`Very well! you may leave my premises tomorrow, then: hold your insolent tongue and let me pass.' (Tulliver was backing his horse across the road to hem Wakem in.)
`No, I shan't let you pass,' said Tulliver, getting fiercer. `I shall tell you what I think of you first. You're too big a raskill to get hanged - you're... '
`Let me pass, you ignorant brute, or I'll ride over you.'
Mr Tulliver, spurring his horse and raising his whip made a rush forward, and Wakem's horse, rearing and staggering backward, threw his rider from the saddle and sent him sideways on the ground. Wakem had had the presence of mind to loose the bridle at once, and as the horse only staggered a few paces and then stood still, he might have risen and remounted without more inconvenience than a bruise and a shake. But before he could rise, Tulliver was off his horse too. The sight of the long-hated predominant man down and in his power threw him into a frenzy of triumphant vengeance, which seemed to give him preternatural agility and strength. He rushed on Wakem, who was in the act of trying to recover his feet, grasped him by the left arm so as to press Wakem's whole weight on the right arm, which rested on the ground, and flogged him fiercely across the back with his riding-whip. Wakem shouted for help, but no help came, until a woman's scream was heard, and the cry of `Father, father!'
Suddenly, Wakem felt, something had arrested Mr Tulliver's arm, for the flogging ceased, and the grasp of his own arm was relaxed.
`Get away with you - go!' said Tulliver angrily. But it was not to Wakem that he spoke. Slowly the lawyer rose, and, as he turned his head, saw that Tulliver's arms were being held by a girl - rather by fear of hurting the girl that clung to him with all her young might.
`O Luke - mother - come and help Mr Wakem!' Maggie cried, as she heard the longed-for footsteps.
`Help me on to that low horse,' said Wakem to Luke, `then I shall perhaps manage: though - confound it - I think this arm is sprained.'
With some difficulty, Wakem was heaved on to Tulliver's horse. Then he turned towards the miller and said, with white rage, `You'll suffer for this, sir. Your daughter is a witness that you've assaulted me.'
`I don't care,' said Mr Tulliver, in a thick, fierce voice, `Go and show your back, and tell 'em I thrashed you. Tell 'em I've made things a bit more even i' the world.'
`Ride my horse home with me,' said Wakem to Luke. `By the Toften Ferry - not through the town.' `Father, come in!' said Maggie, imploringly. Then, seeing that Wakem had ridden off and that no further violence was possible, she slackened her hold and burst into hysteric sobs, while poor Mrs Tulliver stood by in silence, quivering with fear. But Maggie became conscious that as she was slackening her hold, her father was beginning to grasp her and lean on her. The surprise checked her sobs.
`I feel ill - faintish,' he said. `Help me in, Bessy - I'm giddy: I've a pain i' the head.'
He walked in slowly, propped by his wife and daughter, and tottered into his arm-chair. The almost purple flush had given way to paleness, and his hand was cold.
`Hadn't we better send for the doctor?' said Mrs Tulliver.
He seemed to be too faint and suffering to hear her, but presently, when she said to Maggie, `Go and see for somebody to fetch the doctor,' he looked up at her with full comprehension, and said, `Doctor? No - No doctor. It's my head - that's all. Help me to bed.'
Sad ending to the day that had risen on them all like a beginning of better times! But mingled seed must bear a mingled crop.
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