on, "when
    my father began the malting. I remember, the day they finished the
    malt-house, I thought summat great was to come of it; for we'd a
    plum-pudding that day and a bit of a feast, and I said to my
    mother,--she was a fine dark-eyed woman, my mother was,--the little
    wench 'ull be as like her as two peas." Here Mr. Tulliver put his
    stick between his legs, and took out his snuff-box, for the greater
    enjoyment of this anecdote, which dropped from him in fragments, as if
    he every other moment lost narration in vision. "I was a little chap
    no higher much than my mother's knee,--she was sore fond of us
    children, Gritty and me,--and so I said to her, 'Mother,' I said,
    'shall we have plum-pudding _every_ day because o' the malt-house? She
    used to tell me o' that till her dying day. She was but a young woman
    when she died, my mother was. But it's forty good year since they
    finished the malt-house, and it isn't many days out of 'em all as I
    haven't looked out into the yard there, the first thing in the
    morning,--all weathers, from year's end to year's end. I should go off
    my head in a new place. I should be like as if I'd lost my way. It's
    all hard, whichever way I look at it,--the harness 'ull gall me, but
    it 'ud be summat to draw along the old road, instead of a new un."

    "Ay, sir," said Luke, "you'd be a deal better here nor in some new
    place. I can't abide new places mysen: things is allays
    awk'ard,--narrow-wheeled waggins, belike, and the stiles all another
    sort, an' oat-cake i' some places, tow'rt th' head o' the Floss,
    there. It's poor work, changing your country-side."

    "But I doubt, Luke, they'll be for getting rid o' Ben, and making you
    do with a lad; and I must help a bit wi' the mill. You'll have a worse
    place."

    "Ne'er mind, sir," said Luke, "I sha'n't plague mysen. I'n been wi'
    you twenty year, an' you can't get twenty year wi' whistlin' for 'em,
    no more nor you can make the trees grow: you mun wait till God
    A'mighty sends 'em. I can't abide new victual nor new faces, _I_
    can't,--you niver know but what they'll gripe you."

    The walk was finished in silence after this, for Luke had disburthened
    himself of thoughts to an extent that left his conversational
    resources quite barren, and Mr. Tulliver had relapsed from his
    recollections into a painful meditation on the choice of hardships
    before him. Maggie noticed that he was unusually absent that evening
    at tea; and afterward he sat leaning forward in his chair, looking at
    the ground, moving his lips, and shaking his head from time to time.
    Then he looked hard at Mrs. Tulliver, who was knitting opposite him,
    then at Maggie, who, as she bent over her sewing, was intensely
    conscious of some drama going forward in her father's mind. Suddenly
    he took up the poker and broke the large coal fiercely.

    "Dear heart, Mr. Tulliver, what can you be thinking of?" said his
    wife, looking up in alarm; "it's very wasteful, breaking the coal, and
    we've got hardly any large coal left, and I don't know where the rest
    is to come from."

    "I don't think you're quite so well to-night, are you, father?" said
    Maggie; "you seem uneasy."

    "Why, how is it Tom doesn't come?" said Mr. Tulliver, impatiently.

    "Dear heart, is it time? I must go and get his supper," said Mrs.
    Tulliver, laying down her knitting, and leaving the room.

    "It's nigh upon half-past eight," said Mr. Tulliver. "He'll be here
    soon. Go, go and get the big Bible, and open it at the beginning,
    where everything's set down. And get the pen and ink."

    Maggie obeyed, wondering; but her father gave no further orders, and
    only sat listening for Tom's footfall on the gravel, apparently
    irritated by the wind, which had risen, and was roaring so as to drown
    all other sounds. There was a strange light in his eyes that rather
    frightened Maggie; _she_ began to wish that Tom would come, too.

    "There he is, then," said Mr. Tulliver, in an excited way, when the
    knock came at last. Maggie went to open the door, but her mother came
    out of the kitchen hurriedly, saying, "Stop a bit, Maggie; I'll open
    it."

    Mrs. Tulliver had begun to be a little frightened at her boy, but she
    was jealous of every office others did for him.

    "Your supper's ready by the kitchen-fire, my boy," she said, as he
    took off his hat and coat. "You shall have it by yourself, just as you
    like, and I won't speak to you."

    "I think my father wants Tom, mother," said Maggie; "he must come into
    the parlor first."

    Tom entered with his usual saddened evening face, but his eyes fell
    immediately on the open Bible and the inkstand, and he glanced with a
    look of anxious surprise at his father, who was saying,--

    "Come, come, you're late; I want you."

    "Is there anything the matter, father?" said Tom.

    "You sit down, all of you," said Mr. Tulliver, peremptorily.

    "And, Tom, sit down here; I've got something for you to write i' the
    Bible."

    They all three sat down, looking at him. He began to speak slowly,
    looking first at his wife.

    "I've made up my mind, Bessy, and I'll be as good as my word to you.
    There'll be the same grave made for us to lie down in, and we mustn't
    be bearing one another ill-will. I'll stop in the old place, and I'll
    serve under Wakem, and I'll serve him like an honest man; there's no
    Tulliver but what's honest, mind that, Tom,"--here his voice
    rose,--"they'll have it to throw up against me as I paid a dividend,
    but it wasn't my fault; it was because there's raskills in the world.
    They've been too many for me, and I must give in. I'll put my neck in
    harness,--for you've a right to say as I've brought you into trouble,
    Bessy,--and I'll serve him as honest as if he was no raskill; I'm an
    honest man, though I shall never hold my head up no more. I'm a tree
    as is broke--a tree as is broke."

    He paused and looked on the ground. Then suddenly raising his head, he
    said, in a louder yet deeper tone:

    "But I won't forgive him! I know what they say, he never meant me any
    harm. That's the way Old Harry props up the rascals. He's been at the
    bottom of everything; but he's a fine gentleman,--I know, I know. I
    shouldn't ha' gone to law, they say. But who made it so as there was
    no arbitratin', and no justice to be got? It signifies nothing to him,
    I know that; he's one o' them fine gentlemen as get money by doing
    business for poorer folks, and when he's made beggars of 'em he'll
    give 'em charity. I won't forgive him! I wish he might be punished
    with shame till his own son 'ud like to forget him. I wish he may do
    summat as they'd make him work at the treadmill! But he won't,--he's
    too big a raskill to let the law lay hold on him. And you mind this,
    Tom,--you never forgive him neither, if you mean to be my son.
    There'll maybe come a time when you may make him feel; it'll never
    come to me; I'n got my head under the yoke. Now write--write it i' the
    Bible."

    "Oh, father, what?" said Maggie, sinking down by his knee, pale and
    trembling. "It's wicked to curse and bear malice."

    "It isn't wicked, I tell you," said her father, fiercely. "It's wicked
    as the raskills should prosper; it's the Devil's doing. Do as I tell
    you, Tom. Write."

    "What am I to write?" said Tom, with gloomy submission.

    "Write as your father, Edward Tulliver, took service under John Wakem,
    the man as had helped to ruin him, because I'd promised my wife to
    make her what amends I could for her trouble, and because I wanted to
    die in th' old place where I was born and my father was born. Put that
    i' the right words--you know how--and then write, as I don't forgive
    Wakem for all that; and for all I'll serve him honest, I wish evil may
    befall him. Write that."

    There was a dead silence as Tom's pen moved along the paper; Mrs.
    Tulliver looked scared, and Maggie trembled like a leaf.

    "Now let me hear what you've wrote," said Mr. Tulliver, Tom read aloud
    slowly.

    "Now write--write as you'll remember what Wakem's done to your father,
    and you'll make him and his feel it, if ever the day comes. And sign
    your name Thomas Tulliver."

    "Oh no, father, dear father!" said Maggie, almost choked with fear.
    "You shouldn't make Tom write that."

    "Be quiet, Maggie!" said Tom. "I _shall_ write it."
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