make the assets shrink into unequivocal disproportion: `not more than ten or twelve shillings in the pound,' predicted Mr Deane, in a decided tone, tightening his lips; and the words fell on Tom like a scalding liquid, leaving a continual smart.

He was sadly in want of something to keep up his spirits a little in the unpleasant newness of his position - suddenly transported from the easy carpeted ennui of study-hours at Mr Stelling's, and the busy idleness of castle-building in a `last half' at school, to the companionship of sacks and hides, and bawling men thundering down heavy weights at his elbow. The first step towards getting on in the world was a chill, dusty, noisy affair, and implied going without one's tea in order to stay in St Ogg's and have an evening lesson from a one-armed elderly clerk, in a room smelling strongly of bad tobacco. Tom's young pink and white face had its colours very much deadened by the time he took off his hat at home and sat down with keen hunger to his supper. No wonder he was a little cross if his mother or Maggie spoke to him.

But all this while, Mrs Tulliver was brooding over a scheme by which she and no one else, would avert the result most to be dreaded, and prevent Wakem from entertaining the purpose of bidding for the mill. Imagine a truly respectable and amiable hen, by some portentous anomaly, taking to reflection and inventing combinations by which she might prevail on Hodge not to wring her neck or send her and her chicks to market: the result could hardly be other than much cackling and fluttering. Mrs Tulliver, seeing that everything had gone wrong, had begun to think that she had been too passive in life, and that, if she had applied her mind to business, and taken a strong resolution now and then, it would have been all the better for her and her family. Nobody, it appeared, had thought of going to speak to Wakem on this business of the mill, and yet, Mrs Tulliver reflected, it would have been quite the shortest method of securing the right end. It would have been of no use, to be sure, for Mr Tulliver to go - even if he had been able and willing - for he had been `going to law against Wakem' and abusing him for the last ten years; Wakem was always likely to have a spite against him. And now that Mrs Tulliver had come to the conclusion that her husband was very much in the wrong to bring her into this trouble, she was inclined to think that his opinion of Wakem was wrong too. To be sure, Wakem had `put the bailies in the house and sold them up,' but she supposed he did that to please the man that lent Mr Tulliver the money, for a lawyer had more folks to please than one, and he wasn't likely to put Mr Tulliver who had gone to law with him above everybody else in the world. The attorney might be a very reasonable man - why not? - He had married a Miss Clint, and at the time Mrs Tulliver had heard of that marriage, the summer when she wore her blue satin spencer, and had not yet any thoughts of Mr Tulliver, she knew no harm of Wakem. And certainly towards herself - whom he knew to have been a Miss Dodson - it was out of all possibility that he could entertain anything but good will, when it was once brought home to his observation that she, for her part, had never wanted to go to law, and indeed was at present disposed to take Mr Wakem's view of all subjects rather than her husband's. In fact, if that attorney saw a respectable matron like herself disposed `to give him good words' why shouldn't he listen to her representations? For she would put the matter clearly before him which had never been done yet. And he would never go and bid for the mill on purpose to spite her, an innocent woman, who thought it likely enough that she had danced with him in their youth at Squire Darleigh's, for at those big dances she had often and often danced with young men whose names she had forgotten.

Mrs Tulliver hid these reasonings in her own bosom; for when she had thrown out a hint to Mr Deane and Mr Glegg, that she wouldn't mind going to speak to Wakem herself, they had said, `No, no, no,' and `Pooh, pooh,' and `Let Wakem alone,' in the tone of men who were not likely to give a candid attention to a more definite exposition of her project. Still less dared she mention the plan to Tom and Maggie, for `the children were always so against everything their mother said,' and Tom, she observed, was almost as much set against Wakem as his father was. But this unusual concentration of thought naturally gave Mrs Tulliver an unusual power of device and determination, and a day or two before the sale to be held at the Golden Lion, when there was no longer any time to be lost she carried out her plan by a stratagem. There were pickles in question - a large stock of pickles and ketchup which Mrs Tulliver possessed and which Mr Hyndmarsh the grocer would certainly purchase if she could transact the business in a personal interview, so she would walk with Tom to St Ogg's that morning: and when Tom urged that she might let

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