A Vanishing Gleam

MR TULLIVER, even between the fits of spasmodic rigidity which had recurred at intervals ever since he had been found fallen from his horse, was usually in so apathetic a condition that the exits and entrances into his room were not felt to be of great importance. He had lain so still, with his eyes closed, all this morning, that Maggie told her aunt Moss she must not expect her father to take any notice of them. They entered very quietly, and Mrs Moss took her seat near the head of the bed, while Maggie sat in her old place on the bed, and put her hand on her father's, without causing any change in his face.

Mr Glegg and Tom had also entered, treading softly, and were busy selecting the key of the old oak chest from the bunch which Tom had brought from his father's bureau. They succeeded in opening the chest - which stood opposite the foot of Mr Tulliver's bed - and propping the lid with the iron holder, without much noise.

`There's a tin box,' whispered Mr Glegg, `he'd most like put a small thing like a note in there. Lift it out, Tom; but I'll just lift up these deeds - they're the deeds o' the house and mill, I suppose - and see what there is under 'em.'

Mr Glegg had lifted out the parchments and had fortunately drawn back a little, when the iron holder gave way, and the heavy lid fell with a loud bang that resounded over the house.

Perhaps there was something in that sound more than the mere fact of the strong vibration that produced the instantaneous effect on the frame of the prostrate man, and for the time completely shook off the obstruction of paralysis. The chest had belonged to his father and his father's father, and it had always been rather a solemn business to visit it. All long-known objects, even a mere window-fastening or a particular door latch, have sounds which are a sort of recognised voice to us - a voice that will thrill and awaken when it has been used to touch deep-lying fibres. In the same moment when all the eyes in the room were turned upon him, he started up and looked at the chest, the parchments in Mr Glegg's hand, and Tom holding the tin box, with a glance of perfect consciousness and recognition.

`What are you going to do with those deeds?' he said, in his ordinary tone of sharp questioning whenever he was irritated. `Come here, Tom. What do you do, going to my chest?'

Tom obeyed, with some trembling: it was the first time his father had recognised him. But instead of saying anything more to him, his father continued to look with a growing distinctness of suspicion at Mr Glegg and the deeds.

`What's been happening then?' he said, sharply. `What are you meddling with my deeds for? Is Wakem laying hold of everything?... Why don't you tell me what you've been a-doing?' he added, impatiently, as Mr Glegg advanced to the foot of the bed before speaking.

`No, no, friend Tulliver,' said Mr Glegg, in a soothing tone. `Nobody's getting hold of anything as yet. We only came to look and see what was in the chest. You've been ill, you know, and we've had to look after things a bit. But let's hope you'll soon be well enough to attend to everything yourself.'

Mr Tulliver looked round him meditatively - at Tom, at Mr Glegg and at Maggie; then suddenly appearing aware that some one was seated by his side at the head of the bed, he turned sharply round and saw his sister.

`Eh, Gritty!' he said in the half-sad, affectionate tone in which he had been wont to speak to her, `what, you're there, are you? How could you manage to leave the children?'

`O, brother!' said good Mrs Moss, too impulsive to be prudent, `I'm thankful I'm come now to see you yourself again - I thought you'd never know us any more.'

`What, have I had a stroke?' said Mr Tulliver, anxiously, looking at Mr Glegg.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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