Maggie's Second Visit

THIS last breach between the two lads was not readily mended and for some time they spoke to each other no more than was necessary. Their natural antipathy of temperament made resentment an easy passage to hatred, and in Philip the transition seemed to have begun: there was no malignity in his disposition, but there was a susceptibility that made him peculiarly liable to a strong sense of repulsion. The ox - we may venture to assert it on the authority of a great classic - is not given to use his teeth as an instrument of attack; and Tom was an excellent bovine lad, who ran at questionable objects in a truly ingenuous bovine manner; but he had blundered on Philip's tenderest point, and had caused him as much acute pain as if he had studied the means with the nicest precision and the most envenomed spite. Tom saw no reason why they should not make up this quarrel as they had done many others, by behaving as if nothing had happened; for though he had never before said to Philip that his father was a rogue, this idea had so habitually made part of his feeling as to the relation between himself and his dubious schoolfellow, whom he could neither like nor dislike, that the mere utterance did not make such an epoch to him as it did to Philip. And he had a right to say so, when Philip hectored over him and called him names. But perceiving that his first advances towards amity were not met, he relapsed into his least favourable disposition towards Philip, and resolved never to appeal to him either about drawing or exercises again. They were only so far civil to each other as was necessary to prevent their state of feud from being observed by Mr Stelling, who would have `put down' such nonsense with great vigour. When Maggie came, however, she could not help looking with growing interest at the new school-fellow, although he was the son of that wicked Lawyer Wakem who made her father so angry. She had arrived in the middle of school- hours, and had sat by while Philip went through his lessons with Mr Stelling. Tom, some weeks ago, had sent her word that Philip knew no end of stories - not stupid stories like hers - and she was convinced now from her own observation that he must be very clever: she hoped he would think her rather clever too, when she came to talk to him. Maggie moreover had rather a tenderness for deformed things; she preferred the wry-necked lambs, because it seemed to her that the lambs which were quite strong and well made wouldn't mind so much about being petted, and she was especially fond of petting objects that would think it very delightful to be petted by her. She loved Tom very dearly, but she often wished that he cared more about her loving him.

`I think Philip Wakem seems a nice boy, Tom,' she said, when they went out of the study together into the garden, to pass the interval before dinner. `He couldn't choose his father, you know; and I've read of very bad men who had good sons, as well as good parents who had bad children. And if Philip is good, I think we ought to be the more sorry for him because his father is not a good man. You like him, don't you?'

`O, he's a queer fellow,' said Tom, curtly, `and he's as sulky as can be with me, because I told him his father was a rogue. And I'd a right to tell him so, for it was true - and he began it, with calling me names. But you can stop here by yourself a bit, Magsie, will you? I've got something I want to do upstairs.'

`Can't I go too?' said Maggie, who, in this first day of meeting again, loved Tom's shadow.

`No, it's something I'll tell you about by and by, not yet,' said Tom, skipping away.

In the afternoon, the boys were at their books in the study, preparing the morrow's lessons, that they might have a holiday in the evening in honour of Maggie's arrival. Tom was hanging over his Latin grammar, moving his lips inaudibly like a strict but impatient Catholic repeating his tale of paternosters, and Philip, at the other end of the room, was busy with two volumes, with a look of contented diligence that excited Maggie's curiosity: he did not look at all as if he were learning a lesson. She sat on a low stool at nearly right angle with the two boys, watching first one and then the other, and Philip looking off his book once towards the fireplace, caught the pair of questioning dark eyes fixed upon him. He thought this sister of Tulliver's seemed a nice little thing, quite unlike her brother: he wished he had a little sister. What was it, he wondered, that made Maggie's dark eyes remind him of the stories about princesses being turned into animals?... I think it was, that her eyes were full of unsatisfied intelligence and unsatisfied, beseeching affection.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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