The Mill on the Floss HTML version

I.10. Maggie Behaves Worse Than She Expected
The startling object which thus made an epoch for uncle Pullet was no other than
little Lucy, with one side of her person, from her small foot to her bonnet-crown,
wet and discolored with mud, holding out two tiny blackened hands, and making
a very piteous face. To account for this unprecedented apparition in aunt Pullet's
parlor, we must return to the moment when the three children went to play out of
doors, and the small demons who had taken possession of Maggie's soul at an
early period of the day had returned in all the greater force after a temporary
absence. All the disagreeable recollections of the morning were thick upon her,
when Tom, whose displeasure toward her had been considerably refreshed by
her foolish trick of causing him to upset his cowslip wine, said, "Here, Lucy, you
come along with me," and walked off to the area where the toads were, as if
there were no Maggie in existence. Seeing this, Maggie lingered at a distance
looking like a small Medusa with her snakes cropped. Lucy was naturally pleased
that cousin Tom was so good to her, and it was very amusing to see him tickling
a fat toad with a piece of string when the toad was safe down the area, with an
iron grating over him. Still Lucy wished Maggie to enjoy the spectacle also,
especially as she would doubtless find a name for the toad, and say what had
been his past history; for Lucy had a delighted semibelief in Maggie's stories
about the live things they came upon by accident,--how Mrs. Earwig had a wash
at home, and one of her children had fallen into the hot copper, for which reason
she was running so fast to fetch the doctor. Tom had a profound contempt for
this nonsense of Maggie's, smashing the earwig at once as a superfluous yet
easy means of proving the entire unreality of such a story; but Lucy, for the life of
her, could not help fancying there was something in it, and at all events thought it
was very pretty make-believe. So now the desire to know the history of a very
portly toad, added to her habitual affectionateness, made her run back to Maggie
and say, "Oh, there is such a big, funny toad, Maggie! Do come and see!"
Maggie said nothing, but turned away from her with a deeper frown. As long as
Tom seemed to prefer Lucy to her, Lucy made part of his unkindness. Maggie
would have thought a little while ago that she could never be cross with pretty
little Lucy, any more than she could be cruel to a little white mouse; but then,
Tom had always been quite indifferent to Lucy before, and it had been left to
Maggie to pet and make much of her. As it was, she was actually beginning to
think that she should like to make Lucy cry by slapping or pinching her, especially
as it might vex Tom, whom it was of no use to slap, even if she dared, because
he didn't mind it. And if Lucy hadn't been there, Maggie was sure he would have
got friends with her sooner.
Tickling a fat toad who is not highly sensitive is an amusement that it is possible
to exhaust, and Tom by and by began to look round for some other mode of
passing the time. But in so prim a garden, where they were not to go off the
paved walks, there was not a great choice of sport. The only great pleasure such