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    Book 6 - Chapter 8

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    Chapter 47
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    Wakem in a New Light

    Before three days had passed after the conversation you have just
    overheard between Lucy and her father she had contrived to have a
    private interview with Philip during a visit of Maggie's to her aunt
    Glegg. For a day and a night Philip turned over in his mind with
    restless agitation all that Lucy had told him in that interview, till
    he had thoroughly resolved on a course of action. He thought he saw
    before him now a possibility of altering his position with respect to
    Maggie, and removing at least one obstacle between them. He laid his
    plan and calculated all his moves with the fervid deliberation of a
    chess-player in the days of his first ardor, and was amazed himself at
    his sudden genius as a tactician. His plan was as bold as it was
    thoroughly calculated. Having watched for a moment when his father had
    nothing more urgent on his hands than the newspaper, he went behind
    him, laid a hand on his shoulder, and said,--

    "Father, will you come up into my sanctum, and look at my new
    sketches? I've arranged them now."

    "I'm getting terrible stiff in the joints, Phil, for climbing those
    stairs of yours," said Wakem, looking kindly at his son as he laid
    down his paper. "But come along, then."

    "This is a nice place for you, isn't it, Phil?--a capital light that
    from the roof, eh?" was, as usual, the first thing he said on entering
    the painting-room. He liked to remind himself and his son too that his
    fatherly indulgence had provided the accommodation. He had been a good
    father. Emily would have nothing to reproach him with there, if she
    came back again from her grave.

    "Come, come," he said, putting his double eye-glass over his nose, and
    seating himself to take a general view while he rested, "you've got a
    famous show here. Upon my word, I don't see that your things aren't as
    good as that London artist's--what's his name--that Leyburn gave so
    much money for."

    Philip shook his head and smiled. He had seated himself on his
    painting-stool, and had taken a lead pencil in his hand, with which he
    was making strong marks to counteract the sense of tremulousness. He
    watched his father get up, and walk slowly round, good-naturedly
    dwelling on the pictures much longer than his amount of genuine taste
    for landscape would have prompted, till he stopped before a stand on
    which two pictures were placed,--one much larger than the other, the
    smaller one in a leather case.

    "Bless me! what have you here?" said Wakem, startled by a sudden
    transition from landscape to portrait. "I thought you'd left off
    figures. Who are these?"

    "They are the same person," said Philip, with calm promptness, "at
    different ages."

    "And what person?" said Wakem, sharply fixing his eyes with a growing
    look of suspicion on the larger picture.

    "Miss Tulliver. The small one is something like what she was when I
    was at school with her brother at King's Lorton; the larger one is not
    quite so good a likeness of what she was when I came from abroad."

    Wakem turned round fiercely, with a flushed face, letting his
    eye-glass fall, and looking at his son with a savage expression for a
    moment, as if he was ready to strike that daring feebleness from the
    stool. But he threw himself into the armchair again, and thrust his
    hands into his trouser-pockets, still looking angrily at his son,
    however. Philip did not return the look, but sat quietly watching the
    point of his pencil.

    "And do you mean to say, then, that you have had any acquaintance with
    her since you came from abroad?" said Wakem, at last, with that vain
    effort which rage always makes to throw as much punishment as it
    desires to inflict into words and tones, since blows are forbidden.

    "Yes; I saw a great deal of her for a whole year before her father's
    death. We met often in that thicket--the Red Deeps--near Dorlcote
    Mill. I love her dearly; I shall never love any other woman. I have
    thought of her ever since she was a little girl."

    "Go on, sir! And you have corresponded with her all this while?"

    "No. I never told her I loved her till just before we parted, and she
    promised her brother not to see me again or to correspond with me. I
    am not sure that she loves me or would consent to marry me. But if she
    would consent,--if she _did_ love me well enough,--I should marry
    her."

    "And this is the return you make me for all the indulgences I've
    heaped on you?" said Wakem, getting white, and beginning to tremble
    under an enraged sense of impotence before Philip's calm defiance and
    concentration of purpose.

    "No, father," said Philip, looking up at him for the first time; "I
    don't regard it as a return. You have been an indulgent father to me;
    but I have always felt that it was because you had an affectionate
    wish to give me as much happiness as my unfortunate lot would admit,
    not that it was a debt you expected me to pay by sacrificing all my
    chances of happiness to satisfy feelings of yours which I can never
    share."

    "I think most sons would share their father's feelings in this case,"
    said Wakem, bitterly. "The girl's father was an ignorant mad brute,
    who was within an inch of murdering me. The whole town knows it. And
    the brother is just as insolent, only in a cooler way. He forbade her
    seeing you, you say; he'll break every bone in your body, for your
    greater happiness, if you don't take care. But you seem to have made
    up your mind; you have counted the consequences, I suppose. Of course
    you are independent of me; you can marry this girl to-morrow, if you
    like; you are a man of five-and-twenty,--you can go your way, and I
    can go mine. We need have no more to do with each other."

    Wakem rose and walked toward the door, but something held him back,
    and instead of leaving the room, he walked up and down it. Philip was
    slow to reply, and when he spoke, his tone had a more incisive
    quietness and clearness than ever.

    "No; I can't marry Miss Tulliver, even if she would have me, if I have
    only my own resources to maintain her with. I have been brought up to
    no profession. I can't offer her poverty as well as deformity."

    "Ah, _there_ is a reason for your clinging to me, doubtless," said
    Wakem, still bitterly, though Philip's last words had given him a
    pang; they had stirred a feeling which had been a habit for a quarter
    of a century. He threw himself into the chair again.

    "I expected all this," said Philip. "I know these scenes are often
    happening between father and son. If I were like other men of my age,
    I might answer your angry words by still angrier; we might part; I
    should marry the woman I love, and have a chance of being as happy as
    the rest. But if it will be a satisfaction to you to annihilate the
    very object of everything you've done for me, you have an advantage
    over most fathers; you can completely deprive me of the only thing
    that would make my life worth having."

    Philip paused, but his father was silent.

    "You know best what satisfaction you would have, beyond that of
    gratifying a ridiculous rancor worthy only of wandering savages."

    "Ridiculous rancor!" Wakem burst out. "What do you mean? Damn it! is a
    man to be horsewhipped by a boor and love him for it? Besides, there's
    that cold, proud devil of a son, who said a word to me I shall not
    forget when we had the settling. He would be as pleasant a mark for a
    bullet as I know, if he were worth the expense."

    "I don't mean your resentment toward them," said Philip, who had his
    reasons for some sympathy with this view of Tom, "though a feeling of
    revenge is not worth much, that you should care to keep it. I mean
    your extending the enmity to a helpless girl, who has too much sense
    and goodness to share their narrow prejudices. _She_ has never entered
    into the family quarrels."

    "What does that signify? We don't ask what a woman does; we ask whom
    she belongs to. It's altogether a degrading thing to you, to think of
    marrying old Tulliver's daughter."

    For the first time in the dialogue, Philip lost some of his
    self-control, and colored with anger.

    "Miss Tulliver," he said, with bitter incisiveness, "has the only
    grounds of rank that anything but vulgar folly can suppose to belong
    to the middle class; she is thoroughly refined, and her friends,
    whatever else they may be, are respected for irreproachable honor and
    integrity. All St. Ogg's, I fancy, would pronounce her to be more than
    my equal."

    Wakem darted a glance of fierce question at his son; but Philip was
    not looking at him, and with a certain penitent consciousness went on,
    in a few moments, as if in amplification of his last words,--

    "Find a single person in St. Ogg's who will not tell you that a
    beautiful creature like her would be throwing herself away on a
    pitiable object like me."

    "Not she!" said Wakem, rising again, and forgetting everything else in
    a burst of resentful pride, half fatherly, half personal. "It would be
    a deuced fine match for her. It's all stuff about an accidental
    deformity, when a girl's really attached to a man."

    "But girls are not apt to get attached under those circumstances,"
    said Philip.

    "Well, then," said Wakem, rather brutally, trying to recover his
    previous position, "if she doesn't care for you, you might have spared
    yourself the trouble of talking to me about her, and you might have
    spared me the trouble of refusing my consent to what was never likely
    to happen."

    Wakem strode to the door, and without looking round again, banged it
    after him.

    Philip was not without confidence that his father would be ultimately
    wrought upon as he had expected, by what had passed; but the scene had
    jarred upon his nerves, which were as sensitive as a woman's. He
    determined not to go down to dinner; he couldn't meet his father again
    that day. It was Wakem's habit, when he had no company at home, to go
    out in the evening, often as early as half-past seven; and as it was
    far on in the afternoon now, Philip locked up his room and went out
    for a long ramble, thinking he would not return until his father was
    out of the house again. He got into a boat, and went down the river to
    a favorite village, where he dined, and lingered till it was late
    enough for him to return. He had never had any sort of quarrel with
    his father before, and had a sickening fear that this contest, just
    begun, might go on for weeks; and what might not happen in that time?
    He would not allow himself to define what that involuntary question
    meant. But if he could once be in the position of Maggie's accepted,
    acknowledged lover, there would be less room for vague dread. He went
    up to his painting-room again, and threw himself with a sense of
    fatigue into the armchair, looking round absently at the views of
    water and rock that were ranged around, till he fell into a doze, in
    which he fancied Maggie was slipping down a glistening, green, slimy
    channel of a waterfall, and he was looking on helpless, till he was
    awakened by what seemed a sudden, awful crash.

    It was the opening of the door, and he could hardly have dozen more
    than a few moments, for there was no perceptible change in the evening
    light. It was his father who entered; and when Philip moved to vacate
    the chair for him, he said,--

    "Sit still. I'd rather walk about."

    He stalked up and down the room once or twice, and then, standing
    opposite Philip with his hands thrust in his side pockets, he said, as
    if continuing a conversation that had not been broken off,--

    "But this girl seems to have been fond of you, Phil, else she wouldn't
    have met you in that way."

    Philip's heart was beating rapidly, and a transient flush passed over
    his face like a gleam. It was not quite easy to speak at once.

    "She liked me at King's Lorton, when she was a little girl, because I
    used to sit with her brother a great deal when he had hurt his foot.
    She had kept that in her memory, and thought of me as a friend of a
    long while ago. She didn't think of me as a lover when she met me."

    "Well, but you made love to her at last. What did she say then?" said
    Wakem, walking about again.

    "She said she _did_ love me then."

    "Confound it, then; what else do you want? Is she a jilt?"

    "She was very young then," said Philip, hesitatingly. "I'm afraid she
    hardly knew what she felt. I'm afraid our long separation, and the
    idea that events must always divide us, may have made a difference."

    "But she's in the town. I've seen her at church. Haven't you spoken to
    her since you came back?"

    "Yes, at Mr. Deane's. But I couldn't renew my proposals to her on
    several grounds. One obstacle would be removed if you would give your
    consent,--if you would be willing to think of her as a daughter-in-law."

    Wakem was silent a little while, pausing before Maggie's picture.

    "She's not the sort of woman your mother was, though, Phil," he said,
    at last. "I saw her at church,--she's handsomer than this,--deuced
    fine eyes and fine figure, I saw; but rather dangerous and
    unmanageable, eh?"

    "She's very tender and affectionate, and so simple,--without the airs
    and petty contrivances other women have."

    "Ah?" said Wakem. Then looking round at his son, "But your mother
    looked gentler; she had that brown wavy hair and gray eyes, like
    yours. You can't remember her very well. It was a thousand pities I'd
    no likeness of her."

    "Then, shouldn't you be glad for me to have the same sort of
    happiness, father, to sweeten my life for me? There can never be
    another tie so strong to you as that which began eight-and-twenty
    years ago, when you married my mother, and you have been tightening it
    ever since."

    "Ah, Phil, you're the only fellow that knows the best of me," said
    Wakem, giving his hand to his son. "We must keep together if we can.
    And now, what am I to do? You must come downstairs and tell me. Am I
    to go and call on this dark-eyed damsel?"

    The barrier once thrown down in this way, Philip could talk freely to
    his father of their entire relation with the Tullivers,--of the desire
    to get the mill and land back into the family, and of its transfer to
    Guest & Co. as an intermediate step. He could venture now to be
    persuasive and urgent, and his father yielded with more readiness than
    he had calculated on.

    "_I_ don't care about the mill," he said at last, with a sort of angry
    compliance. "I've had an infernal deal of bother lately about the
    mill. Let them pay me for my improvements, that's all. But there's one
    thing you needn't ask me. I shall have no direct transactions with
    young Tulliver. If you like to swallow him for his sister's sake, you
    may; but I've no sauce that will make him go down."

    I leave you to imagine the agreeable feelings with which Philip went
    to Mr. Deane the next day, to say that Mr. Wakem was ready to open the
    negotiations, and Lucy's pretty triumph as she appealed to her father
    whether she had not proved her great business abilities. Mr. Deane was
    rather puzzled, and suspected that there had been something "going on"
    among the young people to which he wanted a clew. But to men of Mr.
    Deane's stamp, what goes on among the young people is as extraneous to
    the real business of life as what goes on among the birds and
    butterflies, until it can be shown to have a malign bearing on
    monetary affairs. And in this case the bearing appeared to be entirely
    propitious.
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