Maggie and Lucy

BY the end of the week Dr Kenn had made up his mind that there was only one way in which he could secure Maggie a suitable living at St Ogg's. Even with his twenty years' experience as a parish priest, he was aghast at the obstinate continuance of imputations against her in the face of evidence. Hitherto he had been rather more adored and appealed to than was quite agreeable to him; but now, in attempting to open the ears of women to reason and their consciences to justice on behalf of Maggie Tulliver, he suddenly found himself as powerless as he was aware he would have been if he had attempted to influence the shape of bonnets. Dr Kenn could not be contradicted: he was listened to in silence; but when he left the room, a comparison of opinions among his hearers yielded much the same result as before. Miss Tulliver had undeniably acted in a blamable manner: even Dr Kenn did not deny that: how then could he think so lightly of her as to put that favourable interpretation on everything she had done? Even on the supposition that required the utmost stretch of belief - namely, that none of the things said about Miss Tulliver were true; still, since they had been said about her, they had cast an odour around her which must cause her to be shrunk from by every woman who had to take care of her own reputation - and of society. To have taken Maggie by the hand and said, `I will not believe unproved evil of you: my lips shall not utter it; my ears shall be closed against it. I, too, am an erring mortal, liable to stumble, apt to come short of my most earnest efforts. Your lot has been harder than mine, your temptation greater. Let us help each other to stand and walk without more falling' - to have done this would have demanded courage, deep pity, self-knowledge, generous trust - would have demanded a mind that tasted no piquancy in evil-speaking, that felt no self-exaltation in condemning, that cheated itself with no large words into the belief that life can have any moral end, any high religion, which excludes the striving after perfect truth, justice, and love towards the individual men and women who come across our own path. The ladies of St Ogg's were not beguiled by any wide speculative conceptions; but they had their favourite abstraction, called society, which served to make their consciences perfectly easy in doing what satisfied their own egoism - thinking and speaking the worst of Maggie Tulliver and turning their backs upon her. It was naturally disappointing to Dr Kenn, after two years of superfluous incense from his feminine parishioners, to find them suddenly maintaining their views in opposition to his; but then, they maintained them in opposition to a higher authority, which they had venerated longer. That authority had furnished a very explicit answer to persons who might inquire where their social duties began, and might be inclined to take wide views as to the starting-point. The answer had not turned on the ultimate good of society, but on `a certain man' who was found in trouble by the wayside. Not that St Ogg's was empty of women with some tenderness of heart and conscience: probably it had as fair a proportion of human goodness in it as any other small trading town of that day. But until every good man is brave, we must expect to find many good women timid: too timid even to believe in the correctness of their own best promptings, when these would place them in a minority. And the men at St Ogg's were not all brave, by any means: some of them were even fond of scandal - and to an extent that might have given their conversation an effeminate character, if it had not been distinguished by masculine jokes and by an occasional shrug of the shoulders at the mutual hatred of women. It was the general feeling of the masculine mind at St Ogg's that women were not to be interfered with in their treatment of each other.

And so, every direction in which Dr Kenn had turned in the hope of procuring some kind of recognition and some employment for Maggie, proved a disappointment to him. Mrs James Torry could not think of taking Maggie as a nursery governess, even temporarily - a young woman about whom `such things had been said,' and about whom `gentlemen joked;' and Miss Kirke who had a spinal complaint and wanted a reader and companion, felt quite sure that Maggie's mind must be of a quality with which she, for her part, could not risk any contact. Why did not Miss Tulliver accept the shelter offered her by her aunt Glegg? - it did not become a girl like her to refuse it. Or else, why did she not go out of the neighbourhood, and get a situation where she was not known? (It was not apparently of so much importance that she should carry her dangerous tendencies into strange families unknown at St Ogg's.) She must be very bold and hardened to wish to stay in a parish where she was so much stared at and whispered about.

Dr Kenn, having great natural firmness, began, in the presence of this opposition, as every firm man would have done, to contract a certain strength of determination over and above what would have been called forth by the end in view. He himself wanted a daily governess for his younger children; and though he had hesitated in the first instance to offer this position to Maggie, the resolution to protest with the

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