Daylight on the Wreck

IT was a clear frosty January day on which Mr Tulliver first came downstairs: the bright sun on the chestnut boughs and the roofs opposite his window had made him impatiently declare that he would be caged up no longer; he thought everywhere would be more cheery under this sunshine than his bedroom; for he knew nothing of the bareness below, which made the flood of sunshine importunate, as if it had an unfeeling pleasure in showing the empty places and the marks where well-known objects once had been. The impression on his mind that it was but yesterday when he received the letter from Mr Gore was so continually implied in his talk, and the attempts to convey to him the idea that many weeks had passed and much had happened since then had been so soon swept away by recurrent forgetfulness, that even Mr Turnbull had begun to despair of preparing him to meet the facts by previous knowledge. The full sense of the present could only be imparted gradually by new experience - not by mere words which must remain weaker than the impressions left by the old experience. This resolution to come downstairs was heard with trembling by the wife and children. Mrs Tulliver said Tom must not go to St Ogg's at the usual hour - he must wait and see his father downstairs: and Tom complied, though with an intense inward shrinking from the painful scene. The hearts of all three had been more deeply dejected than ever during the last few days. For Guest and Co. had not bought the mill: both mill and land had been knocked down to Wakem, who had been over the premises and had laid before Mr Deane and Mr Glegg, in Mrs Tulliver's presence, his willingness to employ Mr Tulliver, in case of his recovery, as a manager of the business. This proposition had occasioned much family debating. Uncles and aunts were almost unanimously of opinion that such an offer ought not to be rejected when there was nothing in the way but a feeling in Mr Tulliver's mind, which, as neither aunts nor uncles shared it, was regarded as entirely unreasonable and childish - indeed as a transferring towards Wakem of that indignation and hatred which Mr Tulliver ought properly to have directed against himself for his general quarrelsomeness and his special exhibition of it in going to law. Here was an opportunity for Mr Tulliver to provide for his wife and daughter without any assistance from his wife's relations, and without that too evident descent into pauperism which makes it annoying to respectable people to meet the degraded member of the family by the wayside. Mr Tulliver, Mrs Glegg considered, must be made to feel, when he came to his right mind, that he could never humble himself enough: for that had come which she had always foreseen would come of his insolence in time past `to them as were the best friends he'd got to look to.' Mr Glegg and Mr Deane were less stern in their views, but they both of them thought Tulliver had done enough harm by his hot- tempered crotchets, and ought to put them out of the question when a livelihood was offered him: Wakem showed a right feeling about the matter - he had no grudge against Tulliver. Tom had protested against entertaining the proposition: he shouldn't like his father to be under Wakem; he thought it would look mean-spirited; but his mother's main distress was the utter impossibility of ever `turning Mr Tulliver round about Wakem' or getting him to hear reason - no, they would all have to go and live in a pigsty on purpose to spite Wakem who spoke so as nobody could be fairer. Indeed, Mrs Tulliver's mind was reduced to such confusion by living in this strange medium of unaccountable sorrow, against which she continually appealed by asking, `O dear, what have I done to deserve worse than other women?' that Maggie began to suspect her poor mother's wits were quite going. `Tom,' she said, when they were out of their father's room together, `we must try to make father understand a little of what has happened before he goes downstairs. But we must get my mother away. She will say something that will do harm. Ask Kezia to fetch her down, and keep her engaged with something in the kitchen.'

Kezia was equal to the task. Having declared her intention of staying till the master could get about again, `wage or no wage,' she had found a certain recompense in keeping a strong hand over her mistress, scolding her for `moithering' herself and going about all day without changing her cap and looking as if she was `mushed.' Altogether this time of trouble was rather a Saturnalian time to Kezia; she could scold her betters with unreproved freedom. On this particular occasion there were drying clothes to be fetched in: she wished to know if one pair of hands could do everything indoors and out, and observed that she should have thought it would be good for Mrs Tulliver to put on her bonnet and get a breath of fresh air by doing that needful piece of work. Poor Mrs Tulliver went submissively downstairs: to be ordered about by a servant was the last remnant of her household dignities - she would soon have no servant to scold her.

  By PanEris using Melati.

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