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    Book 5 - Chapter 6

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    Chapter 38
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    The Hard-Won Triumph

    Three weeks later, when Dorlcote Mill was at its prettiest moment in
    all the year,--the great chestnuts in blossom, and the grass all deep
    and daisied,--Tom Tulliver came home to it earlier than usual in the
    evening, and as he passed over the bridge, he looked with the old
    deep-rooted affection at the respectable red brick house, which always
    seemed cheerful and inviting outside, let the rooms be as bare and the
    hearts as sad as they might inside. There is a very pleasant light in
    Tom's blue-gray eyes as he glances at the house-windows; that fold in
    his brow never disappears, but it is not unbecoming; it seems to imply
    a strength of will that may possibly be without harshness, when the
    eyes and mouth have their gentlest expression. His firm step becomes
    quicker, and the corners of his mouth rebel against the compression
    which is meant to forbid a smile.

    The eyes in the parlor were not turned toward the bridge just then,
    and the group there was sitting in unexpectant silence,--Mr. Tulliver
    in his arm-chair, tired with a long ride, and ruminating with a worn
    look, fixed chiefly on Maggie, who was bending over her sewing while
    her mother was making the tea.

    They all looked up with surprise when they heard the well-known foot.

    "Why, what's up now, Tom?" said his father. "You're a bit earlier than
    usual."

    "Oh, there was nothing more for me to do, so I came away. Well,
    mother!"

    Tom went up to his mother and kissed her, a sign of unusual good-humor
    with him. Hardly a word or look had passed between him and Maggie in
    all the three weeks; but his usual incommunicativeness at home
    prevented this from being noticeable to their parents.

    "Father," said Tom, when they had finished tea, "do you know exactly
    how much money there is in the tin box?"

    "Only a hundred and ninety-three pound," said Mr. Tulliver. "You've
    brought less o' late; but young fellows like to have their own way
    with their money. Though I didn't do as I liked before _I_ was of
    age." He spoke with rather timid discontent.

    "Are you quite sure that's the sum, father?" said Tom. "I wish you
    would take the trouble to fetch the tin box down. I think you have
    perhaps made a mistake."

    "How should I make a mistake?" said his father, sharply. "I've counted
    it often enough; but I can fetch it, if you won't believe me."

    It was always an incident Mr. Tulliver liked, in his gloomy life, to
    fetch the tin box and count the money.

    "Don't go out of the room, mother," said Tom, as he saw her moving
    when his father was gone upstairs.

    "And isn't Maggie to go?" said Mrs. Tulliver; "because somebody must
    take away the things."

    "Just as she likes," said Tom indifferently.

    That was a cutting word to Maggie. Her heart had leaped with the
    sudden conviction that Tom was going to tell their father the debts
    could be paid; and Tom would have let her be absent when that news was
    told! But she carried away the tray and came back immediately. The
    feeling of injury on her own behalf could not predominate at that
    moment.

    Tom drew to the corner of the table near his father when the tin box
    was set down and opened, and the red evening light falling on them
    made conspicuous the worn, sour gloom of the dark-eyed father and the
    suppressed joy in the face of the fair-complexioned son. The mother
    and Maggie sat at the other end of the table, the one in blank
    patience, the other in palpitating expectation.

    Mr. Tulliver counted out the money, setting it in order on the table,
    and then said, glancing sharply at Tom:

    "There now! you see I was right enough."

    He paused, looking at the money with bitter despondency.

    "There's more nor three hundred wanting; it'll be a fine while before
    _I_ can save that. Losing that forty-two pound wi' the corn was a sore
    job. This world's been too many for me. It's took four year to lay
    _this_ by; it's much if I'm above ground for another four year. I must
    trusten to you to pay 'em," he went on, with a trembling voice, "if
    you keep i' the same mind now you're coming o' age. But you're like
    enough to bury me first."

    He looked up in Tom's face with a querulous desire for some assurance.

    "No, father," said Tom, speaking with energetic decision, though there
    was tremor discernible in his voice too, "you will live to see the
    debts all paid. You shall pay them with your own hand."

    His tone implied something more than mere hopefulness or resolution. A
    slight electric shock seemed to pass through Mr. Tulliver, and he kept
    his eyes fixed on Tom with a look of eager inquiry, while Maggie,
    unable to restrain herself, rushed to her father's side and knelt down
    by him. Tom was silent a little while before he went on.

    "A good while ago, my uncle Glegg lent me a little money to trade
    with, and that has answered. I have three hundred and twenty pounds in
    the bank."

    His mother's arms were round his neck as soon as the last words were
    uttered, and she said, half crying:

    "Oh, my boy, I knew you'd make iverything right again, when you got a
    man."

    But his father was silent; the flood of emotion hemmed in all power of
    speech. Both Tom and Maggie were struck with fear lest the shock of
    joy might even be fatal. But the blessed relief of tears came. The
    broad chest heaved, the muscles of the face gave way, and the
    gray-haired man burst into loud sobs. The fit of weeping gradually
    subsided, and he sat quiet, recovering the regularity of his
    breathing. At last he looked up at his wife and said, in a gentle
    tone:

    "Bessy, you must come and kiss me now--the lad has made you amends.
    You'll see a bit o' comfort again, belike."

    When she had kissed him, and he had held her hand a minute, his
    thoughts went back to the money.

    "I wish you'd brought me the money to look at, Tom," he said,
    fingering the sovereigns on the table; "I should ha' felt surer."

    "You shall see it to-morrow, father," said Tom. "My uncle Deane has
    appointed the creditors to meet to-morrow at the Golden Lion, and he
    has ordered a dinner for them at two o'clock. My uncle Glegg and he
    will both be there. It was advertised in the 'Messenger' on Saturday."

    "Then Wakem knows on't!" said Mr. Tulliver, his eye kindling with
    triumphant fire. "Ah!" he went on, with a long-drawn guttural
    enunciation, taking out his snuff-box, the only luxury he had left
    himself, and tapping it with something of his old air of defiance.
    "I'll get from under _his_ thumb now, though I _must_ leave the old
    mill. I thought I could ha' held out to die here--but I can't----we've
    got a glass o' nothing in the house, have we, Bessy?"

    "Yes," said Mrs. Tulliver, drawing out her much-reduced bunch of keys,
    "there's some brandy sister Deane brought me when I was ill."

    "Get it me, then; get it me. I feel a bit weak."

    "Tom, my lad," he said, in a stronger voice, when he had taken some
    brandy-and-water, "you shall make a speech to 'em. I'll tell 'em it's
    you as got the best part o' the money. They'll see I'm honest at last,
    and ha' got an honest son. Ah! Wakem 'ud be fine and glad to have a
    son like mine,--a fine straight fellow,--i'stead o' that poor crooked
    creatur! You'll prosper i' the world, my lad; you'll maybe see the day
    when Wakem and his son 'ull be a round or two below you. You'll like
    enough be ta'en into partnership, as your uncle Deane was before
    you,--you're in the right way for't; and then there's nothing to
    hinder your getting rich. And if ever you're rich enough--mind
    this--try and get th' old mill again."

    Mr. Tulliver threw himself back in his chair; his mind, which had so
    long been the home of nothing but bitter discontent and foreboding,
    suddenly filled, by the magic of joy, with visions of good fortune.
    But some subtle influence prevented him from foreseeing the good
    fortune as happening to himself.

    "Shake hands wi' me, my lad," he said, suddenly putting out his hand.
    "It's a great thing when a man can be proud as he's got a good son.
    I've had _that_ luck."

    Tom never lived to taste another moment so delicious as that; and
    Maggie couldn't help forgetting her own grievances. Tom _was_ good;
    and in the sweet humility that springs in us all in moments of true
    admiration and gratitude, she felt that the faults he had to pardon in
    her had never been redeemed, as his faults were. She felt no jealousy
    this evening that, for the first time, she seemed to be thrown into
    the background in her father's mind.

    There was much more talk before bedtime. Mr. Tulliver naturally wanted
    to hear all the particulars of Tom's trading adventures, and he
    listened with growing excitement and delight. He was curious to know
    what had been said on every occasion; if possible, what had been
    thought; and Bob Jakin's part in the business threw him into peculiar
    outbursts of sympathy with the triumphant knowingness of that
    remarkable packman. Bob's juvenile history, so far as it had come
    under Mr. Tulliver's knowledge, was recalled with that sense of
    astonishing promise it displayed, which is observable in all
    reminiscences of the childhood of great men.

    It was well that there was this interest of narrative to keep under
    the vague but fierce sense of triumph over Wakem, which would
    otherwise have been the channel his joy would have rushed into with
    dangerous force. Even as it was, that feeling from time to time gave
    threats of its ultimate mastery, in sudden bursts of irrelevant
    exclamation.

    It was long before Mr. Tulliver got to sleep that night; and the
    sleep, when it came, was filled with vivid dreams. At half-past five
    o'clock in the morning, when Mrs. Tulliver was already rising, he
    alarmed her by starting up with a sort of smothered shout, and looking
    round in a bewildered way at the walls of the bedroom.

    "What's the matter, Mr. Tulliver?" said his wife. He looked at her,
    still with a puzzled expression, and said at last:

    "Ah!--I was dreaming--did I make a noise?--I thought I'd got hold of
    him."
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