"I've made up my mind, Bessy, and I'll be as good as my word to you. There'll be the same grave made for us to lie down in, and we mustn't be bearing one another ill-will. I'll stop in the old place, and I'll serve under Wakem, and I'll serve him like an honest man; there's no Tulliver but what's honest, mind that, Tom," — here his voice rose, — "they'll have it to throw up against me as I paid a dividend, but it wasn't my fault; it was because there's raskills in the world. They've been too many for me, and I must give in. I'll put my neck in harness, — for you've a right to say as I've brought you into trouble, Bessy, — and I'll serve him as honest as if he was no raskill; I'm an honest man, though I shall never hold my head up no more. I'm a tree as is broke — a tree as is broke."
He paused and looked on the ground. Then suddenly raising his head, he said, in a louder yet deeper tone:
"But I won't forgive him! I know what they say, he never meant me any harm. That's the way Old Harry props up the rascals. He's been at the bottom of everything; but he's a fine gentleman, — I know, I know. I shouldn't ha' gone to law, they say. But who made it so as there was no arbitratin', and no justice to be got? It signifies nothing to him, I know that; he's one o' them fine gentlemen as get money by doing business for poorer folks, and when he's made beggars of 'em he'll give 'em charity. I won't forgive him! I wish he might be punished with shame till his own son 'ud like to forget him. I wish he may do summat as they'd make him work at the treadmill! But he won't, — he's too big a raskill to let the law lay hold on him. And you mind this, Tom, — you never forgive him neither, if you mean to be my son. There'll maybe come a time when you may make him feel; it'll never come to me; I'n got my head under the yoke. Now write — write it i' the Bible."
"Oh, father, what?" said Maggie, sinking down by his knee, pale and trembling. "It's wicked to curse and bear malice."
"It isn't wicked, I tell you," said her father, fiercely. "It's wicked as the raskills should prosper; it's the Devil's doing. Do as I tell you, Tom. Write."
"What am I to write?" said Tom, with gloomy submission.
"Write as your father, Edward Tulliver, took service under John Wakem, the man as had helped to ruin him, because I'd promised my wife to make her what amends I could for her trouble, and because I wanted to die in th' old place where I was born and my father was born. Put that i' the right words — you know how — and then write, as I don't forgive Wakem for all that; and for all I'll serve him honest, I wish evil may befall him. Write that."
There was a dead silence as Tom's pen moved along the paper; Mrs. Tulliver looked scared, and Maggie trembled like a leaf.
"Now let me hear what you've wrote," said Mr. Tulliver, Tom read aloud slowly.
"Now write — write as you'll remember what Wakem's done to your father, and you'll make him and his feel it, if ever the day comes. And sign your name Thomas Tulliver."
"Oh no, father, dear father!" said Maggie, almost choked with fear. "You shouldn't make Tom write that."
"Be quiet, Maggie!" said Tom. "I shall write it."