MR. TULLIVER, even between the fits of spasmodic rigidity which had recurred at intervals ever since he had been found fallen from his horse, was usually in so apathetic a condition that the exits and entrances into his room were not felt to be of great importance. He had lain so still, with his eyes closed, all this morning, that Maggie told her aunt Moss she must not expect her father to take any notice of them.
Mr. Glegg and Tom had also entered, treading softly, and were busy selecting the key of the old oak chest from the bunch which Tom had brought from his fathers bureau. They succeeded in opening the chest,which stood opposite the foot of Mr. Tullivers bed,and propping the lid with the iron holder, without much noise.
Theres a tin box, whispered Mr. Glegg; hed most like put a small thing like a note in there. Lift it out, Tom; but Ill just lift up these deeds,theyre the deeds o the house and mill, I suppose,and see what there is under em.
Perhaps there was something in that sound more than the mere fact of the strong vibration that produced the instantaneous effect on the frame of the prostrate man, and for the time completely shook off the obstruction of paralysis. The chest had belonged to his father and his fathers father, and it had always been rather a solemn business to visit it. All long-known objects, even a mere window fastening or a particular door-latch, have sounds which are a sort of recognized voice to us,a voice that will thrill and awaken, when it has been used to touch deep-lying fibres. In the same moment, when all the eyes in the room were turned upon him, he started up and looked at the chest, the parchments in Mr. Gleggs hand, and Tom holding the tin box, with a glance of perfect consciousness and recognition.
Tom obeyed, with some trembling; it was the first time his father had recognized him. But instead of saying anything more to him, his father continued to look with a growing distinctness of suspicion at Mr. Glegg and the deeds.
Whats been happening, then? he said sharply. What are you meddling with my deeds for? Is Wakem laying hold of everything? Why dont you tell me what youve been a-doing? he added impatiently, as Mr. Glegg advanced to the foot of the bed before speaking.
No, no, friend Tulliver, said Mr. Glegg, in a soothing tone. Nobodys getting hold of anything as yet. We only came to look and see what was in the chest. Youve been ill, you know, and weve had to look after things a bit. But lets hope youll soon be well enough to attend to everything yourself.
Mr. Tulliver looked around him meditatively, at Tom, at Mr. Glegg, and at Maggie; then suddenly appearing aware that some one was seated by his side at the head of the bed he turned sharply round and saw his sister.
Mr. Tulliver fixed his eyes on the bed-clothes, and remained silent for two or three minutes. A new shadow came over his face. He looked up at Maggie first, and said in a lower tone, You got the letter, then, my wench?
Youll have to take care of em both if I die, you know, Tom. Youll be badly off, I doubt. But you must see and pay everybody. And mind,theres fifty pound o Lukes as I put into the business,he gave me a bit at a time, and hes got nothing to show for it. You must pay him first thing.
Ah! Im glad you thought o that, my lad, said Mr. Tulliver. I allays meant to be easy about that money, because o your aunt. You mustnt mind losing the money, if they cant pay it,and its like enough they cant. The notes in that box, mind! I allays meant to be good to you, Gritty, said Mr. Tulliver, turning to his sister; but you know you aggravated me when you would have Moss.
But its the fault o the law,its none o mine, he added angrily. Its the fault o raskills. Tom, you mind this: if ever youve got the chance, you make Wakem smart. If you dont, youre a good-for-nothing son. You might horse-whip him, but hed set the law on you,the laws made to take care o raskills.
Mr. Tulliver was getting excited, and an alarming flush was on his face. Mr. Glegg wanted to say something soothing, but he was prevented by Mr. Tullivers speaking again to his wife. Theyll make a shift to pay everything, Bessy, he said, and yet leave you your furniture; and your sistersll do something for youand Tomll grow upthough what hes to be I dont knowIve done what I couldIve given him a eddicationand theres the little wench, shell get marriedbut its a poor tale
The sanative effect of the strong vibration was exhausted, and with the last words the poor man fell again, rigid and insensible. Though this was only a recurrence of what had happened before, it struck all present as if it had been death, not only from its contrast with the completeness of the revival, but because his words had all had reference to the possibility that his death was near. But with poor Tulliver death was not to be a leap; it was to be a long descent under thickening shadows.
Mr. Turnbull was sent for; but when he heard what had passed, he said this complete restoration, though only temporary, was a hopeful sign, proving that there was no permanent lesion to prevent ultimate recovery.
Among the threads of the past which the stricken man had gathered up, he had omitted the bill of sale; the flash of memory had only lit up prominent ideas, and he sank into forgetfulness again with half his humiliation unlearned.
But Tom was clear upon two points,that his uncle Mosss note must be destroyed; and that Lukes money must be paid, if in no other way, out of his own and Maggies money now in the savings bank. There were subjects, you perceive, on which Tom was much quicker than on the niceties of classical construction, or the relations of a mathematical demonstration.