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    Book 6 - Chapter 9

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    Chapter 48
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    Charity in Full-Dress

    The culmination of Maggie's career as an admired member of society in
    St. Ogg's was certainly the day of the bazaar, when her simple noble
    beauty, clad in a white muslin of some soft-floating kind, which I
    suspect must have come from the stores of aunt Pullet's wardrobe,
    appeared with marked distinction among the more adorned and
    conventional women around her. We perhaps never detect how much of our
    social demeanor is made up of artificial airs until we see a person
    who is at once beautiful and simple; without the beauty, we are apt to
    call simplicity awkwardness. The Miss Guests were much too well-bred
    to have any of the grimaces and affected tones that belong to
    pretentious vulgarity; but their stall being next to the one where
    Maggie sat, it seemed newly obvious to-day that Miss Guest held her
    chin too high, and that Miss Laura spoke and moved continually with a
    view to effect.

    All well-dressed St. Ogg's and its neighborhood were there; and it
    would have been worth while to come even from a distance, to see the
    fine old hall, with its open roof and carved oaken rafters, and great
    oaken folding-doors, and light shed down from a height on the
    many-colored show beneath; a very quaint place, with broad faded
    stripes painted on the walls, and here and there a show of heraldic
    animals of a bristly, long-snouted character, the cherished emblems of
    a noble family once the seigniors of this now civic hall. A grand
    arch, cut in the upper wall at one end, surmounted an oaken orchestra,
    with an open room behind it, where hothouse plants and stalls for
    refreshments were disposed; an agreeable resort for gentlemen disposed
    to loiter, and yet to exchange the occasional crush down below for a
    more commodious point of view. In fact, the perfect fitness of this
    ancient building for an admirable modern purpose, that made charity
    truly elegant, and led through vanity up to the supply of a deficit,
    was so striking that hardly a person entered the room without
    exchanging the remark more than once. Near the great arch over the
    orchestra was the stone oriel with painted glass, which was one of the
    venerable inconsistencies of the old hall; and it was close by this
    that Lucy had her stall, for the convenience of certain large plain
    articles which she had taken charge of for Mrs. Kenn. Maggie had
    begged to sit at the open end of the stall, and to have the sale of
    these articles rather than of bead-mats and other elaborate products
    of which she had but a dim understanding. But it soon appeared that
    the gentlemen's dressing-gowns, which were among her commodities, were
    objects of such general attention and inquiry, and excited so
    troublesome a curiosity as to their lining and comparative merits,
    together with a determination to test them by trying on, as to make
    her post a very conspicuous one. The ladies who had commodities of
    their own to sell, and did not want dressing-gowns, saw at once the
    frivolity and bad taste of this masculine preference for goods which
    any tailor could furnish; and it is possible that the emphatic notice
    of various kinds which was drawn toward Miss Tulliver on this public
    occasion, threw a very strong and unmistakable light on her subsequent
    conduct in many minds then present. Not that anger, on account of
    spurned beauty can dwell in the celestial breasts of charitable
    ladies, but rather that the errors of persons who have once been much
    admired necessarily take a deeper tinge from the mere force of
    contrast; and also, that to-day Maggie's conspicuous position, for the
    first time, made evident certain characteristics which were
    subsequently felt to have an explanatory bearing. There was something
    rather bold in Miss Tulliver's direct gaze, and something undefinably
    coarse in the style of her beauty, which placed her, in the opinion of
    all feminine judges, far below her cousin Miss Deane; for the ladies
    of St. Ogg's had now completely ceded to Lucy their hypothetic claims
    on the admiration of Mr. Stephen Guest.

    As for dear little Lucy herself, her late benevolent triumph about the
    Mill, and all the affectionate projects she was cherishing for Maggie
    and Philip, helped to give her the highest spirits to-day, and she
    felt nothing but pleasure in the evidence of Maggie's attractiveness.
    It is true, she was looking very charming herself, and Stephen was
    paying her the utmost attention on this public occasion; jealously
    buying up the articles he had seen under her fingers in the process of
    making, and gayly helping her to cajole the male customers into the
    purchase of the most effeminate futilities. He chose to lay aside his
    hat and wear a scarlet fez of her embroidering; but by superficial
    observers this was necessarily liable to be interpreted less as a
    compliment to Lucy than as a mark of coxcombry. "Guest is a great
    coxcomb," young Torry observed; "but then he is a privileged person in
    St. Ogg's--he carries all before him; if another fellow did such
    things, everybody would say he made a fool of himself."

    And Stephen purchased absolutely nothing from Maggie, until Lucy said,
    in rather a vexed undertone,--

    "See, now; all the things of Maggie's knitting will be gone, and you
    will not have bought one. There are those deliciously soft warm things
    for the wrists,--do buy them."

    "Oh no," said Stephen, "they must be intended for imaginative persons,
    who can chill themselves on this warm day by thinking of the frosty
    Caucasus. Stern reason is my forte, you know. You must get Philip to
    buy those. By the way, why doesn't he come?"

    "He never likes going where there are many people, though I enjoined
    him to come. He said he would buy up any of my goods that the rest of
    the world rejected. But now, do go and buy something of Maggie."

    "No, no; see, she has got a customer; there is old Wakem himself just
    coming up."

    Lucy's eyes turned with anxious interest toward Maggie to see how she
    went through this first interview, since a sadly memorable time, with
    a man toward whom she must have so strange a mixture of feelings; but
    she was pleased to notice that Wakem had tact enough to enter at once
    into talk about the bazaar wares, and appear interested in purchasing,
    smiling now and then kindly at Maggie, and not calling on her to speak
    much, as if he observed that she was rather pale and tremulous.

    "Why, Wakem is making himself particularly amiable to your cousin,"
    said Stephen, in an undertone to Lucy; "is it pure magnanimity? You
    talked of a family quarrel."

    "Oh, that will soon be quite healed, I hope," said Lucy, becoming a
    little indiscreet in her satisfaction, and speaking with an air of
    significance. But Stephen did not appear to notice this, and as some
    lady-purchasers came up, he lounged on toward Maggie's end, handling
    trifles and standing aloof until Wakem, who had taken out his purse,
    had finished his t transactions.

    "My son came with me," he overheard Wakem saying, "but he has vanished
    into some other part of the building, and has left all these
    charitable gallantries to me. I hope you'll reproach him for his
    shabby conduct."

    She returned his smile and bow without speaking, and he turned away,
    only then observing Stephen and nodding to him. Maggie, conscious that
    Stephen was still there, busied herself with counting money, and
    avoided looking up. She had been well pleased that he had devoted
    himself to Lucy to-day, and had not come near her. They had begun the
    morning with an indifferent salutation, and both had rejoiced in being
    aloof from each other, like a patient who has actually done without
    his opium, in spite of former failures in resolution. And during the
    last few days they had even been making up their minds to failures,
    looking to the outward events that must soon come to separate them, as
    a reason for dispensing with self-conquest in detail.

    Stephen moved step by step as if he were being unwillingly dragged,
    until he had got round the open end of the stall, and was half hidden
    by a screen of draperies. Maggie went on counting her money till she
    suddenly heard a deep gentle voice saying, "Aren't you very tried? Do
    let me bring you something,--some fruit or jelly, mayn't I?"

    The unexpected tones shook her like a sudden accidental vibration of a
    harp close by her.

    "Oh no, thank you," she said faintly, and only half looking up for an

    "You look so pale," Stephen insisted, in a more entreating tone. "I'm
    sure you're exhausted. I must disobey you, and bring something."

    "No, indeed, I couldn't take it."

    "Are you angry with me? What have I done? _Do_ look at me."

    "Pray, go away," said Maggie, looking at him helplessly, her eyes
    glancing immediately from him to the opposite corner of the orchestra,
    which was half hidden by the folds of the old faded green curtain.
    Maggie had no sooner uttered this entreaty than she was wretched at
    the admission it implied; but Stephen turned away at once, and
    following her upward glance, he saw Philip Wakem sealed in the
    half-hidden corner, so that he could command little more than that
    angle of the hall in which Maggie sat. An entirely new though occurred
    to Stephen, and linking itself with what he had observed of Wakem's
    manner, and with Lucy's reply to his observation, it convinced him
    that there had been some former relation between Philip and Maggie
    beyond that childish one of which he had heard. More than one impulse
    made him immediately leave the hall and go upstairs to the
    refreshment-room, where, walking up to Philip, he sat down behind him,
    and put his hand on his shoulder.

    "Are you studying for a portrait, Phil," he said, "or for a sketch of
    that oriel window? By George, it makes a capital bit from this dark
    corner, with the curtain just marking it off."

    "I have been studying expression," said Philip, curtly.

    "What! Miss Tulliver's? It's rather of the savage-moody order to-day,
    I think,--something of the fallen princess serving behind a counter.
    Her cousin sent me to her with a civil offer to get her some
    refreshment, but I have been snubbed, as usual. There's natural
    antipathy between us, I suppose; I have seldom the honor to please

    "What a hypocrite you are!" said Philip, flushing angrily.

    "What! because experience must have told me that I'm universally
    pleasing? I admit the law, but there's some disturbing force here."

    "I am going," said Philip, rising abruptly.

    "So am I--to get a breath of fresh air; this place gets oppressive. I
    think I have done suit and service long enough."

    The two friends walked downstairs together without speaking. Philip
    turned through the outer door into the court-yard; but Stephen,
    saying, "Oh, by the by, I must call in here," went on along the
    passage to one of the rooms at the other end of the building, which
    were appropriated to the town library. He had the room all to himself,
    and a man requires nothing less than this when he wants to dash his
    cap on the table, throw himself astride a chair, and stare at a high
    brick wall with a frown which would not have been beneath the occasion
    if he had been slaying "the giant Python." The conduct that issues
    from a moral conflict has often so close a resemblance to vice that
    the distinction escapes all outward judgments founded on a mere
    comparison of actions. It is clear to you, I hope, that Stephen was
    not a hypocrite,--capable of deliberate doubleness for a selfish end;
    and yet his fluctuations between the indulgence of a feeling and the
    systematic concealment of it might have made a good case in support of
    Philip's accusation.

    Meanwhile, Maggie sat at her stall cold and trembling, with that
    painful sensation in the eyes which comes from resolutely repressed
    tears. Was her life to be always like this,--always bringing some new
    source of inward strife? She heard confusedly the busy, indifferent
    voices around her, and wished her mind could flow into that easy
    babbling current. It was at this moment that Dr. Kenn, who had quite
    lately come into the hall, and was now walking down the middle with
    his hands behind him, taking a general view, fixed his eyes on Maggie
    for the first time, and was struck with the expression of pain on her
    beautiful face. She was sitting quite still, for the stream of
    customers had lessened at this late hour in the afternoon; the
    gentlemen had chiefly chosen the middle of the day, and Maggie's stall
    was looking rather bare. This, with her absent, pained expression,
    finished the contrast between her and her companions, who were all
    bright, eager, and busy. He was strongly arrested. Her face had
    naturally drawn his attention as a new and striking one at church, and
    he had been introduced to her during a short call on business at Mr.
    Deane's, but he had never spoken more than three words to her. He
    walked toward her now, and Maggie, perceiving some one approaching,
    roused herself to look up and be prepared to speak. She felt a
    childlike, instinctive relief from the sense of uneasiness in this
    exertion, when she saw it was Dr. Kenn's face that was looking at her;
    that plain, middle-aged face, with a grave, penetrating kindness in
    it, seeming to tell of a human being who had reached a firm, safe
    strand, but was looking with helpful pity toward the strugglers still
    tossed by the waves, had an effect on Maggie at this moment which was
    afterward remembered by her as if it had been a promise. The
    middle-aged, who have lived through their strongest emotions, but are
    yet in the time when memory is still half passionate and not merely
    contemplative, should surely be a sort of natural priesthood, whom
    life has disciplined and consecrated to be the refuge and rescue of
    early stumblers and victims of self-despair. Most of us, at some
    moment in our young lives, would have welcomed a priest of that
    natural order in any sort of canonicals or uncanonicals, but had to
    scramble upward into all the difficulties of nineteen entirely without
    such aid, as Maggie did.

    "You find your office rather a fatiguing one, I fear, Miss Tulliver,"
    said Dr. Kenn.

    "It is, rather," said Maggie, simply, not being accustomed to simpler
    amiable denials of obvious facts.

    "But I can tell Mrs. Kenn that you have disposed of her goods very
    quickly," he added; "she will be very much obliged to you."

    "Oh, I have done nothing; the gentlemen came very fast to buy the
    dressing-gowns and embroidered waistcoats, but I think any of the
    other ladies would have sold more; I didn't know what to say about

    Dr. Kenn smiled. "I hope I'm going to have you as a permanent
    parishioner now, Miss Tulliver; am I? You have been at a distance from
    us hitherto."

    "I have been a teacher in a school, and I'm going into another
    situation of the same kind very soon."

    "Ah? I was hoping you would remain among your friends, who are all in
    this neighborhood, I believe."

    "Oh, _I must go_," said Maggie, earnestly, looking at Dr. Kenn with an
    expression of reliance, as if she had told him her history in those
    three words. It was one of those moments of implicit revelation which
    will sometimes happen even between people who meet quite
    transiently,--on a mile's journey, perhaps, or when resting by the
    wayside. There is always this possibility of a word or look from a
    stranger to keep alive the sense of human brotherhood.

    Dr. Kenn's ear and eye took in all the signs that this brief
    confidence of Maggie's was charged with meaning.

    "I understand," he said; "you feel it right to go. But that will not
    prevent our meeting again, I hope; it will not prevent my knowing you
    better, if I can be of any service to you."

    He put out his hand and pressed hers kindly before he turned away.

    "She has some trouble or other at heart," he thought. "Poor child! she
    looks as if she might turn out to be one of

    'The souls by nature pitched too high,
    By suffering plunged too low.'

    "There's something wonderfully honest in those beautiful eyes."

    It may be surprising that Maggie, among whose many imperfections an
    excessive delight in admiration and acknowledged supremacy were not
    absent now, any more than when she was instructing the gypsies with a
    view toward achieving a royal position among them, was not more elated
    on a day when she had had the tribute of so many looks and smiles,
    together with that satisfactory consciousness which had necessarily
    come from being taken before Lucy's chevalglass, and made to look at
    the full length of her tall beauty, crowned by the night of her massy
    hair. Maggie had smiled at herself then, and for the moment had
    forgotten everything in the sense of her own beauty. If that state of
    mind could have lasted, her choice would have been to have Stephen
    Guest at her feet, offering her a life filled with all luxuries, with
    daily incense of adoration near and distant, and with all
    possibilities of culture at her command. But there were things in her
    stronger than vanity,--passion and affection, and long, deep memories
    of early discipline and effort, of early claims on her love and pity;
    and the stream of vanity was soon swept along and mingled
    imperceptibly with that wider current which was at its highest force
    today, under the double urgency of the events and inward impulses
    brought by the last week.

    Philip had not spoken to her himself about the removal of obstacles
    between them on his father's side,--he shrank from that; but he had
    told everything to Lucy, with the hope that Maggie, being informed
    through her, might give him some encouraging sign that their being
    brought thus much nearer to each other was a happiness to her. The
    rush of conflicting feelings was too great for Maggie to say much when
    Lucy, with a face breathing playful joy, like one of Correggio's
    cherubs, poured forth her triumphant revelation; and Lucy could hardly
    be surprised that she could do little more than cry with gladness at
    the thought of her father's wish being fulfilled, and of Tom's getting
    the Mill again in reward for all his hard striving. The details of
    preparation for the bazaar had then come to usurp Lucy's attention for
    the next few days, and nothing had been said by the cousins on
    subjects that were likely to rouse deeper feelings. Philip had been to
    the house more than once, but Maggie had had no private conversation
    with him, and thus she had been left to fight her inward battle
    without interference.

    But when the bazaar was fairly ended, and the cousins were alone
    again, resting together at home, Lucy said,--

    "You must give up going to stay with your aunt Moss the day after
    to-morrow, Maggie; write a note to her, and tell her you have put it
    off at my request, and I'll send the man with it. She won't be
    displeased; you'll have plenty of time to go by-and-by; and I don't
    want you to go out of the way just now."

    "Yes, indeed I must go, dear; I can't put it off. I wouldn't leave
    aunt Gritty out for the world. And I shall have very little time, for
    I'm going away to a new situation on the 25th of June."

    "Maggie!" said Lucy, almost white with astonishment.

    "I didn't tell you, dear," said Maggie, making a great effort to
    command herself, "because you've been so busy. But some time ago I
    wrote to our old governess, Miss Firniss, to ask her to let me know if
    she met with any situation that I could fill, and the other day I had
    a letter from her telling me that I could take three orphan pupils of
    hers to the coast during the holidays, and then make trial of a
    situation with her as teacher. I wrote yesterday to accept the offer."

    Lucy felt so hurt that for some moments she was unable to speak.

    "Maggie," she said at last, "how could you be so unkind to me--not to
    tell me--to take _such_ a step--and now!" She hesitated a little, and
    then added, "And Philip? I thought everything was going to be so
    happy. Oh, Maggie, what is the reason? Give it up; let me write. There
    is nothing now to keep you and Philip apart."

    "Yes," said Maggie, faintly. "There is Tom's feeling. He said I must
    give him up if I married Philip. And I know he will not change--at
    least not for a long while--unless something happened to soften him."

    "But I will talk to him; he's coming back this week. And this good
    news about the Mill will soften him. And I'll talk to him about
    Philip. Tom's always very compliant to me; I don't think he's so

    "But I must go," said Maggie, in a distressed voice. "I must leave
    some time to pack. Don't press me to stay, dear Lucy."

    Lucy was silent for two or three minutes, looking away and ruminating.
    At length she knelt down by her cousin, and looking up in her face
    with anxious seriousness, said,--

    "Maggie, is it that you don't love Philip well enough to marry him?
    Tell me--trust me."

    Maggie held Lucy's hands tightly in silence a little while. Her own
    hands were quite cold. But when she spoke, her voice was quite clear
    and distinct.

    "Yes, Lucy, I would choose to marry him. I think it would be the best
    and highest lot for me,--to make his life happy. He loved me first. No
    one else could be quite what he is to me. But I can't divide myself
    from my brother for life. I must go away, and wait. Pray don't speak
    to me again about it."

    Lucy obeyed in pain and wonder. The next word she said was,--

    "Well, dear Maggie, at least you will go to the dance at Park House
    to-morrow, and have some music and brightness, before you go to pay
    these dull dutiful visits. Ah! here come aunty and the tea."
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    Chapter 48
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