To Garum Firs

WHILE the possible troubles of Maggie's future were occupying her father's mind, she herself was tasting only the bitterness of the present. Childhood has no forebodings; but then, it is soothed by no memories of outlived sorrow. The fact was, the day had begun ill with Maggie. The pleasure of having Lucy to look at, and the prospect of the afternoon visit to Garum Firs where she would hear uncle Pullet's musical- box had been marred as early as eleven o'clock by the advent of the hair-dresser from St Ogg's who had spoken in the severest terms of the condition in which he had found her hair, holding up one jagged lock after another and saying, `See here! tut - tut - tut!' in a tone of mingled disgust and pity, which to Maggie's imagination was equivalent to the strongest expression of public opinion. Mr Rappit, the hairdresser, with his well-anointed coronal locks tending wavily upward, like the simulated pyramid of flame on a monumental urn, seemed to her at that moment the most formidable of her contemporaries, into whose street at St Ogg's she would carefully refrain from entering through the rest of her life.

Moreover, the preparation for a visit being always a serious affair in the Dodson family, Martha was enjoined to have Mrs Tulliver's room ready an hour earlier than usual, that the laying-out of the best clothes might not be deferred till the last moment, as was sometimes the case in families of lax views where the ribbon- strings were never rolled up, where there was little or no wrapping in silver paper, and where the sense that the Sunday clothes could be got at quite easily produced no shock to the mind. Already at twelve o'clock, Mrs Tulliver had on her visiting costume with a protective apparatus of brown holland, as if she had been a piece of stain furniture in danger of flies; Maggie was frowning and twisting her shoulders that she might if possible shrink away from the prickliest of tuckers, while her mother was remonstrating, `Don't, Maggie, my dear - don't look so ugly!' and Tom's cheeks were looking particularly brilliant as a relief to his best blue suit, which he wore with becoming calmness, having, after a little wrangling, effected what was always the one point of interest to him in his toilette - he had transferred all the contents of his everyday pockets to those actually in wear.

As for Lucy, she was just as pretty and neat as she had been yesterday: no accidents ever happened to her clothes, and she was never uncomfortable in them, so that she looked with wondering pity at Maggie, pouting and writhing under the exasperating tucker. Maggie would certainly have torn it off, if she had not been checked by the remembrance of her recent humiliation about her hair: as it was, she confined herself to fretting and twisting and behaving peevishly about the card-houses which they were allowed to build till dinner, as a suitable amusement for boys and girls in their best clothes. Tom build perfect pyramids of houses; but Maggie's would never bear the laying-on of the roof: - it was always so with the things that Maggie made, and Tom had deduced the conclusion that no girls could ever make anything. But it happened that Lucy proved wonderfully clever at building: she handled the cards so lightly and moved so gently that Tom condescended to admire her houses as well as his own, the more readily because she had asked him to teach her. Maggie too would have admired Lucy's houses, and would have given up her own unsuccessful building to contemplate them, without ill-temper, if her tucker had not made her peevish and if Tom had not inconsiderately laughed when her houses fell, and told her she was `a stupid.'

`Don't laugh at me, Tom!' she burst out, angrily. `I'm not a stupid. I know a great many things you don't.'

`O, I daresay, Miss Spitfire! I'd never be such a cross thing as you - making faces like that. Lucy doesn't do so. I like Lucy better than you: I wish Lucy was my sister.'

`Then it's very wicked and cruel of you to wish so,' said Maggie, starting up hurriedly from her place on the floor and upsetting Tom's wonderful pagoda. She really did not mean it, but the circumstantial evidence was against her, and Tom turned white with anger, but said nothing: he would have struck her, only he knew it was cowardly to strike a girl, and Tom Tulliver was quite determined he would never do anything cowardly.

Maggie stood in dismay and terror while Tom got up from the floor and walked away, pale, from the scattered ruins of his pagoda, and Lucy looked on mutely, like a kitten pausing from its lapping.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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