The Torn Nest Is Pierced by the Thorns

THERE is something sustaining in the very agitation that accompanies the first shocks of trouble, just as an acute pain is often a stimulus, and produces an excitement which is transient strength. It is in the slow, changed life that follows - in the time when sorrow has become stale and has no longer an emotive intensity that counteracts its pain, in the time when day follows day in dull unexpectant sameness and trial is a dreary routine - it is then that despair threatens: it is then that the peremptory hunger of the soul is felt, and eye and ear are strained after some unlearned secret of our existence which shall give to endurance the nature of satisfaction. This time of utmost need was come to Maggie, with her short span of thirteen years. To the usual precocity of the girl, she added that early experience of struggle, of conflict between the inward impulse and outward fact which is the lot of every imaginative and passionate nature; and the years since she hammered the nails into her wooden fetish among the worm-eaten shelves of the attic, had been filled with so eager a life in the triple world of reality, books and waking dreams, that Maggie was strangely old for her years in everything except in her entire want of that prudence and self-command which were the qualities that made Tom manly in the midst of his intellectual boyishness. And now her lot was beginning to have a still, sad monotony, which threw her more than ever on her inward self. Her father was able to attend to business again, his affairs were settled, and he was acting as Wakem's manager on the old spot. Tom went to and fro every morning and evening and became more and more silent in the short intervals at home: what was there to say? One day was like another, and Tom's interest in life, driven back and crushed on every other side, was concentrating itself into the one channel of ambitious resistance to misfortune. The peculiarities of his father and mother were very irksome to him now they were laid bare of all the softening accompaniments of an easy prosperous home, for Tom had very clear prosaic eyes not apt to be dimmed by mists of feeling or imagination. Poor Mrs Tulliver, it seemed, would never recover her old self - her placid household activity: how could she? The objects among which her mind had moved complacently were all gone: all the little hopes, and schemes, and speculations, all the pleasant little cares about her treasures which had made this world quite comprehensible to her for a quarter of a century, since she had made her first purchase of the sugar-tongs, had been suddenly snatched away from her, and she remained bewildered in this empty life. Why that would have happened to her which had not happened to other women, remained an insoluble question by which she expressed her perpetual ruminating comparison of the past with the present. It was piteous to see the comely blond stout woman getting thinner and more worn under a bodily as well as mental restlessness which made her often wander about the empty house after her work was done, until Maggie, becoming alarmed about her, would seek her and bring her down by telling her how it vexed Tom that she was injuring her health by never sitting down and resting herself. Yet amidst this helpless imbecility, there was a touching trait of humble self-devoting maternity, which made Maggie feel tenderly towards her poor mother amidst all the little wearing griefs caused by her mental feebleness. She would let Maggie do none of the work that was heaviest and most soiling to the hands, and was quite peevish when Maggie attempted to relieve her from her grate-brushing and scouring: `Let it alone, my dear, your hands 'ull get as hard as hard,' she would say: `it's your mother's place to do that - I can't do the sewing - my eyes fail me.' And she would still brush and carefully tend Maggie's hair, which she had become reconciled to, in spite of its refusal to curl, now it was so long and massy. Maggie was not her pet child - and, in general, would have been much better if she had been quite different; yet the womanly heart, so bruised in its small personal desires, found a future to rest on in the life of this young thing, and the mother pleased herself with wearing out her own hands to save the hands that had so much more life in them.

But the constant presence of her mother's regretful bewilderment was less painful to Maggie than that of her father's sullen incommunicative depression. As long as the paralysis was upon him and it seemed as if he might always be in a childlike condition of dependence - as long as he was still only half-awakened to his trouble, Maggie had felt the strong tide of pitying love almost as an inspiration, a new power, that would make the most difficult life easy for his sake; but now, instead of childlike dependence there had come a taciturn hard concentration of purpose in strange contrast with his old vehement communicativeness and high spirit, and this lasted from day to day and from week to week, the dull eye never brightening with any eagerness or any joy. It is something cruelly incomprehensible to youthful natures - this sombre sameness in middle-aged and elderly people whose life has resulted in disappointment and discontent,

  By PanEris using Melati.

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