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The Mill on the Floss
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I.4. Tom Is Expected
It was a heavy disappointment to Maggie that she was not allowed to go with her
father in the gig when he went to fetch Tom home from the academy; but the
morning was too wet, Mrs. Tulliver said, for a little girl to go out in her best
bonnet. Maggie took the opposite view very strongly, and it was a direct
consequence of this difference of opinion that when her mother was in the act of
brushing out the reluctant black crop Maggie suddenly rushed from under her
hands and dipped her head in a basin of water standing near, in the vindictive
determination that there should be no more chance of curls that day.
"Maggie, Maggie!" exclaimed Mrs. Tulliver, sitting stout and helpless with the
brushes on her lap, "what is to become of you if you're so naughty? I'll tell your
aunt Glegg and your aunt Pullet when they come next week, and they'll never
love you any more. Oh dear, oh dear! look at your clean pinafore, wet from top to
bottom. Folks 'ull think it's a judgment on me as I've got such a child,--they'll think
I've done summat wicked."
Before this remonstrance was finished, Maggie was already out of hearing,
making her way toward the great attic that run under the old high-pitched roof,
shaking the water from her black locks as she ran, like a Skye terrier escaped
from his bath. This attic was Maggie's favorite retreat on a wet day, when the
weather was not too cold; here she fretted out all her ill humors, and talked aloud
to the worm-eaten floors and the worm-eaten shelves, and the dark rafters
festooned with cobwebs; and here she kept a Fetish which she punished for all
her misfortunes. This was the trunk of a large wooden doll, which once stared
with the roundest of eyes above the reddest of cheeks; but was now entirely
defaced by a long career of vicarious suffering. Three nails driven into the head
commemorated as many crises in Maggie's nine years of earthly struggle; that
luxury of vengeance having been suggested to her by the picture of Jael
destroying Sisera in the old Bible. The last nail had been driven in with a fiercer
stroke than usual, for the Fetish on that occasion represented aunt Glegg. But
immediately afterward Maggie had reflected that if she drove many nails in she
would not be so well able to fancy that the head was hurt when she knocked it
against the wall, nor to comfort it, and make believe to poultice it, when her fury
was abated; for even aunt Glegg would be pitiable when she had been hurt very
much, and thoroughly humiliated, so as to beg her niece's pardon. Since then
she had driven no more nails in, but had soothed herself by alternately grinding
and beating the wooden head against the rough brick of the great chimneys that
made two square pillars supporting the roof. That was what she did this morning
on reaching the attic, sobbing all the while with a passion that expelled every
other form of consciousness,--even the memory of the grievance that had caused
it. As at last the sobs were getting quieter, and the grinding less fierce, a sudden
beam of sunshine, falling through the wire lattice across the worm-eaten shelves,
made her throw away the Fetish and run to the window. The sun was really