Sunday, October 28, 2007


Middlemarch By George Eliot - I

By George Eliot
New York and Boston H. M. Caldwell Company Publishers
To my dear Husband, George Henry Lewes,
in this nineteenth year of our blessed union.
Who that cares much to know the history of man, and how the mysterious
mixture behaves under the varying experiments of Time, has not dwelt,
at least briefly, on the life of Saint Theresa, has not smiled
with some gentleness at the thought of the little girl walking
forth one morning hand-in-hand with her still smaller brother,
to go and seek martyrdom in the country of the Moors? Out they toddled
from rugged Avila, wide-eyed and helpless-looking as two fawns,
but with human hearts, already beating to a national idea; until domestic
reality met them in the shape of uncles, and turned them back from
their great resolve. That child-pilgrimage was a fit beginning.
Theresa's passionate, ideal nature demanded an epic life: what were
many-volumed romances of chivalry and the social conquests of a
brilliant girl to her? Her flame quickly burned up that light fuel;
and, fed from within, soared after some illimitable satisfaction,
some object which would never justify weariness, which would reconcile
self-despair with the rapturous consciousness of life beyond self.
She found her epos in the reform of a religious order.
That Spanish woman who lived three hundred years ago, was certainly
not the last of her kind. Many Theresas have been born who
found for themselves no epic life wherein there was a constant
unfolding of far-resonant action; perhaps only a life of mistakes,
the offspring of a certain spiritual grandeur ill-matched with
the meanness of opportunity; perhaps a tragic failure which found
no sacred poet and sank unwept into oblivion. With dim lights
and tangled circumstance they tried to shape their thought and deed
in noble agreement; but after all, to common eyes their struggles
seemed mere inconsistency and formlessness; for these later-born
Theresas were helped by no coherent social faith and order which could
perform the function of knowledge for the ardently willing soul.
Their ardor alternated between a vague ideal and the common yearning
of womanhood; so that the one was disapproved as extravagance,
and the other condemned as a lapse.
Some have felt that these blundering lives are due to the
inconvenient indefiniteness with which the Supreme Power has
fashioned the natures of women: if there were one level of feminine
incompetence as strict as the ability to count three and no more,
the social lot of women might be treated with scientific certitude.
Meanwhile the indefiniteness remains, and the limits of variation
are really much wider than any one would imagine from the sameness
of women's coiffure and the favorite love-stories in prose and verse.
Here and there a cygnet is reared uneasily among the ducklings
in the brown pond, and never finds the living stream in fellowship
with its own oary-footed kind. Here and there is born a Saint Theresa,
foundress of nothing, whose loving heart-beats and sobs after an
unattained goodness tremble off and are dispersed among hindrances,
instead of centring in some long-recognizable deed.
"Since I can do no good because a woman,
Reach constantly at something that is near it.
--The Maid's Tragedy: BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into
relief by poor dress. Her hand and wrist were so finely formed that
she could wear sleeves not less bare of style than those in which
the Blessed Virgin appeared to Italian painters; and her profile
as well as her stature and bearing seemed to gain the more dignity
from her plain garments, which by the side of provincial fashion
gave her the impressiveness of a fine quotation from the Bible,--or
from one of our elder poets,--in a paragraph of to-day's newspaper.
She was usually spoken of as being remarkably clever, but with the
addition that her sister Celia had more common-sense. Nevertheless,
Celia wore scarcely more trimmings; and it was only to close
observers that her dress differed from her sister's, and had a shade
of coquetry in its arrangements; for Miss Brooke's plain dressing
was due to mixed conditions, in most of which her sister shared.
The pride of being ladies had something to do with it: the Brooke
connections, though not exactly aristocratic, were unquestionably
"good:" if you inquired backward for a generation or two, you would
not find any yard-measuring or parcel-tying forefathers--anything
lower than an admiral or a clergyman; and there was even an ancestor
discernible as a Puritan gentleman who served under Cromwell,
but afterwards conformed, and managed to come out of all political
troubles as the proprietor of a respectable family estate.
Young women of such birth, living in a quiet country-house,
and attending a village church hardly larger than a parlor,
naturally regarded frippery as the ambition of a huckster's daughter.
Then there was well-bred economy, which in those days made show in
dress the first item to be deducted from, when any margin was required
for expenses more distinctive of rank. Such reasons would have been
enough to account for plain dress, quite apart from religious feeling;
but in Miss Brooke's case, religion alone would have determined it;
and Celia mildly acquiesced in all her sister's sentiments,
only infusing them with that common-sense which is able to accept
momentous doctrines without any eccentric agitation. Dorothea knew
many passages of Pascal's Pensees and of Jeremy Taylor by heart;
and to her the destinies of mankind, seen by the light of Christianity,
made the solicitudes of feminine fashion appear an occupation
for Bedlam. She could not reconcile the anxieties of a spiritual
life involving eternal consequences, with a keen interest in gimp
and artificial protrusions of drapery. Her mind was theoretic,
and yearned by its nature after some lofty conception of the world
which might frankly include the parish of Tipton and her own rule
of conduct there; she was enamoured of intensity and greatness,
and rash in embracing whatever seemed to her to have those aspects;
likely to seek martyrdom, to make retractations, and then to incur
martyrdom after all in a quarter where she had not sought it.
Certainly such elements in the character of a marriageable girl tended
to interfere with her lot, and hinder it from being decided according
to custom, by good looks, vanity, and merely canine affection.
With all this, she, the elder of the sisters, was not yet twenty,
and they had both been educated, since they were about twelve years old
and had lost their parents, on plans at once narrow and promiscuous,
first in an English family and afterwards in a Swiss family at Lausanne,
their bachelor uncle and guardian trying in this way to remedy the
disadvantages of their orphaned condition.
It was hardly a year since they had come to live at Tipton Grange
with their uncle, a man nearly sixty, of acquiescent temper,
miscellaneous opinions, and uncertain vote. He had travelled
in his younger years, and was held in this part of the county
to have contracted a too rambling habit of mind. Mr. Brooke's
conclusions were as difficult to predict as the weather: it was
only safe to say that he would act with benevolent intentions,
and that he would spend as little money as possible in carrying
them out. For the most glutinously indefinite minds enclose some
hard grains of habit; and a man has been seen lax about all his
own interests except the retention of his snuff-box, concerning
which he was watchful, suspicious, and greedy of clutch.
In Mr. Brooke the hereditary strain of Puritan energy was clearly
in abeyance; but in his niece Dorothea it glowed alike through faults
and virtues, turning sometimes into impatience of her uncle's talk
or his way of "letting things be" on his estate, and making her long
all the more for the time when she would be of age and have some
command of money for generous schemes. She was regarded as an heiress;
for not only had the sisters seven hundred a-year each from
their parents, but if Dorothea married and had a son, that son would
inherit Mr. Brooke's estate, presumably worth about three thousand
a-year--a rental which seemed wealth to provincial families,
still discussing Mr. Peel's late conduct on the Catholic question,
innocent of future gold-fields, and of that gorgeous plutocracy
which has so nobly exalted the necessities of genteel life.
And how should Dorothea not marry?--a girl so handsome and with
such prospects? Nothing could hinder it but her love of extremes,
and her insistence on regulating life according to notions which
might cause a wary man to hesitate before he made her an offer,
or even might lead her at last to refuse all offers. A young lady
of some birth and fortune, who knelt suddenly down on a brick floor
by the side of a sick laborer and prayed fervidly as if she thought
herself living in the time of the Apostles--who had strange whims
of fasting like a Papist, and of sitting up at night to read old
theological books! Such a wife might awaken you some fine morning with
a new scheme for the application of her income which would interfere
with political economy and the keeping of saddle-horses: a man would
naturally think twice before he risked himself in such fellowship.
Women were expected to have weak opinions; but the great safeguard
of society and of domestic life was, that opinions were not acted on.
Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics
were at large, one might know and avoid them.
The rural opinion about the new young ladies, even among the cottagers,
was generally in favor of Celia, as being so amiable and innocent-looking,
while Miss Brooke's large eyes seemed, like her religion, too unusual
and striking. Poor Dorothea! compared with her, the innocent-looking
Celia was knowing and worldly-wise; so much subtler is a human mind
than the outside tissues which make a sort of blazonry or clock-face for it.
Yet those who approached Dorothea, though prejudiced against her
by this alarming hearsay, found that she had a charm unaccountably
reconcilable with it. Most men thought her bewitching when she
was on horseback. She loved the fresh air and the various aspects
of the country, and when her eyes and cheeks glowed with mingled
pleasure she looked very little like a devotee. Riding was an
indulgence which she allowed herself in spite of conscientious qualms;
she felt that she enjoyed it in a pagan sensuous way, and always
looked forward to renouncing it.
She was open, ardent, and not in the least self-admiring; indeed,
it was pretty to see how her imagination adorned her sister Celia
with attractions altogether superior to her own, and if any gentleman
appeared to come to the Grange from some other motive than that of
seeing Mr. Brooke, she concluded that he must be in love with Celia:
Sir James Chettam, for example, whom she constantly considered from
Celia's point of view, inwardly debating whether it would be good
for Celia to accept him. That he should be regarded as a suitor
to herself would have seemed to her a ridiculous irrelevance.
Dorothea, with all her eagerness to know the truths of life,
retained very childlike ideas about marriage. She felt sure that
she would have accepted the judicious Hooker, if she had been born
in time to save him from that wretched mistake he made in matrimony;
or John Milton when his blindness had come on; or any of the other
great men whose odd habits it would have been glorious piety to endure;
but an amiable handsome baronet, who said "Exactly" to her remarks
even when she expressed uncertainty,--how could he affect her as a
lover? The really delightful marriage must be that where your husband
was a sort of father, and could teach you even Hebrew, if you wished it.
These peculiarities of Dorothea's character caused Mr. Brooke
to be all the more blamed in neighboring families for not securing
some middle-aged lady as guide and companion to his nieces.
But he himself dreaded so much the sort of superior woman likely
to be available for such a position, that he allowed himself to be
dissuaded by Dorothea's objections, and was in this case brave enough
to defy the world--that is to say, Mrs. Cadwallader the Rector's wife,
and the small group of gentry with whom he visited in the northeast corner
of Loamshire. So Miss Brooke presided in her uncle's household, and
did not at all dislike her new authority, with the homage that belonged to it.
Sir James Chettam was going to dine at the Grange to-day with
another gentleman whom the girls had never seen, and about whom
Dorothea felt some venerating expectation. This was the Reverend
Edward Casaubon, noted in the county as a man of profound learning,
understood for many years to be engaged on a great work concerning
religious history; also as a man of wealth enough to give lustre
to his piety, and having views of his own which were to be more
clearly ascertained on the publication of his book. His very name
carried an impressiveness hardly to be measured without a precise
chronology of scholarship.
Early in the day Dorothea had returned from the infant school
which she had set going in the village, and was taking her usual
place in the pretty sitting-room which divided the bedrooms
of the sisters, bent on finishing a plan for some buildings (a
kind of work which she delighted in), when Celia, who had been
watching her with a hesitating desire to propose something, said--
"Dorothea, dear, if you don't mind--if you are not very busy--suppose we
looked at mamma's jewels to-day, and divided them? It is exactly six months
to-day since uncle gave them to you, and you have not looked at them yet."
Celia's face had the shadow of a pouting expression in it, the full
presence of the pout being kept back by an habitual awe of Dorothea
and principle; two associated facts which might show a mysterious
electricity if you touched them incautiously. To her relief,
Dorothea's eyes were full of laughter as she looked up.
"What a wonderful little almanac you are, Celia! Is it six calendar
or six lunar months?"
"It is the last day of September now, and it was the first of
April when uncle gave them to you. You know, he said that he
had forgotten them till then. I believe you have never thought
of them since you locked them up in the cabinet here."
"Well, dear, we should never wear them, you know." Dorothea spoke
in a full cordial tone, half caressing, half explanatory.
She had her pencil in her hand, and was making tiny side-plans
on a margin.
Celia colored, and looked very grave. "I think, dear, we are
wanting in respect to mamma's memory, to put them by and take
no notice of them. And," she added, after hesitating a little,
with a rising sob of mortification, "necklaces are quite usual now;
and Madame Poincon, who was stricter in some things even than you are,
used to wear ornaments. And Christians generally--surely there are
women in heaven now who wore jewels." Celia was conscious of some
mental strength when she really applied herself to argument.
"You would like to wear them?" exclaimed Dorothea, an air of astonished
discovery animating her whole person with a dramatic action which she
had caught from that very Madame Poincon who wore the ornaments.
"Of course, then, let us have them out. Why did you not tell me
before? But the keys, the keys!" She pressed her hands against
the sides of her head and seemed to despair of her memory.
"They are here," said Celia, with whom this explanation had been
long meditated and prearranged.
"Pray open the large drawer of the cabinet and get out the jewel-box."
The casket was soon open before them, and the various jewels spread out,
making a bright parterre on the table. It was no great collection,
but a few of the ornaments were really of remarkable beauty, the finest
that was obvious at first being a necklace of purple amethysts set
in exquisite gold work, and a pearl cross with five brilliants in it.
Dorothea immediately took up the necklace and fastened it round
her sister's neck, where it fitted almost as closely as a bracelet;
but the circle suited the Henrietta-Maria style of Celia's head
and neck, and she could see that it did, in the pier-glass opposite.
"There, Celia! you can wear that with your Indian muslin.
But this cross you must wear with your dark dresses."
Celia was trying not to smile with pleasure. "O Dodo, you must
keep the cross yourself."
"No, no, dear, no," said Dorothea, putting up her hand with
careless deprecation.
"Yes, indeed you must; it would suit you--in your black dress, now,"
said Celia, insistingly. "You MIGHT wear that."
"Not for the world, not for the world. A cross is the last thing
I would wear as a trinket." Dorothea shuddered slightly.
"Then you will think it wicked in me to wear it," said Celia, uneasily.
"No, dear, no," said Dorothea, stroking her sister's cheek.
"Souls have complexions too: what will suit one will not suit another."
"But you might like to keep it for mamma's sake."
"No, I have other things of mamma's--her sandal-wood box which I am
so fond of--plenty of things. In fact, they are all yours, dear.
We need discuss them no longer. There--take away your property."
Celia felt a little hurt. There was a strong assumption of superiority
in this Puritanic toleration, hardly less trying to the blond
flesh of an unenthusiastic sister than a Puritanic persecution.
"But how can I wear ornaments if you, who are the elder sister,
will never wear them?"
"Nay, Celia, that is too much to ask, that I should wear trinkets
to keep you in countenance. If I were to put on such a necklace
as that, I should feel as if I had been pirouetting. The world
would go round with me, and I should not know how to walk."
Celia had unclasped the necklace and drawn it off. "It would be
a little tight for your neck; something to lie down and hang would
suit you better," she said, with some satisfaction. The complete
unfitness of the necklace from all points of view for Dorothea,
made Celia happier in taking it. She was opening some ring-boxes,
which disclosed a fine emerald with diamonds, and just then the sun
passing beyond a cloud sent a bright gleam over the table.
"How very beautiful these gems are!" said Dorothea, under a new current
of feeling, as sudden as the gleam. "It is strange how deeply colors
seem to penetrate one, like scent I suppose that is the reason why
gems are used as spiritual emblems in the Revelation of St. John.
They look like fragments of heaven. I think that emerald is more
beautiful than any of them."
"And there is a bracelet to match it," said Celia. "We did not
notice this at first."
"They are lovely," said Dorothea, slipping the ring and bracelet
on her finely turned finger and wrist, and holding them towards
the window on a level with her eyes. All the while her thought
was trying to justify her delight in the colors by merging them
in her mystic religious joy.
"You WOULD like those, Dorothea," said Celia, rather falteringly,
beginning to think with wonder that her sister showed some weakness,
and also that emeralds would suit her own complexion even better
than purple amethysts. "You must keep that ring and bracelet--if
nothing else. But see, these agates are very pretty and quiet."
"Yes! I will keep these--this ring and bracelet," said Dorothea.
Then, letting her hand fall on the table, she said in another
tone--"Yet what miserable men find such things, and work at them,
and sell them!" She paused again, and Celia thought that her sister
was going to renounce the ornaments, as in consistency she ought
to do.
"Yes, dear, I will keep these," said Dorothea, decidedly. "But take
all the rest away, and the casket."
She took up her pencil without removing the jewels, and still
looking at them. She thought of often having them by her, to feed
her eye at these little fountains of pure color.
"Shall you wear them in company?" said Celia, who was watching
her with real curiosity as to what she would do.
Dorothea glanced quickly at her sister. Across all her imaginative
adornment of those whom she loved, there darted now and then
a keen discernment, which was not without a scorching quality.
If Miss Brooke ever attained perfect meekness, it would not be
for lack of inward fire.
"Perhaps," she said, rather haughtily. "I cannot tell to what level
I may sink."
Celia blushed, and was unhappy: she saw that she had offended
her sister, and dared not say even anything pretty about the gift
of the ornaments which she put back into the box and carried away.
Dorothea too was unhappy, as she went on with her plan-drawing,
questioning the purity of her own feeling and speech in the scene
which had ended with that little explosion.
Celia's consciousness told her that she had not been at all in the
wrong: it was quite natural and justifiable that she should have
asked that question, and she repeated to herself that Dorothea was
inconsistent: either she should have taken her full share of the jewels,
or, after what she had said, she should have renounced them altogether.
"I am sure--at least, I trust," thought Celia, "that the wearing
of a necklace will not interfere with my prayers. And I do not see
that I should be bound by Dorothea's opinions now we are going
into society, though of course she herself ought to be bound by them.
But Dorothea is not always consistent."
Thus Celia, mutely bending over her tapestry, until she heard
her sister calling her.
"Here, Kitty, come and look at my plan; I shall think I am
a great architect, if I have not got incompatible stairs and fireplaces."
As Celia bent over the paper, Dorothea put her cheek against
her sister's arm caressingly. Celia understood the action.
Dorothea saw that she had been in the wrong, and Celia pardoned her.
Since they could remember, there had been a mixture of criticism
and awe in the attitude of Celia's mind towards her elder sister.
The younger had always worn a yoke; but is there any yoked creature
without its private opinions?
"`Dime; no ves aquel caballero que hacia nosotros viene sobre un
caballo rucio rodado que trae puesto en la cabeza un yelmo de oro?'
`Lo que veo y columbro,' respondio Sancho, `no es sino un hombre
sobre un as no pardo como el mio, que trae sobre la cabeza una
cosa que relumbra.' `Pues ese es el yelmo de Mambrino,' dijo Don
"`Seest thou not yon cavalier who cometh toward us on a
dapple-gray steed, and weareth a golden helmet?' `What I see,'
answered Sancho, `is nothing but a man on a gray ass like my own,
who carries something shiny on his head.' `Just so,' answered Don
Quixote: `and that resplendent object is the helmet of Mambrino.'"
"Sir Humphry Davy?" said Mr. Brooke, over the soup, in his easy
smiling way, taking up Sir James Chettam's remark that he was studying
Davy's Agricultural Chemistry. "Well, now, Sir Humphry Davy;
I dined with him years ago at Cartwright's, and Wordsworth was there
too--the poet Wordsworth, you know. Now there was something singular.
I was at Cambridge when Wordsworth was there, and I never met him--and
I dined with him twenty years afterwards at Cartwright's. There's
an oddity in things, now. But Davy was there: he was a poet too.
Or, as I may say, Wordsworth was poet one, and Davy was poet two.
That was true in every sense, you know."
Dorothea felt a little more uneasy than usual. In the beginning
of dinner, the party being small and the room still, these motes from
the mass of a magistrate's mind fell too noticeably. She wondered
how a man like Mr. Casaubon would support such triviality. His manners,
she thought, were very dignified; the set of his iron-gray hair
and his deep eye-sockets made him resemble the portrait of Locke.
He had the spare form and the pale complexion which became a student;
as different as possible from the blooming Englishman of the
red-whiskered type represented by Sir James Chettam.
"I am reading the Agricultural Chemistry," said this excellent baronet,
"because I am going to take one of the farms into my own hands,
and see if something cannot be done in setting a good pattern
of farming among my tenants. Do you approve of that, Miss Brooke?"
"A great mistake, Chettam," interposed Mr. Brooke, "going into
electrifying your land and that kind of thing, and making a parlor
of your cow-house. It won't do. I went into science a great deal
myself at one time; but I saw it would not do. It leads to everything;
you can let nothing alone. No, no--see that your tenants don't sell
their straw, and that kind of thing; and give them draining-tiles,
you know. But your fancy farming will not do--the most expensive
sort of whistle you can buy: you may as well keep a pack of hounds."
"Surely," said Dorothea, "it is better to spend money in finding
out how men can make the most of the land which supports them all,
than in keeping dogs and horses only to gallop over it. It is not
a sin to make yourself poor in performing experiments for the good
of all."
She spoke with more energy than is expected of so young a lady,
but Sir James had appealed to her. He was accustomed to do so,
and she had often thought that she could urge him to many good actions
when he was her brother-in-law.
Mr. Casaubon turned his eyes very markedly on Dorothea while she
was speaking, and seemed to observe her newly.
"Young ladies don't understand political economy, you know,"
said Mr. Brooke, smiling towards Mr. Casaubon. "I remember when we
were all reading Adam Smith. THERE is a book, now. I took in all
the new ideas at one time--human perfectibility, now. But some say,
history moves in circles; and that may be very well argued; I have
argued it myself. The fact is, human reason may carry you a little
too far--over the hedge, in fact. It carried me a good way at one time;
but I saw it would not do. I pulled up; I pulled up in time.
But not too hard. I have always been in favor of a little theory: we
must have Thought; else we shall be landed back in the dark ages.
But talking of books, there is Southey's `Peninsular War.' I am
reading that of a morning. You know Southey?"
"No" said Mr. Casaubon, not keeping pace with Mr. Brooke's impetuous
reason, and thinking of the book only. "I have little leisure for
such literature just now. I have been using up my eyesight on old
characters lately; the fact is, I want a reader for my evenings;
but I am fastidious in voices, and I cannot endure listening to
an imperfect reader. It is a misfortune, in some senses: I feed
too much on the inward sources; I live too much with the dead.
My mind is something like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about
the world and trying mentally to construct it as it used to be,
in spite of ruin and confusing changes. But I find it necessary
to use the utmost caution about my eyesight."
This was the first time that Mr. Casaubon had spoken at any length.
He delivered himself with precision, as if he had been called upon
to make a public statement; and the balanced sing-song neatness of
his speech, occasionally corresponded to by a movement of his head,
was the more conspicuous from its contrast with good Mr. Brooke's
scrappy slovenliness. Dorothea said to herself that Mr. Casaubon
was the most interesting man she had ever seen, not excepting even
Monsieur Liret, the Vaudois clergyman who had given conferences
on the history of the Waldenses. To reconstruct a past world,
doubtless with a view to the highest purposes of truth--what
a work to be in any way present at, to assist in, though only
as a lamp-holder! This elevating thought lifted her above her
annoyance at being twitted with her ignorance of political economy,
that never-explained science which was thrust as an extinguisher
over all her lights.
"But you are fond of riding, Miss Brooke," Sir James presently took
an opportunity of saying. "I should have thought you would enter
a little into the pleasures of hunting. I wish you would let me
send over a chestnut horse for you to try. It has been trained
for a lady. I saw you on Saturday cantering over the hill on a nag
not worthy of you. My groom shall bring Corydon for you every day,
if you will only mention the time."
"Thank you, you are very good. I mean to give up riding.
I shall not ride any more," said Dorothea, urged to this brusque
resolution by a little annoyance that Sir James would be soliciting
her attention when she wanted to give it all to Mr. Casaubon.
"No, that is too hard," said Sir James, in a tone of reproach that
showed strong interest. "Your sister is given to self-mortification,
is she not?" he continued, turning to Celia, who sat at his right hand.
"I think she is," said Celia, feeling afraid lest she should say
something that would not please her sister, and blushing as prettily
as possible above her necklace. "She likes giving up."
"If that were true, Celia, my giving-up would be self-indulgence,
not self-mortification. But there may be good reasons for choosing
not to do what is very agreeable," said Dorothea.
Mr. Brooke was speaking at the same time, but it was evident
that Mr. Casaubon was observing Dorothea, and she was aware of it.
"Exactly," said Sir James. "You give up from some high, generous motive."
"No, indeed, not exactly. I did not say that of myself,"
answered Dorothea, reddening. Unlike Celia, she rarely blushed,
and only from high delight or anger. At this moment she felt angry
with the perverse Sir James. Why did he not pay attention to Celia,
and leave her to listen to Mr. Casaubon?--if that learned man would
only talk, instead of allowing himself to be talked to by Mr. Brooke,
who was just then informing him that the Reformation either meant
something or it did not, that he himself was a Protestant to the core,
but that Catholicism was a fact; and as to refusing an acre
of your ground for a Romanist chapel, all men needed the bridle
of religion, which, properly speaking, was the dread of a Hereafter.
"I made a great study of theology at one time," said Mr. Brooke,
as if to explain the insight just manifested. "I know something
of all schools. I knew Wilberforce in his best days. Do you
know Wilberforce?"
Mr. Casaubon said, "No."
"Well, Wilberforce was perhaps not enough of a thinker; but if I
went into Parliament, as I have been asked to do, I should sit on
the independent bench, as Wilberforce did, and work at philanthropy."
Mr. Casaubon bowed, and observed that it was a wide field.
"Yes," said Mr. Brooke, with an easy smile, "but I have documents.
I began a long while ago to collect documents. They want arranging,
but when a question has struck me, I have written to somebody and got
an answer. I have documents at my back. But now, how do you arrange
your documents?"
"In pigeon-holes partly," said Mr. Casaubon, with rather a startled
air of effort.
"Ah, pigeon-holes will not do. I have tried pigeon-holes, but everything
gets mixed in pigeon-holes: I never know whether a paper is in A or Z."
"I wish you would let me sort your papers for you, uncle," said Dorothea.
"I would letter them all, and then make a list of subjects under each letter."
Mr. Casaubon gravely smiled approval, and said to Mr. Brooke,
"You have an excellent secretary at hand, you perceive."
"No, no," said Mr. Brooke, shaking his head; "I cannot let young
ladies meddle with my documents. Young ladies are too flighty."
Dorothea felt hurt. Mr. Casaubon would think that her uncle had
some special reason for delivering this opinion, whereas the remark
lay in his mind as lightly as the broken wing of an insect among
all the other fragments there, and a chance current had sent it
alighting on HER.
When the two girls were in the drawing-room alone, Celia said--
"How very ugly Mr. Casaubon is!"
"Celia! He is one of the most distinguished-looking men I ever saw.
He is remarkably like the portrait of Locke. He has the same
deep eye-sockets."
"Had Locke those two white moles with hairs on them?"
"Oh, I dare say! when people of a certain sort looked at him,"
said Dorothea, walking away a little.
"Mr. Casaubon is so sallow."
"All the better. I suppose you admire a man with the complexion
of a cochon de lait."
"Dodo!" exclaimed Celia, looking after her in surprise. "I never
heard you make such a comparison before."
"Why should I make it before the occasion came? It is a good
comparison: the match is perfect."
Miss Brooke was clearly forgetting herself, and Celia thought so.
"I wonder you show temper, Dorothea."
"It is so painful in you, Celia, that you will look at human
beings as if they were merely animals with a toilet, and never
see the great soul in a man's face."
"Has Mr. Casaubon a great soul?" Celia was not without a touch
of naive malice.
"Yes, I believe he has," said Dorothea, with the full voice
of decision. "Everything I see in him corresponds to his pamphlet
on Biblical Cosmology."
"He talks very little," said Celia
"There is no one for him to talk to."
Celia thought privately, "Dorothea quite despises Sir James Chettam;
I believe she would not accept him." Celia felt that this was a pity.
She had never been deceived as to the object of the baronet's interest.
Sometimes, indeed, she had reflected that Dodo would perhaps not
make a husband happy who had not her way of looking at things;
and stifled in the depths of her heart was the feeling that her sister
was too religious for family comfort. Notions and scruples were
like spilt needles, making one afraid of treading, or sitting down,
or even eating.
When Miss Brooke was at the tea-table, Sir James came to sit down
by her, not having felt her mode of answering him at all offensive.
Why should he? He thought it probable that Miss Brooke liked him,
and manners must be very marked indeed before they cease to be
interpreted by preconceptions either confident or distrustful.
She was thoroughly charming to him, but of course he theorized a
little about his attachment. He was made of excellent human dough,
and had the rare merit of knowing that his talents, even if let loose,
would not set the smallest stream in the county on fire: hence he
liked the prospect of a wife to whom he could say, "What shall we do?"
about this or that; who could help her husband out with reasons,
and would also have the property qualification for doing so.
As to the excessive religiousness alleged against Miss Brooke,
he had a very indefinite notion of what it consisted in, and thought
that it would die out with marriage. In short, he felt himself
to be in love in the right place, and was ready to endure a great
deal of predominance, which, after all, a man could always put
down when he liked. Sir James had no idea that he should ever
like to put down the predominance of this handsome girl, in whose
cleverness he delighted. Why not? A man's mind--what there is of
it--has always the advantage of being masculine,--as the smallest
birch-tree is of a higher kind than the most soaring palm,--and
even his ignorance is of a sounder quality. Sir James might not
have originated this estimate; but a kind Providence furnishes
the limpest personality with a little gunk or starch in the form
of tradition.
"Let me hope that you will rescind that resolution about the horse,
Miss Brooke," said the persevering admirer. "I assure you,
riding is the most healthy of exercises."
"I am aware of it," said Dorothea, coldly. "I think it would
do Celia good--if she would take to it."
"But you are such a perfect horsewoman."
"Excuse me; I have had very little practice, and I should be
easily thrown."
"Then that is a reason for more practice. Every lady ought to be
a perfect horsewoman, that she may accompany her husband."
"You see how widely we differ, Sir James. I have made up my mind that I
ought not to be a perfect horsewoman, and so I should never correspond
to your pattern of a lady." Dorothea looked straight before her,
and spoke with cold brusquerie, very much with the air of a handsome boy,
in amusing contrast with the solicitous amiability of her admirer.
"I should like to know your reasons for this cruel resolution.
It is not possible that you should think horsemanship wrong."
"It is quite possible that I should think it wrong for me."
"Oh, why?" said Sir James, in a tender tone of remonstrance.
Mr. Casaubon had come up to the table, teacup in hand, and was listening.
"We must not inquire too curiously into motives," he interposed,
in his measured way. "Miss Brooke knows that they are apt to become
feeble in the utterance: the aroma is mixed with the grosser air.
We must keep the germinating grain away from the light."
Dorothea colored with pleasure, and looked up gratefully to the speaker.
Here was a man who could understand the higher inward life,
and with whom there could be some spiritual communion; nay, who could
illuminate principle with the widest knowledge a man whose learning
almost amounted to a proof of whatever he believed!
Dorothea's inferences may seem large; but really life could never have
gone on at any period but for this liberal allowance of conclusions,
which has facilitated marriage under the difficulties of civilization.
Has any one ever pinched into its pilulous smallness the cobweb
of pre-matrimonial acquaintanceship?
"Certainly," said good Sir James. "Miss Brooke shall not be urged
to tell reasons she would rather be silent upon. I am sure her
reasons would do her honor."
He was not in the least jealous of the interest with which Dorothea
had looked up at Mr. Casaubon: it never occurred to him that a girl
to whom he was meditating an offer of marriage could care for a dried
bookworm towards fifty, except, indeed, in a religious sort of way,
as for a clergyman of some distinction.
However, since Miss Brooke had become engaged in a conversation
with Mr. Casaubon about the Vaudois clergy, Sir James betook
himself to Celia, and talked to her about her sister; spoke of a
house in town, and asked whether Miss Brooke disliked London.
Away from her sister, Celia talked quite easily, and Sir James
said to himself that the second Miss Brooke was certainly very
agreeable as well as pretty, though not, as some people pretended,
more clever and sensible than the elder sister. He felt that he
had chosen the one who was in all respects the superior; and a man
naturally likes to look forward to having the best. He would
be the very Mawworm of bachelors who pretended not to expect it.
"Say, goddess, what ensued, when Raphael,
The affable archangel . . .
The story heard attentive, and was filled
With admiration, and deep muse, to hear
Of things so high and strange."
--Paradise Lost, B. vii.
If it had really occurred to Mr. Casaubon to think of Miss
Brooke as a suitable wife for him, the reasons that might induce
her to accept him were already planted in her mind, and by the
evening of the next day the reasons had budded and bloomed.
For they had had a long conversation in the morning, while Celia,
who did not like the company of Mr. Casaubon's moles and sallowness,
had escaped to the vicarage to play with the curate's ill-shod
but merry children.
Dorothea by this time had looked deep into the ungauged reservoir
of Mr. Casaubon's mind, seeing reflected there in vague labyrinthine
extension every quality she herself brought; had opened much of
her own experience to him, and had understood from him the scope
of his great work, also of attractively labyrinthine extent.
For he had been as instructive as Milton's "affable archangel;"
and with something of the archangelic manner he told her how he had
undertaken to show (what indeed had been attempted before, but not
with that thoroughness, justice of comparison, and effectiveness
of arrangement at which Mr. Casaubon aimed) that all the mythical
systems or erratic mythical fragments in the world were corruptions
of a tradition originally revealed. Having once mastered the true
position and taken a firm footing there, the vast field of mythical
constructions became intelligible, nay, luminous with the reflected
light of correspondences. But to gather in this great harvest
of truth was no light or speedy work. His notes already made
a formidable range of volumes, but the crowning task would be to
condense these voluminous still-accumulating results and bring them,
like the earlier vintage of Hippocratic books, to fit a little shelf.
In explaining this to Dorothea, Mr. Casaubon expressed himself nearly
as he would have done to a fellow-student, for he had not two styles
of talking at command: it is true that when he used a Greek or Latin
phrase he always gave the English with scrupulous care, but he would
probably have done this in any case. A learned provincial clergyman
is accustomed to think of his acquaintances as of "lords, knyghtes,
and other noble and worthi men, that conne Latyn but lytille."
Dorothea was altogether captivated by the wide embrace
of this conception. Here was something beyond the shallows
of ladies' school literature: here was a living Bossuet,
whose work would reconcile complete knowledge with devoted piety;
here was a modern Augustine who united the glories of doctor and saint.
The sanctity seemed no less clearly marked than the learning,
for when Dorothea was impelled to open her mind on certain themes
which she could speak of to no one whom she had before seen at Tipton,
especially on the secondary importance of ecclesiastical forms
and articles of belief compared with that spiritual religion,
that submergence of self in communion with Divine perfection
which seemed to her to be expressed in the best Christian books
of widely distant ages, she found in Mr. Casaubon a listener
who understood her at once, who could assure her of his own
agreement with that view when duly tempered with wise conformity,
and could mention historical examples before unknown to her.
"He thinks with me," said Dorothea to herself, "or rather, he thinks
a whole world of which my thought is but a poor twopenny mirror.
And his feelings too, his whole experience--what a lake compared
with my little pool!"
Miss Brooke argued from words and dispositions not less unhesitatingly
than other young ladies of her age. Signs are small measurable things,
but interpretations are illimitable, and in girls of sweet,
ardent nature, every sign is apt to conjure up wonder, hope, belief,
vast as a sky, and colored by a diffused thimbleful of matter in
the shape of knowledge. They are not always too grossly deceived;
for Sinbad himself may have fallen by good-luck on a true description,
and wrong reasoning sometimes lands poor mortals in right conclusions:
starting a long way off the true point, and proceeding by loops
and zigzags, we now and then arrive just where we ought to be.
Because Miss Brooke was hasty in her trust, it is not therefore
clear that Mr. Casaubon was unworthy of it.
He stayed a little longer than he had intended, on a slight pressure
of invitation from Mr. Brooke, who offered no bait except his own
documents on machine-breaking and rick-burning. Mr. Casaubon was
called into the library to look at these in a heap, while his host
picked up first one and then the other to read aloud from in a
skipping and uncertain way, passing from one unfinished passage
to another with a "Yes, now, but here!" and finally pushing them
all aside to open the journal of his youthful Continental travels.
"Look here--here is all about Greece. Rhamnus, the ruins of
Rhamnus--you are a great Grecian, now. I don't know whether you
have given much study to the topography. I spent no end of time
in making out these things--Helicon, now. Here, now!--`We started
the next morning for Parnassus, the double-peaked Parnassus.'
All this volume is about Greece, you know," Mr. Brooke wound up,
rubbing his thumb transversely along the edges of the leaves as he
held the book forward.
Mr. Casaubon made a dignified though somewhat sad audience;
bowed in the right place, and avoided looking at anything documentary
as far as possible, without showing disregard or impatience;
mindful that this desultoriness was associated with the institutions
of the country, and that the man who took him on this severe mental
scamper was not only an amiable host, but a landholder and
custos rotulorum. Was his endurance aided also by the reflection
that Mr. Brooke was the uncle of Dorothea?
Certainly he seemed more and more bent on making her talk to him,
on drawing her out, as Celia remarked to herself; and in looking at
her his face was often lit up by a smile like pale wintry sunshine.
Before he left the next morning, while taking a pleasant walk with Miss
Brooke along the gravelled terrace, he had mentioned to her that he
felt the disadvantage of loneliness, the need of that cheerful
companionship with which the presence of youth can lighten or vary
the serious toils of maturity. And he delivered this statement
with as much careful precision as if he had been a diplomatic envoy
whose words would be attended with results. Indeed, Mr. Casaubon
was not used to expect that he should have to repeat or revise his
communications of a practical or personal kind. The inclinations
which he had deliberately stated on the 2d of October he would think
it enough to refer to by the mention of that date; judging by the
standard of his own memory, which was a volume where a vide supra
could serve instead of repetitions, and not the ordinary long-used
blotting-book which only tells of forgotten writing. But in this
case Mr. Casaubon's confidence was not likely to be falsified,
for Dorothea heard and retained what he said with the eager interest
of a fresh young nature to which every variety in experience is an epoch.
It was three o'clock in the beautiful breezy autumn day when Mr. Casaubon
drove off to his Rectory at Lowick, only five miles from Tipton;
and Dorothea, who had on her bonnet and shawl, hurried along the shrubbery
and across the park that she might wander through the bordering wood
with no other visible companionship than that of Monk, the Great
St. Bernard dog, who always took care of the young ladies in their walks.
There had risen before her the girl's vision of a possible future
for herself to which she looked forward with trembling hope, and she
wanted to wander on in that visionary future without interruption.
She walked briskly in the brisk air, the color rose in her cheeks,
and her straw bonnet (which our contemporaries might look at
with conjectural curiosity as at an obsolete form of basket)
fell a little backward. She would perhaps be hardly characterized
enough if it were omitted that she wore her brown hair flatly braided
and coiled behind so as to expose the outline of her head in a
daring manner at a time when public feeling required the meagreness
of nature to be dissimulated by tall barricades of frizzed curls
and bows, never surpassed by any great race except the Feejeean.
This was a trait of Miss Brooke's asceticism. But there was nothing
of an ascetic's expression in her bright full eyes, as she looked
before her, not consciously seeing, but absorbing into the intensity
of her mood, the solemn glory of the afternoon with its long swathes
of light between the far-off rows of limes, whose shadows touched each other.
All people, young or old (that is, all people in those ante-reform
times), would have thought her an interesting object if they had
referred the glow in her eyes and cheeks to the newly awakened ordinary
images of young love: the illusions of Chloe about Strephon have been
sufficiently consecrated in poetry, as the pathetic loveliness of all
spontaneous trust ought to be. Miss Pippin adoring young Pumpkin,
and dreaming along endless vistas of unwearying companionship,
was a little drama which never tired our fathers and mothers,
and had been put into all costumes. Let but Pumpkin have a
figure which would sustain the disadvantages of the shortwaisted
swallow-tail, and everybody felt it not only natural but necessary
to the perfection of womanhood, that a sweet girl should be at once
convinced of his virtue, his exceptional ability, and above all,
his perfect sincerity. But perhaps no persons then living--certainly
none in the neighborhood of Tipton--would have had a sympathetic
understanding for the dreams of a girl whose notions about marriage
took their color entirely from an exalted enthusiasm about the ends
of life, an enthusiasm which was lit chiefly by its own fire,
and included neither the niceties of the trousseau, the pattern
of plate, nor even the honors and sweet joys of the blooming matron.
It had now entered Dorothea's mind that Mr. Casaubon might wish
to make her his wife, and the idea that he would do so touched
her with a sort of reverential gratitude. How good of him--nay, it
would be almost as if a winged messenger had suddenly stood beside
her path and held out his hand towards her! For a long while she
had been oppressed by the indefiniteness which hung in her mind,
like a thick summer haze, over all her desire to made her life
greatly effective. What could she do, what ought she to do?--she,
hardly more than a budding woman, but yet with an active conscience
and a great mental need, not to be satisfied by a girlish instruction
comparable to the nibblings and judgments of a discursive mouse.
With some endowment of stupidity and conceit, she might have thought
that a Christian young lady of fortune should find her ideal of life
in village charities, patronage of the humbler clergy, the perusal
of "Female Scripture Characters," unfolding the private experience
of Sara under the Old Dispensation, and Dorcas under the New,
and the care of her soul over her embroidery in her own boudoir--with
a background of prospective marriage to a man who, if less strict
than herself, as being involved in affairs religiously inexplicable,
might be prayed for and seasonably exhorted. From such contentment poor
Dorothea was shut out. The intensity of her religious disposition,
the coercion it exercised over her life, was but one aspect of a
nature altogether ardent, theoretic, and intellectually consequent:
and with such a nature struggling in the bands of a narrow teaching,
hemmed in by a social life which seemed nothing but a labyrinth
of petty courses, a walled-in maze of small paths that led
no whither, the outcome was sure to strike others as at once
exaggeration and inconsistency. The thing which seemed to her best,
she wanted to justify by the completest knowledge; and not to live
in a pretended admission of rules which were never acted on.
Into this soul-hunger as yet all her youthful passion was poured;
the union which attracted her was one that would deliver her from her
girlish subjection to her own ignorance, and give her the freedom of
voluntary submission to a guide who would take her along the grandest path.
"I should learn everything then," she said to herself, still walking
quickly along the bridle road through the wood. "It would be my
duty to study that I might help him the better in his great works.
There would be nothing trivial about our lives. Every-day things with us
would mean the greatest things. It would be like marrying Pascal.
I should learn to see the truth by the same light as great men have seen
it by. And then I should know what to do, when I got older: I should
see how it was possible to lead a grand life here--now--in England.
I don't feel sure about doing good in any way now: everything
seems like going on a mission to a people whose language I don't
know;--unless it were building good cottages--there can be no
doubt about that. Oh, I hope I should be able to get the people
well housed in Lowick! I will draw plenty of plans while I have time."
Dorothea checked herself suddenly with self-rebuke for the
presumptuous way in which she was reckoning on uncertain events,
but she was spared any inward effort to change the direction of her
thoughts by the appearance of a cantering horseman round a turning
of the road. The well-groomed chestnut horse and two beautiful
setters could leave no doubt that the rider was Sir James Chettam.
He discerned Dorothea, jumped off his horse at once, and, having
delivered it to his groom, advanced towards her with something white
on his arm, at which the two setters were barking in an excited manner.
"How delightful to meet you, Miss Brooke," he said, raising his
hat and showing his sleekly waving blond hair. "It has hastened
the pleasure I was looking forward to."
Miss Brooke was annoyed at the interruption. This amiable baronet,
really a suitable husband for Celia, exaggerated the necessity
of making himself agreeable to the elder sister. Even a prospective
brother-in-law may be an oppression if he will always be presupposing
too good an understanding with you, and agreeing with you even
when you contradict him. The thought that he had made the mistake
of paying his addresses to herself could not take shape: all her
mental activity was used up in persuasions of another kind.
But he was positively obtrusive at this moment, and his dimpled hands
were quite disagreeable. Her roused temper made her color deeply,
as she returned his greeting with some haughtiness.
Sir James interpreted the heightened color in the way most gratifying
to himself, and thought he never saw Miss Brooke looking so handsome.
"I have brought a little petitioner," he said, "or rather,
I have brought him to see if he will be approved before his
petition is offered." He showed the white object under his arm,
which was a tiny Maltese puppy, one of nature's most naive toys.
"It is painful to me to see these creatures that are bred merely
as pets," said Dorothea, whose opinion was forming itself that
very moment (as opinions will) under the heat of irritation.
"Oh, why?" said Sir James, as they walked forward.
"I believe all the petting that is given them does not make
them happy. They are too helpless: their lives are too frail.
A weasel or a mouse that gets its own living is more interesting.
I like to think that the animals about us have souls something
like our own, and either carry on their own little affairs or can be
companions to us, like Monk here. Those creatures are parasitic."
"I am so glad I know that you do not like them," said good Sir James.
"I should never keep them for myself, but ladies usually are fond
of these Maltese dogs. Here, John, take this dog, will you?"
The objectionable puppy, whose nose and eyes were equally black
and expressive, was thus got rid of, since Miss Brooke decided
that it had better not have been born. But she felt it necessary
to explain.
"You must not judge of Celia's feeling from mine. I think she likes
these small pets. She had a tiny terrier once, which she was very
fond of. It made me unhappy, because I was afraid of treading on it.
I am rather short-sighted."
"You have your own opinion about everything, Miss Brooke, and it
is always a good opinion."
What answer was possible to such stupid complimenting?
"Do you know, I envy you that," Sir James said, as they continued
walking at the rather brisk pace set by Dorothea.
"I don't quite understand what you mean."
"Your power of forming an opinion. I can form an opinion of persons.
I know when I like people. But about other matters, do you know,
I have often a difficulty in deciding. One hears very sensible things
said on opposite sides."
"Or that seem sensible. Perhaps we don't always discriminate
between sense and nonsense."
Dorothea felt that she was rather rude.
"Exactly," said Sir James. "But you seem to have the power
of discrimination."
"On the contrary, I am often unable to decide. But that is
from ignorance. The right conclusion is there all the same,
though I am unable to see it."
"I think there are few who would see it more readily. Do you know,
Lovegood was telling me yesterday that you had the best notion in
the world of a plan for cottages--quite wonderful for a young lady,
he thought. You had a real GENUS, to use his expression.
He said you wanted Mr. Brooke to build a new set of cottages, but he
seemed to think it hardly probable that your uncle would consent.
Do you know, that is one of the things I wish to do--I mean, on my
own estate. I should be so glad to carry out that plan of yours,
if you would let me see it. Of course, it is sinking money;
that is why people object to it. Laborers can never pay rent to make
it answer. But, after all, it is worth doing."
"Worth doing! yes, indeed," said Dorothea, energetically, forgetting
her previous small vexations. "I think we deserve to be beaten
out of our beautiful houses with a scourge of small cords--all
of us who let tenants live in such sties as we see round us.
Life in cottages might be happier than ours, if they were real
houses fit for human beings from whom we expect duties and affections."
"Will you show me your plan?"
"Yes, certainly. I dare say it is very faulty. But I have been
examining all the plans for cottages in Loudon's book, and picked
out what seem the best things. Oh what a happiness it would be to
set the pattern about here! I think instead of Lazarus at the gate,
we should put the pigsty cottages outside the park-gate."
Dorothea was in the best temper now. Sir James, as brother in-law,
building model cottages on his estate, and then, perhaps, others being
built at Lowick, and more and more elsewhere in imitation--it
would be as if the spirit of Oberlin had passed over the parishes
to make the life of poverty beautiful!
Sir James saw all the plans, and took one away to consult upon
with Lovegood. He also took away a complacent sense that he was
making great progress in Miss Brooke's good opinion. The Maltese
puppy was not offered to Celia; an omission which Dorothea
afterwards thought of with surprise; but she blamed herself for it.
She had been engrossing Sir James. After all, it was a relief
that there was no puppy to tread upon.
Celia was present while the plans were being examined, and observed
Sir James's illusion. "He thinks that Dodo cares about him,
and she only cares about her plans. Yet I am not certain that she
would refuse him if she thought he would let her manage everything
and carry out all her notions. And how very uncomfortable Sir
James would be! I cannot bear notions."
It was Celia's private luxury to indulge in this dislike.
She dared not confess it to her sister in any direct statement,
for that would be laying herself open to a demonstration that
she was somehow or other at war with all goodness. But on
safe opportunities, she had an indirect mode of making her negative
wisdom tell upon Dorothea, and calling her down from her rhapsodic
mood by reminding her that people were staring, not listening.
Celia was not impulsive: what she had to say could wait,
and came from her always with the same quiet staccato evenness.
When people talked with energy and emphasis she watched their faces
and features merely. She never could understand how well-bred
persons consented to sing and open their mouths in the ridiculous
manner requisite for that vocal exercise.
It was not many days before Mr. Casaubon paid a morning visit,
on which he was invited again for the following week to dine and stay
the night. Thus Dorothea had three more conversations with him,
and was convinced that her first impressions had been just.
He was all she had at first imagined him to be: almost everything
he had said seemed like a specimen from a mine, or the inscription
on the door of a museum which might open on the treasures of
past ages; and this trust in his mental wealth was all the deeper
and more effective on her inclination because it was now obvious
that his visits were made for her sake. This accomplished
man condescended to think of a young girl, and take the pains
to talk to her, not with absurd compliment, but with an appeal
to her understanding, and sometimes with instructive correction.
What delightful companionship! Mr. Casaubon seemed even unconscious
that trivialities existed, and never handed round that small-talk
of heavy men which is as acceptable as stale bride-cake brought forth
with an odor of cupboard. He talked of what he was interested in,
or else he was silent and bowed with sad civility. To Dorothea
this was adorable genuineness, and religious abstinence from that
artificiality which uses up the soul in the efforts of pretence.
For she looked as reverently at Mr. Casaubon's religious elevation
above herself as she did at his intellect and learning.
He assented to her expressions of devout feeling, and usually with
an appropriate quotation; he allowed himself to say that he had gone
through some spiritual conflicts in his youth; in short, Dorothea saw
that here she might reckon on understanding, sympathy, and guidance.
On one--only one--of her favorite themes she was disappointed.
Mr. Casaubon apparently did not care about building cottages,
and diverted the talk to the extremely narrow accommodation
which was to be had in the dwellings of the ancient Egyptians,
as if to check a too high standard. After he was gone,
Dorothea dwelt with some agitation on this indifference of his;
and her mind was much exercised with arguments drawn from the varying
conditions of climate which modify human needs, and from the admitted
wickedness of pagan despots. Should she not urge these arguments
on Mr. Casaubon when he came again? But further reflection told
her that she was presumptuous in demanding his attention to such
a subject; he would not disapprove of her occupying herself with it
in leisure moments, as other women expected to occupy themselves
with their dress and embroidery--would not forbid it when--Dorothea
felt rather ashamed as she detected herself in these speculations.
But her uncle had been invited to go to Lowick to stay a couple
of days: was it reasonable to suppose that Mr. Casaubon delighted
in Mr. Brooke's society for its own sake, either with or without
Meanwhile that little disappointment made her delight the more in Sir
James Chettam's readiness to set on foot the desired improvements.
He came much oftener than Mr. Casaubon, and Dorothea ceased to find him
disagreeable since he showed himself so entirely in earnest; for he had
already entered with much practical ability into Lovegood's estimates,
and was charmingly docile. She proposed to build a couple of cottages,
and transfer two families from their old cabins, which could then
be pulled down, so that new ones could be built on the old sites.
Sir James said "Exactly," and she bore the word remarkably well.
Certainly these men who had so few spontaneous ideas might be very
useful members of society under good feminine direction, if they were
fortunate in choosing their sisters-in-law! It is difficult to say
whether there was or was not a little wilfulness in her continuing
blind to the possibility that another sort of choice was in question
in relation to her. But her life was just now full of hope and action:
she was not only thinking of her plans, but getting down learned
books from the library and reading many things hastily (that she
might be a little less ignorant in talking to Mr. Casaubon), all the
while being visited with conscientious questionings whether she were
not exalting these poor doings above measure and contemplating them
with that self-satisfaction which was the last doom of ignorance and folly.
1st Gent. Our deeds are fetters that we forge ourselves.
2d Gent. Ay, truly: but I think it is the world
That brings the iron.
"Sir James seems determined to do everything you wish," said Celia,
as they were driving home from an inspection of the new building-site.
"He is a good creature, and more sensible than any one would imagine,"
said Dorothea, inconsiderately.
"You mean that he appears silly."
"No, no," said Dorothea, recollecting herself, and laying her hand
on her sister's a moment, "but he does not talk equally well on
all subjects."
"I should think none but disagreeable people do," said Celia,
in her usual purring way. "They must be very dreadful to live with.
Only think! at breakfast, and always."
Dorothea laughed. "O Kitty, you are a wonderful creature!"
She pinched Celia's chin, being in the mood now to think her
very winning and lovely--fit hereafter to be an eternal cherub,
and if it were not doctrinally wrong to say so, hardly more in need
of salvation than a squirrel. "Of course people need not be always
talking well. Only one tells the quality of their minds when they
try to talk well."
"You mean that Sir James tries and fails."
"I was speaking generally. Why do you catechise me about Sir
James? It is not the object of his life to please me."
"Now, Dodo, can you really believe that?"
"Certainly. He thinks of me as a future sister--that is all."
Dorothea had never hinted this before, waiting, from a certain
shyness on such subjects which was mutual between the sisters,
until it should be introduced by some decisive event. Celia blushed,
but said at once--
"Pray do not make that mistake any longer, Dodo. When Tantripp
was brushing my hair the other day, she said that Sir James's man
knew from Mrs. Cadwallader's maid that Sir James was to marry
the eldest Miss Brooke."
"How can you let Tantripp talk such gossip to you, Celia?"
said Dorothea, indignantly, not the less angry because details asleep
in her memory were now awakened to confirm the unwelcome revelation.
"You must have asked her questions. It is degrading."
"I see no harm at all in Tantripp's talking to me. It is better
to hear what people say. You see what mistakes you make by taking
up notions. I am quite sure that Sir James means to make you an offer;
and he believes that you will accept him, especially since you
have been so pleased with him about the plans. And uncle too--I
know he expects it. Every one can see that Sir James is very much
in love with you."
The revulsion was so strong and painful in Dorothea's mind that the tears
welled up and flowed abundantly. All her dear plans were embittered,
and she thought with disgust of Sir James's conceiving that she
recognized him as her lover. There was vexation too on account of Celia.
"How could he expect it?" she burst forth in her most impetuous manner.
"I have never agreed with him about anything but the cottages: I
was barely polite to him before."
"But you have been so pleased with him since then; he has begun
to feel quite sure that you are fond of him."
"Fond of him, Celia! How can you choose such odious expressions?"
said Dorothea, passionately.
"Dear me, Dorothea, I suppose it would be right for you to be fond
of a man whom you accepted for a husband."
"It is offensive to me to say that Sir James could think I was fond
of him. Besides, it is not the right word for the feeling I must
have towards the man I would accept as a husband."
"Well, I am sorry for Sir James. I thought it right to tell you,
because you went on as you always do, never looking just where you are,
and treading in the wrong place. You always see what nobody else sees;
it is impossible to satisfy you; yet you never see what is quite plain.
That's your way, Dodo." Something certainly gave Celia unusual courage;
and she was not sparing the sister of whom she was occasionally in awe.
Who can tell what just criticisms Murr the Cat may be passing on us
beings of wider speculation?
"It is very painful," said Dorothea, feeling scourged. "I can have
no more to do with the cottages. I must be uncivil to him. I must
tell him I will have nothing to do with them. It is very painful."
Her eyes filled again with tears.
"Wait a little. Think about it. You know he is going away for a day
or two to see his sister. There will be nobody besides Lovegood."
Celia could not help relenting. "Poor Dodo," she went on,
in an amiable staccato. "It is very hard: it is your favorite
FAD to draw plans."
"FAD to draw plans! Do you think I only care about my fellow-creatures'
houses in that childish way? I may well make mistakes. How can one
ever do anything nobly Christian, living among people with such petty
No more was said; Dorothea was too much jarred to recover her temper
and behave so as to show that she admitted any error in herself.
She was disposed rather to accuse the intolerable narrowness
and the purblind conscience of the society around her: and Celia
was no longer the eternal cherub, but a thorn in her spirit,
a pink-and-white nullifidian, worse than any discouraging presence
in the "Pilgrim's Progress." The FAD of drawing plans! What was
life worth--what great faith was possible when the whole
effect of one's actions could be withered up into such parched
rubbish as that? When she got out of the carriage, her cheeks
were pale and her eyelids red. She was an image of sorrow,
and her uncle who met her in the hall would have been alarmed,
if Celia had not been close to her looking so pretty and composed,
that he at once concluded Dorothea's tears to have their origin in
her excessive religiousness. He had returned, during their absence,
from a journey to the county town, about a petition for the pardon
of some criminal.
"Well, my dears," he said, kindly, as they went up to kiss him,
"I hope nothing disagreeable has happened while I have been away."
"No, uncle," said Celia, "we have been to Freshitt to look at
the cottages. We thought you would have been at home to lunch."
"I came by Lowick to lunch--you didn't know I came by Lowick. And I
have brought a couple of pamphlets for you, Dorothea--in the library,
you know; they lie on the table in the library."
It seemed as if an electric stream went through Dorothea,
thrilling her from despair into expectation. They were pamphlets
about the early Church. The oppression of Celia, Tantripp, and Sir
James was shaken off, and she walked straight to the library.
Celia went up-stairs. Mr. Brooke was detained by a message, but when
he re-entered the library, he found Dorothea seated and already
deep in one of the pamphlets which had some marginal manuscript
of Mr. Casaubon's,--taking it in as eagerly as she might have taken
in the scent of a fresh bouquet after a dry, hot, dreary walk.
She was getting away from Tipton and Freshitt, and her own sad
liability to tread in the wrong places on her way to the New Jerusalem.
Mr. Brooke sat down in his arm-chair, stretched his legs towards
the wood-fire, which had fallen into a wondrous mass of glowing dice
between the dogs, and rubbed his hands gently, looking very mildly
towards Dorothea, but with a neutral leisurely air, as if he had
nothing particular to say. Dorothea closed her pamphlet, as soon
as she was aware of her uncle's presence, and rose as if to go.
Usually she would have been interested about her uncle's merciful
errand on behalf of the criminal, but her late agitation had made
her absent-minded.
"I came back by Lowick, you know," said Mr. Brooke, not as if with
any intention to arrest her departure, but apparently from his
usual tendency to say what he had said before. This fundamental
principle of human speech was markedly exhibited in Mr. Brooke.
"I lunched there and saw Casaubon's library, and that kind of thing.
There's a sharp air, driving. Won't you sit down, my dear?
You look cold."
Dorothea felt quite inclined to accept the invitation. Some times,
when her uncle's easy way of taking things did not happen to
be exasperating, it was rather soothing. She threw off her mantle
and bonnet, and sat down opposite to him, enjoying the glow,
but lifting up her beautiful hands for a screen. They were not
thin hands, or small hands; but powerful, feminine, maternal hands.
She seemed to be holding them up in propitiation for her passionate
desire to know and to think, which in the unfriendly mediums
of Tipton and Freshitt had issued in crying and red eyelids.
She bethought herself now of the condemned criminal. "What news
have you brought about the sheep-stealer, uncle?"
"What, poor Bunch?--well, it seems we can't get him off--he
is to be hanged."
Dorothea's brow took an expression of reprobation and pity.
"Hanged, you know," said Mr. Brooke, with a quiet nod. "Poor Romilly! he
would have helped us. I knew Romilly. Casaubon didn't know Romilly.
He is a little buried in books, you know, Casaubon is."
"When a man has great studies and is writing a great work,
he must of course give up seeing much of the world. How can
he go about making acquaintances?"
"That's true. But a man mopes, you know. I have always been a
bachelor too, but I have that sort of disposition that I never moped;
it was my way to go about everywhere and take in everything.
I never moped: but I can see that Casaubon does, you know. He wants
a companion--a companion, you know."
"It would be a great honor to any one to be his companion,"
said Dorothea, energetically.
"You like him, eh?" said Mr. Brooke, without showing any surprise,
or other emotion. "Well, now, I've known Casaubon ten years,
ever since he came to Lowick. But I never got anything out of
him--any ideas, you know. However, he is a tiptop man and may
be a bishop--that kind of thing, you know, if Peel stays in.
And he has a very high opinion of you, my dear."
Dorothea could not speak.
"The fact is, he has a very high opinion indeed of you. And he
speaks uncommonly well--does Casaubon. He has deferred to me,
you not being of age. In short, I have promised to speak to you,
though I told him I thought there was not much chance. I was bound
to tell him that. I said, my niece is very young, and that kind
of thing. But I didn't think it necessary to go into everything.
However, the long and the short of it is, that he has asked my
permission to make you an offer of marriage--of marriage, you know,"
said Mr. Brooke, with his explanatory nod. "I thought it better
to tell you, my dear."
No one could have detected any anxiety in Mr. Brooke's manner,
but he did really wish to know something of his niece's mind, that,
if there were any need for advice, he might give it in time.
What feeling he, as a magistrate who had taken in so many ideas,
could make room for, was unmixedly kind. Since Dorothea did not
speak immediately, he repeated, "I thought it better to tell you,
my dear."
"Thank you, uncle," said Dorothea, in a clear unwavering tone.
"I am very grateful to Mr. Casaubon. If he makes me an offer,
I shall accept him. I admire and honor him more than any man I
ever saw."
Mr. Brooke paused a little, and then said in a lingering low tone,
"Ah? . . . Well! He is a good match in some respects. But now,
Chettam is a good match. And our land lies together. I shall never
interfere against your wishes, my dear. People should have their
own way in marriage, and that sort of thing--up to a certain point,
you know. I have always said that, up to a certain point. I wish
you to marry well; and I have good reason to believe that Chettam
wishes to marry you. I mention it, you know."
"It is impossible that I should ever marry Sir James Chettam,"
said Dorothea. "If he thinks of marrying me, he has made
a great mistake."
"That is it, you see. One never knows. I should have thought
Chettam was just the sort of man a woman would like, now."
"Pray do not mention him in that light again, uncle," said Dorothea,
feeling some of her late irritation revive.
Mr. Brooke wondered, and felt that women were an inexhaustible
subject of study, since even he at his age was not in a perfect
state of scientific prediction about them. Here was a fellow
like Chettam with no chance at all.
"Well, but Casaubon, now. There is no hurry--I mean for you.
It's true, every year will tell upon him. He is over five-and-forty,
you know. I should say a good seven-and-twenty years older than you.
To be sure,--if you like learning and standing, and that sort
of thing, we can't have everything. And his income is good--he has
a handsome property independent of the Church--his income is good.
Still he is not young, and I must not conceal from you, my dear,
that I think his health is not over-strong. I know nothing else
against him."
"I should not wish to have a husband very near my own age,"
said Dorothea, with grave decision. "I should wish to have a husband
who was above me in judgment and in all knowledge."
Mr. Brooke repeated his subdued, "Ah?--I thought you had more
of your own opinion than most girls. I thought you liked your
own opinion--liked it, you know."
"I cannot imagine myself living without some opinions, but I
should wish to have good reasons for them, and a wise man could
help me to see which opinions had the best foundation, and would
help me to live according to them."
"Very true. You couldn't put the thing better--couldn't put
it better, beforehand, you know. But there are oddities in things,"
continued Mr. Brooke, whose conscience was really roused to do
the best he could for his niece on this occasion. "Life isn't cast
in a mould--not cut out by rule and line, and that sort of thing.
I never married myself, and it will be the better for you and yours.
The fact is, I never loved any one well enough to put myself into
a noose for them. It IS a noose, you know. Temper, now.
There is temper. And a husband likes to be master."
"I know that I must expect trials, uncle. Marriage is a state
of higher duties. I never thought of it as mere personal ease,"
said poor Dorothea.
"Well, you are not fond of show, a great establishment, balls, dinners,
that kind of thing. I can see that Casaubon's ways might suit you
better than Chettam's. And you shall do as you like, my dear.
I would not hinder Casaubon; I said so at once; for there is no
knowing how anything may turn out. You have not the same tastes
as every young lady; and a clergyman and scholar--who may be
a bishop--that kind of thing--may suit you better than Chettam.
Chettam is a good fellow, a good sound-hearted fellow, you know;
but he doesn't go much into ideas. I did, when I was his age.
But Casaubon's eyes, now. I think he has hurt them a little with too
much reading."
"I should be all the happier, uncle, the more room there was for me
to help him," said Dorothea, ardently.
"You have quite made up your mind, I see. Well, my dear, the fact is,
I have a letter for you in my pocket." Mr. Brooke handed the letter
to Dorothea, but as she rose to go away, he added, "There is not
too much hurry, my dear. Think about it, you know."
When Dorothea had left him, he reflected that he had certainly
spoken strongly: he had put the risks of marriage before her in a
striking manner. It was his duty to do so. But as to pretending
to be wise for young people,--no uncle, however much he had travelled
in his youth, absorbed the new ideas, and dined with celebrities
now deceased, could pretend to judge what sort of marriage would
turn out well for a young girl who preferred Casaubon to Chettam.
In short, woman was a problem which, since Mr. Brooke's mind felt
blank before it, could be hardly less complicated than the revolutions
of an irregular solid.
"Hard students are commonly troubled with gowts, catarrhs,
rheums, cachexia, bradypepsia, bad eyes, stone, and collick,
crudities, oppilations, vertigo, winds, consumptions, and all such
diseases as come by over-much sitting: they are most part lean,
dry, ill-colored . . . and all through immoderate pains and
extraordinary studies. If you will not believe the truth of this,
look upon great Tostatus and Thomas Aquainas' works; and tell me whether
those men took pains."--BURTON'S Anatomy of Melancholy, P. I, s. 2.
This was Mr. Casaubon's letter.
MY DEAR MISS BROOKE,--I have your guardian's permission to address
you on a subject than which I have none more at heart. I am not,
I trust, mistaken in the recognition of some deeper correspondence
than that of date in the fact that a consciousness of need in my
own life had arisen contemporaneously with the possibility of my
becoming acquainted with you. For in the first hour of meeting you,
I had an impression of your eminent and perhaps exclusive fitness
to supply that need (connected, I may say, with such activity of the
affections as even the preoccupations of a work too special to be
abdicated could not uninterruptedly dissimulate); and each succeeding
opportunity for observation has given the impression an added
depth by convincing me more emphatically of that fitness which I
had preconceived, and thus evoking more decisively those affections
to which I have but now referred. Our conversations have, I think,
made sufficiently clear to you the tenor of my life and purposes:
a tenor unsuited, I am aware, to the commoner order of minds.
But I have discerned in you an elevation of thought and a capability
of devotedness, which I had hitherto not conceived to be compatible
either with the early bloom of youth or with those graces of sex that
may be said at once to win and to confer distinction when combined,
as they notably are in you, with the mental qualities above indicated.
It was, I confess, beyond my hope to meet with this rare combination
of elements both solid and attractive, adapted to supply aid
in graver labors and to cast a charm over vacant hours; and but
for the event of my introduction to you (which, let me again say,
I trust not to be superficially coincident with foreshadowing needs,
but providentially related thereto as stages towards the completion
of a life's plan), I should presumably have gone on to the last
without any attempt to lighten my solitariness by a matrimonial union.
Such, my dear Miss Brooke, is the accurate statement of my feelings;
and I rely on your kind indulgence in venturing now to ask you
how far your own are of a nature to confirm my happy presentiment.
To be accepted by you as your husband and the earthly guardian of
your welfare, I should regard as the highest of providential gifts.
In return I can at least offer you an affection hitherto unwasted,
and the faithful consecration of a life which, however short
in the sequel, has no backward pages whereon, if you choose
to turn them, you will find records such as might justly cause
you either bitterness or shame. I await the expression of your
sentiments with an anxiety which it would be the part of wisdom
(were it possible) to divert by a more arduous labor than usual.
But in this order of experience I am still young, and in looking forward
to an unfavorable possibility I cannot but feel that resignation
to solitude will be more difficult after the temporary illumination
of hope.
In any case, I shall remain,
Yours with sincere devotion,
Dorothea trembled while she read this letter; then she fell on her knees,
buried her face, and sobbed. She could not pray: under the rush of solemn
emotion in which thoughts became vague and images floated uncertainly,
she could but cast herself, with a childlike sense of reclining,
in the lap of a divine consciousness which sustained her own.
She remained in that attitude till it was time to dress for dinner.
How could it occur to her to examine the letter, to look at it
critically as a profession of love? Her whole soul was possessed
by the fact that a fuller life was opening before her: she
was a neophyte about to enter on a higher grade of initiation.
She was going to have room for the energies which stirred uneasily
under the dimness and pressure of her own ignorance and the petty
peremptoriness of the world's habits.
Now she would be able to devote herself to large yet definite duties;
now she would be allowed to live continually in the light of a mind
that she could reverence. This hope was not unmixed with the glow
of proud delight--the joyous maiden surprise that she was chosen
by the man whom her admiration had chosen. All Dorothea's passion
was transfused through a mind struggling towards an ideal life;
the radiance of her transfigured girlhood fell on the first object
that came within its level. The impetus with which inclination
became resolution was heightened by those little events of the day
which had roused her discontent with the actual conditions of
her life.
After dinner, when Celia was playing an "air, with variations,"
a small kind of tinkling which symbolized the aesthetic part of the
young ladies' education, Dorothea went up to her room to answer
Mr. Casaubon's letter. Why should she defer the answer? She wrote
it over three times, not because she wished to change the wording,
but because her hand was unusually uncertain, and she could not bear
that Mr. Casaubon should think her handwriting bad and illegible.
She piqued herself on writing a hand in which each letter was
distinguishable without any large range of conjecture, and she meant
to make much use of this accomplishment, to save Mr. Casaubon's eyes.
Three times she wrote.
MY DEAR MR. CASAUBON,--I am very grateful to you for loving me,
and thinking me worthy to be your wife. I can look forward to no better
happiness than that which would be one with yours. If I said more,
it would only be the same thing written out at greater length,
for I cannot now dwell on any other thought than that I may be
through life
Yours devotedly,
Later in the evening she followed her uncle into the library
to give him the letter, that he might send it in the morning.
He was surprised, but his surprise only issued in a few moments'
silence, during which he pushed about various objects on his
writing-table, and finally stood with his back to the fire,
his glasses on his nose, looking at the address of Dorothea's letter.
"Have you thought enough about this, my dear?" he said at last.
"There was no need to think long, uncle. I know of nothing to make
me vacillate. If I changed my mind, it must be because of something
important and entirely new to me."
"Ah!--then you have accepted him? Then Chettam has no chance?
Has Chettam offended you--offended you, you know? What is it you
don't like in Chettam?"
"There is nothing that I like in him," said Dorothea, rather impetuously.
Mr. Brooke threw his head and shoulders backward as if some one
had thrown a light missile at him. Dorothea immediately felt
some self-rebuke, and said--
"I mean in the light of a husband. He is very kind, I think--really
very good about the cottages. A well-meaning man."
"But you must have a scholar, and that sort of thing? Well, it lies
a little in our family. I had it myself--that love of knowledge,
and going into everything--a little too much--it took me too far;
though that sort of thing doesn't often run in the female-line;
or it runs underground like the rivers in Greece, you know--it
comes out in the sons. Clever sons, clever mothers. I went
a good deal into that, at one time. However, my dear, I have
always said that people should do as they like in these things,
up to a certain point. I couldn't, as your guardian, have consented
to a bad match. But Casaubon stands well: his position is good.
I am afraid Chettam will be hurt, though, and Mrs. Cadwallader will
blame me."
That evening, of course, Celia knew nothing of what had happened.
She attributed Dorothea's abstracted manner, and the evidence of
further crying since they had got home, to the temper she had been
in about Sir James Chettam and the buildings, and was careful not
to give further offence: having once said what she wanted to say,
Celia had no disposition to recur to disagreeable subjects.
It had been her nature when a child never to quarrel with any one--
only to observe with wonder that they quarrelled with her, and looked
like turkey-cocks; whereupon she was ready to play at cat's cradle
with them whenever they recovered themselves. And as to Dorothea,
it had always been her way to find something wrong in her sister's
words, though Celia inwardly protested that she always said just
how things were, and nothing else: she never did and never could
put words together out of her own head. But the best of Dodo was,
that she did not keep angry for long together. Now, though they
had hardly spoken to each other all the evening, yet when Celia put
by her work, intending to go to bed, a proceeding in which she was
always much the earlier, Dorothea, who was seated on a low stool,
unable to occupy herself except in meditation, said, with the musical
intonation which in moments of deep but quiet feeling made her speech
like a fine bit of recitative--
"Celia, dear, come and kiss me," holding her arms open as she spoke.
Celia knelt down to get the right level and gave her little
butterfly kiss, while Dorothea encircled her with gentle arms
and pressed her lips gravely on each cheek in turn.
"Don't sit up, Dodo, you are so pale to-night: go to bed soon,"
said Celia, in a comfortable way, without any touch of pathos.
"No, dear, I am very, very happy," said Dorothea, fervently.
"So much the better," thought Celia. "But how strangely Dodo goes
from one extreme to the other."
The next day, at luncheon, the butler, handing something to
Mr. Brooke, said, "Jonas is come back, sir, and has brought this letter."
Mr. Brooke read the letter, and then, nodding toward Dorothea,
said, "Casaubon, my dear: he will be here to dinner; he didn't
wait to write more--didn't wait, you know."
It could not seem remarkable to Celia that a dinner guest should
be announced to her sister beforehand, but, her eyes following
the same direction as her uncle's, she was struck with the peculiar
effect of the announcement on Dorothea. It seemed as if something
like the reflection of a white sunlit wing had passed across
her features, ending in one of her rare blushes. For the first time
it entered into Celia's mind that there might be something more
between Mr. Casaubon and her sister than his delight in bookish
talk and her delight in listening. Hitherto she had classed
the admiration for this "ugly" and learned acquaintance with the
admiration for Monsieur Liret at Lausanne, also ugly and learned.
Dorothea had never been tired of listening to old Monsieur Liret
when Celia's feet were as cold as possible, and when it had really
become dreadful to see the skin of his bald head moving about.
Why then should her enthusiasm not extend to Mr. Casaubon simply
in the same way as to Monsieur Liret? And it seemed probable
that all learned men had a sort of schoolmaster's view of young people.
But now Celia was really startled at the suspicion which had darted
into her mind. She was seldom taken by surprise in this way,
her marvellous quickness in observing a certain order of signs generally
preparing her to expect such outward events as she had an interest in.
Not that she now imagined Mr. Casaubon to be already an accepted
lover: she had only begun to feel disgust at the possibility that
anything in Dorothea's mind could tend towards such an issue.
Here was something really to vex her about Dodo: it was all very
well not to accept Sir James Chettam, but the idea of marrying
Mr. Casaubon! Celia felt a sort of shame mingled with a sense
of the ludicrous. But perhaps Dodo, if she were really bordering
on such an extravagance, might be turned away from it: experience
had often shown that her impressibility might be calculated on.
The day was damp, and they were not going to walk out, so they both
went up to their sitting-room; and there Celia observed that Dorothea,
instead of settling down with her usual diligent interest to
some occupation, simply leaned her elbow on an open book and looked
out of the window at the great cedar silvered with the damp.
She herself had taken up the making of a toy for the curate's children,
and was not going to enter on any subject too precipitately.
Dorothea was in fact thinking that it was desirable for Celia to know
of the momentous change in Mr. Casaubon's position since he had last
been in the house: it did not seem fair to leave her in ignorance
of what would necessarily affect her attitude towards him; but it was
impossible not to shrink from telling her. Dorothea accused herself
of some meanness in this timidity: it was always odious to her to
have any small fears or contrivances about her actions, but at this
moment she was seeking the highest aid possible that she might not
dread the corrosiveness of Celia's pretty carnally minded prose.
Her reverie was broken, and the difficulty of decision banished,
by Celia's small and rather guttural voice speaking in its usual tone,
of a remark aside or a "by the bye."
"Is any one else coming to dine besides Mr. Casaubon?"
"Not that I know of."
"I hope there is some one else. Then I shall not hear him eat
his soup so."
"What is there remarkable about his soup-eating?"
"Really, Dodo, can't you hear how he scrapes his spoon? And he
always blinks before he speaks. I don't know whether Locke blinked,
but I'm sure I am sorry for those who sat opposite to him if he did."
"Celia," said Dorothea, with emphatic gravity, "pray don't make
any more observations of that kind."
"Why not? They are quite true," returned Celia, who had her reasons
for persevering, though she was beginning to be a little afraid.
"Many things are true which only the commonest minds observe."
"Then I think the commonest minds must be rather useful.
I think it is a pity Mr. Casaubon's mother had not a commoner mind:
she might have taught him better." Celia was inwardly frightened,
and ready to run away, now she had hurled this light javelin.
Dorothea's feelings had gathered to an avalanche, and there could
be no further preparation.
"It is right to tell you, Celia, that I am engaged to marry
Mr. Casaubon."
Perhaps Celia had never turned so pale before. The paper man she
was making would have had his leg injured, but for her habitual
care of whatever she held in her hands. She laid the fragile
figure down at once, and sat perfectly still for a few moments.
When she spoke there was a tear gathering
"Oh, Dodo, I hope you will be happy." Her sisterly tenderness could
not but surmount other feelings at this moment, and her fears
were the fears of affection.
Dorothea was still hurt and agitated.
"It is quite decided, then?" said Celia, in an awed under tone.
"And uncle knows?"
"I have accepted Mr. Casaubon's offer. My uncle brought me
the letter that contained it; he knew about it beforehand."
"I beg your pardon, if I have said anything to hurt you, Dodo,"
said Celia, with a slight sob. She never could have thought
that she should feel as she did. There was something funereal
in the whole affair, and Mr. Casaubon seemed to be the officiating
clergyman, about whom it would be indecent to make remarks.
"Never mind, Kitty, do not grieve. We should never admire
the same people. I often offend in something of the same way;
I am apt to speak too strongly of those who don't please me."
In spite of this magnanimity Dorothea was still smarting: perhaps as
much from Celia's subdued astonishment as from her small criticisms.
Of course all the world round Tipton would be out of sympathy
with this marriage. Dorothea knew of no one who thought as she
did about life and its best objects.
Nevertheless before the evening was at an end she was very happy.
In an hour's tete-a-tete with Mr. Casaubon she talked to him
with more freedom than she had ever felt before, even pouring
out her joy at the thought of devoting herself to him, and of
learning how she might best share and further all his great ends.
Mr. Casaubon was touched with an unknown delight (what man would
not have been?) at this childlike unrestrained ardor: he was not
surprised (what lover would have been?) that he should be the object
of it.
"My dear young lady--Miss Brooke--Dorothea!" he said, pressing her
hand between his hands, "this is a happiness greater than I had ever
imagined to be in reserve for me. That I should ever meet with a
mind and person so rich in the mingled graces which could render
marriage desirable, was far indeed from my conception. You have
all--nay, more than all--those qualities which I have ever regarded
as the characteristic excellences of womanhood. The great charm
of your sex is its capability of an ardent self-sacrificing affection,
and herein we see its fitness to round and complete the existence
of our own. Hitherto I have known few pleasures save of the severer
kind: my satisfactions have been those of the solitary student.
I have been little disposed to gather flowers that would wither
in my hand, but now I shall pluck them with eagerness, to place
them in your bosom."
No speech could have been more thoroughly honest in its intention:
the frigid rhetoric at the end was as sincere as the bark of a dog,
or the cawing of an amorous rook. Would it not be rash to conclude
that there was no passion behind those sonnets to Delia which strike
us as the thin music of a mandolin?
Dorothea's faith supplied all that Mr. Casaubon's words seemed
to leave unsaid: what believer sees a disturbing omission or
infelicity? The text, whether of prophet or of poet, expands for
whatever we can put into it, and even his bad grammar is sublime.
"I am very ignorant--you will quite wonder at my ignorance,"
said Dorothea. "I have so many thoughts that may be quite mistaken;
and now I shall be able to tell them all to you, and ask you about them.
But," she added, with rapid imagination of Mr. Casaubon's probable feeling,
"I will not trouble you too much; only when you are inclined to
listen to me. You must often be weary with the pursuit of subjects
in your own track. I shall gain enough if you will take me with you there."
"How should I be able now to persevere in any path without
your companionship?" said Mr. Casaubon, kissing her candid brow,
and feeling that heaven had vouchsafed him a blessing in every way
suited to his peculiar wants. He was being unconsciously wrought
upon by the charms of a nature which was entirely without hidden
calculations either for immediate effects or for remoter ends.
It was this which made Dorothea so childlike, and, according to some
judges, so stupid, with all her reputed cleverness; as, for example,
in the present case of throwing herself, metaphorically speaking,
at Mr. Casaubon's feet, and kissing his unfashionable shoe-ties
as if he were a Protestant Pope. She was not in the least teaching
Mr. Casaubon to ask if he were good enough for her, but merely asking
herself anxiously how she could be good enough for Mr. Casaubon.
Before he left the next day it had been decided that the marriage
should take place within six weeks. Why not? Mr. Casaubon's house
was ready. It was not a parsonage, but a considerable mansion,
with much land attached to it. The parsonage was inhabited by
the curate, who did all the duty except preaching the morning sermon.
My lady's tongue is like the meadow blades,
That cut you stroking them with idle hand.
Nice cutting is her function: she divides
With spiritual edge the millet-seed,
And makes intangible savings.
As Mr. Casaubon's carriage was passing out of the gateway,
it arrested the entrance of a pony phaeton driven by a lady with
a servant seated behind. It was doubtful whether the recognition
had been mutual, for Mr. Casaubon was looking absently before him;
but the lady was quick-eyed, and threw a nod and a "How do you do?"
in the nick of time. In spite of her shabby bonnet and very old
Indian shawl, it was plain that the lodge-keeper regarded her
as an important personage, from the low curtsy which was dropped
on the entrance of the small phaeton.
"Well, Mrs. Fitchett, how are your fowls laying now?" said the
high-colored, dark-eyed lady, with the clearest chiselled utterance.
"Pretty well for laying, madam, but they've ta'en to eating their
eggs: I've no peace o' mind with 'em at all."
"Oh, the cannibals! Better sell them cheap at once. What will
you sell them a couple? One can't eat fowls of a bad character
at a high price."
"Well, madam, half-a-crown: I couldn't let 'em go, not under."
"Half-a-crown, these times! Come now--for the Rector's chicken-broth
on a Sunday. He has consumed all ours that I can spare.
You are half paid with the sermon, Mrs. Fitchett, remember that.
Take a pair of tumbler-pigeons for them--little beauties. You must
come and see them. You have no tumblers among your pigeons."
"Well, madam, Master Fitchett shall go and see 'em after work.
He's very hot on new sorts; to oblige you."
"Oblige me! It will be the best bargain he ever made. A pair
of church pigeons for a couple of wicked Spanish fowls that eat
their own eggs! Don't you and Fitchett boast too much, that is all!"
The phaeton was driven onwards with the last words, leaving Mrs.
Fitchett laughing and shaking her head slowly, with an interjectional
"SureLY, sureLY!"--from which it might be inferred that she would
have found the country-side somewhat duller if the Rector's lady
had been less free-spoken and less of a skinflint. Indeed, both the
farmers and laborers in the parishes of Freshitt and Tipton
would have felt a sad lack of conversation but for the stories
about what Mrs. Cadwallader said and did: a lady of immeasurably
high birth, descended, as it were, from unknown earls, dim as the
crowd of heroic shades--who pleaded poverty, pared down prices,
and cut jokes in the most companionable manner, though with a turn
of tongue that let you know who she was. Such a lady gave a
neighborliness to both rank and religion, and mitigated the bitterness
of uncommuted tithe. A much more exemplary character with an infusion
of sour dignity would not have furthered their comprehension
of the Thirty-nine Articles, and would have been less socially uniting.
Mr. Brooke, seeing Mrs. Cadwallader's merits from a different point
of view, winced a little when her name was announced in the library,
where he was sitting alone.
"I see you have had our Lowick Cicero here," she said, seating
herself comfortably, throwing back her wraps, and showing a thin
but well-built figure. "I suspect you and he are brewing some
bad polities, else you would not be seeing so much of the lively man.
I shall inform against you: remember you are both suspicious characters
since you took Peel's side about the Catholic Bill. I shall tell
everybody that you are going to put up for Middlemarch on the Whig
side when old Pinkerton resigns, and that Casaubon is going to help
you in an underhand manner: going to bribe the voters with pamphlets,
and throw open the public-houses to distribute them. Come, confess!"
"Nothing of the sort," said Mr. Brooke, smiling and rubbing his
eye-glasses, but really blushing a little at the impeachment.
"Casaubon and I don't talk politics much. He doesn't care much about
the philanthropic side of things; punishments, and that kind of thing.
He only cares about Church questions. That is not my line of action,
you know."
"Ra-a-ther too much, my friend. I have heard of your doings.
Who was it that sold his bit of land to the Papists at Middlemarch?
I believe you bought it on purpose. You are a perfect Guy Faux.
See if you are not burnt in effigy this 5th of November coming.
Humphrey would not come to quarrel with you about it, so I
am come."
"Very good. I was prepared to be persecuted for not persecuting--not
persecuting, you know."
"There you go! That is a piece of clap-trap you have got ready for
the hustings. Now, DO NOT let them lure you to the hustings,
my dear Mr. Brooke. A man always makes a fool of himself,
speechifying: there's no excuse but being on the right side,
so that you can ask a blessing on your humming and hawing.
You will lose yourself, I forewarn you. You will make a Saturday
pie of all parties' opinions, and be pelted by everybody."
"That is what I expect, you know," said Mr. Brooke, not wishing
to betray how little he enjoyed this prophetic sketch--"what I
expect as an independent man. As to the Whigs, a man who goes
with the thinkers is not likely to be hooked on by any party.
He may go with them up to a certain point--up to a certain point,
you know. But that is what you ladies never understand."
"Where your certain point is? No. I should like to be told how a man
can have any certain point when he belongs to no party--leading
a roving life, and never letting his friends know his address.
`Nobody knows where Brooke will be--there's no counting on Brooke'--that
is what people say of you, to be quite frank. Now, do turn respectable.
How will you like going to Sessions with everybody looking shy
on you, and you with a bad conscience and an empty pocket?"
"I don't pretend to argue with a lady on politics," said Mr. Brooke,
with an air of smiling indifference, but feeling rather unpleasantly
conscious that this attack of Mrs. Cadwallader's had opened the
defensive campaign to which certain rash steps had exposed him.
"Your sex are not thinkers, you know--varium et mutabile
semper--that kind of thing. You don't know Virgil. I knew"--Mr.
Brooke reflected in time that he had not had the personal acquaintance
of the Augustan poet--"I was going to say, poor Stoddart, you know.
That was what HE said. You ladies are always against an
independent attitude--a man's caring for nothing but truth,
and that sort of thing. And there is no part of the county where
opinion is narrower than it is here--I don't mean to throw stones,
you know, but somebody is wanted to take the independent line;
and if I don't take it, who will?"
"Who? Why, any upstart who has got neither blood nor position.
People of standing should consume their independent nonsense at home,
not hawk it about. And you! who are going to marry your niece,
as good as your daughter, to one of our best men. Sir James would
be cruelly annoyed: it will be too hard on him if you turn round now
and make yourself a Whig sign-board."
Mr. Brooke again winced inwardly, for Dorothea's engagement had
no sooner been decided, than he had thought of Mrs. Cadwallader's
prospective taunts. It might have been easy for ignorant observers
to say, "Quarrel with Mrs. Cadwallader;" but where is a country
gentleman to go who quarrels with his oldest neighbors? Who could taste
the fine flavor in the name of Brooke if it were delivered casually,
like wine without a seal? Certainly a man can only be cosmopolitan
up to a certain point.
"I hope Chettam and I shall always be good friends; but I am sorry
to say there is no prospect of his marrying my niece," said Mr. Brooke,
much relieved to see through the window that Celia was coming in.
"Why not?" said Mrs. Cadwallader, with a sharp note of surprise.
"It is hardly a fortnight since you and I were talking about it."
"My niece has chosen another suitor--has chosen him, you know.
I have had nothing to do with it. I should have preferred Chettam;
and I should have said Chettam was the man any girl would have chosen.
But there is no accounting for these things. Your sex is capricious,
you know."
"Why, whom do you mean to say that you are going to let her marry?"
Mrs. Cadwallader's mind was rapidly surveying the possibilities
of choice for Dorothea.
But here Celia entered, blooming from a walk in the garden,
and the greeting with her delivered Mr. Brooke from the necessity
of answering immediately. He got up hastily, and saying, "By the way,
I must speak to Wright about the horses," shuffled quickly out
of the room.
"My dear child, what is this?--this about your sister's engagement?"
said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"She is engaged to marry Mr. Casaubon," said Celia, resorting, as usual,
to the simplest statement of fact, and enjoying this opportunity
of speaking to the Rector's wife alone.
"This is frightful. How long has it been going on?"
"I only knew of it yesterday. They are to be married in six weeks."
"Well, my dear, I wish you joy of your brother-in-law."
"I am so sorry for Dorothea."
"Sorry! It is her doing, I suppose."
"Yes; she says Mr. Casaubon has a great soul."
"With all my heart."
"Oh, Mrs. Cadwallader, I don't think it can be nice to marry a man
with a great soul."
"Well, my dear, take warning. You know the look of one now;
when the next comes and wants to marry you, don't you accept him."
"I'm sure I never should."
"No; one such in a family is enough. So your sister never cared
about Sir James Chettam? What would you have said to HIM
for a brother-in-law?"
"I should have liked that very much. I am sure he would have
been a good husband. Only," Celia added, with a slight blush
(she sometimes seemed to blush as she breathed), "I don't think
he would have suited Dorothea."
"Not high-flown enough?"
"Dodo is very strict. She thinks so much about everything,
and is so particular about what one says. Sir James never seemed
to please her."
"She must have encouraged him, I am sure. That is not very creditable."
"Please don't be angry with Dodo; she does not see things.
She thought so much about the cottages, and she was rude to Sir
James sometimes; but he is so kind, he never noticed it."
"Well," said Mrs. Cadwallader, putting on her shawl, and rising,
as if in haste, "I must go straight to Sir James and break this to him.
He will have brought his mother back by this time, and I must call.
Your uncle will never tell him. We are all disappointed, my dear.
Young people should think of their families in marrying. I set a bad
example--married a poor clergyman, and made myself a pitiable object
among the De Bracys--obliged to get my coals by stratagem, and pray
to heaven for my salad oil. However, Casaubon has money enough;
I must do him that justice. As to his blood, I suppose the family
quarterings are three cuttle-fish sable, and a commentator rampant.
By the bye, before I go, my dear, I must speak to your Mrs. Carter
about pastry. I want to send my young cook to learn of her.
Poor people with four children, like us, you know, can't afford to keep
a good cook. I have no doubt Mrs. Carter will oblige me. Sir James's
cook is a perfect dragon."
In less than an hour, Mrs. Cadwallader had circumvented Mrs. Carter
and driven to Freshitt Hall, which was not far from her own parsonage,
her husband being resident in Freshitt and keeping a curate in Tipton.
Sir James Chettam had returned from the short journey which had
kept him absent for a couple of days, and had changed his dress,
intending to ride over to Tipton Grange. His horse was standing at
the door when Mrs. Cadwallader drove up, and he immediately appeared
there himself, whip in hand. Lady Chettam had not yet returned,
but Mrs. Cadwallader's errand could not be despatched in the presence
of grooms, so she asked to be taken into the conservatory close by,
to look at the new plants; and on coming to a contemplative stand,
she said--
"I have a great shock for you; I hope you are not so far gone
in love as you pretended to be."
It was of no use protesting, against Mrs. Cadwallader's way of
putting things. But Sir James's countenance changed a little.
He felt a vague alarm.
"I do believe Brooke is going to expose himself after all. I accused
him of meaning to stand for Middlemarch on the Liberal side, and he
looked silly and never denied it--talked about the independent line,
and the usual nonsense."
"Is that all?" said Sir James, much relieved.
"Why," rejoined Mrs. Cadwallader, with a sharper note, "you don't
mean to say that you would like him to turn public man in that
way--making a sort of political Cheap Jack of himself?"
"He might be dissuaded, I should think. He would not like the expense."
"That is what I told him. He is vulnerable to reason there--always
a few grains of common-sense in an ounce of miserliness.
Miserliness is a capital quality to run in families; it's the safe
side for madness to dip on. And there must be a little crack
in the Brooke family, else we should not see what we are to see."
"What? Brooke standing for Middlemarch?"
"Worse than that. I really feel a little responsible. I always told
you Miss Brooke would be such a fine match. I knew there was a great
deal of nonsense in her--a flighty sort of Methodistical stuff.
But these things wear out of girls. However, I am taken by surprise
for once."
"What do you mean, Mrs. Cadwallader?" said Sir James. His fear lest
Miss Brooke should have run away to join the Moravian Brethren,
or some preposterous sect unknown to good society, was a little
allayed by the knowledge that Mrs. Cadwallader always made the worst
of things. "What has happened to Miss Brooke? Pray speak out."
"Very well. She is engaged to be married." Mrs. Cadwallader
paused a few moments, observing the deeply hurt expression in her
friend's face, which he was trying to conceal by a nervous smile,
while he whipped his boot; but she soon added, "Engaged to Casaubon."
Sir James let his whip fall and stooped to pick it up.
Perhaps his face had never before gathered so much concentrated
disgust as when he turned to Mrs. Cadwallader and repeated, "Casaubon?"
"Even so. You know my errand now."
"Good God! It is horrible! He is no better than a mummy!"
(The point of view has to be allowed for, as that of a blooming
and disappointed rival.)
"She says, he is a great soul.--A great bladder for dried peas
to rattle in!" said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"What business has an old bachelor like that to marry?" said Sir James.
"He has one foot in the grave."
"He means to draw it out again, I suppose."
"Brooke ought not to allow it: he should insist on its being put
off till she is of age. She would think better of it then.
What is a guardian for?"
"As if you could ever squeeze a resolution out of Brooke!"
"Cadwallader might talk to him."
"Not he! Humphrey finds everybody charming I never can get him
to abuse Casaubon. He will even speak well of the bishop, though I
tell him it is unnatural in a beneficed clergyman; what can one do
with a husband who attends so little to the decencies? I hide it
as well as I can by abusing everybody myself. Come, come, cheer up!
you are well rid of Miss Brooke, a girl who would have been requiring
you to see the stars by daylight. Between ourselves, little Celia
is worth two of her, and likely after all to be the better match.
For this marriage to Casaubon is as good as going to a nunnery."
"Oh, on my own account--it is for Miss Brooke's sake I think her
friends should try to use their influence."
"Well, Humphrey doesn't know yet. But when I tell him, you may
depend on it he will say, `Why not? Casaubon is a good fellow--and
young--young enough.' These charitable people never know vinegar from
wine till they have swallowed it and got the colic. However, if I
were a man I should prefer Celia, especially when Dorothea was gone.
The truth is, you have been courting one and have won the other.
I can see that she admires you almost as much as a man expects to
be admired. If it were any one but me who said so, you might think
it exaggeration. Good-by!"
Sir James handed Mrs. Cadwallader to the phaeton,
and then jumped on his horse. He was not going to renounce
his ride because of his friend's unpleasant news--only
to ride the faster in some other direction than that of Tipton Grange.
Now, why on earth should Mrs. Cadwallader have been at all busy
about Miss Brooke's marriage; and why, when one match that she
liked to think she had a hand in was frustrated, should she have
straightway contrived the preliminaries of another? Was there
any ingenious plot, any hide-and-seek course of action, which
might be detected by a careful telescopic watch? Not at all:
a telescope might have swept the parishes of Tipton and Freshitt,
the whole area visited by Mrs. Cadwallader in her phaeton,
without witnessing any interview that could excite suspicion,
or any scene from which she did not return with the same unperturbed
keenness of eye and the same high natural color. In fact, if that
convenient vehicle had existed in the days of the Seven Sages,
one of them would doubtless have remarked, that you can know little
of women by following them about in their pony-phaetons. Even
with a microscope directed on a water-drop we find ourselves making
interpretations which turn out to be rather coarse; for whereas
under a weak lens you may seem to see a creature exhibiting an active
voracity into which other smaller creatures actively play as if they
were so many animated tax-pennies, a stronger lens reveals to you
certain tiniest hairlets which make vortices for these victims
while the swallower waits passively at his receipt of custom.
In this way, metaphorically speaking, a strong lens applied to
Mrs. Cadwallader's match-making will show a play of minute causes
producing what may be called thought and speech vortices to bring
her the sort of food she needed. Her life was rurally simple,
quite free from secrets either foul, dangerous, or otherwise important,
and not consciously affected by the great affairs of the world.
All the more did the affairs of the great world interest her,
when communicated in the letters of high-born relations: the way
in which fascinating younger sons had gone to the dogs by marrying
their mistresses; the fine old-blooded idiocy of young Lord Tapir,
and the furious gouty humors of old Lord Megatherium; the exact
crossing of genealogies which had brought a coronet into a new branch
and widened the relations of scandal,--these were topics of which she
retained details with the utmost accuracy, and reproduced them in
an excellent pickle of epigrams, which she herself enjoyed the more
because she believed as unquestionably in birth and no-birth as she
did in game and vermin. She would never have disowned any one on the
ground of poverty: a De Bracy reduced to take his dinner in a basin
would have seemed to her an example of pathos worth exaggerating,
and I fear his aristocratic vices would not have horrified her.
But her feeling towards the vulgar rich was a sort of religious hatred:
they had probably made all their money out of high retail prices,
and Mrs. Cadwallader detested high prices for everything that was not
paid in kind at the Rectory: such people were no part of God's design
in making the world; and their accent was an affliction to the ears.
A town where such monsters abounded was hardly more than a sort
of low comedy, which could not be taken account of in a well-bred
scheme of the universe. Let any lady who is inclined to be hard
on Mrs. Cadwallader inquire into the comprehensiveness of her own
beautiful views, and be quite sure that they afford accommodation
for all the lives which have the honor to coexist with hers.
With such a mind, active as phosphorus, biting everything that came
near into the form that suited it, how could Mrs. Cadwallader feel
that the Miss Brookes and their matrimonial prospects were alien
to her? especially as it had been the habit of years for her to
scold Mr. Brooke with the friendliest frankness, and let him know
in confidence that she thought him a poor creature. From the first
arrival of the young ladies in Tipton she had prearranged Dorothea's
marriage with Sir James, and if it had taken place would have been
quite sure that it was her doing: that it should not take place
after she had preconceived it, caused her an irritation which every
thinker will sympathize with. She was the diplomatist of Tipton
and Freshitt, and for anything to happen in spite of her was an
offensive irregularity. As to freaks like this of Miss Brooke's,
Mrs. Cadwallader had no patience with them, and now saw that her
opinion of this girl had been infected with some of her husband's
weak charitableness: those Methodistical whims, that air of being
more religious than the rector and curate together, came from
a deeper and more constitutional disease than she had been willing to believe.
"However," said Mrs. Cadwallader, first to herself and afterwards
to her husband, "I throw her over: there was a chance, if she had
married Sir James, of her becoming a sane, sensible woman. He would
never have contradicted her, and when a woman is not contradicted,
she has no motive for obstinacy in her absurdities. But now I wish
her joy of her hair shirt."
It followed that Mrs. Cadwallader must decide on another match for
Sir James, and having made up her mind that it was to be the younger
Miss Brooke, there could not have been a more skilful move towards
the success of her plan than her hint to the baronet that he had made
an impression on Celia's heart. For he was not one of those gentlemen
who languish after the unattainable Sappho's apple that laughs
from the topmost bough--the charms which
"Smile like the knot of cowslips on the cliff,
Not to be come at by the willing hand."
He had no sonnets to write, and it could not strike him agreeably
that he was not an object of preference to the woman whom he
had preferred. Already the knowledge that Dorothea had chosen
Mr. Casaubon had bruised his attachment and relaxed its hold.
Although Sir James was a sportsman, he had some other feelings
towards women than towards grouse and foxes, and did not regard
his future wife in the light of prey, valuable chiefly for the
excitements of the chase. Neither was he so well acquainted
with the habits of primitive races as to feel that an ideal
combat for her, tomahawk in hand, so to speak, was necessary
to the historical continuity of the marriage-tie. On the contrary,
having the amiable vanity which knits us to those who are fond of us,
and disinclines us to those who are indifferent, and also a good
grateful nature, the mere idea that a woman had a kindness towards
him spun little threads of tenderness from out his heart towards hers.
Thus it happened, that after Sir James had ridden rather fast for
half an hour in a direction away from Tipton Grange, he slackened
his pace, and at last turned into a road which would lead him back
by a shorter cut. Various feelings wrought in him the determination
after all to go to the Grange to-day as if nothing new had happened.
He could not help rejoicing that he had never made the offer
and been rejected; mere friendly politeness required that he
should call to see Dorothea about the cottages, and now happily
Mrs. Cadwallader had prepared him to offer his congratulations,
if necessary, without showing too much awkwardness. He really
did not like it: giving up Dorothea was very painful to him;
but there was something in the resolve to make this visit forthwith
and conquer all show of feeling, which was a sort of file-biting and
counter-irritant. And without his distinctly recognizing the impulse,
there certainly was present in him the sense that Celia would be there,
and that he should pay her more attention than he had done before.
We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between
breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little
pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, "Oh, nothing!"
Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us
to hide our own hurts--not to hurt others.
"Piacer e popone
Vuol la sua stagione."
--Italian Proverb.
Mr. Casaubon, as might be expected, spent a great deal of his time
at the Grange in these weeks, and the hindrance which courtship
occasioned to the progress of his great work--the Key to all
Mythologies--naturally made him look forward the more eagerly
to the happy termination of courtship. But he had deliberately
incurred the hindrance, having made up his mind that it was now time
for him to adorn his life with the graces of female companionship,
to irradiate the gloom which fatigue was apt to hang over the intervals
of studious labor with the play of female fancy, and to secure in this,
his culminating age, the solace of female tendance for his declining years.
Hence he determined to abandon himself to the stream of feeling,
and perhaps was surprised to find what an exceedingly shallow rill
it was. As in droughty regions baptism by immersion could only be
performed symbolically, Mr. Casaubon found that sprinkling was
the utmost approach to a plunge which his stream would afford him;
and he concluded that the poets had much exaggerated the force
of masculine passion. Nevertheless, he observed with pleasure that
Miss Brooke showed an ardent submissive affection which promised
to fulfil his most agreeable previsions of marriage. It had once
or twice crossed his mind that possibly there, was some deficiency
in Dorothea to account for the moderation of his abandonment;
but he was unable to discern the deficiency, or to figure to himself
a woman who would have pleased him better; so that there was clearly
no reason to fall back upon but the exaggerations of human tradition.
"Could I not be preparing myself now to be more useful?"
said Dorothea to him, one morning, early in the time of courtship;
"could I not learn to read Latin and Greek aloud to you, as Milton's
daughters did to their father, without understanding what they read?"
"I fear that would be wearisome to you," said Mr. Casaubon, smiling;
"and, indeed, if I remember rightly, the young women you have
mentioned regarded that exercise in unknown tongues as a ground
for rebellion against the poet."
"Yes; but in the first place they were very naughty girls, else they
would have been proud to minister to such a father; and in the second
place they might have studied privately and taught themselves to
understand what they read, and then it would have been interesting.
I hope you don't expect me to be naughty and stupid?"
"I expect you to be all that an exquisite young lady can be in every
possible relation of life. Certainly it might be a great advantage
if you were able to copy the Greek character, and to that end it
were well to begin with a little reading."
Dorothea seized this as a precious permission. She would not have
asked Mr. Casaubon at once to teach her the languages, dreading of all
things to be tiresome instead of helpful; but it was not entirely
out of devotion to her future husband that she wished to know Latin
and Creek. Those provinces of masculine knowledge seemed to her
a standing-ground from which all truth could be seen more truly.
As it was, she constantly doubted her own conclusions, because she
felt her own ignorance: how could she be confident that one-roomed
cottages were not for the glory of God, when men who knew the classics
appeared to conciliate indifference to the cottages with zeal
for the glory? Perhaps even Hebrew might be necessary--at least the
alphabet and a few roots--in order to arrive at the core of things,
and judge soundly on the social duties of the Christian. And she
had not reached that point of renunciation at which she would have
been satisfier' with having a wise husband: she wished, poor child,
to be wise herself. Miss Brooke was certainly very naive with al:
her alleged cleverness. Celia, whose mind had never been thought
too powerful, saw the emptiness of other people's pretensions much
more readily. To have in general but little feeling, seems to be
the only security against feeling too much on any particular occasion.
However, Mr. Casaubon consented to listen and teach for an hour together,
like a schoolmaster of little boys, or rather like a lover,
to whom a mistress's elementary ignorance and difficulties have
a touching fitness. Few scholars would have disliked teaching
the alphabet under such circumstances. But Dorothea herself
was a little shocked and discouraged at her own stupidity,
and the answers she got to some timid questions about the value
of the Greek accents gave her a painful suspicion that here indeed
there might be secrets not capable of explanation to a woman's reason.
Mr. Brooke had no doubt on that point, and expressed himself with
his usual strength upon it one day that he came into the library
while the reading was going forward.
"Well, but now, Casaubon, such deep studies, classics, mathematics,
that kind of thing, are too taxing for a woman--too taxing, you know."
"Dorothea is learning to read the characters simply," said Mr. Casaubon,
evading the question. "She had the very considerate thought
of saving my eyes."
"Ah, well, without understanding, you know--that may not be so bad.
But there is a lightness about the feminine mind--a touch and go--music,
the fine arts, that kind of thing--they should study those up
to a certain point, women should; but in a light way, you know.
A woman should be able to sit down and play you or sing you a good old
English tune. That is what I like; though I have heard most things--been
at the opera in Vienna: Gluck, Mozart, everything of that sort.
But I'm a conservative in music--it's not like ideas, you know.
I stick to the good old tunes."
"Mr. Casaubon is not fond of the piano, and I am very glad he is not,"
said Dorothea, whose slight regard for domestic music and feminine
fine art must be forgiven her, considering the small tinkling
and smearing in which they chiefly consisted at that dark period.
She smiled and looked up at her betrothed with grateful eyes.
If he had always been asking her to play the "Last Rose of Summer,"
she would have required much resignation. "He says there is only an old
harpsichord at Lowick, and it is covered with books."
"Ah, there you are behind Celia, my dear. Celia, now,
plays very prettily, and is always ready to play. However,
since Casaubon does not like it, you are all right. But it's
a pity you should not have little recreations of that sort,
Casaubon: the bow always strung--that kind of thing, you know--will not do."
"I never could look on it in the light of a recreation to have my
ears teased with measured noises," said Mr. Casaubon. "A tune much
iterated has the ridiculous effect of making the words in my mind
perform a sort of minuet to keep time--an effect hardly tolerable,
I imagine, after boyhood. As to the grander forms of music,
worthy to accompany solemn celebrations, and even to serve as
an educating influence according to the ancient conception,
I say nothing, for with these we are not immediately concerned."
"No; but music of that sort I should enjoy," said Dorothea.
"When we were coming home from Lausanne my uncle took us to hear
the great organ at Freiberg, and it made me sob."
"That kind of thing is not healthy, my dear," said Mr. Brooke.
"Casaubon, she will be in your hands now: you must teach my niece
to take things more quietly, eh, Dorothea?"
He ended with a smile, not wishing to hurt his niece, but really
thinking that it was perhaps better for her to be early married
to so sober a fellow as Casaubon, since she would not hear of Chettam.
"It is wonderful, though," he said to himself as he shuffled out
of the room--"it is wonderful that she should have liked him.
However, the match is good. I should have been travelling out of my
brief to have hindered it, let Mrs. Cadwallader say what she will.
He is pretty certain to be a bishop, is Casaubon. That was a very
seasonable pamphlet of his on the Catholic Question:--a deanery
at least. They owe him a deanery."
And here I must vindicate a claim to philosophical reflectiveness,
by remarking that Mr. Brooke on this occasion little thought
of the Radical speech which, at a later period, he was led to make
on the incomes of the bishops. What elegant historian would
neglect a striking opportunity for pointing out that his heroes
did not foresee the history of the world, or even their own
actions?--For example, that Henry of Navarre, when a Protestant baby,
little thought of being a Catholic monarch; or that Alfred the Great,
when he measured his laborious nights with burning candles, had no
idea of future gentlemen measuring their idle days with watches.
Here is a mine of truth, which, however vigorously it may be worked,
is likely to outlast our coal.
But of Mr. Brooke I make a further remark perhaps less warranted
by precedent--namely, that if he had foreknown his speech,
it might not have made any great difference. To think with pleasure
of his niece's husband having a large ecclesiastical income was
one thing--to make a Liberal speech was another thing; and it is
a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.
"Oh, rescue her! I am her brother now,
And you her father. Every gentle maid
Should have a guardian in each gentleman."
It was wonderful to Sir James Chettam how well he continued to like
going to the Grange after he had once encountered the difficulty
of seeing Dorothea for the first time in the light of a woman who was
engaged to another man. Of course the forked lightning seemed to pass
through him when he first approached her, and he remained conscious
throughout the interview of hiding uneasiness; but, good as he was,
it must be owned that his uneasiness was less than it would have
been if he had thought his rival a brilliant and desirable match.
He had no sense of being eclipsed by Mr. Casaubon; he was only shocked
that Dorothea was under a melancholy illusion, and his mortification
lost some of its bitterness by being mingled with compassion.
Nevertheless, while Sir James said to himself that he had
completely resigned her, since with the perversity of a Desdemona
she had not affected a proposed match that was clearly suitable
and according to nature; he could not yet be quite passive under
the idea of her engagement to Mr. Casaubon. On the day when he
first saw them together in the light of his present knowledge,
it seemed to him that he had not taken the affair seriously enough.
Brooke was really culpable; he ought to have hindered it. Who could
speak to him? Something might be done perhaps even now, at least
to defer the marriage. On his way home he turned into the Rectory
and asked for Mr. Cadwallader. Happily, the Rector was at home,
and his visitor was shown into the study, where all the fishing
tackle hung. But he himself was in a little room adjoining,
at work with his turning apparatus, and he called to the baronet
to join him there. The two were better friends than any other
landholder and clergyman in the county--a significant fact
which was in agreement with the amiable expression of their faees.
Mr. Cadwallader was a large man, with full lips and a sweet smile;
very plain and rough in his exterior, but with that solid imperturbable
ease and good-humor which is infectious, and like great grassy hills
in the sunshine, quiets even an irritated egoism, and makes it
rather ashamed of itself. "Well, how are you?" he said, showing a
hand not quite fit to be grasped. "Sorry I missed you before.
Is there anything particular? You look vexed."
Sir James's brow had a little crease in it, a little depression
of the eyebrow, which he seemed purposely to exaggerate as he answered.
"It is only this conduct of Brooke's. I really think somebody
should speak to him."
"What? meaning to stand?" said Mr. Cadwallader, going on with
the arrangement of the reels which he had just been turning.
"I hardly think he means it. But where's the harm, if he likes it?
Any one who objects to Whiggery should be glad when the Whigs don't
put up the strongest fellow. They won't overturn the Constitution
with our friend Brooke's head for a battering ram."
"Oh, I don't mean that," said Sir James, who, after putting down
his hat and throwing himself into a chair, had begun to nurse
his leg and examine the sole of his boot with much bitterness.
"I mean this marriage. I mean his letting that blooming young girl
marry Casaubon."
"What is the matter with Casaubon? I see no harm in him--if the girl
likes him."
"She is too young to know what she likes. Her guardian ought
to interfere. He ought not to allow the thing to be done in this
headlong manner. I wonder a man like you, Cadwallader--a man
with daughters, can look at the affair with indifference:
and with such a heart as yours! Do think seriously about it."
"I am not joking; I am as serious as possible," said the Rector,
with a provoking little inward laugh. "You are as bad as Elinor.
She has been wanting me to go and lecture Brooke; and I have reminded
her that her friends had a very poor opinion of the match she made
when she married me."
"But look at Casaubon," said Sir James, indignantly. "He must
be fifty, and I don't believe he could ever have been much more
than the shadow of a man. Look at his legs!"
"Confound you handsome young fellows! you think of having it
all your own way in the world. Tou don't under stand women.
They don't admire you half so much as you admire yourselves.
Elinor used to tell her sisters that she married me for my ugliness--it
was so various and amusing that it had quite conquered her prudence."
"You! it was easy enough for a woman to love you. But this is no
question of beauty. I don't LIKE Casaubon." This was Sir James's
strongest way of implying that he thought ill of a man's character.
"Why? what do you know against him?" said the Rector laying down
his reels, and putting his thumbs into his armholes with an air
of attention.
Sir James paused. He did not usually find it easy to give his
reasons: it seemed to him strange that people should not know
them without being told, since he only felt what was reasonable.
At last he said--
"Now, Cadwallader, has he got any heart?"
"Well, yes. I don't mean of the melting sort, but a sound kernel,
THAT you may be sure of. He is very good to his poor relations:
pensions several of the women, and is educating a young fellow at
a good deal of expense. Casaubon acts up to his sense of justice.
His mother's sister made a bad match--a Pole, I think--lost herself--at
any rate was disowned by her family. If it had not been for that,
Casaubon would not have had so much money by half. I believe he went
himself to find out his cousins, and see what he could do for them.
Every man would not ring so well as that, if you tried his metal.
YOU would, Chettam; but not every man."
"I don't know," said Sir James, coloring. "I am not so sure of myself."
He paused a moment, and then added, "That was a right thing for
Casaubon to do. But a man may wish to do what is right, and yet
be a sort of parchment code. A woman may not be happy with him.
And I think when a girl is so young as Miss Brooke is, her friends
ought to interfere a little to hinder her from doing anything foolish.
You laugh, because you fancy I have some feeling on my own account.
But upon my honor, it is not that. I should feel just the same if I
were Miss Brooke's brother or uncle."
"Well, but what should you do?"
"I should say that the marriage must not be decided on until she was
of age. And depend upon it, in that case, it would never come off.
I wish you saw it as I do--I wish you would talk to Brooke about it."
Sir James rose as he was finishing his sentence, for he saw
Mrs. Cadwallader entering from the study. She held by the hand her
youngest girl, about five years old, who immediately ran to papa,
and was made comfortable on his knee.
"I hear what you are talking about," said the wife. "But you
will make no impression on Humphrey. As long as the fish rise
to his bait, everybody is what he ought to be. Bless you,
Casaubon has got a trout-stream, and does not care about fishing
in it himself: could there be a better fellow?"
"Well, there is something in that," said the Rector, with his quiet,
inward laugh. "It is a very good quality in a man to have
a trout-stream."
"But seriously," said Sir James, whose vexation had not yet spent itself,
"don't you think the Rector might do some good by speaking?"
"Oh, I told you beforehand what he would say," answered Mrs. Cadwallader,
lifting up her eyebrows. "I have done what I could: I wash
my hands of the marriage."
"In the first place," said the Rector, looking rather grave,
"it would be nonsensical to expect that I could convince Brooke,
and make him act accordingly. Brooke is a very good fellow, but pulpy;
he will run into any mould, but he won't keep shape."
"He might keep shape long enough to defer the marriage," said Sir James.
"But, my dear Chettam, why should I use my influence to Casaubon's
disadvantage, unless I were much surer than I am that I should be
acting for the advantage of Miss Brooke? I know no harm of Casaubon.
I don't care about his Xisuthrus and Fee-fo-fum and the rest;
but then he doesn't care about my fishing-tackle. As to the line he
took on the Catholic Question, that was unexpected; but he has always
been civil to me, and I don't see why I should spoil his sport.
For anything I can tell, Miss Brooke may be happier with him than
she would be with any other man."
"Humphrey! I have no patience with you. You know you would rather
dine under the hedge than with Casaubon alone. You have nothing
to say to each other."
"What has that to do with Miss Brooke's marrying him? She does
not do it for my amusement."
"He has got no good red blood in his body," said Sir James.
"No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying-glass and it was all
semicolons and parentheses," said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"Why does he not bring out his book, instead of marrying,"
said Sir James, with a disgust which he held warranted by the sound
feeling of an English layman.
"Oh, he dreams footnotes, and they run away with all his brains.
They say, when he was a little boy, he made an abstract of
`Hop o' my Thumb,' and he has been making abstracts ever since.
Ugh! And that is the man Humphrey goes on saying that a woman may be
happy with."
"Well, he is what Miss Brooke likes," said the Rector. "I don't
profess to understand every young lady's taste."
"But if she were your own daughter?" said Sir James.
"That would be a different affair. She is NOT my daughter,
and I don't feel called upon to interfere. Casaubon is as good
as most of us. He is a scholarly clergyman, and creditable to
the cloth. Some Radical fellow speechifying at Middlemarch said
Casaubon was the learned straw-chopping incumbent, and Freke was
the brick-and-mortar incumbent, and I was the angling incumbent.
And upon my word, I don't see that one is worse or better than
the other." The Rector ended with his silent laugh. He always saw
the joke of any satire against himself. His conscience was large
and easy, like the rest of him: it did only what it could do without
any trouble.
Clearly, there would be no interference with Miss Brooke's
marriage through Mr. Cadwallader; and Sir James felt with some
sadness that she was to have perfect liberty of misjudgment.
It was a sign of his good disposition that he did not slacken
at all in his intention of carrying out Dorothea's de.
sign of the cottages. Doubtless this persistence was the best
course for his own dignity: but pride only helps us to be generous;
it never makes us so, any more than vanity makes us witty.
She was now enough aware of Sir James's position with regard to her,
to appreciate the rectitude of his perseverance in a landlord's duty,
to which he had at first been urged by a lover's complaisance,
and her pleasure in it was great enough to count for something
even in her present happiness. Per. haps she gave to Sir James
Chettam's cottages all the interest she could spare from Mr. Casaubon,
or rather from the symphony of hopeful dreams, admiring trust,
and passionate self devotion which that learned gentleman had set
playing in her soul. Hence it happened that in the good baronet's
succeed ing visits, while he was beginning to pay small attentions
to Celia, he found himself talking with more and more pleasure
to Dorothea. She was perfectly unconstrained and without irritation
towards him now, and he was gradually discovering the delight there
is in frank kindness and companionship between a man and a woman
who have no passion to hide or confess.
1st Gent. An ancient land in ancient oracles
Is called "law-thirsty": all the struggle there
Was after order and a perfect rule.
Pray, where lie such lands now? . . .
2d Gent. Why, where they lay of old--in human souls.
Mr. Casaubon's behavior about settlements was highly satisfactory
to Mr. Brooke, and the preliminaries of marriage rolled smoothly along,
shortening the weeks of courtship. The betrothed bride must see
her future home, and dictate any changes that she would like to have
made there. A woman dictates before marriage in order that she
may have an appetite for submission afterwards. And certainly,
the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our
own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it.
On a gray but dry November morning Dorothea drove to Lowick
in company with her uncle and Celia. Mr. Casaubon's home was
the manor-house. Close by, visible from some parts of the garden,
was the little church, with the old parsonage opposite.
In the beginning of his career, Mr. Casaubon had only held
the living, but the death of his brother had put him in possession
of the manor also. It had a small park, with a fine old oak here
and there, and an avenue of limes towards the southwest front,
with a sunk fence between park and pleasure-ground, so that from the
drawing-room windows the glance swept uninterruptedly along a slope
of greensward till the limes ended in a level of corn and pastures,
which often seemed to melt into a lake under the setting sun.
This was the happy side of the house, for the south and east looked
rather melancholy even under the brightest morning. The grounds here
were more confined, the flower-beds showed no very careful tendance,
and large clumps of trees, chiefly of sombre yews, had risen high,
not ten yards from the windows. The building, of greenish stone,
was in the old English style, not ugly, but small-windowed and
melancholy-looking: the sort of house that must have children,
many flowers, open windows, and little vistas of bright things,
to make it seem a joyous home. In this latter end of autumn,
with a sparse remnant of yellow leaves falling slowly athwart the dark
evergreens in a stillness without sunshine, the house too had an air
of autumnal decline, and Mr. Casaubon, when he presented himself,
had no bloom that could be thrown into relief by that background.
"Oh dear!" Celia said to herself, "I am sure Freshitt Hall would
have been pleasanter than this." She thought of the white freestone,
the pillared portico, and the terrace full of flowers, Sir James
smiling above them like a prince issuing from his enchantment
in a rose-bush, with a handkerchief swiftly metamorphosed
from the most delicately odorous petals--Sir James, who talked
so agreeably, always about things which had common-sense in them,
and not about learning! Celia had those light young feminine tastes
which grave and weatherworn gentlemen sometimes prefer in a wife;
but happily Mr. Casaubon's bias had been different, for he would
have had no chance with Celia.
Dorothea, on the contrary, found the house and grounds all
that she could wish: the dark book-shelves in the long library,
the carpets and curtains with colors subdued by time, the curious
old maps and bird's-eye views on the walls of the corridor,
with here and there an old vase below, had no oppression for her,
and seemed more cheerful than the easts and pictures at the Grange,
which her uncle had long ago brought home from his travels--they
being probably among the ideas he had taken in at one time.
To poor Dorothea these severe classical nudities and smirking
Renaissance-Correggiosities were painfully inexplicable, staring into
the midst of her Puritanic conceptions: she had never been taught
how she could bring them into any sort of relevance with her life.
But the owners of Lowick apparently had not been travellers,
and Mr. Casaubon's studies of the past were not carried on by means
of such aids.
Dorothea walked about the house with delightful emotion.
Everything seemed hallowed to her: this was to be the home
of her wifehood, and she looked up with eyes full of confidence
to Mr. Casaubon when he drew her attention specially to some
actual arrangement and asked her if she would like an alteration.
All appeals to her taste she met gratefully, but saw nothing to alter.
His efforts at exact courtesy and formal tenderness had no defect
for her. She filled up all blanks with unmanifested perfections,
interpreting him as she interpreted the works of Providence,
and accounting for seeming discords by her own deafness to the
higher harmonies. And there are many blanks left in the weeks
of courtship which a loving faith fills with happy assurance.
"Now, my dear Dorothea, I wish you to favor me by pointing out which
room you would like to have as your boudoir," said Mr. Casaubon,
showing that his views of the womanly nature were sufficiently
large to include that requirement.
"It is very kind of you to think of that," said Dorothea, "but I
assure you I would rather have all those matters decided for me.
I shall be much happier to take everything as it is--just as you
have been used to have it, or as you will yourself choose it to be.
I have no motive for wishing anything else."
"Oh, Dodo," said Celia, "will you not have the bow-windowed
room up-stairs?"
Mr. Casaubon led the way thither. The bow-window looked down the
avenue of limes; the furniture was all of a faded blue, and there
were miniatures of ladies and gentlemen with powdered hair hanging
in a group. A piece of tapestry over a door also showed a blue-green
world with a pale stag in it. The chairs and tables were thin-legged
and easy to upset. It was a room where one might fancy the ghost
of a tight-laced lady revisiting the scene of her embroidery.
A light bookcase contained duodecimo volumes of polite literature
in calf, completing the furniture.
"Yes," said Mr. Brooke, "this would be a pretty room with some
new hangings, sofas, and that sort of thing. A little bare now."
"No, uncle," said Dorothea, eagerly. "Pray do not speak of
altering anything. There are so many other things in the world
that want altering--I like to take these things as they are.
And you like them as they are, don't you?" she added, looking at
Mr. Casaubon. "Perhaps this was your mother's room when she was young."
"It was," he said, with his slow bend of the head.
"This is your mother," said Dorothea, who had turned to examine
the group of miniatures. "It is like the tiny one you brought me;
only, I should think, a better portrait. And this one opposite,
who is this?"
"Her elder sister. They were, like you and your sister, the only
two children of their parents, who hang above them, you see."
"The sister is pretty," said Celia, implying that she thought
less favorably of Mr. Casaubon's mother. It was a new open ing
to Celia's imagination, that he came of a family who had all been
young in their time--the ladies wearing necklaces.
"It is a peculiar face," said Dorothea, looking closely. "Those deep
gray eyes rather near together--and the delicate irregular nose with
a sort of ripple in it--and all the powdered curls hanging backward.
Altogether it seems to me peculiar rather than pretty. There is
not even a family likeness between her and your mother."
"No. And they were not alike in their lot."
"You did not mention her to me," said Dorothea.
"My aunt made an unfortunate marriage. I never saw her."
Dorothea wondered a little, but felt that it would be indelicate just
then to ask for any information which Mr. Casaubon did not proffer,
and she turned to the window to admire the view. The sun had lately
pierced the gray, and the avenue of limes cast shadows.
"Shall we not walk in the garden now?" said Dorothea.
"And you would like to see the church, you know," said Mr. Brooke.
"It is a droll little church. And the village. It all lies in a
nut-shell. By the way, it will suit you, Dorothea; for the cottages
are like a row of alms-houses--little gardens, gilly-flowers, that
sort of thing."
"Yes, please," said Dorothea, looking at Mr. Casaubon, "I should
like to see all that." She had got nothing from him more graphic
about the Lowick cottages than that they were "not bad."
They were soon on a gravel walk which led chiefly between grassy
borders and clumps of trees, this being the nearest way to the church,
Mr. Casaubon said. At the little gate leading into the churchyard
there was a pause while Mr. Casaubon went to the parsonage close
by to fetch a key. Celia, who had been hanging a little in the rear,
came up presently, when she saw that Mr. Casaubon was gone away,
and said in her easy staccato, which always seemed to contradict
the suspicion of any malicious intent--
"Do you know, Dorothea, I saw some one quite young coming up one
of the walks."
"Is that astonishing, Celia?"
"There may be a young gardener, you know--why not?" said Mr. Brooke.
"I told Casaubon he should change his gardener."
"No, not a gardener," said Celia; "a gentleman with a sketch-book. He
had light-brown curls. I only saw his back. But he was quite young."
"The curate's son, perhaps," said Mr. Brooke. "Ah, there is
Casaubon again, and Tucker with him. He is going to introduce Tucker.
You don't know Tucker yet."
Mr. Tucker was the middle-aged curate, one of the "inferior clergy,"
who are usually not wanting in sons. But after the introduction,
the conversation did not lead to any question about his family,
and the startling apparition of youthfulness was forgotten by every
one but Celia. She inwardly declined to believe that the light-brown
curls and slim figure could have any relationship to Mr. Tucker,
who was just as old and musty-looking as she would have expected
Mr. Casaubon's curate to be; doubtless an excellent man who would go
to heaven (for Celia wished not to be unprincipled), but the corners
of his mouth were so unpleasant. Celia thought with some dismalness
of the time she should have to spend as bridesmaid at Lowick, while the
curate had probably no pretty little children whom she could like,
irrespective of principle.
Mr. Tucker was invaluable in their walk; and perhaps Mr. Casaubon
had not been without foresight on this head, the curate being able
to answer all Dorothea's questions about the villagers and the
other parishioners. Everybody, he assured her, was well off in Lowick:
not a cottager in those double cottages at a low rent but kept a pig,
and the strips of garden at the back were well tended. The small
boys wore excellent corduroy, the girls went out as tidy servants,
or did a little straw-plaiting at home: no looms here, no Dissent;
and though the public disposition was rather towards laying
by money than towards spirituality, there was not much vice.
The speckled fowls were so numerous that Mr. Brooke observed,
"Your farmers leave some barley for the women to glean, I see.
The poor folks here might have a fowl in their pot, as the good French
king used to wish for all his people. The French eat a good many
fowls--skinny fowls, you know."
"I think it was a very cheap wish of his," said Dorothea, indignantly.
"Are kings such monsters that a wish like that must be reckoned
a royal virtue?"
"And if he wished them a skinny fowl," said Celia, "that would
not be nice. But perhaps he wished them to have fat fowls."
"Yes, but the word has dropped out of the text, or perhaps was
subauditum; that is, present in the king's mind, but not uttered,"
said Mr. Casaubon, smiling and bending his head towards Celia,
who immediately dropped backward a little, because she could not bear
Mr. Casaubon to blink at her.
Dorothea sank into silence on the way back to the house. She felt
some disappointment, of which she was yet ashamed, that there was
nothing for her to do in Lowick; and in the next few minutes her mind
had glanced over the possibility, which she would have preferred,
of finding that her home would be in a parish which had a larger
share of the world's misery, so that she might have had more active
duties in it. Then, recurring to the future actually before her,
she made a picture of more complete devotion to Mr. Casaubon's
aims in which she would await new duties. Many such might reveal
themselves to the higher knowledge gained by her in that companionship.
Mr. Tucker soon left them, having some clerical work which would
not allow him to lunch at the Hall; and as they were re-entering
the garden through the little gate, Mr. Casaubon said--
"You seem a little sad, Dorothea. I trust you are pleased with
what you have seen."
"I am feeling something which is perhaps foolish and wrong,"
answered Dorothea, with her usual openness--"almost wishing that
the people wanted more to be done for them here. I have known
so few ways of making my life good for anything. Of course,
my notions of usefulness must be narrow. I must learn new ways
of helping people."
"Doubtless," said Mr. Casaubon. "Each position has its
corresponding duties. Yours, I trust, as the mistress of Lowick,
will not leave any yearning unfulfilled."
"Indeed, I believe that," said Dorothea, earnestly. "Do not suppose
that I am sad."
"That is well. But, if you are not tired, we will take another way
to the house than that by which we came."
Dorothea was not at all tired, and a little circuit was made
towards a fine yew-tree, the chief hereditary glory of the grounds
on this side of the house. As they approached it, a figure,
conspicuous on a dark background of evergreens, was seated on
a bench, sketching the old tree. Mr. Brooke, who was walking
in front with Celia, turned his head, and said--
"Who is that youngster, Casaubon?"
They had come very near when Mr. Casaubon answered--
"That is a young relative of mine, a second cousin: the grandson,
in fact," he added, looking at Dorothea, "of the lady whose portrait
you have been noticing, my aunt Julia."
The young man had laid down his sketch-book and risen. His bushy
light-brown curls, as well as his youthfulness, identified him
at once with Celia's apparition.
"Dorothea, let me introduce to you my cousin, Mr. Ladislaw.
Will, this is Miss Brooke."
The cousin was so close now, that, when he lifted his hat,
Dorothea could see a pair of gray eves rather near together,
a delicate irregular nose with a little ripple in it, and hair
falling backward; but there was a mouth and chin of a more prominent,
threatening aspect than belonged to the type of the grandmother's
miniature. Young Ladislaw did not feel it necessary to smile,
as if he were charmed with this introduction to his future second
cousin and her relatives; but wore rather a pouting air of discontent.
"You are an artist, I see," said Mr. Brooke, taking up the sketch-book
and turning it over in his unceremonious fashion.
"No, I only sketch a little. There is nothing fit to be seen there,"
said young Ladislaw, coloring, perhaps with temper rather than modesty.
"Oh, come, this is a nice bit, now. I did a little in this way
myself at one time, you know. Look here, now; this is what I
call a nice thing, done with what we used to call BRIO."
Mr. Brooke held out towards the two girls a large colored sketch
of stony ground and trees, with a pool.
"I am no judge of these things," said Dorothea, not coldly, but with
an eager deprecation of the appeal to her. "You know, uncle, I never
see the beauty of those pictures which you say are so much praised.
They are a language I do not understand. I suppose there is some
relation between pictures and nature which I am too ignorant to
feel--just as you see what a Greek sentence stands for which means
nothing to me." Dorothea looked up at Mr. Casaubon, who bowed
his head towards her, while Mr. Brooke said, smiling nonchalantly--
"Bless me, now, how different people are! But you had a bad style
of teaching, you know--else this is just the thing for girls--sketching,
fine art and so on. But you took to drawing plans; you don't
understand morbidezza, and that kind of thing. You will come
to my house, I hope, and I will show you what I did in this way,"
he continued, turning to young Ladislaw, who had to be recalled
from his preoccupation in observing Dorothea. Ladislaw had made up
his mind that she must be an unpleasant girl, since she was going
to marry Casaubon, and what she said of her stupidity about pictures
would have confirmed that opinion even if he had believed her.
As it was, he took her words for a covert judgment, and was certain
that she thought his sketch detestable. There was too much cleverness
in her apology: she was laughing both at her uncle and himself.
But what a voice! It was like the voice of a soul that had once lived
in an AEolian harp. This must be one of Nature's inconsistencies.
There could be no sort of passion in a girl who would marry Casaubon.
But he turned from her, and bowed his thanks for Mr. Brooke's invitation.
"We will turn over my Italian engravings together," continued that
good-natured man. "I have no end of those things, that I have laid
by for years. One gets rusty in this part of the country, you know.
Not you, Casaubon; you stick to your studies; but my best ideas
get undermost--out of use, you know. You clever young men must
guard against indolence. I was too indolent, you know: else I
might have been anywhere at one time."
"That is a seasonable admonition," said Mr. Casaubon; "but now we
will pass on to the house, lest the young ladies should be tired
of standing."
When their backs were turned, young Ladislaw sat down to go
on with his sketching, and as he did so his face broke into an
expression of amusement which increased as he went on drawing,
till at last he threw back his head and laughed aloud. Partly it
was the reception of his own artistic production that tickled him;
partly the notion of his grave cousin as the lover of that girl;
and partly Mr. Brooke's definition of the place he might have
held but for the impediment of indolence. Mr. Will Ladislaw's
sense of the ludicrous lit up his features very agreeably: it was
the pure enjoyment of comicality, and had no mixture of sneering
and self-exaltation.
"What is your nephew going to do with himself, Casaubon?"
said Mr. Brooke, as they went on.
"My cousin, you mean--not my nephew."
"Yes, yes, cousin. But in the way of a career, you know."
"The answer to that question is painfully doubtful. On leaving Rugby
he declined to go to an English university, where I would gladly
have placed him, and chose what I must consider the anomalous course
of studying at Heidelberg. And now he wants to go abroad again,
without any special object, save the vague purpose of what he
calls culture, preparation for he knows not what. He declines
to choose a profession."
"He has no means but what you furnish, I suppose."
"I have always given him and his friends reason to understand
that I would furnish in moderation what was necessary for providing
him with a scholarly education, and launching him respectably.
I am-therefore bound to fulfil the expectation so raised,"
said Mr. Casaubon, putting his conduct in the light of mere rectitude:
a trait of delicacy which Dorothea noticed with admiration.
"He has a thirst for travelling; perhaps he may turn out a Bruce
or a Mungo Park," said Mr. Brooke. "I had a notion of that myself
at one time."
"No, he has no bent towards exploration, or the enlargement
of our geognosis: that would be a special purpose which I could
recognize with some approbation, though without felicitating him
on a career which so often ends in premature and violent death.
But so far is he from having any desire for a more accurate knowledge
of the earth's surface, that he said he should prefer not to know
the sources of the Nile, and that there should be some unknown
regions preserved as hunting grounds for the poetic imagination."
"Well, there is something in that, you know," said Mr. Brooke,
who had certainly an impartial mind.
"It is, I fear, nothing more than a part of his general inaccuracy
and indisposition to thoroughness of all kinds, which would be a bad
augury for him in any profession, civil or sacred, even were he
so far submissive to ordinary rule as to choose one."
"Perhaps he has conscientious scruples founded on his own unfitness,"
said Dorothea, who was interesting herself in finding a favorable explanation.
"Because the law and medicine should be very serious professions
to undertake, should they not? People's lives and fortunes depend on them."
"Doubtless; but I fear that my young relative Will Ladislaw is
chiefly determined in his aversion to these callings by a dislike
to steady application, and to that kind of acquirement which is
needful instrumentally, but is not charming or immediately inviting
to self-indulgent taste. I have insisted to him on what Aristotle has
stated with admirable brevity, that for the achievement of any work
regarded as an end there must be a prior exercise of many energies
or acquired facilities of a secondary order, demanding patience.
I have pointed to my own manuscript volumes, which represent
the toil of years preparatory to a work not yet accomplished.
But in vain. To careful reasoning of this kind he replies
by calling himself Pegasus, and every form of prescribed work `harness.'"
Celia laughed. She was surprised to find that Mr. Casaubon could
say something quite amusing.
"Well, you know, he may turn out a Byron, a Chatterton,
a Churchill--that sort of thing--there's no telling," said Mr. Brooke.
"Shall you let him go to Italy, or wherever else he wants to go?"
"Yes; I have agreed to furnish him with moderate supplies for a year
or so; he asks no more. I shall let him be tried by the test
of freedom."
"That is very kind of you," said Dorothea, looking up at Mr. Casaubon
with delight. "It is noble. After all, people may really have
in them some vocation which is not quite plain to themselves,
may they not? They may seem idle and weak because they are growing.
We should be very patient with each other, I think."
"I suppose it is being engaged to be married that has made you
think patience good," said Celia, as soon as she and Dorothea
were alone together, taking off their wrappings.
"You mean that I am very impatient, Celia."
"Yes; when people don't do and say just what you like." Celia had
become less afraid of "saying things" to Dorothea since this
engagement: cleverness seemed to her more pitiable than ever.
"He had catched a great cold, had he had no other clothes to wear
than the skin of a bear not yet killed."--FULLER.
Young Ladislaw did not pay that visit to which Mr. Brooke had
invited him, and only six days afterwards Mr. Casaubon mentioned
that his young relative had started for the Continent, seeming by this
cold vagueness to waive inquiry. Indeed, Will had declined to fix
on any more precise destination than the entire area of Europe.
Genius, he held, is necessarily intolerant of fetters: on the one
hand it must have the utmost play for its spontaneity; on the other,
it may confidently await those messages from the universe which
summon it to its peculiar work, only placing itself in an attitude
of receptivity towards all sublime chances. The attitudes of
receptivity are various, and Will had sincerely tried many of them.
He was not excessively fond of wine, but he had several times taken
too much, simply as an experiment in that form of ecstasy; he had
fasted till he was faint, and then supped on lobster; he had made
himself ill with doses of opium. Nothing greatly original had resulted
from these measures; and the effects of the opium had convinced him
that there was an entire dissimilarity between his constitution
and De Quincey's. The superadded circumstance which would evolve
the genius had not yet come; the universe had not yet beckoned.
Even Caesar's fortune at one time was, but a grand presentiment.
We know what a masquerade all development is, and what effective shapes
may be disguised in helpless embryos.--In fact, the world is full
of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities.
Will saw clearly enough the pitiable instances of long incubation
producing no chick, and but for gratitude would have laughed
at Casaubon, whose plodding application, rows of note-books, and small
taper of learned theory exploring the tossed ruins of the world,
seemed to enforce a moral entirely encouraging to Will's generous
reliance on the intentions of the universe with regard to himself.
He held that reliance to be a mark of genius; and certainly it is no
mark to the contrary; genius consisting neither in self-conceit nor
in humility, but in a power to make or do, not anything in general,
but something in particular. Let him start for the Continent, then,
without our pronouncing on his future. Among all forms of mistake,
prophecy is the most gratuitous.
But at present this caution against a too hasty judgment interests
me more in relation to Mr. Casaubon than to his young cousin.
If to Dorothea Mr. Casaubon had been the mere occasion which had set
alight the fine inflammable material of her youthful illusions,
does it follow that he was fairly represented in the minds of those
less impassioned personages who have hitherto delivered their
judgments concerning him? I protest against any absolute conclusion,
any prejudice derived from Mrs. Cadwallader's contempt for a neighboring
clergyman's alleged greatness of soul, or Sir James Chettam's poor
opinion of his rival's legs,--from Mr. Brooke's failure to elicit
a companion's ideas, or from Celia's criticism of a middle-aged
scholar's personal appearance. I am not sure that the greatest man
of his age, if ever that solitary superlative existed, could escape
these unfavorable reflections of himself in various small mirrors;
and even Milton, looking for his portrait in a spoon, must submit
to have the facial angle of a bumpkin. Moreover, if Mr. Casaubon,
speaking for himself, has rather a chilling rhetoric, it is not
therefore certain that there is no good work or fine feeling in him.
Did not an immortal physicist and interpreter of hieroglyphs write
detestable verses? Has the theory of the solar system been advanced
by graceful manners and conversational tact? Suppose we turn
from outside estimates of a man, to wonder, with keener interest,
what is the report of his own consciousness about his doings or
capacity: with what hindrances he is carrying on his daily labors;
what fading of hopes, or what deeper fixity of self-delusion the
years are marking off within him; and with what spirit he wrestles
against universal pressure, which will one day be too heavy for him,
and bring his heart to its final pause. Doubtless his lot is
important in his own eyes; and the chief reason that we think
he asks too large a place in our consideration must be our want
of room for him, since we refer him to the Divine regard with
perfect confidence; nay, it is even held sublime for our neighbor
to expect the utmost there, however little he may have got from us.
Mr. Casaubon, too, was the centre of his own world; if he was
liable to think that others were providentially made for him,
and especially to consider them in the light of their fitness
for the author of a "Key to all Mythologies," this trait is not
quite alien to us, and, like the other mendicant hopes of mortals,
claims some of our pity.
Certainly this affair of his marriage with Miss Brooke touched him
more nearly than it did any one of the persons who have hitherto
shown their disapproval of it, and in the present stage of things I
feel more tenderly towards his experience of success than towards
the disappointment of the amiable Sir James. For in truth, as the
day fixed for his marriage came nearer, Mr. Casaubon did not find
his spirits rising; nor did the contemplation of that matrimonial
garden scene, where, as all experience showed, the path was to be
bordered with flowers, prove persistently more enchanting bo him
than the accustomed vaults where he walked taper in hand. He did
not confess to himself, still less could he have breathed to another,
his surprise that though he had won a lovely and noble-hearted girl
he had not won delight,--which he had also regarded as an object
to be found by search. It is true that he knew all the classical
passages implying the contrary; but knowing classical passages,
we find, is a mode of motion, which explains why they leave
so little extra force for their personal application.
Poor Mr. Casaubon had imagined that his long studious bachelorhood
had stored up for him a compound interest of enjoyment, and that
large drafts on his affections would not fail to be honored; for we
all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors,
and act fatally on the strength of them. And now he was in danger
of being saddened by the very conviction that his circumstances
were unusually happy: there was nothing external by which he could
account for a certain blankness of sensibility which came over him
just when his expectant gladness should have been most lively,
just when he exchanged the accustomed dulness of his Lowick library
for his visits to the Grange. Here was a weary experience in which
he was as utterly condemned to loneliness as in the despair which
sometimes threatened him while toiling in the morass of authorship
without seeming nearer to the goal. And his was that worst
loneliness which would shrink from sympathy. He could not but wish
that Dorothea should think him not less happy than the world would
expect her successful suitor to be; and in relation to his authorship
he leaned on her young trust and veneration, he liked to draw
forth her fresh interest in listening, as a means of encouragement
to himself: in talking to her he presented all his performance and
intention with the reflected confidence of the pedagogue, and rid
himself for the time of that chilling ideal audience which crowded
his laborious uncreative hours with the vaporous pressure of Tartarean shades.
For to Dorothea, after that toy-box history of the world adapted
to young ladies which had made the chief part of her education,
Mr. Casaubon's talk about his great book was full of new vistas;
and this sense of revelation, this surprise of a nearer introduction
to Stoics and Alexandrians, as people who had ideas not totally
unlike her own, kept in abeyance for the time her usual eagerness
for a binding theory which could bring her own life and doctrine
into strict connection with that amazing past, and give the remotest
sources of knowledge some bearing on her actions. That more complete
teaching would come--Mr. Casaubon would tell her all that: she was
looking forward to higher initiation in ideas, as she was looking
forward to marriage, and blending her dim conceptions of both.
It would be a great mistake to suppose that Dorothea would have cared
about any share in Mr. Casaubon's learning as mere accomplishment;
for though opinion in the neighborhood of Freshitt and Tipton
had pronounced her clever, that epithet would not have described
her to circles in whose more precise vocabulary cleverness implies
mere aptitude for knowing and doing, apart from character.
All her eagerness for acquirement lay within that full current of
sympathetic motive in which her ideas and impulses were habitually
swept along. She did not want to deck herself with knowledge--to
wear it loose from the nerves and blood that fed her action; and if
she had written a book she must have done it as Saint Theresa did,
under the command of an authority that constrained her conscience.
But something she yearned for by which her life might be filled
with action at once rational and ardent; and since the time was gone
by for guiding visions and spiritual directors, since prayer heightened
yearning but not instruction, what lamp was there but knowledge?
Surely learned men kept-the only oil; and who more learned than
Mr. Casaubon?
Thus in these brief weeks Dorothea's joyous grateful expectation
was unbroken, and however her lover might occasionally be conscious
of flatness, he could never refer it to any slackening of her
affectionate interest.
The season was mild enough to encourage the project of extending
the wedding journey as far as Rome, and Mr. Casaubon was anxious
for this because he wished to inspect some manuscripts in the Vatican.
"I still regret that your sister is not to accompany us," he said
one morning, some time after it had been ascertained that Celia
objected to go, and that Dorothea did not wish for her companionship.
"You will have many lonely hours, Dorotheas, for I shall be
constrained to make the utmost use of my time during our stay in Rome,
and I should feel more at liberty if you had a companion."
The words "I should feel more at liberty" grated on Dorothea.
For the first time in speaking to Mr. Casaubon she colored
from annoyance.
"You must have misunderstood me very much," she said, "if you think
I should not enter into the value of your time--if you think that I
should not willingly give up whatever interfered with your using
it to the best purpose."
"That is very amiable in you, my dear Dorothea," said Mr. Casaubon,
not in the least noticing that she was hurt; "but if you had a lady
as your companion, I could put you both under the care of a cicerone,
and we could thus achieve two purposes in the same space of time."
"I beg you will not refer to this again," said Dorothea, rather haughtily.
But immediately she feared that she was wrong, and turning towards
him she laid her hand on his, adding in a different tone, "Pray do
not be anxious about me. I shall have so much to think of when I
am alone. And Tantripp will be a sufficient companion, just to take
care of me. I could not bear to have Celia: she would be miserable."
It was time to dress. There was to be a dinner-party that day,
the last of the parties which were held at the Grange as proper
preliminaries to the wedding, and Dorothea was glad of a reason
for moving away at once on the sound of the bell, as if she needed
more than her usual amount of preparation. She was ashamed of being
irritated from some cause she could not define even to herse1f;
for though she had no intention to be untruthful, her reply had not
touched the real hurt within her. Mr. Casaubon's words had been
quite reasonable, yet they had brought a vague instantaneous sense
of aloofness on his part.
"Surely I am in a strangely selfish weak state of mind," she said
to herself. "How can I have a husband who is so much above me
without knowing that he needs me less than I need him?"
Having convinced herself that Mr. Casaubon was altogether right,
she recovered her equanimity, and was an agreeable image of serene
dignity when she came into the drawing-room in her silver-gray
dress--the simple lines of her dark-brown hair parted over her brow
and coiled massively behind, in keeping with the entire absence
from her manner and expression of all search after mere effect.
Sometimes when Dorothea was in company, there seemed to be as
complete an air of repose about her as if she had been a picture
of Santa Barbara looking out from her tower into the clear air;
but these intervals of quietude made the energy of her speech
and emotion the more remarked when some outward appeal had
touched her.
She was naturally the subject of many observations this evening,
for the dinner-party was large and rather more miscellaneous
as to the male portion than any which had been held at the Grange
since Mr. Brooke's nieces had resided with him, so that the
talking was done in duos and trios more or less inharmonious.
There was the newly elected mayor of Middlemarch, who happened
to be a manufacturer; the philanthropic banker his brother-in-law,
who predominated so much in the town that some called him a Methodist,
others a hypocrite, according to the resources of their vocabulary;
and there were various professional men. In fact, Mrs. Cadwallader
said that Brooke was beginning to treat the Middlemarchers,
and that she preferred the farmers at the tithe-dinner, who drank her
health unpretentiously, and were not ashamed of their grandfathers'
furniture. For in that part of the country, before reform had
done its notable part in developing the political consciousness,
there was a clearer distinction of ranks and a dimmer distinction
of parties; so that Mr. Brooke's miscellaneous invitations seemed
to belong to that general laxity which came from his inordinate
travel and habit of taking too much in the form of ideas.
Already, as Miss Brooke passed out of the dining-room, opportunity
was found for some interjectional "asides"
"A fine woman, Miss Brooke! an uncommonly fine woman, by God!"
said Mr. Standish, the old lawyer, who had been so long concerned
with the landed gentry that he had become landed himself, and used
that oath in a deep-mouthed manner as a sort of armorial bearings,
stamping the speech of a man who held a good position.
Mr. Bulstrode, the banker, seemed to be addressed, but that
gentleman disliked coarseness and profanity, and merely bowed.
The remark was taken up by Mr. Chichely, a middle-aged bachelor
and coursing celebrity, who had a complexion something like
an Easter egg, a few hairs carefully arranged, and a carriage
implying the consciousness of a distinguished appearance.
"Yes, but not my style of woman: I like a woman who lays herself
out a little more to please us. There should be a little filigree
about a woman--something of the coquette. A man likes a sort
of challenge. The more of a dead set she makes at you the better."
"There's some truth in that," said Mr. Standish, disposed to be genial.
"And, by God, it's usually the way with them. I suppose it answers
some wise ends: Providence made them so, eh, Bulstrode?"
"I should be disposed to refer coquetry to another source,"
said Mr. Bulstrode. "I should rather refer it to the devil."
"Ay, to be sure, there should be a little devil in a woman,"
said Mr. Chichely, whose study of the fair sex seemed to have been
detrimental to his theology. "And I like them blond, with a
certain gait, and a swan neck. Between ourselves, the mayor's
daughter is more to my taste than Miss Brooke or Miss Celia either.
If I were a marrying man I should choose Miss Vincy before either
of them."
"Well, make up, make up," said Mr. Standish, jocosely; "you see
the middle-aged fellows early the day."
Mr. Chichely shook his head with much meaning: he was not going
to incur the certainty of being accepted by the woman he would choose.
The Miss Vincy who had the honor of being Mr. Chichely's ideal was
of course not present; for Mr. Brooke, always objecting to go too far,
would not have chosen that his nieces should meet the daughter
of a Middlemarch manufacturer, unless it were on a public occasion.
The feminine part of the company included none whom Lady
Chettam or Mrs. Cadwallader could object to; for Mrs. Renfrew,
the colonel's widow, was not only unexceptionable in point of breeding,
but also interesting on the ground of her complaint, which puzzled
the doctors, and seemed clearly a case wherein the fulness of
professional knowledge might need the supplement of quackery.
Lady Chettam, who attributed her own remarkable health to home-made
bitters united with constant medical attendance, entered with much
exercise of the imagination into Mrs. Renfrew's account of symptoms,
and into the amazing futility in her case of all, strengthening medicines.
"Where can all the strength of those medicines go, my dear?" said the
mild but stately dowager, turning to Mrs. Cadwallader reflectively,
when Mrs. Renfrew's attention was called away.
"It strengthens the disease," said the Rector's wife, much too
well-born not to be an amateur in medicine. "Everything depends on the
constitution: some people make fat, some blood, and some bile--that's
my view of the matter; and whatever they take is a sort of grist to the mill."
"Then she ought to take medicines that would reduce--reduce
the disease, you know, if you are right, my dear. And I think
what you say is reasonable."
"Certainly it is reasonable. You have two sorts of potatoes,
fed on the same soil. One of them grows more and more watery--"
"Ah! like this poor Mrs. Renfrew--that is what I think.
Dropsy! There is no swelling yet--it is inward. I should say she ought
to take drying medicines, shouldn't you?--or a dry hot-air bath.
Many things might be tried, of a drying nature."
"Let her try a certain person's pamphlets," said Mrs. Cadwallader
in an undertone, seeing the gentlemen enter. "He does not want drying."
"Who, my dear?" said Lady Chettam, a charming woman, not so quick
as to nullify the pleasure of explanation.
"The bridegroom--Casaubon. He has certainly been drying up faster
since the engagement: the flame of passion, I suppose."
"I should think he is far from having a good constitution,"
said Lady Chettam, with a still deeper undertone. "And then his
studies--so very dry, as you say."
"Really, by the side of Sir James, he looks like a death's head
skinned over for the occasion. Mark my words: in a year from this
time that girl will hate him. She looks up to him as an oracle now,
and by-and-by she will be at the other extreme. All flightiness!"
"How very shocking! I fear she is headstrong. But tell me--you
know all about him--is there anything very bad? What is the truth?"
"The truth? he is as bad as the wrong physic--nasty to take,
and sure to disagree."
"There could not be anything worse than that," said Lady Chettam,
with so vivid a conception of the physic that she seemed to have
learned something exact about Mr. Casaubon's disadvantages.
"However, James will hear nothing against Miss Brooke. He says she
is the mirror of women still."
"That is a generous make-believe of his. Depend upon it, he likes
little Celia better, and she appreciates him. I hope you like my
little Celia?"
"Certainly; she is fonder of geraniums, and seems more docile,
though not so fine a figure. But we were talking of physic.
Tell me about this new young surgeon, Mr. Lydgate. I am told he is
wonderfully clever: he certainly looks it--a fine brow indeed."
"He is a gentleman. I heard him talking to Humphrey. He talks well."
"Yes. Mr. Brooke says he is one of the Lydgates of Northumberland,
really well connected. One does not expect it in a practitioner
of that kind. For my own part, I like a medical man more on a footing
with the servants; they are often all the cleverer. I assure you
I found poor Hicks's judgment unfailing; I never knew him wrong.
He was coarse and butcher-like, but he knew my constitution.
It was a loss to me his going off so suddenly. Dear me, what a
very animated conversation Miss Brooke seems to be having with this
Mr. Lydgate!"
"She is talking cottages and hospitals with him," said Mrs. Cadwallader,
whose ears and power of interpretation were quick. "I believe
he is a sort of philanthropist, so Brooke is sure to take him up."
"James," said Lady Chettam when her son came near, "bring Mr. Lydgate
and introduce him to me. I want to test him."
The affable dowager declared herself delighted with this opportunity
of making Mr. Lydgate's acquaintance, having heard of his success
in treating fever on a new plan.
Mr. Lydgate had the medical accomplishment of looking perfectly grave
whatever nonsense was talked to him, and his dark steady eyes gave him
impressiveness as a listener. He was as little as possible like the
lamented Hicks, especially in a certain careless refinement about his
toilet and utterance. Yet Lady Chettam gathered much confidence in him.
He confirmed her view of her own constitution as being peculiar,
by admitting that all constitutions might be called peculiar,
and he did not deny that hers might be more peculiar than others.
He did not approve of a too lowering system, including reckless cupping,
nor, on the other hand, of incessant port wine and bark. He said "I
think so" with an air of so much deference accompanying the insight
of agreement, that she formed the most cordial opinion of his talents.
"I am quite pleased with your protege," she said to Mr. Brooke
before going away.
"My protege?--dear me!--who is that?" said Mr. Brooke.
"This young Lydgate, the new doctor.-He seems to me to understand
his profession admirably."
"Oh, Lydgate! he is not my protege, you know; only I knew an
uncle of his who sent me a letter about him. However, I think he
is likely to be first-rate--has studied in Paris, knew Broussais;
has ideas, you know--wants to raise the profession."
"Lydgate has lots of ideas, quite new, about ventilation and diet,
that sort of thing," resumed Mr. Brooke, after he had handed out
Lady Chettam, and had returned to be civil to a group of Middlemarchers.
"Hang it, do you think that is quite sound?--upsetting The old treatment,
which has made Englishmen what they re?" said Mr. Standish.
"Medical knowledge is at a low ebb among us," said Mr. Bulstrode,
who spoke in a subdued tone, and had rather a sickly wir "I, for
my part, hail the advent of Mr. Lydgate. I hope to find good reason
for confiding the new hospital to his management."
"That is all very fine," replied Mr. Standish, who was not fond of
Mr. Bulstrode; "if you like him to try experiments on your hospital
patients, and kill a few people for charity I have no objection.
But I am not going to hand money out of my purse to have experiments
tried on me. I like treatment that has been tested a little."
"Well, you know, Standish, every dose you take is an experiment-an
experiment, you know," said Mr. Brooke, nodding towards the lawyer.
"Oh, if you talk in that sense!" said Mr. Standish, with as much
disgust at such non-legal quibbling as a man can well betray towards
a valuable client.
"I should be glad of any treatment that would cure me without
reducing me to a skeleton, like poor Grainger," said Mr. Vincy,
the mayor, a florid man, who would have served for a study of flesh
in striking contrast with the Franciscan tints of Mr. Bulstrode.
"It's an uncommonly dangerous thing to be left without any padding
against the shafts of disease, as somebody said,--and I think it a
very good expression myself."
Mr. Lydgate, of course, was out of hearing. He had quitted the
party early, and would have thought it altogether tedious but for
the novelty of certain introductions, especially the introduction
to Miss Brooke, whose youthful bloom, with her approaching marriage
to that faded scholar, and her interest in matters socially useful,
gave her the piquancy of an unusual combination.
"She is a good creature--that fine girl--but a little too earnest,"
he thought. "It is troublesome to talk to such women. They are
always wanting reasons, yet they are too ignorant to understand
the merits of any question, and usually fall hack on their moral
sense to settle things after their own taste."
Evidently Miss Brooke was not Mr. Lydgate's style of woman any more
than Mr. Chichely's. Considered, indeed, in relation to the latter,
whose mied was matured, she was altogether a mistake, and calculated
to shock his trust in final causes, including the adaptation of fine
young women to purplefaced bachelors. But Lydgate was less ripe,
and might possibly have experience before him which would modify
his opinion as to the most excellent things in woman.
Miss Brooke, however, was not again seen by either of these
gentlemen under her maiden name. Not long after that dinner-party
she had become Mrs. Casaubon, and was on her way to Rome.
"But deeds and language such as men do use,
And persons such as comedy would choose,
When she would show an image of the times,
And sport with human follies, not with crimes."
Lydgate, in fact, was already conscious of being fascinated by a
woman strikingly different from Miss Brooke: he did not in the
least suppose that he had lost his balance and fallen in love,
but he had said of that particular woman, "She is grace itself;
she is perfectly lovely and accomplished. That is what a woman
ought to be: she ought to produce the effect of exquisite music."
Plain women he regarded as he did the other severe facts of life,
to be faced with philosophy and investigated by science. But Rosamond
Vincy seemed to have the true melodic charm; and when a man has seen
the woman whom he would have chosen if he had intended to marry speedily,
his remaining a bachelor will usually depend on her resolution
rather than on his. Lydgate believed that he should not marry for
several years: not marry until he had trodden out a good clear path
for himself away from the broad road which was quite ready made.
He had seen Miss Vincy above his horizon almost as long as it
had taken Mr. Casaubon to become engaged and married: but this
learned gentleman was possessed of a fortune; he had assembled his
voluminous notes, and had made that sort of reputation which precedes
performance,--often the larger part of a man's fame. He took a wife,
as we have seen, to adorn the remaining quadrant of his course,
and be a little moon that would cause hardly a calculable perturbation.
But Lydgate was young, poor, ambitious. He had his half-century
before him instead of behind him, and he had come to Middlemarch bent
on doing many things that were not directly fitted to make his fortune
or even secure him a good income. To a man under such circumstances,
taking a wife is something more than a question of adornment,
however highly he may rate this; and Lydgate was disposed to give
it the first place among wifely functions. To his taste, guided by
a single conversation, here was the point on which Miss Brooke
would be found wanting, notwithstanding her undeniable beauty.
She did not look at things from the proper feminine angle.
The society of such women was about as relaxing as going from your
work to teach the second form, instead of reclining in a paradise
with sweet laughs for bird-notes, and blue eyes for a heaven.
Certainly nothing at present could seem much less important to
Lydgate than the turn of Miss Brooke's mind, or to Miss Brooke than
the qualities of the woman who had attracted this young surgeon.
But any one watching keenly the stealthy convergence of human lots,
sees a slow preparation of effects from one life on another,
which tells like a calculated irony on the indifference or the
frozen stare with which we look at our unintroduced neighbor.
Destiny stands by sarcastic with our dramatis personae folded
in her hand.
Old provincial society had its share of this subtle movement: had
not only its striking downfalls, its brilliant young professional
dandies who ended by living up an entry with a drab and six children
for their establishment, but also those less marked vicissitudes
which are constantly shifting the boundaries of social intercourse,
and begetting new consciousness of interdependence. Some slipped
a little downward, some got higher footing: people denied aspirates,
gained wealth, and fastidious gentlemen stood for boroughs;
some were caught in political currents, some in ecclesiastical,
and perhaps found themselves surprisingly grouped in consequence;
while a few personages or families that stood with rocky firmness
amid all this fluctuation, were slowly presenting new aspects
in spite of solidity, and altering with the double change of self
and beholder. Municipal town and rural parish gradually made fresh
threads of connection--gradually, as the old stocking gave way to the
savings-bank, and the worship of the solar guinea became extinct;
while squires and baronets, and even lords who had once lived
blamelessly afar from the civic mind, gathered the faultiness of
closer acquaintanceship. Settlers, too, came from distant counties,
some with an alarming novelty of skill, others with an offensive
advantage in cunning. In fact, much the same sort of movement
and mixture went on in old England as we find in older Herodotus,
who also, in telling what had been, thought it well to take a woman's
lot for his starting-point; though Io, as a maiden apparently
beguiled by attractive merchandise, was the reverse of Miss Brooke,
and in this respect perhaps bore more resemblance to Rosamond Vincy,
who had excellent taste in costume, with that nymph-like figure
and pure blindness which give the largest range to choice in the flow
and color of drapery. But these things made only part of her charm.
She was admitted to be the flower of Mrs. Lemon's school,
the chief school in the county, where the teaching included all
that was demanded in the accomplished female--even to extras,
such as the getting in and out of a carriage. Mrs. Lemon herself
had always held up Miss Vincy as an example: no pupil, she said,
exceeded that young lady for mental acquisition and propriety
of speech, while her musical execution was quite exceptional.
We cannot help the way in which people speak of us, and probably if
Mrs. Lemon had undertaken to describe Juliet or Imogen, these heroines
would not have seemed poetical. The first vision of Rosamond would
have been enough with most judges to dispel any prejudice excited by
Mrs. Lemon's praise.
Lydgate could not be long in Middlemarch without having that agreeable
vision, or even without making the acquaintance of the Vincy family;
for though Mr. Peacock, whose practice he had paid something to enter on,
had not been their doctor (Mrs. Vincy not liking the lowering system
adopted by him), he had many patients among their connections
and acquaintances. For who of any consequence in Middlemarch was
not connected or at least acquainted with the Vincys? They were
old manufacturers, and had kept a good house for three generations,
in which there had naturally been much intermarrying with neighbors
more or less decidedly genteel. Mr. Vincy's sister had made a wealthy
match in accepting Mr. Bulstrode, who, however, as a man not born
in the town, and altogether of dimly known origin, was considered
to have done well in uniting himself with a real Middlemarch family;
on the other hand, Mr. Vincy had descended a little, having taken
an innkeeper's daughter. But on this side too there was a cheering
sense of money; for Mrs. Vincy's sister had been second wife
to rich old Mr. Featherstone, and had died childless years ago,
so that her nephews and nieces might be supposed to touch the
affections of the widower. And it happened that Mr. Bulstrode
and Mr. Featherstone, two of Peacock's most important patients,
had, from different causes, given an especially good reception to
his successor, who had raised some partisanship as well as discussion.
Mr. Wrench, medical attendant to the Vincy family, very early had
grounds for thinking lightly of Lydgate's professional discretion,
and there was no report about him which was not retailed at the
Vincys', where visitors were frequent. Mr. Vincy was more inclined
to general good-fellowship than to taking sides, but there was
no need for him to be hasty in making any new man acquaintance.
Rosamond silently wished that her father would invite Mr. Lydgate.
She was tired of the faces and figures she had always been used
to--the various irregular profiles and gaits and turns of phrase
distinguishing those Middlemarch young men whom she had known as boys.
She had been at school with girls of higher position, whose brothers,
she felt sure, it would have been possible for her to be more
interested in, than in these inevitable Middlemarch companions.
But she would not have chosen to mention her wish to her father;
and he, for his part, was in no hurry on the subject. An alderman
about to be mayor must by-and-by enlarge his dinner-parties,
but at present there were plenty of guests at his well-spread table.
That table often remained covered with the relics of the family breakfast
long after Mr. Vincy had gone with his second son to the warehouse,
and when Miss Morgan was already far on in morning lessons with the
younger girls in the schoolroom. It awaited the family laggard,
who found any sort of inconvenience (to others) less disagreeable
than getting up when he was called. This was the case one morning
of the October in which we have lately seen Mr. Casaubon visiting
the Grange; and though the room was a little overheated with the fire,
which had sent the spaniel panting to a remote corner, Rosamond,
for some reason, continued to sit at her embroidery longer than usual,
now and then giving herself a little shake, and laying her work
on her knee to contemplate it with an air of hesitating weariness.
Her mamma, who had returned from an excursion to the kitchen,
sat on the other side of the small work-table with an air
of more entire placidity, until, the clock again giving notice
that it was going to strike, she looked up from the lace-mending
which was occupying her plump fingers and rang the bell.
"Knock at Mr. Fred's door again, Pritchard, and tell him it has
struck half-past ten."
This was said without any change in the radiant good-humor of
Mrs. Vincy's face, in which forty-five years had delved neither
angles nor parallels; and pushing back her pink capstrings, she let
her work rest on her lap, while she looked admiringly at her daughter.
"Mamma," said Rosamond, "when Fred comes down I wish you would
not let him have red herrings. I cannot bear the smell of them
all over the house at this hour of the morning."
"Oh, my dear, you are so hard on your brothers! It is the only fault
I have to find with you. You are the sweetest temper in the world,
but you are so tetchy with your brothers."
"Not tetchy, mamma: you never hear me speak in an unladylike way."
"Well, but you want to deny them things."
"Brothers are so unpleasant."
"Oh, my dear, you must allow for young men. Be thankful if they
have good hearts. A woman must learn to put up with little things.
You will be married some day."
"Not to any one who is like Fred."
"Don't decry your own brother, my dear. Few young men have less
against them, although he couldn't take his degree--I'm sure I
can't understand why, for he seems to me most clever. And you know
yourself he was thought equal to the best society at college.
So particular as you are, my dear, I wonder you are not glad to have
such a gentlemanly young man for a brother. You are always finding
fault with Bob because he is not Fred."
"Oh no, mamma, only because he is Bob."
"Well, my dear, you will not find any Middlemarch young man who has
not something against him."
"But"--here Rosamond's face broke into a smile which suddenly revealed
two dimples. She herself thought unfavorably of these dimples and smiled
little in general society. "But I shall not marry any Middlemarch young man."
"So it seems, my love, for you have as good as refused the pick
of them; and if there's better to be had, I'm sure there's no girl
better deserves it."
"Excuse me, mamma--I wish you would not say, `the pick of them.'"
"Why, what else are they?"
"I mean, mamma, it is rather a vulgar expression."
"Very likely, my dear; I never was a good speaker. What should
I say?"
"The best of them."
"Why, that seems just as plain and common. If I had had time
to think, I should have said, `the most superior young men.'
But with your education you must know."
"What must Rosy know, mother?" said Mr. Fred, who had
slid in unobserved through the half-open door while the
ladies were bending over their work, and now going up
to the fire stood with his back towards it, warming the soles of his slippers.
"Whether it's right to say `superior young men,'" said Mrs. Vincy,
ringing the bell.
"Oh, there are so many superior teas and sugars now. Superior is
getting to be shopkeepers' slang."
"Are you beginning to dislike slang, then?" said Rosamond,
with mild gravity.
"Only the wrong sort. All choice of words is slang. It marks
a class."
"There is correct English: that is not slang."
"I beg your pardon: correct English is the slang of prigs who write
history and essays. And the strongest slang of all is the slang
of poets."
"You will say anything, Fred, to gain your point."
"Well, tell me whether it is slang or poetry to call an ox
a leg-plaiter."
"Of course you can call it poetry if you like."
"Aha, Miss Rosy, you don't know Homer from slang. I shall invent
a new game; I shall write bits of slang and poetry on slips,
and give them to you to separate."
"Dear me, how amusing it is to hear young people talk!" said Mrs. Vincy,
with cheerful admiration.
"Have you got nothing else for my breakfast, Pritchard?" said Fred,
to the servant who brought in coffee and buttered toast;
while he walked round the table surveying the ham, potted beef,
and other cold remnants, with an air of silent rejection, and polite
forbearance from signs of disgust.
"Should you like eggs, sir?"
"Eggs, no! Bring me a grilled bone."
"Really, Fred," said Rosamond, when the servant had left the room,
"if you must have hot things for breakfast, I wish you would come
down earlier. You can get up at six o'clock to go out hunting;
I cannot understand why you find it so difficult to get up on
other mornings."
"That is your want of understanding, Rosy. I can get up to go
hunting because I like it."
"What would you think of me if I came down two hours after every
one else and ordered grilled bone?"
"I should think you were an uncommonly fast young lady," said Fred,
eating his toast with the utmost composure.
"I cannot see why brothers are to make themselves disagreeable,
any more than sisters."
"I don't make myself disagreeable; it is you who find me so.
Disagreeable is a word that describes your feelings and not my actions."
"I think it describes the smell of grilled bone."
"Not at all. It describes a sensation in your little nose associated
with certain finicking notions which are the classics of Mrs. Lemon's
school. Look at my mother you don't see her objecting to everything
except what she does herself. She is my notion of a pleasant woman."
"Bless you both, my dears, and don't quarrel," said Mrs. Vincy,
with motherly cordiality. "Come, Fred, tell us all about the new doctor.
How is your uncle pleased with him?"
"Pretty well, I think. He asks Lydgate all sorts of questions and
then screws up his face while he hears the answers, as if they were
pinching his toes. That's his way. Ah, here comes my grilled bone."
"But how came you to stay out so late, my dear? You only said you
were going to your uncle's."
"Oh, I dined at Plymdale's. We had whist. Lydgate was there too."
"And what do you think of him? He is very gentlemanly, I suppose.
They say he is of excellent family--his relations quite county people."
"Yes," said Fred. "There was a Lydgate at John's who spent
no end of money. I find this man is a second cousin of his.
But rich men may have very poor devils for second cousins."
"It always makes a difference, though, to be of good family,"
said Rosamond, with a tone of decision which showed that she had thought
on this subject. Rosamond felt that she might have been happier
if she had not been the daughter of a Middlemarch manufacturer.
She disliked anything which reminded her that her mother's father had
been an innkeeper. Certainly any one remembering the fact might think
that Mrs. Vincy had the air of a very handsome good-humored landlady,
accustomed to the most capricious orders of gentlemen.
"I thought it was odd his name was Tertius," said the
bright-faced matron, "but of course it's a name in the family.
But now, tell us exactly what sort of man he is."
"Oh, tallish, dark, clever--talks well--rather a prig, I think."
"I never can make out what you mean by a prig," said Rosamond.
"A fellow who wants to show that he has opinions."
"Why, my dear, doctors must have opinions," said Mrs. Vincy.
"What are they there for else?"
"Yes, mother, the opinions they are paid for. But a prig
is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions."
"I suppose Mary Garth admires Mr. Lydgate," said Rosamond,
not without a touch of innuendo.
"Really, I can't say." said Fred, rather glumly, as he left
the table, and taking up a novel which he had brought down with him,
threw himself into an arm-chair. "If you are jealous of her,
go oftener to Stone Court yourself and eclipse her."
"I wish you would not be so vulgar, Fred. If you have finished,
pray ring the bell."
"It is true, though--what your brother says, Rosamond," Mrs. Vincy began,
when the servant had cleared the table. "It is a thousand pities
you haven't patience to go and see your uncle more, so proud
of you as he is, and wanted you to live with him. There's no
knowing what he might have done for you as well as for Fred.
God knows, I'm fond of having you at home with me, but I can part
with my children for their good. And now it stands to reason
that your uncle Featherstone will do something for Mary Garth."
"Mary Garth can bear being at Stone Court, because she likes that
better than being a governess," said Rosamond, folding up her work.
"I would rather not have anything left to me if I must earn it
by enduring much of my uncle's cough and his ugly relations."
"He can't be long for this world, my dear; I wouldn't hasten his end,
but what with asthma and that inward complaint, let us hope there
is something better for him in another. And I have no ill-will
toward's Mary Garth, but there's justice to be thought of.
And Mr. Featherstone's first wife brought him no money, as my sister did.
Her nieces and nephews can't have so much claim as my sister's.
And I must say I think Mary Garth a dreadful plain girl--more fit
for a governess."
"Every one would not agree with you there, mother," said Fred,
who seemed to be able to read and listen too.
"Well, my dear," said Mrs. Vincy, wheeling skilfully, "if she
HAD some fortune left her,--a man marries his wife's relations,
and the Garths are so poor, and live in such a small way.
But I shall leave you to your studies, my dear; for I must go and do
some shopping."
"Fred's studies are not very deep," said Rosamond, rising with
her mamma, "he is only reading a novel."
"Well, well, by-and-by he'll go to his Latin and things,"
said Mrs. Vincy, soothingly, stroking her son's head. "There's a
fire in the smoking-room on purpose. It's your father's wish,
you know--Fred, my dear--and I always tell him you will be good,
and go to college again to take your degree."
Fred drew his mother's hand down to his lips, but said nothing.
"I suppose you are not going out riding to-day?" said Rosamond,
lingering a little after her mamma was gone.
"No; why?"
"Papa says I may have the chestnut to ride now."
"You can go with me to-morrow, if you like. Only I am going
to Stone Court, remember."
"I want to ride so much, it is indifferent to me where we go."
Rosamond really wished to go to Stone Court, of all other places.
"Oh, I say, Rosy," said Fred, as she was passing out of the room,
"if you are going to the piano, let me come and play some airs
with you."
"Pray do not ask me this morning."
"Why not this morning?"
"Really, Fred, I wish you would leave off playing the flute.
A man looks very silly playing the flute. And you play so out
of tune."
"When next any one makes love to you, Miss Rosamond, I will tell
him how obliging you are."
"Why should you expect me to oblige you by hearing you play the flute,
any more than I should expect you to oblige me by not playing it?"
"And why should you expect me to take you out riding?"
This question led to an adjustment, for Rosamond had set her mind
on that particular ride.
So Fred was gratified with nearly an hour's practice of "Ar hyd y nos,"
"Ye banks and braes," and other favorite airs from his "Instructor
on the Flute;" a wheezy performance, into which he threw much
ambition and an irrepressible hopefulness.
"He had more tow on his distaffe
Than Gerveis knew."
The ride to Stone Court, which Fred and Rosamond took the next morning,
lay through a pretty bit of midland landscape, almost all meadows
and pastures, with hedgerows still allowed to grow in bushy beauty
and to spread out coral fruit for the birds. Little details gave
each field a particular physiognomy, dear to the eyes that have looked
on them from childhood: the pool in the corner where the grasses
were dank and trees leaned whisperingly; the great oak shadowing
a bare place in mid-pasture; the high bank where the ash-trees grew;
the sudden slope of the old marl-pit making a red background for
the burdock; the huddled roofs and ricks of the homestead without
a traceable way of approach; the gray gate and fences against
the depths of the bordering wood; and the stray hovel, its old,
old thatch full of mossy hills and valleys with wondrous modulations
of light and shadow such as we travel far to see in later life,
and see larger, but not more beautiful. These are the things
that make the gamut of joy in landscape to midland-bred souls--the
things they toddled among, or perhaps learned by heart standing
between their father's knees while he drove leisurely.
But the road, even the byroad, was excellent; for Lowick, as we
have seen, was not a parish of muddy lanes and poor tenants; and it
was into Lowick parish that Fred and Rosamond entered after a couple
of miles' riding. Another mile would bring them to Stone Court,
and at the end of the first half, the house was already visible,
looking as if it had been arrested in its growth toward a stone
mansion by an unexpected budding of farm-buildings on its left flank,
which had hindered it from becoming anything more than the substantial
dwelling of a gentleman farmer. It was not the less agreeable
an object in the distance for the cluster of pinnacled corn-ricks
which balanced the fine row of walnuts on the right.
Presently it was possible to discern something that might be a gig
on the circular drive before the front door.
"Dear me," said Rosamond, "I hope none of my uncle's horrible
relations are there."
"They are, though. That is Mrs. Waule's gig--the last yellow gig left,
I should think. When I see Mrs. Waule in it, I understand how yellow
can have been worn for mourning. That gig seems to me more funereal
than a hearse. But then Mrs. Waule always has black crape on.
How does she manage it, Rosy? Her friends can't always be dying."
"I don't know at all. And she is not in the least evangelical,"
said Rosamond, reflectively, as if that religious point of view
would have fully accounted for perpetual crape. "And, not poor,"
she added, after a moment's pause.
"No, by George! They are as rich as Jews, those Waules and Featherstones;
I mean, for people like them, who don't want to spend anything.
And yet they hang about my uncle like vultures, and are afraid
of a farthing going away from their side of the family. But I
believe he hates them all."
The Mrs. Waule who was so far from being admirable in the eyes
of these distant connections, had happened to say this very morning
(not at all with a defiant air, but in a low, muffied, neutral tone,
as of a voice heard through cotton wool) that she did not wish "to
enjoy their good opinion." She was seated, as she observed, on her own
brother's hearth, and had been Jane Featherstone five-and-twenty years
before she had been Jane Waule, which entitled her to speak when her
own brother's name had been made free with by those who had no right to it.
"What are you driving at there?" said Mr. Featherstone,
holding his stick between his knees and settling his wig,
while he gave her a momentary sharp glance, which seemed
to react on him like a draught of cold air and set him coughing.
Mrs. Waule had to defer her answer till he was quiet again,
till Mary Garth had supplied him with fresh syrup, and he had begun
to rub the gold knob of his stick, looking bitterly at the fire.
It was a bright fire, but it made no difference to the chill-looking
purplish tint of Mrs. Waule's face, which was as neutral as her voice;
having mere chinks for eyes, and lips that hardly moved in speaking.
"The doctors can't master that cough, brother. It's just like what I have;
for I'm your own sister, constitution and everything. But, as I
was saying, it's a pity Mrs. Vincy's family can't be better conducted."
"Tchah! you said nothing o' the sort. You said somebody had made
free with my name."
"And no more than can be proved, if what everybody says is true.
My brother Solomon tells me it's the talk up and down in Middlemarch
how unsteady young Vincy is, and has been forever gambling at
billiards since home he came."
"Nonsense! What's a game at billiards? It's a good gentlemanly game;
and young Vincy is not a clodhopper. If your son John took
to billiards, now, he'd make a fool of himself."
"Your nephew John never took to billiards or any other game, brother,
and is far from losing hundreds of pounds, which, if what everybody
says is true, must be found somewhere else than out of Mr. Vincy
the father's pocket. For they say he's been losing money for years,
though nobody would think so, to see him go coursing and keeping open
house as they do. And I've heard say Mr. Bulstrode condemns Mrs. Vincy
beyond anything for her flightiness, and spoiling her children so."!
"What's Bulstrode to me? I don't bank with him."
"Well, Mrs. Bulstrode is Mr. Vincy's own sister, and they do say that
Mr. Vincy mostly trades on the Bank money; and you may see yourself,
brother, when a woman past forty has pink strings always flying,
and that light way of laughing at everything, it's very unbecoming.
But indulging your children is one thing, and finding money to pay
their debts is another. And it's openly said that young Vincy has
raised money on his expectations. I don't say what expectations.
Miss Garth hears me, and is welcome to tell again. I know young
people hang together."
"No, thank you, Mrs. Waule," said Mary Garth. "I dislike hearing
scandal too much to wish to repeat it."
Mr. Featherstone rubbed the knob of his stick and made a brief
convulsive show of laughter, which had much the same genuineness
as an old whist-player's chuckle over a bad hand. Still looking
at the fire, he said--
"And who pretends to say Fred Vincy hasn't got expectations? Such
a fine, spirited fellow is like enough to have 'em."
There was a slight pause before Mrs. Waule replied, and when she
did so, her voice seemed to be slightly moistened with tears,
though her face was still dry.
"Whether or no, brother, it is naturally painful to me and my brother
Solomon to hear your name made free with, and your complaint being such
as may carry you off sudden, and people who are no more Featherstones
than the Merry-Andrew at the fair, openly reckoning on your property
coming to THEM. And me your own sister, and Solomon your own
brother! And if that's to be it, what has it pleased the Almighty
to make families for?" Here Mrs. Waule's tears fell, but with moderation.
"Come, out with it, Jane!" said Mr. Featherstone, looking at her.
"You mean to say, Fred Vincy has been getting somebody to advance him
money on what he says he knows about my will, eh?"
"I never said so, brother" (Mrs. Waule's voice had again become dry
and unshaken). "It was told me by my brother Solomon last night when
he called coming from market to give me advice about the old wheat,
me being a widow, and my son John only three-and-twenty, though steady
beyond anything. And he had it from most undeniable authority,
and not one, but many."
"Stuff and nonsense! I don't believe a word of it. It's all a
got-up story. Go to the window, missy; I thought I heard a horse.
See if the doctor's coming."
"Not got up by me, brother, nor yet by Solomon, who, whatever else he
may be--and I don't deny he has oddities--has made his will and parted
his property equal between such kin as he's friends with; though,
for my part, I think there are times when some should be considered
more than others. But Solomon makes it no secret what he means to do."
"The more fool he!" said Mr. Featherstone, with some difficulty;
breaking into a severe fit of coughing that required Mary Garth
to stand near him, so that she did not find out whose horses they
were which presently paused stamping on the gravel before the door.
Before Mr. Featherstone's cough was quiet, Rosamond entered,
bearing up her riding-habit with much grace. She bowed ceremoniously
to Mrs. Waule, who said stiffly, "How do you do, miss?" smiled and
nodded silently to Mary, and remained standing till the coughing
should cease, and allow her uncle to notice her.
"Heyday, miss!" he said at last, "you have a fine color.
Where's Fred?"
"Seeing about the horses. He will be in presently."
"Sit down, sit down. Mrs. Waule, you'd better go."
Even those neighbors who had called Peter Featherstone an old fox,
had never accused him of being insincerely polite, and his sister
was quite used to the peculiar absence of ceremony with which he
marked his sense of blood-relationship. Indeed, she herself was
accustomed to think that entire freedom from the necessity of behaving
agreeably was included in the Almighty's intentions about families.
She rose slowly without any sign of resentment, and said in her
usual muffled monotone, "Brother, I hope the new doctor will be
able to do something for you. Solomon says there's great talk
of his cleverness. I'm sure it's my wish you should be spared.
And there's none more ready to nurse you than your own sister
and your own nieces, if you'd only say the word. There's Rebecca,
and Joanna, and Elizabeth, you know."
"Ay, ay, I remember--you'll see I've remembered 'em all--all
dark and ugly. They'd need have some money, eh? There never was
any beauty in the women of our family; but the Featherstones have
always had some money, and the Waules too. Waule had money too.
A warm man was Waule. Ay, ay; money's a good egg; and if you
've got money to leave behind you, lay it in a warm nest.
Good-by, Mrs. Waule." Here Mr. Featherstone pulled at both sides
of his wig as if he wanted to deafen himself, and his sister went
away ruminating on this oracular speech of his. Notwithstanding her
jealousy of the Vincys and of Mary Garth, there remained as the
nethermost sediment in her mental shallows a persuasion that her
brother Peter Featherstone could never leave his chief property
away from his blood-relations:--else, why had the Almighty carried
off his two wives both childless, after he had gained so much
by manganese and things, turning up when nobody expected it?--and
why was there a Lowick parish church, and the Waules and Powderells
all sit ting in the same pew for generations, and the Featherstone
pew next to them, if, the Sunday after her brother Peter's death,
everybody was to know that the property was gone out of the
family? The human mind has at no period accepted a moral chaos;
and so preposterous a result was not strictly conceivable.
But we are frightened at much that is not strictly conceivable.
When Fred came in the old man eyed him with a peculiar twinkle,
which the younger had often had reason to interpret as pride in the
satisfactory details of his appearance.
"You two misses go away," said Mr. Featherstone. "I want to speak
to Fred."
"Come into my room, Rosamond, you will not mind the cold for a
little while," said Mary. The two girls had not only known each
other in childhood, but had been at the same provincial school
together (Mary as an articled pupil), so that they had many memories
in common, and liked very well to talk in private. Indeed, this
tete-a-tete was one of Rosamond's objects in coming to Stone Court.
Old Featherstone would not begin the dialogue till the door had
been closed. He continued to look at Fred with the same twinkle
and with one of his habitual grimaces, alternately screwing
and widening his mouth; and when he spoke, it was in a low tone,
which might be taken for that of an informer ready to be bought off,
rather than for the tone of an offended senior. He was not a man
to feel any strong moral indignation even on account of trespasses
against himself. It was natural that others should want to get
an advantage over him, but then, he was a little too cunning for them.
"So, sir, you've been paying ten per cent for money which you've
promised to pay off by mortgaging my land when I'm dead and gone,
eh? You put my life at a twelvemonth, say. But I can alter my
will yet."
Fred blushed. He had not borrowed money in that way, for excellent
reasons. But he was conscious of having spoken with some confidence
(perhaps with more than he exactly remembered) about his prospect
of getting Featherstone's land as a future means of paying present debts.
"I don't know what you refer to, sir. I have certainly never
borrowed any money on such an insecurity. Please to explain."
"No, sir, it's you must explain. I can alter my will yet, let me
tell you. I'm of sound mind--can reckon compound interest in my head,
and remember every fool's name as well as I could twenty years ago.
What the deuce? I'm under eighty. I say, you must contradict
this story."
"I have contradicted it, sir," Fred answered, with a touch
of impatience, not remembering that his uncle did not verbally
discriminate contradicting from disproving, though no one was further
from confounding the two ideas than old Featherstone, who often
wondered that so many fools took his own assertions for proofs.
"But I contradict it again. The story is a silly lie."
"Nonsense! you must bring dockiments. It comes from authority."
"Name the authority, and make him name the man of whom I borrowed
the money, and then I can disprove the story."
"It's pretty good authority, I think--a man who knows most
of what goes on in Middlemarch. It's that fine, religious,
charitable uncle o' yours. Come now!" Here Mr. Featherstone
had his peculiar inward shake which signified merriment.
"Mr. Bulstrode?"
"Who else, eh?"
"Then the story has grown into this lie out of some sermonizing
words he may have let fall about me. Do they pretend that he named
the man who lent me the money?"
"If there is such a man, depend upon it Bulstrode knows him.
But, supposing you only tried to get the money lent, and didn't
get it--Bulstrode 'ud know that too. You bring me a writing
from Bulstrode to say he doesn't believe you've ever promised
to pay your debts out o' my land. Come now!"
Mr. Featherstone's face required its whole scale of grimaces as a
muscular outlet to his silent triumph in the soundness of his faculties.
Fred felt himself to be in a disgusting dilemma.
"You must be joking, sir. Mr. Bulstrode, like other men, believes scores
of things that are not true, and he has a prejudice against me.
I could easily get him to write that he knew no facts in proof
of the report you speak of, though it might lead to unpleasantness.
But I could hardly ask him to write down what he believes or does
not believe about me." Fred paused an instant, and then added,
in politic appeal to his uncle's vanity, "That is hardly a thing
for a gentleman to ask." But he was disappointed in the result.
"Ay, I know what you mean. You'd sooner offend me than Bulstrode.
And what's he?--he's got no land hereabout that ever I heard tell of.
A speckilating fellow! He may come down any day, when the devil
leaves off backing him. And that's what his religion means: he
wants God A'mighty to come in. That's nonsense! There's one
thing I made out pretty clear when I used to go to church--and
it's this: God A'mighty sticks to the land. He promises land,
and He gives land, and He makes chaps rich with corn and cattle.
But you take the other side. You like Bulstrode and speckilation
better than Featherstone and land."
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Fred, rising, standing with his
back to the fire and beating his boot with his whip. "I like
neither Bulstrode nor speculation." He spoke rather sulkily,
feeling himself stalemated.
"Well, well, you can do without me, that's pretty clear,"
said old Featherstone, secretly disliking the possibility that Fred
would show himself at all independent. "You neither want a bit
of land to make a squire of you instead of a starving parson,
nor a lift of a hundred pound by the way. It's all one to me.
I can make five codicils if I like, and I shall keep my bank-notes
for a nest-egg. It's all one to me."
Fred colored again. Featherstone had rarely given him presents
of money, and at this moment it seemed almost harder to part with
the immediate prospect of bank-notes than with the more distant
prospect of the land.
"I am not ungrateful, sir. I never meant to show disregard for
any kind intentions you might have towards me. On the contrary."
"Very good. Then prove it. You bring me a letter from Bulstrode
saying he doesn't believe you've been cracking and promising
to pay your debts out o' my land, and then, if there's any
scrape you've got into, we'll see if I can't back you a bit.
Come now! That's a bargain. Here, give me your arm. I'll try
and walk round the room."
Fred, in spite of his irritation, had kindness enough in him to be
a little sorry for the unloved, unvenerated old man, who with his
dropsical legs looked more than usually pitiable in walking.
While giving his arm, he thought that he should not himself
like to be an old fellow with his constitution breaking up;
and he waited good-temperedly, first before the window to hear
the wonted remarks about the guinea-fowls and the weather-cock,
and then before the scanty book-shelves, of which the chief glories
in dark calf were Josephus, Culpepper, Klopstock's "Messiah,"
and several volumes of the "Gentleman's Magazine."
"Read me the names o' the books. Come now! you're a college man."
Fred gave him the titles.
"What did missy want with more books? What must you be bringing
her more books for?"
"They amuse her, sir. She is very fond of reading."
"A little too fond," said Mr. Featherstone, captiously. "She was
for reading when she sat with me. But I put a stop to that.
She's got the newspaper to read out loud. That's enough for one day,
I should think. I can't abide to see her reading to herself.
You mind and not bring her any more books, do you hear?"
"Yes, sir, I hear." Fred had received this order before, and had
secretly disobeyed it. He intended to disobey it again.
"Ring the bell," said Mr. Featherstone; "I want missy to come down."
Rosamond and Mary had been talking faster than their male friends.
They did not think of sitting down, but stood at the toilet-table
near the window while Rosamond took off her hat, adjusted her veil,
and applied little touches of her finger-tips to her hair--hair
of infantine fairness, neither flaxen nor yellow. Mary Garth
seemed all the plainer standing at an angle between the two
nymphs--the one in the glass, and the one out of it, who looked
at each other with eyes of heavenly blue, deep enough to hold the
most exquisite meanings an ingenious beholder could put into them,
and deep enough to hide the meanings of the owner if these should
happen to be less exquisite. Only a few children in Middlemarch
looked blond by the side of Rosamond, and the slim figure displayed
by her riding-habit had delicate undulations. In fact, most men
in Middlemarch, except her brothers, held that Miss Vincy was the
best girl in the world, and some called her an angel. Mary Garth,
on the contrary, had the aspect of an ordinary sinner: she was brown;
her curly dark hair was rough and stubborn; her stature was low;
and it would not be true to declare, in satisfactory antithesis,
that she had all the virtues. Plainness has its peculiar
temptations and vices quite as much as beauty; it is apt either to
feign amiability, or, not feigning it, to show all the repulsive ness
of discontent: at any rate, to be called an ugly thing in contrast
with that lovely creature your companion, is apt to produce some
effect beyond a sense of fine veracity and fitness in the phrase.
At the age of two-and-twenty Mary had certainly not attained that
perfect good sense and good principle which are usually recommended
to the less fortunate girl, as if they were to be obtained in
quantities ready mixed, with a flavor of resignation as required.
Her shrewdness had a streak of satiric bitterness continually
renewed and never carried utterly out of sight, except by a strong
current of gratitude towards those who, instead of telling her
that she ought to be contented, did something to make her so.
Advancing womanhood had tempered her plainness, which was of a good
human sort, such as the mothers of our race have very commonly
worn in all latitudes under a more or less becoming headgear.
Rembrandt would have painted her with pleasure, and would have made
her broad features look out of the canvas with intelligent honesty.
For honesty, truth-telling fairness, was Mary's reigning virtue:
she neither tried to create illusions, nor indulged in them for her
own behoof, and when she was in a good mood she had humor enough
in her to laugh at herself. When she and Rosamond happened both to be
reflected in the glass, she said, laughingly--
"What a brown patch I am by the side of you, Rosy! You are
the most unbecoming companion."
"Oh no! No one thinks of your appearance, you are so sensible
and useful, Mary. Beauty is of very little consequence in reality,"
said Rosamond, turning her head towards Mary, but with eyes swerving
towards the new view of her neck in the glass.
"You mean my beauty," said Mary, rather sardonically.
Rosamond thought, "Poor Mary, she takes the kindest things ill."
Aloud she said, "What have you been doing lately?"
"I? Oh, minding the house--pouring out syrup--pretending to be
amiable and contented--learning to have a bad opinion of everybody."
"It is a wretched life for you."
"No," said Mary, curtly, with a little toss of her head. "I think
my life is pleasanter than your Miss Morgan's."
"Yes; but Miss Morgan is so uninteresting, and not young."
"She is interesting to herself, I suppose; and I am not at all sure
that everything gets easier as one gets older."
"No," said Rosamond, reflectively; "one wonders what such people do,
without any prospect. To be sure, there is religion as a support.
But," she added, dimpling, "it is very different with you,'Mary.
You may have an offer."
"Has any one told you he means to make me one?"
"Of course not. I mean, there is a gentleman who may fall in love
with you, seeing you almost every day."
A certain change in Mary's face was chiefly determined by the resolve
not to show any change.
"Does that always make people fall in love?" she answered, carelessly;
"it seems to me quite as often a reason for detesting each other."
"Not when they are interesting and agreeable. I hear that Mr. Lydgate
is both."
"Oh, Mr. Lydgate!" said Mary, with an unmistakable lapse
into indifference. "You want to know something about him,"
she added, not choosing to indulge Rosamond's indirectness.
"Merely, how you like him."
"There is no question of liking at present. My liking always wants
some little kindness to kindle it. I am not magnanimous enough
to like people who speak to me without seeming to see me."
"Is he so haughty?" said Rosamond, with heightened satisfaction.
"You know that he is of good family?"
"No; he did not give that as a reason."
"Mary! you are the oddest girl. But what sort of looking man
is he? Describe him to me."
"How can one describe a man? I can give you an inventory: heavy eyebrows,
dark eyes, a straight nose, thick dark hair, large solid white
hands--and--let me see--oh, an exquisite cambric pocket-handkerchief.
But you will see him. You know this is about the time of his visits."
Rosamond blushed a little, but said, meditatively, "I rather
like a haughty manner. I cannot endure a rattling young man."
"I did not tell you that Mr. Lydgate was haughty; but il y en
a pour tous les gouts, as little Mamselle used to say, and if any
girl can choose the particular sort of conceit she would like,
I should think it is you, Rosy."
"Haughtiness is not conceit; I call Fred conceited."
"I wish no one said any worse of him. He should be more careful.
Mrs. Waule has been telling uncle that Fred is very unsteady."
Mary spoke from a girlish impulse which got the better of her judgment.
There was a vague uneasiness associated with the word "unsteady"
which she hoped Rosamond might say something to dissipate.
But she purposely abstained from mentioning Mrs. Waule's more
special insinuation.
"Oh, Fred is horrid!" said Rosamond. She would not have allowed
herself so unsuitable a word to any one but Mary.
"What do you mean by horrid?"
"He is so idle, and makes papa so angry, and says he will not
take orders."
"I think Fred is quite right."
"How can you say he is quite right, Mary? I thought you had more
sense of religion."
"He is not fit to be a clergyman."
"But he ought to be fit."--"Well, then, he is not what he ought to be.
I know some other people who are in the same case."
"But no one approves of them. I should not like to marry a clergyman;
but there must be clergymen."
"It does not follow that Fred must be one."
"But when papa has been at the expense of educating him for it!
And only suppose, if he should have no fortune left him?"
"I can suppose that very well," said Mary, dryly.
"Then I wonder you can defend Fred," said Rosamond, inclined to push
this point.
"I don't defend him," said Mary, laughing; "I would defend any
parish from having him for a clergyman."
"But of course if he were a clergyman, he must be different."
"Yes, he would be a great hypocrite; and he is not that yet."
"It is of no use saying anything to you, Mary. You always take
Fred's part."
"Why should I not take his part?" said Mary, lighting up.
"He would take mine. He is the only person who takes the least
trouble to oblige me."
"You make me feel very uncomfortable, Mary," said Rosamond,
with her gravest mildness; "I would not tell mamma for the world."
"What would you not tell her?" said Mary, angrily.
"Pray do not go into a rage, Mary," said Rosamond, mildly as ever.
"If your mamma is afraid that Fred will make me an offer, tell her
that I would not marry him if he asked me. But he is not going
to do so, that I am aware. He certainly never has asked me."
"Mary, you are always so violent."
"And you are always so exasperating."
"I? What can you blame me for?"
"Oh, blameless people are always the most exasperating. There is
the bell--I think we must go down."
"I did not mean to quarrel," said Rosamond, putting on her hat.
"Quarrel? Nonsense; we have not quarrelled. If one is not to get
into a rage sometimes, what is the good of being friends?"
"Am I to repeat what you have said?" "Just as you please. I never
say what I am afraid of having repeated. But let us go down."
Mr. Lydgate was rather late this morning, but the visitors stayed long
enough to see him; for Mr. Featherstone asked Rosamond to sing to him,
and she herself was-so kind as to propose a second favorite song
of his--"Flow on, thou shining river"--after she had sung "Home,
sweet home" (which she detested). This hard-headed old Overreach
approved of the sentimental song, as the suitable garnish for girls,
and also as fundamentally fine, sentiment being the right thing
for a song.
Mr. Featherstone was still applauding the last performance,
and assuring missy that her voice was as clear as a blackbird's,
when Mr. Lydgate's horse passed the window.
His dull expectation of the usual disagreeable routine with an aged
patient--who can hardly believe that medicine would not "set him up"
if the doctor were only clever enough--added to his general disbelief
in Middlemarch charms, made a doubly effective background to this
vision of Rosamond, whom old Featherstone made haste ostentatiously
to introduce as his niece, though he had never thought it worth
while to speak of Mary Garth in that light. Nothing escaped
Lydgate in Rosamond's graceful behavior: how delicately she waived
the notice which the old man's want of taste had thrust upon her
by a quiet gravity, not showing her dimples on the wrong occasion,
but showing them afterwards in speaking to Mary, to whom she
addressed herself with so much good-natured interest, that Lydgate,
after quickly examining Mary more fully than he had done before,
saw an adorable kindness in Rosamond's eyes. But Mary from some
cause looked rather out of temper.
"Miss Rosy has been singing me a song--you've nothing to say
against that, eh, doctor?" said Mr. Featherstone. "I like it
better than your physic."
"That has made me forget how the time was going," said Rosamond,
rising to reach her hat, which she had laid aside before singing,
so that her flower-like head on its white stem was seen in perfection
above-her riding-habit. "Fred, we must really go."
"Very good," said Fred, who had his own reasons for not being
in the best spirits, and wanted to get away.
"Miss Vincy is a musician?" said Lydgate, following her with his eyes.
(Every nerve and muscle in Rosamond was adjusted to the consciousness
that she was being looked at. She was by nature an actress of parts
that entered into her physique: she even acted her own character,
and so well, that she did not know it to be precisely her own.)
"The best in Middlemarch, I'll be bound," said Mr. Featherstone,
"let the next be who she will. Eh, Fred? Speak up for your sister."
"I'm afraid I'm out of court, sir. My evidence would be good
for nothing."
"Middlemarch has not a very high standard, uncle," said Rosamond,
with a pretty lightness, going towards her whip, which lay at
a distance.
Lydgate was quick in anticipating her. He reached the whip
before she did, and turned to present it to her. She bowed
and looked at him: he of course was looking at her, and their
eyes met with that peculiar meeting which is never arrived at
by effort, but seems like a sudden divine clearance of haze.
I think Lydgate turned a little paler than usual, but Rosamond
blushed deeply and felt a certain astonishment. After that,
she was really anxious to go, and did not know what sort of stupidity
her uncle was talking of when she went to shake hands with him.
Yet this result, which she took to be a mutual impression, called
falling in love, was just what Rosamond had contemplated beforehand.
Ever since that important new arrival in Middlemarch she had
woven a little future, of which something like this scene was
the necessary beginning. Strangers, whether wrecked and clinging
to a raft, or duly escorted and accompanied by portmanteaus,
have always had a circumstantial fascination for the virgin mind,
against which native merit has urged itself in vain. And a stranger
was absolutely necessary to Rosamond's social romance, which had
always turned on a lover and bridegroom who was not a Middlemarcher,
and who had no connections at all like her own: of late, indeed,
the construction seemed to demand that he should somehow be
related to a baronet. Now that she and the stranger had met,
reality proved much more moving than anticipation, and Rosamond
could not doubt that this was the great epoch of her life.
She judged of her own symptoms as those of awakening love, and she
held it still more natural that Mr. Lydgate should have fallen
in love at first sight of her. These things happened so often
at balls, and why not by the morning light, when the complexion
showed all the better for it? Rosamond, though no older than Mary,
was rather used to being fallen in love with; but she, for her part,
had remained indifferent and fastidiously critical towards both
fresh sprig and faded bachelor. And here was Mr. Lydgate suddenly
corresponding to her ideal, being altogether foreign to Middlemarch,
carrying a certain air of distinction congruous with good family,
and possessing connections which offered vistas of that middle-class heaven,
rank: a man of talent, also, whom it would be especially delightful
to enslave: in fact, a man who had touched her nature quite newly,
and brought a vivid interest into her life which was better than
any fancied "might-be" such as she was in the habit of opposing to the actual.
Thus, in riding home, both the brother and the sister were preoccupied
and inclined to be silent. Rosamond, whose basis for her structure
had the usual airy slightness, was of remarkably detailed and
realistic imagination when the foundation had been once presupposed;
and before they had ridden a mile she was far on in the costume
and introductions of her wedded life, having determined on her
house in Middle-march, and foreseen the visits she would pay
to her husband's high-bred relatives at a distance, whose finished
manners she could appropriate as thoroughly as she had done
her school accomplishments, preparing herself thus for vaguer
elevations which might ultimately come. There was nothing financial,
still less sordid, in her previsions: she cared about what were
considered refinements, and not about the money that was to pay for them.
Fred's mind, on the other hand, was busy with an anxiety which
even his ready hopefulness could not immediately quell. He saw
no way of eluding Featherstone's stupid demand without incurring
consequences which he liked less even than the task of fulfilling it.
His father was already out of humor with him, and would be still
more so if he were the occasion of any additional coolness between
his own family and the Bulstrodes. Then, he himself hated having
to go and speak to his uncle Bulstrode, and perhaps after drinking
wine he had said many foolish things about Featherstone's property,
and these had been magnified by report. Fred felt that he made
a wretched figure as a fellow who bragged about expectations from
a queer old miser like Featherstone, and went to beg for certificates
at his bidding. But--those expectations! He really had them,
and he saw no agreeable alternative if he gave them up; besides,
he had lately made a debt which galled him extremely, and old
Featherstone had almost bargained to pay it off. The whole affair
was miserably small: his debts were small, even his expectations
were not anything so very magnificent. Fred had known men to whom he
would have been ashamed of confessing the smallness of his scrapes.
Such ruminations naturally produced a streak of misanthropic bitterness.
To be born the son of a Middlemarch manufacturer, and inevitable
heir to nothing in particular, while such men as Mainwaring and
Vyan--certainly life was a poor business, when a spirited young fellow,
with a good appetite for the best of everything, had so poor an outlook.
It had not occurred to Fred that the introduction of Bulstrode's name
in the matter was a fiction of old Featherstone's; nor could this
have made any difference to his position. He saw plainly enough
that the old man wanted to exercise his power by tormenting him
a little, and also probably to get some satisfaction out of seeing
him on unpleasant terms with Bulstrode. Fred fancied that he saw
to the bottom of his uncle Featherstone's soul, though in reality half
what he saw there was no more than the reflex of his own inclinations.
The difficult task of knowing another soul is not for young
gentlemen whose consciousness is chiefly made up of their own wishes.
Fred's main point of debate with himself was, whether he should tell
his father, or try to get through the affair without his father's
knowledge. It was probably Mrs. Waule who had been talking about him;
and if Mary Garth had repeated Mrs. Waule's report to Rosamond,
it would be sure to reach his father, who would as surely question
him about it. He said to Rosamond, as they slackened their pace--
"Rosy, did Mary tell you that Mrs. Waule had said anything about me?"
"Yes, indeed, she did."
"That you were very unsteady."
"Was that all?"
"I should think that was enough, Fred."
"You are sure she said no more?"
"Mary mentioned nothing else. But really, Fred, I think you ought
to be ashamed."
"Oh, fudge! Don't lecture me. What did Mary say about it?"
"I am not obliged to tell you. You care so very much what Mary says,
and you are too rude to allow me to speak."
"Of course I care what Mary says. She is the best girl I know."
"I should never have thought she was a girl to fall in love with."
"How do you know what men would fall in love with? Girls never know."
"At least, Fred, let me advise YOU not to fall in love with her,
for she says she would not marry you if you asked her."
"She might have waited till I did ask her."
"I knew it would nettle you, Fred."
"Not at all. She would not have said so if you had not provoked her."
Before reaching home, Fred concluded that he would tell the whole
affair as simply as possible to his father, who might perhaps take
on himself the unpleasant business of speaking to Bulstrode.
1st Gent. How class your man?--as better than the most,
Or, seeming better, worse beneath that cloak?
As saint or knave, pilgrim or hypocrite?
2d Gent. Nay, tell me how you class your wealth of books
The drifted relics of all time.
As well sort them at once by size and livery:
Vellum, tall copies, and the common calf
Will hardly cover more diversity
Than all your labels cunningly devised
To class your unread authors.
In consequence of what he had heard from Fred, Mr. Vincy determined
to speak with Mr. Bulstrode in his private room at the Bank
at half-past one, when he was usually free from other callers.
But a visitor had come in at one o'clock, and Mr. Bulstrode had so
much to say to him, that there was little chance of the interview
being over in half an hour. The banker's speech was fluent,
but it was also copious, and he used up an appreciable amount
of time in brief meditative pauses. Do not imagine his sickly
aspect to have been of the yellow, black-haired sort: he had a pale
blond skin, thin gray-besprinkled brown hair, light-gray eyes,
and a large forehead. Loud men called his subdued tone an undertone,
and sometimes implied that it was inconsistent with openness;
though there seems to be no reason why a loud man should not be given
to concealment of anything except his own voice, unless it can be
shown that Holy Writ has placed the seat of candor in the lungs.
Mr. Bulstrode had also a deferential bending attitude in listening,
and an apparently fixed attentiveness in his eyes which made those
persons who thought themselves worth hearing infer that he was seeking
the utmost improvement from their discourse. Others, who expected
to make no great figure, disliked this kind of moral lantern turned
on them. If you are not proud of your cellar, there is no thrill of
satisfaction in seeing your guest hold up his wine-glass to the light
and look judicial. Such joys are reserved for conscious merit.
Hence Mr. Bulstrode's close attention was not agreeable to the
publicans and sinners in Middlemarch; it was attributed by some
to his being a Pharisee, and by others to his being Evangelical.
Less superficial reasoners among them wished to know who his father
and grandfather were, observing that five-and-twenty years ago nobody
had ever heard of a Bulstrode in Middlemarch. To his present visitor,
Lydgate, the scrutinizing look was a matter of indifference:
he simply formed an unfavorable opinion of the banker's constitution,
and concluded that he had an eager inward life with little enjoyment
of tangible things.
"I shall be exceedingly obliged if you will look in on me here
occasionally, Mr. Lydgate," the banker observed, after a brief pause.
"If, as I dare to hope, I have the privilege of finding you a
valuable coadjutor in the interesting matter of hospital management,
there will be many questions which we shall need to discuss
in private. As to the new hospital, which is nearly finished,
I shall consider what you have said about the advantages of the special
destination for fevers. The decision will rest with me, for though
Lord Medlicote has given the land and timber for the building,
he is not disposed to give his personal attention to the object."
"There are few things better worth the pains in a provincial town
like this," said Lydgate. "A fine fever hospital in addition
to the old infirmary might be the nucleus of a medical school here,
when once we get our medical reforms; and what would do more for
medical education than the spread of such schools over the country?
A born provincial man who has a grain of public spirit as well as a
few ideas, should do what he can to resist the rush of everything
that is a little better than common towards London. Any valid
professional aims may often find a freer, if not a richer field,
in the provinces."
One of Lydgate's gifts was a voice habitually deep and sonorous,
yet capable of becoming very low and gentle at the right moment.
About his ordinary bearing there was a certain fling, a fearless
expectation of success, a confidence in his own powers and integrity
much fortified by contempt for petty obstacles or seductions of which
he had had no experience. But this proud openness was made lovable
by an expression of unaffected good-will. Mr. Bulstrode perhaps liked
him the better for the difference between them in pitch and manners;
he certainly liked him the better, as Rosamond did, for being a stranger
in Middlemarch. One can begin so many things with a new person!--
even begin to be a better man.
"I shall rejoice to furnish your zeal with fuller opportunities,"
Mr. Bulstrode answered; "I mean, by confiding to you the superintendence
of my new hospital, should a maturer knowledge favor that issue,
for I am determined that so great an object shall not be shackled
by our two physicians. Indeed, I am encouraged to consider your
advent to this town as a gracious indication that a more manifest
blessing is now to be awarded to my efforts, which have hitherto
been much with stood. With regard to the old infirmary, we have
gained the initial point--I mean your election. And now I hope
you will not shrink from incurring a certain amount of jealousy
and dislike from your professional brethren by presenting yourself
as a reformer."
"I will not profess bravery," said Lydgate, smiling, "but I
acknowledge a good deal of pleasure in fighting, and I should not
care for my profession, if I did not believe that better methods
were to be found and enforced there as well as everywhere else."
"The standard of that profession is low in Middlemarch, my dear sir,"
said the banker. "I mean in knowledge and skill; not in social status,
for our medical men are most of them connected with respectable
townspeople here. My own imperfect health has induced me to give
some attention to those palliative resources which the divine
mercy has placed within our reach. I have consulted eminent men
in the metropolis, and I am painfully aware of the backwardness
under which medical treatment labors in our provincial districts."
"Yes;--with our present medical rules and education, one must
be satisfied now and then to meet with a fair practitioner.
As to all the higher questions which determine the starting-point
of a diagnosis--as to the philosophy of medial evidence--any glimmering
of these can only come from a scientific culture of which country
practitioners have usually no more notion than the man in the moon."
Mr. Bulstrode, bending and looking intently, found the form
which Lydgate had given to his agreement not quite suited to
his comprehension. Under such circumstances a judicious man changes
the topic and enters on ground where his own gifts may be more useful.
"I am aware," he said, "that the peculiar bias of medical
ability is towards material means. Nevertheless, Mr. Lydgate,
I hope we shall not vary in sentiment as to a measure in which
you are not likely to be actively concerned, but in which your
sympathetic concurrence may be an aid to me. You recognize,
I hope; the existence of spiritual interests in your patients?"
"Certainly I do. But those words are apt to cover different
meanings to different minds."
"Precisely. And on such subjects wrong teaching is as fatal as
no teaching. Now a point which I have much at heart to secure is
a new regulation as to clerical attendance at the old infirmary.
The building stands in Mr. Farebrother's parish. You know
Mr. Farebrother?"
"I have seen him. He gave me his vote. I must call to thank him.
He seems a very bright pleasant little fellow. And I understand he
is a naturalist."
"Mr. Farebrother, my dear sir, is a man deeply painful to contemplate.
I suppose there is not a clergyman in this country who has
greater talents." Mr. Bulstrode paused and looked meditative.
"I have not yet been pained by finding any excessive talent
in Middlemarch," said Lydgate, bluntly.
"What I desire," Mr. Bulstrode continued, looking still more serious,
"is that Mr. Farebrother's attendance at the hospital should be
superseded by the appointment of a chaplain--of Mr. Tyke, in fact--
and that no other spiritual aid should be called in."
"As a medial man I could have no opinion on such a point unless I knew
Mr. Tyke, and even then I should require to know the cases in which
he was applied." Lydgate smiled, but he was bent on being circumspect.
"Of course you cannot enter fully into the merits of this measure
at present. But"--here Mr. Bulstrode began to speak with a more
chiselled emphasis--"the subject is likely to be referred to
the medical board of the infirmary, and what I trust I may ask
of you is, that in virtue of the cooperation between us which I
now look forward to, you will not, so far as you are concerned,
be influenced by my opponents in this matter."
"I hope I shall have nothing to do with clerical disputes," said Lydgate.
"The path I have chosen is to work well in my own profession."
"My responsibility, Mr. Lydgate, is of a broader kind.
With me, indeed, this question is one of sacred accountableness;
whereas with my opponents, I have good reason to say that it
is an occasion for gratifying a spirit of worldly opposition.
But I shall not therefore drop one iota of my convictions, or cease
to identify myself with that truth which an evil generation hates.
I have devoted myself to this object of hospital-improvement, but I
will boldly confess to you, Mr. Lydgate, that I should have no interest
in hospitals if I believed that nothing more was concerned therein
than the cure of mortal diseases. I have another ground of action,
and in the face of persecution I will not conceal it."
Mr. Bulstrode's voice had become a loud and agitated whisper as he
said the last words.
"There we certainly differ," said Lydgate. But he was not sorry
that the door was now opened, and Mr. Vincy was announced.
That florid sociable personage was become more interesting to him
since he had seen Rosamond. Not that, like her, he had been weaving
any future in which their lots were united; but a man naturally
remembers a charming girl with pleasure, and is willing to dine
where he may see her again. Before he took leave, Mr. Vincy
had given that invitation which he had been "in no hurry about,"
for Rosamond at breakfast had mentioned that she thought her uncle
Featherstone had taken the new doctor into great favor.
Mr. Bulstrode, alone with his brother-in-law, poured himself out
a glass of water, and opened a sandwich-box.
"I cannot persuade you to adopt my regimen, Vincy?"
"No, no; I've no opinion of that system. Life wants padding,"
said Mr. Vincy, unable to omit his portable theory. "However," he
went on, accenting the word, as if to dismiss all irrelevance,
"what I came here to talk about was a little affair of my
young scapegrace, Fred's."
"That is a subject on which you and I are likely to take quite
as different views as on diet, Vincy."
"I hope not this time." (Mr. Vincy was resolved to be good-humored.)
"The fact is, it's about a whim of old Featherstone's. Somebody has
been cooking up a story out of spite, and telling it to the old man,
to try to set him against Fred. He's very fond of Fred, and is
likely to do something handsome for him; indeed he has as good
as told Fred that he means to leave him his land, and that makes
other people jealous."
"Vincy, I must repeat, that you will not get any concurrence from
me as to the course you have pursued with your eldest son. It was
entirely from worldly vanity that you destined him for the Church:
with a family of three sons and four daughters, you were not
warranted in devoting money to an expensive education which has
succeeded in nothing but in giving him extravagant idle habits.
You are now reaping the consequences."
To point out other people's errors was a duty that Mr. Bulstrode rarely
shrank from, but Mr. Vincy was not equally prepared to be patient.
When a man has the immediate prospect of being mayor, and is ready,
in the interests of commerce, to take up a firm attitude on
politics generally, he has naturally a sense of his importance
to the framework of things which seems to throw questions of private
conduct into the background. And this particular reproof irritated
him more than any other. It was eminently superfluous to him to be
told that he was reaping the consequences. But he felt his neck
under Bulstrode's yoke; and though he usually enjoyed kicking,
he was anxious to refrain from that relief.
"As to that, Bulstrode, it's no use going back. I'm not one of your
pattern men, and I don't pretend to be. I couldn't foresee everything
in the trade; there wasn't a finer business in Middlemarch than ours,
and the lad was clever. My poor brother was in the Church, and would
have done well--had got preferment already, but that stomach fever
took him off: else he might have been a dean by this time. I think I
was justified in what I tried to do for Fred. If you come to religion,
it seems to me a man shouldn't want to carve out his meat to an ounce
beforehand:--one must trust a little to Providence and be generous.
It's a good British feeling to try and raise your family a little:
in my opinion, it's a father's duty to give his sons a fine chance."
"I don't wish to act otherwise than as your best friend, Vincy,
when I say that what you have been uttering just now is one mass
of worldliness and inconsistent folly."
"Very well," said Mr. Vincy, kicking in spite of resolutions,
"I never professed to be anything but worldly; and, what's more,
I don't see anybody else who is not worldly. I suppose you don't
conduct business on what you call unworldly principles.
The only difference I see is that one worldliness is a little bit
honester than another."
"This kind of discussion is unfruitful, Vincy," said Mr. Bulstrode,
who, finishing his sandwich, had thrown himself back in his chair,
and shaded his eyes as if weary. "You had some more particular business."
"Yes, yes. The long and short of it is, somebody has told
old Featherstone, giving you as the authority, that Fred has been
borrowing or trying to borrow money on the prospect of his land.
Of course you never said any such nonsense. But the old fellow will
insist on it that Fred should bring him a denial in your handwriting;
that is, just a bit of a note saying you don't believe a word
of such stuff, either of his having borrowed or tried to borrow
in such a fool's way. I suppose you can have no objection to do that."
"Pardon me. I have an objection. I am by no means sure that your son,
in his recklessness and ignorance--I will use no severer word--
has not tried to raise money by holding out his future prospects,
or even that some one may not have been foolish enough to supply him
on so vague a presumption: there is plenty of such lax money-lending
as of other folly in the world."
"But Fred gives me his honor that he has never borrowed money
on the pretence of any understanding about his uncle's land.
He is not a liar. I don't want to make him better than he is.
I have blown him up well--nobody can say I wink at what he does.
But he is not a liar. And I should have thought--but I may be wrong--
that there was no religion to hinder a man from believing the best
of a young fellow, when you don't know worse. It seems to me it would
be a poor sort of religion to put a spoke in his wheel by refusing
to say you don't believe such harm of him as you've got no good reason
to believe."
"I am not at all sure that I should be befriending your son by smoothing
his way to the future possession of Featherstone's property.
I cannot regard wealth as a blessing to those who use it simply
as a harvest for this world. You do not like to hear these things,
Vincy, but on this occasion I feel called upon to tell you that I
have no motive for furthering such a disposition of property
as that which you refer to. I do not shrink from saying that it
will not tend to your son's eternal welfare or to the glory of God.
Why then should you expect me to pen this kind of affidavit,
which has no object but to keep up a foolish partiality and secure
a foolish bequest?"
"If you mean to hinder everybody from having money but saints
and evangelists, you must give up some profitable partnerships,
that's all I can say," Mr. Vincy burst out very bluntly.
"It may be for the glory of God, but it is not for the glory of the
Middlemarch trade, that Plymdale's house uses those blue and green
dyes it gets from the Brassing manufactory; they rot the silk,
that's all I know about it. Perhaps if other people knew so much
of the profit went to the glory of God, they might like it better.
But I don't mind so much about that--I could get up a pretty row,
if I chose."
Mr. Bulstrode paused a little before he answered. "You pain me
very much by speaking in this way, Vincy. I do not expect you
to understand my grounds of action--it is not an easy thing even
to thread a path for principles in the intricacies of the world--
still less to make the thread clear for the careless and the scoffing.
You must remember, if you please, that I stretch my tolerance
towards you as my wife's brother, and that it little becomes you
to complain of me as withholding material help towards the worldly
position of your family. I must remind you that it is not your
own prudence or judgment that has enabled you to keep your place
in the trade."
"Very likely not; but you have been no loser by my trade yet,"
said Mr. Vincy, thoroughly nettled (a result which was seldom much
retarded by previous resolutions). "And when you married Harriet,
I don't see how you could expect that our families should not hang
by the same nail. If you've changed your mind, and want my family
to come down in the world, you'd better say so. I've never changed;
I'm a plain Churchman now, just as I used to be before doctrines
came up. I take the world as I find it, in trade and everything else.
I'm contented to be no worse than my neighbors. But if you want
us to come down in the world, say so. I shall know better what to
do then."
"You talk unreasonably. Shall you come down in the world for want
of this letter about your son?"
"Well, whether or not, I consider it very unhandsome of you to refuse it.
Such doings may be lined with religion, but outside they have
a nasty, dog-in-the-manger look. You might as well slander Fred:
it comes pretty near to it when you refuse to say you didn't set
a slander going. It's this sort of thing---this tyrannical spirit,
wanting to play bishop and banker everywhere--it's this sort of thing
makes a man's name stink."
"Vincy, if you insist on quarrelling with me, it will be exceedingly
painful to Harriet as well as myself," said Mr. Bulstrode,
with a trifle more eagerness and paleness than usual.
"I don't want to quarrel. It's for my interest--and perhaps
for yours too--that we should be friends. I bear you no grudge;
I think no worse of you than I do of other people. A man who half
starves himself, and goes the length in family prayers, and so on,
that you do, believes in his religion whatever it may be: you could
turn over your capital just as fast with cursing and swearing:--
plenty of fellows do. You like to be master, there's no denying that;
you must be first chop in heaven, else you won't like it much.
But you're my sister's husband, and we ought to stick together;
and if I know Harriet, she'll consider it your fault if we quarrel
because you strain at a gnat in this way, and refuse to do Fred a
good turn. And I don't mean to say I shall bear it well. I consider
it unhandsome."
Mr. Vincy rose, began to button his great-coat, and looked steadily
at his brother-in-law, meaning to imply a demand for a decisive answer.
This was not the first time that Mr. Bulstrode had begun by admonishing
Mr. Vincy, and had ended by seeing a very unsatisfactory reflection
of himself in the coarse unflattering mirror which that manufacturer's
mind presented to the subtler lights and shadows of his fellow-men;
and perhaps his experience ought to have warned him how the scene
would end. But a full-fed fountain will be generous with its
waters even in the rain, when they are worse than useless;
and a fine fount of admonition is apt to be equally irrepressible.
It was not in Mr. Bulstrode's nature to comply directly in consequence
of uncomfortable suggestions. Before changing his course,
he always needed to shape his motives and bring them into accordance
with his habitual standard. He said, at last--
"I will reflect a little, Vincy. I will mention the subject
to Harriet. I shall probably send you a letter."
"Very well. As soon as you can, please. I hope it will all be
settled before I see you to-morrow."
"Follows here the strict receipt
For that sauce to dainty meat,
Named Idleness, which many eat
By preference, and call it sweet:
First watch for morsels, like a hound
Mix well with buffets, stir them round
With good thick oil of flatteries,
And froth with mean self-lauding lies.
Serve warm: the vessels you must choose
To keep it in are dead men's shoes."
Mr. Bulstrode's consultation of Harriet seemed to have had the effect
desired by Mr. Vincy, for early the next morning a letter came
which Fred could carry to Mr. Featherstone as the required testimony.
The old gentleman was staying in bed on account of the cold weather,
and as Mary Garth was not to be seen in the sitting-room, Fred
went up-stairs immediately and presented the letter to his uncle,
who, propped up comfortably on a bed-rest, was not less able than
usual to enjoy his consciousness of wisdom in distrusting and
frustrating mankind. He put on his spectacles to read the letter,
pursing up his lips and drawing down their corners.
"Under the circumstances I will not decline to state my conviction--
tchah! what fine words the fellow puts! He's as fine as an auctioneer--
that your son Frederic has not obtained any advance of money
on bequests promised by Mr. Featherstone--promised? who said I
had ever promised? I promise nothing--I shall make codicils as long
as I like--and that considering the nature of such a proceeding,
it is unreasonable to presume that a young man of sense and character
would attempt it--ah, but the gentleman doesn't say you are a
young man of sense and character, mark you that, sir!--As to my own
concern with any report of such a nature, I distinctly affirm that I
never made any statement to the effect that your son had borrowed money
on any property that might accrue to him on Mr. Featherstone's demise--
bless my heart! `property'--accrue--demise! Lawyer Standish is
nothing to him. He couldn't speak finer if he wanted to borrow.
Well," Mr. Featherstone here looked over his spectacles at Fred,
while he handed back the letter to him with a contemptuous gesture, "you
don't suppose I believe a thing because Bulstrode writes it out fine, eh?"
Fred colored. "You wished to have the letter, sir. I should
think it very likely that Mr. Bulstrode's denial is as good
as the authority which told you what he denies."
"Every bit. I never said I believed either one or the other.
And now what d' you expect?" said Mr. Featherstone, curtly, keeping on
his spectacles, but withdrawing his hands under his wraps.
"I expect nothing, sir." Fred with difficulty restrained himself
from venting his irritation. "I came to bring you the letter.
If you like I will bid you good morning."
"Not yet, not yet. Ring the bell; I want missy to come."
It was a servant who came in answer to the bell.
"Tell missy to come!" said Mr. Featherstone, impatiently. "What business
had she to go away?" He spoke in the same tone when Mary came.
"Why couldn't you sit still here till I told you to go? want
my waistcoat now. I told you always to put it on the bed."
Mary's eyes looked rather red, as if she had been crying. It was
clear that Mr. Featherstone was in one of his most snappish humors
this morning, and though Fred had now the prospect of receiving
the much-needed present of money, he would have preferred being free
to turn round on the old tyrant and tell him that Mary Garth was
too good to be at his beck. Though Fred had risen as she entered
the room, she had barely noticed him, and looked as if her nerves
were quivering with the expectation that something would be thrown
at her. But she never had anything worse than words to dread.
When she went to reach the waistcoat from a peg, Fred went up
to her and said, "Allow me."
"Let it alone! You bring it, missy, and lay it down here,"
said Mr. Featherstone. "Now you go away again till I call you,"
he added, when the waistcoat was laid down by him. It was usual
with him to season his pleasure in showing favor to one person
by being especially disagreeable to another, and Mary was always
at hand to furnish the condiment. When his own relatives came
she was treated better. Slowly he took out a bunch of keys from
the waistcoat pocket, and slowly he drew forth a tin box which was
under the bed-clothes.
"You expect I am going to give you a little fortune, eh?" he said,
looking above his spectacles and pausing in the act of opening
the lid.
"Not at all, sir. You were good enough to speak of making me
a present the other day, else, of course, I should not have
thought of the matter." But Fred was of a hopeful disposition,
and a vision had presented itself of a sum just large enough
to deliver him from a certain anxiety. When Fred got into debt,
it always seemed to him highly probable that something or other--
he did not necessarily conceive what--would come to pass enabling
him to pay in due time. And now that the providential occurrence
was apparently close at hand, it would have been sheer absurdity
to think that the supply would be short of the need: as absurd
as a faith that believed in half a miracle for want of strength
to believe in a whole one.
The deep-veined hands fingered many bank-notes-one after the other,
laying them down flat again, while Fred leaned back in his chair,
scorning to look eager. He held himself to be a gentleman at heart,
and did not like courting an old fellow for his money. At last,
Mr. Featherstone eyed him again over his spectacles and presented him
with a little sheaf of notes: Fred could see distinctly that there
were but five, as the less significant edges gaped towards him.
But then, each might mean fifty pounds. He took them, saying--
"I am very much obliged to you, sir," and was going to roll them
up without seeming to think of their value. But this did not suit
Mr. Featherstone, who was eying him intently.
"Come, don't you think it worth your while to count 'em? You take
money like a lord; I suppose you lose it like one."
"I thought I was not to look a gift-horse in the mouth, sir. But I
shall be very happy to count them."
Fred was not so happy, however, after he had counted them. For they
actually presented the absurdity of being less than his hopefulness
had decided that they must be. What can the fitness of things mean,
if not their fitness to a man's expectations? Failing this,
absurdity and atheism gape behind him. The collapse for Fred was severe
when he found that he held no more than five twenties, and his share
in the higher education of this country did not seem to help him.
Nevertheless he said, with rapid changes in his fair complexion--
"It is very handsome of you, sir."
"I should think it is," said Mr. Featherstone, locking his box
and replacing it, then taking off his spectacles deliberately,
and at length, as if his inward meditation had more deeply
convinced him, repeating, "I should think it handsome."
"I assure you, sir, I am very grateful," said Fred, who had had
time to recover his cheerful air.
"So you ought to be. You want to cut a figure in the world, and I
reckon Peter Featherstone is the only one you've got to trust to."
Here the old man's eyes gleamed with a curiously mingled satisfaction
in the consciousness that this smart young fellow relied upon him,
and that the smart young fellow was rather a fool for doing so.
"Yes, indeed: I was not born to very splendid chances. Few men have
been more cramped than I have been," said Fred, with some sense of
surprise at his own virtue, considering how hardly he was dealt with.
"It really seems a little too bad to have to ride a broken-winded hunter,
and see men, who, are not half such good judges as yourself,
able to throw away any amount of money on buying bad bargains."
"Well, you can buy yourself a fine hunter now. Eighty pound
is enough for that, I reckon--and you'll have twenty pound over
to get yourself out of any little scrape," said Mr. Featherstone,
chuckling slightly.
"You are very good, sir," said Fred, with a fine sense of contrast
between the words and his feeling.
"Ay, rather a better uncle than your fine uncle Bulstrode.
You won't get much out of his spekilations, I think. He's got
a pretty strong string round your father's leg, by what I hear, eh?"
"My father never tells me anything about his affairs, sir."
"Well, he shows some sense there. But other people find 'em out
without his telling. HE'LL never have much to leave you:
he'll most-like die without a will--he's the sort of man to do it--
let 'em make him mayor of Middlemarch as much as they like.
But you won't get much by his dying without a will, though you
ARE the eldest son."
Fred thought that Mr. Featherstone had never been so disagreeable
before. True, he had never before given him quite so much money at once.
"Shall I destroy this letter of Mr. Bulstrode's, sir?" said Fred,
rising with the letter as if he would put it in the fire.
"Ay, ay, I don't want it. It's worth no money to me."
Fred carried the letter to the fire, and thrust the poker through
it with much zest. He longed to get out of the room, but he was
a little ashamed before his inner self, as well as before his uncle,
to run away immediately after pocketing the money. Presently, the
farm-bailiff came up to give his master a report, and Fred, to his
unspeakable relief, was dismissed with the injunction to come again soon.
He had longed not only to be set free from his uncle, but also
to find Mary Garth. She was now in her usual place by the fire,
with sewing in her hands and a book open on the little table
by her side. Her eyelids had lost some of their redness now,
and she had her usual air of self-command.
"Am I wanted up-stairs?" she said, half rising as Fred entered.
"No; I am only dismissed, because Simmons is gone up."
Mary sat down again, and resumed her work. She was certainly
treating him with more indifference than usual: she did not know
how affectionately indignant he had felt on her behalf up-stairs.
"May I stay here a little, Mary, or shall I bore you?"
"Pray sit down," said Mary; "you will not be so heavy a bore
as Mr. John Waule, who was here yesterday, and he sat down without
asking my leave."
"Poor fellow! I think he is in love with you."
"I am not aware of it. And to me it is one of the most odious
things in a girl's life, that there must always be some supposition
of falling in love coming between her and any man who is kind
to her, and to whom she is grateful. I should have thought that I,
at least, might have been safe from all that. I have no ground
for the nonsensical vanity of fancying everybody who comes near
me is in love with me."
Mary did not mean to betray any feeling, but in spite of herself
she ended in a tremulous tone of vexation.
"Confound John Waule! I did not mean to make you angry. I didn't
know you had any reason for being grateful to me. I forgot what
a great service you think it if any one snuffs a candle for you.
Fred also had his pride, and was not going to show that he knew
what had called forth this outburst of Mary's.
"Oh, I am not angry, except with the ways of the world. I do
like to be spoken to as if I had common-sense. I really often feel
as if I could understand a little more than I ever hear even from
young gentlemen who have been to college." Mary had recovered,
and she spoke with a suppressed rippling under-current of laughter
pleasant to hear.
"I don't care how merry you are at my expense this morning,"
said Fred, "I thought you looked so sad when you came up-stairs. It
is a shame you should stay here to be bullied in that way."
"Oh, I have an easy life--by comparison. I have tried being
a teacher, and I am not fit for that: my mind is too fond
of wandering on its own way. I think any hardship is better
than pretending to do what one is paid for, and never really
doing it. Everything here I can do as well as any one else could;
perhaps better than some--Rosy, for example. Though she is just the
sort of beautiful creature that is imprisoned with ogres in fairy tales."
"ROSY!" cried Fred, in a tone of profound brotherly scepticism.
"Come, Fred!" said Mary, emphatically; "you have no right to be
so critical."
"Do you mean anything particular--just now?"
"No, I mean something general--always."
"Oh, that I am idle and extravagant. Well, I am not fit to be
a poor man. I should not have made a bad fellow if I had been rich."
"You would have done your duty in that state of life to which it
has not pleased God to call you," said Mary, laughing.
"Well, I couldn't do my duty as a clergyman, any more than you
could do yours as a governess. You ought to have a little
fellow-feeling there, Mary."
"I never said you ought to be a clergyman. There are other sorts
of work. It seems to me very miserable not to resolve on some
course and act accordingly."
"So I could, if--" Fred broke off, and stood up, leaning against
the mantel-piece.
"If you were sure you should not have a fortune?"
"I did not say that. You want to quarrel with me. It is too bad
of you to be guided by what other people say about me."
"How can I want to quarrel with you? I should be quarrelling with
all my new books," said Mary, lifting the volume on the table.
"However naughty you may be to other people, you are good to me."
"Because I like you better than any one else. But I know you
despise me."
"Yes, I do--a little," said Mary, nodding, with a smile.
"You would admire a stupendous fellow, who would have wise opinions
about everything."
"Yes, I should." Mary was sewing swiftly, and seemed provokingly
mistress of the situation. When a conversation has taken a wrong turn
for us, we only get farther and farther into the swamp of awkwardness.
This was what Fred Vincy felt.
"I suppose a woman is never in love with any one she has always known--
ever since she can remember; as a man often is. It is always some
new fellow who strikes a girl."
"Let me see," said Mary, the corners of her mouth curling archly;
"I must go back on my experience. There is Juliet--she seems
an example of what you say. But then Ophelia had probably known
Hamlet a long while; and Brenda Troil--she had known Mordaunt Merton
ever since they were children; but then he seems to have been
an estimable young man; and Minna was still more deeply in love
with Cleveland, who was a stranger. Waverley was new to Flora MacIvor;
but then she did not fall in love with him. And there are Olivia
and Sophia Primrose, and Corinne--they may be said to have fallen
in love with new men. Altogether, my experience is rather mixed."
Mary looked up with some roguishness at Fred, and that look of hers
was very dear to him, though the eyes were nothing more than clear
windows where observation sat laughingly. He was certainly an
affectionate fellow, and as he had grown from boy to man, he had grown
in love with his old playmate, notwithstanding that share in the higher
education of the country which had exalted his views of rank and income.
"When a man is not loved, it is no use for him to say that he could
be a better fellow--could do anything--I mean, if he were sure
of being loved in return."
"Not of the least use in the world for him to say he COULD
be better. Might, could, would--they are contemptible auxiliaries."
"I don't see how a man is to be good for much unless he has some
one woman to love him dearly."
"I think the goodness should come before he expects that."
"You know better, Mary. Women don't love men for their goodness."
"Perhaps not. But if they love them, they never think them bad."
"It is hardly fair to say I am bad."
"I said nothing at all about you."
"I never shall be good for anything, Mary, if you will not say
that you love me--if you will not promise to marry me--I mean,
when I am able to marry."
"If I did love you, I would not marry you: I would certainly
not promise ever to marry you."
"I think that is quite wicked, Mary. If you love me, you ought
to promise to marry me."
"On the contrary, I think it would be wicked in me to marry you
even if I did love you."
"You mean, just as I am, without any means of maintaining a wife.
Of course: I am but three-and-twenty."
"In that last point you will alter. But I am not so sure of any
other alteration. My father says an idle man ought not to exist,
much less, be married."
"Then I am to blow my brains out?"
"No; on the whole I should think you would do better to pass your
examination. I have heard Mr. Farebrother say it is disgracefully easy."
"That is all very fine. Anything is easy to him. Not that
cleverness has anything to do with it. I am ten times cleverer
than many men who pass."
"Dear me!" said Mary, unable to repress her sarcasm; "that accounts
for the curates like Mr. Crowse. Divide your cleverness by ten,
and the quotient--dear me!--is able to take a degree. But that only
shows you are ten times more idle than the others."
"Well, if I did pass, you would not want me to go into the Church?"
"That is not the question--what I want you to do. You have a
conscience of your own, I suppose. There! there is Mr. Lydgate.
I must go and tell my uncle."
"Mary," said Fred, seizing her hand as she rose; "if you will not
give me some encouragement, I shall get worse instead of better."
"I will not give you any encouragement," said Mary, reddening.
"Your friends would dislike it, and so would mine. My father would
think it a disgrace to me if I accepted a man who got into debt,
and would not work!"
Fred was stung, and released her hand. She walked to the door,
but there she turned and said: "Fred, you have always been so good,
so generous to me. I am not ungrateful. But never speak to me in
that way again."
"Very well," said Fred, sulkily, taking up his hat and whip.
His complexion showed patches of pale pink and dead white.
Like many a plucked idle young gentleman, he was thoroughly
in love, and with a plain girl, who had no money! But having
Mr. Featherstone's land in the background, and a persuasion that,
let Mary say what she would, she really did care for him, Fred was
not utterly in despair.
When he got home, he gave four of the twenties to his mother, asking her
to keep them for him. "I don't want to spend that money, mother.
I want it to pay a debt with. So keep it safe away from my fingers."
"Bless you, my dear," said Mrs. Vincy. She doted on her eldest son
and her youngest girl (a child of six), whom others thought her two
naughtiest children. The mother's eyes are not always deceived
in their partiality: she at least can best judge who is the tender,
filial-hearted child. And Fred was certainly very fond of his mother.
Perhaps it was his fondness for another person also that made him
particularly anxious to take some security against his own liability
to spend the hundred pounds. For the creditor to whom he owed
a hundred and sixty held a firmer security in the shape of a bill
signed by Mary's father.
"Black eyes you have left, you say,
Blue eyes fail to draw you;
Yet you seem more rapt to-day,
Than of old we saw you.
"Oh, I track the fairest fair
Through new haunts of pleasure;
Footprints here and echoes there
Guide me to my treasure:
"Lo! she turns--immortal youth
Wrought to mortal stature,
Fresh as starlight's aged truth--
Many-named Nature!"
A great historian, as he insisted on calling himself, who had the
happiness to be dead a hundred and twenty years ago, and so to take
his place among the colossi whose huge legs our living pettiness
is observed to walk under, glories in his copious remarks and
digressions as the least imitable part of his work, and especially
in those initial chapters to the successive books of his history,
where he seems to bring his armchair to the proscenium and chat with
us in all the lusty ease of his fine English. But Fielding lived
when the days were longer (for time, like money, is measured by our
needs), when summer afternoons were spacious, and the clock ticked
slowly in the winter evenings. We belated historians must not linger
after his example; and if we did so, it is probable that our chat would
be thin and eager, as if delivered from a campstool in a parrot-house.
I at least have so much to do in unraveling certain human lots,
and seeing how they were woven and interwoven, that all the light
I can command must be concentrated on this particular web, and not
dispersed over that tempting range of relevancies called the universe.
At present I have to make the new settler Lydgate better known
to any one interested in him than he could possibly be even to those
who had seen the most of him since his arrival in Middlemarch.
For surely all must admit that a man may be puffed and belauded,
envied, ridiculed, counted upon as a tool and fallen in love with, or at
least selected as a future husband, and yet remain virtually unknown--
known merely as a cluster of signs for his neighbors' false suppositions.
There was a general impression, however, that Lydgate was not altogether
a common country doctor, and in Middlemarch at that time such an
impression was significant of great things being expected from him.
For everybody's family doctor was remarkably clever, and was understood
to have immeasurable skill in the management and training of the
most skittish or vicious diseases. The evidence of his cleverness
was of the higher intuitive order, lying in his lady-patients'
immovable conviction, and was unassailable by any objection except
that their intuitions were opposed by others equally strong; each lady
who saw medical truth in Wrench and "the strengthening treatment"
regarding Toller and "the lowering system" as medical perdition.
For the heroic times of copious bleeding and blistering had not
yet departed, still less the times of thorough-going theory,
when disease in general was called by some bad name, and treated
accordingly without shilly-shally--as if, for example, it were
to be called insurrection, which must not be fired on with
blank-cartridge, but have its blood drawn at once. The strengtheners
and the lowerers were all "clever" men in somebody's opinion,
which is really as much as can be said for any living talents.
Nobody's imagination had gone so far as to conjecture that Mr. Lydgate
could know as much as Dr. Sprague and Dr. Minchin, the two physicians,
who alone could offer any hope when danger was extreme,
and when the smallest hope was worth a guinea. Still, I repeat,
there was a general impression that Lydgate was something rather
more uncommon than any general practitioner in Middlemarch.
And this was true. He was but seven-and-twenty, an age at which many
men are not quite common--at which they are hopeful of achievement,
resolute in avoidance, thinking that Mammon shall never put a bit
in their mouths and get astride their backs, but rather that Mammon,
if they have anything to do with him, shall draw their chariot.
He had been left an orphan when he was fresh from a public school.
His father, a military man, had made but little provision for three
children, and when the boy Tertius asked to have a medical education,
it seemed easier to his guardians to grant his request by apprenticing
him to a country practitioner than to make any objections on the
score of family dignity. He was one of the rarer lads who early
get a decided bent and make up their minds that there is something
particular in life which they would like to do for its own sake,
and not because their fathers did it. Most of us who turn to any
subject with love remember some morning or evening hour when we got on
a high stool to reach down an untried volume, or sat with parted lips
listening to a new talker, or for very lack of books began to listen
to the voices within, as the first traceable beginning of our love.
Something of that sort happened to Lydgate. He was a quick fellow,
and when hot from play, would toss himself in a corner, and in five
minutes be deep in any sort of book that he could lay his hands on:
if it were Rasselas or Gulliver, so much the better, but Bailey's
Dictionary would do, or the Bible with the Apocrypha in it.
Something he must read, when he was not riding the pony, or running
and hunting, or listening to the talk of men. All this was true
of him at ten years of age; he had then read through "Chrysal,
or the Adventures of a Guinea," which was neither milk for babes,
nor any chalky mixture meant to pass for milk, and it had already
occurred to him that books were stuff, and that life was stupid.
His school studies had not much modified that opinion, for though he
"did" his classics and mathematics, he was not pre-eminent in them.
It was said of him, that Lydgate could do anything he liked,
but he had certainly not yet liked to do anything remarkable.
He was a vigorous animal with a ready understanding, but no spark
had yet kindled in him an intellectual passion; knowledge seemed
to him a very superficial affair, easily mastered: judging from the
conversation of his elders, he had apparently got already more than
was necessary for mature life. Probably this was not an exceptional
result of expensive teaching at that period of short-waisted coats,
and other fashions which have not yet recurred. But, one vacation,
a wet day sent him to the small home library to hunt once more for
a book which might have some freshness for him: in vain! unless,
indeed, he took down a dusty row of volumes with gray-paper backs
and dingy labels--the volumes of an old Cyclopaedia which he had
never disturbed. It would at least be a novelty to disturb them.
They were on the highest shelf, and he stood on a chair to get
them down. But he opened the volume which he first took from
the shelf: somehow, one is apt to read in a makeshift attitude,
just where it might seem inconvenient to do so. The page he
opened on was under the head of Anatomy, and the first passage
that drew his eyes was on the valves of the heart. He was not much
acquainted with valves of any sort, but he knew that valvae
were folding-doors, and through this crevice came a sudden light
startling him with his first vivid notion of finely adjusted
mechanism in the human frame. A liberal education had of course
left him free to read the indecent passages in the school classics,
but beyond a general sense of secrecy and obscenity in connection
with his internal structure, had left his imagination quite unbiassed,
so that for anything he knew his brains lay in small bags at
his temples, and he had no more thought of representing to himself
how his blood circulated than how paper served instead of gold.
But the moment of vocation had come, and before he got down from
his chair, the world was made new to him by a presentiment of.
endless processes filling the vast spaces planked out of his sight
by that wordy ignorance which he had supposed to be knowledge.
From that hour Lydgate felt the growth of an intellectual passion.
We are not afraid of telling over and over again how a man comes
to fall in love with a woman and be wedded to her, or else be fatally
parted from her. Is it due to excess of poetry or of stupidity that
we are never weary of describing what King James called a woman's
"makdom and her fairnesse," never weary of listening to the twanging
of the old Troubadour strings, and are comparatively uninterested
in that other kind of "makdom and fairnesse" which must be wooed
with industrious thought and patient renunciation of small desires?
In the story of this passion, too, the development varies:
sometimes it is the glorious marriage, sometimes frustration and
final parting. And not seldom the catastrophe is bound up with
the other passion, sung by the Troubadours. For in the multitude
of middle-aged men who go about their vocations in a daily course
determined for them much in the same way as the tie of their cravats,
there is always a good number who once meant to shape their own
deeds and alter the world a little. The story of their coming
to be shapen after the average and fit to be packed by the gross,
is hardly ever told even in their consciousness; for perhaps their
ardor in generous unpaid toil cooled as imperceptibly as the ardor
of other youthful loves, till one day their earlier self walked
like a ghost in its old home and made the new furniture ghastly.
Nothing in the world more subtle than the process of their
gradual change! In the beginning they inhaled it unknowingly:
you and I may have sent some of our breath towards infecting them,
when we uttered our conforming falsities or drew our silly conclusions:
or perhaps it came with the vibrations from a woman's glance.
Lydgate did not mean to be one of those failures, and there was
the better hope of him because his scientific interest soon took
the form of a professional enthusiasm: he had a youthful belief
in his bread-winning work, not to be stifled by that initiation
in makeshift called his 'prentice days; and he carried to his
studies in London, Edinburgh, and Paris, the conviction that the
medical profession as it might be was the finest in the world;
presenting the most perfect interchange between science and art;
offering the most direct alliance between intellectual conquest
and the social good. Lydgate's nature demanded this combination:
he was an emotional creature, with a flesh-and-blood sense of
fellowship which withstood all the abstractions of special study.
He cared not only for "cases," but for John and Elizabeth,
especially Elizabeth.
There was another attraction in his profession: it wanted reform,
and gave a man an opportunity for some indignant resolve to reject
its venal decorations and other humbug, and to be the possessor
of genuine though undemanded qualifications. He went to study
in Paris with the determination that when he provincial home again
he would settle in some provincial town as a general practitioner,
and resist the irrational severance between medical and surgical
knowledge in the interest of his own scientific pursuits, as well
as of the general advance: he would keep away from the range of
London intrigues, jealousies, and social truckling, and win celebrity,
however slowly, as Jenner had done, by the independent value of
his work. For it must be remembered that this was a dark period;
and in spite of venerable colleges which used great efforts to secure
purity of knowledge by making it scarce, and to exclude error
by a rigid exclusiveness in relation to fees and appointments,
it happened that very ignorant young gentlemen were promoted in town,
and many more got a legal right to practise over large areas
in the country. Also, the high standard held up to the public
mind by the College of which which gave its peculiar sanction
to the expensive and highly rarefied medical instruction obtained
by graduates of Oxford and Cambridge, did not hinder quackery from
having an excellent time of it; for since professional practice
chiefly consisted in giving a great many drugs, the public inferred
that it might be better off with more drugs still, if they could only
be got cheaply, and hence swallowed large cubic measures of physic
prescribed by unscrupulous ignorance which had taken no degrees.
Considering that statistics had not yet embraced a calculation as
to the number of ignorant or canting doctors which absolutely must
exist in the teeth of all changes, it seemed to Lydgate that a change
in the units was the most direct mode of changing the numbers.
He meant to be a unit who would make a certain amount of difference
towards that spreading change which would one day tell appreciably
upon the averages, and in the mean time have the pleasure of making
an advantageous difference to the viscera of his own patients.
But he did not simply aim at a more genuine kind of practice than
was common. He was ambitious of a wider effect: he was fired with
the possibility that he might work out the proof of an anatomical
conception and make a link in the chain of discovery.
Does it seem incongruous to you that a Middlemarch surgeon should
dream of himself as a discoverer? Most of us, indeed, know little
of the great originators until they have been lifted up among
the constellations and already rule our fates. But that Herschel,
for example, who "broke the barriers of the heavens"--did he
not once play a provincial church-organ, and give music-lessons
to stumbling pianists? Each of those Shining Ones had to walk
on the earth among neighbors who perhaps thought much more of his
gait and his garments than of anything which was to give him
a title to everlasting fame: each of them had his little local
personal history sprinkled with small temptations and sordid cares,
which made the retarding friction of his course towards final
companionship with the immortals. Lydgate was not blind to the
dangers of such friction, but he had plenty of confidence in his
resolution to avoid it as far as possible: being seven-and-twenty,
he felt himself experienced. And he was not going to have his
vanities provoked by contact with the showy worldly successes
of the capital, but to live among people who could hold no rivalry
with that pursuit of a great idea which was to be a twin object
with the assiduous practice of his profession. There was fascination
in the hope that the two purposes would illuminate each other:
the careful observation and inference which was his daily work,
the use of the lens to further his judgment in special cases,
would further his thought as an instrument of larger inquiry.
Was not this the typical pre-eminence of his profession? He would
be a good Middlemarch doctor, and by that very means keep himself
in the track of far-reaching investigation. On one point he may
fairly claim approval at this particular stage of his career:
he did not mean to imitate those philanthropic models who make
a profit out of poisonous pickles to support themselves while they
are exposing adulteration, or hold shares in a gambling-hell that
they may have leisure to represent the cause of public morality.
He intended to begin in his own case some particular reforms which
were quite certainly within his reach, and much less of a problem
than the demonstrating of an anatomical conception. One of these
reforms was to act stoutly on the strength of a recent legal decision,
and simply prescribe, without dispensing drugs or taking percentage
from druggists. This was an innovation for one who had chosen
to adopt the style of general practitioner in a country town,
and would be felt as offensive criticism by his professional brethren.
But Lydgate meant to innovate in his treatment also, and he was wise
enough to see that the best security for his practising honestly
according to his belief was to get rid of systematic temptations
to the contrary.
Perhaps that was a more cheerful time for observers and theorizers
than the present; we are apt to think it the finest era of the world
when America was beginning to be discovered, when a bold sailor,
even if he were wrecked, might alight on a new kingdom; and about 1829
the dark territories of Pathology were a fine America for a spirited
young adventurer. Lydgate was ambitious above all to contribute
towards enlarging the scientific, rational basis of his profession.
The more he became interested in special questions of disease,
such as the nature of fever or fevers, the more keenly he felt the
need for that fundamental knowledge of structure which just at the
beginning of the century had been illuminated by the brief and glorious
career of Bichat, who died when he was only one-and-thirty, but,
like another Alexander, left a realm large enough for many heirs.
That great Frenchman first carried out the conception that living bodies,
fundamentally considered, are not associations of organs which can be
understood by studying them first apart, and then as it were federally;
but must be regarded as consisting of certain primary webs or tissues,
out of which the various organs--brain, heart, lungs, and so on--
are compacted, as the various accommodations of a house are built up
in various proportions of wood, iron, stone, brick, zinc, and the rest,
each material having its peculiar composition and proportions.
No man, one sees, can understand and estimate the entire structure
or its parts--what are its frailties and what its repairs, without
knowing the nature of the materials. And the conception wrought
out by Bichat, with his detailed study of the different tissues,
acted necessarily on medical questions as the turning of gas-light
would act on a dim, oil-lit street, showing new connections
and hitherto hidden facts of structure which must be taken into
account in considering the symptoms of maladies and the action
of medicaments. But results which depend on human conscience and
intelligence work slowly, and now at the end of 1829, most medical
practice was still strutting or shambling along the old paths,
and there was still scientific work to be done which might have
seemed to be a direct sequence of Bichat's. This great seer did
not go beyond the consideration of the tissues as ultimate facts
in the living organism, marking the limit of anatomical analysis;
but it was open to another mind to say, have not these structures
some common basis from which they have all started, as your sarsnet,
gauze, net, satin, and velvet from the raw cocoon? Here would be
another light, as of oxy-hydrogen, showing the very grain of things,
and revising ail former explanations. Of this sequence to Bichat's
work, already vibrating along many currents of the European mind,
Lydgate was enamoured; he longed to demonstrate the more intimate
relations of living structure, and help to define men's thought more
accurately after the true order. The work had not yet been done,
but only prepared for those who knew how to use the preparation.
What was the primitive tissue? In that way Lydgate put the question--
not quite in the way required by the awaiting answer; but such
missing of the right word befalls many seekers. And he counted on
quiet intervals to be watchfully seized, for taking up the threads
of investigation--on many hints to be won from diligent application,
not only of the scalpel, but of the microscope, which research
had begun to use again with new enthusiasm of reliance. Such was
Lydgate's plan of his future: to do good small work for Middlemarch,
and great work for the world.
He was certainly a happy fellow at this time: to be seven-and-twenty,
without any fixed vices, with a generous resolution that his
action should be beneficent, and with ideas in his brain that made
life interesting quite apart from the cultus of horseflesh
and other mystic rites of costly observance, which the eight
hundred pounds left him after buying his practice would certainly
not have gone far in paying for. He was at a starting-point
which makes many a man's career a fine subject for betting,
if there were any gentlemen given to that amusement who could
appreciate the complicated probabilities of an arduous purpose,
with all the possible thwartings and furtherings of circumstance,
all the niceties of inward balance, by which a man swims and makes
his point or else is carried headlong. The risk would remain
even with close knowledge of Lydgate's character; for character
too is a process and an unfolding. The man was still in the making,
as much as the Middlemarch doctor and immortal discoverer, and there
were both virtues and faults capable of shrinking or expanding.
The faults will not, I hope, be a reason for the withdrawal of
your interest in him. Among our valued friends is there not some
one or other who is a little too self-confident and disdainful;
whose distinguished mind is a little spotted with commonness;
who is a little pinched here and protuberant there with native.
prejudices; or whose better energies are liable to lapse down
the wrong channel under the influence of transient solicitations?
All these things might be alleged against Lydgate, but then,
they are the periphrases of a polite preacher, who talks of Adam,
and would not like to mention anything painful to the pew-renters.
The particular faults from which these delicate generalities are
distilled have distinguishable physiognomies, diction, accent,
and grimaces; filling up parts in very various dramas. Our vanities
differ as our noses do: all conceit is not the same conceit,
but varies in correspondence with the minutiae of mental make
in which one of us differs from another. Lydgate's conceit
was of the arrogant sort, never simpering, never impertinent,
but massive in its claims and benevolently contemptuous.
He would do a great deal for noodles, being sorry for them,
and feeling quite sure that they could have no power over him:
he had thought of joining the Saint Simonians when he was in Paris,
in order to turn them against some of their own doctrines.
All his faults were marked by kindred traits, and were those of a
man who had a fine baritone, whose clothes hung well upon him,
and who even in his ordinary gestures had an air of inbred distinction.
Where then lay the spots of commonness? says a young lady enamoured
of that careless grace. How could there be any commonness in a man
so well-bred, so ambitious of social distinction, so generous and unusual
in his views of social duty? As easily as there may be stupidity
in a man of genius if you take him unawares on the wrong subject,
or as many a man who has the best will to advance the social
millennium might be ill-inspired in imagining its lighter pleasures;
unable to go beyond Offenbach's music, or the brilliant punning in the
last burlesque. Lydgate's spots of commonness lay in the complexion
of his prejudices, which, in spite of noble intention and sympathy,
were half of them such as are found in ordinary men of the world:
that distinction of mind which belonged to his intellectual ardor,
did not penetrate his feeling and judgment about furniture, or women,
or the desirability of its being known (without his telling)
that he was better born than other country surgeons. He did not
mean to think of furniture at present; but whenever he did so it
was to be feared that neither biology nor schemes of reform would
lift him above the vulgarity of feeling that there would be an
incompatibility in his furniture not being of the best.
As to women, he had once already been drawn headlong by impetuous folly,
which he meant to be final, since marriage at some distant period
would of course not be impetuous. For those who want to be
acquainted with Lydgate it will be good to know what was that case
of impetuous folly, for it may stand as an example of the fitful
swerving of passion to which he was prone, together with the
chivalrous kindness which helped to make him morally lovable.
The story can be told without many words. It happened when he
was studying in Paris, and just at the time when, over and above
his other work, he was occupied with some galvanic experiments.
One evening, tired with his experimenting, and not being able
to elicit the facts he needed, he left his frogs and rabbits
to some repose under their trying and mysterious dispensation of
unexplained shocks, and went to finish his evening at the theatre
of the Porte Saint Martin, where there was a melodrama which he
had already seen several times; attracted, not by the ingenious
work of the collaborating authors, but by an actress whose part
it was to stab her lover, mistaking him for the evil-designing
duke of the piece. Lydgate was in love with this actress, as a
man is in love with a woman whom he never expects to speak to.
She was a Provencale, with dark eyes, a Greek profile, and rounded
majestic form, having that sort of beauty which carries a sweet
matronliness even in youth, and her voice was a soft cooing.
She had but lately come to Paris, and bore a virtuous reputation,
her husband acting with her as the unfortunate lover. It was her
acting which was "no better than it should be," but the public
was satisfied. Lydgate's only relaxation now was to go and look
at this woman, just as he might have thrown himself under the
breath of the sweet south on a bank of violets for a while,
without prejudice to his galvanism, to which he would presently return.
But this evening the old drama had a new catastrophe. At the moment
when the heroine was to act the stabbing of her lover, and he
was to fall gracefully, the wife veritably stabbed her husband,
who fell as death willed. A wild shriek pierced the house,
and the Provencale fell swooning: a shriek and a swoon were
demanded by the play, but the swooning too was real this time.
Lydgate leaped and climbed, he hardly knew how, on to the stage,
and was active in help, making the acquaintance of his heroine by
finding a contusion on her head and lifting her gently in his arms.
Paris rang with the story of this death:--was it a murder? Some of
the actress's warmest admirers were inclined to believe in her guilt,
and liked her the better for it (such was the taste of those times);
but Lydgate was not one of these. He vehemently contended for
her innocence, and the remote impersonal passion for her beauty
which he had felt before, had passed now into personal devotion,
and tender thought of her lot. The notion of murder was absurd:
no motive was discoverable, the young couple being understood to dote
on each other; and it was not unprecedented that an accidental
slip of the foot should have brought these grave consequences.
The legal investigation ended in Madame Laure's release.
Lydgate by this time had had many interviews with her, and found
her more and more adorable. She talked little; but that was
an additional charm. She was melancholy, and seemed grateful;
her presence was enough, like that of the evening light.
Lydgate was madly anxious about her affection, and jealous lest
any other man than himself should win it and ask her to marry him.
But instead of reopening her engagement at the Porte Saint Martin,
where she would have been all the more popular for the fatal episode,
she left Paris without warning, forsaking her little court of admirers.
Perhaps no one carried inquiry far except Lydgate, who felt that all
science had come to a stand-still while he imagined the unhappy Laure,
stricken by ever-wandering sorrow, herself wandering, and finding no
faithful comforter. Hidden actresses, however, are not so difficult
to find as some other hidden facts, and it was not long before Lydgate
gathered indications that Laure had taken the route to Lyons.
He found her at last acting with great success at Avignon under
the same name, looking more majestic than ever as a forsaken wife
carrying her child in her arms. He spoke to her after the play,
was received with the usual quietude which seemed to him beautiful
as clear depths of water, and obtained leave to visit her the next day;
when he was bent on telling her that he adored her, and on asking
her to marry him. He knew that this was like the sudden impulse
of a madman--incongruous even with his habitual foibles. No matter!
It was the one thing which he was resolved to do. He had two selves
within him apparently, and they must learn to accommodate each other
and bear reciprocal impediments. Strange, that some of us, with quick
alternate vision, see beyond our infatuations, and even while we
rave on the heights, behold the wide plain where our persistent
self pauses and awaits us.
To have approached Laure with any suit that was not reverentially
tender would have been simply a contradiction of his whole feeling
towards her.
"You have come all the way from Paris to find me?" she said to him
the next day, sitting before him with folded arms, and looking
at him with eyes that seemed to wonder as an untamed ruminating
animal wonders. "Are all Englishmen like that?"
"I came because I could not live without trying to see you.
You are lonely; I love you; I want you to consent to be my wife;
I will wait, but I want you to promise that you will marry me--
no one else."
Laure looked at him in silence with a melancholy radiance from
under her grand eyelids, until he was full of rapturous certainty,
and knelt close to her knees.
"I will tell you something," she said, in her cooing way,
keeping her arms folded. "My foot really slipped."
"I know, I know," said Lydgate, deprecatingly. "It was a fatal accident--
a dreadful stroke of calamity that bound me to you the more."
Again Laure paused a little and then said, slowly, "I MEANT
Lydgate, strong man as he was, turned pale and trembled:
moments seemed to pass before he rose and stood at a distance from her.
"There was a secret, then," he said at last, even vehemently.
"He was brutal to you: you hated him."
"No! he wearied me; he was too fond: he would live in Paris,
and not in my country; that was not agreeable to me."
"Great God!" said Lydgate, in a groan of horror. "And you planned
to murder him?"
"I did not plan: it came to me in the play--I MEANT TO DO IT."
Lydgate stood mute, and unconsciously pressed his hat on while he
looked at her. He saw this woman--the first to whom he had given
his young adoration--amid the throng of stupid criminals.
"You are a good young man," she said. "But I do not like husbands.
I will never have another."
Three days afterwards Lydgate was at his galvanism again in his
Paris chambers, believing that illusions were at an end for him.
He was saved from hardening effects by the abundant kindness
of his heart and his belief that human life might be made better.
But he had more reason than ever for trusting his judgment,
now that it was so experienced; and henceforth he would take
a strictly scientific view of woman, entertaining no expectations
but such as were justified beforehand.
No one in Middle march was likely to have such a notion of Lydgate's
past as has here been faintly shadowed, and indeed the respectable
townsfolk there were not more given than mortals generally to any
eager attempt at exactness in the representation to themselves
of what did not come under their own senses. Not only young virgins
of that town, but gray-bearded men also, were often in haste to
conjecture how a new acquaintance might be wrought into their purposes,
contented with very vague knowledge as to the way in which life had
been shaping him for that instrumentality. Middlemarch, in fact,
counted on swallowing Lydgate and assimilating him very comfortably.
"All that in woman is adored
In thy fair self I find--
For the whole sex can but afford
The handsome and the kind."
The question whether Mr. Tyke should be appointed as salaried
chaplain to the hospital was an exciting topic to the Middlemarchers;
and Lydgate heard it discussed in a way that threw much light
on the power exercised in the town by Mr. Bulstrode. The banker
was evidently a ruler, but there was an opposition party,
and even among his supporters there were some who allowed it to be
seen that their support was a compromise, and who frankly stated
their impression that the general scheme of things, and especially
the casualties of trade, required you to hold a candle to the devil.
Mr. Bulstrode's power was not due simply to his being a country banker,
who knew the financial secrets of most traders in the town and could
touch the springs of their credit; it was fortified by a beneficence
that was at once ready and severe--ready to confer obligations,
and severe in watching the result. He had gathered, as an industrious
man always at his post, a chief share in administering the town
charities, and his private charities were both minute and abundant.
He would take a great deal of pains about apprenticing Tegg the
shoemaker's son, and he would watch over Tegg's church-going; he would
defend Mrs. Strype the washerwoman against Stubbs's unjust exaction
on the score of her drying-ground, and he would himself-scrutinize
a calumny against Mrs. Strype. His private minor loans were numerous,
but he would inquire strictly into the circumstances both before
and after. In this way a man gathers a domain in his neighbors'
hope and fear as well as gratitude; and power, when once it has
got into that subtle region, propagates itself, spreading out
of all proportion to its external means. It was a principle with
Mr. Bulstrode to gain as much power as possible, that he might use
it for the glory of God. He went through a great deal of spiritual
conflict and inward argument in order to adjust his motives, and make
clear to himself what God's glory required. But, as we have seen,
his motives were not always rightly appreciated. There were many
crass minds in Middlemarch whose reflective scales could only weigh
things in the lump; and they had a strong suspicion that since
Mr. Bulstrode could not enjoy life in their fashion, eating and
drinking so little as he did, and worreting himself about everything,
he must have a sort of vampire's feast in the sense of mastery.
The subject of the chaplaincy came up at Mr. Vincy's table when Lydgate
was dining there, and the family connection with Mr. Bulstrode
did not, he observed, prevent some freedom of remark even on the
part of the host himself, though his reasons against the proposed
arrangement turned entirely on his objection to Mr. Tyke's sermons,
which were all doctrine, and his preference for Mr. Farebrother,
whose sermons were free from that taint. Mr. Vincy liked well enough
the notion of the chaplain's having a salary, supposing it were given
to Farebrother, who was as good a little fellow as ever breathed,
and the best preacher anywhere, and companionable too.
"What line shall you take, then?" said Mr. Chichely, the coroner,
a great coursing comrade of Mr. Vincy's.
"Oh, I'm precious glad I'm not one of the Directors now.
I shall vote for referring the matter to the Directors and the
Medical Board together. I shall roll some of my responsibility
on your shoulders, Doctor," said Mr. Vincy, glancing first at
Dr. Sprague, the senior physician of the town, and then at
Lydgate who sat opposite. "You medical gentlemen must consult
which sort of black draught you will prescribe, eh, Mr. Lydgate?"
"I know little of either," said Lydgate; "but in general,
appointments are apt to be made too much a question of personal liking.
The fittest man for a particular post is not always the best
fellow or the most agreeable. Sometimes, if you wanted to get
a reform, your only way would be to pension off the good fellows
whom everybody is fond of, and put them out of the question."
Dr. Sprague, who was considered the physician of most "weight,"
though Dr. Minchin was usually said to have more "penetration,"
divested his large heavy face of all expression, and looked
at his wine-glass while Lydgate was speaking. Whatever was not
problematical and suspected about this young man--for example,
a certain showiness as to foreign ideas, and a disposition
to unsettle what had been settled and forgotten by his elders--
was positively unwelcome to a physician whose standing had been fixed
thirty years before by a treatise on Meningitis, of which at least
one copy marked "own" was bound in calf. For my part I have some
fellow-feeling with Dr. Sprague: one's self-satisfaction is an
untaxed kind of property which it is very unpleasant to find deprecated.
Lydgate's remark, however, did not meet the sense of the company.
Mr. Vincy said, that if he could have HIS way, he would not put
disagreeable fellows anywhere.
"Hang your reforms!" said Mr. Chichely. "There's no greater humbug
in the world. You never hear of a reform, but it means some trick
to put in new men. I hope you are not one of the `Lancet's' men,
Mr. Lydgate--wanting to take the coronership out of the hands
of the legal profession: your words appear to point that way."
"I disapprove of Wakley," interposed Dr. Sprague, "no man more:
he is an ill-intentioned fellow, who would sacrifice the
respectability of the profession, which everybody knows depends
on the London Colleges, for the sake of getting some notoriety
for himself. There are men who don't mind about being kicked blue
if they can only get talked about. But Wakley is right sometimes,"
the Doctor added, judicially. "I could mention one or two points
in which Wakley is in the right."
"Oh, well," said Mr. Chichely, "I blame no man for standing up in favor
of his own cloth; but, coming to argument, I should like to know
how a coroner is to judge of evidence if he has not had a legal training?"
"In my opinion," said Lydgate, "legal training only makes a man more
incompetent in questions that require knowledge a of another kind.
People talk about evidence as if it could really be weighed in scales
by a blind Justice. No man can judge what is good evidence on any
particular subject, unless he knows that subject well. A lawyer
is no better than an old woman at a post-mortem examination.
How is he to know the action of a poison? You might as well say
that scanning verse will teach you to scan the potato crops."
"You are aware, I suppose, that it is not the coroner's business
to conduct the post-mortem, but only to take the evidence
of the medical witness?" said Mr. Chichely, with some scorn.
"Who is often almost as ignorant as the coroner himself," said Lydgate.
"Questions of medical jurisprudence ought not to be left to the chance
of decent knowledge in a medical witness, and the coroner ought not
to be a man who will believe that strychnine will destroy the coats
of the stomach if an ignorant practitioner happens to tell him so."
Lydgate had really lost sight of the fact that Mr. Chichely was
his Majesty's coroner, and ended innocently with the question,
"Don't you agree with me, Dr. Sprague?"
"To a certain extent--with regard to populous districts, and in
the metropolis," said the Doctor. "But I hope it will be long before
this part of the country loses the services of my friend Chichely,
even though it might get the best man in our profession to succeed him.
I am sure Vincy will agree with me."
"Yes, yes, give me a coroner who is a good coursing man,"
said Mr. Vincy, jovially. "And in my opinion,
you're safest with a lawyer. Nobody can know everything.
Most things are `visitation of God.' And as to poisoning,
why, what you want to know is the law. Come, shall we join the ladies?"
Lydgate's private opinion was that Mr. Chichely might be the
very coroner without bias as to the coats of the stomach, but he
had not meant to be personal. This was one of the difficulties
of moving in good Middlemarch society: it was dangerous to insist
on knowledge as a qualification for any salaried office. Fred Vincy
had called Lydgate a prig, and now Mr. Chichely was inclined
to call him prick-eared; especially when, in the drawing-room,
he seemed to be making himself eminently agreeable to Rosamond,
whom he had easily monopolized in a tete-a-tete, since Mrs. Vincy
herself sat at the tea-table. She resigned no domestic function
to her daughter; and the matron's blooming good-natured face,
with the two volatile pink strings floating from her fine throat,
and her cheery manners to husband and children, was certainly among
the great attractions of the Vincy house--attractions which made
it all the easier to fall in love with the daughter. The tinge
of unpretentious, inoffensive vulgarity in Mrs. Vincy gave more effect
to Rosamond's refinement, which was beyond what Lydgate had expected.
Certainly, small feet and perfectly turned shoulders aid the
impression of refined manners, and the right thing said seems
quite astonishingly right when it is accompanied with exquisite
curves of lip and eyelid. And Rosamond could say the right thing;
for she was clever with that sort of cleverness which catches every
tone except the humorous. Happily she never attempted to joke,
and this perhaps was the most decisive mark of her cleverness.
She and Lydgate readily got into conversation. He regretted
that he had not heard her sing the other day at Stone Court.
The only pleasure he allowed himself during the latter part of his
stay in Paris was to go and hear music.
"You have studied music, probably?" said Rosamond.
"No, I know the notes of many birds, and I know many melodies by ear;
but the music that I don't know at all, and have no notion about,
delights me--affects me. How stupid the world is that it does not
make more use of such a pleasure within its reach!"
"Yes, and you will find Middlemarch very tuneless. There are hardly
any good musicians. I only know two gentlemen who sing at all well."
"I suppose it is the fashion to sing comic songs in a rhythmic way,
leaving you to fancy the tune--very much as if it were tapped on
a drum?"
"Ah, you have heard Mr. Bowyer," said Rosamond, with one of her
rare smiles. "But we are speaking very ill of our neighbors."
Lydgate was almost forgetting that he must carry on the conversation,
in thinking how lovely this creature was, her garment seeming to be made
out of the faintest blue sky, herself so immaculately blond, as if
the petals of some gigantic flower had just opened and disclosed her;
and yet with this infantine blondness showing so much ready,
self-possessed grace. Since he had had the memory of Laure,
Lydgate had lost all taste for large-eyed silence: the divine
cow no longer attracted him, and Rosamond was her very opposite.
But he recalled himself.
"You will let me hear some music to-night, I hope."
"I will let you hear my attempts, if you like," said Rosamond.
"Papa is sure to insist on my singing. But I shall tremble before you,
who have heard the best singers in Paris. I have heard very little:
I have only once been to London. But our organist at St. Peter's
is a good musician, and I go on studying with him."
"Tell me what you saw in London."
"Very little." (A more naive girl would have said, "Oh, everything!"
But Rosamond knew better.) "A few of the ordinary sights, such as raw
country girls are always taken to."
"Do you call yourself a raw country girl?" said Lydgate, looking at
her with an involuntary emphasis of admiration, which made Rosamond
blush with pleasure. But she remained simply serious, turned her long
neck a little, and put up her hand to touch her wondrous hair-plaits--
an habitual gesture with her as pretty as any movements of a
kitten's paw. Not that Rosamond was in the least like a kitten:
she was a sylph caught young and educated at Mrs. Lemon's.
"I assure you my mind is raw," she said immediately; "I pass
at Middlemarch. I am not afraid of talking to our old neighbors.
But I am really afraid of you."
"An accomplished woman almost always knows more than we men,
though her knowledge is of a different sort. I am sure you could
teach me a thousand things--as an exquisite bird could teach a bear
if there were any common language between them. Happily, there is
a common language between women and men, and so the bears can
get taught."
"Ah, there is Fred beginning to strum! I must go and hinder
him from jarring all your nerves," said Rosamond, moving to the
other side of the room, where Fred having opened the piano,
at his father's desire, that Rosamond might give them some music,
was parenthetically performing "Cherry Ripe!" with one hand. Able men
who have passed their examinations will do these things sometimes,
not less than the plucked Fred.
"Fred, pray defer your practising till to-morrow; you will make
Mr. Lydgate ill," said Rosamond. "He has an ear."
Fred laughed, and went on with his tune to the end.
Rosamond turned to Lydgate, smiling gently, and said, "You perceive,
the bears will not always be taught."
"Now then, Rosy!" said Fred, springing from the stool and twisting
it upward for her, with a hearty expectation of enjoyment.
"Some good rousing tunes first."
Rosamond played admirably. Her master at Mrs. Lemon's school
(close to a county town with a memorable history that had its
relics in church and castle) was one of those excellent musicians
here and there to be found in our provinces, worthy to compare
with many a noted Kapellmeister in a country which offers more
plentiful conditions of musical celebrity. Rosamond, with the
executant's instinct, had seized his manner of playing, and gave
forth his large rendering of noble music with the precision
of an echo. It was almost startling, heard for the first time.
A hidden soul seemed to be flowing forth from Rosamond's fingers;
and so indeed it was, since souls live on in perpetual echoes,
and to all fine expression there goes somewhere an originating activity,
if it be only that of an interpreter. Lydgate was taken possession of,
and began to believe in her as something exceptional. After all,
he thought, one need not be surprised to find the rare conjunctions
of nature under circumstances apparently unfavorable: come where
they may, they always depend on conditions that are not obvious.
He sat looking at her, and did not rise to pay her any compliments,
leaving that to others, now that his admiration was deepened.
Her singing was less remarkable? but also well trained, and sweet
to hear as a chime perfectly in tune. It is true she sang "Meet
me by moonlight," and "I've been roaming;" for mortals must share
the fashions of their time, and none but the ancients can be
always classical. But Rosamond could also sing "Black-eyed Susan"
with effect, or Haydn's canzonets, or "Voi, che sapete,"
or "Batti, batti"--she only wanted to know what her audience liked.
Her father looked round at the company, delighting in their admiration.
Her mother sat, like a Niobe before her troubles, with her youngest
little girl on her lap, softly beating the child's hand up and
down in time to the music. And Fred, notwithstanding his general
scepticism about Rosy, listened to her music with perfect allegiance,
wishing he could do the same thing on his flute. It was the pleasantest
family party that Lydgate had seen since he came to Middlemarch.
The Vincys had the readiness to enjoy, the rejection of all anxiety,
and the belief in life as a merry lot, which made a house exceptional
in most county towns at that time, when Evangelicalism had east
a certain suspicion as of plague-infection over the few amusements
which survived in the provinces. At the Vincys' there was always whist,
and the card-tables stood ready now, making some of the company secretly
impatient of the music. Before it ceased Mr. Farebrother came in--
a handsome, broad-chested but otherwise small man, about forty,
whose black was very threadbare: the brilliancy was all in his
quick gray eyes. He came like a pleasant change in the light,
arresting little Louisa with fatherly nonsense as she was being
led out of the room by Miss Morgan, greeting everybody with some
special word, and seeming to condense more talk into ten minutes
than had been held all through the evening. He claimed from
Lydgate the fulfilment of a promise to come and see him. "I can't
let you off, you know, because I have some beetles to show you.
We collectors feel an interest in every new man till he has seen
all we have to show him."
But soon he swerved to the whist-table, rubbing his hands and saying,
"Come now, let us be serious! Mr. Lydgate? not play? Ah! you are
too young and light for this kind of thing."
Lydgate said to himself that the clergyman whose abilities were so
painful to Mr. Bulstrode, appeared to have found an agreeable resort
in this certainly not erudite household. He could half understand it:
the good-humor, the good looks of elder and younger, and the
provision for passing the time without any labor of intelligence,
might make the house beguiling to people who had no particular
use for their odd hours.
Everything looked blooming and joyous except Miss Morgan,
who was brown, dull, and resigned, and altogether, as Mrs. Vincy
often said, just the sort of person for a governess. Lydgate did
not mean to pay many such visits himself. They were a wretched
waste of the evenings; and now, when he had talked a little
more to Rosamond, he meant to excuse himself and go.
"You will not like us at Middlemarch, I feel sure," she said,
when the whist-players were settled. "We are very stupid, and you
have been used to something quite different."
"I suppose all country towns are pretty much alike," said Lydgate.
"But I have noticed that one always believes one's own town
to be more stupid than any other. I have made up my mind to take
Middlemarch as it comes, and shall be much obliged if the town
will take me in the same way. I have certainly found some charms
in it which are much greater than I had expected."
"You mean the rides towards Tipton and Lowick; every one is pleased
with those," said Rosamond, with simplicity.
"No, I mean something much nearer to me."
Rosamond rose and reached her netting, and then said, "Do you
care about dancing at all? I am not quite sure whether clever
men ever dance."
"I would dance with you if you would allow me."
"Oh!" said Rosamond, with a slight deprecatory laugh. "I was only
going to say that we sometimes have dancing, and I wanted to know
whether you would feel insulted if you were asked to come."
"Not on the condition I mentioned."
After this chat Lydgate thought that he was going, but on moving towards
the whist-tables, he got interested in watching Mr. Farebrother's play,
which was masterly, and also his face, which was a striking mixture
of the shrewd and the mild. At ten o'clock supper was brought in
(such were the customs of Middlemarch) and there was punch-drinking;
but Mr. Farebrother had only a glass of water. He was winning,
but there seemed to be no reason why the renewal of rubbers should end,
and Lydgate at last took his leave.
But as it was not eleven o'clock, he chose to walk in the brisk
air towards the tower of St. Botolph's, Mr. Farebrother's church,
which stood out dark, square, and massive against the starlight.
It was the oldest church in Middlemarch; the living, however, was but
a vicarage worth barely four hundred a-year. Lydgate had heard that,
and he wondered now whether Mr. Farebrother cared about the money
he won at cards; thinking, "He seems a very pleasant fellow,
but Bulstrode may have his good reasons." Many things would be
easier to Lydgate if it should turn out that Mr. Bulstrode was
generally justifiable. "What is his religious doctrine to me, if he
carries some good notions along with it? One must use such brains
as are to be found."
These were actually Lydgate's first meditations as he walked away from
Mr. Vincy's, and on this ground I fear that many ladies will consider
him hardly worthy of their attention. He thought of Rosamond and her
music only in the second place; and though, when her turn came, he dwelt
on the image of her for the rest of his walk, he felt no agitation,
and had no sense that any new current had set into his life.
He could not marry yet; he wished not to marry for several years;
and therefore he was not ready to entertain the notion of being
in love with a girl whom he happened to admire. He did admire
Rosamond exceedingly; but that madness which had once beset him about
Laure was not, he thought, likely to recur in relation to any other
woman Certainly, if falling in love had been at all in question,
it would have been quite safe with a creature like this Miss Vincy,
who had just the kind of intelligence one would desire in a woman--
polished, refined, docile, lending itself to finish in all the
delicacies of life, and enshrined in a body which expressed this with
a force of demonstration that excluded the need for other evidence.
Lydgate felt sure that if ever he married, his wife would have
that feminine radiance, that distinctive womanhood which must be
classed with flowers and music, that sort of beauty which by its
very nature was virtuous, being moulded only for pure and delicate joys.
But since he did not mean to marry for the next five years--
his more pressing business was to look into Louis' new book on Fever,
which he was specially interested in, because he had known Louis
in Paris, and had followed many anatomical demonstrations in order
to ascertain the specific differences of typhus and typhoid.
He went home and read far into the smallest hour, bringing a much
more testing vision of details and relations into this pathological
study than he had ever thought it necessary to apply to the
complexities of love and marriage, these being subjects on which he
felt himself amply informed by literature, and that traditional
wisdom which is handed down in the genial conversation of men.
Whereas Fever had obscure conditions, and gave him that delightful
labor of the imagination which is not mere arbitrariness, but the
exercise of disciplined power--combining and constructing with the
clearest eye for probabilities and the fullest obedience to knowledge;
and then, in yet more energetic alliance with impartial Nature,
standing aloof to invent tests by which to try its own work.
Many men have been praised as vividly imaginative on the strength
of their profuseness in indifferent drawing or cheap narration:--
reports of very poor talk going on in distant orbs; or portraits
of Lucifer coming down on his bad errands as a large ugly man
with bat's wings and spurts of phosphorescence; or exaggerations
of wantonness that seem to reflect life in a diseased dream.
But these kinds of inspiration Lydgate regarded as rather vulgar
and vinous compared with the imagination that reveals subtle
actions inaccessible by any sort of lens, but tracked in that outer
darkness through long pathways of necessary sequence by the inward
light which is the last refinement of Energy, capable of bathing
even the ethereal atoms in its ideally illuminated space.
He for his part had tossed away all cheap inventions where ignorance
finds itself able and at ease: he was enamoured of that arduous
invention which is the very eye of research, provisionally framing
its object and correcting it to more and more exactness of relation;
he wanted to pierce the obscurity of those minute processes
which prepare human misery and joy, those invisible thoroughfares
which are the first lurking-places of anguish, mania, and crime,
that delicate poise and transition which determine the growth of happy
or unhappy consciousness.
As he threw down his book, stretched his legs towards the embers
in the grate, and clasped his hands at the back of his head,
in that agreeable afterglow of excitement when thought lapses from
examination of a specific object into a suffusive sense of its
connections with all the rest of our existence--seems, as it were,
to throw itself on its back after vigorous swimming and float
with the repose of unexhausted strength--Lydgate felt a triumphant
delight in his studies, and something like pity for those less
lucky men who were not of his profession.
"If I had not taken that turn when I was a lad," he thought,
"I might have got into some stupid draught-horse work or other,
and lived always in blinkers. I should never have been happy in any
profession that did not call forth the highest intellectual strain,
and yet keep me in good warm contact with my neighbors. There is
nothing like the medical profession for that: one can have the
exclusive scientific life that touches the distance and befriend the
old fogies in the parish too. It is rather harder for a clergyman:
Farebrother seems to be an anomaly."
This last thought brought back the Vincys and all the pictures
of the evening. They floated in his mind agreeably enough,
and as he took up his bed-candle his lips were curled with that
incipient smile which is apt to accompany agreeable recollections.
He was an ardent fellow, but at present his ardor was absorbed in
love of his work and in the ambition of making his life recognized
as a factor in the better life of mankind--like other heroes of
science who had nothing but an obscure country practice to begin with.
Poor Lydgate! or shall I say, Poor Rosamond! Each lived in a world
of which the other knew nothing. It had not occurred to Lydgate
that he had been a subject of eager meditation to Rosamond,
who had neither any reason for throwing her marriage into distant
perspective, nor any pathological studies to divert her mind from
that ruminating habit, that inward repetition of looks, words,
and phrases, which makes a large part in the lives of most girls.
He had not meant to look at her or speak to her with more than
the inevitable amount of admiration and compliment which a man
must give to a beautiful girl; indeed, it seemed to him that his
enjoyment of her music had remained almost silent, for he feared
falling into the rudeness of telling her his great surprise at her
possession of such accomplishment. But Rosamond had registered
every look and word, and estimated them as the opening incidents
of a preconceived romance--incidents which gather value from the
foreseen development and climax. In Rosamond's romance it was not
necessary to imagine much about the inward life of the hero, or of
his serious business in the world: of course, he had a profession
and was clever, as well as sufficiently handsome; but the piquant
fact about Lydgate was his good birth, which distinguished him
from all Middlemarch admirers, and presented marriage as a prospect
of rising in rank and getting a little nearer to that celestial
condition on earth in which she would have nothing to do with
vulgar people, and perhaps at last associate with relatives quite
equal to the county people who looked down on the Middlemarchers.
It was part of Rosamond's cleverness to discern very subtly the
faintest aroma of rank, and once when she had seen the Miss Brookes
accompanying their uncle at the county assizes, and seated among
the aristocracy, she had envied them, notwithstanding their plain dress.
If you think it incredible that to imagine Lydgate as a man of family
could cause thrills of satisfaction which had anything to do with
the sense that she was in love with him, I will ask you to use your
power of comparison a little more effectively, and consider whether
red cloth and epaulets have never had an influence of that sort.
Our passions do not live apart in locked chambers, but, dressed in
their small wardrobe of notions, bring their provisions to a common
table and mess together, feeding out of the common store according
to their appetite.
Rosamond, in fact, was entirely occupied not exactly with Tertius
Lydgate as he was in himself, but with his relation to her; and it
was excusable in a girl who was accustomed to hear that all young
men might, could, would be, or actually were in love with her,
to believe at once that Lydgate could be no exception. His looks
and words meant more to her than other men's, because she cared
more for them: she thought of them diligently, and diligently
attended to that perfection of appearance, behavior, sentiments,
and all other elegancies, which would find in Lydgate a more
adequate admirer than she had yet been conscious of.
For Rosamond, though she would never do anything that was disagreeable
to her, was industrious; and now more than ever she was active in
sketching her landscapes and market-carts and portraits of friends,
in practising her music, and in being from morning till night her
own standard of a perfect lady, having always an audience in her
own consciousness, with sometimes the not unwelcome addition of a more
variable external audience in the numerous visitors of the house.
She found time also to read the best novels, and even the second best,
and she knew much poetry by heart. Her favorite poem was "Lalla Rookh."
"The best girl in the world! He will be a happy fellow who gets her!"
was the sentiment of the elderly gentlemen who visited the Vincys;
and the rejected young men thought of trying again, as is the fashion
in country towns where the horizon is not thick with coming rivals.
But Mrs. Plymdale thought that Rosamond had been educated to a
ridiculous pitch, for what was the use of accomplishments which would
be all laid aside as soon as she was married? While her aunt Bulstrode,
who had a sisterly faithfulness towards her brother's family,
had two sincere wishes for Rosamond--that she might show a more
serious turn of mind, and that she might meet with a husband whose
wealth corresponded to her habits.
"The clerkly person smiled and said
Promise was a pretty maid,
But being poor she died unwed."
The Rev. Camden Farebrother, whom Lydgate went to see the
next evening, lived in an old parsonage, built of stone,
venerable enough to match the church which it looked out upon.
All the furniture too in the house was old, but with another
grade of age--that of Mr. Farebrother's father and grandfather.
There were painted white chairs, with gilding and wreaths on them,
and some lingering red silk damask with slits in it. There were
engraved portraits of Lord Chancellors and other celebrated lawyers
of the last century; and there were old pier-glasses to reflect them,
as well as the little satin-wood tables and the sofas resembling
a prolongation of uneasy chairs, all standing in relief against
the dark wainscot This was the physiognomy of the drawing-room into
which Lydgate was shown; and there were three ladies to receive him,
who were also old-fashioned, and of a faded but genuine respectability:
Mrs. Farebrother, the Vicar's white-haired mother, befrilled and
kerchiefed with dainty cleanliness, up right, quick-eyed, and
still under seventy; Miss Noble, her sister, a tiny old lady
of meeker aspect, with frills and kerchief decidedly more worn
and mended; and Miss Winifred Farebrother, the Vicar's elder sister,
well-looking like himself, but nipped and subdued as single women
are apt to be who spend their lives in uninterrupted subjection
to their elders. Lydgate had not expected to see so quaint a group:
knowing simply that Mr. Farebrother was a bachelor, he had thought
of being ushered into a snuggery where the chief furniture would
probably be books and collections of natural objects. The Vicar
himself seemed to wear rather a changed aspect, as most men do
when acquaintances made elsewhere see them for the first time
in their own homes; some indeed showing like an actor of genial
parts disadvantageously cast for the curmudgeon in a new piece.
This was not the case with Mr. Farebrother: he seemed a trifle milder
and more silent, the chief talker being his mother, while he only put
in a good-humored moderating remark here and there. The old lady
was evidently accustomed to tell her company what they ought to think,
and to regard no subject as quite safe without her steering.
She was afforded leisure for this function by having all her little
wants attended to by Miss Winifred. Meanwhile tiny Miss Noble
carried on her arm a small basket, into which she diverted a bit
of sugar, which she had first dropped in her saucer as if by mistake;
looking round furtively afterwards, and reverting to her teacup
with a small innocent noise as of a tiny timid quadruped.
Pray think no ill of Miss Noble. That basket held small savings
from her more portable food, destined for the children of her poor
friends among whom she trotted on fine mornings; fostering and
petting all needy creatures being so spontaneous a delight to her,
that she regarded it much as if it had been a pleasant vice that she
was addicted to. Perhaps she was conscious of being tempted to steal
from those who had much that she might give to those who had nothing,
and carried in her conscience the guilt of that repressed desire.
One must be poor to know the luxury of giving!
Mrs. Farebrother welcomed the guest with a lively formality
and precision. She presently informed him that they were not often
in want of medical aid in that house. She had brought up her
children to wear flannel and not to over-eat themselves, which last
habit she considered the chief reason why people needed doctors.
Lydgate pleaded for those whose fathers and mothers had over-eaten
themselves, but Mrs. Farebrother held that view of things dangerous:
Nature was more just than that; it would be easy for any felon
to say that his ancestors ought to have been hanged instead of him.
If those he had bad fathers and mothers were bad themselves, they were
hanged for that. There was no need to go back on what you couldn't see.
"My mother is like old George the Third," said the Vicar,
"she objects to metaphysics."
"I object to what is wrong, Camden. I say, keep hold of a
few plain truths, and make everything square with them. When I was young,
Mr. Lydgate, there never was any question about right and wrong.
We knew our catechism, and that was enough; we learned our creed and
our duty. Every respectable Church person had the same opinions.
But now, if you speak out of the Prayer-book itself, you are liable
to be contradicted."
"That makes rather a pleasant time of it for those who like
to maintain their own point," said Lydgate.
"But my mother always gives way," said the Vicar, slyly.
"No, no, Camden, you must not lead Mr. Lydgate into a mistake about
ME. I shall never show that disrespect to my parents, to give
up what they taught me. Any one may see what comes of turning.
If you change once, why not twenty times?"
"A man might see good arguments for changing once, and not see
them for changing again," said Lydgate, amused with the decisive
old lady.
"Excuse me there. If you go upon arguments, they are never wanting,
when a man has no constancy of mind. My father never changed, and he
preached plain moral sermons without arguments, and was a good man--
few better. When you get me a good man made out of arguments,
I will get you a good dinner with reading you the cookery-book. That's
my opinion, and I think anybody's stomach will bear me out."
"About the dinner certainly, mother," said Mr. Farebrother.
"It is the same thing, the dinner or the man. I am nearly seventy,
Mr. Lydgate, and I go upon experience. I am not likely to follow
new lights, though there are plenty of them here as elsewhere.
I say, they came in with the mixed stuffs that will neither wash
nor wear. It was not so in my youth: a Churchman was a Churchman,
and a clergyman, you might be pretty sure, was a gentleman,
if nothing else. But now he may be no better than a Dissenter,
and want to push aside my son on pretence of doctrine. But whoever
may wish to push him aside, I am proud to say, Mr. Lydgate,
that he will compare with any preacher in this kingdom, not to speak
of this town, which is but a low standard to go by; at least,
to my thinking, for I was born and bred at Exeter."
"A mother is never partial," said Mr. Farebrother, smiling.
"What do you think Tyke's mother says about him?"
"Ah, poor creature! what indeed?" said Mrs. Farebrother, her sharpness
blunted for the moment by her confidence in maternal judgments.
"She says the truth to herself, depend upon it."
"And what is the truth?" said-Lydgate. "I am curious to know."
"Oh, nothing bad at all," said Mr. Farebrother. "He is a
zealous fellow: not very learned, and not very wise, I think--
because I don't agree with him."
"Why, Camden!" said Miss Winifred, "Griffin and his wife told me
only to-day, that Mr. Tyke said they should have no more coals
if they came to hear you preach."
Mrs. Farebrother laid down her knitting, which she had resumed after
her small allowance of tea and toast, and looked at her son as if to
say "You hear that?" Miss Noble said, "Oh poor things! poor things!"
in reference, probably, to the double loss of preaching and coal.
But the Vicar answered quietly--
"That is because they are not my parishioners. And I don't think
my sermons are worth a load of coals to them."
"Mr. Lydgate," said Mrs. Farebrother, who could not let this pass,
"you don't know my son: he always undervalues himself. I tell
him he is undervaluing the God who made him, and made him a most
excellent preacher."
"That must be a hint for me to take Mr. Lydgate away to
my study, mother," said the Vicar, laughing. "I promised
to show you my collection," he added, turning to Lydgate; "shall we go?"
All three ladies remonstrated. Mr. Lydgate ought not to be
hurried away without being allowed to accept another cup of tea:
Miss Winifred had abundance of good tea in the pot. Why was Camden
in such haste to take a visitor to his den? There was nothing
but pickled vermin, and drawers full of blue-bottles and moths,
with no carpet on the floor. Mr. Lydgate must excuse it. A game
at cribbage would be far better. In short, it was plain that a vicar
might be adored by his womankind as the king of men and preachers,
and yet be held by them to stand in much need of their direction.
Lydgate, with the usual shallowness of a young bachelor.
wondered that Mr. Farebrother had not taught them better.
"My mother is not used to my having visitors who can take any interest
in my hobbies," said the Vicar, as he opened the door of his study,
which was indeed as bare of luxuries for the body as the ladies
had implied, unless a short porcelain pipe and a tobacco-box were
to be excepted.
"Men of your profession don't generally smoke," he said. Lydgate smiled
and shook his head. "Nor of mine either, properly, I suppose.
You will hear that pipe alleged against me by Bulstrode and Company.
They don't know how pleased the devil would be if I gave it up."
"I understand. You are of an excitable temper and want a sedative.
I am heavier, and should get idle with it. I should rush into idleness,
and stagnate there with all my might."
"And you mean to give it all to your work. I am some ten
or twelve years older than you, and have come to a compromise.
I feed a weakness or two lest they should get clamorous. See,"
continued the Vicar, opening several small drawers, "I fancy I
have made an exhaustive study of the entomology of this district.
I am going on both with the fauna and flora; but I have at least
done my insects well. We are singularly rich in orthoptera:
I don't know whether--Ah! you have got hold of that glass jar--
you are looking into that instead of my drawers. You don't really
care about these things?"
"Not by the side of this lovely anencephalous monster.
I have never had time to give myself much to natural history.
I was early bitten with an interest in structure, and it is what
lies most directly in my profession. I have no hobby besides.
I have the sea to swim in there."
"Ah! you are a happy fellow," said Mr. Farebrother, turning on his
heel and beginning to fill his pipe. "You don't know what it is
to want spiritual tobacco--bad emendations of old texts, or small
items about a variety of Aphis Brassicae, with the well-known
signature of Philomicron, for the `Twaddler's Magazine;' or a learned
treatise on the entomology of the Pentateuch, including all the
insects not mentioned, but probably met with by the Israelites
in their passage through the desert; with a monograph on the Ant,
as treated by Solomon, showing the harmony of the Book of Proverbs
with the results of modern research. You don't mind my fumigating you?"
Lydgate was more surprised at the openness of this talk than at its
implied meaning--that the Vicar felt himself not altogether in the
right vocation. The neat fitting-up of drawers and shelves, and the
bookcase filled with expensive illustrated books on Natural History,
made him think again of the winnings at cards and their destination.
But he was beginning to wish that the very best construction
of everything that Mr. Farebrother did should be the true one.
The Vicar's frankness seemed not of the repulsive sort Chat comes
from an uneasy consciousness seeking to forestall the judgment
of others, but simply the relief of a desire to do with as little
pretence as possible. Apparently he was not without a sense that
his freedom of speech might seem premature, for he presently said--
"I have not yet told you that I have the advantage of you,
Mr. Lydgate, and know you better than you know me. You remember
Trawley who shared your apartment at Paris for some time?
I was a correspondent of his, and he told me a good deal about you.
I was not quite sure when you first came that you were the same man.
I was very glad when I found that you were. Only I don't forget
that you have not had the like prologue about me."
Lydgate divined some delicacy of feeling here, but did not half
understand it. "By the way," he said, "what has become of Trawley?
I have quite lost sight of him. He was hot on the French
social systems, and talked of going to the Backwoods to found
a sort of Pythagorean community. Is he gone?"
"Not at all. He is practising at a German bath, and has married
a rich patient."
Then my notions wear the best, so far," said Lydgate, with a
short scornful laugh. "He would have it, the medical profession was
an inevitable system of humbug. I said, the fault was in the men--
men who truckle to lies and folly. Instead of preaching against
humbug outside the walls, it might be better to set up a disinfecting
apparatus within. In short--I am reporting my own conversation--
you may be sure I had all the good sense on my side."
"Your scheme is a good deal more difficult to carry out than the
Pythagorean community, though. You have not only got the old Adam
in yourself against you, but you have got all those descendants
of the original Adam who form the society around you. You see,
I have paid twelve or thirteen years more than you for my knowledge
of difficulties. But"--Mr. Farebrother broke off a moment,
and then added, "you are eying that glass vase again. Do you want
to make an exchange? You shall not have it without a fair barter."
"I have some sea-mice--fine specimens--in spirits. And I will
throw in Robert Brown's new thing--`Microscopic Observations
on the Pollen of Plants'--if you don't happen to have it already."
"Why, seeing how you long for the monster, I might ask a higher price.
Suppose I ask you to look through my drawers and agree with me
about all my new species?" The Vicar, while he talked in this way,
alternately moved about with his pipe in his mouth, and returned to hang
rather fondly over his drawers. "That would be good discipline, you know,
for a young doctor who has to please his patients in Middlemarch.
You must learn to be bored, remember. However, you shall have
the monster on your own terms."
"Don't you think men overrate the necessity for humoring everybody's
nonsense, till they get despised by the very fools they humor?"
said Lydgate, moving to Mr. Farebrother's side, and looking rather
absently at the insects ranged in fine gradation, with names subscribed
in exquisite writing. "The shortest way is to make your value felt,
so that people must put up with you whether you flatter them or not."
"With all my heart. But then you must be sure of having the value,
and you must keep yourself independent. Very few men can do that.
Either you slip out of service altogether, and become good for nothing,
or you wear the harness and draw a good deal where your yoke-fellows
pull you. But do look at these delicate orthoptera!"
Lydgate had after all to give some scrutiny to each drawer,
the Vicar laughing at himself, and yet persisting in the exhibition.
"Apropos of what you said about wearing harness," Lydgate began,
after they had sat down, "I made up my mind some time ago to do
with as little of it as-possible. That was why I determined not to
try anything in London, for a good many years at least. I didn't
like what I saw when I was studying there--so much empty bigwiggism,
and obstructive trickery. In the country, people have less pretension
to knowledge, and are less of companions, but for that reason they
affect one's amour-propre less: one makes less bad blood,
and can follow one's own course more quietly."
"Yes--well--you have got a good start; you are in the right profession,
the work you feel yourself most fit for. Some people miss that,
and repent too late. But you must not be too sure of keeping
your independence."
"You mean of family ties?" said Lydgate, conceiving that these
might press rather tightly on Mr. Farebrother.
"Not altogether. Of course they make many things more difficult.
But a good wife--a good unworldly woman--may really help a man,
and keep him more independent. There's a parishioner of mine--
a fine fellow, but who would hardly have pulled through as he has done
without his wife. Do you know the Garths? I think they were not
Peacock's patients."
"No; but there is a Miss Garth at old Featherstone's, at Lowick."
"Their daughter: an excellent girl."
"She is very quiet--I have hardly noticed her."
"She has taken notice of you, though, depend upon it."
"I don't understand," said Lydgate; he could hardly say "Of course."
"Oh, she gauges everybody. I prepared her for confirmation--
she is a favorite of mine."
Mr. Farebrother puffed a few moments in silence, Lydgate not caring
to know more about the Garths. At last the Vicar laid down his pipe,
stretched out his legs, and turned his bright eyes with a smile
towards Lydgate, saying--
"But we Middlemarchers are not so tame as you take us to be.
We have our intrigues and our parties. I am a party man,
for example, and Bulstrode is another. If you vote for me you
will offend Bulstrode."
"What is there against Bulstrode?" said Lydgate, emphatically.
"I did not say there was anything against him except that.
If you vote against him you will make him your enemy."
"I don't know that I need mind about that," said Lydgate,
rather proudly; "but he seems to have good ideas about hospitals,
and he spends large sums on useful public objects. He might help me
a good deal in carrying out my ideas. As to his religious notions--
why, as Voltaire said, incantations will destroy a flock of sheep
if administered with a certain quantity of arsenic. I look for the
man who will bring the arsenic, and don't mind about his incantations."
"Very good. But then you must not offend your arsenic-man. You will
not offend me, you know," said Mr. Farebrother, quite unaffectedly.
"I don't translate my own convenience into other people's duties.
I am opposed to Bulstrode in many ways. I don't like the set
he belongs to: they are a narrow ignorant set, and do more to
make their neighbors uncomfortable than to make them better.
Their system is a sort of worldly-spiritual cliqueism: they really
look on the rest of mankind as a doomed carcass which is to nourish
them for heaven. But," he added, smilingly, "I don't say that
Bulstrode's new hospital is a bad thing; and as to his wanting to oust
me from the old one--why, if he thinks me a mischievous fellow,
he is only returning a compliment. And I am not a model clergyman--
only a decent makeshift."
Lydgate was not at all sure that the Vicar maligned himself.
A model clergyman, like a model doctor, ought to think his own
profession the finest in the world, and take all knowledge as mere
nourishment to his moral pathology and therapeutics. He only said,
"What reason does Bulstrode give for superseding you?"
"That I don't teach his opinions--which he calls spiritual religion;
and that I have no time to spare. Both statements are true.
But then I could make time, and I should be glad of the forty pounds.
That is the plain fact of the case. But let us dismiss it.
I only wanted to tell you that if you vote for your arsenic-man,
you are not to cut me in consequence. I can't spare you.
You are a sort of circumnavigator come to settle among us, and will
keep up my belief in the antipodes. Now tell me all about them
in Paris."
"Oh, sir, the loftiest hopes on earth
Draw lots with meaner hopes: heroic breasts,
Breathing bad air, ran risk of pestilence;
Or, lacking lime-juice when they cross the Line,
May languish with the scurvy."
Some weeks passed after this conversation before the question of the
chaplaincy gathered any practical import for Lydgate, and without telling
himself the reason, he deferred the predetermination on which side he
should give his vote. It would really have been a matter of total
indifference to him--that is to say, he would have taken the more
convenient side, and given his vote for the appointment of Tyke without
any hesitation--if he had not cared personally for Mr. Farebrother.
But his liking for the Vicar of St. Botolph's grew with
growing acquaintanceship. That, entering into Lydgate's position
as a new-comer who had his own professional objects to secure,
Mr. Farebrother should have taken pains rather to warn off than
to obtain his interest, showed an unusual delicacy and generosity,
which Lydgate's nature was keenly alive to. It went along with other
points of conduct in Mr. Fare brother which were exceptionally fine,
and made his character resemble those southern landscapes which seem
divided between natural grandeur and social slovenliness. Very few
men could have been as filial and chivalrous as he was to the mother,
aunt, and sister, whose dependence on him had in many ways shaped
his life rather uneasily for himself; few men who feel the pressure
of small needs are so nobly resolute not to dress up their inevitably
self-interested desires in a pretext of better motives. In these
matters he was conscious that his life would bear the closest scrutiny;
and perhaps the consciousness encouraged a little defiance towards
the critical strictness of persons whose celestial intimacies
seemed not to improve their domestic manners, and whose lofty aims
were not needed to account for their actions. Then, his preaching
was ingenious and pithy, like the preaching of the English Church
in its robust age, and his sermons were delivered without book.
People outside his parish went to hear him; and, since to fill the
church was always the most difficult part of a clergyman's function,
here was another ground for a careless sense of superiority.
Besides, he was a likable man: sweet-tempered, ready-witted, frank,
without grins of suppressed bitterness or other conversational
flavors which make half of us an affliction to our friends.
Lydgate liked him heartily, and wished for his friendship.
With this feeling uppermost, he continued to waive the question
of the chaplaincy, and to persuade himself that it was not only
no proper business of his, but likely enough never to vex him
with a demand for his vote. Lydgate, at Mr. Bulstrode's request,
was laying down plans for the internal arrangements of the new hospital,
and the two were often in consultation. The banker was always
presupposing that he could count in general on Lydgate as a coadjutor,
but made no special recurrence to the coming decision between Tyke
and Farebrother. When the General Board of the Infirmary had met,
however, and Lydgate had notice that the question of the chaplaincy
was thrown on a council of the directors and medical men, to meet
on the following Friday, he had a vexed sense that he must make up
his mind on this trivial Middlemarch business. He could not help
hearing within him the distinct declaration that Bulstrode was
prime minister, and that the Tyke affair was a question of office
or no office; and he could not help an equally pronounced dislike
to giving up the prospect of office. For his observation was
constantly confirming Mr. Farebrother's assurance that the banker
would not overlook opposition. "Confound their petty politics!"
was one of his thoughts for three mornings in the meditative
process of shaving, when he had begun to feel that he must really
hold a court of conscience on this matter. Certainly there were
valid things to be said against the election of Mr. Farebrother:
he had too much on his hands already, especially considering
how much time he spent on non-clerical occupations. Then again
it was a continually repeated shock, disturbing Lydgate's esteem,
that the Vicar should obviously play for the sake of money,
liking the play indeed, but evidently liking some end which it served.
Mr. Farebrother contended on theory for the desirability of all games,
and said that Englishmen's wit was stagnant for want of them;
but Lydgate felt certain that he would have played very much less
but for the money. There was a billiard-room at the Green Dragon,
which some anxious mothers and wives regarded as the chief temptation
in Middlemarch. The Vicar was a first-rate billiard-player, and
though he did not frequent the Green Dragon, there were reports
that he had sometimes been there in the daytime and had won money.
And as to the chaplaincy, he did not pretend that he cared for it,
except for the sake of the forty pounds. Lydgate was no Puritan,
but he did not care for play, and winning money at it had always
seemed a meanness to him; besides, he had an ideal of life which made
this subservience of conduct to the gaining of small sums thoroughly
hateful to him. Hitherto in his own life his wants had been supplied
without any trouble to himself, and his first impulse was always to be
liberal with half-crowns as matters of no importance to a gentleman;
it had never occurred to him to devise a plan for getting half-crowns.
He had always known in a general way that he was not rich, but he
had never felt poor, and he had no power of imagining the part
which the want of money plays in determining the actions of men.
Money had never been a motive to him. Hence he was not ready
to frame excuses for this deliberate pursuit of small gains.
It was altogether repulsive to him, and he never entered into any
calculation of the ratio between the Vicar's income and his more or
less necessary expenditure. It was possible that he would not have
made such a calculation in his own case.
And now, when the question of voting had come, this repulsive fact
told more strongly against Mr. Farebrother than it had done before.
One would know much better what to do if men's characters were
more consistent, and especially if one's friends were invariably fit
for any function they desired to undertake! Lydgate was convinced
that if there had been no valid objection to Mr. Farebrother, he would
have voted for him, whatever Bulstrode might have felt on the subject:
he did not intend to be a vassal of Bulstrode's. On the other hand,
there was Tyke, a man entirely given to his clerical office, who was
simply curate at a chapel of ease in St. Peter's parish, and had
time for extra duty. Nobody had anything to say against Mr. Tyke,
except that they could not bear him, and suspected him of cant.
Really, from his point of view, Bulstrode was thoroughly justified.
But whichever way Lydgate began to incline, there was something
to make him wince; and being a proud man, he was a little
exasperated at being obliged to wince. He did not like frustrating
his own best purposes by getting on bad terms with Bulstrode;
he did not like voting against Farebrother, and helping to deprive
him of function and salary; and the question occurred whether
the additional forty pounds might not leave the Vicar free from
that ignoble care about winning at cards. Moreover, Lydgate did
not like the consciousness that in voting for Tyke he should be
voting on the side obviously convenient for himself. But would
the end really be his own convenience? Other people would say so,
and would allege that he was currying favor with Bulstrode for the
sake of making himself important and getting on in the world.
What then? He for his own part knew that if his personal prospects
simply had been concerned, he would not have cared a rotten nut
for the banker's friendship or enmity. What he really cared for
was a medium for his work, a vehicle for his ideas; and after all,
was he not bound to prefer the object of getting a good hospital,
where he could demonstrate the specific distinctions of fever
and test therapeutic results, before anything else connected
with this chaplaincy? For the first time Lydgate was feeling
the hampering threadlike pressure of small social conditions,
and their frustrating complexity. At the end of his inward debate,
when he set out for the hospital, his hope was really in the chance
that discussion might somehow give a new aspect to the question,
and make the scale dip so as to exclude the necessity for voting.
I think he trusted a little also to the energy which is begotten
by circumstances--some feeling rushing warmly and making resolve easy,
while debate in cool blood had only made it more difficult.
However it was, he did not distinctly say to himself on which side he
would vote; and all the while he was inwardly resenting the subjection
which had been forced upon him. It would have seemed beforehand
like a ridiculous piece of bad logic that he, with his unmixed
resolutions of independence and his select purposes, would find
himself at the very outset in the grasp of petty alternatives,
each of which was repugnant to him. In his student's chambers,
he had prearranged his social action quite differently.
Lydgate was late in setting out, but Dr. Sprague, the two other surgeons,
and several of the directors had arrived early; Mr. Bulstrode,
treasurer and chairman, being among those who were still absent.
The conversation seemed to imply that the issue was problematical,
and that a majority for Tyke was not so certain as had been generally
supposed. The two physicians, for a wonder, turned out to be unanimous,
or rather, though of different minds, they concurred in action.
Dr. Sprague, the rugged and weighty, was, as every one had foreseen,
an adherent of Mr. Farebrother. The Doctor was more than suspected
of having no religion, but somehow Middlemarch tolerated this
deficiency in him as if he had been a Lord Chancellor; indeed it
is probable that his professional weight was the more believed in,
the world-old association of cleverness with the evil principle being
still potent in the minds even of lady-patients who had the strictest
ideas of frilling and sentiment. It was perhaps this negation in the
Doctor which made his neighbors call him hard-headed and dry-witted;
conditions of texture which were also held favorable to the storing
of judgments connected with drugs. At all events, it is certain
that if any medical man had come to Middlemarch with the reputation
of having very definite religious views, of being given to prayer,
and of otherwise showing an active piety, there would have been
a general presumption against his medical skill.
On this ground it was (professionally speaking) fortunate for
Dr. Minchin that his religious sympathies were of a general kind,
and such as gave a distant medical sanction to all serious sentiment,
whether of Church or Dissent, rather than any adhesion to
particular tenets. If Mr. Bulstrode insisted, as he was apt to do,
on the Lutheran doctrine of justification, as that by which a Church
must stand or fall, Dr. Minchin in return was quite sure that man
was not a mere machine or a fortuitous conjunction of atoms;
if Mrs. Wimple insisted on a particular providence in relation to her
stomach complaint, Dr. Minchin for his part liked to keep the mental
windows open and objected to fixed limits; if the Unitarian brewer
jested about the Athanasian Creed, Dr. Minchin quoted Pope's "Essay
on Man." He objected to the rather free style of anecdote in which
Dr. Sprague indulged, preferring well-sanctioned quotations, and liking
refinement of all kinds: it was generally known that he had some
kinship to a bishop, and sometimes spent his holidays at "the palace."
Dr. Minchin was soft-handed, pale-complexioned, and of rounded outline,
not to be distinguished from a mild clergyman in appearance:
whereas Dr. Sprague was superfluously tall; his trousers got creased
at the knees, and showed an excess of boot at a time when straps seemed
necessary to any dignity of bearing; you heard him go in and out,
and up and down, as if he had come to see after the roofing.
In short, he had weight, and might be expected to grapple with a
disease and throw it; while Dr. Minchin might be better able to detect
it lurking and to circumvent it. They enjoyed about equally the
mysterious privilege of medical reputation, and concealed with much
etiquette their contempt for each other's skill. Regarding themselves
as Middlemarch institutions, they were ready to combine against
all innovators, and against non-professionals given to interference.
On this ground they were both in their hearts equally averse to
Mr. Bulstrode, though Dr. Minchin had never been in open hostility
with him, and never differed from him without elaborate explanation
to Mrs. Bulstrode, who had found that Dr. Minchin alone understood
her constitution. A layman who pried into the professional
conduct of medical men, and was always obtruding his reforms,--
though he was less directly embarrassing to the two physicians
than to the surgeon-apothecaries who attended paupers by contract,
was nevertheless offensive to the professional nostril as such;
and Dr. Minchin shared fully in the new pique against Bulstrode,
excited by his apparent determination to patronize Lydgate.
The long-established practitioners, Mr. Wrench and Mr. Toller;
were just now standing apart and having a friendly colloquy,
in which they agreed that Lydgate was a jackanapes, just made to
serve Bulstrode's purpose. To non-medical friends they had already
concurred in praising the other young practitioner, who had come into
the town on Mr. Peacock's retirement without further recommendation
than his own merits and such argument for solid professional
acquirement as might be gathered from his having apparently wasted
no time on other branches of knowledge. It was clear that Lydgate,
by not dispensing drugs, intended to cast imputations on his equals,
and also to obscure the limit between his own rank as a general
practitioner and that of the physicians, who, in the interest
of the profession, felt bound to maintain its various grades,--
especially against a man who had not been to either of the English
universities and enjoyed the absence of anatomical and bedside
study there, but came with a libellous pretension to experience
in Edinburgh and Paris, where observation might be abundant indeed,
but hardly sound.
Thus it happened that on this occasion Bulstrode became identified
with Lydgate, and Lydgate with Tyke; and owing to this variety
of interchangeable names for the chaplaincy question, diverse minds
were enabled to form the same judgment concerning it.
Dr. Sprague said at once bluntly. to the group assembled when
he entered, "I go for Farebrother. A salary, with all my heart.
But why take it from the Vicar? He has none too much--has to insure
his life, besides keeping house, and doing a vicar's charities.
Put forty pounds in his pocket and you'll do no harm. He's a
good fellow, is Farebrother, with as little of the parson about him
as will serve to carry orders."
"Ho, ho! Doctor," said old Mr. Powderell, a retired iron-monger
of some standing--his interjection being something between a laugh
and a Parliamentary disapproval; "we must let you have your say.
But what we have to consider is not anybody's income--it's the souls
of the poor sick people"--here Mr. Powderell's voice and face had a
sincere pathos in them. "He is a real Gospel preacher, is Mr. Tyke.
I should vote against my conscience if I voted against Mr. Tyke--
I should indeed."
"Mr. Tyke's opponents have not asked any one to vote against
his conscience, I believe," said Mr. Hackbutt, a rich tanner
of fluent speech, whose glittering spectacles and erect hair
were turned with some severity towards innocent Mr. Powderell.
"But in my judgment it behoves us, as Directors, to consider whether
we will regard it as our whole business to carry out propositions
emanating from a single quarter. Will any member of the committee
aver that he would have entertained the idea of displacing the
gentleman who has always discharged the function of chaplain here,
if it had not been suggested to him by parties whose disposition
it is to regard every institution of this town as a machinery
for carrying out their own views? I tax no man's motives:
let them lie between himself and a higher Power; but I do say,
that there are influences at work here which are incompatible
with genuine independence, and that a crawling servility is
usually dictated by circumstances which gentlemen so conducting
themselves could not afford either morally or financially to avow.
I myself am a layman, but I have given no inconsiderable attention
to the divisions in the Church and--"
"Oh, damn the divisions!" burst in Mr. Frank Hawley, lawyer and
town-clerk, who rarely presented himself at the board, but now looked
in hurriedly, whip in hand. "We have nothing to do with them here.
Farebrother has been doing the work--what there was--without pay,
and if pay is to be given, it should be given to him. I call it
a confounded job to take the thing away from Farebrother."
"I think it would be as well for gentlemen not to give their
remarks a personal bearing," said Mr. Plymdale. "I shall vote
for the appointment of Mr. Tyke, but I should not have known,
if Mr. Hackbutt hadn't hinted it, that I was a Servile Crawler."
"I disclaim any personalities. I expressly said, if I may be
allowed to repeat, or even to conclude what I was about to say--"
"Ah, here's Minchin!" said Mr. Frank Hawley; at which everybody
turned away from Mr. Hackbutt, leaving him to feel the uselessness
of superior gifts in Middlemarch. "Come, Doctor, I must have you
on the right side, eh?"
"I hope so," said Dr. Minchin, nodding and shaking hands here and there;
"at whatever cost to my feelings."
"If there's any feeling here, it should be feeling for the man
who is turned out, I think," said Mr. Frank Hawley.
"I confess I have feelings on the other side also. I have a
divided esteem," said Dr. Minchin, rubbing his hands. "I consider
Mr. Tyke an exemplary man--none more so--and I believe him to be
proposed from unimpeachable motives. I, for my part, wish that I
could give him my vote. But I am constrained to take a view of the
case which gives the preponderance to Mr. Farebrother's claims.
He is an amiable man, an able preacher, and has been longer among us."
Old Mr. Powderell looked on, sad and silent. Mr. Plymdale settled
his cravat, uneasily.
"You don't set up Farebrother as a pattern of what a clergyman
ought to be, I hope," said Mr. Larcher, the eminent carrier,
who had just come in. "I have no ill-will towards him, but I think
we owe something to the public, not to speak of anything higher,
in these appointments. In my opinion Farebrother is too lax for
a clergyman. I don't wish to bring up particulars against him;
but he will make a little attendance here go as far as he can."
"And a devilish deal better than too much," said Mr. Hawley,
whose bad language was notorious in that part of the county.
"Sick people can't bear so much praying and preaching.
And that methodistical sort of religion is bad for the spirits--
bad for the inside, eh?" he added, turning quickly round to the four
medical men who were assembled.
But any answer was dispensed with by the entrance of three gentlemen,
with whom there were greetings more or less cordial. These were
the Reverend Edward Thesiger, Rector of St. Peter's, Mr. Bulstrode,
and our friend Mr. Brooke of Tipton, who had lately allowed himself
to be put on the board of directors in his turn, but had never before
attended, his attendance now being due to Mr. Bulstrode's exertions.
Lydgate was the only person still expected.
Every one now sat down, Mr. Bulstrode presiding, pale and
self-restrained as usual. Mr. Thesiger, a moderate evangelical,
wished for the appointment of his friend Mr. Tyke, a zealous
able man, who, officiating at a chapel of ease, had not a cure
of souls too extensive to leave him ample time for the new duty.
It was desirable that chaplaincies of this kind should be entered
on with a fervent intention: they were peculiar opportunities
for spiritual influence; and while it was good that a salary should
be allotted, there was the more need for scrupulous watching lest
the office should be perverted into a mere question of salary.
Mr. Thesiger's manner had so much quiet propriety that objectors
could only simmer in silence.
Mr. Brooke believed that everybody meant well in the matter.
He had not himself attended to the affairs of the Infirmary, though he
had a strong interest in whatever was for the benefit of Middlemarch,
and was most happy to meet the gentlemen present on any public question--
"any public question, you know," Mr. Brooke repeated, with his nod
of perfect understanding. "I am a good deal occupied as a magistrate,
and in the collection of documentary evidence, but I regard my time
as being at the disposal of the public--and, in short, my friends
have convinced me that a chaplain with a salary--a salary, you know--
is a very good thing, and I am happy to be able to come here and
vote for the appointment of Mr. Tyke, who, I understand, is an
unexceptionable man, apostolic and eloquent and everything of that kind--
and I am the last man to withhold my vote--under the circumstances,
you know."
"It seems to me that you have been crammed with one side of
the question, Mr. Brooke," said Mr. Frank Hawley, who was afraid
of nobody, and was a Tory suspicious of electioneering intentions.
"You don't seem to know that one of the worthiest men we have
has been doing duty as chaplain here for years without pay,
and that Mr. Tyke is proposed to supersede him."
"Excuse me, Mr. Hawley," said Mr. Bulstrode. "Mr. Brooke has been
fully informed of Mr. Farebrother's character and position."
"By his enemies," flashed out Mr. Hawley.
"I trust there is no personal hostility concerned here,"
said Mr. Thesiger.
"I'll swear there is, though," retorted Mr. Hawley.
"Gentlemen," said Mr. Bulstrode, in a subdued tone, "the merits
of the question may be very briefly stated, and if any one present
doubts that every gentleman who is about to give his vote has
not been fully informed, I can now recapitulate the considerations
that should weigh on either side."
"I don't see the good of that," said Mr. Hawley. "I suppose we all
know whom we mean to vote for. Any man who wants to do justice does
not wait till the last minute to hear both sides of the question.
I have no time to lose, and I propose that the matter be put to the
vote at once."
A brief but still hot discussion followed before each person wrote
"Tyke" or "Farebrother" on a piece of paper and slipped it into
a glass tumbler; and in the mean time Mr. Bulstrode saw Lydgate enter.
"I perceive that the votes are equally divided at present,"
said Mr. Bulstrode, in a clear biting voice. Then, looking up
at Lydgate--
"There is a casting-vote still to be given. It is yours, Mr. Lydgate:
will you be good enough to write?"
"The thing is settled now," said Mr. Wrench, rising. "We all know
how Mr. Lydgate will vote."
"You seem to speak with some peculiar meaning, sir," said Lydgate,
rather defiantly, and keeping his pencil suspended.
"I merely mean that you are expected to vote with Mr. Bulstrode.
Do you regard that meaning as offensive?"
"It may be offensive to others. But I shall not desist from voting
with him on that account." Lydgate immediately wrote down "Tyke."
So the Rev. Walter Tyke became chaplain to the Infirmary,
and Lydgate continued to work with Mr. Bulstrode. He was really
uncertain whether Tyke were not the more suitable candidate,
and yet his consciousness told him that if he had been quite free
from indirect bias he should have voted for Mr. Farebrother.
The affair of the chaplaincy remained a sore point in his memory
as a case in which this petty medium of Middlemarch had been
too strong for him. How could a man be satisfied with a decision
between such alternatives and under such circumstances? No more
than he can be satisfied with his hat, which he has chosen from
among such shapes as the resources of the age offer him, wearing it
at best with a resignation which is chiefly supported by comparison.
But Mr. Farebrother met him with the same friendliness as before.
The character of the publican and sinner is not always practically
incompatible with that of the modern Pharisee, for the majority of us
scarcely see more distinctly the faultiness of our own conduct than
the faultiness of our own arguments, or the dulness of our own jokes.
But the Vicar of St. Botolph's had certainly escaped the slightest
tincture of the Pharisee, and by dint of admitting to himself that he
was too much as other men were, he had become remarkably unlike them
in this--that he could excuse other; for thinking slightly of him,
and could judge impartially of their conduct even when it told
against him.
"The world has been to strong for ME, I know," he said one
day to Lydgate. "But then I am not a mighty man--I shall never
be a man of renown. The choice of Hercules is a pretty fable;
but Prodicus makes it easy work for the hero, as if the first resolves
were enough. Another story says that he came to hold the distaff,
and at last wore the Nessus shirt. I suppose one good resolve
might keep a man right if everybody else's resolve helped him."
The Vicar's talk was not always inspiriting: he had escaped
being a Pharisee, but he had not escaped that low estimate of
possibilities which we rather hastily arrive at as an inference
from our own failure. Lydgate thought that there was a pitiable
infirmity of will in Mr. Farebrother.
"L' altra vedete ch'ha fatto alla guancia
Della sua palma, sospirando, letto."
--Purgatorio, vii.
When George the Fourth was still reigning over the privacies of Windsor,
when the Duke of Wellington was Prime Minister, and Mr. Vincy
was mayor of the old corporation in Middlemarch, Mrs. Casaubon,
born Dorothea Brooke, had taken her wedding journey to Rome.
In those days the world in general was more ignorant of good and evil
by forty years than it is at present. Travellers did not often carry
full information on Christian art either in their heads or their pockets;
and even the most brilliant English critic of the day mistook the
flower-flushed tomb of the ascended Virgin for an ornamental vase
due to the painter's fancy. Romanticism, which has helped to fill
some dull blanks with love and knowledge, had not yet penetrated
the times with its leaven and entered into everybody's food; it was
fermenting still as a distinguishable vigorous enthusiasm in certain
long-haired German artists at Rome, and the youth of other nations who
worked or idled near them were sometimes caught in the spreading movement.
One fine morning a young man whose hair was not immoderately long,
but abundant and curly, and who was otherwise English in his equipment,
had just turned his back on the Belvedere Torso in the Vatican
and was looking out on the magnificent view of the mountains from
the adjoining round vestibule. He was sufficiently absorbed not
to notice the approach of a dark-eyed, animated German who came up
to him and placing a hand on his shoulder, said with a strong accent,
"Come here, quick! else she will have changed her pose."
Quickness was ready at the call, and the two figures passed lightly
along by the Meleager, towards the hall where the reclining Ariadne,
then called the Cleopatra, lies in the marble voluptuousness
of her beauty, the drapery folding around her with a petal-like
ease and tenderness. They were just in time to see another
figure standing against a pedestal near the reclining marble:
a breathing blooming girl, whose form, not shamed by the Ariadne,
was clad in Quakerish gray drapery; her long cloak, fastened at
the neck, was thrown backward from her arms, and one beautiful
ungloved hand pillowed her cheek, pushing somewhat backward
the white beaver bonnet which made a sort of halo to her face
around the simply braided dark-brown hair. She was not looking
at the sculpture, probably not thinking of it: her large eyes were
fixed dreamily on a streak of sunlight which fell across the floor.
But she became conscious of the two strangers who suddenly paused
as if to contemplate the Cleopatra, and, without looking at them,
immediately turned away to join a maid-servant and courier
who were loitering along the hall at a little distance off.
"What do you think of that for a fine bit of antithesis?" said the
German, searching in his friend's face for responding admiration,
but going on volubly without waiting for any other answer.
"There lies antique beauty, not corpse-like even in death,
but arrested in the complete contentment of its sensuous perfection:
and here stands beauty in its breathing life, with the consciousness
of Christian centuries in its bosom. But she should be dressed
as a nun; I think she looks almost what you call a Quaker;
I would dress her as a nun in my picture. However, she is married;
I saw her wedding-ring on that wonderful left hand, otherwise I
should have thought the sallow Geistlicher was her father.
I saw him parting from her a good while ago, and just now I found her
in that magnificent pose. Only think! he is perhaps rich, and would
like to have her portrait taken. Ah! it is no use looking after her--
there she goes! Let us follow her home!"
"No, no," said his companion, with a little frown.
"You are singular, Ladislaw. You look struck together. Do you
know her?"
"I know that she is married to my cousin," said Will Ladislaw,
sauntering down the hall with a preoccupied air, while his German
friend kept at his side and watched him eagerly.
"What! the Geistlicher? He looks more like an uncle--a more
useful sort of relation."
"He is not my uncle. I tell you he is my second cousin,"
said Ladislaw, with some irritation.
"Schon, schon. Don't be snappish. You are not angry with me
for thinking Mrs. Second-Cousin the most perfect young Madonna
I ever saw?"
"Angry? nonsense. I have only seen her once before, for a couple
of minutes, when my cousin introduced her to me, just before I
left England. They were not married then. I didn't know they
were coming to Rome."
"But you will go to see them now--you will find out what they have
for an address--since you know the name. Shall we go to the post?
And you could speak about the portrait."
"Confound you, Naumann! I don't know what I shall do. I am not
so brazen as you."
"Bah! that is because you are dilettantish and amateurish. If you
were an artist, you would think of Mistress Second-Cousin as antique
form animated by Christian sentiment--a sort of Christian Antigone--
sensuous force controlled by spiritual passion."
"Yes, and that your painting her was the chief outcome of
her existence--the divinity passing into higher completeness
and all but exhausted in the act of covering your bit of canvas.
I am amateurish if you like: I do NOT think that all the universe
is straining towards the obscure significance of your pictures."
"But it is, my dear!--so far as it is straining through me,
Adolf Naumann: that stands firm," said the good-natured painter,
putting a hand on Ladislaw's shoulder, and not in the least disturbed
by the unaccountable touch of ill-humor in his tone. "See now!
My existence presupposes the existence of the whole universe--
does it NOT? and my function is to paint--and as a painter
I have a conception which is altogether genialisch, of your
great-aunt or second grandmother as a subject for a picture;
therefore, the universe is straining towards that picture through
that particular hook or claw which it puts forth in the shape of me--
not true?"
"But how if another claw in the shape of me is straining to thwart it?--
the case is a little less simple then."
"Not at all: the result of the struggle is the same thing--
picture or no picture--logically."
Will could not resist this imperturbable temper, and the cloud
in his face broke into sunshiny laughter.
"Come now, my friend--you will help?" said Naumann, in a hopeful tone.
"No; nonsense, Naumann! English ladies are not at everybody's service
as models. And you want to express too much with your painting.
You would only have made a better or worse portrait with a background
which every connoisseur would give a different reason for or against.
And what is a portrait of a woman? Your painting and Plastik are
poor stuff after all. They perturb and dull conceptions instead
of raising them. Language is a finer medium."
"Yes, for those who can't paint," said Naumann. "There you have
perfect right. I did not recommend you to paint, my friend."
The amiable artist carried his sting, but Ladislaw did not choose
to appear stung. He went on as if he had not heard.
"Language gives a fuller image, which is all the better for beings vague.
After all, the true seeing is within; and painting stares at you
with an insistent imperfection. I feel that especially about
representations of women. As if a woman were a mere colored superficies!
You must wait for movement and tone. There is a difference in their
very breathing: they change from moment to moment.--This woman whom
you have just seen, for example: how would you paint her voice,
pray? But her voice is much diviner than anything you have seen of her."
"I see, I see. You are jealous. No man must presume to think
that he can paint your ideal. This is serious, my friend!
Your great-aunt! `Der Neffe als Onkel' in a tragic sense--ungeheuer!"
"You and I shall quarrel, Naumann, if you call that lady my aunt again."
"How is she to be called then?"
"Mrs. Casaubon."
"Good. Suppose I get acquainted with her in spite of you, and find
that she very much wishes to be painted?"
"Yes, suppose!" said Will Ladislaw, in a contemptuous undertone,
intended to dismiss the subject. He was conscious of being irritated
by ridiculously small causes, which were half of his own creation.
Why was he making any fuss about Mrs. Casaubon? And yet he felt
as if something had happened to him with regard to her. There are
characters which are continually creating collisions and nodes
for themselves in dramas which nobody is prepared to act with them.
Their susceptibilities will clash against objects that remain
innocently quiet.
"A child forsaken, waking suddenly,
Whose gaze afeard on all things round doth rove,
And seeth only that it cannot see
The meeting eyes of love."
Two hours later, Dorothea was seated in an inner room or boudoir
of a handsome apartment in the Via Sistina.
I am sorry to add that she was sobbing bitterly, with such abandonment
to this relief of an oppressed heart as a woman habitually
controlled by pride on her own account and thoughtfulness for others
will sometimes allow herself when she feels securely alone.
And Mr. Casaubon was certain to remain away for some time at the Vatican.
Yet Dorothea had no distinctly shapen grievance that she could
state even to herself; and in the midst of her confused thought
and passion, the mental act that was struggling forth into clearness
was a self-accusing cry that her feeling of desolation was the fault
of her own spiritual poverty. She had married the man of her choice,
and with the advantage over most girls that she had contemplated
her marriage chiefly as the beginning of new duties: from the very
first she had thought of Mr. Casaubon as having a mind so much above
her own, that he must often be claimed by studies which she could
not entirely share; moreover, after the brief narrow experience
of her girlhood she was beholding Rome, the city of visible history,
where the past of a whole hemisphere seems moving in funeral procession
with strange ancestral images and trophies gathered from afar.
But this stupendous fragmentariness heightened the dreamlike strangeness
of her bridal life. Dorothea had now been five weeks in Rome,
and in the kindly mornings when autumn and winter seemed to go hand
in hand like a happy aged couple one of whom would presently survive
in chiller loneliness, she had driven about at first with Mr. Casaubon,
but of late chiefly with Tantripp and their experienced courier.
She had been led through the best galleries, had been taken to the
chief points of view, had been shown the grandest ruins and the most
glorious churches, and she had ended by oftenest choosing to drive
out to the Campagna where she could feel alone with the earth
and sky, away-from the oppressive masquerade of ages, in which
her own life too seemed to become a masque with enigmatical costumes.
To those who have looked at Rome with the quickening power of a
knowledge which breathes a growing soul into all historic shapes,
and traces out the suppressed transitions which unite all contrasts,
Rome may still be the spiritual centre and interpreter of the world.
But let them conceive one more historical contrast: the gigantic
broken revelations of that Imperial and Papal city thrust abruptly
on the notions of a girl who had been brought up in English
and Swiss Puritanism, fed on meagre Protestant histories and on
art chiefly of the hand-screen sort; a girl whose ardent nature
turned all her small allowance of knowledge into principles,
fusing her actions into their mould, and whose quick emotions gave
the most abstract things the quality of a pleasure or a pain;
a girl who had lately become a wife, and from the enthusiastic
acceptance of untried duty found herself plunged in tumultuous
preoccupation with her personal lot. The weight of unintelligible
Rome might lie easily on bright nymphs to whom it formed a background
for the brilliant picnic of Anglo-foreign society; but Dorothea
had no such defence against deep impressions. Ruins and basilicas,
palaces and colossi, set in the midst of a sordid present, where all
that was living and warm-blooded seemed sunk in the deep degeneracy
of a superstition divorced from reverence; the dimmer but yet eager
Titanic life gazing and struggling on walls and ceilings; the long
vistas of white forms whose marble eyes seemed to hold the monotonous
light of an alien world: all this vast wreck of ambitious ideals,
sensuous and spiritual, mixed confusedly with the signs of breathing
forgetfulness and degradation, at first jarred her as with an
electric shock, and then urged themselves on her with that ache
belonging to a glut of confused ideas which check the flow of emotion.
Forms both pale and glowing took possession of her young sense,
and fixed themselves in her memory even when she was not thinking
of them, preparing strange associations which remained through
her after-years. Our moods are apt to bring with them images
which succeed each other like the magic-lantern pictures of a doze;
and in certain states of dull forlornness Dorothea all her life
continued to see the vastness of St. Peter's, the huge bronze canopy,
the excited intention in the attitudes and garments of the prophets
and evangelists in the mosaics above, and the red drapery which was
being hung for Christmas spreading itself everywhere like a disease
of the retina.
Not that this inward amazement of Dorothea's was anything
very exceptional: many souls in their young nudity are tumbled
out among incongruities and left to "find their feet" among them,
while their elders go about their business. Nor can I suppose
that when Mrs. Casaubon is discovered in a fit of weeping six weeks
after her wedding, the situation will be regarded as tragic.
Some discouragement, some faintness of heart at the new real
future which replaces the imaginary, is not unusual, and we do
not expect people to be deeply moved by what is not unusual.
That element of tragedy which lies in the very fact of frequency,
has not yet wrought itself into the coarse emotion of mankind;
and perhaps our frames could hardly bear much of it. If we had
a keen vision and feeling of all ordinary human life, it would be
like hearing the grass grow and the squirrel's heart beat, and we
should die of that roar which lies on the other side of silence.
As it is, the quickest of us walk about well wadded with stupidity.
However, Dorothea was crying, and if she had been required to state
the cause, she could only have done so in some such general words as I
have already used: to have been driven to be more particular would
have been like trying to give a history of the lights and shadows,
for that new real future which was replacing the imaginary drew
its material from the endless minutiae by which her view of
Mr. Casaubon and her wifely relation, now that she was married to him,
was gradually changing with the secret motion of a watch-hand
from what it had been in her maiden dream. It was too early yet
for her fully to recognize or at least admit the change, still more
for her to have readjusted that devotedness which was so necessary
a part of her mental life that she was almost sure sooner or later
to recover it. Permanent rebellion, the disorder of a life
without some loving reverent resolve, was not possible to her;
but she was now in an interval when the very force of her nature
heightened its confusion. In this way, the early months of marriage
often are times of critical tumult--whether that of a shrimp-pool
or of deeper waters--which afterwards subsides into cheerful peace.
But was not Mr. Casaubon just as learned as before? Had his forms
of expression changed, or his sentiments become less laudable?
Oh waywardness of womanhood! did his chronology fail him, or his
ability to state not only a theory but the names of those who held it;
or his provision for giving the heads of any subject on demand?
And was not Rome the place in all the world to give free play
to such accomplishments? Besides, had not Dorothea's enthusiasm
especially dwelt on the prospect of relieving the weight and perhaps
the sadness with which great tasks lie on him who has to achieve them?--
And that such weight pressed on Mr. Casaubon was only plainer
than before.
All these are crushing questions; but whatever else remained the same,
the light had changed, and you cannot find the pearly dawn at noonday.
The fact is unalterable, that a fellow-mortal with whose nature you
are acquainted solely through the brief entrances and exits of a few
imaginative weeks called courtship, may, when seen in the continuity
of married companionship, be disclosed as something better or worse
than what you have preconceived, but will certainly not appear
altogether the same. And it would be astonishing to find how soon
the change is felt if we had no kindred changes to compare with it.
To share lodgings with a brilliant dinner-companion, or to see
your favorite politician in the Ministry, may bring about changes
quite as rapid: in these cases too we begin by knowing little and
believing much, and we sometimes end by inverting the quantities.
Still, such comparisons might mislead, for no man was more incapable
of flashy make-believe than Mr. Casaubon: he was as genuine a
character as any ruminant animal, and he had not actively assisted
in creating any illusions about himself. How was it that in the weeks
since her marriage, Dorothea had not distinctly observed but felt
with a stifling depression, that the large vistas and wide fresh air
which she had dreamed of finding in her husband's mind were replaced
by anterooms and winding passages which seemed to lead nowhither?
I suppose it was that in courtship everything is regarded as provisional
and preliminary, and the smallest sample of virtue or accomplishment
is taken to guarantee delightful stores which the broad leisure
of marriage will reveal. But the door-sill of marriage once crossed,
expectation is concentrated on the present. Having once embarked
on your marital voyage, it is impossible not to be aware that you
make no way and that the sea is not within sight--that, in fact,
you are exploring an enclosed basin.
In their conversation before marriage, Mr. Casaubon had often dwelt on
some explanation or questionable detail of which Dorothea did not see
the bearing; but such imperfect coherence seemed due to the brokenness
of their intercourse, and, supported by her faith in their future,
she had listened with fervid patience to a recitation of possible
arguments to be brought against Mr. Casaubon's entirely new view
of the Philistine god Dagon and other fish-deities, thinking that
hereafter she should see this subject which touched him so nearly
from the same high ground whence doubtless it had become so important
to him. Again, the matter-of-course statement and tone of dismissal
with which he treated what to her were the most stirring thoughts,
was easily accounted for as belonging to the sense of haste and
preoccupation in which she herself shared during their engagement.
But now, since they had been in Rome, with all the depths of her
emotion roused to tumultuous activity, and with life made a new
problem by new elements, she had been becoming more and more aware,
with a certain terror, that her mind was continually sliding into
inward fits of anger and repulsion, or else into forlorn weariness.
How far the judicious Hooker or any other hero of erudition would
have been the same at Mr. Casaubon's time of life, she had no means
of knowing, so that he could not have the advantage of comparison;
but her husband's way of commenting on the strangely impressive objects
around them had begun to affect her with a sort of mental shiver:
he had perhaps the best intention of acquitting himself worthily,
but only of acquitting himself. What was fresh to her mind was worn
out to his; and such capacity of thought and feeling as had ever
been stimulated in him by the general life of mankind had long
shrunk to a sort of dried preparation, a lifeless embalmment
of knowledge.
When he said, "Does this interest you, Dorothea? Shall we stay
a little longer? I am ready to stay if you wish it,"--it seemed
to her as if going or staying were alike dreary. Or, "Should you
like to go to the Farnesina, Dorothea? It contains celebrated
frescos designed or painted by Raphael, which most persons think
it worth while to visit."
"But do you care about them?" was always Dorothea's question.
"They are, I believe, highly esteemed. Some of them represent
the fable of Cupid and Psyche, which is probably the romantic
invention of a literary period, and cannot, I think, be reckoned
as a genuine mythical product. But if you like these wall-paintings
we can easily drive thither; and you ill then, I think, have seen
the chief works of Raphael, any of which it were a pity to omit
in a visit to Rome. He is the painter who has been held to combine
the most complete grace of form with sublimity of expression.
Such at least I have gathered to be the opinion of conoscenti."
This kind of answer given in a measured official tone, as of a
clergyman reading according to the rubric, did not help to justify
the glories of the Eternal City, or to give her the hope that if she
knew more about them the world would be joyously illuminated for her.
There is hardly any contact more depressing to a young ardent
creature than that of a mind in which years full of knowledge
seem to have issued in a blank absence of interest or sympathy.
On other subjects indeed Mr. Casaubon showed a tenacity of occupation
and an eagerness which are usually regarded as the effect of enthusiasm,
and Dorothea was anxious to follow this spontaneous direction of
his thoughts, instead of being made to feel that she dragged him away
from it. But she was gradually ceasing to expect with her former
delightful confidence that she should see any wide opening where she
followed him. Poor Mr. Casaubon himself was lost among small closets
and winding stairs, and in an agitated dimness about the Cabeiri,
or in an exposure of other mythologists' ill-considered parallels,
easily lost sight of any purpose which had prompted him to these labors.
With his taper stuck before him he forgot the absence of windows,
and in bitter manuscript remarks on other men's notions about
the solar deities, he had become indifferent to the sunlight.
These characteristics, fixed and unchangeable as bone in Mr. Casaubon,
might have remained longer unfelt by Dorothea if she had been encouraged
to pour forth her girlish and womanly feeling--if he would have held
her hands between his and listened with the delight of tenderness and
understanding to all the little histories which made up her experience,
and would have given her the same sort of intimacy in return,
so that the past life of each could be included in their mutual
knowledge and affection--or if she could have fed her affection with
those childlike caresses which are the bent of every sweet woman,
who has begun by showering kisses on the hard pate of her bald doll,
creating a happy soul within that woodenness from the wealth of her
own love. That was Dorothea's bent. With all her yearning to know
what was afar from her and to be widely benignant, she had ardor
enough for what was near, to have kissed Mr. Casaubon's coat-sleeve,
or to have caressed his shoe-latchet, if he would have made any other
sign of acceptance than pronouncing her, with his unfailing propriety,
to be of a most affectionate and truly feminine nature, indicating at
the same time by politely reaching a chair for her that he regarded
these manifestations as rather crude and startling. Having made his
clerical toilet with due care in the morning, he was prepared only for
those amenities of life which were suited to the well-adjusted stiff
cravat of the period, and to a mind weighted with unpublished matter.
And by a sad contradiction Dorothea's ideas and resolves seemed
like melting ice floating and lost in the warm flood of which they
had been but another form. She was humiliated to find herself a mere
victim of feeling, as if she could know nothing except through
that medium: all her strength was scattered in fits of agitation,
of struggle, of despondency, and then again in visions of more
complete renunciation, transforming all hard conditions into duty.
Poor Dorothea! she was certainly troublesome--to herself chiefly;
but this morning for the first time she had been troublesome to
Mr. Casaubon.
She had begun, while they were taking coffee, with a determination
to shake off what she inwardly called her selfishness, and turned
a face all cheerful attention to her husband when he said,
"My dear Dorothea, we must now think of all that is yet left undone,
as a preliminary to our departure. I would fain have returned home
earlier that we might have been at Lowick for the Christmas; but my
inquiries here have been protracted beyond their anticipated period.
I trust, however, that the time here has not been passed unpleasantly
to you. Among the sights of Europe, that of Rome has ever been
held one of the most striking and in some respects edifying.
I well remember that I considered it an epoch in my life when I
visited it for the first time; after the fall of Napoleon, an event
which opened the Continent to travellers. Indeed I think it is one
among several cities to which an extreme hyperbole has been applied--
`See Rome and die:' but in your case I would propose an emendation
and say, See Rome as a bride, and live henceforth as a happy wife."
Mr. Casaubon pronounced this little speech with the most conscientious
intention, blinking a little and swaying his head up and down,
and concluding with a smile. He had not found marriage a rapturous state,
but he had no idea of being anything else than an irreproachable husband,
who would make a charming young woman as happy as she deserved to be.
"I hope you are thoroughly satisfied with our stay--I mean,
with the result so far as your studies are concerned," said Dorothea,
trying to keep her mind fixed on what most affected her husband.
"Yes," said Mr. Casaubon, with that peculiar pitch of voice which makes
the word half a negative. "I have been led farther than I had foreseen,
and various subjects for annotation have presented themselves which,
though I have no direct need of them, I could not pretermit.
The task, notwithstanding the assistance of my amanuensis, has been
a somewhat laborious one, but your society has happily prevented me
from that too continuous prosecution of thought beyond the hours
of study which has been the snare of my solitary life."
"I am very glad that my presence has made any difference to you,"
said Dorothea, who had a vivid memory of evenings in which she
had supposed that Mr. Casaubon's mind had gone too deep during
the day to be able to get to the surface again. I fear there
was a little temper in her reply. "I hope when we get to Lowick,
I shall be more useful to you, and be able to enter a little more
into what interests you."
"Doubtless, my dear," said Mr. Casaubon, with a slight bow.
"The notes I have here made will want sifting, and you can,
if you please, extract them under my direction."
"And all your notes," said Dorothea, whose heart had already
burned within her on this subject, so that now she could not help
speaking with her tongue. "All those rows of volumes--will you not
now do what you used to speak of?--will you not make up your mind
what part of them you will use, and begin to write the book which
will make your vast knowledge useful to the world? I will write
to your dictation, or I will copy and extract what you tell me:
I can be of no other use." Dorothea, in a most unaccountable,
darkly feminine manner, ended with a slight sob and eyes full
of tears.
The excessive feeling manifested would alone have been highly disturbing
to Mr. Casaubon, but there were other reasons why Dorothea's words
were among the most cutting and irritating to him that she could
have been impelled to use. She was as blind to his inward troubles
as he to hers: she had not yet learned those hidden conflicts in her
husband which claim our pity. She had not yet listened patiently
to his heartbeats, but only felt that her own was beating violently.
In Mr. Casaubon's ear, Dorothea's voice gave loud emphatic iteration
to those muffled suggestions of consciousness which it was possible
to explain as mere fancy, the illusion of exaggerated sensitiveness:
always when such suggestions are unmistakably repeated from without,
they are resisted as cruel and unjust. We are angered even by the
full acceptance of our humiliating confessions--how much more by
hearing in hard distinct syllables from the lips of a near observer,
those confused murmurs which we try to call morbid, and strive
against as if they were the oncoming of numbness! And this cruel
outward accuser was there in the shape of a wife--nay, of a
young bride, who, instead of observing his abundant pen-scratches
and amplitude of paper with the uncritical awe of an elegant-minded
canary-bird, seemed to present herself as a spy watching everything
with a malign power of inference. Here, towards this particular
point of the compass, Mr. Casaubon had a sensitiveness to match
Dorothea's, and an equal quickness to imagine more than the fact.
He had formerly observed with approbation her capacity for worshipping
the right object; he now foresaw with sudden terror that this
capacity might be replaced by presumption, this worship by the most
exasperating of all criticism,--that which sees vaguely a great
many fine ends, and has not the least notion what it costs to reach them.
For the first time since Dorothea had known him, Mr. Casaubon's
face had a quick angry flush upon it.
"My love," he said, with irritation reined in by propriety,
"you may rely upon me for knowing the times and the seasons,
adapted to the different stages of a work which is not to be measured
by the facile conjectures of ignorant onlookers. It had been easy
for me to gain a temporary effect by a mirage of baseless opinion;
but it is ever the trial of the scrupulous explorer to be saluted
with the impatient scorn of chatterers who attempt only the
smallest achievements, being indeed equipped for no other.
And it were well if all such could be admonished to discriminate
judgments of which the true subject-matter lies entirely beyond
their reach, from those of which the elements may be compassed
by a narrow and superficial survey."
This speech was delivered with an energy and readiness quite unusual
with Mr. Casaubon. It was not indeed entirely an improvisation,
but had taken shape in inward colloquy, and rushed out like the round
grains from a fruit when sudden heat cracks it. Dorothea was not
only his wife: she was a personification of that shallow world
which surrounds the appreciated or desponding author.
Dorothea was indignant in her turn. Had she not been repressing
everything in herself except the desire to enter into some fellowship
with her husband's chief interests?
"My judgment WAS a very superficial one--such as I am capable
of forming," she answered, with a prompt resentment, that needed
no rehearsal. "You showed me the rows of notebooks--you have often
spoken of them--you have often said that they wanted digesting.
But I never heard you speak of the writing that is to be published.
Those were very simple facts, and my judgment went no farther.
I only begged you to let me be of some good to you."
Dorothea rose to leave the table and Mr. Casaubon made no reply,
taking up a letter which lay beside him as if to reperuse it.
Both were shocked at their mutual situation--that each should
have betrayed anger towards the other. If they had been at home,
settled at Lowick in ordinary life among their neighbors, the clash
would have been less embarrassing: but on a wedding journey,
the express object of which is to isolate two people on the ground
that they are all the world to each other, the sense of disagreement is,
to say the least, confounding and stultifying. To have changed
your longitude extensively and placed yourselves in a moral
solitude in order to have small explosions, to find conversation
difficult and to hand a glass of water without looking, can hardly
be regarded as satisfactory fulfilment even to the toughest minds.
To Dorothea's inexperienced sensitiveness, it seemed like a catastrophe,
changing all prospects; and to Mr. Casaubon it was a new pain,
he never having been on a wedding journey before, or found himself
in that close union which was more of a subjection than he had been
able to imagine, since this charming young bride not only obliged
him to much consideration on her behalf (which he had sedulously
given), but turned out to be capable of agitating him cruelly just
where he most needed soothing. Instead of getting a soft fence
against the cold, shadowy, unapplausive audience of his life, had he
only given it a more substantial presence?
Neither of them felt it possible to speak again at present.
To have reversed a previous arrangement and declined to go out would
have been a show of persistent anger which Dorothea's conscience
shrank from, seeing that she already began to feel herself guilty.
However just her indignation might be, her ideal was not to
claim justice, but to give tenderness. So when the carriage
came to the door, she drove with Mr. Casaubon to the Vatican,
walked with him through the stony avenue of inscriptions, and when
she parted with him at the entrance to the Library, went on through
the Museum out of mere listlessness as to what was around her.
She had not spirit to turn round and say that she would drive anywhere.
It was when Mr. Casaubon was quitting her that Naumann had first
seen her, and he had entered the long gallery of sculpture at
the same time with her; but here Naumann had to await Ladislaw
with whom he was to settle a bet of champagne about an enigmatical
mediaeval-looking figure there. After they had examined the figure,
and had walked on finishing their dispute, they had parted,
Ladislaw lingering behind while Naumann had gone into the Hall
of Statues where he again saw Dorothea, and saw her in that brooding
abstraction which made her pose remarkable. She did not really see
the streak of sunlight on the floor more than she saw the statues:
she was inwardly seeing the light of years to come in her own home
and over the English fields and elms and hedge-bordered highroads;
and feeling that the way in which they might be filled with joyful
devotedness was not so clear to her as it had been. But in Dorothea's
mind there was a current into which all thought and feeling were
apt sooner or later to flow--the reaching forward of the whole
consciousness towards the fullest truth, the least partial good.
There was clearly something better than anger and despondency.
"Hire facounde eke full womanly and plain,
No contrefeted termes had she
To semen wise."
It was in that way Dorothea came to be sobbing as soon as she was
securely alone. But she was presently roused by a knock at the door,
which made her hastily dry her eyes before saying, "Come in."
Tantripp had brought a card, and said that there was a gentleman
waiting in the lobby. The courier had told him that only Mrs. Casaubon
was at home, but he said he was a relation of Mr. Casaubon's: would
she see him?
"Yes," said Dorothea, without pause; "show him into the salon."
Her chief impressions about young Ladislaw were that when she
had seen him at Lowick she had been made aware of Mr. Casaubon's
generosity towards him, and also that she had been interested
in his own hesitation about his career. She was alive to anything
that gave her an opportunity for active sympathy, and at this
moment it seemed as if the visit had come to shake her out of her
self-absorbed discontent--to remind her of her husband's goodness,
and make her feel that she had now the right to be his helpmate
in all kind deeds. She waited a minute or two, but when she passed
into the next room there were just signs enough that she had been
crying to make her open face look more youthful and appealing
than usual. She met Ladislaw with that exquisite smile of good-will
which is unmixed with vanity, and held out her hand to him.
He was the elder by several years, but at that moment he looked
much the younger, for his transparent complexion flushed suddenly,
and he spoke with a shyness extremely unlike the ready indifference
of his manner with his male companion, while Dorothea became all
the calmer with a wondering desire to put him at ease.
"I was not aware that you and Mr. Casaubon were in Rome,
until this morning, when I saw you in the Vatican Museum," he said.
"I knew you at once--but--I mean, that I concluded Mr. Casaubon's
address would be found at the Poste Restante, and I was anxious
to pay my respects to him and you as early as possible."
"Pray sit down. He is not here now, but he will be glad to hear
of you, I am sure," said Dorothea, seating herself unthinkingly
between the fire and the light of the tall window, and pointing
to a chair opposite, with the quietude of a benignant matron.
The signs of girlish sorrow in her face were only the more striking.
"Mr. Casaubon is much engaged; but you will leave your address--
will you not?--and he will write to you."
"You are very good," said Ladislaw, beginning to lose his
diffidence in the interest with which he was observing the signs
of weeping which had altered her face. "My address is on my card.
But if you will allow me I will call again to-morrow at an hour
when Mr. Casaubon is likely to be at home."
"He goes to read in the Library of the Vatican every day, and you
can hardly see him except by an appointment. Especially now.
We are about to leave Rome, and he is very busy. He is usually away
almost from breakfast till dinner. But I am sure he will wish you
to dine with us."
Will Ladislaw was struck mute for a few moments. He had never been fond
of Mr. Casaubon, and if it had not been for the sense of obligation,
would have laughed at him as a Bat of erudition. But the idea
of this dried-up pedant, this elaborator of small explanations
about as important as the surplus stock of false antiquities kept
in a vendor's back chamber, having first got this adorable young
creature to marry him, and then passing his honeymoon away from her,
groping after his mouldy futilities (Will was given to hyperbole)--
this sudden picture stirred him with a sort of comic disgust:
he was divided between the impulse to laugh aloud and the equally
unseasonable impulse to burst into scornful invective.
For an instant he felt that the struggle, was causing a queer
contortion of his mobile features, but with a good effort
he resolved it into nothing more offensive than a merry smile.
Dorothea wondered; but the smile was irresistible, and shone back
from her face too. Will Ladislaw's smile was delightful, unless you
were angry with him beforehand: it was a gush of inward light
illuminating the transparent skin as well as the eyes, and playing
about every curve and line as if some Ariel were touching them
with a new charm, and banishing forever the traces of moodiness.
The reflection of that smile could not but have a little merriment
in it too, even under dark eyelashes still moist, as Dorothea
said inquiringly, "Something amuses you?"
"Yes," said Will, quick in finding resources. "I am thinking
of the sort of figure I cut the first time I saw you, when you
annihilated my poor sketch with your criticism."
"My criticism?" said Dorothea, wondering still more. "Surely not.
I always feel particularly ignorant about painting."
"I suspected you of knowing so much, that you knew how to say just what
was most cutting. You said--I dare say you don't remember it as I do--
that the relation of my sketch to nature was quite hidden from you.
At least, you implied that." Will could laugh now as well as smile.
"That was really my ignorance," said Dorothea, admiring
Will's good-humor. "I must have said so only because I never could see
any beauty in the pictures which my uncle told me all judges thought
very fine. And I have gone about with just the same ignorance in Rome.
There are comparatively few paintings that I can really enjoy.
At first when I enter a room where the walls are covered with frescos,
or with rare pictures, I feel a kind of awe--like a child present
at great ceremonies where there are grand robes and processions;
I feel myself in the presence of some higher life than my own.
But when I begin to examine the pictures one by on the life goes
out of them, or else is something violent and strange to me.
It must be my own dulness. I am seeing so much all at once,
and not understanding half of it. That always makes one feel stupid.
It is painful to be told that anything is very fine and not be able
to feel that it is fine--something like being blind, while people
talk of the sky."
"Oh, there is a great deal in the feeling for art which must
be acquired," said Will. (It was impossible now to doubt the
directness of Dorothea's confession.) "Art is an old language
with a great many artificial affected styles, and sometimes
the chief pleasure one gets out of knowing them is the mere
sense of knowing. I enjoy the art of all sorts here immensely;
but I suppose if I could pick my enjoyment to pieces I should
find it made up of many different threads. There is something
in daubing a little one's self, and having an idea of the process."
"You mean perhaps to be a painter?" said Dorothea, with a new
direction of interest. "You mean to make painting your profession?
Mr. Casaubon will like to hear that you have chosen a profession."
"No, oh no," said Will, with some coldness. "I have quite made
up my mind against it. It is too one-sided a life. I have been
seeing a great deal of the German artists here: I travelled from
Frankfort with one of them. Some are fine, even brilliant fellows--
but I should not like to get into their way of looking at the world
entirely from the studio point of view."
"That I can understand," said Dorothea, cordially. "And in Rome
it seems as if there were so many things which are more wanted
in the world than pictures. But if you have a genius for painting,
would it not be right to take that as a guide? Perhaps you might
do better things than these--or different, so that there might not
be so many pictures almost all alike in the same place."
There was no mistaking this simplicity, and Will was won by it
into frankness. "A man must have a very rare genius to make changes
of that sort. I am afraid mine would not carry me even to the pitch
of doing well what has been done already, at least not so well
as to make it worth while. And I should never succeed in anything
by dint of drudgery. If things don't come easily to me I never get them."
"I have heard Mr. Casaubon say that he regrets your want of patience,"
said Dorothea, gently. She was rather shocked at this mode of taking
all life as a holiday.
"Yes, I know Mr. Casaubon's opinion. He and I differ."
The slight streak of contempt in this hasty reply offended Dorothea.
She was all the more susceptible about Mr. Casaubon because of her
morning's trouble.
"Certainly you differ," she said, rather proudly. "I did not
think of comparing you: such power of persevering devoted labor
as Mr. Casaubon's is not common."
Will saw that she was offended, but this only gave an additional impulse
to the new irritation of his latent dislike towards Mr. Casaubon.
It was too intolerable that Dorothea should be worshipping this husband:
such weakness in a woman is pleasant to no man but the husband
in question. Mortals are easily tempted to pinch the life out of
their neighbor's buzzing glory, and think that such killing is no murder.
"No, indeed," he answered, promptly. "And therefore it is a pity
that it should be thrown away, as so much English scholarship is,
for want of knowing what is being done by the rest of the world.
If Mr. Casaubon read German he would save himself a great deal
of trouble."
"I do not understand you," said Dorothea, startled and anxious.
"I merely mean," said Will, in an offhand way, "that the Germans
have taken the lead in historical inquiries, and they laugh at
results which are got by groping about in woods with a pocket-compass
while they have made good roads. When I was with Mr. Casaubon I
saw that he deafened himself in that direction: it was almost
against his will that he read a Latin treatise written by a German.
I was very sorry."
Will only thought of giving a good pinch that would annihilate
that vaunted laboriousness, and was unable to imagine the mode
in which Dorothea would be wounded. Young Mr. Ladislaw was not at
all deep himself in German writers; but very little achievement
is required in order to pity another man's shortcomings.
Poor Dorothea felt a pang at the thought that the labor of her
husband's life might be void, which left her no energy to spare
for the question whether this young relative who was so much
obliged to him ought not to have repressed his observation.
She did not even speak, but sat looking at her hands, absorbed in
the piteousness of that thought.
Will, however, having given that annihilating pinch, was rather ashamed,
imagining from Dorothea's silence that he had offended her still more;
and having also a conscience about plucking the tail-feathers
from a benefactor.
"I regretted it especially," he resumed, taking the usual course
from detraction to insincere eulogy, "because of my gratitude
and respect towards my cousin. It would not signify so much
in a man whose talents and character were less distinguished."
Dorothea raised her eyes, brighter than usual with excited feeling,
and said in her saddest recitative, "How I wish I had learned German
when I was at Lausanne! There were plenty of German teachers.
But now I can be of no use."
There was a new light, but still a mysterious light, for Will
in Dorothea's last words. The question how she had come to accept
Mr. Casaubon--which he had dismissed when he first saw her by saying
that she must be disagreeable in spite of appearances--was not now
to be answered on any such short and easy method. Whatever else
she might be, she was not disagreeable. She was not coldly clever
and indirectly satirical, but adorably simple and full of feeling.
She was an angel beguiled. It would be a unique delight to wait
and watch for the melodious fragments in which her heart and soul
came forth so directly and ingenuously. The AEolian harp again
came into his mind.
She must have made some original romance for herself in this marriage.
And if Mr. Casaubon had been a dragon who had carried her off to
his lair with his talons simply and without legal forms, it would
have been an unavoidable feat of heroism to release her and fall
at her feet. But he was something more unmanageable than a dragon:
he was a benefactor with collective society at his back, and he
was at that moment entering the room in all the unimpeachable
correctness of his demeanor, while Dorothea was looking animated
with a newly roused alarm and regret, and Will was looking animated
with his admiring speculation about her feelings.
Mr. Casaubon felt a surprise which was quite unmixed with pleasure,
but he did not swerve from his usual politeness of greeting,
when Will rose and explained his presence. Mr. Casaubon was less
happy than usual, and this perhaps made him look all the dimmer
and more faded; else, the effect might easily have been produced by
the contrast of his young cousin's appearance. The first impression
on seeing Will was one of sunny brightness, which added to the
uncertainty of his changing expression. Surely, his very features
changed their form, his jaw looked sometimes large and sometimes small;
and the little ripple in his nose was a preparation for metamorphosis.
When he turned his head quickly his hair seemed to shake out light,
and some persons thought they saw decided genius in this coruscation.
Mr. Casaubon, on the contrary, stood rayless.
As Dorothea's eyes were turned anxiously on her husband she was
perhaps not insensible to the contrast, but it was only mingled
with other causes in making her more conscious of that new alarm
on his behalf which was the first stirring of a pitying tenderness
fed by the realities of his lot and not by her own dreams.
Yet it was a source of greater freedom to her that Will was there;
his young equality was agreeable, and also perhaps his openness
to conviction. She felt an immense need of some one to speak to,
and she had never before seen any one who seemed so quick and pliable,
so likely to understand everything.
Mr. Casaubon gravely hoped that Will was passing his time profitably
as well as pleasantly in Rome--had thought his intention was to remain
in South Germany--but begged him to come and dine to-morrow, when he
could converse more at large: at present he was somewhat weary.
Ladislaw understood, and accepting the invitation immediately took
his leave.
Dorothea's eyes followed her husband anxiously, while he sank down
wearily at the end of a sofa, and resting his elbow supported his head
and looked on the floor. A little flushed, and with bright eyes,
she seated herself beside him, and said--
"Forgive me for speaking so hastily to you this morning. I was wrong.
I fear I hurt you and made the day more burdensome."
"I am glad that you feel that, my dear," said Mr. Casaubon.
He spoke quietly and bowed. his head a little, but there was still
an uneasy feeling in his eyes as he looked at her.
"But you do forgive me?" said Dorothea, with a quick sob. In her
need for some manifestation of feeling she was ready to exaggerate
her own fault. Would not love see returning penitence afar off,
and fall on its neck and kiss it?
"My dear Dorothea--`who with repentance is not satisfied, is not
of heaven nor earth:'--you do not think me worthy to be banished
by that severe sentence," said Mr. Casaubon, exerting himself
to make a strong statement, and also to smile faintly.
Dorothea was silent, but a tear which had come up with the sob
would insist on falling.
"You are excited, my dear.. And I also am feeling some unpleasant
consequences of too much mental disturbance," said Mr. Casaubon.
In fact, he had it in his thought to tell her that she ought not
to have received young Ladislaw in his absence: but he abstained,
partly from the sense that it would be ungracious to bring
a new complaint in the moment of her penitent acknowledgment,
partly because he wanted to avoid further agitation of himself
by speech, and partly because he was too proud to betray that jealousy
of disposition which was not so exhausted on his scholarly compeers
that there was none to spare in other directions. There is a sort
of jealousy which needs very little fire: it is hardly a passion,
but a blight bred in the cloudy, damp despondency of uneasy egoism.
"I think it is time for us to dress," he added, looking at his watch.
They both rose, and there was never any further allusion between them
to what had passed on this day.
But Dorothea remembered it to the last with the vividness with
which we all remember epochs in our experience when some dear
expectation dies, or some new motive is born. Today she had
begun to see that she had been under a wild illusion in expecting
a response to her feeling from Mr. Casaubon, and she had felt the
waking of a presentiment that there might be a sad consciousness
in his life which made as great a need on his side as on her own.
We are all of us born in moral stupidity, taking the world as
an udder to feed our supreme selves: Dorothea had early begun
to emerge from that stupidity, but yet it had been easier to her
to imagine how she would devote herself to Mr. Casaubon, and become
wise and strong in his strength and wisdom, than to conceive
with that distinctness which is no longer reflection but feeling--
an idea wrought back to the directness of sense, like the solidity
of objects--that he had an equivalent centre of self, whence the
lights and shadows must always fall with a certain difference.
"Nous causames longtemps; elle etait simple et bonne.
Ne sachant pas le mal, elle faisait le bien;
Des richesses du coeur elle me fit l'aumone,
Et tout en ecoutant comme le coeur se donne,
Sans oser y penser je lui donnai le mien;
Elle emporta ma vie, et n'en sut jamais rien."
Will Ladislaw was delightfully agreeable at dinner the next day,
and gave no opportunity for Mr. Casaubon to show disapprobation.
On the contrary it seemed to Dorothea that Will had a happier way
of drawing her husband into conversation and of deferentially
listening to him than she had ever observed in any one before.
To be sure, the listeners about Tipton were not highly gifted!
Will talked a good deal himself, but what he said was thrown in with
such rapidity, and with such an unimportant air of saying something
by the way, that it seemed a gay little chime after the great bell.
If Will was not always perfect, this was certainly one of his good days.
He described touches of incident among the poor people in Rome,
only to be seen by one who could move about freely; he found
himself in agreement with Mr. Casaubon as to the unsound opinions
of Middleton concerning the relations of Judaism and Catholicism;
and passed easily to a half-enthusiastic half-playful picture
of the enjoyment he got out of the very miscellaneousness of Rome,
which made the mind flexible with constant comparison, and saved
you from seeing the world's ages as a set of box-like partitions
without vital connection. Mr. Casaubon's studies, Will observed,
had always been of too broad a kind for that, and he had perhaps
never felt any such sudden effect, but for himself he confessed
that Rome had given him quite a new sense of history as a whole:
the fragments stimulated his imagination and made him constructive.
Then occasionally, but not too often, he appealed to Dorothea,
and discussed what she said, as if her sentiment were an item
to be considered in the final judgment even of the Madonna di
Foligno or the Laocoon. A sense of contributing to form the world's
opinion makes conversation particularly cheerful; and Mr. Casaubon
too was not without his pride in his young wife, who spoke better
than most women, as indeed he had perceived in choosing her.
Since things were going on so pleasantly, Mr. Casaubon's statement
that his labors in the Library would be suspended for a couple of days,
and that after a brief renewal he should have no further reason
for staying in Rome, encouraged Will to urge that Mrs. Casaubon
should not go away without seeing a studio or two. Would not
Mr. Casaubon take her? That sort of thing ought not to be missed:
it was quite special: it was a form of life that grew like a small
fresh vegetation with its population of insects on huge fossils.
Will would be happy to conduct them--not to anything wearisome,
only to a few examples.
Mr. Casaubon, seeing Dorothea look earnestly towards him,
could not but ask her if she would be interested in such visits:
he was now at her service during the whole day; and it was agreed
that Will should come on the morrow and drive with them.
Will could not omit Thorwaldsen, a living celebrity about whom
even Mr. Casaubon inquired, but before the day was far advanced
he led the way to the studio of his friend Adolf Naumann,
whom he mentioned as one of the chief renovators of Christian art,
one of those who had not only revived but expanded that grand
conception of supreme events as mysteries at which the successive
ages were spectators, and in relation to which the great souls
of all periods became as it were contemporaries. Will added
that he had made himself Naumann's pupil for the nonce.
"I have been making some oil-sketches under him," said Will.
"I hate copying. I must put something of my own in. Naumann has
been painting the Saints drawing the Car of the Church, and I have
been making a sketch of Marlowe's Tamburlaine Driving the Conquered
Kings in his Chariot. I am not so ecclesiastical as Naumann,
and I sometimes twit him with his excess of meaning. But this time
I mean to outdo him in breadth of intention. I take Tamburlaine
in his chariot for the tremendous course of the world's physical
history lashing on the harnessed dynasties. In my opinion, that is
a good mythical interpretation." Will here looked at Mr. Casaubon,
who received this offhand treatment of symbolism very uneasily,
and bowed with a neutral air.
"The sketch must be very grand, if it conveys so much," said Dorothea.
"I should need some explanation even of the meaning you give.
Do you intend Tamburlaine to represent earthquakes and volcanoes?"
"Oh yes," said Will, laughing, "and migrations of races and
clearings of forests--and America and the steam-engine. Everything
you can imagine!"
"What a difficult kind of shorthand!" said Dorothea, smiling towards
her husband. "It would require all your knowledge to be able
to read it."
Mr. Casaubon blinked furtively at Will. He had a suspicion that he
was being laughed at. But it was not possible to include Dorothea
in the suspicion.
They found Naumann painting industriously, but no model was present;
his pictures were advantageously arranged, and his own plain vivacious
person set off by a dove-colored blouse and a maroon velvet cap,
so that everything was as fortunate as if he had expected the
beautiful young English lady exactly at that time.
The painter in his confident English gave little dissertations on his
finished and unfinished subjects, seeming to observe Mr. Casaubon
as much as he did Dorothea. Will burst in here and there with ardent
words of praise, marking out particular merits in his friend's work;
and Dorothea felt that she was getting quite new notions as to
the significance of Madonnas seated under inexplicable canopied
thrones with the simple country as a background, and of saints
with architectural models in their hands, or knives accidentally
wedged in their skulls. Some things which had seemed monstrous
to her were gathering intelligibility and even a natural meaning:
but all this was apparently a branch of knowledge in which
Mr. Casaubon had not interested himself.
"I think I would rather feel that painting is beautiful than
have to read it as an enigma; but I should learn to understand
these pictures sooner than yours with the very wide meaning,"
said Dorothea, speaking to Will.
"Don't speak of my painting before Naumann," said Will. "He will
tell you, it is all pfuscherei, which is his most opprobrious word!"
"Is that true?" said Dorothea, turning her sincere eyes on Naumann,
who made a slight grimace and said--
"Oh, he does not mean it seriously with painting. His walk must
be belles-lettres. That is wi-ide."
Naumann's pronunciation of the vowel seemed to stretch the
word satirically. Will did not half like it, but managed to laugh:
and Mr. Casaubon, while he felt some disgust at the artist's German
accent, began to entertain a little respect for his judicious severity.
The respect was not diminished when Naumann, after drawing Will
aside for a moment and looking, first at a large canvas, then at
Mr. Casaubon, came forward again and said--
"My friend Ladislaw thinks you will pardon me, sir, if I say
that a sketch of your head would be invaluable to me for the
St. Thomas Aquinas in my picture there. It is too much to ask;
but I so seldom see just what I want--the idealistic in the real."
"You astonish me greatly, sir," said Mr. Casaubon, his looks improved
with a glow of delight; "but if my poor physiognomy, which I have
been accustomed to regard as of the commonest order, can be of any
use to you in furnishing some traits for the angelical doctor,
I shall feel honored. That is to say, if the operation will not
be a lengthy one; and if Mrs. Casaubon will not object to the delay."
As for Dorothea, nothing could have pleased her more, unless it
had been a miraculous voice pronouncing Mr. Casaubon the wisest
and worthiest among the sons of men. In that case her tottering
faith would have become firm again.
Naumann's apparatus was at hand in wonderful completeness, and the
sketch went on at once as well as the conversation. Dorothea sat
down and subsided into calm silence, feeling happier than she had
done for a long while before. Every one about her seemed good,
and she said to herself that Rome, if she had only been less ignorant,
would have been full of beauty its sadness would have been winged
with hope. No nature could be less suspicious than hers:
when she was a child she believed in the gratitude of wasps and
the honorable susceptibility of sparrows, and was proportionately
indignant when their baseness was made manifest.
The adroit artist was asking Mr. Casaubon questions about
English polities, which brought long answers, and, Will meanwhile
had perched himself on some steps in the background overlooking all.
Presently Naumann said--"Now if I could lay this by for half
an hour and take it up again--come and look, Ladislaw--I think
it is perfect so far."
Will vented those adjuring interjections which imply that admiration
is too strong for syntax; and Naumann said in a tone of piteous regret--
"Ah--now--if I could but have had more--but you have other engagements--
I could not ask it--or even to come again to-morrow."
"Oh, let us stay!" said Dorothea. "We have nothing to do to-day except
go about, have we?" she added, looking entreatingly at Mr. Casaubon.
"It would be a pity not to make the head as good as possible."
"I am at your service, sir, in the matter," said Mr. Casaubon,
with polite condescension. "Having given up the interior of my
head to idleness, it is as well that the exterior should work
in this way."
"You are unspeakably good--now I am happy!" said Naumann, and then
went on in German to Will, pointing here and there to the sketch
as if he were considering that. Putting it aside for a moment,
he looked round vaguely, as if seeking some occupation for his visitors,
and afterwards turning to Mr. Casaubon, said--
"Perhaps the beautiful bride, the gracious lady, would not be
unwilling to let me fill up the time by trying to make a slight
sketch of her--not, of course, as you see, for that picture--
only as a single study."
Mr. Casaubon, bowing, doubted not that Mrs. Casaubon would oblige him,
and Dorothea said, at once, "Where shall I put myself?"
Naumann was all apologies in asking her to stand, and allow him to
adjust her attitude, to which she submitted without any of the affected
airs and laughs frequently thought necessary on such occasions,
when the painter said, "It is as Santa Clara that I want you to stand--
leaning so, with your cheek against your hand--so--looking at
that stool, please, so!"
Will was divided between the inclination to fall at the Saint's feet
and kiss her robe, and the temptation to knock Naumann down while he
was adjusting her arm. All this was impudence and desecration,
and he repented that he had brought her.
The artist was diligent, and Will recovering himself moved about
and occupied Mr. Casaubon as ingeniously as he could; but he did
not in the end prevent the time from seeming long to that gentleman,
as was clear from his expressing a fear that Mrs. Casaubon would
be tired. Naumann took the hint and said--
"Now, sir, if you can oblige me again; I will release the lady-wife."
So Mr. Casaubon's patience held out further, and when after all it
turned out that the head of Saint Thomas Aquinas would be more perfect
if another sitting could be had, it was granted for the morrow.
On the morrow Santa Clara too was retouched more than once.
The result of all was so far from displeasing to Mr. Casaubon,
that he arranged for the purchase of the picture in which Saint
Thomas Aquinas sat among the doctors of the Church in a disputation
too abstract to be represented, but listened to with more or less
attention by an audience above. The Santa Clara, which was spoken of
in the second place, Naumann declared himself to be dissatisfied with--
he could not, in conscience, engage to make a worthy picture of it;
so about the Santa Clara the arrangement was conditional.
I will not dwell on Naumann's jokes at the expense of Mr. Casaubon
that evening, or on his dithyrambs about Dorothea's charm, in all
which Will joined, but with a difference. No sooner did Naumann
mention any detail of Dorothea's beauty, than Will got exasperated
at his presumption: there was grossness in his choice of the most
ordinary words, and what business had he to talk of her lips?
She was not a woman to be spoken of as other women were. Will could
not say just what he thought, but he became irritable. And yet,
when after some resistance he had consented to take the Casaubons
to his friend's studio, he had been allured by the gratification
of his pride in being the person who could grant Naumann such an
opportunity of studying her loveliness--or rather her divineness,
for the ordinary phrases which might apply to mere bodily prettiness
were not applicable to her. (Certainly all Tipton and its neighborhood,
as well as Dorothea herself, would have been surprised at her beauty
being made so much of. In that part of the world Miss Brooke had
been only a "fine young woman.")
"Oblige me by letting the subject drop, Naumann. Mrs. Casaubon
is not to be talked of as if she were a model," said Will.
Naumann stared at him.
"Schon! I will talk of my Aquinas. The head is not a bad type,
after all. I dare say the great scholastic himself would have been
flattered to have his portrait asked for. Nothing like these
starchy doctors for vanity! It was as I thought: he cared much
less for her portrait than his own."
"He's a cursed white-blooded pedantic coxcomb," said Will,
with gnashing impetuosity. His obligations to Mr. Casaubon were
not known to his hearer, but Will himself was thinking of them,
and wishing that he could discharge them all by a check.
Naumann gave a shrug and said, "It is good they go away soon, my dear.
They are spoiling your fine temper."
All Will's hope and contrivance were now concentrated on seeing
Dorothea when she was alone. He only wanted her to take more
emphatic notice of him; he only wanted to be something more special
in her remembrance than he could yet believe himself likely to be.
He was rather impatient under that open ardent good-will, reach he
saw was her usual state of feeling. The remote worship of a woman
throned out of their reach plays a great part in men's lives,
but in most cases the worshipper longs for some queenly recognition,
some approving sign by which his soul's sovereign may cheer him without
descending from her high place. That was precisely what Will wanted.
But there were plenty of contradictions in his imaginative demands.
It was beautiful to see how Dorothea's eyes turned with wifely
anxiety and beseeching to Mr. Casaubon: she would have lost some
of her halo if she had been without that duteous preoccupation;
and yet at the next moment the husband's sandy absorption of such
nectar was too intolerable; and Will's longing to say damaging things
about him was perhaps not the less tormenting because he felt the
strongest reasons for restraining it.
Will had not been invited to dine the next day. Hence he persuaded
himself that he was bound to call, and that the only eligible time
was the middle of the day, when Mr. Casaubon would not be at home.
Dorothea, who had not been made aware that her former reception of
Will had displeased her husband, had no hesitation about seeing him,
especially as he might be come to pay a farewell visit. When he entered
she was looking at some cameos which she had been buying for Celia.
She greeted Will as if his visit were quite a matter of course,
and said at once, having a cameo bracelet in her hand--
"I am so glad you are come. Perhaps you understand all about cameos,
and can tell me if these are really good. I wished to have you
with us in choosing them, but Mr. Casaubon objected: he thought
there was not time. He will finish his work to-morrow, and we shall
go away in three days. I have been uneasy about these cameos.
Pray sit down and look at them."
"I am not particularly knowing, but there can be no great mistake
about these little Homeric bits: they are exquisitely neat.
And the color is fine: it will just suit you."
"Oh, they are for my sister, who has quite a different complexion.
You saw her with me at Lowick: she is light-haired and very pretty--
at least I think so. We were never so long away from each other in our
lives before. She is a great pet and never was naughty in her life.
I found out before I came away that she wanted me to buy her some cameos,
and I should be sorry for them not to be good--after their kind."
Dorothea added the last words with a smile.
"You seem not to care about cameos," said Will, seating himself at
some distance from her, and observing her while she closed the oases.
"No, frankly, I don't think them a great object in life," said Dorothea
"I fear you are a heretic about art generally. How is that? I should
have expected you to be very sensitive to the beautiful everywhere."
"I suppose I am dull about many things," said Dorothea, simply.
"I should like to make life beautiful--I mean everybody's life.
And then all this immense expense of art, that seems somehow to lie
outside life and make it no better for the world, pains one.
It spoils my enjoyment of anything when I am made to think that most
people are shut out from it."
"I call that the fanaticism of sympathy," said Will, impetuously.
"You might say the same of landscape, of poetry, of all refinement.
If you carried it out you ought to be miserable in your own goodness,
and turn evil that you might have no advantage over others.
The best piety is to enjoy--when you can. You are doing the most
then to save the earth's character as an agreeable planet.
And enjoyment radiates. It is of no use to try and take care of
all the world; that is being taken care of when you feel delight--
in art or in anything else. Would you turn all the youth of the
world into a tragic chorus, wailing and moralizing over misery?
I suspect that you have some false belief in the virtues of misery,
and want to make your life a martyrdom." Will had gone further than
he intended, and checked himself. But Dorothea's thought was not
taking just the same direction as his own, and she answered without any
special emotion--
"Indeed you mistake me. I am not a sad, melancholy creature. I am
never unhappy long together. I am angry and naughty--not like Celia:
I have a great outburst, and then all seems glorious again.
I cannot help believing in glorious things in a blind sort of way.
I should be quite willing to enjoy the art here, but there is
so much that I don't know the reason of--so much that seems to me
a consecration of ugliness rather than beauty. The painting and
sculpture may be wonderful, but the feeling is often low and brutal,
and sometimes even ridiculous. Here and there I see what takes me
at once as noble--something that I might compare with the Alban
Mountains or the sunset from the Pincian Hill; but that makes it
the greater pity that there is so little of the best kind among all
that mass of things over which men have toiled so."
"Of course there is always a great deal of poor work: the rarer
things want that soil to grow in."
"Oh dear," said Dorothea, taking up that thought into the chief current
of her anxiety; "I see it must be very difficult to do anything good.
I have often felt since I have been in Rome that most of our
lives would look much uglier and more bungling than the pictures,
if they could be put on the wall."
Dorothea parted her lips again as if she were going to say more,
but changed her mind and paused.
"You are too young--it is an anachronism for you to have such thoughts,"
said Will, energetically, with a quick shake of the head habitual to him.
"You talk as if you had never known any youth. It is monstrous--
as if you had had a vision of Hades in your childhood, like the boy
in the legend. You have been brought up in some of those horrible
notions that choose the sweetest women to devour--like Minotaurs
And now you will go and be shut up in that stone prison at Lowick:
you will be buried alive. It makes me savage to think of it!
I would rather never have seen you than think of you with such
a prospect."
Will again feared that he had gone too far; but the meaning we attach
to words depends on our feeling, and his tone of angry regret had so much
kindness in it for Dorothea's heart, which had always been giving out
ardor and had never been fed with much from the living beings around her,
that she felt a new sense of gratitude and answered with a gentle smile--
"It is very good of you to be anxious about me. It is because you
did not like Lowick yourself: you had set your heart on another
kind of life. But Lowick is my chosen home."
The last sentence was spoken with an almost solemn cadence, and Will
did not know what to say, since it would not be useful for him
to embrace her slippers, and tell her that he would die for her:
it was clear that she required nothing of the sort; and they were
both silent for a moment or two, when Dorothea began again with an
air of saying at last what had been in her mind beforehand.
"I wanted to ask you again about something you said the other day.
Perhaps it was half of it your lively way of speaking: I notice
that you like to put things strongly; I myself often exaggerate
when I speak hastily."
"What was it?" said Will, observing that she spoke with a timidity
quite new in her. "I have a hyperbolical tongue: it catches fire
as it goes. I dare say I shall have to retract."
"I mean what you said about the necessity of knowing German--I mean,
for the subjects that Mr. Casaubon is engaged in. I have been thinking
about it; and it seems to me that with Mr. Casaubon's learning he must
have before him the same materials as German scholars--has he not?"
Dorothea's timidity was due to an indistinct consciousness that she
was in the strange situation of consulting a third person about
the adequacy of Mr. Casaubon's learning.
"Not exactly the same materials," said Will, thinking that he
would be duly reserved. "He is not an Orientalist, you know.
He does not profess to have more than second-hand knowledge there."
"But there are very valuable books about antiquities which were written
a long while ago by scholars who knew nothing about these modern things;
and they are still used. Why should Mr. Casaubon's not be valuable,
like theirs?" said Dorothea, with more remonstrant energy.
She was impelled to have the argument aloud, which she had been
having in her own mind.
"That depends on the line of study taken," said Will, also getting
a tone of rejoinder. "The subject Mr. Casaubon has chosen is as
changing as chemistry: new discoveries are constantly making new
points of view. Who wants a system on the basis of the four elements,
or a book to refute Paracelsus? Do you not see that it is no use
now to be crawling a little way after men of the last century--
men like Bryant--and correcting their mistakes?--living in a lumber-room
and furbishing up broken-legged theories about Chus and Mizraim?"
"How can you bear to speak so lightly?" said Dorothea, with a look
between sorrow and anger. "If it were as you say, what could
be sadder than so much ardent labor all in vain? I wonder it does
not affect you more painfully, if you really think that a man
like Mr. Casaubon, of so much goodness, power, and learning,
should in any way fail in what has been the labor of his best years."
She was beginning to be shocked that she had got to such a point
of supposition, and indignant with Will for having led her to it.
"You questioned me about the matter of fact, not of feeling,"
said Will. "But if you wish to punish me for the fact, I submit.
I am not in a position to express my feeling toward Mr. Casaubon:
it would be at best a pensioner's eulogy."
"Pray excuse me," said Dorothea, coloring deeply. "I am aware,
as you say, that I am in fault in having introduced the subject.
Indeed, I am wrong altogether. Failure after long perseverance is
much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called
a failure."
"I quite agree with you," said Will, determined to change the situation--
"so much so that I have made up my mind not to run that risk of
never attaining a failure. Mr. Casaubon's generosity has perhaps
been dangerous to me, and I mean to renounce the liberty it has
given me. I mean to go back to England shortly and work my own way--
depend on nobody else than myself."
"That is fine--I respect that feeling," said Dorothea,
with returning kindness. "But Mr. Casaubon, I am sure, has never
thought of anything in the matter except what was most for your welfare."
"She has obstinacy and pride enough to serve instead of love, now she
has married him," said Will to himself. Aloud he said, rising--
"I shall not see you again."
"Oh, stay till Mr. Casaubon comes," said Dorothea, earnestly. "I am
so glad we met in Rome. I wanted to know you."?
"And I have made you angry," said Will. "I have made you think
ill of me."
"Oh no. My sister tells me I am always angry with people who do
not say just what I like. But I hope I am not given to think ill
of them. In the end I am usually obliged to think ill of myself.
for being so impatient."
"Still, you don't like me; I have made myself an unpleasant thought
to you."
"Not at all," said Dorothea, with the most open kindness.
"I like you very much."
Will was not quite contented, thinking that he would apparently have
been of more importance if he had been disliked. He said nothing,
but looked lull, not to say sulky.
"And I am quite interested to see what you will do," Dorothea went
on cheerfully. "I believe devoutly in a natural difference of vocation.
If it were not for that belief, I suppose I should be very narrow--
there are so many things, besides painting, that I am quite
ignorant of. You would hardly believe how little I have taken
in of music and literature, which you know so much of. I wonder
what your vocation will turn out to be: perhaps you will be a poet?"
"That depends. To be a poet is to have a soul so quick to discern
that no shade of quality escapes it, and so quick to feel,
that discernment is but a hand playing with finely ordered variety on
the chords of emotion--a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously
into feeling, and feeling flashes back as a new organ of knowledge.
One may have that condition by fits only."
"But you leave out the poems," said Dorothea. "I think they are wanted
to complete the poet. I understand what you mean about knowledge
passing into feeling, for that seems to be just what I experience.
But I am sure I could never produce a poem."
"You ARE a poem--and that is to be the best part of a poet--
what makes up the poet's consciousness in his best moods," said Will,
showing such originality as we all share with the morning and the
spring-time and other endless renewals.
"I am very glad to hear it," said Dorothea, laughing out her words
in a bird-like modulation, and looking at Will with playful gratitude
in her eyes. "What very kind things you say to me!"
"I wish I could ever do anything that would be what you call kind--
that I could ever be of the slightest service to you I fear I shall
never have the opportunity." Will spoke with fervor.
"Oh yes," said Dorothea, cordially. "It will come; and I shall
remember how well you wish me. I quite hoped that we should be friends
when I first saw you--because of your relationship to Mr. Casaubon."
There was a certain liquid brightness in her eyes, and Will was
conscious that his own were obeying a law of nature and filling too.
The allusion to Mr. Casaubon would have spoiled all if anything at
that moment could have spoiled the subduing power, the sweet dignity,
of her noble unsuspicious inexperience.
"And there is one thing even now that you can do," said Dorothea, rising
and walking a little way under the strength of a recurring impulse.
"Promise me that you will not again, to any one, speak of that subject--
I mean about Mr. Casaubon's writings--I mean in that kind of way.
It was I who led to it. It was my fault. But promise me."
She had returned from her brief pacing and stood opposite Will,
looking gravely at him.
"Certainly, I will promise you," said Will, reddening however.
If he never said a cutting word about Mr. Casaubon again and left
off receiving favors from him, it would clearly be permissible
to hate him the more. The poet must know how to hate, says Goethe;
and Will was at least ready with that accomplishment. He said that he
must go now without waiting for Mr. Casaubon, whom he would come
to take leave of at the last moment. Dorothea gave him her hand,
and they exchanged a simple "Good-by."
But going out of the porte cochere he met Mr. Casaubon,
and that gentleman, expressing the best wishes for his cousin,
politely waived the pleasure of any further leave-taking on the morrow,
which would be sufficiently crowded with the preparations for departure.
"I have something to tell you about our cousin Mr. Ladislaw,
which I think will heighten your opinion of him," said Dorothea
to her husband in the coarse of the evening. She had mentioned
immediately on his entering that Will had just gone away, and would
come again, but Mr. Casaubon had said, "I met him outside, and we
made our final adieux, I believe," saying this with the air and tone
by which we imply that any subject, whether private or public,
does not interest us enough to wish for a further remark upon it.
So Dorothea had waited.
"What is that, my love?" said Mr Casaubon (he always said "my love"
when his manner was the coldest).
"He has made up his mind to leave off wandering at once, and to give up
his dependence on your generosity. He means soon to go back to England,
and work his own way. I thought you would consider that a good sign,"
said Dorothea, with an appealing look into her husband's neutral face.
"Did he mention the precise order of occupation to which he would
addict himself?"
"No. But he said that he felt the danger which lay for him
in your generosity. Of course he will write to you about it.
Do you not think better of him for his resolve?"
"I shall await his communication on the subject," said Mr. Casaubon.
"I told him I was sure that the thing you considered in all you did
for him was his own welfare. I remembered your goodness in what you
said about him when I first saw him at Lowick," said Dorothea,
putting her hand on her husband's
"I had a duty towards him," said Mr. Casaubon, laying his other
hand on Dorothea's in conscientious acceptance of her caress,
but with a glance which he could not hinder from being uneasy.
"The young man, I confess, is not otherwise an object of interest to me,
nor need we, I think, discuss his future course, which it is not ours
to determine beyond the limits which I have sufficiently indicated."
Dorothea did not mention Will again.
"Your horses of the Sun," he said,
"And first-rate whip Apollo!
Whate'er they be, I'll eat my head,
But I will beat them hollow."
Fred Vincy, we have seen. had a debt on his mind, and though no
such immaterial burthen could depress that buoyant-hearted young
gentleman for many hours together, there were circumstances connected
with this debt which made the thought of it unusually importunate.
The creditor was Mr. Bambridge a horse-dealer of the neighborhood,
whose company was much sought in Middlemarch by young men understood
to be "addicted to pleasure." During the vacations Fred had naturally
required more amusements than he had ready money for, and Mr. Bambridge
had been accommodating enough not only to trust him for the hire
of horses and the accidental expense of ruining a fine hunter,
but also to make a small advance by which he might be able to meet some
losses at billiards. The total debt was a hundred and sixty pounds.
Bambridge was in no alarm about his money, being sure that young
Vincy had backers; but he had required something to show for it,
and Fred had at first given a bill with his own signature.
Three months later he had renewed this bill with the signature
of Caleb Garth. On both occasions Fred had felt confident that he
should meet the bill himself, having ample funds at disposal in
his own hopefulness. You will hardly demand that his confidence
should have a basis in external facts; such confidence, we know,
is something less coarse and materialistic: it is a comfortable
disposition leading us to expect that the wisdom of providence or
the folly of our friends, the mysteries of luck or the still greater
mystery of our high individual value in the universe, will bring
about agreeable issues, such as are consistent with our good taste
in costume, and our general preference for the best style of thing.
Fred felt sure that he should have a present from his uncle,
that he should have a run of luck, that by dint of "swapping" he
should gradually metamorphose a horse worth forty pounds into a horse
that would fetch a hundred at any moment--"judgment" being always
equivalent to an unspecified sum in hard cash. And in any case,
even supposing negations which only a morbid distrust could imagine,
Fred had always (at that time) his father's pocket as a last resource,
so that his assets of hopefulness had a sort of gorgeous superfluity
about them. Of what might be the capacity of his father's pocket,
Fred had only a vague notion: was not trade elastic?
And would not the deficiencies of one year be made up for by the
surplus of another? The Vincys lived in an easy profuse way,
not with any new ostentation, but according to the family habits
and traditions, so that the children had no standard of economy,
and the elder ones retained some of their infantine notion
that their father might pay for anything if he would. Mr. Vincy
himself had expensive Middlemarch habits--spent money on coursing,
on his cellar, and on dinner-giving, while mamma had those running
accounts with tradespeople, which give a cheerful sense of getting
everything one wants without any question of payment. But it was
in the nature of fathers, Fred knew, to bully one about expenses:
there was always a little storm over his extravagance if he had
to disclose a debt, and Fred disliked bad weather within doors.
He was too filial to be disrespectful to his father, and he
bore the thunder with the certainty that it was transient;
but in the mean time it was disagreeable to see his mother cry,
and also to be obliged to look sulky instead of having fun;
for Fred was so good-tempered that if he looked glum under scolding,
it was chiefly for propriety's sake. The easier course plainly,
was to renew the bill with a friend's signature. Why not? With the
superfluous securities of hope at his command, there was no reason why
he should not have increased other people's liabilities to any extent,
but for the fact that men whose names were good for anything
were usually pessimists, indisposed to believe that the universal
order of things would necessarily be agreeable to an agreeable
young gentleman.
With a favor to ask we review our list of friends, do justice
to their more amiable qualities, forgive their little offenses,
and concerning each in turn, try to arrive at the conclusion that he
will be eager to oblige us, our own eagerness to be obliged being
as communicable as other warmth. Still there is always a certain
number who are dismissed as but moderately eager until the others
have refused; and it happened that Fred checked off all his friends
but one, on the ground that applying to them would be disagreeable;
being implicitly convinced that he at least (whatever might be
maintained about mankind generally) had a right to be free from
anything disagreeable. That he should ever fall into a thoroughly
unpleasant position--wear trousers shrunk with washing, eat cold mutton,
have to walk for want of a horse, or to "duck under" in any sort
of way--was an absurdity irreconcilable with those cheerful
intuitions implanted in him by nature. And Fred winced under the
idea of being looked down upon as wanting funds for small debts.
Thus it came to pass that the friend whom he chose to apply
to was at once the poorest and the kindest--namely, Caleb Garth.
The Garths were very fond of Fred, as he was of them; for when he
and Rosamond were little ones, and the Garths were better off,
the slight connection between the two families through
Mr. Featherstone's double marriage (the first to Mr. Garth's sister,
and the second to Mrs. Vincy's) had led to an acquaintance which
was carried on between the children rather than the parents:
the children drank tea together out of their toy teacups, and spent
whole days together in play. Mary was a little hoyden, and Fred
at six years old thought her the nicest girl in the world making
her his wife with a brass ring which he had cut from an umbrella.
Through all the stages of his education he had kept his affection
for the Garths, and his habit of going to their house as a second
home, though any intercourse between them and the elders of his
family had long ceased. Even when Caleb Garth was prosperous,
the Vincys were on condescending terms with him and his wife,
for there were nice distinctions of rank in Middlemarch; and though
old manufacturers could not any more than dukes be connected
with none but equals, they were conscious of an inherent social
superiority which was defined with great nicety in practice,
though hardly expressible theoretically. Since then Mr. Garth
had failed in the building business, which he had unfortunately
added to his other avocations of surveyor, valuer, and agent,
had conducted that business for a time entirely for the benefit of
his assignees, and had been living narrowly, exerting himself to the
utmost that he might after all pay twenty shillings in the pound.
He had now achieved this, and from all who did not think it
a bad precedent, his honorable exertions had won him due esteem;
but in no part of the world is genteel visiting founded on esteem,
in the absence of suitable furniture and complete dinner-service.
Mrs. Vincy had never been at her ease with Mrs. Garth, and frequently
spoke of her as a woman who had had to work for her bread--
meaning that Mrs. Garth had been a teacher before her marriage;
in which case an intimacy with Lindley Murray and Mangnall's Questions
was something like a draper's discrimination of calico trademarks,
or a courier's acquaintance with foreign countries: no woman
who was better off needed that sort of thing. And since Mary had
been keeping Mr. Featherstone's house, Mrs. Vincy's want of liking
for the Garths had been converted into something more positive,
by alarm lest Fred should engage himself to this plain girl,
whose parents "lived in such a small way." Fred, being aware of this,
never spoke at home of his visits to Mrs. Garth, which had of late
become more frequent, the increasing ardor of his affection
for Mary inclining him the more towards those who belonged to her.
Mr. Garth had a small office in the town, and to this Fred went
with his request. He obtained it without much difficulty,
for a large amount of painful experience had not sufficed to make
Caleb Garth cautious about his own affairs, or distrustful of his
fellow-men when they had not proved themselves untrustworthy;
and he had the highest opinion of Fred, was "sure the lad
would turn out well--an open affectionate fellow, with a good
bottom to his character--you might trust him for anything."
Such was Caleb's psychological argument. He was one of those
rare men who are rigid to themselves and indulgent to others.
He had a certain shame about his neighbors' errors, and never spoke
of them willingly; hence he was not likely to divert his mind
from the best mode of hardening timber and other ingenious devices
in order to preconceive those errors. If he had to blame any one,
it was necessary for him to move all the papers within his reach,
or describe various diagrams with his stick, or make calculations
with the odd money in his pocket, before he could begin; and he
would rather do other men's work than find fault with their doing.
I fear he was a bad disciplinarian.
When Fred stated the circumstances of his debt, his wish to meet it
without troubling his father, and the certainty that the money would
be forthcoming so as to cause no one any inconvenience, Caleb pushed
his spectacles upward, listened, looked into his favorite's clear
young eyes, and believed him, not distinguishing confidence about
the future from veracity about the past; but he felt that it was an
occasion for a friendly hint as to conduct, and that before giving
his signature he must give a rather strong admonition. Accordingly,
he took the paper and lowered his spectacles, measured the space at
his command, reached his pen and examined it, dipped it in the ink
and examined it again, then pushed the paper a little way from him,
lifted up his spectacles again, showed a deepened depression in the
outer angle of his bushy eyebrows, which gave his face a peculiar
mildness (pardon these details for once--you would have learned to
love them if you had known Caleb Garth), and said in a comfortable tone--
"It was a misfortune, eh, that breaking the horse's knees?
And then, these exchanges, they don't answer when you have 'cute
jockeys to deal with. You'll be wiser another time, my boy."
Whereupon Caleb drew down his spectacles, and proceeded to write
his signature with the care which he always gave to that performance;
for whatever he did in the way of business he did well.
He contemplated the large well-proportioned letters and final flourish,
with his head a trifle on one side for an instant, then handed it
to Fred, said "Good-by," and returned forthwith to his absorption
in a plan for Sir James Chettam's new farm-buildings.
Either because his interest in this work thrust the incident of
the signature from his memory, or for some reason of which Caleb
was more conscious, Mrs. Garth remained ignorant of the affair.
Since it occurred, a change had come over Fred's sky, which altered his
view of the distance, and was the reason why his uncle Featherstone's
present of money was of importance enough to make his color come
and go, first with a too definite expectation, and afterwards with a
proportionate disappointment. His failure in passing his examination,
had made his accumulation of college debts the more unpardonable
by his father, and there had been an unprecedented storm at home.
Mr. Vincy had sworn that if he had anything more of that sort to put
up with, Fred should turn out and get his living how he could;
and he had never yet quite recovered his good-humored tone to his son,
who had especially enraged him by saying at this stage of things
that he did not want to be a clergyman, and would rather not "go
on with that." Fred was conscious that he would have been yet more
severely dealt with if his family as well as himself had not secretly
regarded him as Mr. Featherstone's heir; that old gentleman's pride
in him, and apparent fondness for him, serving in the stead of more
exemplary conduct--just as when a youthful nobleman steals jewellery
we call the act kleptomania, speak of it with a philosophical smile,
and never think of his being sent to the house of correction as if he
were a ragged boy who had stolen turnips. In fact, tacit expectations
of what would be done for him by uncle Featherstone determined
the angle at which most people viewed Fred Vincy in Middlemarch;
and in his own consciousness, what uncle Featherstone would do for him
in an emergency, or what he would do simply as an incorporated luck,
formed always an immeasurable depth of aerial perspective. But that
present of bank-notes, once made, was measurable, and being applied
to the amount of the debt, showed a deficit which had still to be
filled up either by Fred's "judgment" or by luck in some other shape.
For that little episode of the alleged borrowing, in which he had
made his father the agent in getting the Bulstrode certificate,
was a new reason against going to his father for money towards meeting
his actual debt. Fred was keen enough to foresee that anger would
confuse distinctions, and that his denial of having borrowed expressly
on the strength of his uncle's will would be taken as a falsehood.
He had gone to his father and told him one vexatious affair,
and he had left another untold: in such cases the complete
revelation always produces the impression of a previous duplicity.
Now Fred piqued himself on keeping clear of lies, and even fibs;
he often shrugged his shoulders and made a significant grimace at
what he called Rosamond's fibs (it is only brothers who can associate
such ideas with a lovely girl); and rather than incur the accusation
of falsehood he would even incur some trouble and self-restraint.
It was under strong inward pressure of this kind that Fred had taken
the wise step of depositing the eighty pounds with his mother.
It was a pity that he had not at once given them to Mr. Garth;
but he meant to make the sum complete with another sixty, and with a
view to this, he had kept twenty pounds in his own pocket as a sort
of seed-corn, which, planted by judgment, and watered by luck,
might yield more than threefold--a very poor rate of multiplication
when the field is a young gentleman's infinite soul, with all the
numerals at command.
Fred was not a gambler: he had not that specific disease in which the
suspension of the whole nervous energy on a chance or risk becomes
as necessary as the dram to the drunkard; he had only the tendency
to that diffusive form of gambling which has no alcoholic intensity,
but is carried on with the healthiest chyle-fed blood, keeping up
a joyous imaginative activity which fashions events according
to desire, and having no fears about its own weather, only sees
the advantage there must be to others in going aboard with it.
Hopefulness has a pleasure in making a throw of any kind,
because the prospect of success is certain; and only a more generous
pleasure in offering as many as possible a share in the stake.
Fred liked play, especially billiards, as he liked hunting or riding
a steeple-chase; and he only liked it the better because he wanted
money and hoped to win. But the twenty pounds' worth of seed-corn
had been planted in vain in the seductive green plot--all of it at
least which had not been dispersed by the roadside--and Fred found
himself close upon the term of payment with no money at command
beyond the eighty pounds which he had deposited with his mother.
The broken-winded horse which he rode represented a present which
had been made to him a long while ago by his uncle Featherstone:
his father always allowed him to keep a horse, Mr. Vincy's own
habits making him regard this as a reasonable demand even for a son
who was rather exasperating. This horse, then, was Fred's property,
and in his anxiety to meet the imminent bill he determined to sacrifice
a possession without which life would certainly be worth little.
He made the resolution with a sense of heroism--heroism forced on him
by the dread of breaking his word to Mr. Garth, by his love for Mary
and awe of her opinion. He would start for Houndsley horse-fair
which was to be held the next morning, and--simply sell his horse,
bringing back the money by coach?--Well, the horse would hardly
fetch more than thirty pounds, and there was no knowing what
might happen; it would be folly to balk himself of luck beforehand.
It was a hundred to one that some good chance would fall in his way;
the longer he thought of it, the less possible it seemed that he
should not have a good chance, and the less reasonable that he should
not equip himself with the powder and shot for bringing it down.
He would ride to Houndsley with Bambridge and with Horrock "the vet,"
and without asking them anything expressly, he should virtually get
the benefit of their opinion. Before he set out, Fred got the eighty
pounds from his mother.
Most of those who saw Fred riding out of Middlemarch in company
with Bambridge and Horrock, on his way of course to Houndsley
horse-fair, thought that young Vincy was pleasure-seeking as usual;
and but for an unwonted consciousness of grave matters on hand,
he himself would have had a sense of dissipation, and of doing
what might be expected of a gay young fellow. Considering that Fred
was not at all coarse, that he rather looked down on the manners
and speech of young men who had not been to the university,
and that he had written stanzas as pastoral and unvoluptuous
as his flute-playing, his attraction towards Bambridge and Horrock
was an interesting fact which even the love of horse-flesh would
not wholly account for without that mysterious influence of Naming
which determinates so much of mortal choice. Under any other name
than "pleasure" the society of Messieurs Bambridge and Horrock must
certainly have been regarded as monotonous; and to arrive with them
at Houndsley on a drizzling afternoon, to get down at the Red Lion
in a street shaded with coal-dust, and dine in a room furnished with
a dirt-enamelled map of the county, a bad portrait of an anonymous
horse in a stable, His Majesty George the Fourth with legs and cravat,
and various leaden spittoons, might have seemed a hard business,
but for the sustaining power of nomenclature which determined
that the pursuit of these things was "gay."
In Mr. Horrock there was certainly an apparent unfathomableness
which offered play to the imagination. Costume, at a glance,
gave him a thrilling association with horses (enough to specify
the hat-brim which took the slightest upward angle just to escape
the suspicion of bending downwards), and nature had given him
a face which by dint of Mongolian eyes, and a nose, mouth, and chin
seeming to follow his hat-brim in a moderate inclination upwards,
gave the effect of a subdued unchangeable sceptical smile,
of all expressions the most tyrannous over a susceptible mind,
and, when accompanied by adequate silence, likely to create the
reputation of an invincible understanding, an infinite fund of humor--
too dry to flow, and probably in a state of immovable crust,--
and a critical judgment which, if you could ever be fortunate
enough to know it, would be THE thing and no other. It is
a physiognomy seen in all vocations, but perhaps it has never been
more powerful over the youth of England than in a judge of horses.
Mr. Horrock, at a question from Fred about his horse's fetlock,
turned sideways in his saddle, and watched the horse's action for the
space of three minutes, then turned forward, twitched his own bridle,
and remained silent with a profile neither more nor less sceptical
than it had been.
The part thus played in dialogue by Mr. Horrock was terribly effective.
A mixture of passions was excited in Fred--a mad desire to thrash
Horrock's opinion into utterance, restrained by anxiety to retain
the advantage of his friendship. There was always the chance that
Horrock might say something quite invaluable at the right moment.
Mr. Bambridge had more open manners, and appeared to give forth
his ideas without economy. He was loud, robust, and was sometimes
spoken of as being "given to indulgence"--chiefly in swearing,
drinking, and beating his wife. Some people who had lost by him
called him a vicious man; but he regarded horse-dealing as the finest
of the arts, and might have argued plausibly that it had nothing
to do with morality. He was undeniably a prosperous man, bore his
drinking better than others bore their moderation, and, on the whole,
flourished like the green bay-tree. But his range of conversation
was limited, and like the fine old tune, "Drops of brandy," gave you
after a while a sense of returning upon itself in a way that might
make weak heads dizzy. But a slight infusion of Mr. Bambridge was
felt to give tone and character to several circles in Middlemarch;
and he was a distinguished figure in the bar and billiard-room
at the Green Dragon. He knew some anecdotes about the heroes
of the turf, and various clever tricks of Marquesses and Viscounts
which seemed to prove that blood asserted its pre-eminence even
among black-legs; but the minute retentiveness of his memory was
chiefly shown about the horses he had himself bought and sold;
the number of miles they would trot you in no time without turning
a hair being, after the lapse of years, still a subject of passionate
asseveration, in which he would assist the imagination of his
hearers by solemnly swearing that they never saw anything like it.
In short, Mr. Bambridge was a man of pleasure and a gay companion.
Fred was subtle, and did not tell his friends that he was going
to Houndsley bent on selling his horse: he wished to get indirectly
at their genuine opinion of its value, not being aware that a
genuine opinion was the last thing likely to be extracted from
such eminent critics. It was not Mr. Bambridge's weakness to be
a gratuitous flatterer. He had never before been so much struck
with the fact that this unfortunate bay was a roarer to a degree
which required the roundest word for perdition to give you any idea of it.
"You made a bad hand at swapping when you went to anybody
but me, Vincy! Why, you never threw your leg across a finer
horse than that chestnut, and you gave him for this brute.
If you set him cantering, he goes on like twenty sawyers.
I never heard but one worse roarer in my life, and that was a roan:
it belonged to Pegwell, the corn-factor; he used to drive him in
his gig seven years ago, and he wanted me to take him, but I said,
`Thank you, Peg, I don't deal in wind-instruments.' That was what
I said. It went the round of the country, that joke did. But,
what the hell! the horse was a penny trumpet to that roarer of yours."
"Why, you said just now his was worse than mine," said Fred,
more irritable than usual.
"I said a lie, then," said Mr. Bambridge, emphatically. "There wasn't
a penny to choose between 'em."
Fred spurred his horse, and they trotted on a little way.
When they slackened again, Mr. Bambridge said--
"Not but what the roan was a better trotter than yours."
"I'm quite satisfied with his paces, I know," said Fred, who required
all the consciousness of being in gay company to support him;
"I say his trot is an uncommonly clean one, eh, Horrock?"
Mr. Horrock looked before him with as complete a neutrality as if he
had been a portrait by a great master.
Fred gave up the fallacious hope of getting a genuine opinion;
but on reflection he saw that Bambridge's depreciation and Horrock's
silence were both virtually encouraging, and indicated that they
thought better of the horse than they chose to say.
That very evening, indeed, before the fair had set in, Fred thought
he saw a favorable opening for disposing advantageously of his horse,
but an opening which made him congratulate himself on his
foresight in bringing with him his eighty pounds. A young farmer,
acquainted with Mr. Bambridge, came into the Red Lion, and entered
into conversation about parting with a hunter, which he introduced
at once as Diamond, implying that it was a public character.
For himself he only wanted a useful hack, which would draw upon occasion;
being about to marry and to give up hunting. The hunter was in
a friend's stable at some little distance; there was still time
for gentlemen to see it before dark. The friend's stable had to be
reached through a back street where you might as easily have been
poisoned without expense of drugs as in any grim street of that
unsanitary period. Fred was not fortified against disgust by brandy,
as his companions were, but the hope of having at last seen the horse
that would enable him to make money was exhilarating enough to lead
him over the same ground again the first thing in the morning.
He felt sure that if he did not come to a bargain with the farmer,
Bambridge would; for the stress of circumstances, Fred felt,
was sharpening his acuteness and endowing him with all the
constructive power of suspicion. Bambridge had run down Diamond
in a way that he never would have done (the horse being a friend's)
if he had not thought of buying it; every one who looked at
the animal--even Horrock--was evidently impressed with its merit.
To get all the advantage of being with men of this sort, you must
know how to draw your inferences, and not be a spoon who takes
things literally. The color of the horse was a dappled gray,
and Fred happened to know that Lord Medlicote's man was on the look-out
for just such a horse. After all his running down, Bambridge let
it out in the course of the evening, when the farmer was absent,
that he had seen worse horses go for eighty pounds. Of course he
contradicted himself twenty times over, but when you know what is
likely to be true you can test a man's admissions. And Fred could
not but reckon his own judgment of a horse as worth something.
The farmer had paused over Fred's respectable though broken-winded
steed long enough to show that he thought it worth consideration,
and it seemed probable that he would take it, with five-and-twenty
pounds in addition, as the equivalent of Diamond. In that case Fred,
when he had parted with his new horse for at least eighty pounds,
would be fifty-five pounds in pocket by the transaction, and would
have a hundred and thirty-five pounds towards meeting the bill;
so that the deficit temporarily thrown on Mr. Garth would at
the utmost be twenty-five pounds. By the time he was hurrying
on his clothes in the morning, he saw so clearly the importance
of not losing this rare chance, that if Bambridge and Horrock had
both dissuaded him, he would not have been deluded into a direct
interpretation of their purpose: he would have been aware that those
deep hands held something else than a young fellow's interest.
With regard to horses, distrust was your only clew. But scepticism,
as we know, can never be thoroughly applied, else life would come
to a standstill: something we must believe in and do, and whatever
that something may be called, it is virtually our own judgment,
even when it seems like the most slavish reliance on another.
Fred believed in the excellence of his bargain, and even before
the fair had well set in, had got possession of the dappled gray,
at the price of his old horse and thirty pounds in addition--only five
pounds more than he had expected to give.
But he felt a little worried and wearied, perhaps with mental debate,
and without waiting for the further gayeties of the horse-fair, he
set out alone on his fourteen miles' journey, meaning to take it
very quietly and keep his horse fresh.
"The offender's sorrow brings but small relief
To him who wears the strong offence's cross."
I am sorry to say that only the third day after the propitious
events at Houndsley Fred Vincy had fallen into worse spirits than he
had known in his life before. Not that he had been disappointed
as to the possible market for his horse, but that before the bargain
could be concluded with Lord Medlicote's man, this Diamond,
in which hope to the amount of eighty pounds had been invested,
had without the slightest warning exhibited in the stable a most
vicious energy in kicking, had just missed killing the groom,
and had ended in laming himself severely by catching his leg in
a rope that overhung the stable-board. There was no more redress
for this than for the discovery of bad temper after marriage--
which of course old companions were aware of before the ceremony.
For some reason or other, Fred had none of his usual elasticity
under this stroke of ill-fortune: he was simply aware that he
had only fifty pounds, that there was no chance of his getting
any more at present, and that the bill for a hundred and sixty
would be presented in five days. Even if he had applied to his
father on the plea that Mr. Garth should be saved from loss,
Fred felt smartingly that his father would angrily refuse to rescue
Mr. Garth from the consequence of what he would call encouraging
extravagance and deceit. He was so utterly downcast that he could
frame no other project than to go straight to Mr. Garth and tell
him the sad truth, carrying with him the fifty pounds, and getting
that sum at least safely out of his own hands. His father, being at
the warehouse, did not yet know of the accident: when he did,
he would storm about the vicious brute being brought into his stable;
and before meeting that lesser annoyance Fred wanted to get away
with all his courage to face the greater. He took his father's nag,
for he had made up his mind that when he had told Mr. Garth,
he would ride to Stone Court and confess all to Mary. In fact,
it is probable that but for Mary's existence and Fred's love for her,
his conscience would hare been much less active both in previously
urging the debt on his thought and impelling him not to spare
himself after his usual fashion by deferring an unpleasant task,
but to act as directly and simply as he could. Even much stronger
mortals than Fred Vincy hold half their rectitude in the mind of the
being they love best. "The theatre of all my actions is fallen,"
said an antique personage when his chief friend was dead; and they
are fortunate who get a theatre where the audience demands their best.
Certainly it would have made a considerable difference to Fred at that
time if Mary Garth had had no decided notions as to what was admirable
in character.
Mr. Garth was not at the office, and Fred rode on to his house,
which was a little way outside the town--a homely place with an orchard
in front of it, a rambling, old-fashioned, half-timbered building,
which before the town had spread had been a farm-house, but was
now surrounded with the private gardens of the townsmen. We get
the fonder of our houses if they have a physiognomy of their own,
as our friends have. The Garth family, which was rather a large one,
for Mary had four brothers and one sister, were very fond of their
old house, from which all the best furniture had long been sold.
Fred liked it too, knowing it by heart even to the attic which smelt
deliciously of apples and quinces, and until to-day he had never come
to it without pleasant expectations; but his heart beat uneasily now
with the sense that he should probably have to make his confession before
Mrs. Garth, of whom he was rather more in awe than of her husband.
Not that she was inclined to sarcasm and to impulsive sallies,
as Mary was. In her present matronly age at least, Mrs. Garth
never committed herself by over-hasty speech; having, as she said,
borne the yoke in her youth, and learned self-control. She had that
rare sense which discerns what is unalterable, and submits to it
without murmuring. Adoring her husband's virtues, she had very early
made up her mind to his incapacity of minding his own interests,
and had met the consequences cheerfully. She had been magnanimous
enough to renounce all pride in teapots or children's frilling,
and had never poured any pathetic confidences into the ears
of her feminine neighbors concerning Mr. Garth's want of prudence
and the sums he might have had if he had been like other men.
Hence these fair neighbors thought her either proud or eccentric,
and sometimes spoke of her to their husbands as "your fine Mrs. Garth."
She was not without her criticism of them in return, being more
accurately instructed than most matrons in Middlemarch, and--where is
the blameless woman?--apt to be a little severe towards her own sex,
which in her opinion was framed to be entirely subordinate.
On the other hand, she was disproportionately indulgent towards
the failings of men, and was often heard to say that these
were natural. Also, it must be admitted that Mrs. Garth was a trifle
too emphatic in her resistance to what she held to be follies:
the passage from governess into housewife had wrought itself a
little too strongly into her consciousness, and she rarely forgot
that while her grammar and accent were above the town standard,
she wore a plain cap, cooked the family dinner, and darned all
the stockings. She had sometimes taken pupils in a peripatetic fashion,
making them follow her about in the kitchen with their book or slate.
She thought it good for them to see that she could make an excellent
lather while she corrected their blunders "without looking,"--
that a woman with her sleeves tucked up above her elbows might know
all about the Subjunctive Mood or the Torrid Zone--that, in short,
she might possess "education" and other good things ending in
"tion," and worthy to be pronounced emphatically, without being
a useless doll. When she made remarks to this edifying effect,
she had a firm little frown on her brow, which yet did not hinder
her face from looking benevolent, and her words which came forth
like a procession were uttered in a fervid agreeable contralto.
Certainly, the exemplary Mrs. Garth had her droll aspects, but her
character sustained her oddities, as a very fine wine sustains
a flavor of skin.
Towards Fred Vincy she had a motherly feeling, and had always been
disposed to excuse his errors, though she would probably not have
excused Mary for engaging herself to him, her daughter being included
in that more rigorous judgment which she applied to her own sex.
But this very fact of her exceptional indulgence towards him made it
the harder to Fred that he must now inevitably sink in her opinion.
And the circumstances of his visit turned out to be still more
unpleasant than he had expected; for Caleb Garth had gone out early
to look at some repairs not far off. Mrs. Garth at certain hours was
always in the kitchen, and this morning she was carrying on several
occupations at once there--making her pies at the well-scoured deal
table on one side of that airy room, observing Sally's movements
at the oven and dough-tub through an open door, and giving
lessons to her youngest boy and girl, who were standing opposite
to her at the table with their books and slates before them.
A tub and a clothes-horse at the other end of the kitchen indicated
an intermittent wash of small things also going on.
Mrs. Garth, with her sleeves turned above her elbows, deftly handling
her pastry--applying her rolling-pin and giving ornamental pinches,
while she expounded with grammatical fervor what were the right
views about the concord of verbs and pronouns with "nouns of
multitude or signifying many," was a sight agreeably amusing.
She was of the same curly-haired, square-faced type as Mary,
but handsomer, with more delicacy of feature, a pale skin,
a solid matronly figure, and a remarkable firmness of glance.
In her snowy-frilled cap she reminded one of that delightful
Frenchwoman whom we have all seen marketing, basket on arm.
Looking at the mother, you might hope that the daughter would become
like her, which is a prospective advantage equal to a dowry--the mother
too often standing behind the daughter like a malignant prophecy--
"Such as I am, she will shortly be."
"Now let us go through that once more," said Mrs. Garth,
pinching an apple-puff which seemed to distract Ben, an energetic
young male with a heavy brow, from due attention to the lesson.
"`Not without regard to the import of the word as conveying unity
or plurality of idea'--tell me again what that means, Ben."
(Mrs. Garth, like more celebrated educators, had her favorite
ancient paths, and in a general wreck of society would have tried
to hold her "Lindley Murray" above the waves.)
"Oh--it means--you must think what you mean," said Ben, rather peevishly.
"I hate grammar. What's the use of it?"
"To teach you to speak and write correctly, so that you can
be understood," said Mrs. Garth, with severe precision.
"Should you like to speak as old Job does?"
"Yes," said Ben, stoutly; "it's funnier. He says, `Yo goo'--
that's just as good as `You go.'"
"But he says, `A ship's in the garden,' instead of `a sheep,'"
said Letty, with an air of superiority. "You might think he meant
a ship off the sea."
"No, you mightn't, if you weren't silly," said Ben. "How could
a ship off the sea come there?"
"These things belong only to pronunciation, which is the least part
of grammar," said Mrs. Garth. "That apple-peel is to be eaten by
the pigs, Ben; if you eat it, I must give them your piece of pasty.
Job has only to speak about very plain things. How do you think
you would write or speak about anything more difficult, if you
knew no more of grammar than he does? You would use wrong words,
and put words in the wrong places, and instead of making people
understand you, they would turn away from you as a tiresome person.
What would you do then?"
"I shouldn't care, I should leave off," said Ben, with a sense
that this was an agreeable issue where grammar was concerned.
"I see you are getting tired and stupid, Ben," said Mrs. Garth,
accustomed to these obstructive arguments from her male offspring.
Having finished her pies, she moved towards the clothes-horse,
and said, "Come here and tell me the story I told you on Wednesday,
about Cincinnatus."
"I know! he was a farmer," said Ben.
"Now, Ben, he was a Roman--let ME tell," said Letty, using her
elbow contentiously.
"You silly thing, he was a Roman farmer, and he was ploughing."
"Yes, but before that--that didn't come first--people wanted him,"
said Letty.
"Well, but you must say what sort of a man he was first,"
insisted Ben. "He was a wise man, like my father, and that made
the people want his advice. And he was a brave man, and could fight.
And so could my father--couldn't he, mother?"
"Now, Ben, let me tell the story straight on, as mother told it us,"
said Letty, frowning. "Please, mother, tell Ben not to speak."
"Letty, I am ashamed of you," said her mother, wringing out the
caps from the tub. "When your brother began, you ought to have
waited to see if he could not tell the story. How rude you look,
pushing and frowning, as if you wanted to conquer with your elbows!
Cincinnatus, I am sure, would have been sorry to see his daughter
behave so." (Mrs. Garth delivered this awful sentence with much
majesty of enunciation, and Letty felt that between repressed
volubility and general disesteem, that of the Romans inclusive,
life was already a painful affair.) "Now, Ben."
"Well--oh--well--why, there was a great deal of fighting, and they
were all blockheads, and--I can't tell it just how you told it--
but they wanted a man to be captain and king and everything--"
"Dictator, now," said Letty, with injured looks, and not without
a wish to make her mother repent.
"Very well, dictator!" said Ben, contemptuously. "But that isn't
a good word: he didn't tell them to write on slates."
"Come, come, Ben, you are not so ignorant as that," said Mrs. Garth,
carefully serious. "Hark, there is a knock at the door! Run, Letty,
and open it."
The knock was Fred's; and when Letty said that her father was not in
yet, but that her mother was in the kitchen, Fred had no alternative.
He could not depart from his usual practice of going to see
Mrs. Garth in the kitchen if she happened to be at work there.
He put his arm round Letty's neck silently, and led her into
the kitchen without his usual jokes and caresses.
Mrs. Garth was surprised to see Fred at this hour, but surprise
was not a feeling that she was given to express, and she only said,
quietly continuing her work--
"You, Fred, so early in the day? You look quite pale.
Has anything happened?"
"I want to speak to Mr. Garth," said Fred, not yet ready to say more--
"and to you also," he added, after a little pause, for he had no
doubt that Mrs. Garth knew everything about the bill, and he must
in the end speak of it before her, if not to her solely.
"Caleb will be in again in a few minutes," said Mrs. Garth, who imagined
some trouble between Fred and his father. "He is sure not to be long,
because he has some work at his desk that must be done this morning.
Do you mind staying with me, while I finish my matters here?"
"But we needn't go on about Cincinnatus, need we?" said Ben,
who had taken Fred's whip out of his hand, and was trying its
efficiency on the eat.
"No, go out now. But put that whip down. How very mean of you
to whip poor old Tortoise! Pray take the whip from him, Fred."
"Come, old boy, give it me," said Fred, putting out his hand.
"Will you let me ride on your horse to-day?" said Ben, rendering up
the whip, with an air of not being obliged to do it.
"Not to-day--another time. I am not riding my own horse."
"Shall you see Mary to-day?"
"Yes, I think so," said Fred, with an unpleasant twinge.
"Tell her to come home soon, and play at forfeits, and make fun."
"Enough, enough, Ben! run away," said Mrs. Garth, seeing that Fred
was teased. . .
"Are Letty and Ben your only pupils now, Mrs. Garth?" said Fred,
when the children were gone and it was needful to say something
that would pass the time. He was not yet sure whether he should
wait for Mr. Garth, or use any good opportunity in conversation
to confess to Mrs. Garth herself, give her the money and ride away.
"One--only one. Fanny Hackbutt comes at half past eleven.
I am not getting a great income now," said Mrs. Garth, smiling.
"I am at a low ebb with pupils. But I have saved my little
purse for Alfred's premium: I have ninety-two pounds.
He can go to Mr. Hanmer's now; he is just at the right age."
This did not lead well towards the news that Mr. Garth was on
the brink of losing ninety-two pounds and more. Fred was silent.
"Young gentlemen who go to college are rather more costly than that,"
Mrs. Garth innocently continued, pulling out the edging on a cap-border.
"And Caleb thinks that Alfred will turn out a distinguished engineer:
he wants to give the boy a good chance. There he is! I hear him
coming in. We will go to him in the parlor, shall we?"
When they entered the parlor Caleb had thrown down his hat and was
seated at his desk.
"What! Fred, my boy!" he said, in a tone of mild surprise, holding his
pen still undipped; "you are here betimes." But missing the usual
expression of cheerful greeting in Fred's face, he immediately added,
"Is there anything up at home?--anything the matter?"
"Yes, Mr. Garth, I am come to tell something that I am afraid will
give you a bad opinion of me. I am come to tell you and Mrs. Garth
that I can't keep my word. I can't find the money to meet the bill
after all. I have been unfortunate; I have only got these fifty
pounds towards the hundred and sixty."
While Fred was speaking, he had taken out the notes and laid them
on the desk before Mr. Garth. He had burst forth at once with the
plain fact, feeling boyishly miserable and without verbal resources.
Mrs. Garth was mutely astonished, and looked at her husband for
an explanation. Caleb blushed, and after a little pause said--
"Oh, I didn't tell you, Susan: I put my name to a bill for Fred;
it was for a hundred and sixty pounds. He made sure he could meet
it himself."
There was an evident change in Mrs. Garth's face, but it was
like a change below the surface of water which remains smooth.
She fixed her eyes on Fred, saying--
"I suppose you have asked your father for the rest of the money
and he has refused you."
"No," said Fred, biting his lip, and speaking with more difficulty;
"but I know it will be of no use to ask him; and unless it were of use,
I should not like to mention Mr. Garth's name in the matter."
"It has come at an unfortunate time," said Caleb, in his hesitating way,
looking down at the notes and nervously fingering the paper,
"Christmas upon us--I'm rather hard up just now. You see, I have
to cut out everything like a tailor with short measure. What can
we do, Susan? I shall want every farthing we have in the bank.
It's a hundred and ten pounds, the deuce take it!"
"I must give you the ninety-two pounds that I have put by for
Alfred's premium," said Mrs. Garth, gravely and decisively,
though a nice ear might have discerned a slight tremor in some
of the words. "And I have no doubt that Mary has twenty pounds
saved from her salary by this time. She will advance it."
Mrs. Garth had not again looked at Fred, and was not in the least
calculating what words she should use to cut him the most effectively.
Like the eccentric woman she was, she was at present absorbed in
considering what was to be done, and did not fancy that the end could
be better achieved by bitter remarks or explosions. But she had made
Fred feel for the first time something like the tooth of remorse.
Curiously enough, his pain in the affair beforehand had consisted
almost entirely in the sense that he must seem dishonorable,
and sink in the opinion of the Garths: he had not occupied
himself with the inconvenience and possible injury that his breach
might occasion them, for this exercise of the imagination on
other people's needs is not common with hopeful young gentlemen.
Indeed we are most of us brought up in the notion that the highest
motive for not doing a wrong is something irrespective of the beings
who would suffer the wrong. But at this moment he suddenly saw
himself as a pitiful rascal who was robbing two women of their savings.
"I shall certainly pay it all, Mrs. Garth--ultimately," he stammered out.
"Yes, ultimately," said Mrs. Garth, who having a special dislike
to fine words on ugly occasions, could not now repress an epigram.
"But boys cannot well be apprenticed ultimately: they should be
apprenticed at fifteen." She had never been so little inclined
to make excuses for Fred.
"I was the most in the wrong, Susan," said Caleb. "Fred made sure
of finding the money. But I'd no business to be fingering bills.
I suppose you have looked all round and tried all honest means?"
he added, fixing his merciful gray eyes on Fred. Caleb was too delicate,
to specify Mr. Featherstone.
"Yes, I have tried everything--I really have. I should have had
a hundred and thirty pounds ready but for a misfortune with a horse
which I was about to sell. My uncle had given me eighty pounds,
and I paid away thirty with my old horse in order to get another which I
was going to sell for eighty or more--I meant to go without a horse--
but now it has turned out vicious and lamed itself. I wish I and the
horses too had been at the devil, before I had brought this on you.
There's no one else I care so much for: you and Mrs. Garth have
always been so kind to me. However, it's no use saying that.
You will always think me a rascal now."
Fred turned round and hurried out of the room, conscious that he
was getting rather womanish, and feeling confusedly that his being
sorry was not of much use to the Garths. They could see him mount,
and quickly pass through the gate.
"I am disappointed in Fred Vincy," said Mrs. Garth. "I would not have
believed beforehand that he would have drawn you into his debts.
I knew he was extravagant, but I did not think that he would
be so mean as to hang his risks on his oldest friend, who could
the least afford to lose."
"I was a fool, Susan:"
"That you were," said the wife, nodding and smiling. "But I
should not have gone to publish it in the market-place. Why should
you keep such things from me? It is just so with your buttons:
you let them burst off without telling me, and go out with your
wristband hanging. If I had only known I might have been ready
with some better plan."
"You are sadly cut up, I know, Susan," said Caleb, looking feelingly
at her. "I can't abide your losing the money you've scraped
together for Alfred."
"It is very well that I HAD scraped it together; and it is you
who will have to suffer, for you must teach the boy yourself.
You must give up your bad habits. Some men take to drinking,
and you have taken to working without pay. You must indulge yourself
a little less in that. And you must ride over to Mary, and ask the
child what money she has."
Caleb had pushed his chair back, and was leaning forward, shaking his
head slowly, and fitting his finger-tips together with much nicety.
"Poor Mary!" he said. "Susan," he went on in a lowered tone,
"I'm afraid she may be fond of Fred."
"Oh no! She always laughs at him; and he is not likely to think
of her in any other than a brotherly way."
Caleb made no rejoinder, but presently lowered his spectacles,
drew up his chair to the desk, and said, "Deuce take the bill--
I wish it was at Hanover! These things are a sad interruption
to business!"
The first part of this speech comprised his whole store of maledictory
expression, and was uttered with a slight snarl easy to imagine.
But it would be difficult to convey to those who never heard him
utter the word "business," the peculiar tone of fervid veneration,
of religious regard, in which he wrapped it, as a consecrated
symbol is wrapped in its gold-fringed linen.
Caleb Garth often shook his head in meditation on the value,
the indispensable might of that myriad-headed, myriad-handed labor
by which the social body is fed, clothed, and housed. It had laid
hold of his imagination in boyhood. The echoes of the great hammer
where roof or keel were a-making, the signal-shouts of the workmen,
the roar of the furnace, the thunder and plash of the engine,
were a sublime music to him; the felling and lading of timber,
and the huge trunk vibrating star-like in the distance along
the highway, the crane at work on the wharf, the piled-up produce
in warehouses, the precision and variety of muscular effort
wherever exact work had to be turned out,--all these sights of his
youth had acted on him as poetry without the aid of the poets.
had made a philosophy for him without the aid of philosophers,
a religion without the aid of theology. His early ambition had been
to have as effective a share as possible in this sublime labor,
which was peculiarly dignified by him with the name of "business;"
and though he had only been a short time under a surveyor, and had been
chiefly his own teacher, he knew more of land, building, and mining
than most of the special men in the county.
His classification of human employments was rather crude, and, like the
categories of more celebrated men, would not be acceptable in these
advanced times. He divided them into "business, politics, preaching,
learning, and amusement." He had nothing to say against the last four;
but he regarded them as a reverential pagan regarded other gods
than his own. In the same way, he thought very well of all ranks,
but he would not himself have liked to be of any rank in which he
had not such close contact with "business" as to get often honorably
decorated with marks of dust and mortar, the damp of the engine,
or the sweet soil of the woods and fields. Though he had never
regarded himself as other than an orthodox Christian, and would argue
on prevenient grace if the subject were proposed to him, I think
his virtual divinities were good practical schemes, accurate work,
and the faithful completion of undertakings: his prince of darkness
was a slack workman. But there was no spirit of denial in Caleb,
and the world seemed so wondrous to him that he was ready to accept
any number of systems, like any number of firmaments, if they did
not obviously interfere with the best land-drainage, solid building,
correct measuring, and judicious boring (for coal). In fact, he had
a reverential soul with a strong practical intelligence. But he could
not manage finance: he knew values well, but he had no keenness
of imagination for monetary results in the shape of profit and loss:
and having ascertained this to his cost, he determined to give up
all forms of his beloved "business" which required that talent.
He gave himself up entirely to the many kinds of work which he could
do without handling capital, and was one of those precious men within
his own district whom everybody would choose to work for them,
because he did his work well, charged very little, and often declined
to charge at all. It is no wonder, then, that the Garths were poor,
and "lived in a small way." However, they did not mind it.
"Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care
But for another gives its ease
And builds a heaven in hell's despair.
. . . . . . .
Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven's despite."
--W. BLAKE: Songs of Experience
Fred Vincy wanted to arrive at Stone Court when Mary could not
expect him, and when his uncle was not down-stairs in that case
she might be sitting alone in the wainscoted parlor. He left his
horse in the yard to avoid making a noise on the gravel in front,
and entered the parlor without other notice than the noise of the
door-handle. Mary was in her usual corner, laughing over Mrs. Piozzi's
recollections of Johnson, and looked up with the fun still in her face.
It gradually faded as she saw Fred approach her without speaking,
and stand before her with his elbow on the mantel-piece, looking ill.
She too was silent, only raising her eyes to him inquiringly.
"Mary," he began, "I am a good-for-nothing blackguard."
"I should think one of those epithets would do at a time," said Mary,
trying to smile, but feeling alarmed.
"I know you will never think well of me any more. You will think
me a liar. You will think me dishonest. You will think I didn't
care for you, or your father and mother. You always do make
the worst of me, I know."
"I cannot deny that I shall think all that of you, Fred, if you give
me good reasons. But please to tell me at once what you have done.
I would rather know the painful truth than imagine it."
"I owed money--a hundred and sixty pounds. I asked your father to put
his name to a bill. I thought it would not signify to him. I made
sure of paying the money myself, and I have tried as hard as I could.
And now, I have been so unlucky--a horse has turned out badly--
I can only pay fifty pounds. And I can't ask my father for the money:
he would not give me a farthing. And my uncle gave me a hundred a
little while ago. So what can I do? And now your father has no ready
money to spare, and your mother will have to pay away her ninety-two
pounds that she has saved, and she says your savings must go too.
You see what a--"
"Oh, poor mother, poor father!" said Mary, her eyes filling
with tears, and a little sob rising which she tried to repress.
She looked straight before her and took no notice of Fred,
all the consequences at home becoming present to her. He too
remained silent for some moments, feeling more miserable than ever.
"I wouldn't have hurt you for the world, Mary," he said at last.
"You can never forgive me."
"What does it matter whether I forgive you?" said Mary, passionately.
"Would that make it any better for my mother to lose the money
she has been earning by lessons for four years, that she might
send Alfred to Mr. Hanmer's? Should you think all that pleasant
enough if I forgave you?"
"Say what you like, Mary. I deserve it all."
"I don't want to say anything," said Mary, more quietly, "and my
anger is of no use." She dried her eyes, threw aside her book,
rose and fetched her sewing.
Fred followed her with his eyes, hoping that they would meet hers,
and in that way find access for his imploring penitence. But no!
Mary could easily avoid looking upward.
"I do care about your mother's money going," he said, when she
was seated again and sewing quickly. "I wanted to ask you, Mary--
don't you think that Mr. Featherstone--if you were to tell him--
tell him, I mean, about apprenticing Alfred--would advance the money?"
"My family is not fond of begging, Fred. We would rather work for
our money. Besides, you say that Mr. Featherstone has lately given
you a hundred pounds. He rarely makes presents; he has never made
presents to us. I am sure my father will not ask him for anything;
and even if I chose to beg of him, it would be of no use."
"I am so miserable, Mary--if you knew how miserable I am, you would
be sorry for me."
"There are other things to be more sorry for than that. But selfish
people always think their own discomfort of more importance than
anything else in the world. I see enough of that every day."
"It is hardly fair to call me selfish. If you knew what things
other young men do, you would think me a good way off the worst."
"I know that people who spend a great deal of money on
themselves without knowing how they shall pay, must be selfish.
They are always thinking of what they can get for themselves,
and not of what other people may lose."
"Any man may be unfortunate, Mary, and find himself unable to pay
when he meant it. There is not a better man in the world than
your father, and yet he got into trouble."
"How dare you make any comparison between my father and you, Fred?"
said Mary, in a deep tone of indignation. "He never got into
trouble by thinking of his own idle pleasures, but because he
was always thinking of the work he was doing for other people.
And he has fared hard, and worked hard to make good everybody's loss."
"And you think that I shall never try to make good anything, Mary.
It is not generous to believe the worst of a man. When you have
got any power over him, I think you might try and use it to make
him better i but that is what you never do. However, I'm going,"
Fred ended, languidly. "I shall never speak to you about anything again.
I'm very sorry for all the trouble I've caused--that's all."
Mary had dropped her work out of her hand and looked up.
There is often something maternal even in a girlish love, and Mary's
hard experience had wrought her nature to an impressibility very
different from that hard slight thing which we call girlishness.
At Fred's last words she felt an instantaneous pang, something like
what a mother feels at the imagined sobs or cries of her naughty
truant child, which may lose itself and get harm. And when,
looking up, her eyes met his dull despairing glance, her pity
for him surmounted her anger and all her other anxieties.
"Oh, Fred, how ill you look! Sit down a moment. Don't go yet.
Let me tell uncle that you are here. He has been wondering that
he has not seen you for a whole week." Mary spoke hurriedly,
saying the words that came first without knowing very well what
they were, but saying them in a half-soothing half-beseeching tone,
and rising as if to go away to Mr. Featherstone. Of course Fred
felt as if the clouds had parted and a gleam had come: he moved
and stood in her way.
"Say one word, Mary, and I will do anything. Say you will not think
the worst of me--will not give me up altogether."
"As if it were any pleasure to me to think ill of you," said Mary,
in a mournful tone. "As if it were not very painful to me to see you
an idle frivolous creature. How can you bear to be so contemptible,
when others are working and striving, and there are so many things
to be done--how can you bear to be fit for nothing in the world
that is useful? And with so much good in your disposition, Fred,--
you might be worth a great deal."
"I will try to be anything you like, Mary, if you will say that you
love me."
"I should be ashamed to say that I loved a man who must always be
hanging on others, and reckoning on what they would do for him.
What will you be when you are forty? Like Mr. Bowyer, I suppose--
just as idle, living in Mrs. Beck's front parlor--fat and shabby,
hoping somebody will invite you to dinner--spending your morning in
learning a comic song--oh no! learning a tune on the flute."
Mary's lips had begun to curl with a smile as soon as she had
asked that question about Fred's future (young souls are mobile),
and before she ended, her face had its full illumination of fun.
To him it was like the cessation of an ache that Mary could laugh
at him, and with a passive sort of smile he tried to reach her hand;
but she slipped away quickly towards the door and said, "I shall
tell uncle. You MUST see him for a moment or two."
Fred secretly felt that his future was guaranteed against the
fulfilment of Mary's sarcastic prophecies, apart from that "anything"
which he was ready to do if she would define it He never dared
in Mary's presence to approach the subject of his expectations from
Mr. Featherstone, and she always ignored them, as if everything
depended on himself. But if ever he actually came into the property,
she must recognize the change in his position. All this passed through
his mind somewhat languidly, before he went up to see his uncle.
He stayed but a little while, excusing himself on the ground that he
had a cold; and Mary did not reappear before he left the house.
But as he rode home, he began to be more conscious of being ill,
than of being melancholy.
When Caleb Garth arrived at Stone Court soon after dusk, Mary was
not surprised, although he seldom had leisure for paying her a visit,
and was not at all fond of having to talk with Mr. Featherstone.
The old man, on the other hand, felt himself ill at ease with a
brother-in-law whom he could not annoy, who did not mind about
being considered poor, had nothing to ask of him, and understood
all kinds of farming and mining business better than he did.
But Mary had felt sure that her parents would want to see her,
and if her father had not come, she would have obtained leave to go
home for an hour or two the next day. After discussing prices during
tea with Mr. Featherstone Caleb rose to bid him good-by, and said,
"I want to speak to you, Mary."
She took a candle into another large parlor, where there was no fire,
and setting down the feeble light on the dark mahogany table,
turned round to her father, and putting her arms round his neck kissed
him with childish kisses which he delighted in,--the expression
of his large brows softening as the expression of a great beautiful
dog softens when it is caressed. Mary was his favorite child,
and whatever Susan might say, and right as she was on all other subjects,
Caleb thought it natural that Fred or any one else should think
Mary more lovable than other girls.
"I've got something to tell you, my dear," said Caleb in his
hesitating way. "No very good news; but then it might be worse."
"About money, father? I think I know what it is."
"Ay? how can that be? You see, I've been a bit of a fool again,
and put my name to a bill, and now it comes to paying; and your mother
has got to part with her savings, that's the worst of it, and even they
won't quite make things even. We wanted a hundred and ten pounds:
your mother has ninety-two, and I have none to spare in the bank;
and she thinks that you have some savings."
"Oh yes; I have more than four-and-twenty pounds. I thought you
would come, father, so I put it in my bag. See! beautiful white
notes and gold."
Mary took out the folded money from her reticule and put it into
her father's hand.
"Well, but how--we only want eighteen--here, put the rest back,
child,--but how did you know about it?" said Caleb, who, in his
unconquerable indifference to money, was beginning to be chiefly
concerned about the relation the affair might have to Mary's affections.
"Fred told me this morning."
"Ah! Did he come on purpose?"
"Yes, I think so. He was a good deal distressed."
"I'm afraid Fred is not to be trusted, Mary," said the father,
with hesitating tenderness. "He means better than he acts, perhaps.
But I should think it a pity for any body's happiness to be wrapped
up in him, and so would your mother."
"And so should I, father," said Mary, not looking up, but putting
the back of her father's hand against her cheek.
"I don't want to pry, my dear. But I was afraid there might be
something between you and Fred, and I wanted to caution you.
You see, Mary"--here Caleb's voice became more tender; he had been
pushing his hat about on the table and looking at it, but finally he
turned his eyes on his daughter--"a woman, let her be as good as
she may, has got to put up with the life her husband makes for her.
Your mother has had to put up with a good deal because of me."
Mary turned the back of her father's hand to her lips and smiled
at him.
"Well, well, nobody's perfect, but"--here Mr. Garth shook his head
to help out the inadequacy of words--"what I am thinking of is--
what it must be for a wife when she's never sure of her husband,
when he hasn't got a principle in him to make him more afraid of doing
the wrong thing by others than of getting his own toes pinched.
That's the long and the short of it, Mary. Young folks may get fond
of each other before they know what life is, and they may think
it all holiday if they can only get together; but it soon turns
into working day, my dear. However, you have more sense than most,
and you haven't been kept in cotton-wool: there may be no occasion
for me to say this, but a father trembles for his daughter, and you are
all by yourself here."
"Don't fear for me, father," said Mary, gravely meeting
her father's eyes; "Fred has always been very good to me;
he is kind-hearted and affectionate, and not false, I think,
with all his self-indulgence. But I will never engage myself
to one who has no manly independence, and who goes on loitering
away his time on the chance that others will provide for him.
You and my mother have taught me too much pride for that."
"That's right--that's right. Then I am easy," said Mr. Garth,
taking up his {hat or bet. ????} But it's hard to run away with
your earnings, eh child."
"Father!" said Mary, in her deepest tone of remonstrance.
"Take pocketfuls of love besides to them all at home," was her
last word before he closed the outer door on himself.
"I suppose your father wanted your earnings," said old Mr. Featherstone,
with his usual power of unpleasant surmise, when Mary returned
to him. "He makes but a tight fit, I reckon. You're of age now;
you ought to be saving for yourself."
"I consider my father and mother the best part of myself, sir,"
said Mary, coldly.
Mr. Featherstone grunted: he could not deny that an ordinary sort
of girl like her might be expected to be useful, so he thought
of another rejoinder, disagreeable enough to be always apropos.
"If Fred Vincy comes to-morrow, now, don't you keep him chattering:
let him come up to me."
"He beats me and I rail at him: O worthy satisfaction! would it
were otherwise--that I could beat him while he railed at me.--"
--Troilus and Cressida.
But Fred did not go to Stone Court the next day, for reasons that
were quite peremptory. From those visits to unsanitary Houndsley
streets in search of Diamond, he had brought back not only a bad
bargain in horse-flesh, but the further misfortune of some ailment
which for a day or two had deemed mere depression and headache,
but which got so much worse when he returned from his visit to Stone
Court that, going into the dining-room, he threw himself on the sofa,
and in answer to his mother's anxious question, said, "I feel very ill:
I think you must send for Wrench."
Wrench came, but did not apprehend anything serious, spoke of a
"slight derangement," and did not speak of coming again on the morrow.
He had a due value for the Vincys' house, but the wariest men are apt
to be dulled by routine, and on worried mornings will sometimes go
through their business with the zest of the daily bell-ringer.
Mr. Wrench was a small, neat, bilious man, with a well-dressed wig:
he had a laborious practice, an irascible temper, a lymphatic wife
and seven children; and he was already rather late before setting out
on a four-miles drive to meet Dr. Minchin on the other side of Tipton,
the decease of Hicks, a rural practitioner, having increased Middlemarch
practice in that direction. Great statesmen err, and why not small
medical men? Mr. Wrench did not neglect sending the usual white parcels,
which this time had black and drastic contents. Their effect was
not alleviating to poor Fred, who, however, unwilling as he said
to believe that he was "in for an illness," rose at his usual easy
hour the next morning and went down-stairs meaning to breakfast,
but succeeded in nothing but in sitting and shivering by the fire.
Mr. Wrench was again sent for, but was gone on his rounds,
and Mrs. Vincy seeing her darling's changed looks and general misery,
began to cry and said she would send for Dr. Sprague.
"Oh, nonsense, mother! It's nothing," said Fred, putting out his
hot dry hand to her, "I shall soon be all right. I must have taken
cold in that nasty damp ride."
"Mamma!" said Rosamond, who was seated near the window (the
dining-room windows looked on that highly respectable street called
Lowick Gate), "there is Mr. Lydgate, stopping to speak to some one.
If I were you I would call him in. He has cured Ellen Bulstrode.
They say he cures every one."
Mrs. Vincy sprang to the window and opened it in an instant,
thinking only of Fred and not of medical etiquette. Lydgate was
only two yards off on the other side of some iron palisading,
and turned round at the sudden sound of the sash, before she called
to him. In two minutes he was in the room, and Rosamond went out,
after waiting just long enough to show a pretty anxiety conflicting
with her sense of what was becoming.
Lydgate had to hear a narrative in which Mrs. Vincy's mind insisted
with remarkable instinct on every point of minor importance,
especially on what Mr. Wrench had said and had not said about
coming again. That there might be an awkward affair with Wrench,
Lydgate saw at once; but the ease was serious enough to make him
dismiss that consideration: he was convinced that Fred was in the
pink-skinned stage of typhoid fever, and that he had taken just
the wrong medicines. He must go to bed immediately, must have a
regular nurse, and various appliances and precautions must be used,
about which Lydgate was particular. Poor Mrs. Vincy's terror at these
indications of danger found vent in such words as came most easily.
She thought it "very ill usage on the part of Mr. Wrench, who had
attended their house so many years in preference to Mr. Peacock,
though Mr. Peacock was equally a friend. Why Mr. Wrench should
neglect her children more than others, she could not for the life
of her understand. He had not neglected Mrs. Larcher's when they had
the measles, nor indeed would Mrs. Vincy have wished that he should.
And if anything should happen--"
Here poor Mrs. Vincy's spirit quite broke down, and her Niobe throat
and good-humored face were sadly convulsed. This was in the hall
out of Fred's hearing, but Rosamond had opened the drawing-room door,
and now came forward anxiously. Lydgate apologized for Mr. Wrench,
said that the symptoms yesterday might have been disguising,
and that this form of fever was very equivocal in its beginnings:
he would go immediately to the druggist's and have a prescription
made up in order to lose no time, but he would write to Mr. Wrench
and tell him what had been done.
"But you must come again--you must go on attending Fred. I can't
have my boy left to anybody who may come or not. I bear nobody
ill-will, thank God, and Mr. Wrench saved me in the pleurisy,
but he'd better have let me die--if--if--"
"I will meet Mr. Wrench here, then, shall I?" said Lydgate,
really believing that Wrench was not well prepared to deal wisely
with a case of this kind.
"Pray make that arrangement, Mr. Lydgate," said Rosamond, coming to
her mother's aid, and supporting her arm to lead her away.
When Mr. Vincy came home he was very angry with Wrench, and did
not care if he never came into his house again. Lydgate should go
on now, whether Wrench liked it or not. It was no joke to have
fever in the house. Everybody must be sent to now, not to come
to dinner on Thursday. And Pritchard needn't get up any wine:
brandy was the best thing against infection. "I shall drink brandy,"
added Mr. Vincy, emphatically--as much as to say, this was not
an occasion for firing with blank-cartridges. "He's an uncommonly
unfortunate lad, is Fred. He'd need have--some luck by-and-by to make
up for all this--else I don't know who'd have an eldest son."
"Don't say so, Vincy," said the mother, with a quivering lip,
"if you don't want him to be taken from me."
"It will worret you to death, Lucy; THAT I can see," said Mr. Vincy,
more mildly. "However, Wrench shall know what I think of the matter."
(What Mr. Vincy thought confusedly was, that the fever might somehow
have been hindered if Wrench had shown the proper solicitude about his--
the Mayor's--family.) "I'm the last man to give in to the cry about
new doctors, or new parsons either--whether they're Bulstrode's
men or not. But Wrench shall know what I think, take it as he will."
Wrench did not take it at all well. Lydgate was as polite as he
could be in his offhand way, but politeness in a man who has
placed you at a disadvantage is only an additional exasperation,
especially if he happens to have been an object of dislike beforehand.
Country practitioners used to be an irritable species, susceptible on
the point of honor; and Mr. Wrench was one of the most irritable
among them. He did not refuse to meet Lydgate in the evening,
but his temper was somewhat tried on the occasion. He had to hear
Mrs. Vincy say--
"Oh, Mr. Wrench, what have I ever done that you should use me so?--
To go away, and never to come again! And my boy might have been
stretched a corpse!"
Mr. Vincy, who had been keeping up a sharp fire on the enemy Infection,
and was a good deal heated in consequence, started up when he heard
Wrench come in, and went into the hall to let him know what he thought.
"I'll tell you what, Wrench, this is beyond a joke," said the Mayor,
who of late had had to rebuke offenders with an official air,
and how broadened himself by putting his thumbs in his armholes.--
"To let fever get unawares into a house like this. There are
some things that ought to be actionable, and are not so--
that's my opinion."
But irrational reproaches were easier to bear than the sense of
being instructed, or rather the sense that a younger man, like Lydgate,
inwardly considered him in need of instruction, for "in point of fact,"
Mr. Wrench afterwards said, Lydgate paraded flighty, foreign notions,
which would not wear. He swallowed his ire for the moment,
but he afterwards wrote to decline further attendance in the case.
The house might be a good one, but Mr. Wrench was not going to truckle
to anybody on a professional matter. He reflected, with much probability
on his side, that Lydgate would by-and-by be caught tripping too,
and that his ungentlemanly attempts to discredit the sale of drugs
by his professional brethren, would by-and-by recoil on himself.
He threw out biting remarks on Lydgate's tricks, worthy only of a quack,
to get himself a factitious reputation with credulous people.
That cant about cures was never got up by sound practitioners.
This was a point on which Lydgate smarted as much as Wrench could desire.
To be puffed by ignorance was not only humiliating, but perilous,
and not more enviable than the reputation of the weather-prophet.
He was impatient of the foolish expectations amidst which all work
must be carried on, and likely enough to damage himself as much
as Mr. Wrench could wish, by an unprofessional openness.
However, Lydgate was installed as medical attendant on the Vincys,
and the event was a subject of general conversation in Middlemarch.
Some said, that the Vincys had behaved scandalously, that Mr. Vincy
had threatened Wrench, and that Mrs. Vincy had accused him of
poisoning her son. Others were of opinion that Mr. Lydgate's passing
by was providential, that he was wonderfully clever in fevers,
and that Bulstrode was in the right to bring him forward.
Many people believed that Lydgate's coming to the town at all was
really due to Bulstrode; and Mrs. Taft, who was always counting
stitches and gathered her information in misleading fragments
caught between the rows of her knitting, had got it into her head
that Mr. Lydgate was a natural son of Bulstrode's, a fact which
seemed to justify her suspicions of evangelical laymen.
She one day communicated this piece of knowledge to Mrs. Farebrother,
who did not fail to tell her son of it, observing--
"I should not be surprised at anything in Bulstrode, but I should
be sorry to think it of Mr. Lydgate."
"Why, mother," said Mr. Farebrother, after an explosive laugh,
"you know very well that Lydgate is of a good family in the North.
He never heard of Bulstrode before he came here."
"That is satisfactory so far as Mr. Lydgate is concerned, Camden,"
said the old lady, with an air of precision.--"But as to Bulstrode--
the report may be true of some other son."
Let the high Muse chant loves Olympian:
We are but mortals, and must sing of man.
An eminent philosopher among my friends, who can dignify even your
ugly furniture by lifting it into the serene light of science,
has shown me this pregnant little fact. Your pier-glass or extensive
surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid,
will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions;
but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination,
and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine
series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is
demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially
and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion
of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with an exclusive
optical selection. These things are a parable. The scratches
are events, and the candle is the egoism of any person now absent--
of Miss Vincy, for example. Rosamond had a Providence of her own
who had kindly made her more charming than other girls, and who
seemed to have arranged Fred's illness and Mr. Wrench's mistake
in order to bring her and Lydgate within effective proximity.
It would have been to contravene these arrangements if Rosamond
had consented to go away to Stone Court or elsewhere, as her
parents wished her to do, especially since Mr. Lydgate thought
the precaution needless. Therefore, while Miss Morgan and the
children were sent away to a farmhouse the morning after Fred's
illness had declared itself, Rosamond refused to leave papa and mamma.
Poor mamma indeed was an object to touch any creature born of woman;
and Mr. Vincy, who doted on his wife, was more alarmed on her
account than on Fred's. But for his insistence she would have
taken no rest: her brightness was all bedimmed; unconscious of
her costume which had always been se fresh and gay, she was like
a sick bird with languid eye and plumage ruffled, her senses
dulled to the sights and sounds that used most to interest her.
Fred's delirium, in which he seemed to be wandering out of her reach,
tore her heart. After her first outburst against-Mr. Wrench
she went about very quietly: her one low cry was to Lydgate.
She would follow him out of the room and put her hand on his arm
moaning out, "Save my boy." Once she pleaded, "He has always been
good to me, Mr. Lydgate: he never had a hard word for his mother,"--
as if poor Fred's suffering were an accusation against him.
All the deepest fibres of the mother's memory were stirred, and the
young man whose voice took a gentler tone when he spoke to her,
was one with the babe whom she had loved, with a love new to her,
before he was born.
"I have good hope, Mrs. Vincy," Lydgate would say. "Come down with
me and let us talk about the food." In that way he led her to the
parlor where Rosamond was, and made a change for her, surprising her
into taking some tea or broth which had been prepared for her.
There was a constant understanding between him and Rosamond on
these matters. He almost always saw her before going to the sickroom,
and she appealed to him as to what she could do for mamma.
Her presence of mind and adroitness in carrying out his hints
were admirable, and it is not wonderful that the idea of seeing
Rosamond began to mingle itself with his interest in the case.
Especially when the critical stage was passed, and he began to feel
confident of Fred's recovery. In the more doubtful time, he had
advised calling in Dr. Sprague (who, if he could, would rather have
remained neutral on Wrench's account); but after two consultations,
the conduct of the case was left to Lydgate, and there was every reason
to make him assiduous. Morning and evening he was at Mr. Vincy's,
and gradually the visits became cheerful as Fred became simply feeble,
and lay not only in need of the utmost petting but conscious of it,
so that Mrs. Vincy felt as if, after all, the illness had made
a festival for her tenderness.
Both father and mother held it an added reason for good spirits,
when old Mr. Featherstone sent messages by Lydgate, saying that
Fred-must make haste and get well, as he, Peter Featherstone,
could not do without him, and missed his visits sadly. The old
man himself was getting bedridden. Mrs. Vincy told these messages
to Fred when he could listen, and he turned towards her his delicate,
pinched face, from which all the thick blond hair had been cut away,
and in which the eyes seemed to have got larger, yearning for some
word about Mary--wondering what she felt about his illness.
No word passed his lips; but "to hear with eyes belongs to love's
rare wit," and the mother in the fulness of her heart not only
divined Fred's longing, but felt ready for any sacrifice in order
to satisfy him.
"If I can only see my boy strong again," she said, in her loving folly;
"and who knows?--perhaps master of Stone Court! and he can marry
anybody he likes then."
"Not if they won't have me, mother," said Fred. The illness had
made him childish, and tears came as he spoke.
"Oh, take a bit of jelly, my dear," said Mrs. Vincy,
secretly incredulous of any such refusal.
She never left Fred's side when her husband was not in the house,
and thus Rosamond was in the unusual position of being much alone.
Lydgate, naturally, never thought of staying long with her, yet it
seemed that the brief impersonal conversations they had together
were creating that peculiar intimacy which consists in shyness.
They were obliged to look at each other in speaking, and somehow the
looking could not be carried through as the matter of course which it
really was. Lydgate began to feel this sort of consciousness unpleasant
and one day looked down, or anywhere, like an ill-worked puppet.
But this turned out badly: the next day, Rosamond looked down,
and the consequence was that when their eyes met again, both were
more conscious than before. There was no help for this in science,
and as Lydgate did not want to flirt, there seemed to be no help
for it in folly. It was therefore a relief when neighbors no longer
considered the house in quarantine, and when the chances of seeing
Rosamond alone were very much reduced.
But that intimacy of mutual embarrassment, in which each feels
that the other is feeling something, having once existed,
its effect is not to be done away with. Talk about the weather
and other well-bred topics is apt to seem a hollow device,
and behavior can hardly become easy unless it frankly recognizes
a mutual fascination--which of course need not mean anything deep
or serious. This was the way in which Rosamond and Lydgate slid
gracefully into ease, and made their intercourse lively again.
Visitors came and went as usual, there was once more music in
the drawing-room, and all the extra hospitality of Mr. Vincy's
mayoralty returned. Lydgate, whenever he could, took his seat
by Rosamond's side, and lingered to hear her music, calling himself
her captive--meaning, all the while, not to be her captive.
The preposterousness of the notion that he could at once set up a
satisfactory establishment as a married man was a sufficient guarantee
against danger. This play at being a little in love was agreeable,
and did not interfere with graver pursuits. Flirtation, after all,
was not necessarily a singeing process. Rosamond, for her part,
had never enjoyed the days so much in her life before: she was sure
of being admired by some one worth captivating, and she did not
distinguish flirtation from love, either in herself or in another.
She seemed to be sailing with a fair wind just whither she would go,
and her thoughts were much occupied with a handsome house in
Lowick Gate which she hoped would by-and-by be vacant. She was
quite determined, when she was married, to rid herself adroitly
of all the visitors who were not agreeable to her at her father's;
and she imagined the drawing-room in her favorite house with various
styles of furniture.
Certainly her thoughts were much occupied with Lydgate himself;
he seemed to her almost perfect: if he had known his notes so that his
enchantment under her music had been less like an emotional elephant's,
and if he had been able to discriminate better the refinements of her
taste in dress, she could hardly have mentioned a deficiency in him.
How different he was from young Plymdale or Mr. Caius Larcher!
Those young men had not a notion of French, and could speak on
no subject with striking knowledge, except perhaps the dyeing
and carrying trades, which of course they were ashamed to mention;
they were Middlemarch gentry, elated with their silver-headed whips
and satin stocks, but embarrassed in their manners, and timidly jocose:
even Fred was above them, having at least the accent and manner
of a university man. Whereas Lydgate was always listened to,
bore himself with the careless politeness of conscious superiority,
and seemed to have the right clothes on by a certain natural affinity,
without ever having to think about them. Rosamond was proud when he
entered the room, and when he approached her with a distinguishing smile,
she had a delicious sense that she was the object of enviable homage.
If Lydgate had been aware of all the pride he excited in that
delicate bosom, he might have been just as well pleased as any
other man, even the most densely ignorant of humoral pathology
or fibrous tissue: he held it one of the prettiest attitudes of
the feminine mind to adore a man's pre-eminence without too precise
a knowledge of what it consisted in. But Rosamond was not one
of those helpless girls who betray themselves unawares, and whose
behavior is awkwardly driven by their impulses, instead of being
steered by wary grace and propriety. Do you imagine that her rapid
forecast and rumination concerning house-furniture and society
were ever discernible in her conversation, even with her mamma?
On the contrary, she would have expressed the prettiest surprise
and disapprobation if she had heard that another young lady had been
detected in that immodest prematureness--indeed, would probably
have disbelieved in its possibility. For Rosamond never showed
any unbecoming knowledge, and was always that combination of
correct sentiments, music, dancing, drawing, elegant note-writing,
private album for extracted verse, and perfect blond loveliness,
which made the irresistible woman for the doomed man of that date.
Think no unfair evil of her, pray: she had no wicked plots,
nothing sordid or mercenary; in fact, she never thought of money except
as something necessary which other people would always provide.
She was not in the habit of devising falsehoods, and if her statements
were no direct clew to fact, why, they were not intended in that light--
they were among her elegant accomplishments, intended to please.
Nature had inspired many arts in finishing Mrs. Lemon's favorite pupil,
who by general consent (Fred's excepted) was a rare compound
of beauty, cleverness, and amiability.
Lydgate found it more and more agreeable to be with her, and there
was no constraint now, there was a delightful interchange of influence
in their eyes, and what they said had that superfluity of meaning
for them, which is observable with some sense of flatness by a
third person; still they had no interviews or asides from which
a third person need have been excluded. In fact, they flirted;
and Lydgate was secure in the belief that they did nothing else.
If a man could not love and be wise, surely he could flirt
and be wise at the same time? Really, the men in Middlemarch,
except Mr. Farebrother, were great bores, and Lydgate did not care
about commercial politics or cards: what was he to do for relaxation?
He was often invited to the Bulstrodes'; but the girls there were
hardly out of the schoolroom; and Mrs. Bulstrode's NAIVE way
of conciliating piety and worldliness, the nothingness of this
life and the desirability of cut glass, the consciousness at once
of filthy rags and the best damask, was not a sufficient relief from
the weight of her husband's invariable seriousness. The Vincys'
house, with all its faults, was the pleasanter by contrast; besides,
it nourished Rosamond--sweet to look at as a half-opened blush-rose,
and adorned with accomplishments for the refined amusement of man.
But he made some enemies, other than medical, by his success with
Miss Vincy. One evening he came into the drawing-room rather late,
when several other visitors were there. The card-table had drawn
off the elders, and Mr. Ned Plymdale (one of the good matches
in Middlemarch, though not one of its leading minds) was in
tete-a-tete with Rosamond. He had brought the last "Keepsake,"
the gorgeous watered-silk publication which marked modern progress
at that time; and he considered himself very fortunate that he could
be the first to look over it with her, dwelling on the ladies and
gentlemen with shiny copper-plate cheeks and copper-plate smiles,
and pointing to comic verses as capital and sentimental stories
as interesting. Rosamond was gracious, and Mr. Ned was satisfied
that he had the very best thing in art and literature as a medium
for "paying addresses"--the very thing to please a nice girl.
He had also reasons, deep rather than ostensible, for being satisfied
with his own appearance. To superficial observers his chin had too
vanishing an aspect, looking as if it were being gradually reabsorbed.
And it did indeed cause him some difficulty about the fit of his
satin stocks, for which chins were at that time useful.
"I think the Honorable Mrs. S. is something like you," said Mr. Ned.
He kept the book open at the bewitching portrait, and looked at it
rather languishingly.
"Her back is very large; she seems to have sat for that,"
said Rosamond, not meaning any satire, but thinking how red young
Plymdale's hands were, and wondering why Lydgate did not come.
She went on with her tatting all the while.
"I did not say she was as beautiful as you are," said Mr. Ned,
venturing to look from the portrait to its rival.
"I suspect you of being an adroit flatterer," said Rosamond,
feeling sure that she should have to reject this young gentleman
a second time.
But now Lydgate came in; the book was closed before he reached
Rosamond's corner, and as he took his seat with easy confidence on
the other side of her, young Plymdale's jaw fell like a barometer
towards the cheerless side of change. Rosamond enjoyed not only
Lydgate's presence but its effect: she liked to excite jealousy.
"What a late comer you are!" she said, as they shook hands.
"Mamma had given you up a little while ago. How do you find Fred?"
"As usual; going on well, but slowly. I want him to go away--
to Stone Court, for example. But your mamma seems to have
some objection."
"Poor fellow!" said Rosamond, prettily. "You will see Fred
so changed," she added, turning to the other suitor; "we have
looked to Mr. Lydgate as our guardian angel during this illness."
Mr. Ned smiled nervously, while Lydgate, drawing the "Keepsake"
towards him and opening it, gave a short scornful laugh and tossed
up his chill, as if in wonderment at human folly.
"What are you laughing at so profanely?" said Rosamond,
with bland neutrality.
"I wonder which would turn out to be the silliest--the engravings
or the writing here," said Lydgate, in his most convinced tone,
while he turned over the pages quickly, seeming to see all through the
book in no time, and showing his large white hands to much advantage,
as Rosamond thought. "Do look at this bridegroom coming out of church:
did you ever see such a `sugared invention'--as the Elizabethans
used to say? Did any haberdasher ever look so smirking? Yet I
will answer for it the story makes him one of the first gentlemen
in the land."
"You are so severe, I am frightened at you," said Rosamond,
keeping her amusement duly moderate. Poor young Plymdale had lingered
with admiration over this very engraving, and his spirit was stirred.
"There are a great many celebrated people writing in the `Keepsake,'
at all events," he said, in a tone at once piqued and timid.
"This is the first time I have heard it called silly."
"I think I shall turn round on you and accuse you of being a Goth,"
said Rosamond, looking at Lydgate with a smile. "I suspect you
know nothing about Lady Blessington and L. E. L." Rosamond herself
was not without relish for these writers, but she did not readily
commit herself by admiration, and was alive to the slightest hint
that anything was not, according to Lydgate, in the very highest taste.
"But Sir Walter Scott--I suppose Mr. Lydgate knows him,"
said young Plymdale, a little cheered by this advantage.
"Oh, I read no literature now," said Lydgate, shutting the book,
and pushing it away. "I read so much when I was a lad, that I
suppose it will last me all my life. I used to know Scott's poems
by heart."
"I should like to know when you left off," said Rosamond, "because
then I might be sure that I knew something which you did not know."
"Mr. Lydgate would say that was not worth knowing," said Mr. Ned,
purposely caustic.
"On the contrary," said Lydgate, showing no smart; but smiling
with exasperating confidence at Rosamond. "It would be worth
knowing by the fact that Miss Vincy could tell it me."
Young Plymdale soon went to look at the whist-playing, thinking
that Lydgate was one of the most conceited, unpleasant fellows it
had ever been his ill-fortune to meet.
"How rash you are!" said Rosamond, inwardly delighted. "Do you
see that you have given offence?"
"What! is it Mr. Plymdale's book? I am sorry. I didn't think
about it."
"I shall begin to admit what you said of yourself when you first
came here--that you are a bear, and want teaching by the birds."
"Well, there is a bird who can teach me what she will. Don't I
listen to her willingly?"
To Rosamond it seemed as if she and Lydgate were as good as engaged.
That they were some time to be engaged had long been an idea in her mind;
and ideas, we know, tend to a more solid kind of existence, the necessary
materials being at hand. It is true, Lydgate had the counter-idea
of remaining unengaged; but this was a mere negative, a shadow east
by other resolves which themselves were capable of shrinking.
Circumstance was almost sure to be on the side of Rosamond's idea,
which had a shaping activity and looked through watchful blue eyes,
whereas Lydgate's lay blind and unconcerned as a jelly-fish which gets
melted without knowing it.
That evening when he went home, he looked at his phials to see
how a process of maceration was going on, with undisturbed interest;
and he wrote out his daily notes with as much precision as usual.
The reveries from which it was difficult for him to detach himself
were ideal constructions of something else than Rosamond's virtues,
and the primitive tissue was still his fair unknown. Moreover, he was
beginning to feel some zest for the growing though half-suppressed
feud between him and the other medical men, which was likely to become
more manifest, now that Bulstrode's method of managing the new
hospital was about to be declared; and there were various inspiriting
signs that his non-acceptance by some of Peacock's patients might be
counterbalanced by the impression he had produced in other quarters.
Only a few days later, when he had happened to overtake Rosamond
on the Lowick road and had got down from his horse to walk by her
side until he had quite protected her from a passing drove, he had
been stopped by a servant on horseback with a message calling him
in to a house of some importance where Peacock had never attended;
and it was the second instance of this kind. The servant was Sir
James Chettam's, and the house was Lowick Manor.
1st Gent. All times are good to seek your wedded home
Bringing a mutual delight.
2d Gent. Why, true.
The calendar hath not an evil day
For souls made one by love, and even death
Were sweetness, if it came like rolling waves
While they two clasped each other, and foresaw
No life apart.
Mr. and Mrs. Casaubon, returning from their wedding journey,
arrived at Lowick Manor in the middle of January. A light snow
was falling as they descended at the door, and in the morning,
when Dorothea passed from her dressing-room avenue the blue-green
boudoir that we know of, she saw the long avenue of limes lifting
their trunks from a white earth, and spreading white branches
against the dun and motionless sky. The distant flat shrank
in uniform whiteness and low-hanging uniformity of cloud.
The very furniture in the room seemed to have shrunk since she
saw it before: the slag in the tapestry looked more like a ghost
in his ghostly blue-green world; the volumes of polite literature
in the bookcase looked morn like immovable imitations of books.
The bright fire of dry oak-boughs burning on the dogs seemed an
incongruous renewal of life and glow--like the figure of Dorothea
herself as she entered carrying the red-leather cases containing
the cameos for Celia.
She was glowing from her morning toilet as only healthful youth
can glow: there was gem-like brightness on her coiled hair
and in her hazel eyes; there was warm red life in her lips;
her throat had a breathing whiteness above the differing white
of the fur which itself seemed to wind about her neck and cling
down her blue-gray pelisse with a tenderness gathered from her own,
a sentient commingled innocence which kept its loveliness against
the crystalline purity of the outdoor snow. As she laid the cameocases
on the table in the bow-window, she unconsciously kept her
hands on them, immediately absorbed in looking out on the still,
white enclosure which made her visible world.
Mr. Casaubon, who had risen early complaining of palpitation,
was in the library giving audience to his curate Mr. Tucker.
By-and-by Celia would come in her quality of bridesmaid as well
as sister, and through the next weeks there would be wedding visits
received and given; all in continuance of that transitional life
understood to correspond with the excitement of bridal felicity,
and keeping up the sense of busy ineffectiveness, as of a dream
which the dreamer begins to suspect. The duties of her married life,
contemplated as so great beforehand, seemed to be shrinking with the
furniture and the white vapor-walled landscape. The clear heights
where she expected to walk in full communion had become difficult
to see even in her imagination; the delicious repose of the soul on
a complete superior had been shaken into uneasy effort and alarmed
with dim presentiment. When would the days begin of that active
wifely devotion which was to strengthen her husband's life and exalt
her own? Never perhaps, as she had preconceived them; but somehow--
still somehow. In this solemnly pledged union of her life,
duty would present itself in some new form of inspiration and give
a new meaning to wifely love.
Meanwhile there was the snow and the low arch of dun vapor--
there was the stifling oppression of that gentlewoman's world,
where everything was done for her and none asked for her aid--
where the sense of connection with a manifold pregnant existence
had to be kept up painfully as an inward vision, instead of coming
from without in claims that would have shaped her energies.--
"What shall I do?" "Whatever you please, my dear: "that had been
her brief history since she had left off learning morning lessons
and practising silly rhythms on the hated piano. Marriage, which was
to bring guidance into worthy and imperative occupation, had not yet
freed her from the gentlewoman's oppressive liberty: it had not even
filled her leisure with the ruminant joy of unchecked tenderness.
Her blooming full-pulsed youth stood there in a moral imprisonment
which made itself one with the chill, colorless, narrowed landscape,
with the shrunken furniture, the never-read books, and the ghostly
stag in a pale fantastic world that seemed to be vanishing from
the daylight.
In the first minutes when Dorothea looked out she felt nothing
but the dreary oppression; then came a keen remembrance, and turning
away from the window she walked round the room. The ideas and
hopes which were living in her mind when she first saw this room
nearly three months before were present now only as memories:
she judged them as we judge transient and departed things.
All existence seemed to beat with a lower pulse than her own,
and her religious faith was a solitary cry, the struggle out of a
nightmare in which every object was withering and shrinking away
from her. Each remembered thing in the room was disenchanted,
was deadened as an unlit transparency, till her wandering gaze came
to the group of miniatures, and there at last she saw something
which had gathered new breath and meaning: it was the miniature
of Mr. Casaubon's aunt Julia, who had made the unfortunate marriage--
of Will Ladislaw's grandmother. Dorothea could fancy that it was
alive now--the delicate woman's face which yet had a headstrong look,
a peculiarity difficult to interpret. Was it only her friends
who thought her marriage unfortunate? or did she herself find it
out to be a mistake, and taste the salt bitterness of her tears
in the merciful silence of the night? What breadths of experience
Dorothea seemed to have passed over since she first looked at
this miniature! She felt a new companionship with it, as if it
had an ear for her and could see how she was looking at it.
Here was a woman who had known some difficulty about marriage.
Nay, the colors deepened, the lips and chin seemed to get larger,
the hair and eyes seemed to be sending out light, the face was
masculine and beamed on her with that full gaze which tells her
on whom it falls that she is too interesting for the slightest
movement of her eyelid to pass unnoticed and uninterpreted.
The vivid presentation came like a pleasant glow to Dorothea:
she felt herself smiling, and turning from the miniature sat down and
looked up as if she were again talking to a figure in front of her.
But the smile disappeared as she went on meditating, and at last she
said aloud--
"Oh, it was cruel to speak so! How sad--how dreadful!"
She rose quickly and went out of the room, hurrying along the corridor,
with the irresistible impulse to go and see her husband and inquire
if she could do anything for him. Perhaps Mr. Tucker was gone
and Mr. Casaubon was alone in the library. She felt as if all
her morning's gloom would vanish if she could see her husband
glad because of her presence.
But when she reached the head of the dark oak there was Celia
coming up, and below there was Mr. Brooke, exchanging welcomes
and congratulations with Mr. Casaubon.
"Dodo!" said Celia, in her quiet staccato; then kissed her sister,
whose arms encircled her, and said no more. I think they both
cried a little in a furtive manner, while Dorothea ran down-stairs
to greet her uncle.
"I need not ask how you are, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, after kissing
her forehead. "Rome has agreed with you, I see--happiness, frescos,
the antique--that sort of thing. Well, it's very pleasant to
have you back again, and you understand all about art now, eh?
But Casaubon is a little pale, I tell him--a little pale, you know.
Studying hard in his holidays is carrying it rather too far.
I overdid it at one time"--Mr. Brooke still held Dorothea's hand,
but had turned his face to Mr. Casaubon--"about topography,
ruins, temples--I thought I had a clew, but I saw it would carry
me too far, and nothing might come of it. You may go any length
in that sort of thing, and nothing may come of it, you know."
Dorothea's eyes also were turned up to her husband's face with some
anxiety at the idea that those who saw him afresh after absence
might be aware of signs which she had not noticed.
"Nothing to alarm you, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, observing
her expression. "A little English beef and mutton will soon make
a difference. It was all very well to look pale, sitting for the
portrait of Aquinas, you know--we got your letter just in time.
But Aquinas, now--he was a little too subtle, wasn't he?
Does anybody read Aquinas?"
"He is not indeed an author adapted to superficial minds,"
said Mr. Casaubon, meeting these timely questions with dignified patience.
"You would like coffee in your own room, uncle?" said Dorothea,
coming to the rescue.
"Yes; and you must go to Celia: she has great news to tell you,
you know. I leave it all to her."
The blue-green boudoir looked much more cheerful when Celia was
seated there in a pelisse exactly like her sister's, surveying
the cameos with a placid satisfaction, while the conversation
passed on to other topics.
"Do you think it nice to go to Rome on a wedding journey?"
said Celia, with her ready delicate blush which Dorothea was used
to on the smallest occasions.
"It would not suit all--not you, dear,
for example," said Dorothea, quietly.
No one would ever know what she thought of a wedding journey to Rome.
"Mrs. Cadwallader says it is nonsense, people going a long journey
when they are married. She says they get tired to death of
each other, and can't quarrel comfortably, as they would at home.
And Lady Chettam says she went to Bath." Celia's color changed
again and again--seemed
To come and go with tidings from the heart,
As it a running messenger had been.
It must mean more than Celia's blushing usually did.
"Celia! has something happened?" said Dorothea, in a tone full
of sisterly feeling. "Have you really any great news to tell me?"
"It was because you went away, Dodo. Then there was nobody but me
for Sir James to talk to," said Celia, with a certain roguishness
in her eyes.
"I understand. It is as I used to hope and believe," said Dorothea,
taking her sister's face between her hands, and looking at her
half anxiously. Celia's marriage seemed more serious than it used
to do.
"It was only three days ago," said Celia. "And Lady Chettam
is very kind."
"And you are very happy?"
"Yes. We are not going to be married yet. Because every thing
is to be got ready. And I don't want to be married so very soon,
because I think it is nice to be engaged. And we shall be married
all our lives after."
"I do believe you could not marry better, Kitty. Sir James is a good,
honorable man," said Dorothea, warmly.
"He has gone on with the cottages, Dodo. He will tell you about
them when he comes. Shall you be glad to see him?"
"Of course I shall. How can you ask me?"
"Only I was afraid you would be getting so learned," said Celia,
regarding Mr. Casaubon's learning as a kind of damp which might
in due time saturate a neighboring body.
"I found that no genius in another could please me. My unfortunate
paradoxes had entirely dried up that source of comfort."--GOLDSMITH.
One morning, some weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea--
but why always Dorothea? Was her point of view the only possible
one with regard to this marriage? protest against all our interest,
all our effort at understanding being given to the young skins that
look blooming in spite of trouble; for these too will get faded,
and will know the older and more eating griefs which we are helping
to neglect. In spite of the blinking eyes and white moles objectionable
to Celia, and the want of muscular curve which was morally painful
to Sir James, Mr. Casaubon had an intense consciousness within him,
and was spiritually a-hungered like the rest of us. He had done
nothing exceptional in marrying--nothing but what society sanctions,
and considers an occasion for wreaths and bouquets. It had occurred
to him that he must not any longer defer his intention of matrimony,
and he had reflected that in taking a wife, a man of good position
should expect and carefully choose a blooming young lady--the younger
the better, because more educable and submissive--of a rank
equal to his own, of religious principles, virtuous disposition,
and good understanding. On such a young lady he would make handsome
settlements, and he would neglect no arrangement for her happiness:
in return, he should receive family pleasures and leave behind him
that copy of himself which seemed so urgently required of a man--
to the sonneteers of the sixteenth century. Times had altered
since then, and no sonneteer had insisted on Mr. Casaubon's leaving
a copy of himself; moreover, he had not yet succeeded in issuing
copies of his mythological key; but he had always intended to acquit
himself by marriage, and the sense that he was fast leaving the
years behind him, that the world was getting dimmer and that he
felt lonely, was a reason to him for losing no more time in overtaking
domestic delights before they too were left behind by the years.
And when he had seen Dorothea he believed that he had found even
more than he demanded: she might really be such a helpmate to him
as would enable him to dispense with a hired secretary, an aid
which Mr. Casaubon had never yet employed and had a suspicious
dread of. (Mr. Casaubon was nervously conscious that he was
expected to manifest a powerful mind.) Providence, in its kindness,
had supplied him with the wife he needed. A wife, a modest
young lady, with the purely appreciative, unambitious abilities
of her sex, is sure to think her husband's mind powerful.
Whether Providence had taken equal care of Miss Brooke in presenting
her with Mr. Casaubon was an idea which could hardly occur to him.
Society never made the preposterous demand that a man should think
as much about his own qualifications for making a charming girl
happy as he thinks of hers for making himself happy. As if a man
could choose not only his wife hut his wife's husband! Or as if he
were bound to provide charms for his posterity in his own person!--
When Dorothea accepted him with effusion, that was only natural;
and Mr. Casaubon believed that his happiness was going to begin.
He had not had much foretaste of happiness in his previous life.
To know intense joy without a strong bodily frame, one must have an
enthusiastic soul. Mr. Casaubon had never had a strong bodily frame,
and his soul was sensitive without being enthusiastic: it was too
languid to thrill out of self-consciousness into passionate delight;
it went on fluttering in the swampy ground where it was hatched,
thinking of its wings and never flying. His experience was of
that pitiable kind which shrinks from pity, and fears most of all
that it should be known: it was that proud narrow sensitiveness
which has not mass enough to spare for transformation into sympathy,
and quivers thread-like in small currents of self-preoccupation
or at best of an egoistic scrupulosity. And Mr. Casaubon
had many scruples: he was capable of a severe self-restraint;
he was resolute in being a man of honor according to the code;
he would be unimpeachable by any recognized opinion. In conduct
these ends had been attained; but the difficulty of making his Key
to all Mythologies unimpeachable weighed like lead upon his mind;
and the pamphlets--or "Parerga" as he called them--by which he tested
his public and deposited small monumental records of his march,
were far from having been seen in all their significance.
He suspected the Archdeacon of not having read them; he was
in painful doubt as to what was really thought of them by the
leading minds of Brasenose, and bitterly convinced that his old
acquaintance Carp had been the writer of that depreciatory recension
which was kept locked in a small drawer of Mr. Casaubon's desk,
and also in a dark closet of his verbal memory. These were heavy
impressions to struggle against, and brought that melancholy
embitterment which is the consequence of all excessive claim:
even his religious faith wavered with his wavering trust in his
own authorship, and the consolations of the Christian hope in
immortality seemed to lean on the immortality of the still unwritten
Key to all Mythologies. For my part I am very sorry for him.
It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and
yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life
and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self--
never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have
our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness
of a thought, the ardor of a passion, the energy of an action,
but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid,
scrupulous and dim-sighted. Becoming a dean or even a bishop would
make little difference, I fear, to Mr. Casaubon's uneasiness.
Doubtless some ancient Greek has observed that behind the big mask
and the speaking-trumpet, there must always be our poor little
eyes peeping as usual and our timorous lips more or less under
anxious control.
To this mental estate mapped out a quarter of a century before,
to sensibilities thus fenced in, Mr. Casaubon had thought of annexing
happiness with a lovely young bride; but even before marriage,
as we have seen, he found himself under a new depression in
the consciousness that the new bliss was not blissful to him.
Inclination yearned back to its old, easier custom. And the deeper
he went in domesticity the more did the sense of acquitting himself
and acting with propriety predominate over any other satisfaction.
Marriage, like religion and erudition, nay, like authorship itself,
was fated to become an outward requirement, and Edward Casaubon
was bent on fulfilling unimpeachably all requirements. Even drawing
Dorothea into use in his study, according to his own intention
before marriage, was an effort which he was always tempted to defer,
and but for her pleading insistence it might never have begun.
But she had succeeded in making it a matter of course that she should
take her place at an early hour in the library and have work either
of reading aloud or copying assigned her. The work had been easier
to define because Mr. Casaubon had adopted an immediate intention:
there was to be a new Parergon, a small monograph on some
lately traced indications concerning the Egyptian mysteries
whereby certain assertions of Warburton's could be corrected.
References were extensive even here, but not altogether shoreless;
and sentences were actually to be written in the shape wherein they
would be scanned by Brasenose and a less formidable posterity.
These minor monumental productions were always exciting to Mr. Casaubon;
digestion was made difficult by the interference of citations,
or by the rivalry of dialectical phrases ringing against each other
in his brain. And from the first there was to be a Latin dedication
about which everything was uncertain except that it was not to be
addressed to Carp: it was a poisonous regret to Mr. Casaubon that he
had once addressed a dedication to Carp in which he had numbered
that member of the animal kingdom among the viros nullo aevo
perituros, a mistake which would infallibly lay the dedicator open
to ridicule in the next age, and might even be chuckled over by Pike
and Tench in the present.
Thus Mr. Casaubon was in one of his busiest epochs, and as I
began to say a little while ago, Dorothea joined him early in the
library where he had breakfasted alone. Celia at this time was on
a second visit to Lowick, probably the last before her marriage,
and was in the drawing-room expecting Sir James.
Dorothea had learned to read the signs of her husband's mood, and she
saw that the morning had become more foggy there during the last hour.
She was going silently to her desk when he said, in that distant
tone which implied that he was discharging a disagreeable duty--
"Dorothea, here is a letter for you, which was enclosed in one
addressed to me."
It was a letter of two pages, and she immediately looked at the signature.
"Mr. Ladislaw! What can he have to say to me?" she exclaimed,
in a tone of pleased surprise. "But," she added, looking at
Mr. Casaubon, "I can imagine what he has written to you about."
"You can, if you please, read the letter," said Mr. Casaubon,
severely pointing to it with his pen, and not looking at her.
"But I may as well say beforehand, that I must decline the proposal it
contains to pay a visit here. I trust I may be excused for desiring
an interval of complete freedom from such distractions as have been
hitherto inevitable, and especially from guests whose desultory
vivacity makes their presence a fatigue."
There had been no clashing of temper between Dorothea and her
husband since that little explosion in Rome, which had left such
strong traces in her mind that it had been easier ever since
to quell emotion than to incur the consequence of venting it.
But this ill-tempered anticipation that she could desire visits
which might be disagreeable to her husband, this gratuitous defence
of himself against selfish complaint on her part, was too sharp
a sting to be meditated on until after it had been resented.
Dorothea had thought that she could have been patient with John Milton,
but she had never imagined him behaving in this way; and for a moment
Mr. Casaubon seemed to be stupidly undiscerning and odiously unjust.
Pity, that "new-born babe" which was by-and-by to rule many a
storm within her, did not "stride the blast" on this occasion.
With her first words, uttered in a tone that shook him, she startled
Mr. Casaubon into looking at her, and meeting the flash of her eyes.
"Why do you attribute to me a wish for anything that would annoy you?
You speak to me as if I were something you had to contend against.
Wait at least till I appear to consult my own pleasure apart
from yours."
"Dorothea, you are hasty," answered Mr. Casaubon, nervously.
Decidedly, this woman was too young to be on the formidable level
of wifehood--unless she had been pale and feature less and taken
everything for granted.
"I think it was you who were first hasty in your false suppositions
about my feeling," said Dorothea, in the same tone. The fire was
not dissipated yet, and she thought it was ignoble in her husband
not to apologize to her.
"We will, if you please, say no more on this subject, Dorothea.
I have neither leisure nor energy for this kind of debate."
Here Mr. Casaubon dipped his pen and made as if he would return to
his writing, though his hand trembled so much that the words seemed
to be written in an unknown character. There are answers which,
in turning away wrath, only send it to the other end of the room,
and to have a discussion coolly waived when you feel that justice
is all on your own side is even more exasperating in marriage than
in philosophy.
Dorothea left Ladislaw's two letters unread on her husband's
writing-table and went to her own place, the scorn and indignation
within her rejecting the reading of these letters, just as we
hurl away any trash towards which we seem to have been suspected
of mean cupidity. She did not in the least divine the subtle
sources of her husband's bad temper about these letters:
she only knew that they had caused him to offend her. She began
to work at once, and her hand did not tremble; on the contrary,
in writing out the quotations which had been given to her the
day before, she felt that she was forming her letters beautifully,
and it seemed to her that she saw the construction of the Latin she
was copying, and which she was beginning to understand, more clearly
than usual. In her indignation there was a sense of superiority,
but it went out for the present in firmness of stroke, and did
not compress itself into an inward articulate voice pronouncing
the once "affable archangel" a poor creature.
There had been this apparent quiet for half an hour, and Dorothea
had not looked away from her own table, when she heard the loud bang
of a book on the floor, and turning quickly saw Mr. Casaubon on the
library steps clinging forward as if he were in some bodily distress.
She started up and bounded towards him in an instant: he was evidently
in great straits for breath. Jumping on a stool she got close
to his elbow and said with her whole soul melted into tender alarm--
"Can you lean on me, dear?"
He was still for two or three minutes, which seemed endless to her,
unable to speak or move, gasping for breath. When at last he
descended the three steps and fell backward in the large chair
which Dorothea had drawn close to the foot of the ladder,
he no longer gasped but seemed helpless and about to faint.
Dorothea rang the bell violently, and presently Mr. Casaubon was
helped to the couch: he did not faint, and was gradually reviving,
when Sir James Chettam came in, having been met in the hall with
the news that Mr. Casaubon had "had a fit in the library."
"Good God! this is just what might have been expected," was his
immediate thought. If his prophetic soul had been urged to particularize,
it seemed to him that "fits" would have been the definite expression
alighted upon. He asked his informant, the butler, whether the
doctor had been sent for. The butler never knew his master want
the doctor before; but would it not be right to send for a physician?
When Sir James entered the library, however, Mr. Casaubon could make
some signs of his usual politeness, and Dorothea, who in the reaction
from her first terror had been kneeling and sobbing by his side now
rose and herself proposed that some one should ride off for a medical man.
"I recommend you to send for Lydgate," said Sir James. "My mother
has called him in, and she has found him uncommonly clever.
She has had a poor opinion of the physicians since my father's death."
Dorothea appealed to her husband, and he made a silent sign of approval.
So Mr. Lydgate was sent for and he came wonderfully soon, for the
messenger, who was Sir James Chettam's man and knew Mr. Lydgate, met him
leading his horse along the Lowick road and giving his arm to Miss Vincy.
Celia, in the drawing-room, had known nothing of the trouble till
Sir James told her of it. After Dorothea's account, he no longer
considered the illness a fit, but still something "of that nature."
"Poor dear Dodo--how dreadful!" said Celia, feeling as much grieved
as her own perfect happiness would allow. Her little hands were clasped,
and enclosed by Sir James's as a bud is enfolded by a liberal calyx.
"It is very shocking that Mr. Casaubon should be ill; but I never
did like him. And I think he is not half fond enough of Dorothea;
and he ought to be, for I am sure no one else would have had him--
do you think they would?"
"I always thought it a horrible sacrifice of your sister,"
said Sir James.
"Yes. But poor Dodo never did do what other people do, and I think
she never will."
"She is a noble creature," said the loyal-hearted Sir James.
He had just had a fresh impression of this kind, as he had seen
Dorothea stretching her tender arm under her husband's neck and
looking at him with unspeakable sorrow. He did not know how much
penitence there was in the sorrow.
"Yes," said Celia, thinking it was very well for Sir James to say so,
but HE would not have been comfortable with Dodo. "Shall I go
to her? Could I help her, do you think?"
"I think it would be well for you just to go and see her before
Lydgate comes," said Sir James, magnanimously. "Only don't stay long."
While Celia was gone he walked up and down remembering what he had
originally felt about Dorothea's engagement, and feeling a revival
of his disgust at Mr. Brooke's indifference. If Cadwallader--
if every one else had regarded the affair as he, Sir James, had done,
the marriage might have been hindered. It was wicked to let a
young girl blindly decide her fate in that way, without any effort
to save her. Sir James had long ceased to have any regrets on his
own account: his heart was satisfied with his engagement to Celia.
But he had a chivalrous nature (was not the disinterested service
of woman among the ideal glories of old chivalry?): his disregarded
love had not turned to bitterness; its death had made sweet odors--
floating memories that clung with a consecrating effect to Dorothea.
He could remain her brotherly friend, interpreting her actions with
generous trustfulness.
"Qui veut delasser hors de propos, lasse."--PASCAL.
Mr. Casaubon had no second attack of equal severity with the first,
and in a few days began to recover his usual condition.
But Lydgate seemed to think the case worth a great deal of attention.
He not only used his stethoscope (which had not become a matter
of course in practice at that time), but sat quietly by his patient
and watched him. To Mr. Casaubon's questions about himself,
he replied that the source of the illness was the common error
of intellectual men--a too eager and monotonous application:
the remedy was, to be satisfied with moderate work, and to seek
variety of relaxation. Mr. Brooke, who sat by on one occasion,
suggested that Mr. Casaubon should go fishing, as Cadwallader did,
and have a turning-room, make toys, table-legs, and that kind
of thing.
"In short, you recommend me to anticipate the arrival of my
second childhood," said poor Mr. Casaubon, with some bitterness.
"These things," he added, looking at Lydgate, "would be to me such
relaxation as tow-picking is to prisoners in a house of correction."
"I confess," said Lydgate, smiling, "amusement is rather
an unsatisfactory prescription. It is something like telling
people to keep up their spirits. Perhaps I had better say,
that you must submit to be mildly bored rather than to go on working."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. Brooke. "Get Dorothea to play back. gammon with
you in the evenings. And shuttlecock, now--I don't know a finer game
than shuttlecock for the daytime. I remember it all the fashion.
To be sure, your eyes might not stand that, Casaubon. But you
must unbend, you know. Why, you might take to some light study:
conchology, now: it always think that must be a light study.
Or get Dorothea to read you light things, Smollett--`Roderick Random,'
`Humphrey Clinker:' they are a little broad, but she may read
anything now she's married, you know. I remember they made me
laugh uncommonly--there's a droll bit about a postilion's breeches.
We have no such humor now. I have gone through all these things,
but they might be rather new to you."
"As new as eating thistles," would have been an answer to represent
Mr. Casaubon's feelings. But he only bowed resignedly, with due
respect to his wife's uncle, and observed that doubtless the works
he mentioned had "served as a resource to a certain order of minds."
"You see," said the able magistrate to Lydgate, when they were
outside the door, "Casaubon has been a little narrow: it leaves him
rather at a loss when you forbid him his particular work, which I
believe is something very deep indeed--in the line of research,
you know. I would never give way to that; I was always versatile.
But a clergyman is tied a little tight. If they would make him
a bishop, now!--he did a very good pamphlet for Peel. He would
have more movement then, more show; he might get a little flesh.
But I recommend you to talk to Mrs. Casaubon. She is clever enough
for anything, is my niece. Tell her, her husband wants liveliness,
diversion: put her on amusing tactics."
Without Mr. Brooke's advice, Lydgate had determined on speaking
to Dorothea. She had not been present while her uncle was throwing
out his pleasant suggestions as to the mode in which life at Lowick
might be enlivened, but she was usually by her husband's side, and the
unaffected signs of intense anxiety in her face and voice about whatever
touched his mind or health, made a drama which Lydgate was inclined
to watch. He said to himself that he was only doing right in telling
her the truth about her husband's probable future, but he certainly
thought also that it would be interesting to talk confidentially
with her. A medical man likes to make psychological observations,
and sometimes in the pursuit of such studies is too easily tempted
into momentous prophecy which life and death easily set at nought.
Lydgate had often been satirical on this gratuitous prediction,
and he meant now to be guarded.
He asked for Mrs. Casaubon, but being told that she was out walking,
he was going away, when Dorothea and Celia appeared, both glowing
from their struggle with the March wind. When Lydgate begged to speak
with her alone, Dorothea opened the library door which happened
to be the nearest, thinking of nothing at the moment but what he
might have to say about Mr. Casaubon. It was the first time
she had entered this room since her husband had been taken ill,
and the servant had chosen not to open the shutters. But there was
light enough to read by from the narrow upper panes of the windows.
"You will not mind this sombre light," said Dorothea, standing in
the middle of the room. "Since you forbade books, the library has
been out of the question. But Mr. Casaubon will soon be here again,
I hope. Is he not making progress?"
"Yes, much more rapid progress than I at first expected.
Indeed, he is already nearly in his usual state of health."
"You do not fear that the illness will return?" said Dorothea,
whose quick ear had detected some significance in Lydgate's tone.
"Such cases are peculiarly difficult to pronounce upon," said Lydgate.
"The only point on which I can be confident is that it will be
desirable to be very watchful on Mr. Casaubon's account, lest he
should in any way strain his nervous power."
"I beseech you to speak quite plainly," said Dorothea, in an
imploring tone. "I cannot bear to think that there might be
something which I did not know, and which, if I had known it,
would have made me act differently." The words came out like a cry:
it was evident that they were the voice of some mental experience
which lay not very far off.
"Sit down," she added, placing herself on the nearest chair,
and throwing off her bonnet and gloves, with an instinctive discarding
of formality where a great question of destiny was concerned.
"What you say now justifies my own view," said Lydgate. "I think it
is one's function as a medical man to hinder regrets of that sort
as far as possible. But I beg you to observe that Mr. Casaubon's
case is precisely of the kind in which the issue is most difficult
to pronounce upon. He may possibly live for fifteen years or more,
without much worse health than he has had hitherto."
Dorothea had turned very pale, and when Lydgate paused she said
in a low voice, "You mean if we are very careful."
"Yes--careful against mental agitation of all kinds, and against
excessive application."
"He would be miserable, if he had to give up his work," said Dorothea,
with a quick prevision of that wretchedness.
"I am aware of that. The only course is to try by all means,
direct and indirect, to moderate and vary his occupations.
With a happy concurrence of circumstances, there is, as I said,
no immediate danger from that affection of the heart, which I believe
to have been the cause of his late attack. On the other hand,
it is possible that the disease may develop itself more rapidly:
it is one of those eases in which death is sometimes sudden.
Nothing should be neglected which might be affected by such
an issue."
There was silence for a few moments, while Dorothea sat as if she
had been turned to marble, though the life within her was so intense
that her mind had never before swept in brief time over an equal
range of scenes and motives.
"Help me, pray," she said, at last, in the same low voice as before.
"Tell me what I can do."
"What do you think of foreign travel? You have been lately in Rome,
I think."
The memories which made this resource utterly hopeless were a new
current that shook Dorothea out of her pallid immobility.
"Oh, that would not do--that would be worse than anything," she said
with a more childlike despondency, while the tears rolled down.
"Nothing will be of any use that he does not enjoy."
"I wish that I could have spared you this pain," said Lydgate,
deeply touched, yet wondering about her marriage. Women just like
Dorothea had not entered into his traditions.
"It was right of you to tell me. I thank you for telling me
the truth."
"I wish you to understand that I shall not say anything
to enlighten Mr. Casaubon himself. I think it desirable
for him to know nothing more than that he must not overwork
him self, and must observe certain rules. Anxiety
of any kind would be precisely the most unfavorable condition for him."
Lydgate rose, and Dorothea mechanically rose at the same time?
unclasping her cloak and throwing it off as if it stifled her.
He was bowing and quitting her, when an impulse which if she had
been alone would have turned into a prayer, made her say with a sob
in her voice--
"Oh, you are a wise man, are you not? You know all about life
and death. Advise me. Think what I can do. He has been laboring
all his life and looking forward. He minds about nothing else.--
And I mind about nothing else--"
For years after Lydgate remembered the impression produced in him
by this involuntary appeal--this cry from soul to soul, without other
consciousness than their moving with kindred natures in the same
embroiled medium, the same troublous fitfully illuminated life.
But what could he say now except that he should see Mr. Casaubon
again to-morrow?
When he was gone, Dorothea's tears gushed forth, and relieved
her stifling oppression. Then she dried her eyes, reminded that
her distress must not be betrayed to her husband; and looked
round the room thinking that she must order the servant to attend
to it as usual, since Mr. Casaubon might now at any moment wish
to enter. On his writing-table there were letters which had lain
untouched since the morning when he was taken ill, and among them,
as Dorothea. well remembered, there were young Ladislaw's letters,
the one addressed to her still unopened. The associations of
these letters had been made the more painful by that sudden attack
of illness which she felt that the agitation caused by her anger
might have helped to bring on: it would be time enough to read
them when they were again thrust upon her, and she had had no
inclination to fetch them from the library. But now it occurred
to her that they should be put out of her husband's sight:
whatever might have been the sources of his annoyance about them,
he must, if possible, not be annoyed again; and she ran her eyes
first over the letter addressed to him to assure herself whether or
not it would be necessary to write in order to hinder the offensive visit.
Will wrote from Rome, and began by saying that his obligations to
Mr. Casaubon were too deep for all thanks not to seem impertinent.
It was plain that if he were not grateful, he must be the
poorest-spirited rascal who had ever found a generous friend.
To expand in wordy thanks would be like saying, "I am honest."
But Will had come to perceive that his defects--defects which
Mr. Casaubon had himself often pointed to--needed for their correction
that more strenuous position which his relative's generosity
had hitherto prevented from being inevitable. He trusted that he
should make the best return, if return were possible, by showing
the effectiveness of the education for which he was indebted,
and by ceasing in future to need any diversion towards himself of funds
on which others might have a better claim. He was coming to England,
to try his fortune, as many other young men were obliged to do whose
only capital was in their brains. His friend Naumann had desired him
to take charge of the "Dispute"--the picture painted for Mr. Casaubon,
with whose permission, and Mrs. Casaubon's, Will would convey it to
Lowick in person. A letter addressed to the Poste Restante in Paris
within the fortnight would hinder him, if necessary, from arriving
at an inconvenient moment. He enclosed a letter to Mrs. Casaubon
in which he continued a discussion about art, begun with her in Rome.
Opening her own letter Dorothea saw that it was a lively continuation
of his remonstrance with her fanatical sympathy and her want of
sturdy neutral delight in things as they were--an outpouring of his
young vivacity which it was impossible to read just now. She had
immediately to consider what was to be done about the other letter:
there was still time perhaps to prevent Will from coming to Lowick.
Dorothea ended by giving the letter to her uncle, who was still
in the house, and begging him to let Will know that Mr. Casaubon
had been ill, and that his health would not allow the reception
of any visitors.
No one more ready than Mr. Brooke to write a letter: his only
difficulty was to write a short one, and his ideas in this case
expanded over the three large pages and the inward foldings.
He had simply said to Dorothea--
"To be sure, I will write, my dear. He's a very clever young fellow--
this young Ladislaw--I dare say will be a rising young man.
It's a good letter--marks his sense of things, you know.
However, I will tell him about Casaubon."
But the end of Mr. Brooke's pen was a thinking organ, evolving sentences,
especially of a benevolent kind, before the rest of his mind could
well overtake them. It expressed regrets and proposed remedies,
which, when Mr. Brooke read them, seemed felicitously worded--
surprisingly the right thing, and determined a sequel which he
had never before thought of. In this case, his pen found it such
a pity young Ladislaw should not have come into the neighborhood.
just at that time, in order that Mr. Brooke might make his acquaintance
more fully, and that they might go over the long-neglected Italian
drawings together--it also felt such an interest in a young man
who was starting in life with a stock of ideas--that by the end of
the second page it had persuaded Mr. Brooke to invite young Ladislaw,
since he could not be received at Lowick, to come to Tipton Grange.
Why not? They could find a great many things to do together,
and this was a period of peculiar growth--the political horizon
was expanding, and--in short, Mr. Brooke's pen went off into a little
speech which it had lately reported for that imperfectly edited organ
the "Middlemarch Pioneer." While Mr. Brooke was sealing this letter,
he felt elated with an influx of dim projects:--a young man capable
of putting ideas into form, the "Pioneer" purchased to clear
the pathway for a new candidate, documents utilized--who knew what
might come of it all? Since Celia was going to marry immediately,
it would be very pleasant to have a young fellow at table with him,
at least for a time.
But he went away without telling Dorothea what he had put into
the letter, for she was engaged with her husband, and--in fact,
these things were of no importance to her.
How will you know the pitch of that great bell
Too large for you to stir? Let but a flute
Play 'neath the fine-mixed metal listen close
Till the right note flows forth, a silvery rill.
Then shall the huge bell tremble--then the mass
With myriad waves concurrent shall respond
In low soft unison.
Lydgate that evening spoke to Miss Vincy of Mrs. Casaubon,
and laid some emphasis on the strong feeling she appeared to have
for that formal studious man thirty years older than herself.
"Of course she is devoted to her husband," said Rosamond,
implying a notion of necessary sequence which the scientific
man regarded as the prettiest possible for a woman; but she
was thinking at the same time that it was not so very melancholy
to be mistress of Lowick Manor with a husband likely to die soon.
"Do you think her very handsome?"
"She certainly is handsome, but I have not thought about it,"
said Lydgate.
"I suppose it would be unprofessional," said Rosamond, dimpling.
"But how your practice is spreading! You were called in before
to the Chettams, I think; and now, the Casaubons."
"Yes," said Lydgate, in a tone of compulsory admission. "But I
don't really like attending such people so well as the poor.
The cases are more monotonous, and one has to go through more fuss
and listen more deferentially to nonsense."
"Not more than in Middlemarch," said Rosamond. "And at least you go
through wide corridors and have the scent of rose-leaves everywhere."
"That is true, Mademoiselle de Montmorenci," said Lydgate,
just bending his head to the table and lifting with his fourth finger
her delicate handkerchief which lay at the mouth of her reticule,
as if to enjoy its scent, while he looked at her with a smile.
But this agreeable holiday freedom with which Lydgate hovered
about the flower of Middlemarch, could not continue indefinitely.
It was not more possible to find social isolation in that town
than elsewhere, and two people persistently flirting could
by no means escape from "the various entanglements, weights,
blows, clashings, motions, by which things severally go on."
Whatever Miss Vincy did must be remarked, and she was perhaps the more
conspicuous to admirers and critics because just now Mrs. Vincy,
after some struggle, had gone with Fred to stay a little while at
Stone Court, there being no other way of at once gratifying old
Featherstone and keeping watch against Mary Garth, who appeared a less
tolerable daughter-in-law in proportion as Fred's illness disappeared.
Aunt Bulstrode, for example, came a little oftener into Lowick
Gate to see Rosamond, now she was alone. For Mrs. Bulstrode had
a true sisterly feeling for her brother; always thinking that he
might have married better, but wishing well to the children.
Now Mrs. Bulstrode had a long-standing intimacy with Mrs. Plymdale.
They had nearly the same preferences in silks, patterns for underclothing,
china-ware, and clergymen; they confided their little troubles
of health and household management to each other, and various little
points of superiority on Mrs. Bulstrode's side, namely, more decided
seriousness, more admiration for mind, and a house outside the town,
sometimes served to give color to their conversation without dividing
them--well-meaning women both, knowing very little of their own motives.
Mrs. Bulstrode, paying a morning visit to Mrs. Plymdale, happened to
say that she could not stay longer, because she was going to see
poor Rosamond.
"Why do you say `poor Rosamond'?" said Mrs. Plymdale, a round-eyed
sharp little woman, like a tamed falcon.
"She is so pretty, and has been brought up in such thoughtlessness.
The mother, you know, had always that levity about her, which makes
me anxious for the children."
"Well, Harriet, if I am to speak my mind," said Mrs. Plymdale,
with emphasis, "I must say, anybody would suppose you and
Mr. Bulstrode would be delighted with what has happened,
for you have done everything to put Mr. Lydgate forward."
"Selina, what do you mean?" said Mrs. Bulstrode, in genuine surprise.
"Not but what I am truly thankful for Ned's sake," said Mrs. Plymdale.
"He could certainly better afford to keep such a wife than
some people can; but I should wish him to look elsewhere.
Still a mother has anxieties, and some young men would take to
a bad life in consequence. Besides, if I was obliged to speak,
I should say I was not fond of strangers coming into a town."
"I don't know, Selina," said Mrs. Bulstrode, with a little emphasis
in her turn. "Mr. Bulstrode was a stranger here at one time.
Abraham and Moses were strangers in the land, and we are told to
entertain strangers. And especially," she added, after a slight pause,
"when they are unexceptionable."
"I was not speaking in a religious sense, Harriet. I spoke
as a mother."
"Selina, I am sure you have never heard me say anything against
a niece of mine marrying your son."
"Oh, it is pride in Miss Vincy--I am sure it is nothing else,"
said Mrs. Plymdale, who had never before given all her confidence
to "Harriet" on this subject. "No young man in Middlemarch
was good enough for her: I have heard her mother say as much.
That is not a Christian spirit, I think. But now, from all I hear,
she has found a man AS proud as herself."
"You don't mean that there is anything between Rosamond and Mr. Lydgate?"
said Mrs. Bulstrode, rather mortified at finding out her own ignorance
"Is it possible you don't know, Harriet?"
"Oh, I go about so little; and I am not fond of gossip; I really
never hear any. You see so many people that I don't see.
Your circle is rather different from ours."
"Well, but your own niece and Mr. Bulstrode's great favorite--
and yours too, I am sure, Harriet! I thought, at one time,
you meant him for Kate, when she is a little older."
"I don't believe there can be anything serious at present,"
said Mrs. Bulstrode. "My brother would certainly have told me."
"Well, people have different ways, but I understand that nobody
can see Miss Vincy and Mr. Lydgate together without taking them
to be engaged. However, it is not my business. Shall I put up
the pattern of mittens?"
After this Mrs. Bulstrode drove to her niece with a mind newly weighted.
She was herself handsomely dressed, but she noticed with a little
more regret than usual that Rosamond, who was just come in and
met her in walking-dress, was almost as expensively equipped.
Mrs. Bulstrode was a feminine smaller edition of her brother,
and had none of her husband's low-toned pallor. She had a good
honest glance and used no circumlocution.
"You are alone, I see, my dear," she said, as they entered the
drawing-room together, looking round gravely. Rosamond felt sure
that her aunt had something particular to say, and they sat down near
each other. Nevertheless, the quilling inside Rosamond's bonnet
was so charming that it was impossible not to desire the same kind
of thing for Kate, and Mrs. Bulstrode's eyes, which were rather fine,
rolled round that ample quilled circuit, while she spoke.
"I have just heard something about you that has surprised me
very much, Rosamond."
"What is that, aunt?" Rosamond's eyes also were roaming over her
aunt's large embroidered collar.
"I can hardly believe it--that you should be engaged without my
knowing it--without your father's telling me." Here Mrs. Bulstrode's
eyes finally rested on Rosamond's, who blushed deeply, and said--
"I am not engaged, aunt."
"How is it that every one says so, then--that it is the town's talk?"
"The town's talk is of very little consequence, I think,"
said Rosamond, inwardly gratified.
"Oh, my dear, be more thoughtful; don't despise your neighbors so.
Remember you are turned twenty-two now, and you will have no fortune:
your father, I am sure, will not be able to spare you anything.
Mr. Lydgate is very intellectual and clever; I know there is an
attraction in that. I like talking to such men myself; and your
uncle finds him very useful. But the profession is a poor one here.
To be sure, this life is not everything; but it is seldom a medical
man has true religious views--there is too much pride of intellect.
And you are not fit to marry a poor man.
"Mr. Lydgate is not a poor man, aunt. He has very high connections."
"He told me himself he was poor."
"That is because he is used to people who have a high style
"My dear Rosamond, YOU must not think of living in high style."
Rosamond looked down and played with her reticule. She was not
a fiery young lady and had no sharp answers, but she meant to live
as she pleased.
"Then it is really true?" said Mrs. Bulstrode, looking very earnestly
at her niece. "You are thinking of Mr. Lydgate--there is some
understanding between you, though your father doesn't know. Be open,
my dear Rosamond: Mr. Lydgate has really made you an offer?"
Poor Rosamond's feelings were very unpleasant. She had been quite
easy as to Lydgate's feeling and intention, but now when her aunt
put this question she did not like being unable to say Yes.
Her pride was hurt, but her habitual control of manner helped her.
"Pray excuse me, aunt. I would rather not speak on the subject."
"You would not give your heart to a man without a decided prospect,
I trust, my dear. And think of the two excellent offers I know
of that you have refused!--and one still within your reach, if you
will not throw it away. I knew a very great beauty who married
badly at last, by doing so. Mr. Ned Plymdale is a nice young man--
some might think good-looking; and an only son; and a large business
of that kind is better than a profession. Not that marrying
is everything I would have you seek first the kingdom of God.
But a girl should keep her heart within her own power."
"I should never give it to Mr. Ned Plymdale, if it were. I have already
refused him. If I loved, I should love at once and without change,"
said Rosamond, with a great sense of being a romantic heroine,
and playing the part prettily.
"I see how it is, my dear," said Mrs. Bulstrode, in a melancholy voice,
rising to go. "You have allowed your affections to be engaged
without return."
"No, indeed, aunt," said Rosamond, with emphasis.
"Then you are quite confident that Mr. Lydgate has a serious
attachment to you?"
Rosamond's cheeks by this time were persistently burning, and she
felt much mortification. She chose to be silent, and her aunt went
away all the more convinced.
Mr. Bulstrode in things worldly and indifferent was disposed to do
what his wife bade him, and she now, without telling her reasons,
desired him on the next opportunity to find out in conversation
with Mr. Lydgate whether he had any intention of marrying soon.
The result was a decided negative. Mr. Bulstrode, on being
cross-questioned, showed that Lydgate had spoken as no man
would who had any attachment that could issue in matrimony.
Mrs. Bulstrode now felt that she had a serious duty before her,
and she soon managed to arrange a tete-a-tete with Lydgate,
in which she passed from inquiries about Fred Vincy's health,
and expressions of her sincere anxiety for her brother's large family,
to general remarks on the dangers which lay before young people
with regard to their settlement in life. Young men were often wild
and disappointing, making little return for the money spent on them,
and a girl was exposed to many circumstances which might interfere
with her prospects.
"Especially when she has great attractions, and her parents see
much company," said Mrs. Bulstrode "Gentlemen pay her attention,
and engross her all to themselves, for the mere pleasure of the moment,
and that drives off others. I think it is a heavy responsibility,
Mr. Lydgate, to interfere with the prospects of any girl."
Here Mrs. Bulstrode fixed her eyes on him, with an unmistakable
purpose of warning, if not of rebuke.
"Clearly," said Lydgate, looking at her--perhaps even staring
a little in return. "On the other hand, a man must be a great
coxcomb to go about with a notion that he must not pay attention
to a young lady lest she should fall in love with him, or lest
others should think she must."
"Oh, Mr. Lydgate, you know well what your advantages are.
You know that our young men here cannot cope with you. Where you
frequent a house it may militate very much against a girl's making
a desirable settlement in life, and prevent her from accepting
offers even if they are made."
Lydgate was less flattered by his advantage over the Middlemarch Orlandos
than he was annoyed by the perception of Mrs. Bulstrode's meaning.
She felt that she had spoken as impressively as it was necessary to do,
and that in using the superior word "militate" she had thrown a noble
drapery over a mass of particulars which were still evident enough.
Lydgate was fuming a little, pushed his hair back with one hand,
felt curiously in his waistcoat-pocket with the other, and then stooped
to beckon the tiny black spaniel, which had the insight to decline
his hollow caresses. It would not have been decent to go away,
because he had been dining with other guests, and had just taken tea.
But Mrs. Bulstrode, having no doubt that she had been understood,
turned the conversation.
Solomon's Proverbs, I think, have omitted to say, that as the sore
palate findeth grit, so an uneasy consciousness heareth innuendoes.
The next day Mr. Farebrother, parting from Lydgate in the street,
supposed that they should meet at Vincy's in the evening.
Lydgate answered curtly, no--he had work to do--he must give up going
out in the evening.
"What! you are going to get lashed to the mast, eh, and are stopping
your ears?" said the Vicar. "Well, if you don't mean to be won
by the sirens, you are right to take precautions in time."
A few days before, Lydgate would have taken no notice of these words
as anything more than the Vicar's usual way of putting things.
They seemed now to convey an innuendo which confirmed the impression
that he had been making a fool of himself and behaving so as to
be misunderstood: not, he believed, by Rosamond herself; she, he
felt sure, took everything as lightly as he intended it. She had
an exquisite tact and insight in relation to all points of manners;
but the people she lived among were blunderers and busybodies.
However, the mistake should go no farther. He resolved--and kept
his resolution--that he would not go to Mr. Vincy's except on business.
Rosamond became very unhappy. The uneasiness first stirred
by her aunt's questions grew and grew till at the end of ten
days that she had not seen Lydgate, it grew into terror at the
blank that might possibly come--into foreboding of that ready,
fatal sponge which so cheaply wipes out the hopes of mortals.
The world would have a new dreariness for her, as a wilderness that
a magician's spells had turned for a little while into a garden.
She felt that she was beginning to know the pang of disappointed love,
and that no other man could be the occasion of such delightful
aerial building as she had been enjoying for the last six months.
Poor Rosamond lost her appetite and felt as forlorn as Ariadne--
as a charming stage Ariadne left behind with all her boxes full of
costumes and no hope of a coach.
There are many wonderful mixtures in the world which are all
alike called love, and claim the privileges of a sublime rage
which is an apology for everything (in literature and the drama).
Happily Rosamond did not think of committing any desperate act:
she plaited her fair hair as beautifully as usual, and kept herself
proudly calm. Her most cheerful supposition was that her aunt
Bulstrode had interfered in some way to hinder Lydgate's visits:
everything was better than a spontaneous indifference in him.
Any one who imagines ten days too short a time--not for falling
into leanness, lightness, or other measurable effects of passion, but--
for the whole spiritual circuit of alarmed conjecture and disappointment,
is ignorant of what can go on in the elegant leisure of a young
lady's mind.
On the eleventh day, however, Lydgate when leaving Stone Court
was requested by Mrs. Vincy to let her husband know that there
was a marked change in Mr. Featherstone's health, and that she
wished him to come to Stone Court on that day. Now Lydgate
might have called at the warehouse, or might have written a
message on a leaf of his pocket-book and left it at the door.
Yet these simple devices apparently did not occur to him,
from which we may conclude that he had no strong objection to calling
at the house at an hour when Mr. Vincy was not at home, and leaving
the message with Miss Vincy. A man may, from various motives,
decline to give his company, but perhaps not even a sage would
be gratified that nobody missed him. It would be a graceful,
easy way of piecing on the new habits to the old, to have a few
playful words with Rosamond about his resistance to dissipation,
and his firm resolve to take long fasts even from sweet sounds.
It must be confessed, also, that momentary speculations as to all the
possible grounds for Mrs. Bulstrode's hints had managed to get woven
like slight clinging hairs into the more substantial web of his thoughts.
Miss Vincy was alone, and blushed so deeply when Lydgate came in that he
felt a corresponding embarrassment, and instead of any playfulness,
he began at once to speak of his reason for calling, and to beg her,
almost formally, to deliver the message to her father. Rosamond,
who at the first moment felt as if her happiness were returning,
was keenly hurt by Lydgate's manner; her blush had departed, and she
assented coldly, without adding an unnecessary word, some trivial
chain-work which she had in her hands enabling her to avoid looking
at Lydgate higher than his chin. In all failures, the beginning
is certainly the half of the whole. After sitting two long moments
while he moved his whip and could say nothing, Lydgate rose to go,
and Rosamond, made nervous by her struggle between mortification
and the wish not to betray it, dropped her chain as if startled,
and rose too, mechanically. Lydgate instantaneously stooped to pick
up the chain. When he rose he was very near to a lovely little
face set on a fair long neck which he had been used to see turning
about under the most perfect management of self-contented grace.
But as he raised his eyes now he saw a certain helpless quivering
which touched him quite newly, and made him look at Rosamond with a
questioning flash. At this moment she was as natural as she had ever
been when she was five years old: she felt that her tears had risen,
and it was no use to try to do anything else than let them stay
like water on a blue flower or let them fall over her cheeks,
even as they would.
That moment of naturalness was the crystallizing feather-touch:
it shook flirtation into love. Remember that the ambitious man
who was looking at those Forget-me-nots under the water was very
warm-hearted and rash. He did not know where the chain went;
an idea had thrilled through the recesses within him which had
a miraculous effect in raising the power of passionate love lying
buried there in no sealed sepulchre, but under the lightest,
easily pierced mould. His words were quite abrupt and awkward;
but the tone made them sound like an ardent, appealing avowal.
"What is the matter? you are distressed. Tell me, pray."
Rosamond had never been spoken to in such tones before. I am not sure
that she knew what the words were: but she looked at Lydgate and the
tears fell over her cheeks. There could have been no more complete
answer than that silence, and Lydgate, forgetting everything else,
completely mastered by the outrush of tenderness at the sudden
belief that this sweet young creature depended on him for her joy,
actually put his arms round her, folding her gently and protectingly--
he was used to being gentle with the weak and suffering--and kissed
each of the two large tears. This was a strange way of arriving
at an understanding, but it was a short way. Rosamond was
not angry, but she moved backward a little in timid happiness,
and Lydgate could now sit near her and speak less incompletely.
Rosamond had to make her little confession, and he poured out words
of gratitude and tenderness with impulsive lavishment. In half
an hour he left the house an engaged man, whose soul was not his own,
but the woman's to whom he had bound himself.
He came again in the evening to speak with Mr. Vincy, who, just returned
from Stone Court, was feeling sure that it would not be long before he
heard of Mr. Featherstone's demise. The felicitous word "demise,"
which had seasonably occurred to him, had raised his spirits even
above their usual evening pitch. The right word is always a power,
and communicates its definiteness to our action. Considered as
a demise, old Featherstone's death assumed a merely legal aspect,
so that Mr. Vincy could tap his snuff-box over it and be jovial,
without even an intermittent affectation of solemnity; and Mr. Vincy
hated both solemnity and affectation. Who was ever awe struck
about a testator, or sang a hymn on the title to real property?
Mr. Vincy was inclined to take a jovial view of all things that evening:
he even observed to Lydgate that Fred had got the family constitution
after all, and would soon be as fine a fellow as ever again;
and when his approbation of Rosamond's engagement was asked for,
he gave it with astonishing facility, passing at once to general
remarks on the desirableness of matrimony for young men and maidens,
and apparently deducing from the whole the appropriateness of a little
more punch.
"They'll take suggestion as a cat laps milk."
The triumphant confidence of the Mayor founded on Mr. Featherstone's
insistent demand that Fred and his mother should not leave him,
was a feeble emotion compared with all that was agitating the breasts
of the old man's blood-relations, who naturally manifested more
their sense of the family tie and were more visibly numerous now
that he had become bedridden. Naturally: for when "poor Peter"
had occupied his arm-chair in the wainscoted parlor, no assiduous
beetles for whom the cook prepares boiling water could have been
less welcome on a hearth which they had reasons for preferring,
than those persons whose Featherstone blood was ill-nourished, not
from penuriousness on their part, but from poverty. Brother Solomon
and Sister Jane were rich, and the family candor and total abstinence
from false politeness with which they were always received
seemed to them no argument that their brother in the solemn act
of making his will would overlook the superior claims of wealth.
Themselves at least he had never been unnatural enough to banish from
his house, and it seemed hardly eccentric that he should hare kept
away Brother Jonah, Sister Martha, and the rest, who had no shadow
of such claims. They knew Peter's maxim, that money was a good egg,
and should be laid in a warm nest.
But Brother Jonah, Sister Martha, and all the needy exiles, held a
different point of view. Probabilities are as various as the faces
to be seen at will in fretwork or paper-hangings: every form is there,
from Jupiter to Judy, if you only look with creative inclination.
To the poorer and least favored it seemed likely that since Peter
had done nothing for them in his life, he would remember them
at the last. Jonah argued that men liked to make a surprise of
their wills, while Martha said that nobody need be surprised if he
left the best part of his money to those who least expected it.
Also it was not to be thought but that an own brother "lying there"
with dropsy in his legs must come to feel that blood was thicker
than water, and if he didn't alter his will, he might have money
by him. At any rate some blood-relations should be on the premises
and on the watch against those who were hardly relations at all.
Such things had been known as forged wills and disputed wills,
which seemed to have the golden-hazy advantage of somehow enabling
non-legatees to live out of them. Again, those who were no
blood-relations might be caught making away with things--and poor
Peter "lying there" helpless! Somebody should be on the watch.
But in this conclusion they were at one with Solomon and Jane;
also, some nephews, nieces, and cousins, arguing with still greater
subtilty as to what might be done by a man able to "will away"
his property and give himself large treats of oddity, felt in a handsome
sort of way that there was a family interest to be attended to,
and thought of Stone Court as a place which it would be nothing
but right for them to visit. Sister Martha, otherwise Mrs. Cranch,
living with some wheeziness in the Chalky Flats, could not undertake
the journey; but her son, as being poor Peter's own nephew,
could represent her advantageously, and watch lest his uncle Jonah
should make an unfair use of the improbable things which seemed
likely to happen. In fact there was a general sense running in
the Featherstone blood that everybody must watch everybody else,
and that it would be well for everybody else to reflect that the
Almighty was watching him.
Thus Stone Court continually saw one or other blood-relation
alighting or departing, and Mary Garth had the unpleasant task
of carrying their messages to Mr. Featherstone, who would see
none of them, and sent her down with the still more unpleasant
task of telling them so. As manager of the household she felt
bound to ask them in good provincial fashion to stay and eat;
but she chose to consult Mrs. Vincy on the point of extra
down-stairs consumption now that Mr. Featherstone was laid up.
"Oh, my dear, you must do things handsomely where there's last
illness and a property. God knows, I don't grudge them every ham
in the house--only, save the best for the funeral. Have some stuffed
veal always, and a fine cheese in cut. You must expect to keep
open house in these last illnesses," said liberal Mrs. Vincy,
once more of cheerful note and bright plumage.
But some of the visitors alighted and did not depart after the handsome
treating to veal and ham. Brother Jonah, for example (there are
such unpleasant people in most families; perhaps even in the highest
aristocracy there are Brobdingnag specimens, gigantically in debt
and bloated at greater expense)--Brother Jonah, I say, having come
down in the world, was mainly supported by a calling which he was
modest enough not to boast of, though it was much better than swindling
either on exchange or turf, but which did not require his presence
at Brassing so long as he had a good corner to sit in and a supply
of food. He chose the kitchen-corner, partly because he liked
it best, and partly because he did not want to sit with Solomon,
concerning whom he had a strong brotherly opinion. Seated in a famous
arm-chair and in his best suit, constantly within sight of good cheer,
he had a comfortable consciousness of being on the premises,
mingled with fleeting suggestions of Sunday and the bar at the Green Man;
and he informed Mary Garth that he should not go out of reach of his
brother Peter while that poor fellow was above ground. The troublesome
ones in a family are usually either the wits or the idiots.
Jonah was the wit among the Featherstones, and joked with the maidservants
when they came about the hearth, but seemed to consider
Miss Garth a suspicious character, and followed her with cold eyes.
Mary would have borne this one pair of eyes with comparative ease,
but unfortunately there was young Cranch, who, having come all
the way from the Chalky Flats to represent his mother and watch
his uncle Jonah, also felt it his duty to stay and to sit chiefly
in the kitchen to give his uncle company. Young Cranch was not
exactly the balancing point between the wit and the idiot,--
verging slightly towards the latter type, and squinting so as to
leave everything in doubt about his sentiments except that they
were not of a forcible character. When Mary Garth entered the
kitchen and Mr. Jonah Featherstone began to follow her with his cold
detective eyes, young Cranch turning his head in the same direction
seemed to insist on it that she should remark how he was squinting,
as if he did it with design, like the gypsies when Borrow read
the New Testament to them. This was rather too much for poor Mary;
sometimes it made her bilious, sometimes it upset her gravity.
One day that she had an opportunity she could not resist describing
the kitchen scene to Fred, who would not be hindered from
immediately going to see it, affecting simply to pass through.
But no sooner did he face the four eyes than he had to rush through
the nearest door which happened to lead to the dairy, and there
under the high roof and among the pans he gave way to laughter
which made a hollow resonance perfectly audible in the kitchen.
He fled by another doorway, but Mr. Jonah, who had not before seen
Fred's white complexion, long legs, and pinched delicacy of face,
prepared many sarcasms in which these points of appearance were
wittily combined with the lowest moral attributes.
"Why, Tom, YOU don't wear such gentlemanly trousers--
you haven't got half such fine long legs," said Jonah to his nephew,
winking at the same time, to imply that there was something more in
these statements than their undeniableness. Tom looked at his legs,
but left it uncertain whether he preferred his moral advantages
to a more vicious length of limb and reprehensible gentility of trouser.
In the large wainscoted parlor too there were constantly pairs
of eyes on the watch, and own relatives eager to be "sitters-up."
Many came, lunched, and departed, but Brother Solomon and the lady
who had been Jane Featherstone for twenty-five years before she
was Mrs. Waule found it good to be there every day for hoars,
without other calculable occupation than that of observing the
cunning Mary Garth (who was so deep that she could be found out
in nothing) and giving occasional dry wrinkly indications of crying--
as if capable of torrents in a wetter season--at the thought
that they were not allowed to go into Mr. Featherstone's room.
For the old man's dislike of his own family seemed to get stronger
as he got less able to amuse himself by saying biting things to them.
Too languid to sting, he had the more venom refluent in his blood.
Not fully believing the message sent through Mary Garth, they had
presented themselves together within the door of the bedroom,
both in black--Mrs. Waule having a white handkerchief partially unfolded
in her hand--and both with faces in a sort of half-mourning purple;
while Mrs. Vincy with her pink cheeks and pink ribbons flying
was actually administering a cordial to their own brother,
and the light-complexioned Fred, his short hair curling as might
be expected in a gambler's, was lolling at his ease in a large chair.
Old Featherstone no sooner caught sight of these funereal figures
appearing in spite of his orders than rage came to strengthen
him more successfully than the cordial. He was propped up on
a bed-rest, and always had his gold-headed stick lying by him.
He seized it now and swept it backwards and forwards in as large
an area as he could, apparently to ban these ugly spectres,
crying in a hoarse sort of screech--
"Back, back, Mrs. Waule! Back, Solomon!"
"Oh, Brother. Peter," Mrs. Waule began--but Solomon put his hand
before her repressingly. He was a large-cheeked man, nearly seventy,
with small furtive eyes, and was not only of much blander temper but
thought himself much deeper than his brother Peter; indeed not likely
to be deceived in any of his fellow-men, inasmuch as they could not
well be more greedy and deceitful than he suspected them of being.
Even the invisible powers, he thought, were likely to be soothed
by a bland parenthesis here and there--coming from a man of property,
who might have been as impious as others.
"Brother Peter," he said, in a wheedling yet gravely official tone,
"It's nothing but right I should speak to you about the Three Crofts
and the Manganese. The Almighty knows what I've got on my mind--"
"Then he knows more than I want to know," said Peter, laying down
his stick with a show of truce which had a threat in it too,
for he reversed the stick so as to make the gold handle a club
in case of closer fighting, and looked hard at Solomon's bald head.
"There's things you might repent of, Brother, for want of speaking
to me," said Solomon, not advancing, however. "I could sit up
with you to-night, and Jane with me, willingly, and you might take
your own time to speak, or let me speak."
"Yes, I shall take my own time--you needn't offer me yours,"
said Peter.
"But you can't take your own time to die in, Brother," began Mrs. Waule,
with her usual woolly tone. "And when you lie speechless you may
be tired of having strangers about you, and you may think of me
and my children"--but here her voice broke under the touching
thought which she was attributing to her speechless brother;
the mention of ourselves being naturally affecting.
"No, I shan't," said old Featherstone, contradictiously.
"I shan't think of any of you. I've made my will, I tell you,
I've made my will." Here he turned his head towards Mrs. Vincy,
and swallowed some more of his cordial.
"Some people would be ashamed to fill up a place belonging by rights to
others," said Mrs. Waule, turning her narrow eyes in the same direction.
"Oh, sister," said Solomon, with ironical softness, "you and me
are not fine, and handsome, and clever enough: we must be humble
and let smart people push themselves before us."
Fred's spirit could not bear this: rising and looking
at Mr. Featherstone, he said, "Shall my mother
and I leave the room, sir, that you may be alone with your friends?"
"Sit down, I tell you," said old Featherstone, snappishly.
"Stop where you are. Good-by, Solomon," he added, trying to wield
his stick again, but failing now that he had reversed the handle.
"Good-by, Mrs. Waule. Don't you come again."
"I shall be down-stairs, Brother, whether or no," said Solomon.
"I shall do my duty, and it remains to be seen what the Almighty
will allow."
"Yes, in property going out of families," said Mrs. Waule,
in continuation,--"and where there's steady young men to carry on.
But I pity them who are not such, and I pity their mothers.
Good-by, Brother Peter."
"Remember, I'm the eldest after you, Brother, and prospered from
the first, just as you did, and have got land already by the name
of Featherstone," said Solomon, relying much on that reflection,
as one which might be suggested in the watches of the night.
"But I bid you good-by for the present."
Their exit was hastened by their seeing old Mr. Featherstone pull his
wig on each side and shut his eyes with his mouth-widening grimace,
as if he were determined to be deaf and blind.
None the less they came to Stone Court daily and sat below at the post
of duty, sometimes carrying on a slow dialogue in an undertone in which
the observation and response were so far apart, that any one hearing
them might have imagined himself listening to speaking automata,
in some doubt whether the ingenious mechanism would really work,
or wind itself up for a long time in order to stick and be silent.
Solomon and Jane would have been sorry to be quick: what that led
to might be seen on the other side of the wall in the person
of Brother Jonah.
But their watch in the wainscoted parlor was sometimes varied
by the presence of other guests from far or near. Now that Peter
Featherstone was up-stairs, his property could be discussed with
all that local enlightenment to be found on the spot: some rural
and Middlemarch neighbors expressed much agreement with the family
and sympathy with their interest against the Vincys, and feminine
visitors were even moved to tears, in conversation with Mrs. Waule,
when they recalled the fact that they themselves had been disappointed
in times past by codicils and marriages for spite on the part
of ungrateful elderly gentlemen, who, it might have been supposed,
had been spared for something better. Such conversation paused suddenly,
like an organ when the bellows are let drop, if Mary Garth came into
the room; and all eyes were turned on her as a possible legatee,
or one who might get access to iron chests.
But the younger men who were relatives or connections of the family,
were disposed to admire her in this problematic light, as a girl
who showed much conduct, and who among all the chances that were
flying might turn out to be at least a moderate prize. Hence she
had her share of compliments and polite attentions.
Especially from Mr. Borthrop Trumbull, a distinguished bachelor
and auctioneer of those parts, much concerned in the sale of land
and cattle: a public character, indeed, whose name was seen on widely
distributed placards, and who might reasonably be sorry for those who
did not know of him. He was second cousin to Peter Featherstone,
and had been treated by him with more amenity than any other relative,
being useful in matters of business; and in that programme of his
funeral which the old man had himself dictated, he had been named
as a Bearer. There was no odious cupidity in Mr. Borthrop Trumbull--
nothing more than a sincere sense of his own merit, which, he was aware,
in case of rivalry might tell against competitors; so that if Peter
Featherstone, who so far as he, Trumbull, was concerned, had behaved
like as good a soul as ever breathed, should have done anything handsome
by him, all he could say was, that he had never fished and fawned,
but had advised him to the best of his experience, which now extended
over twenty years from the time of his apprenticeship at fifteen,
and was likely to yield a knowledge of no surreptitious kind.
His admiration was far from being confined to himself, but was
accustomed professionally as well as privately to delight in estimating
things at a high rate. He was an amateur of superior phrases,
and never used poor language without immediately correcting himself--
which was fortunate, as he was rather loud, and given to predominate,
standing or walking about frequently, pulling down his waistcoat
with the air of a man who is very much of his own opinion,
trimming himself rapidly with his fore-finger, and marking each new
series in these movements by a busy play with his large seals.
There was occasionally a little fierceness in his demeanor,
but it was directed chiefly against false opinion, of which there
is so much to correct in the world that a man of some reading
and experience necessarily has his patience tried. He felt that
the Featherstone family generally was of limited understanding,
but being a man of the world and a public character, took everything
as a matter of course, and even went to converse with Mr. Jonah
and young Cranch in the kitchen, not doubting that he had impressed
the latter greatly by his leading questions concerning the
Chalky Flats. If anybody had observed that Mr. Borthrop Trumbull,
being an auctioneer, was bound to know the nature of everything,
he would have smiled and trimmed himself silently with the sense
that he came pretty near that. On the whole, in an auctioneering way,
he was an honorable man, not ashamed of his business, and feeling
that "the celebrated Peel, now Sir Robert," if introduced to him,
would not fail to recognize his importance.
"I don't mind if I have a slice of that ham, and a glass of that ale,
Miss Garth, if you will allow me," he said, coming into the parlor
at half-past eleven, after having had the exceptional privilege
of seeing old Featherstone, and standing with his back to the fire
between Mrs. Waule and Solomon.
"It's not necessary for you to go out;--let me ring the bell."
"Thank you," said Mary, "I have an errand."
"Well, Mr. Trumbull, you're highly favored," said Mrs. Waule.
"What! seeing the old man?" said the auctioneer, playing with his seals
dispassionately. "Ah, you see he has relied on me considerably."
Here he pressed his lips together, and frowned meditatively.
"Might anybody ask what their brother has been saying?" said Solomon,
in a soft tone of humility, in which he had a sense of luxurious cunning,
he being a rich man and not in need of it.
"Oh yes, anybody may ask," said Mr. Trumbull, with loud and
good-humored though cutting sarcasm. "Anybody may interrogate.
Any one may give their remarks an interrogative turn," he continued,
his sonorousness rising with his style. "This is constantly done
by good speakers, even when they anticipate no answer. It is what we
call a figure of speech--speech at a high figure, as one may say."
The eloquent auctioneer smiled at his own ingenuity.
"I shouldn't be sorry to hear he'd remembered you, Mr. Trumbull,"
said Solomon. "I never was against the deserving. It's the
undeserving I'm against."
"Ah, there it is, you see, there it is," said Mr. Trumbull,
significantly. "It can't be denied that undeserving people have
been legatees, and even residuary legatees. It is so, with testamentary
dispositions." Again he pursed up his lips and frowned a little.
"Do you mean to say for certain, Mr. Trumbull, that my brother has
left his land away from our family?" said Mrs. Waule, on whom,
as an unhopeful woman, those long words had a depressing effect.
"A man might as well turn his land into charity land at once as
leave it to some people," observed Solomon, his sister's question
having drawn no answer.
"What, Blue-Coat land?" said Mrs. Waule, again. "Oh, Mr. Trumbull,
you never can mean to say that. It would be flying in the face
of the Almighty that's prospered him."
While Mrs. Waule was speaking, Mr. Borthrop Trumbull walked
away from the fireplace towards the window, patrolling with
his fore-finger round the inside of his stock, then along his
whiskers and the curves of his hair. He now walked to Miss
Garth's work-table, opened a book which lay there and read
the title aloud with pompous emphasis as if he were offering it for sale:
"`Anne of Geierstein' (pronounced Jeersteen) or the `Maiden
of the Mist, by the author of Waverley.'" Then turning the page,
he began sonorously--"The course of four centuries has well-nigh
elapsed since the series of events which are related in the
following chapters took place on the Continent." He pronounced
the last truly admirable word with the accent on the last syllable,
not as unaware of vulgar usage, but feeling that this novel delivery
enhanced the sonorous beauty which his reading had given to the whole.
And now the servant came in with the tray, so that the moments
for answering Mrs. Waule's question had gone by safely, while she
and Solomon, watching Mr. Trumbull's movements, were thinking that
high learning interfered sadly with serious affairs. Mr. Borthrop
Trumbull really knew nothing about old Featherstone's will;
but he could hardly have been brought to declare any ignorance
unless he had been arrested for misprision of treason.
"I shall take a mere mouthful of ham and a glass of ale,"
he said, reassuringly. "As a man with public business, I take a snack
when I can. I will back this ham," he added, after swallowing some
morsels with alarming haste, "against any ham in the three kingdoms.
In my opinion it is better than the hams at Freshitt Hall--
and I think I am a tolerable judge."
"Some don't like so much sugar in their hams," said Mrs. Waule.
"But my poor brother would always have sugar."
"If any person demands better, he is at liberty to do so;
but, God bless me, what an aroma! I should be glad to buy in
that quality, I know. There is some gratification to a gentleman"--
here Mr. Trumbull's voice conveyed an emotional remonstrance--
"in having this kind of ham set on his table."
He pushed aside his plate, poured out his glass of ale and drew
his chair a little forward, profiting by the occasion to look
at the inner side of his legs, which he stroked approvingly--
Mr. Trumbull having all those less frivolous airs and gestures
which distinguish the predominant races of the north.
"You have an interesting work there, I see, Miss Garth," he observed,
when Mary re-entered. "It is by the author of `Waverley': that
is Sir Walter Scott. I have bought one of his works myself--
a very nice thing, a very superior publication, entitled `Ivanhoe.'
You will not get any writer to beat him in a hurry, I think--
he will not, in my opinion, be speedily surpassed. I have just been
reading a portion at the commencement of `Anne of Jeersteen.'
It commences well." (Things never began with Mr. Borthrop Trumbull:
they al ways commenced, both in private life and on his handbills.)
"You are a reader, I see. Do you subscribe to our Middlemarch library?"
"No," said Mary. "Mr. Fred Vincy brought this book."
"I am a great bookman myself," returned Mr. Trumbull.
"I have no less than two hundred volumes in calf, and I
flatter myself they are well selected. Also pictures
by Murillo, Rubens, Teniers, Titian, Vandyck, and others.
I shall be happy to lend you any work you like to mention, Miss Garth."
"I am much obliged," said Mary, hastening away again, "but I have
little time for reading."
"I should say my brother has done something for HER in his will,"
said Mr. Solomon, in a very low undertone, when she had shut the door
behind her, pointing with his head towards the absent Mary.
"His first wife was a poor match for him, though," said Mrs. Waule.
"She brought him nothing: and this young woman is only her niece,--
and very proud. And my brother has always paid her wage."
"A sensible girl though, in my opinion," said Mr. Trumbull, finishing his
ale and starting up with an emphatic adjustment of his waistcoat.
"I have observed her when she has been mixing medicine in drops.
She minds what she is doing, sir. That is a great point in a woman,
and a great point for our friend up-stairs, poor dear old soul.
A man whose life is of any value should think of his wife as a nurse:
that is what I should do, if I married; and I believe I have lived
single long enough not to make a mistake in that line. Some men
must marry to elevate themselves a little, but when I am in need
of that, I hope some one will tell me so--I hope some individual
will apprise me of the fact. I wish you good morning, Mrs. Waule.
Good morning, Mr. Solomon. I trust we shall meet under less
melancholy auspices."
When Mr. Trumbull had departed with a fine bow, Solomon,
leaning forward, observed to his sister, "You may depend,
Jane, my brother has left that girl a lumping sum."
"Anybody would think so, from the way Mr. Trumbull talks,"
said Jane. Then, after a pause, "He talks as if my daughters
wasn't to be trusted to give drops."
"Auctioneers talk wild," said Solomon. "Not but what Trumbull has
made money."
"Close up his eyes and draw the curtain close;
And let us all to meditation."
--2 Henry VI.
That night after twelve o'clock Mary Garth relieved the watch in
Mr. Featherstone's room, and sat there alone through the small hours.
She often chose this task, in which she found some pleasure,
notwithstanding the old man's testiness whenever he demanded
her attentions. There were intervals in which she could sit
perfectly still, enjoying the outer stillness and the subdued light.
The red fire with its gently audible movement seemed like a solemn
existence calmly independent of the petty passions, the imbecile desires,
the straining after worthless uncertainties, which were daily moving
her contempt. Mary was fond of her own thoughts, and could amuse
herself well sitting in twilight with her hands in her lap; for,
having early had strong reason to believe that things were not likely
to be arranged for her peculiar satisfaction, she wasted no time
in astonishment and annoyance at that fact. And she had already
come to take life very much as a comedy in which she had a proud,
nay, a generous resolution not to act the mean or treacherous part.
Mary might have become cynical if she had not had parents whom
she honored, and a well of affectionate gratitude within her, which
was all the fuller because she had learned to make no unreasonable claims.
She sat to-night revolving, as she was wont, the scenes of the day,
her lips often curling with amusement at the oddities to which her fancy
added fresh drollery: people were so ridiculous with their illusions,
carrying their fool's caps unawares, thinking their own lies
opaque while everybody else's were transparent, making themselves
exceptions to everything, as if when all the world looked yellow
under a lamp they alone were rosy. Yet there were some illusions
under Mary's eyes which were not quite comic to her. She was
secretly convinced, though she had no other grounds than her close
observation of old Featherstone's nature, that in spite of his
fondness for having the Vincys about him, they were as likely to be
disappointed as any of the relations whom he kept at a distance.
She had a good deal of disdain for Mrs. Vincy's evident alarm lest
she and Fred should be alone together, but it did not hinder her
from thinking anxiously of the way in which Fred would be affected,
if it should turn out that his uncle had left him as poor as ever.
She could make a butt of Fred when he was present, but she did
not enjoy his follies when he was absent.
Yet she liked her thoughts: a vigorous young mind not overbalanced
by passion, finds a good in making acquaintance with life, and watches
its own powers with interest. Mary had plenty of merriment within.
Her thought was not veined by any solemnity or pathos about
the old man on the bed: such sentiments are easier to affect
than to feel about an aged creature whose life is not visibly
anything but a remnant of vices. She had always seen the most
disagreeable side of Mr. Featherstone. he was not proud of her,
and she was only useful to him. To be anxious about a soul that is
always snapping at you must be left to the saints of the earth;
and Mary was not one of them. She had never returned him a
harsh word, and had waited on him faithfully: that was her utmost.
Old Featherstone himself was not in the least anxious about his soul,
and had declined to see Mr. Tucker on the subject.
To-night he had not snapped, and for the first hour or two he lay
remarkably still, until at last Mary heard him rattling his bunch of
keys against the tin box which he always kept in the bed beside him.
About three o'clock he said, with remarkable distinctness,
"Missy, come here!"
Mary obeyed, and found that he had already drawn the tin box
from under the clothes, though he usually asked to have this done
for him; and he had selected the key. He now unlocked the box,
and, drawing from it another key, looked straight at her with eyes
that seemed to have recovered all their sharpness and said,
"How many of 'em are in the house?"
"You mean of your own relations, sir," said Mary, well used
to the old man's way of speech. He nodded slightly and she went on.
"Mr. Jonah Featherstone and young Cranch are sleeping here."
"Oh ay, they stick, do they? and the rest--they come every day,
I'll warrant--Solomon and Jane, and all the young uns?
They come peeping, and counting and casting up?"
"Not all of them every day. Mr. Solomon and Mrs. Waule are here
every day, and the others come often."
The old man listened with a grimace while she spoke, and then said,
relaxing his face, "The more fools they. You hearken, missy.
It's three o'clock in the morning, and I've got all my faculties
as well as ever I had in my life. I know all my property,
and where the money's put out, and everything. And I've made
everything ready to change my mind, and do as I like at the last.
Do you hear, missy? I've got my faculties."
"Well, sir?" said Mary, quietly.
He now lowered his tone with an air of deeper cunning. "I've made
two wills, and I'm going to burn one. Now you do as I tell you.
This is the key of my iron chest, in the closet there. You push well
at the side of the brass plate at the top, till it goes like a bolt:
then you can put the key in the front lock and turn it. See and
do that; and take out the topmost paper--Last Will and Testament--
big printed."
"No, sir," said Mary, in a firm voice, "I cannot do that."
"Not do it? I tell you, you must," said the old man, his voice
beginning to shake under the shock of this resistance.
"I cannot touch your iron chest or your will. I must refuse to do
anything that might lay me open to suspicion."
"I tell you, I'm in my right mind. Shan't I do as I like at the last?
I made two wills on purpose. Take the key, I say."
"No, sir, I will not," said Mary, more resolutely still.
Her repulsion was getting stronger.
"I tell you, there's no time to lose."
"I cannot help that, sir. I will not let the close of your life
soil the beginning of mine. I will not touch your iron chest
or your will." She moved to a little distance from the bedside.
The old man paused with a blank stare for a little while, holding the
one key erect on the ring; then with an agitated jerk he began
to work with his bony left hand at emptying the tin box before him.
"Missy," he began to say, hurriedly, "look here! take the money--
the notes and gold--look here--take it--you shall have it all--
do as I tell you."
He made an effort to stretch out the key towards her as far
as possible, and Mary again retreated.
"I will not touch your key or your money, sir. Pray don't ask me
to do it again. If you do, I must go and call your brother."
He let his hand fall, and for the first time in her life Mary
saw old Peter Featherstone begin to cry childishly. She said,
in as gentle a tone as she could command, "Pray put up your money,
sir;" and then went away to her seat by the fire, hoping this
would help to convince him that it was useless to say more.
Presently he rallied and said eagerly--
"Look here, then. Call the young chap. Call Fred Vincy."
Mary's heart began to beat more quickly. Various ideas rushed
through her mind as to what the burning of a second will might imply.
She had to make a difficult decision in a hurry.
"I will call him, if you will let me call Mr. Jonah and others
with him."
"Nobody else, I say. The young chap. I shall do as I like."
"Wait till broad daylight, sir, when every one is stirring.
Or let me call Simmons now, to go and fetch the lawyer? He can be
here in less than two hours."
"Lawyer? What do I want with the lawyer? Nobody shall know--I say,
nobody shall know. I shall do as I like."
"Let me call some one else, sir," said Mary, persuasively. She did
not like her position--alone with the old man, who seemed to show
a strange flaring of nervous energy which enabled him to speak again
and again without falling into his usual cough; yet she desired
not to push unnecessarily the contradiction which agitated him.
"Let me, pray, call some one else."
"You let me alone, I say. Look here, missy. Take the money.
You'll never have the chance again. It's pretty nigh two hundred--
there's more in the box, and nobody knows how much there was.
Take it and do as I tell you."
Mary, standing by the fire, saw its red light falling on the old man,
propped up on his pillows and bed-rest, with his bony hand holding
out the key, and the money lying on the quilt before him. She never
forgot that vision of a man wanting to do as he liked at the last.
But the way in which he had put the offer of the money urged her to
speak with harder resolution than ever.
"It is of no use, sir. I will not do it. Put up your money.
I will not touch your money. I will do anything else I can to
comfort you; but I will not touch your keys or your money."
"Anything else anything else!" said old Featherstone, with hoarse
rage, which, as if in a nightmare, tried to be loud, and yet was
only just audible. "I want nothing else. You come here--you come here."
Mary approached him cautiously, knowing him too well. She saw him
dropping his keys and trying to grasp his stick, while he looked
at her like an aged hyena, the muscles of his face getting distorted
with the effort of his hand. She paused at a safe distance.
"Let me give you some cordial," she said, quietly, "and try to
compose yourself. You will perhaps go to sleep. And to-morrow
by daylight you can do as you like."
He lifted the stick, in spite of her being beyond his reach,
and threw it with a hard effort which was but impotence.
It fell, slipping over the foot of the bed. Mary let it lie,
and retreated to her chair by the fire. By-and-by she would
go to him with the cordial. Fatigue would make him passive.
It was getting towards the chillest moment of the morning,
the fire had got low, and she could see through the chink between
the moreen window-curtains the light whitened by the blind.
Having put some wood on the fire and thrown a shawl over her,
she sat down, hoping that Mr. Featherstone might now fall asleep.
If she went near him the irritation might be kept up. He had said
nothing after throwing the stick, but she had seen him taking
his keys again and laying his right hand on the money. He did
not put it up, however, and she thought that he was dropping off
to sleep.
But Mary herself began to be more agitated by the remembrance
of what she had gone through, than she had been by the reality--
questioning those acts of hers which had come imperatively and
excluded all question in the critical moment.
Presently the dry wood sent out a flame which illuminated every crevice,
and Mary saw that the old man was lying quietly with his head turned
a little on one side. She went towards him with inaudible steps,
and thought that his face looked strangely motionless; but the next
moment the movement of the flame communicating itself to all objects
made her uncertain. The violent beating of her heart rendered
her perceptions so doubtful that even when she touched him and
listened for his breathing, she could not trust her conclusions.
She went to the window and gently propped aside the curtain and blind,
so that the still light of the sky fell on the bed.
The next moment she ran to the bell and rang it energetically.
In a very little while there was no longer any doubt that Peter
Featherstone was dead, with his right hand clasping the keys,
and his left hand lying on the heap of notes and gold.
1st Gent. Such men as this are feathers, chips, and straws.
Carry no weight, no force.
2d Gent. But levity
Is causal too, and makes the sum of weight.
For power finds its place in lack of power;
Advance is cession, and the driven ship
May run aground because the helmsman's thought
Lacked force to balance opposites."
It was on a morning of May that Peter Featherstone was buried.
In the prosaic neighborhood of Middlemarch, May was not always warm
and sunny, and on this particular morning a chill wind was blowing
the blossoms from the surrounding gardens on to the green mounds
of Lowick churchyard. Swiftly moving clouds only now and then
allowed a gleam to light up any object, whether ugly or beautiful,
that happened to stand within its golden shower. In the churchyard
the objects were remarkably various, for there was a little country
crowd waiting to see the funeral. The news had spread that it
was to be a "big burying;" the old gentleman had left written
directions about everything and meant to have a funeral "beyond
his betters." This was true; for old Featherstone had not been
a Harpagon whose passions had all been devoured by the ever-lean
and ever-hungry passion of saving, and who would drive a bargain
with his undertaker beforehand. He loved money, but he also
loved to spend it in gratifying his peculiar tastes, and perhaps
he loved it best of all as a means of making others feel his
power more or less uncomfortably. If any one will here contend
that there must have been traits of goodness in old Featherstone,
I will not presume to deny this; but I must observe that goodness
is of a modest nature, easily discouraged, and when much privacy,
elbowed in early life by unabashed vices, is apt to retire into
extreme privacy, so that it is more easily believed in by those who
construct a selfish old gentleman theoretically, than by those who
form the narrower judgments based on his personal acquaintance.
In any case, he had been bent on having a handsome funeral, and on
having persons "bid" to it who would rather have stayed at home.
He had even desired that female relatives should follow him to
the grave, and poor sister Martha had taken a difficult journey
for this purpose from the Chalky Flats. She and Jane would have
been altogether cheered (in a tearful manner) by this sign that
a brother who disliked seeing them while he was living had been
prospectively fond of their presence when he should have become
a testator, if the sign had not been made equivocal by being extended
to Mrs. Vincy, whose expense in handsome crape seemed to imply
the most presumptuous hopes, aggravated by a bloom of complexion
which told pretty plainly that she was not a blood-relation,
but of that generally objectionable class called wife's kin.
We are all of us imaginative in some form or other, for images
are the brood of desire; and poor old Featherstone, who laughed
much at the way in which others cajoled themselves, did not escape
the fellowship of illusion. In writing the programme for his burial
he certainly did not make clear to himself that his pleasure in the
little drama of which it formed a part was confined to anticipation.
In chuckling over the vexations he could inflict by the rigid clutch
of his dead hand, he inevitably mingled his consciousness with that
livid stagnant presence, and so far as he was preoccupied with a
future life, it was with one of gratification inside his coffin.
Thus old Featherstone was imaginative, after his fashion.
However, the three mourning-coaches were filled according to the
written orders of the deceased. There were pall-bearers on horseback,
with the richest scarfs and hatbands, and even the under-bearers
had trappings of woe which were of a good well-priced quality.
The black procession, when dismounted, looked the larger for
the smallness of the churchyard; the heavy human faces and the
black draperies shivering in the wind seemed to tell of a world
strangely incongruous with the lightly dropping blossoms and
the gleams of sunshine on the daisies. The clergyman who met
the procession was Mr. Cadwallader--also according to the request
of Peter Featherstone, prompted as usual by peculiar reasons.
Having a contempt for curates, whom he always called understrappers,
he was resolved to be buried by a beneficed clergyman. Mr. Casaubon
was out of the question, not merely because he declined duty
of this sort, but because Featherstone had an especial dislike
to him as the rector of his own parish, who had a lien on the land
in the shape of tithe, also as the deliverer of morning sermons,
which the old man, being in his pew and not at all sleepy,
had been obliged to sit through with an inward snarl. He had an
objection to a parson stuck up above his head preaching to him.
But his relations with Mr. Cadwallader had been of a different kind:
the trout-stream which ran through Mr. Casaubon's land took its course
through Featherstone's also, so that Mr. Cadwallader was a parson
who had had to ask a favor instead of preaching. Moreover, he was
one of the high gentry living four miles away from Lowick, and was
thus exalted to an equal sky with the sheriff of the county and other
dignities vaguely regarded as necessary to the system of things.
There would be a satisfaction in being buried by Mr. Cadwallader,
whose very name offered a fine opportunity for pronouncing wrongly
if you liked.
This distinction conferred on the Rector of Tipton and Freshitt was
the reason why Mrs. Cadwallader made one of the group that watched
old Featherstone's funeral from an upper window of the manor.
She was not fond of visiting that house, but she liked, as she said,
to see collections of strange animals such as there would be at
this funeral; and she had persuaded Sir James and the young Lady
Chettam to drive the Rector and herself to Lowick in order that the
visit might be altogether pleasant.
"I will go anywhere with you, Mrs. Cadwallader," Celia had said;
"but I don't like funerals."
"Oh, my dear, when you have a clergyman in your family you must
accommodate your tastes: I did that very early. When I married
Humphrey I made up my mind to like sermons, and I set out by liking
the end very much. That soon spread to the middle and the beginning,
because I couldn't have the end without them."
"No, to be sure not," said the Dowager Lady Chettam,
with stately emphasis.
The upper window from which the funeral could be well seen was in the
room occupied by Mr. Casaubon when he had been forbidden to work;
but he had resumed nearly his habitual style of life now in spite
of warnings and prescriptions, and after politely welcoming
Mrs. Cadwallader had slipped again into the library to chew a cud
of erudite mistake about Cush and Mizraim.
But for her visitors Dorothea too might have been shut up in the library,
and would not have witnessed this scene of old Featherstone's
funeral, which, aloof as it seemed to be from the tenor of her life,
always afterwards came back to her at the touch of certain sensitive
points in memory, just as the vision of St. Peter's at Rome
was inwoven with moods of despondency. Scenes which make vital
changes in our neighbors' lot are but the background of our own,
yet, like a particular aspect of the fields and trees, they become
associated for us with the epochs of our own history, and make a part
of that unity which lies in the selection of our keenest consciousness.
The dream-like association of something alien and ill-understood
with the deepest secrets of her experience seemed to mirror that sense
of loneliness which was due to the very ardor of Dorothea's nature.
The country gentry of old time lived in a rarefied social air:
dotted apart on their stations up the mountain they looked down
with imperfect discrimination on the belts of thicker life below.
And Dorothea was not at ease in the perspective and chilliness of
that height.
"I shall not look any more," said Celia, after the train had entered
the church, placing herself a little behind her husband's elbow
so that she could slyly touch his coat with her cheek. "I dare say
Dodo likes it: she is fond of melancholy things and ugly people."
"I am fond of knowing something about the people I live among,"
said Dorothea, who had been watching everything with the
interest of a monk on his holiday tour. "It seems to me
we know nothing of our neighbors, unless they are cottagers.
One is constantly wondering what sort of lives other people lead,
and how they take things. I am quite obliged to Mrs. Cadwallader
for coming and calling me out of the library."
"Quite right to feel obliged to me," said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"Your rich Lowick farmers are as curious as any buffaloes or bisons,
and I dare say you don't half see them at church. They are quite
different from your uncle's tenants or Sir James's--monsters--
farmers without landlords--one can't tell how to class them."
"Most of these followers are not Lowick people," said Sir James;
"I suppose they are legatees from a distance, or from Middlemarch.
Lovegood tells me the old fellow has left a good deal of money as well
as land."
"Think of that now! when so many younger sons can't dine at
their own expense," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "Ah," turning round
at the sound of the opening door, "here is Mr. Brooke. I felt
that we were incomplete before, and here is the explanation.
You are come to see this odd funeral, of course?"
"No, I came to look after Casaubon--to see how he goes on,
you know. And to bring a little news--a little news, my dear,"
said Mr. Brooke, nodding at Dorothea as she came towards him.
"I looked into the library, and I saw Casaubon over his books.
I told him it wouldn't do: I said, `This will never do, you know:
think of your wife, Casaubon.' And he promised me to come up. I didn't
tell him my news: I said, he must come up."
"Ah, now they are coming out of church," Mrs. Cadwallader exclaimed.
"Dear me, what a wonderfully mixed set! Mr. Lydgate as doctor,
I suppose. But that is really a good looking woman, and the fair
young man must be her son. Who are they, Sir James, do you know?"
"I see Vincy, the Mayor of Middlemarch; they are probably his wife
and son," said Sir James, looking interrogatively at Mr. Brooke,
who nodded and said--
"Yes, a very decent family--a very good fellow is Vincy; a credit
to the manufacturing interest. You have seen him at my house,
you know."
"Ah, yes: one of your secret committee," said Mrs. Cadwallader,
"A coursing fellow, though," said Sir James, with a fox-hunter's disgust.
"And one of those who suck the life out of the wretched handloom
weavers in Tipton and Freshitt. That is how his family look so fair
and sleek," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "Those dark, purple-faced people
are an excellent foil. Dear me, they are like a set of jugs!
Do look at Humphrey: one might fancy him an ugly archangel towering
above them in his white surplice."
"It's a solemn thing, though, a funeral," said Mr. Brooke, "if you
take it in that light, you know."
"But I am not taking it in that light. I can't wear my solemnity
too often, else it will go to rags. It was time the old man died,
and none of these people are sorry."
"How piteous!" said Dorothea. "This funeral seems to me the most
dismal thing I ever saw. It is a blot on the morning I cannot
bear to think that any one should die and leave no love behind."
She was going to say more, but she saw her husband enter and seat
himself a little in the background. The difference his presence
made to her was not always a happy one: she felt that he often
inwardly objected to her speech.
"Positively," exclaimed Mrs. Cadwallader, "there is a new face
come out from behind that broad man queerer than any of them:
a little round head with bulging eyes--a sort of frog-face--do look.
He must be of another blood, I think."
"Let me see!" said Celia, with awakened curiosity, standing behind Mrs.
Cadwallader and leaning forward over her head. "Oh, what an odd face!"
Then with a quick change to another sort of surprised expression, she
added, "Why, Dodo, you never told me that Mr. Ladislaw was come again!"
Dorothea felt a shock of alarm: every one noticed her sudden paleness
as she looked up immediately at her uncle, while Mr. Casaubon
looked at her.
"He came with me, you know; he is my guest--puts up with me at
the Grange," said Mr. Brooke, in his easiest tone, nodding at Dorothea,
as if the announcement were just what she might have expected.
"And we have brought the picture at the top of the carriage.
I knew you would be pleased with the surprise, Casaubon. There you
are to the very life--as Aquinas, you know. Quite the right sort
of thing. And you will hear young Ladislaw talk about it.
He talks uncommonly well--points out this, that, and the other--
knows art and everything of that kind--companionable, you know--is up
with you in any track--what I've been wanting a long while."
Mr. Casaubon bowed with cold politeness, mastering his irritation,
but only so far as to be silent. He remembered Will's letter
quite as well as Dorothea did; he had noticed that it was not
among the letters which had been reserved for him on his recovery,
and secretly concluding that Dorothea had sent word to Will not
to come to Lowick, he had shrunk with proud sensitiveness from ever
recurring to the subject. He now inferred that she had asked
her uncle to invite Will to the Grange; and she felt it impossible
at that moment to enter into any explanation.
Mrs. Cadwallader's eyes, diverted from the churchyard, saw a good
deal of dumb show which was not so intelligible to her as she could
have desired, and could not repress the question, "Who is Mr. Ladislaw?"
"A young relative of Mr. Casaubon's," said Sir James, promptly.
His good-nature often made him quick and clear-seeing
in personal matters, and he had divined from Dorothea's
glance at her husband that there was some alarm in her mind.
"A very nice young fellow--Casaubon has done everything for him,"
explained Mr. Brooke. "He repays your expense in him, Casaubon,"
he went on, nodding encouragingly. "I hope he will stay with me
a long while and we shall make something of my documents. I have
plenty of ideas and facts, you know, and I can see he is just the man
to put them into shape--remembers what the right quotations are,
omne tulit punctum, and that sort of thing--gives subjects a kind
of turn. I invited him some time ago when you were ill, Casaubon;
Dorothea said you couldn't have anybody in the house, you know,
and she asked me to write."
Poor Dorothea felt that every word of her uncle's was about as
pleasant as a grain of sand in the eye to Mr. Casaubon. It would
be altogether unfitting now to explain that she had not wished her
uncle to invite Will Ladislaw. She could not in the least make clear
to herself the reasons for her husband's dislike to his presence--
a dislike painfully impressed on her by the scene in the library;
but she felt the unbecomingness of saying anything that might convey
a notion of it to others. Mr. Casaubon, indeed, had not thoroughly
represented those mixed reasons to himself; irritated feeling
with him, as with all of us, seeking rather for justification
than for self-knowledge. But he wished to repress outward signs,
and only Dorothea could discern the changes in her husband's face
before he observed with more of dignified bending and sing-song
than usual--
"You are exceedingly hospitable, my dear sir; and I owe you
acknowledgments for exercising your hospitality towards a relative
of mine."
The funeral was ended now, and the churchyard was being cleared.
"Now you can see him, Mrs. Cadwallader," said Celia. "He is just like
a miniature of Mr. Casaubon's aunt that hangs in Dorothea's boudoir--
quite nice-looking."
"A very pretty sprig," said Mrs. Cadwallader, dryly. "What
is your nephew to be, Mr. Casaubon?"
"Pardon me, he is not my nephew. He is my cousin."
"Well, you know," interposed Mr. Brooke, "he is trying his wings.
He is just the sort of young fellow to rise. I should be glad
to give him an opportunity. He would make a good secretary, now,
like Hobbes, Milton, Swift--that sort of man."
"I understand," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "One who can write speeches."
"I'll fetch him in now, eh, Casaubon?" said Mr. Brooke.
"He wouldn't come in till I had announced him, you know. And we'll
go down and look at the picture. There you are to the life:
a deep subtle sort of thinker with his fore-finger on the page,
while Saint Bonaventure or somebody else, rather fat and florid,
is looking up at the Trinity. Everything is symbolical, you know--
the higher style of art: I like that up to a certain point,
but not too far--it's rather straining to keep up with, you know.
But you are at home in that, Casaubon. And your painter's flesh
is good--solidity, transparency, everything of that sort.
I went into that a great deal at one time. However, I'll go and
fetch Ladislaw."
"Non, je ne comprends pas de plus charmant plaisir
Que de voir d'heritiers une troupe affligee
Le maintien interdit, et la mine allongee,
Lire un long testament ou pales, etonnes
On leur laisse un bonsoir avec un pied de nez.
Pour voir au naturel leur tristesse profonde
Je reviendrais, je crois, expres de l'autre monde."
--REGNARD: Le Legataire Universel.
When the animals entered the Ark in pairs, one may imagine that allied
species made much private remark on each other, and were tempted
to think that so many forms feeding on the same store of fodder
were eminently superfluous, as tending to diminish the rations.
(I fear the part played by the vultures on that occasion would be too
painful for art to represent, those birds being disadvantageously
naked about the gullet, and apparently without rites and ceremonies.)
The same sort of temptation befell the Christian Carnivora who formed
Peter Featherstone's funeral procession; most of them having their minds
bent on a limited store which each would have liked to get the most of.
The long-recognized blood-relations and connections by marriage
made already a goodly number, which, multiplied by possibilities,
presented a fine range for jealous conjecture and pathetic hopefulness.
Jealousy of the Vincys had created a fellowship in hostility among
all persons of the Featherstone blood, so that in the absence of any
decided indication that one of themselves was to have more than
the rest, the dread lest that long-legged Fred Vincy should have
the land was necessarily dominant, though it left abundant feeling
and leisure for vaguer jealousies, such as were entertained towards
Mary Garth. Solomon found time to reflect that Jonah was undeserving,
and Jonah to abuse Solomon as greedy; Jane, the elder sister,
held that Martha's children ought not to expect so much as the
young Waules; and Martha, more lax on the subject of primogeniture,
was sorry to think that Jane was so "having." These nearest of kin
were naturally impressed with the unreasonableness of expectations
in cousins and second cousins, and used their arithmetic in reckoning
the large sums that small legacies might mount to, if there were
too many of them. Two cousins were present to hear the will,
and a second cousin besides Mr. Trumbull. This second cousin was
a Middlemarch mercer of polite manners and superfluous aspirates.
The two cousins were elderly men from Brassing, one of them
conscious of claims on the score of inconvenient expense sustained
by him in presents of oysters and other eatables to his rich
cousin Peter; the other entirely saturnine, leaning his hands
and chin on a stick, and conscious of claims based on no narrow
performance but on merit generally: both blameless citizens
of Brassing, who wished that Jonah Featherstone did not live there.
The wit of a family is usually best received among strangers.
"Why, Trumbull himself is pretty sure of five hundred--THAT
you may depend,--I shouldn't wonder if my brother promised him,"
said Solomon, musing aloud with his sisters, the evening before
the funeral.
"Dear, dear!" said poor sister Martha, whose imagination of hundreds
had been habitually narrowed to the amount of her unpaid rent.
But in the morning all the ordinary currents of conjecture were
disturbed by the presence of a strange mourner who had plashed
among them as if from the moon. This was the stranger described
by Mrs. Cadwallader as frog-faced: a man perhaps about two or three
and thirty, whose prominent eyes, thin-lipped, downward-curved mouth,
and hair sleekly brushed away from a forehead that sank suddenly
above the ridge of the eyebrows, certainly gave his face a batrachian
unchangeableness of expression. Here, clearly, was a new legatee;
else why was he bidden as a mourner? Here were new possibilities,
raising a new uncertainty, which almost checked remark in the
mourning-coaches. We are all humiliated by the sudden discovery
of a fact which has existed very comfortably and perhaps been staring
at us in private while we have been making up our world entirely
without it. No one had seen this questionable stranger before
except Mary Garth, and she knew nothing more of him than that he
had twice been to Stone Court when Mr. Featherstone was down-stairs,
and had sat alone with him for several hours. She had found an
opportunity of mentioning this to her father, and perhaps Caleb's
were the only eyes, except the lawyer's, which examined the stranger
with more of inquiry than of disgust or suspicion. Caleb Garth,
having little expectation and less cupidity, was interested in the
verification of his own guesses, and the calmness with which he
half smilingly rubbed his chin and shot intelligent glances much
as if he were valuing a tree, made a fine contrast with the alarm
or scorn visible in other faces when the unknown mourner, whose name
was understood to be Rigg, entered the wainscoted parlor and took
his seat near the door to make part of the audience when the will
should be read. Just then Mr. Solomon and Mr. Jonah were gone
up-stairs with the lawyer to search for the will; and Mrs. Waule,
seeing two vacant seats between herself and Mr. Borthrop Trumbull,
had the spirit to move next to that great authority, who was handling
his watch-seals and trimming his outlines with a determination not to
show anything so compromising to a man of ability as wonder or surprise.
"I suppose you know everything about what my poor brother's done,
Mr. Trumbull," said Mrs. Waule, in the lowest of her woolly tones,
while she turned her crape-shadowed bonnet towards Mr. Trumbull's ear.
"My good lady, whatever was told me was told in confidence,"
said the auctioneer, putting his hand up to screen that secret.
"Them who've made sure of their good-luck may be disappointed yet,"
Mrs. Waule continued, finding some relief in this communication.
"Hopes are often delusive," said Mr. Trumbull, still in confidence.
"Ah!" said Mrs. Waule, looking across at the Vincys, and then
moving back to the side of her sister Martha.
"It's wonderful how close poor Peter was," she said, in the same
undertones. "We none of us know what he might have had on his mind.
I only hope and trust he wasn't a worse liver than we think of, Martha."
Poor Mrs. Cranch was bulky, and, breathing asthmatically,
had the additional motive for making her remarks unexceptionable
and giving them a general bearing, that even her whispers were loud
and liable to sudden bursts like those of a deranged barrel-organ.
"I never WAS covetious, Jane," she replied; "but I have six
children and have buried three, and I didn't marry into money.
The eldest, that sits there, is but nineteen--so I leave you to guess.
And stock always short, and land most awkward. But if ever I've
begged and prayed; it's been to God above; though where there's
one brother a bachelor and the other childless after twice marrying--
anybody might think!"
Meanwhile, Mr. Vincy had glanced at the passive face of Mr. Rigg,
and had taken out his snuff-box and tapped it, but had put it again
unopened as an indulgence which, however clarifying to the judgment,
was unsuited to the occasion. "I shouldn't wonder if Featherstone
had better feelings than any of us gave him credit for," he observed,
in the ear of his wife. "This funeral shows a thought about everybody:
it looks well when a man wants to be followed by his friends,
and if they are humble, not to be ashamed of them. I should be
all the better pleased if he'd left lots of small legacies.
They may be uncommonly useful to fellows in a small way."
"Everything is as handsome as could be, crape and silk and everything,"
said Mrs. Vincy, contentedly.
But I am sorry to say that Fred was under some difficulty in repressing
a laugh, which would have been more unsuitable than his father's

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