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THE FETISH

THE FETISH

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Written by Hunter   
Wednesday, 08 October 2008 00:57

Before this remonstrance was finished, Maggie was already out of
hearing, making her way towards the great attic that ran under the old
high-pitched roof, shaking the water from her black locks as she ran,
like a Skye terrier escaped from his bath. This attic was Maggie's
favorite retreat on a wet day, when the weather was not too cold; here
she fretted out all her ill-humors, and talked aloud to the worm-eaten
floors and the worm-eaten shelves, and the dark rafters festooned with
cobwebs; and here she kept a Fetish [Footnote: Fetish (also spelt
"fetich"): a material object, venerated by certain African tribes; a
sort of idol, which is sometimes punished by its owner in disappointment
or anger.] which she punished for all her misfortunes. This was the
trunk of a large wooden doll, which once stared with the roundest of
eyes above the reddest of cheeks, but was now entirely defaced by a long
career of vicarious [Footnote: Vicarious: suffered or performed in place
of another.] suffering. Three nails driven into the head commemorated as
many crises in Maggie's nine years of earthly struggle; that luxury of
vengeance having been suggested to her by the picture of Jael [Footnote:
Jael: referring to the story of how Jael drove the nail into the
forehead of Sisera. _Judges_ IV: 17 to 22.] destroying Sisera in
the old Bible. The last nail had been driven in with a fiercer stroke
than usual, for the Fetish on that occasion represented Aunt Glegg. But
immediately afterwards Maggie had reflected that if she drove many nails
in, she would not be so well able to fancy that the head was hurt, when
she knocked it against the wall, nor to comfort it, and make believe to
poultice it, when her fury was abated; for even Aunt Glegg would be
pitiable when she had been hurt very much, and thoroughly humiliated, so
as to beg her niece's pardon. Since then she had driven no more nails
in, but had soothed herself by alternately grinding and beating the
wooden head against the rough brick of the great chimneys that made two
square pillars supporting the roof. That was what she did this morning
on reaching the attic, sobbing all the while with a passion that
expelled every other form of consciousness,--even the memory of the
grievance that had caused it. As at last the sobs were getting quieter,
and the grinding less fierce, a sudden beam of sunshine, falling through
the wire lattice across the worm-eaten shelves, made her throw away the
Fetish and run to the window. The sun was really breaking out; the sound
of the mill seemed cheerful again; the granary doors were open; and
there was Yap, the queer white-and-brown terrier, with one ear turned
back, trotting about and sniffing vaguely, as if he were in search of a
companion. It was irresistible. Maggie tossed her hair back and ran
downstairs, seized her bonnet without putting it on, peeped, and then
dashed along the passage lest she should encounter her mother, and was
quickly out in the yard, whirling round like a Pythoness, and singing as
she whirled, "Yap, Yap, Tom's coming home!" while Yap danced and barked
round her, as much as to say, if there was any noise wanted he was the
dog for it.

--GEORGE ELIOT.

[Footnote: What traits of character does Maggie show? Do children think
of their dolls as alive? Or as representing people they know? Did you
ever have the impulse to "take your spite out" on something, animate or
inanimate? Did you feel any better for relieving your feelings so? There
is an interesting account of a savage beating his idol in Melville's
"Typee."]
 

Last Updated on Wednesday, 08 October 2008 12:23
 
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