The Mill on the Floss HTML version

III.4. A Vanishing Gleam
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.
They entered very quietly, and Mrs. Moss took her seat near the head of the bed,
while Maggie sat in her old place on the bed, and put her hand on her father's
without causing any change in his face.
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
father's bureau. They succeeded in opening the chest,--which stood opposite the
foot of Mr. Tulliver's bed,--and propping the lid with the iron holder, without much
"There's a tin box," whispered Mr. Glegg; "he'd most like put a small thing like a
note in there. Lift it out, Tom; but I'll just lift up these deeds,--they're the deeds o'
the house and mill, I suppose,--and see what there is under 'em."
Mr. Glegg had lifted out the parchments, and had fortunately drawn back a little,
when the iron holder gave way, and the heavy lid fell with a loud bang that
resounded over the house.
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 father's 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. Glegg's hand, and
Tom holding the tin box, with a glance of perfect consciousness and recognition.
"What are you going to do with those deeds?" he said, in his ordinary tone of
sharp questioning whenever he was irritated. "Come here, Tom. What do you do,
going to my chest?"
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.
"What's been happening, then?" he said sharply. "What are you meddling with
my deeds for? Is Wakem laying hold of everything? Why don't you tell me what
you've 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. "Nobody's getting
hold of anything as yet. We only came to look and see what was in the chest.