The Mill on the Floss HTML version
II.6. A Love-Scene
Poor Tom bore his severe pain heroically, and was resolute in not "telling" of Mr.
Poulter more than was unavoidable; the five-shilling piece remained a secret
even to Maggie. But there was a terrible dread weighing on his mind, so terrible
that he dared not even ask the question which might bring the fatal "yes"; he
dared not ask the surgeon or Mr. Stelling, "Shall I be lame, Sir?" He mastered
himself so as not to cry out at the pain; but when his foot had been dressed, and
he was left alone with Maggie seated by his bedside, the children sobbed
together, with their heads laid on the same pillow. Tom was thinking of himself
walking about on crutches, like the wheelwright's son; and Maggie, who did not
guess what was in his mind, sobbed for company. It had not occurred to the
surgeon or to Mr. Stelling to anticipate this dread in Tom's mind, and to reassure
him by hopeful words. But Philip watched the surgeon out of the house, and
waylaid Mr. Stelling to ask the very question that Tom had not dared to ask for
"I beg your pardon, sir,--but does Mr. Askern say Tulliver will be lame?"
"Oh, no; oh, no," said Mr. Stelling, "not permanently; only for a little while."
"Did he tell Tulliver so, sir, do you think?"
"No; nothing was said to him on the subject."
"Then may I go and tell him, sir?"
"Yes, to be sure; now you mention it, I dare say he may be troubling about that.
Go to his bedroom, but be very quiet at present."
It had been Philip's first thought when he heard of the accident,--"Will Tulliver be
lame? It will be very hard for him if he is"; and Tom's hitherto unforgiven offences
were washed out by that pity. Philip felt that they were no longer in a state of
repulsion, but were being drawn into a common current of suffering and sad
privation. His imagination did not dwell on the outward calamity and its future
effect on Tom's life, but it made vividly present to him the probable state of Tom's
feeling. Philip had only lived fourteen years, but those years had, most of them,
been steeped in the sense of a lot irremediably hard.
"Mr. Askern says you'll soon be all right again, Tulliver, did you know?" he said
rather timidly, as he stepped gently up to Tom's bed. "I've just been to ask Mr.
Stelling, and he says you'll walk as well as ever again by-and-day."
Tom looked up with that momentary stopping of the breath which comes with a
sudden joy; then he gave a long sigh, and turned his blue-gray eyes straight on
Philip's face, as he had not done for a fortnight or more. As for Maggie, this
intimation of a possibility she had not thought of before affected her as a new
trouble; the bare idea of Tom's being always lame overpowered the assurance
that such a misfortune was not likely to befall him, and she clung to him and cried
"Don't be a little silly, Magsie," said Tom, tenderly, feeling very brave now. "I shall
soon get well."