"Since I can do no good because a woman, reach constantly at something that is near it." – The Maid's Tragedy, Beaumont and Fletcher.
"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
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
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"'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 Quijote."—CERVANTES.
"'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
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
"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
"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
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
"In pigeon-holes partly," said Mr. Casaubon, with rather a startled air
"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
"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
"Yes, I believe he has," said Dorothea, with the full voice of
decision. "Everything I see in him corresponds to his pamphlet on
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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 make 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
"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
"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
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
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 documents?
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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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 thoughts?"
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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
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
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
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
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
"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
"It is right to tell you, Celia, that I am engaged to marry Mr.
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
"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
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
"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,
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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
"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
"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.
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
"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
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."
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
Greek. 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 satisfied with having a
wise husband: she wished, poor child, to be wise herself. Miss Brooke
was certainly very naive with all 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
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
"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
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 faces.
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
"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
"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. You 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
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
"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
"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 design 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. Perhaps 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 succeeding 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
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
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 opening 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
"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
"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
"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
"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 eyes 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
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
"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
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 to 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
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
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 herself; 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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"My protege?—dear me!—who is that?" said Mr. Brooke.
"This young Lydgate, the new doctor. He seems to me to understand his
"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 are?" 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 air. "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
"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
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 back 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 mind 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
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
"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
"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
"You will say anything, Fred, to gain your point."
"Well, tell me whether it is slang or poetry to call an ox a
"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.
"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
"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
"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, muffled, 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
"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,
"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
"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 sitting 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
"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 do 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.
"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
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
"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
"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
repulsiveness 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
"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
"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
"I think Fred is quite right."
"How can you say he is quite right, Mary? I thought you had more sense
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
"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
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
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 Middlemarch, 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
"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.
OLD AND YOUNG.
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
"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
"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
"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
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
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
"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? I 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
"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
"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
"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
"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,
"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
"So I could, if—" Fred broke off, and stood up, leaning against the
"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
"Yes, I do—a little," said Mary, nodding, with a smile.
"You would admire a stupendous fellow, who would have wise opinions
"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
"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,
"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
"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
"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
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
"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
"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—
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
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 came 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 Physicians, 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 all
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
"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 to do it."
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
"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
No one in Middlemarch 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."
—SIR CHARLES SEDLEY.
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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 cast 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
"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
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
"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
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
"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, upright, 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
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 who 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
"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
"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
"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
"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 that 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
"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
"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
"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
"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. Farebrother 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
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
"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
"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
"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.
"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
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 others for thinking slightly of him, and
could judge impartially of their conduct even when it told against him.
"The world has been too 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.
"L' altra vedete ch'ha fatto alla guancia
Della sua palma, sospirando, letto."
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 Ar