Tom Is Expected

IT was a heavy disappointment to Maggie that she was not allowed to go with her father in the gig when he went to fetch Tom home from the Academy; but the morning was too wet, Mrs Tulliver said, for a little girl to go out in her best bonnet. Maggie took the opposite view very strongly, and it was a direct consequence of this difference of opinion, that when her mother was in the act of brushing out the reluctant black crop, Maggie suddenly rushed from under her hands and dipped her head in a basin of water standing near, - in the vindictive determination that there should be no more chance of curls that day. `Maggie, Maggie,' exclaimed Mrs Tulliver, sitting stout and helpless with the brushes on her lap, `what is to become of you, if you're so naughty? I'll tell your aunt Glegg and your aunt Pullet when they come next week, and they'll never love you any more. O dear, O dear, look at your clean pinafore, wet from top to bottom. Folks 'ull think it's a judgment on me as I've got such a child - they'll think I've done summat wicked.'

Before this remonstrance was finished Maggie was already out of hearing, making her way towards the great attic that ran under the old high-pitched roof, shaking the water from her black locks as she ran, like a Skye terrier escaped from his bath. This attic was Maggie's favourite retreat on a wet day, when the weather was not too cold: here she fretted out all her ill-humours, and talked aloud to the worm- eaten floors and the worm-eaten shelves and the dark rafters festooned with cobwebs, and here she kept a Fetish which she punished for all her misfortunes. This was the trunk of a large wooden doll, which once stared with the roundest of eyes above the reddest of cheeks, but was now entirely defaced by a long career of vicarious suffering. Three nails driven into the head commemorated as many crises in Maggie's nine years of earthly struggle; that luxury of vengeance having been suggested to her by the picture of Jael destroying Sisera in the old Bible. The last nail had been driven in with a fiercer stroke than usual, for the Fetish on that occasion represented aunt Glegg. But immediately afterwards Maggie had reflected that if she drove many nails in, she would not be so well able to fancy that the head was hurt when she knocked it against the wall, nor to comfort it, and make believe to poultice it when her fury was abated; for even aunt Glegg would be pitiable when she had been hurt very much, and thoroughly humiliated, so as to beg her niece's pardon. Since then, she had driven no more nails in, but had soothed herself by alternately grinding and beating the wooden head against the rough brick of the great chimneys that made two square pillars supporting the roof. That was what she did this morning on reaching the attic, sobbing all the while with a passion that expelled every other form of consciousness - even the memory of the grievance that had caused it. As at last the sobs were getting quieter and the grinding less fierce, a sudden beam of sunshine, falling through the wire lattice across the worm-eaten shelves, made her throw away the Fetish and run to the window. The sun was really breaking out, the sound of the mill seemed cheerful again, the granary doors were open, and there was Yap, the queer white and brown terrier with one ear turned back, trotting about and sniffing vaguely as if he were in search of a companion. It was irresistible: Maggie tossed her hair back and ran downstairs, seized her bonnet without putting it on, peeped and then dashed along the passage lest she should encounter her mother, and was quickly out in the yard, whirling round like a Pythoness and singing as she whirled, `Yap, Yap, Tom's coming home', while Yap pranced and barked round her, as much as to say, if there was any noise wanted, he was the dog for it.

`Hegh, hegh, Miss, you'll make yourself giddy an' tumble down i' the dirt,' said Luke, the head miller, a tall broad-shouldered man of forty, black-eyed and black-haired, subdued by a general mealiness, like an auricula.

Maggie paused in her whirling and said, staggering a little, `O no, it doesn't make me giddy. Luke, may I go into the mill with you?'

Maggie loved to linger in the great spaces of the mill, and often came out with her black hair powdered to a soft whiteness that made her dark eyes flash out with new fire. The resolute din, the unresting motion of the great stones giving her a dim delicious awe as at the presence of an uncontrollable force, the meal for ever pouring, pouring, the fine white powder softening all surfaces and making the very spider- nets look like faery lace-work, the sweet pure scent of the meal - all helped to make Maggie feel that the mill was a little world apart from her outside everyday life. The spiders were especially a subject

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