But the springing tears were checked by new terror, when two men came up, whose approach had been the cause of the sudden excitement.
Mr. Tulliver was still predominating, in his own imagination, as he approached St. Ogg’s, through which he had to pass on his way homeward.
Maggie looked up in the new face rather tremblingly as it approached, and was reassured by the thought that her aunt Pullet and the rest were right when they called her a gypsy; for this face, with the bright dark eyes and the long hair, was really something like what she used to see in the glass before she cut her hair off.
Uncle Pullet had seen the expected party approaching from the window, and made haste to unbar and unchain the front door, kept always in this fortified condition from fear of tramps, who might be supposed to know of the glass case of stuffed birds in the hall, and to contemplate rushing in and carrying it away on their heads.
Tom approached the subject carefully, as he was seated on the hearth with his father that evening, and Mr. Tulliver listened, leaning forward in his arm-chair and looking up in Tom’s face with a sceptical glance.
He walked toward her now, and Maggie, perceiving some one approaching, roused herself to look up and be prepared to speak.
He was in reality looking at Maggie who had not taken the slightest notice of his approach.
The shaking of hands was a melancholy and silent ceremony, till uncle Pullet observed, as Tom approached him: "Well, young sir, we’ve been talking as we should want your pen and ink; you can write rarely now, after all your schooling, I should think."
Time would have seemed to creep to the watchers by the bed, if it had only been measured by the doubtful, distant hope which kept count of the moments within the chamber; but it was measured for them by a fast-approaching dread which made the nights come too quickly.
"Let me introduce you to my cousin, Miss Tulliver," said Lucy, turning with wicked enjoyment toward Maggie, who now approached from the farther window.
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Simmering in this way, Mr. Tulliver approached the yardgates of Dorlcote Mill, near enough to see a well-known figure coming out of them on a fine black horse.
But the subjects on which he longed to be informed were so steep and difficult of approach, that his tongue was likely to run on along the level rather than to carry him on that unbeaten road.
Stephen, watching her with that look of desperation which had come over him like a lurid light, approached slowly from the door, seated himself close beside her, and grasped her hand.
As he was walking with his back toward the entrance gate, and his face toward the rushing mill-stream, a tall, dark-eyed figure, that we know well, approached the gate, and paused to look at him with a fast-beating heart.
She must get her boat into the current of the Floss, else she would never be able to pass the Ripple and approach the house; this was the thought that occurred to her, as she imagined with more and more vividness the state of things round the old home.
Color was beginning to awake now, and as she approached the Dorlcote fields, she could discern the tints of the trees, could see the old Scotch firs far to the right, and the home chestnuts,—oh, how deep they lay in the water,—deeper than the trees on this side the hill!
Stephen’s passionate words made the vision of such a life more fully present to her than it had ever been before; and the vision for the time excluded all realities,—all except the returning sun-gleams which broke out on the waters as the evening approached, and mingled with the visionary sunlight of promised happiness; all except the hand that pressed hers, and the voice that spoke to her, and the eyes that looked at her with grave, unspeakable love.
At last she was close by Lucy; and Tom, who had been aware of her approach, but would not notice it till he was obliged, turned round and said,— "Now, get away, Maggie; there’s no room for you on the grass here.