THAT first moment of renunciation and submission was followed by days of violent struggle in the millers mind, as the gradual access of bodily strength brought with it increasing ability to embrace in one view all the conflicting conditions under which he found himself. Feeble limbs easily resign themselves to be tethered, and when we are subdued by sickness it seems possible to us to fulfil pledges which the old vigor comes back and breaks. There were times when poor Tulliver thought the fulfilment of his promise to Bessy was something quite too hard for human nature; he had promised her without knowing what she was going to say,she might as well have asked him to carry a ton weight on his back. But again, there were many feelings arguing on her side, besides the sense that life had been made hard to her by having married him. He saw a possibility, by much pinching, of saving money out of his salary toward paying a second dividend to his creditors, and it would not be easy elsewhere to get a situation such as he could fill.
He had led an easy life, ordering much and working little, and had no aptitude for any new business. He must perhaps take to day-labor, and his wife must have help from her sisters,a prospect doubly bitter to him, now they had let all Bessys precious things be sold, probably because they liked to set her against him, by making her feel that he had brought her to that pass. He listened to their admonitory talk, when they came to urge on him what he was bound to do for poor Bessys sake, with averted eyes, that every now and then flashed on them furtively when their backs were turned. Nothing but the dread of needing their help could have made it an easier alternative to take their advice.
But the strongest influence of all was the love of the old premises where he had run about when he was a boy, just as Tom had done after him. The Tullivers had lived on this spot for generations, and he had sat listening on a low stool on winter evenings while his father talked of the old half-timbered mill that had been there before the last great floods which damaged it so that his grandfather pulled it down and built the new one. It was when he got able to walk about and look at all the old objects that he felt the strain of his clinging affection for the old home as part of his life, part of himself. He couldnt bear to think of himself living on any other spot than this, where he knew the sound of every gate door, and felt that the shape and color of every roof and weather-stain and broken hillock was good, because his growing senses had been fed on them. Our instructed vagrancy, which was hardly time to linger by the hedgerows, but runs away early to the tropics, and is at home with palms and banyans,which is nourished on books of travel and stretches the theatre of its imagination to the Zambesi,can hardly get a dim notion of what an old-fashioned man like Tulliver felt for this spot, where all his memories centred, and where life seemed like a familiar smooth-handled tool that the fingers clutch with loving ease. And just now he was living in that freshened memory of the far-off time which comes to us in the passive hours of recovery from sickness.
Ay, Luke, he said one afternoon, as he stood looking over the orchard gate, I remember the day they planted those apple-trees. My father was a huge man for planting,it was like a merry-making to him to get a cart full o young trees; and I used to stand i the cold with him, and follow him about like a dog.
The old mill ud miss me, I think, Luke. Theres a story as when the mill changes hands, the rivers angry; Ive heard my father say it many a time. Theres no telling whether there maynt be summat in the story, for this is a puzzling world, and Old Harrys got a finger in itits been too many for me, I know.
Ay, sir, said Luke, with soothing sympathy, what wi the rust on the wheat, an the firin o the ricks an that, as Ive seen i my time,things often looks comical; theres the bacon fat wi our last pig run away like butter,it leaves nought but a scratchin.
Its just as if it was yesterday, now, Mr. Tulliver went on, when my father began the malting. I remember, the day they finished the malt-house, I thought summat great was to come of it; for wed a plum-pudding that day and a bit of a feast, and I said to my mother,she was a fine dark-eyed woman, my mother was,the little wench ull be as like her as two peas. Here Mr. Tulliver put his stick between his legs, and took out his snuff-box, for the greater enjoyment of this anecdote, which dropped from him in fragments, as if he every other moment lost narration in vision. I was a little chap no higher much than my mothers knee,she was sore fond of us children, Gritty and me,and so I said to her, Mother, I said, shall we have plum-pudding every day because o the malt-house? She used to tell me o that till her dying day. She was but a young woman when she died, my mother was. But its forty good year since they finished the malt-house, and it isnt many days out of em all as I havent looked out into the yard there, the first thing in the morning,all weathers, from years end to years end. I should go off my head in a new place. I should be like as if Id lost my way. Its all hard, whichever way I look at it,the harness ull gall me, but it ud be summat to draw along the old road, instead of a new un.
Ay, sir, said Luke, youd be a deal better here nor in some new place. I cant abide new places mysen: things is allays awkard,narrow-wheeled waggins, belike, and the stiles all another sort, an oat-cake i some places, towrt th head o the Floss, there. Its poor work, changing your country-side.
Neer mind, sir, said Luke, I shant plague mysen. In been wi you twenty year, an you cant get twenty year wi whistlin for em, no more nor you can make the trees grow: you mun wait till God Amighty sends em. I cant abide new victual nor new faces, I cant,you niver know but what theyll gripe you.
The walk was finished in silence after this, for Luke had disburthened himself of thoughts to an extent that left his conversational resources quite barren, and Mr. Tulliver had relapsed from his recollections into a painful meditation on the choice of hardships before him. Maggie noticed that he was unusually absent that evening at tea; and afterward he sat leaning forward in his chair, looking at the ground, moving his lips, and shaking his head from time to time. Then he looked hard at Mrs. Tulliver, who was knitting opposite him, then at Maggie, who, as she bent over her sewing, was intensely conscious of some drama going forward in her fathers mind. Suddenly he took up the poker and broke the large coal fiercely.
Dear heart, Mr. Tulliver, what can you be thinking of? said his wife, looking up in alarm; its very wasteful, breaking the coal, and weve got hardly any large coal left, and I dont know where the rest is to come from.
Maggie obeyed, wondering; but her father gave no further orders, and only sat listening for Toms footfall on the gravel, apparently irritated by the wind, which had risen, and was roaring so as to drown all other sounds. There was a strange light in his eyes that rather frightened Maggie; she began to wish that Tom would come, too.
There he is, then, said Mr. Tulliver, in an excited way, when the knock came at last. Maggie went to open the door, but her mother came out of the kitchen hurriedly, saying, Stop a bit, Maggie; Ill open it.
Ive made up my mind, Bessy, and Ill be as good as my word to you. Therell be the same grave made for us to lie down in, and we mustnt be bearing one another ill-will. Ill stop in the old place, and Ill serve under Wakem, and Ill serve him like an honest man; theres no Tulliver but whats honest, mind that, Tom,here his voice rose,theyll have it to throw up against me as I paid a dividend, but it wasnt my fault; it was because theres raskills in the world. Theyve been too many for me, and I must give in. Ill put my neck in harness,for youve a right to say as Ive brought you into trouble, Bessy,and Ill serve him as honest as if he was no raskill; Im an honest man, though I shall never hold my head up no more. Im a tree as is brokea tree as is broke.
But I wont forgive him! I know what they say, he never meant me any harm. Thats the way Old Harry props up the rascals. Hes been at the bottom of everything; but hes a fine gentleman,I know, I know. I shouldnt ha gone to law, they say. But who made it so as there was no arbitratin, and no justice to be got? It signifies nothing to him, I know that; hes one o them fine gentlemen as get money by doing business for poorer folks, and when hes made beggars of em hell give em charity. I wont forgive him! I wish he might be punished with shame till his own son ud like to forget him. I wish he may do summat as theyd make him work at the treadmill! But he wont,hes too big a raskill to let the law lay hold on him. And you mind this, Tom,you never forgive him neither, if you mean to be my son. Therell maybe come a time when you may make him feel; itll never come to me; In got my head under the yoke. Now writewrite it i the Bible.
Write as your father, Edward Tulliver, took service under John Wakem, the man as had helped to ruin him, because Id promised my wife to make her what amends I could for her trouble, and because I wanted to die in th old place where I was born and my father was born. Put that i the right wordsyou know howand then write, as I dont forgive Wakem for all that; and for all Ill serve him honest, I wish evil may befall him. Write that.