Mr Tulliver counted out the money, setting it in order on the table, and then said, glancing sharply at Tom,

`There, now! you see I was right enough.'

He paused, looking at the money with bitter despondency.

`There's more nor three hundred wanting - it'll be a fine while before I can save that. Losing that forty- two pound wi' the corn was a sore job. This world's been too many for me. It's took four year to lay this by - it's much if I'm above ground for another four year... I must trusten to you to pay 'em,' he went on with a trembling voice, `if you keep i' the same mind now you're coming o' age... But you're like enough to bury me first.'

He looked up in Tom's face with a querulous desire for some assurance.

`No, father,' said Tom, speaking with energetic decision, though there was tremor discernible in his voice too, `You will live to see the debts all paid. You shall pay them with your own hand.'

His tone implied something more than mere hopefulness or resolution. A slight electric shock seemed to pass through Mr Tulliver, and he kept his eyes fixed on Tom with a look of eager inquiry, while Maggie, unable to restrain herself, rushed to her father's side and knelt down by him. Tom was silent a little while, before he went on.

`A good while ago, my uncle Glegg lent me a little money to trade with, and that has answered. I have three hundred and twenty pounds in the bank.'

His mother's arms were round his neck as soon as the last words were uttered, and she said, half-crying,

`O my boy, I knew you'd make iverything right again, when you got a man.'

But his father was silent: the flood of emotion hemmed in all power of speech. Both Tom and Maggie were struck with fear lest the shock of joy might even be fatal. But the blessed relief of tears came. The broad chest heaved, the muscles of the face gave way, and the grey-haired man burst into loud sobs. The fit of weeping gradually subsided and he sat quiet, recovering the regularity of his breathing. At last he looked up at his wife and said, in a gentle tone,

`Bessy, you must come and kiss me now - the lad has made y' amends. You'll see a bit o' comfort again belike.'

When she had kissed him and he had held her hand a minute, his thoughts went back to the money.

`I wish you'd brought me the money to look at, Tom,' he said, fingering the sovereigns on the table. `I should ha' felt surer.'

`You shall see it tomorrow, father,' said Tom. `My uncle Deane has appointed the creditors to meet tomorrow at the Golden Lion, and he has ordered a dinner for them at two o'clock. My uncle Glegg and he will both be there. It was advertised in the Messenger on Saturday.'

`Then Wakem knows on't!' said Mr Tulliver, his eye kindling with triumphant fire. `Ah!' he went on, with a long-drawn guttural enunciation, taking out his snuff-box, the only luxury he had left himself, and tapping it with something of his old air of defiance. `I'll get from under his thumb now - though I must leave th' old mill. I thought I could ha' held out to die here - but I can't... We've got a glass o' nothing in the house, have we, Bessy?'

`Yes,' said Mrs Tulliver drawing out her much-reduced bunch of keys, `there's some brandy sister Deane brought me when I was ill.'

  By PanEris using Melati.

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