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    Book 4 - Chapter 3

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    Chapter 32
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    A Voice from the Past

    One afternoon, when the chestnuts were coming into flower, Maggie had
    brought her chair outside the front door, and was seated there with a
    book on her knees. Her dark eyes had wandered from the book, but they
    did not seem to be enjoying the sunshine which pierced the screen of
    jasmine on the projecting porch at her right, and threw leafy shadows
    on her pale round cheek; they seemed rather to be searching for
    something that was not disclosed by the sunshine. It had been a more
    miserable day than usual; her father, after a visit of Wakem's had had
    a paroxysm of rage, in which for some trifling fault he had beaten the
    boy who served in the mill. Once before, since his illness, he had had
    a similar paroxysm, in which he had beaten his horse, and the scene
    had left a lasting terror in Maggie's mind. The thought had risen,
    that some time or other he might beat her mother if she happened to
    speak in her feeble way at the wrong moment. The keenest of all dread
    with her was lest her father should add to his present misfortune the
    wretchedness of doing something irretrievably disgraceful. The
    battered school-book of Tom's which she held on her knees could give
    her no fortitude under the pressure of that dread; and again and again
    her eyes had filled with tears, as they wandered vaguely, seeing
    neither the chestnut-trees, nor the distant horizon, but only future
    scenes of home-sorrow.

    Suddenly she was roused by the sound of the opening gate and of
    footsteps on the gravel. It was not Tom who was entering, but a man in
    a sealskin cap and a blue plush waistcoat, carrying a pack on his
    back, and followed closely by a bullterrier of brindled coat and
    defiant aspect.

    "Oh, Bob, it's you!" said Maggie, starting up with a smile of pleased
    recognition, for there had been no abundance of kind acts to efface
    the recollection of Bob's generosity; "I'm so glad to see you."

    "Thank you, Miss," said Bob, lifting his cap and showing a delighted
    face, but immediately relieving himself of some accompanying
    embarrassment by looking down at his dog, and saying in a tone of
    disgust, "Get out wi' you, you thunderin' sawney!"

    "My brother is not at home yet, Bob," said Maggie; "he is always at
    St. Ogg's in the daytime."

    "Well, Miss," said Bob, "I should be glad to see Mr. Tom, but that
    isn't just what I'm come for,--look here!"

    Bob was in the act of depositing his pack on the door-step, and with
    it a row of small books fastened together with string.

    Apparently, however, they were not the object to which he wished to
    call Maggie's attention, but rather something which he had carried
    under his arm, wrapped in a red handkerchief.

    "See here!" he said again, laying the red parcel on the others and
    unfolding it; "you won't think I'm a-makin' too free, Miss, I hope,
    but I lighted on these books, and I thought they might make up to you
    a bit for them as you've lost; for I heared you speak o' picturs,--an'
    as for picturs, _look_ here!"

    The opening of the red handkerchief had disclosed a superannuated
    "Keepsake" and six or seven numbers of a "Portrait Gallery," in royal
    octavo; and the emphatic request to look referred to a portrait of
    George the Fourth in all the majesty of his depressed cranium and
    voluminous neckcloth.

    "There's all sorts o' genelmen here," Bob went on, turning over the
    leaves with some excitement, "wi' all sorts o' nones,--an' some bald
    an' some wi' wigs,--Parlament genelmen, I reckon. An' here," he added,
    opening the "Keepsake,"--"_here's_ ladies for you, some wi' curly hair
    and some wi' smooth, an' some a-smiling wi' their heads o' one side,
    an' some as if they were goin' to cry,--look here,--a-sittin' on the
    ground out o' door, dressed like the ladies I'n seen get out o' the
    carriages at the balls in th' Old Hall there. My eyes! I wonder what
    the chaps wear as go a-courtin' 'em! I sot up till the clock was gone
    twelve last night, a-lookin' at 'em,--I did,--till they stared at me
    out o' the picturs as if they'd know when I spoke to 'em. But, lors! I
    shouldn't know what to say to 'em. They'll be more fittin' company for
    you, Miss; and the man at the book-stall, he said they banged
    iverything for picturs; he said they was a fust-rate article."

    "And you've bought them for me, Bob?" said Maggie, deeply touched by
    this simple kindness. "How very, very good of you! But I'm afraid you
    gave a great deal of money for them."

    "Not me!" said Bob. "I'd ha' gev three times the money if they'll make
    up to you a bit for them as was sold away from you, Miss. For I'n
    niver forgot how you looked when you fretted about the books bein'
    gone; it's stuck by me as if it was a pictur hingin' before me. An'
    when I see'd the book open upo' the stall, wi' the lady lookin' out of
    it wi' eyes a bit like your'n when you was frettin',--you'll excuse my
    takin' the liberty, Miss,--I thought I'd make free to buy it for you,
    an' then I bought the books full o' genelmen to match; an' then"--here
    Bob took up the small stringed packet of books--"I thought you might
    like a bit more print as well as the picturs, an' I got these for a
    sayso,--they're cram-full o' print, an' I thought they'd do no harm
    comin' along wi' these bettermost books. An' I hope you won't say me
    nay, an' tell me as you won't have 'em, like Mr. Tom did wi' the
    suvreigns."

    "No, indeed, Bob," said Maggie, "I'm very thankful to you for thinking
    of me, and being so good to me and Tom. I don't think any one ever did
    such a kind thing for me before. I haven't many friends who care for
    me."

    "Hev a dog, Miss!--they're better friends nor any Christian," said
    Bob, laying down his pack again, which he had taken up with the
    intention of hurrying away; for he felt considerable shyness in
    talking to a young lass like Maggie, though, as he usually said of
    himself, "his tongue overrun him" when he began to speak. "I can't
    give you Mumps, 'cause he'd break his heart to go away from me--eh,
    Mumps, what do you say, you riff-raff?" (Mumps declined to express
    himself more diffusely than by a single affirmative movement of his
    tail.) "But I'd get you a pup, Miss, an' welcome."

    "No, thank you, Bob. We have a yard dog, and I mayn't keep a dog of my
    own."

    "Eh, that's a pity; else there's a pup,--if you didn't mind about it
    not being thoroughbred; its mother acts in the Punch show,--an
    uncommon sensible bitch; she means more sense wi' her bark nor half
    the chaps can put into their talk from breakfast to sundown. There's
    one chap carries pots,--a poor, low trade as any on the road,--he
    says, 'Why Toby's nought but a mongrel; there's nought to look at in
    her.' But I says to him, 'Why, what are you yoursen but a mongrel?
    There wasn't much pickin' o' _your_ feyther an' mother, to look at
    you.' Not but I like a bit o' breed myself, but I can't abide to see
    one cur grinnin' at another. I wish you good evenin', Miss," said Bob,
    abruptly taking up his pack again, under the consciousness that his
    tongue was acting in an undisciplined manner.

    "Won't you come in the evening some time, and see my brother, Bob?"
    said Maggie.

    "Yes, Miss, thank you--another time. You'll give my duty to him, if
    you please. Eh, he's a fine growed chap, Mr. Tom is; he took to
    growin' i' the legs, an' _I_ didn't."

    The pack was down again, now, the hook of the stick having somehow
    gone wrong.

    "You don't call Mumps a cur, I suppose?" said Maggie, divining that
    any interest she showed in Mumps would be gratifying to his master.

    "No, Miss, a fine way off that," said Bob, with pitying smile; "Mumps
    is as fine a cross as you'll see anywhere along the Floss, an' I'n
    been up it wi' the barge times enow. Why, the gentry stops to look at
    him; but you won't catch Mumps a-looking at the gentry much,--he minds
    his own business, he does."

    The expression of Mump's face, which seemed to be tolerating the
    superfluous existence of objects in general, was strongly confirmatory
    of this high praise.

    "He looks dreadfully surly," said Maggie. "Would he let me pat him?"

    "Ay, that would he, and thank you. He knows his company, Mumps does.
    He isn't a dog as 'ull be caught wi' gingerbread; he'd smell a thief a
    good deal stronger nor the gingerbread, he would. Lors, I talk to him
    by th' hour together, when I'm walking i' lone places, and if I'n done
    a bit o' mischief, I allays tell him. I'n got no secrets but what
    Mumps knows 'em. He knows about my big thumb, he does."

    "Your big thumb--what's that, Bob?" said Maggie.

    "That's what it is, Miss," said Bob, quickly, exhibiting a singularly
    broad specimen of that difference between the man and the monkey. "It
    tells i' measuring out the flannel, you see. I carry flannel, 'cause
    it's light for my pack, an' it's dear stuff, you see, so a big thumb
    tells. I clap my thumb at the end o' the yard and cut o' the hither
    side of it, and the old women aren't up to't."

    "But Bob," said Maggie, looking serious, "that's cheating; I don't
    like to hear you say that."

    "Don't you, Miss?" said Bob regretfully. "Then I'm sorry I said it.
    But I'm so used to talking to Mumps, an' he doesn't mind a bit o'
    cheating, when it's them skinflint women, as haggle an' haggle, an'
    'ud like to get their flannel for nothing, an' 'ud niver ask
    theirselves how I got my dinner out on't. I niver cheat anybody as
    doesn't want to cheat me, Miss,--lors, I'm a honest chap, I am; only I
    must hev a bit o' sport, an' now I don't go wi' th' ferrets, I'n got
    no varmint to come over but them haggling women. I wish you good
    evening, Miss."

    "Good-by, Bob. Thank you very much for bringing me the books. And come
    again to see Tom."

    "Yes, Miss," said Bob, moving on a few steps; then turning half round
    he said, "I'll leave off that trick wi' my big thumb, if you don't
    think well on me for it, Miss; but it 'ud be a pity, it would. I
    couldn't find another trick so good,--an' what 'ud be the use o'
    havin' a big thumb? It might as well ha' been narrow."

    Maggie, thus exalted into Bob's exalting Madonna, laughed in spite of
    herself; at which her worshipper's blue eyes twinkled too, and under
    these favoring auspices he touched his cap and walked away.

    The days of chivalry are not gone, notwithstanding Burke's grand dirge
    over them; they live still in that far-off worship paid by many a
    youth and man to the woman of whom he never dreams that he shall touch
    so much as her little finger or the hem of her robe. Bob, with the
    pack on his back, had as respectful an adoration for this dark-eyed
    maiden as if he had been a knight in armor calling aloud on her name
    as he pricked on to the fight.

    That gleam of merriment soon died away from Maggie's face, and perhaps
    only made the returning gloom deeper by contrast. She was too
    dispirited even to like answering questions about Bob's present of
    books, and she carried them away to her bedroom, laying them down
    there and seating herself on her one stool, without caring to look at
    them just yet. She leaned her cheek against the window-frame, and
    thought that the light-hearted Bob had a lot much happier than hers.

    Maggie's sense of loneliness, and utter privation of joy, had deepened
    with the brightness of advancing spring. All the favorite outdoor
    nooks about home, which seemed to have done their part with her
    parents in nurturing and cherishing her, were now mixed up with the
    home-sadness, and gathered no smile from the sunshine. Every
    affection, every delight the poor child had had, was like an aching
    nerve to her. There was no music for her any more,--no piano, no
    harmonized voices, no delicious stringed instruments, with their
    passionate cries of imprisoned spirits sending a strange vibration
    through her frame. And of all her school-life there was nothing left
    her now but her little collection of school-books, which she turned
    over with a sickening sense that she knew them all, and they were all
    barren of comfort. Even at school she had often wished for books with
    _more_ in them; everything she learned there seemed like the ends of
    long threads that snapped immediately. And now--without the indirect
    charm of school-emulation--Télémaque was mere bran; so were the hard,
    dry questions on Christian Doctrine; there was no flavor in them, no
    strength. Sometimes Maggie thought she could have been contented with
    absorbing fancies; if she could have had all Scott's novels and all
    Byron's poems!--then, perhaps, she might have found happiness enough
    to dull her sensibility to her actual daily life. And yet they were
    hardly what she wanted. She could make dream-worlds of her own, but no
    dream-world would satisfy her now. She wanted some explanation of this
    hard, real life,--the unhappy-looking father, seated at the dull
    breakfast-table; the childish, bewildered mother; the little sordid
    tasks that filled the hours, or the more oppressive emptiness of
    weary, joyless leisure; the need of some tender, demonstrative love;
    the cruel sense that Tom didn't mind what she thought or felt, and
    that they were no longer playfellows together; the privation of all
    pleasant things that had come to _her_ more than to others,--she
    wanted some key that would enable her to understand, and in
    understanding, to endure, the heavy weight that had fallen on her
    young heart. If she had been taught "real learning and wisdom, such as
    great men knew," she thought she should have held the secrets of life;
    if she had only books, that she might learn for herself what wise men
    knew! Saints and martyrs had never interested Maggie so much as sages
    and poets. She knew little of saints and martyrs, and had gathered, as
    a general result of her teaching, that they were a temporary provision
    against the spread of Catholicism, and had all died at Smithfield.

    In one of these meditations it occurred to her that she had forgotten
    Tom's school-books, which had been sent home in his trunk. But she
    found the stock unaccountably shrunk down to the few old ones which
    had been well thumbed,--the Latin Dictionary and Grammar, a Delectus,
    a torn Eutropius, the well-worn Virgil, Aldrich's Logic, and the
    exasperating Euclid. Still, Latin, Euclid, and Logic would surely be a
    considerable step in masculine wisdom,--in that knowledge which made
    men contented, and even glad to live. Not that the yearning for
    effectual wisdom was quite unmixed; a certain mirage would now and
    then rise on the desert of the future, in which she seemed to see
    herself honored for her surprising attainments. And so the poor child,
    with her soul's hunger and her illusions of self-flattery, began to
    nibble at this thick-rinded fruit of the tree of knowledge, filling
    her vacant hours with Latin, geometry, and the forms of the syllogism,
    and feeling a gleam of triumph now and then that her understanding was
    quite equal to these peculiarly masculine studies. For a week or two
    she went on resolutely enough, though with an occasional sinking of
    heart, as if she had set out toward the Promised Land alone, and found
    it a thirsty, trackless, uncertain journey. In the severity of her
    early resolution, she would take Aldrich out into the fields, and then
    look off her book toward the sky, where the lark was twinkling, or to
    the reeds and bushes by the river, from which the waterfowl rustled
    forth on its anxious, awkward flight,--with a startled sense that the
    relation between Aldrich and this living world was extremely remote
    for her. The discouragement deepened as the days went on, and the
    eager heart gained faster and faster on the patient mind. Somehow,
    when she sat at the window with her book, her eyes _would_ fix
    themselves blankly on the outdoor sunshine; then they would fill with
    tears, and sometimes, if her mother was not in the room, the studies
    would all end in sobbing. She rebelled against her lot, she fainted
    under its loneliness, and fits even of anger and hatred toward her
    father and mother, who were so unlike what she would have them to be;
    toward Tom, who checked her, and met her thought or feeling always by
    some thwarting difference,--would flow out over her affections and
    conscience like a lava stream, and frighten her with a sense that it
    was not difficult for her to become a demon. Then her brain would be
    busy with wild romances of a flight from home in search of something
    less sordid and dreary; she would go to some great man--Walter Scott,
    perhaps--and tell him how wretched and how clever she was, and he
    would surely do something for her. But, in the middle of her vision,
    her father would perhaps enter the room for the evening, and,
    surprised that she sat still without noticing him, would say
    complainingly, "Come, am I to fetch my slippers myself?" The voice
    pierced through Maggie like a sword; there was another sadness besides
    her own, and she had been thinking of turning her back on it and
    forsaking it.

    This afternoon, the sight of Bob's cheerful freckled face had given
    her discontent a new direction. She thought it was part of the
    hardship of her life that there was laid upon her the burthen of
    larger wants than others seemed to feel,--that she had to endure this
    wide, hopeless yearning for that something, whatever it was, that was
    greatest and best on this earth. She wished she could have been like
    Bob, with his easily satisfied ignorance, or like Tom, who had
    something to do on which he could fix his mind with a steady purpose,
    and disregard everything else. Poor child! as she leaned her head
    against the window-frame, with her hands clasped tighter and tighter,
    and her foot beating the ground, she was as lonely in her trouble as
    if she had been the only gril in the civilized world of that day who
    had come out of her school-life with a soul untrained for inevitable
    struggles, with no other part of her inherited share in the hard-won
    treasures of thought which generations of painful toil have laid up
    for the race of men, than shreds and patches of feeble literature and
    false history, with much futile information about Saxon and other
    kings of doubtful example, but unhappily quite without that knowledge
    of the irreversible laws within and without her, which, governing the
    habits, becomes morality, and developing the feelings of submission
    and dependence, becomes religion,--as lonely in her trouble as if
    every other girl besides herself had been cherished and watched over
    by elder minds, not forgetful of their own early time, when need was
    keen and impulse strong.

    At last Maggie's eyes glanced down on the books that lay on the
    window-shelf, and she half forsook her reverie to turn over listlessly
    the leaves of the "Portrait Gallery," but she soon pushed this aside
    to examine the little row of books tied together with string.
    "Beauties of the Spectator," "Rasselas," "Economy of Human Life,"
    "Gregory's Letters,"--she knew the sort of matter that was inside all
    these; the "Christian Year,"--that seemed to be a hymnbook, and she
    laid it down again; but _Thomas à Kempis?_--the name had come across
    her in her reading, and she felt the satisfaction, which every one
    knows, of getting some ideas to attach to a name that strays solitary
    in the memory. She took up the little, old, clumsy book with some
    curiosity; it had the corners turned down in many places, and some
    hand, now forever quiet, had made at certain passages strong
    pen-and-ink marks, long since browned by time. Maggie turned from leaf
    to leaf, and read where the quiet hand pointed: "Know that the love of
    thyself doth hurt thee more than anything in the world.... If thou
    seekest this or that, and wouldst be here or there to enjoy thy own
    will and pleasure, thou shalt never be quiet nor free from care; for
    in everything somewhat will be wanting, and in every place there will
    be some that will cross thee.... Both above and below, which way
    soever thou dost turn thee, everywhere thou shalt find the Cross; and
    everywhere of necessity thou must have patience, if thou wilt have
    inward peace, and enjoy an everlasting crown.... If thou desirest to
    mount unto this height, thou must set out courageously, and lay the
    axe to the root, that thou mayest pluck up and destroy that hidden
    inordinate inclination to thyself, and unto all private and earthly
    good. On this sin, that a man inordinately loveth himself, almost all
    dependeth, whatsoever is thoroughly to be overcome; which evil being
    once overcome and subdued, there will presently ensue great peace and
    tranquillity.... It is but little thou sufferest in comparison of them
    that have suffered so much, were so strongly tempted, so grievously
    afflicted, so many ways tried and exercised. Thou oughtest therefore
    to call to mind the more heavy sufferings of others, that thou mayest
    the easier bear thy little adversities. And if they seem not little
    unto thee, beware lest thy impatience be the cause thereof.... Blessed
    are those ears that receive the whispers of the divine voice, and
    listen not to the whisperings of the world. Blessed are those ears
    which hearken not unto the voice which soundeth outwardly, but unto
    the Truth, which teacheth inwardly."

    A strange thrill of awe passed through Maggie while she read, as if
    she had been wakened in the night by a strain of solemn music, telling
    of beings whose souls had been astir while hers was in stupor. She
    went on from one brown mark to another, where the quiet hand seemed to
    point, hardly conscious that she was reading, seeming rather to listen
    while a low voice said;

    "Why dost thou here gaze about, since this is not the place of thy
    rest? In heaven ought to be thy dwelling, and all earthly things are
    to be looked on as they forward thy journey thither. All things pass
    away, and thou together with them. Beware thou cleavest not unto them,
    lest thou be entangled and perish.... If a man should give all his
    substance, yet it is as nothing. And if he should do great penances,
    yet are they but little. And if he should attain to all knowledge, he
    is yet far off. And if he should be of great virtue, and very fervent
    devotion, yet is there much wanting; to wit, one thing, which is most
    necessary for him. What is that? That having left all, he leave
    himself, and go wholly out of himself, and retain nothing of
    self-love.... I have often said unto thee, and now again I say the
    same, Forsake thyself, resign thyself, and thou shalt enjoy much
    inward peace.... Then shall all vain imaginations, evil perturbations,
    and superfluous cares fly away; then shall immoderate fear leave thee,
    and inordinate love shall die."

    Maggie drew a long breath and pushed her heavy hair back, as if to see
    a sudden vision more clearly. Here, then, was a secret of life that
    would enable her to renounce all other secrets; here was a sublime
    height to be reached without the help of outward things; here was
    insight, and strength, and conquest, to be won by means entirely
    within her own soul, where a supreme Teacher was waiting to be heard.
    It flashed through her like the suddenly apprehended solution of a
    problem, that all the miseries of her young life had come from fixing
    her heart on her own pleasure, as if that were the central necessity
    of the universe; and for the first time she saw the possibility of
    shifting the position from which she looked at the gratification of
    her own desires,--of taking her stand out of herself, and looking at
    her own life as an insignificant part of a divinely guided whole. She
    read on and on in the old book, devouring eagerly the dialogues with
    the invisible Teacher, the pattern of sorrow, the source of all
    strength; returning to it after she had been called away, and reading
    till the sun went down behind the willows. With all the hurry of an
    imagination that could never rest in the present, she sat in the
    deepening twilight forming plans of self-humiliation and entire
    devotedness; and in the ardor of first discovery, renunciation seemed
    to her the entrance into that satisfaction which she had so long been
    craving in vain. She had not perceived--how could she until she had
    lived longer?--the inmost truth of the old monk's out-pourings, that
    renunciation remains sorrow, though a sorrow borne willingly. Maggie
    was still panting for happiness, and was in ecstasy because she had
    found the key to it. She knew nothing of doctrines and systems, of
    mysticism or quietism; but this voice out of the far-off middle ages
    was the direct communication of a human soul's belief and experience,
    and came to Maggie as an unquestioned message.

    I suppose that is the reason why the small old-fashioned book, for
    which you need only pay sixpence at a book-stall, works miracles to
    this day, turning bitter waters into sweetness; while expensive
    sermons and treatises, newly issued, leave all things as they were
    before. It was written down by a hand that waited for the heart's
    prompting; it is the chronicle of a solitary, hidden anguish,
    struggle, trust, and triumph, not written on velvet cushions to teach
    endurance to those who are treading with bleeding feet on the stones.
    And so it remains to all time a lasting record of human needs and
    human consolations; the voice of a brother who, ages ago, felt and
    suffered and renounced,--in the cloister, perhaps, with serge gown and
    tonsured head, with much chanting and long fasts, and with a fashion
    of speech different from ours,--but under the same silent far-off
    heavens, and with the same passionate desires, the same strivings, the
    same failures, the same weariness.

    In writing the history of unfashionable families, one is apt to fall
    into a tone of emphasis which is very far from being the tone of good
    society, where principles and beliefs are not only of an extremely
    moderate kind, but are always presupposed, no subjects being eligible
    but such as can be touched with a light and graceful irony. But then
    good society has its claret and its velvet carpets, its
    dinner-engagements six weeks deep, its opera and its faëry ball-rooms;
    rides off its _ennui_ on thoroughbred horses; lounges at the club; has
    to keep clear of crinoline vortices; gets its science done by Faraday,
    and its religion by the superior clergy who are to be met in the best
    houses,--how should it have time or need for belief and emphasis? But
    good society, floated on gossamer wings of light irony, is of very
    expensive production; requiring nothing less than a wide and arduous
    national life condensed in unfragrant deafening factories, cramping
    itself in mines, sweating at furnaces, grinding, hammering, weaving
    under more or less oppression of carbonic acid, or else, spread over
    sheepwalks, and scattered in lonely houses and huts on the clayey or
    chalky corn-lands, where the rainy days look dreary. This wide
    national life is based entirely on emphasis,--the emphasis of want,
    which urges it into all the activities necessary for the maintenance
    of good society and light irony; it spends its heavy years often in a
    chill, uncarpeted fashion, amidst family discord unsoftened by long
    corridors. Under such circumstances, there are many among its myriads
    of souls who have absolutely needed an emphatic belief, life in this
    unpleasurable shape demanding some solution even to unspeculative
    minds,--just as you inquire into the stuffing of your couch when
    anything galls you there, whereas eider-down and perfect French
    springs excite no question. Some have an emphatic belief in alcohol,
    and seek their _ekstasis_ or outside standing-ground in gin; but the
    rest require something that good society calls "enthusiasm," something
    that will present motives in an entire absence of high prizes;
    something that will give patience and feed human love when the limbs
    ache with weariness, and human looks are hard upon us; something,
    clearly, that lies outside personal desires, that includes resignation
    for ourselves and active love for what is not ourselves. Now and then
    that sort of enthusiasm finds a far-echoing voice that comes from an
    experience springing out of the deepest need; and it was by being
    brought within the long lingering vibrations of such a voice that
    Maggie, with her girl's face and unnoted sorrows, found an effort and
    a hope that helped her through years of loneliness, making out a faith
    for herself without the aid of established authorities and appointed
    guides; for they were not at hand, and her need was pressing. From
    what you know of her, you will not be surprised that she threw some
    exaggeration and wilfulness, some pride and impetuosity, even into her
    self-renunciation; her own life was still a drama for her, in which
    she demanded of herself that her part should be played with intensity.
    And so it came to pass that she often lost the spirit of humility by
    being excessive in the outward act; she often strove after too high a
    flight, and came down with her poor little half-fledged wings dabbled
    in the mud. For example, she not only determined to work at plain
    sewing, that she might contribute something toward the fund in the tin
    box, but she went, in the first instance, in her zeal of
    self-mortification, to ask for it at a linen shop in St. Ogg's,
    instead of getting it in a more quiet and indirect way; and could see
    nothing but what was entirely wrong and unkind, nay, persecuting, in
    Tom's reproof of her for this unnecessary act. "I don't like _my_
    sister to do such things," said Tom, "_I'll_ take care that the debts
    are paid, without your lowering yourself in that way." Surely there
    was some tenderness and bravery mingled with the worldliness and
    self-assertion of that little speech; but Maggie held it as dross,
    overlooking the grains of gold, and took Tom's rebuke as one of her
    outward crosses. Tom was very hard to her, she used to think, in her
    long night-watchings,--to her who had always loved him so; and then
    she strove to be contented with that hardness, and to require nothing.
    That is the path we all like when we set out on our abandonment of
    egoism,--the path of martyrdom and endurance, where the palm-branches
    grow, rather than the steep highway of tolerance, just allowance, and
    self-blame, where there are no leafy honors to be gathered and worn.

    The old books, Virgil, Euclid, and Aldrich--that wrinkled fruit of the
    tree of knowledge--had been all laid by; for Maggie had turned her
    back on the vain ambition to share the thoughts of the wise. In her
    first ardor she flung away the books with a sort of triumph that she
    had risen above the need of them; and if they had been her own, she
    would have burned them, believing that she would never repent. She
    read so eagerly and constantly in her three books, the Bible, Thomas Ã
    Kempis, and the "Christian Year" (no longer rejected as a
    "hymn-book"), that they filled her mind with a continual stream of
    rhythmic memories; and she was too ardently learning to see all nature
    and life in the light of her new faith, to need any other material for
    her mind to work on, as she sat with her well-plied needle, making
    shirts and other complicated stitchings, falsely called "plain,"--by
    no means plain to Maggie, since wristband and sleeve and the like had
    a capability of being sewed in wrong side outward in moments of mental
    wandering.

    Hanging diligently over her sewing, Maggie was a sight any one might
    have been pleased to look at. That new inward life of hers,
    notwithstanding some volcanic upheavings of imprisoned passions, yet
    shone out in her face with a tender soft light that mingled itself as
    added loveliness with the gradually enriched color and outline of her
    blossoming youth. Her mother felt the change in her with a sort of
    puzzled wonder that Maggie should be "growing up so good"; it was
    amazing that this once "contrairy" child was become so submissive, so
    backward to assert her own will. Maggie used to look up from her work
    and find her mother's eyes fixed upon her; they were watching and
    waiting for the large young glance, as if her elder frame got some
    needful warmth from it. The mother was getting fond of her tall, brown
    girl,--the only bit of furniture now on which she could bestow her
    anxiety and pride; and Maggie, in spite of her own ascetic wish to
    have no personal adornment, was obliged to give way to her mother
    about her hair, and submit to have the abundant black locks plaited
    into a coronet on the summit of her head, after the pitiable fashion
    of those antiquated times.

    "Let your mother have that bit o' pleasure, my dear," said Mrs.
    Tulliver; "I'd trouble enough with your hair once."

    So Maggie, glad of anything that would soothe her mother, and cheer
    their long day together, consented to the vain decoration, and showed
    a queenly head above her old frocks, steadily refusing, however, to
    look at herself in the glass. Mrs. Tulliver liked to call the father's
    attention to Maggie's hair and other unexpected virtues, but he had a
    brusk reply to give.

    "I knew well enough what she'd be, before now,--it's nothing new to
    me. But it's a pity she isn't made o' commoner stuff; she'll be thrown
    away, I doubt,--there'll be nobody to marry her as is fit for her."

    And Maggie's graces of mind and body fed his gloom. He sat patiently
    enough while she read him a chapter, or said something timidly when
    they were alone together about trouble being turned into a blessing.
    He took it all as part of his daughter's goodness, which made his
    misfortunes the sadder to him because they damaged her chance in life.
    In a mind charged with an eager purpose and an unsatisfied
    vindictiveness, there is no room for new feelings; Mr. Tulliver did
    not want spiritual consolation--he wanted to shake off the degradation
    of debt, and to have his revenge.
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