His good nature had taken off the keenest edge of her suffering, and nuts with cowslip wine began to assert their legitimate influence.
He was irate and defiant; and Tom, though he espoused his father’s quarrels and shared his father’s sense of injury, was not without some of the feeling that oppressed Maggie when Mr. Tulliver got louder and more angry in narration and assertion with the increased leisure of dessert.
Poor Tom! he had just come from being lectured and made to feel his inferiority; the reaction of his strong, self-asserting nature must take place somehow; and here was a case in which he could justly show himself dominant.
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.
Surely there was some tenderness and bravery mingled with the worldliness and self-assertion of that little speech; but Maggie held it as dross, overlooking the grains of gold, and took Tom’s rebuke as one of her outward crosses.
Her mother felt the change in her with a sort of puzzled wonder that Maggie should be "growing up so good"; it was amazing that this once "contrairy" child was become so submissive, so backward to assert her own will.
The ox—we may venture to assert it on the authority of a great classic—is not given to use his teeth as an instrument of attack, and Tom was an excellent bovine lad, who ran at questionable objects in a truly ingenious bovine manner; but he had blundered on Philip’s tenderest point, and had caused him as much acute pain as if he had studied the means with the nicest precision and the most envenomed spite.
He made his speech, asserting his honest principles with his old confident eagerness, alluding to the rascals and the luck that had been against him, but that he had triumphed over, to some extent, by hard efforts and the aid of a good son; and winding up with the story of how Tom had got the best part of the needful money.
Let a prejudice be bequeathed, carried in the air, adopted by hearsay, caught in through the eye,—however it may come, these minds will give it a habitation; it is something to assert strongly and bravely, something to fill up the void of spontaneous ideas, something to impose on others with the authority of conscious right; it is at once a staff and a baton.
At last she said, with a passionate assertion of her conviction, as much against herself as against him,— "That seems right—at first; but when I look further, I’m sure it is not right.
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"And after all," he went on, in an impatient tone, trying to defeat his own scruples as well as hers, "I am breaking no positive engagement; if Lucy’s affections had been withdrawn from me and given to some one else, I should have felt no right to assert a claim on her.