��Well, my dears,�� said aunt Pullet, in a
compassionate voice, ��you grow wonderful fast. I doubt
they��ll outgrow their strength,�� she added, looking
over their heads, with a melancholy expression, at their mother. ��I
think the gell has too much hair. I��d have it thinned and cut shorter,
sister, if I was you; it isn��t good for her health.
It��s that as makes her skin so brown, I shouldn��t
wonder. Don��t you think so, sister Deane?��
��Why, what can you be going to send him to a parson
for?�� he said, with an amazed twinkling in his eyes, looking at Mr.
Glegg and Mr. Deane, to see if they showed any signs of comprehension.
��Why, little miss, you��ve made yourself look very
funny,�� said Uncle Pullet, and perhaps he never in his life made an
observation which was felt to be so lacerating.
you��re to come down this minute,�� said Kezia, entering
the room hurriedly. ��Lawks! what have you been a-doing? I never see
such a fright!��
��Why, Jane, what can I do? Mr.
Tulliver doesn��t like his dinner before two o��clock,
but I put it half an hour earlier because o�� you.��
He hurried downstairs and left poor Maggie to that bitter sense of the irrevocable
which was almost an every-day experience of her small soul. She could see clearly
enough, now the thing was done, that it was very foolish, and that she should have to
hear and think more about her hair than ever; for Maggie rushed to her deeds with
passionate impulse, and then saw not only their consequences, but what would have
happened if they had not been done, with all the detail and exaggerated circumstance
of an active imagination. Tom never did the same sort of foolish things as Maggie,
having a wonderful instinctive discernment of what would turn to his advantage or
disadvantage; and so it happened, that though he was much more wilful and inflexible
than Maggie, his mother hardly ever called him naughty. But if Tom did make a mistake
of that sort, he espoused it, and stood by it: he
��didn��t mind.�� If he broke the lash of
his father��s gigwhip by lashing the gate, he couldn��t
help it �� the whip shouldn��t have got caught in the
hinge. If Tom Tulliver whipped a gate, he was convinced, not that the whipping of
gates by all boys was a justifiable act, but that he, Tom Tulliver, was justifiable
in whipping that particular gate, and he wasn��t going to be sorry. But
Maggie, as she stood crying before the glass, felt it impossible that she should go
down to dinner and endure the severe eyes and severe words of her aunts, while Tom
and Lucy, and Martha, who waited at table, and perhaps her father and her uncles,
would laugh at her; for if Tom had laughed at her, of course every one else would;
and if she had only let her hair alone, she could have sat with Tom and Lucy, and had
the apricot pudding and the custard! What could she do but sob? She sat as helpless
and despairing among her black locks as Ajax among the slaughtered sheep. Very
trivial, perhaps, this anguish seems to weather-worn mortals who have to think of
Christmas bills, dead loves, and broken friendships; but it was not less bitter to
Maggie �� perhaps it was even more bitter �� than what we
are fond of calling antithetically the real troubles of mature life.
��Ah, my child, you will have real troubles to fret about by and
by,�� is the consolation we have almost all of us had administered to
us in our childhood, and have repeated to other children since we have been grown up.
We have all of us sobbed so piteously, standing with tiny bare legs above our little
socks, when we lost sight of our mother or nurse in some strange place; but we can no
longer recall the poignancy of that moment and weep over it, as we do over the
remembered sufferings of five or ten years ago. Every one of those keen moments has
left its trace, and lives in us still, but such traces have blent themselves
irrecoverably with the firmer texture of our youth and manhood; and so it comes that
we can look on at the troubles of our children with a smiling disbelief in the
reality of their pain. Is there any one who can recover the experience of his
childhood, not merely with a memory of what he did and what happened to him, of
what he liked and disliked when he was in frock and trousers, but with an intimate
penetration, a revived consciousness of what he felt then, when it was so long from
one Midsummer to another; what he felt when his school fellows shut him out of their
game because he would pitch the ball wrong out of mere wilfulness; or on a rainy day
in the holidays, when he didn��t know how to amuse himself, and fell
from idleness into mischief, from mischief into defiance, and from defiance into
sulkiness; or when his mother absolutely refused to let him have a tailed coat that
��half,�� although every other boy of his age had gone
into tails already? Surely if we could recall that early bitterness, and the dim
guesses, the strangely perspectiveless conception of life, that gave the bitterness
its intensity, we should not pooh-pooh the griefs of our children.
��You��ve got it,�� said Tom, in rather a
��Softly, softly, Jane; be reasonable, be
reasonable,�� said Mr. Glegg.