The natural strength and firmness of his nature was beginning to assert itself, urged by the double stimulus of resentment against his aunts, and the sense that he must behave like a man and take care of his mother.
"Don't fret, mother," he said tenderly. "I shall soon be able to get money; I'll get a situation of some sort."
"Bless you, my boy!" said Mrs. Tulliver, a little soothed. Then, looking round sadly, "But I shouldn't ha' minded so much if we could ha' kept the things wi' my name on 'em."
Maggie had witnessed this scene with gathering anger. The implied reproaches against her father — her father, who was lying there in a sort of living death — neutralized all her pity for griefs about tablecloths and china; and her anger on her father's account was heightened by some egoistic resentment at Tom's silent concurrence with her mother in shutting her out from the common calamity. She had become almost indifferent to her mother's habitual depreciation of her, but she was keenly alive to any sanction of it, however passive, that she might suspect in Tom. Poor Maggie was by no means made up of unalloyed devotedness, but put forth large claims for herself where she loved strongly. She burst out at last in an agitated, almost violent tone: "Mother, how can you talk so; as if you cared only for things with your name on, and not for what has my father's name too; and to care about anything but dear father himself! — when he's lying there, and may never speak to us again. Tom, you ought to say so too; you ought not to let any one find fault with my father."
Maggie, almost choked with mingled grief and anger, left the room, and took her old place on her father's bed. Her heart went out to him with a stronger movement than ever, at the thought that people would blame him. Maggie hated blame; she had been blamed all her life, and nothing had come of it but evil tempers.
Her father had always defended and excused her, and her loving remembrance of his tenderness was a force within her that would enable her to do or bear anything for his sake.
Tom was a little shocked at Maggie's outburst, — telling him as well as his mother what it was right to do! She ought to have learned better than have those hectoring, assuming manners, by this time. But he presently went into his father's room, and the sight there touched him in a way that effaced the slighter impressions of the previous hour. When Maggie saw how he was moved, she went to him and put her arm round his neck as he sat by the bed, and the two children forgot everything else in the sense that they had one father and one sorrow.