The Mill on the Floss By George Eliot Book 6: The Great Temptation: Chapter 9 - Charity in Full-Dress

But when the bazaar was fairly ended, and the cousins were alone again, resting together at home, Lucy said, —

"You must give up going to stay with your aunt Moss the day after to-morrow, Maggie; write a note to her, and tell her you have put it off at my request, and I'll send the man with it. She won't be displeased; you'll have plenty of time to go by-and-by; and I don't want you to go out of the way just now."

"Yes, indeed I must go, dear; I can't put it off. I wouldn't leave aunt Gritty out for the world. And I shall have very little time, for I'm going away to a new situation on the 25th of June."

"Maggie!" said Lucy, almost white with astonishment.

"I didn't tell you, dear," said Maggie, making a great effort to command herself, "because you've been so busy. But some time ago I wrote to our old governess, Miss Firniss, to ask her to let me know if she met with any situation that I could fill, and the other day I had a letter from her telling me that I could take three orphan pupils of hers to the coast during the holidays, and then make trial of a situation with her as teacher. I wrote yesterday to accept the offer."

Lucy felt so hurt that for some moments she was unable to speak.

"Maggie," she said at last, "how could you be so unkind to me — not to tell me — to take such a step — and now!" She hesitated a little, and then added, "And Philip? I thought everything was going to be so happy. Oh, Maggie, what is the reason? Give it up; let me write. There is nothing now to keep you and Philip apart."

"Yes," said Maggie, faintly. "There is Tom's feeling. He said I must give him up if I married Philip. And I know he will not change — at least not for a long while — unless something happened to soften him."

"But I will talk to him; he's coming back this week. And this good news about the Mill will soften him. And I'll talk to him about Philip. Tom's always very compliant to me; I don't think he's so obstinate."

"But I must go," said Maggie, in a distressed voice. "I must leave some time to pack. Don't press me to stay, dear Lucy."

Lucy was silent for two or three minutes, looking away and ruminating. At length she knelt down by her cousin, and looking up in her face with anxious seriousness, said, —

"Maggie, is it that you don't love Philip well enough to marry him? Tell me — trust me."

Maggie held Lucy's hands tightly in silence a little while. Her own hands were quite cold. But when she spoke, her voice was quite clear and distinct.

"Yes, Lucy, I would choose to marry him. I think it would be the best and highest lot for me, — to make his life happy. He loved me first. No one else could be quite what he is to me. But I can't divide myself from my brother for life. I must go away, and wait. Pray don't speak to me again about it."

Lucy obeyed in pain and wonder. The next word she said was, —

"Well, dear Maggie, at least you will go to the dance at Park House to-morrow, and have some music and brightness, before you go to pay these dull dutiful visits. Ah! here come aunty and the tea."

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