WAITING FOR DEATH.
"Your horses of the Sun," he said,
"And first-rate whip Apollo!
Whate'er they be, I'll eat my head,
But I will beat them hollow."
Fred Vincy, we have seen, had a debt on his mind, and though no such
immaterial burthen could depress that buoyant-hearted young gentleman
for many hours together, there were circumstances connected with this
debt which made the thought of it unusually importunate. The creditor
was Mr. Bambridge a horse-dealer of the neighborhood, whose company was
much sought in Middlemarch by young men understood to be "addicted to
pleasure." During the vacations Fred had naturally required more
amusements than he had ready money for, and Mr. Bambridge had been
accommodating enough not only to trust him for the hire of horses and
the accidental expense of ruining a fine hunter, but also to make a
small advance by which he might be able to meet some losses at
billiards. The total debt was a hundred and sixty pounds. Bambridge
was in no alarm about his money, being sure that young Vincy had
backers; but he had required something to show for it, and Fred had at
first given a bill with his own signature. Three months later he had
renewed this bill with the signature of Caleb Garth. On both occasions
Fred had felt confident that he should meet the bill himself, having
ample funds at disposal in his own hopefulness. You will hardly demand
that his confidence should have a basis in external facts; such
confidence, we know, is something less coarse and materialistic: it is
a comfortable disposition leading us to expect that the wisdom of
providence or the folly of our friends, the mysteries of luck or the
still greater mystery of our high individual value in the universe,
will bring about agreeable issues, such as are consistent with our good
taste in costume, and our general preference for the best style of
thing. Fred felt sure that he should have a present from his uncle,
that he should have a run of luck, that by dint of "swapping" he should
gradually metamorphose a horse worth forty pounds into a horse that
would fetch a hundred at any moment—"judgment" being always equivalent
to an unspecified sum in hard cash. And in any case, even supposing
negations which only a morbid distrust could imagine, Fred had always
(at that time) his father's pocket as a last resource, so that his
assets of hopefulness had a sort of gorgeous superfluity about them.
Of what might be the capacity of his father's pocket, Fred had only a
vague notion: was not trade elastic? And would not the deficiencies of
one year be made up for by the surplus of another? The Vincys lived in
an easy profuse way, not with any new ostentation, but according to the
family habits and traditions, so that the children had no standard of
economy, and the elder ones retained some of their infantine notion
that their father might pay for anything if he would. Mr. Vincy
himself had expensive Middlemarch habits—spent money on coursing, on
his cellar, and on dinner-giving, while mamma had those running
accounts with tradespeople, which give a cheerful sense of getting
everything one wants without any question of payment. But it was in
the nature of fathers, Fred knew, to bully one about expenses: there
was always a little storm over his extravagance if he had to disclose a
debt, and Fred disliked bad weather within doors. He was too filial to
be disrespectful to his father, and he bore the thunder with the
certainty that it was transient; but in the mean time it was
disagreeable to see his mother cry, and also to be obliged to look
sulky instead of having fun; for Fred was so good-tempered that if he
looked glum under scolding, it was chiefly for propriety's sake. The
easier course plainly, was to renew the bill with a friend's signature.
Why not? With the superfluous securities of hope at his command, there
was no reason why he should not have increased other people's
liabilities to any extent, but for the fact that men whose names were
good for anything were usually pessimists, indisposed to believe that
the universal order of things would necessarily be agreeable to an
agreeable young gentleman.
With a favor to ask we review our list of friends, do justice to their
more amiable qualities, forgive their little offenses, and concerning
each in turn, try to arrive at the conclusion that he will be eager to
oblige us, our own eagerness to be obliged being as communicable as
other warmth. Still there is always a certain number who are dismissed
as but moderately eager until the others have refused; and it happened
that Fred checked off all his friends but one, on the ground that
applying to them would be disagreeable; being implicitly convinced that
he at least (whatever might be maintained about mankind generally) had
a right to be free from anything disagreeable. That he should ever
fall into a thoroughly unpleasant position—wear trousers shrunk with
washing, eat cold mutton, have to walk for want of a horse, or to "duck
under" in any sort of way—was an absurdity irreconcilable with those
cheerful intuitions implanted in him by nature. And Fred winced under
the idea of being looked down upon as wanting funds for small debts.
Thus it came to pass that the friend whom he chose to apply to was at
once the poorest and the kindest—namely, Caleb Garth.
The Garths were very fond of Fred, as he was of them; for when he and
Rosamond were little ones, and the Garths were better off, the slight
connection between the two families through Mr. Featherstone's double
marriage (the first to Mr. Garth's sister, and the second to Mrs.
Vincy's) had led to an acquaintance which was carried on between the
children rather than the parents: the children drank tea together out
of their toy teacups, and spent whole days together in play. Mary was
a little hoyden, and Fred at six years old thought her the nicest girl
in the world, making her his wife with a brass ring which he had cut
from an umbrella. Through all the stages of his education he had kept
his affection for the Garths, and his habit of going to their house as
a second home, though any intercourse between them and the elders of
his family had long ceased. Even when Caleb Garth was prosperous, the
Vincys were on condescending terms with him and his wife, for there
were nice distinctions of rank in Middlemarch; and though old
manufacturers could not any more than dukes be connected with none but
equals, they were conscious of an inherent social superiority which was
defined with great nicety in practice, though hardly expressible
theoretically. Since then Mr. Garth had failed in the building
business, which he had unfortunately added to his other avocations of
surveyor, valuer, and agent, had conducted that business for a time
entirely for the benefit of his assignees, and had been living
narrowly, exerting himself to the utmost that he might after all pay
twenty shillings in the pound. He had now achieved this, and from all
who did not think it a bad precedent, his honorable exertions had won
him due esteem; but in no part of the world is genteel visiting founded
on esteem, in the absence of suitable furniture and complete
dinner-service. Mrs. Vincy had never been at her ease with Mrs. Garth,
and frequently spoke of her as a woman who had had to work for her
bread—meaning that Mrs. Garth had been a teacher before her marriage;
in which case an intimacy with Lindley Murray and Mangnall's Questions
was something like a draper's discrimination of calico trademarks, or a
courier's acquaintance with foreign countries: no woman who was better
off needed that sort of thing. And since Mary had been keeping Mr.
Featherstone's house, Mrs. Vincy's want of liking for the Garths had
been converted into something more positive, by alarm lest Fred should
engage himself to this plain girl, whose parents "lived in such a small
way." Fred, being aware of this, never spoke at home of his visits to
Mrs. Garth, which had of late become more frequent, the increasing
ardor of his affection for Mary inclining him the more towards those
who belonged to her.
Mr. Garth had a small office in the town, and to this Fred went with
his request. He obtained it without much difficulty, for a large
amount of painful experience had not sufficed to make Caleb Garth
cautious about his own affairs, or distrustful of his fellow-men when
they had not proved themselves untrustworthy; and he had the highest
opinion of Fred, was "sure the lad would turn out well—an open
affectionate fellow, with a good bottom to his character—you might
trust him for anything." Such was Caleb's psychological argument. He
was one of those rare men who are rigid to themselves and indulgent to
others. He had a certain shame about his neighbors' errors, and never
spoke of them willingly; hence he was not likely to divert his mind
from the best mode of hardening timber and other ingenious devices in
order to preconceive those errors. If he had to blame any one, it was
necessary for him to move all the papers within his reach, or describe
various diagrams with his stick, or make calculations with the odd
money in his pocket, before he could begin; and he would rather do
other men's work than find fault with their doing. I fear he was a bad
When Fred stated the circumstances of his debt, his wish to meet it
without troubling his father, and the certainty that the money would be
forthcoming so as to cause no one any inconvenience, Caleb pushed his
spectacles upward, listened, looked into his favorite's clear young
eyes, and believed him, not distinguishing confidence about the future
from veracity about the past; but he felt that it was an occasion for a
friendly hint as to conduct, and that before giving his signature he
must give a rather strong admonition. Accordingly, he took the paper
and lowered his spectacles, measured the space at his command, reached
his pen and examined it, dipped it in the ink and examined it again,
then pushed the paper a little way from him, lifted up his spectacles
again, showed a deepened depression in the outer angle of his bushy
eyebrows, which gave his face a peculiar mildness (pardon these details
for once—you would have learned to love them if you had known Caleb
Garth), and said in a comfortable tone—
"It was a misfortune, eh, that breaking the horse's knees? And then,
these exchanges, they don't answer when you have 'cute jockeys to deal
with. You'll be wiser another time, my boy."
Whereupon Caleb drew down his spectacles, and proceeded to write his
signature with the care which he always gave to that performance; for
whatever he did in the way of business he did well. He contemplated
the large well-proportioned letters and final flourish, with his head a
trifle on one side for an instant, then handed it to Fred, said
"Good-by," and returned forthwith to his absorption in a plan for Sir
James Chettam's new farm-buildings.
Either because his interest in this work thrust the incident of the
signature from his memory, or for some reason of which Caleb was more
conscious, Mrs. Garth remained ignorant of the affair.
Since it occurred, a change had come over Fred's sky, which altered his
view of the distance, and was the reason why his uncle Featherstone's
present of money was of importance enough to make his color come and
go, first with a too definite expectation, and afterwards with a
proportionate disappointment. His failure in passing his examination,
had made his accumulation of college debts the more unpardonable by his
father, and there had been an unprecedented storm at home. Mr. Vincy
had sworn that if he had anything more of that sort to put up with,
Fred should turn out and get his living how he could; and he had never
yet quite recovered his good-humored tone to his son, who had
especially enraged him by saying at this stage of things that he did
not want to be a clergyman, and would rather not "go on with that."
Fred was conscious that he would have been yet more severely dealt with
if his family as well as himself had not secretly regarded him as Mr.
Featherstone's heir; that old gentleman's pride in him, and apparent
fondness for him, serving in the stead of more exemplary conduct—just
as when a youthful nobleman steals jewellery we call the act
kleptomania, speak of it with a philosophical smile, and never think of
his being sent to the house of correction as if he were a ragged boy
who had stolen turnips. In fact, tacit expectations of what would be
done for him by uncle Featherstone determined the angle at which most
people viewed Fred Vincy in Middlemarch; and in his own consciousness,
what uncle Featherstone would do for him in an emergency, or what he
would do simply as an incorporated luck, formed always an immeasurable
depth of aerial perspective. But that present of bank-notes, once
made, was measurable, and being applied to the amount of the debt,
showed a deficit which had still to be filled up either by Fred's
"judgment" or by luck in some other shape. For that little episode of
the alleged borrowing, in which he had made his father the agent in
getting the Bulstrode certificate, was a new reason against going to
his father for money towards meeting his actual debt. Fred was keen
enough to foresee that anger would confuse distinctions, and that his
denial of having borrowed expressly on the strength of his uncle's will
would be taken as a falsehood. He had gone to his father and told him
one vexatious affair, and he had left another untold: in such cases the
complete revelation always produces the impression of a previous
duplicity. Now Fred piqued himself on keeping clear of lies, and even
fibs; he often shrugged his shoulders and made a significant grimace at
what he called Rosamond's fibs (it is only brothers who can associate
such ideas with a lovely girl); and rather than incur the accusation of
falsehood he would even incur some trouble and self-restraint. It was
under strong inward pressure of this kind that Fred had taken the wise
step of depositing the eighty pounds with his mother. It was a pity
that he had not at once given them to Mr. Garth; but he meant to make
the sum complete with another sixty, and with a view to this, he had
kept twenty pounds in his own pocket as a sort of seed-corn, which,
planted by judgment, and watered by luck, might yield more than
threefold—a very poor rate of multiplication when the field is a young
gentleman's infinite soul, with all the numerals at command.
Fred was not a gambler: he had not that specific disease in which the
suspension of the whole nervous energy on a chance or risk becomes as
necessary as the dram to the drunkard; he had only the tendency to that
diffusive form of gambling which has no alcoholic intensity, but is
carried on with the healthiest chyle-fed blood, keeping up a joyous
imaginative activity which fashions events according to desire, and
having no fears about its own weather, only sees the advantage there
must be to others in going aboard with it. Hopefulness has a pleasure
in making a throw of any kind, because the prospect of success is
certain; and only a more generous pleasure in offering as many as
possible a share in the stake. Fred liked play, especially billiards,
as he liked hunting or riding a steeple-chase; and he only liked it the
better because he wanted money and hoped to win. But the twenty
pounds' worth of seed-corn had been planted in vain in the seductive
green plot—all of it at least which had not been dispersed by the
roadside—and Fred found himself close upon the term of payment with no
money at command beyond the eighty pounds which he had deposited with
his mother. The broken-winded horse which he rode represented a
present which had been made to him a long while ago by his uncle
Featherstone: his father always allowed him to keep a horse, Mr.
Vincy's own habits making him regard this as a reasonable demand even
for a son who was rather exasperating. This horse, then, was Fred's
property, and in his anxiety to meet the imminent bill he determined to
sacrifice a possession without which life would certainly be worth
little. He made the resolution with a sense of heroism—heroism forced
on him by the dread of breaking his word to Mr. Garth, by his love for
Mary and awe of her opinion. He would start for Houndsley horse-fair
which was to be held the next morning, and—simply sell his horse,
bringing back the money by coach?—Well, the horse would hardly fetch
more than thirty pounds, and there was no knowing what might happen; it
would be folly to balk himself of luck beforehand. It was a hundred to
one that some good chance would fall in his way; the longer he thought
of it, the less possible it seemed that he should not have a good
chance, and the less reasonable that he should not equip himself with
the powder and shot for bringing it down. He would ride to Houndsley
with Bambridge and with Horrock "the vet," and without asking them
anything expressly, he should virtually get the benefit of their
opinion. Before he set out, Fred got the eighty pounds from his mother.
Most of those who saw Fred riding out of Middlemarch in company with
Bambridge and Horrock, on his way of course to Houndsley horse-fair,
thought that young Vincy was pleasure-seeking as usual; and but for an
unwonted consciousness of grave matters on hand, he himself would have
had a sense of dissipation, and of doing what might be expected of a
gay young fellow. Considering that Fred was not at all coarse, that he
rather looked down on the manners and speech of young men who had not
been to the university, and that he had written stanzas as pastoral and
unvoluptuous as his flute-playing, his attraction towards Bambridge and
Horrock was an interesting fact which even the love of horse-flesh
would not wholly account for without that mysterious influence of
Naming which determinates so much of mortal choice. Under any other
name than "pleasure" the society of Messieurs Bambridge and Horrock
must certainly have been regarded as monotonous; and to arrive with
them at Houndsley on a drizzling afternoon, to get down at the Red Lion
in a street shaded with coal-dust, and dine in a room furnished with a
dirt-enamelled map of the county, a bad portrait of an anonymous horse
in a stable, His Majesty George the Fourth with legs and cravat, and
various leaden spittoons, might have seemed a hard business, but for
the sustaining power of nomenclature which determined that the pursuit
of these things was "gay."
In Mr. Horrock there was certainly an apparent unfathomableness which
offered play to the imagination. Costume, at a glance, gave him a
thrilling association with horses (enough to specify the hat-brim which
took the slightest upward angle just to escape the suspicion of bending
downwards), and nature had given him a face which by dint of Mongolian
eyes, and a nose, mouth, and chin seeming to follow his hat-brim in a
moderate inclination upwards, gave the effect of a subdued unchangeable
sceptical smile, of all expressions the most tyrannous over a
susceptible mind, and, when accompanied by adequate silence, likely to
create the reputation of an invincible understanding, an infinite fund
of humor—too dry to flow, and probably in a state of immovable
crust,—and a critical judgment which, if you could ever be fortunate
enough to know it, would be the thing and no other. It is a
physiognomy seen in all vocations, but perhaps it has never been more
powerful over the youth of England than in a judge of horses.
Mr. Horrock, at a question from Fred about his horse's fetlock, turned
sideways in his saddle, and watched the horse's action for the space of
three minutes, then turned forward, twitched his own bridle, and
remained silent with a profile neither more nor less sceptical than it
The part thus played in dialogue by Mr. Horrock was terribly effective.
A mixture of passions was excited in Fred—a mad desire to thrash
Horrock's opinion into utterance, restrained by anxiety to retain the
advantage of his friendship. There was always the chance that Horrock
might say something quite invaluable at the right moment.
Mr. Bambridge had more open manners, and appeared to give forth his
ideas without economy. He was loud, robust, and was sometimes spoken
of as being "given to indulgence"—chiefly in swearing, drinking, and
beating his wife. Some people who had lost by him called him a vicious
man; but he regarded horse-dealing as the finest of the arts, and might
have argued plausibly that it had nothing to do with morality. He was
undeniably a prosperous man, bore his drinking better than others bore
their moderation, and, on the whole, flourished like the green
bay-tree. But his range of conversation was limited, and like the fine
old tune, "Drops of brandy," gave you after a while a sense of
returning upon itself in a way that might make weak heads dizzy. But a
slight infusion of Mr. Bambridge was felt to give tone and character to
several circles in Middlemarch; and he was a distinguished figure in
the bar and billiard-room at the Green Dragon. He knew some anecdotes
about the heroes of the turf, and various clever tricks of Marquesses
and Viscounts which seemed to prove that blood asserted its
pre-eminence even among black-legs; but the minute retentiveness of his
memory was chiefly shown about the horses he had himself bought and
sold; the number of miles they would trot you in no time without
turning a hair being, after the lapse of years, still a subject of
passionate asseveration, in which he would assist the imagination of
his hearers by solemnly swearing that they never saw anything like it.
In short, Mr. Bambridge was a man of pleasure and a gay companion.
Fred was subtle, and did not tell his friends that he was going to
Houndsley bent on selling his horse: he wished to get indirectly at
their genuine opinion of its value, not being aware that a genuine
opinion was the last thing likely to be extracted from such eminent
critics. It was not Mr. Bambridge's weakness to be a gratuitous
flatterer. He had never before been so much struck with the fact that
this unfortunate bay was a roarer to a degree which required the
roundest word for perdition to give you any idea of it.
"You made a bad hand at swapping when you went to anybody but me,
Vincy! Why, you never threw your leg across a finer horse than that
chestnut, and you gave him for this brute. If you set him cantering,
he goes on like twenty sawyers. I never heard but one worse roarer in
my life, and that was a roan: it belonged to Pegwell, the corn-factor;
he used to drive him in his gig seven years ago, and he wanted me to
take him, but I said, 'Thank you, Peg, I don't deal in
wind-instruments.' That was what I said. It went the round of the
country, that joke did. But, what the hell! the horse was a penny
trumpet to that roarer of yours."
"Why, you said just now his was worse than mine," said Fred, more
irritable than usual.
"I said a lie, then," said Mr. Bambridge, emphatically. "There wasn't
a penny to choose between 'em."
Fred spurred his horse, and they trotted on a little way. When they
slackened again, Mr. Bambridge said—
"Not but what the roan was a better trotter than yours."
"I'm quite satisfied with his paces, I know," said Fred, who required
all the consciousness of being in gay company to support him; "I say
his trot is an uncommonly clean one, eh, Horrock?"
Mr. Horrock looked before him with as complete a neutrality as if he
had been a portrait by a great master.
Fred gave up the fallacious hope of getting a genuine opinion; but on
reflection he saw that Bambridge's depreciation and Horrock's silence
were both virtually encouraging, and indicated that they thought better
of the horse than they chose to say.
That very evening, indeed, before the fair had set in, Fred thought he
saw a favorable opening for disposing advantageously of his horse, but
an opening which made him congratulate himself on his foresight in
bringing with him his eighty pounds. A young farmer, acquainted with
Mr. Bambridge, came into the Red Lion, and entered into conversation
about parting with a hunter, which he introduced at once as Diamond,
implying that it was a public character. For himself he only wanted a
useful hack, which would draw upon occasion; being about to marry and
to give up hunting. The hunter was in a friend's stable at some little
distance; there was still time for gentlemen to see it before dark.
The friend's stable had to be reached through a back street where you
might as easily have been poisoned without expense of drugs as in any
grim street of that unsanitary period. Fred was not fortified against
disgust by brandy, as his companions were, but the hope of having at
last seen the horse that would enable him to make money was
exhilarating enough to lead him over the same ground again the first
thing in the morning. He felt sure that if he did not come to a
bargain with the farmer, Bambridge would; for the stress of
circumstances, Fred felt, was sharpening his acuteness and endowing him
with all the constructive power of suspicion. Bambridge had run down
Diamond in a way that he never would have done (the horse being a
friend's) if he had not thought of buying it; every one who looked at
the animal—even Horrock—was evidently impressed with its merit. To
get all the advantage of being with men of this sort, you must know how
to draw your inferences, and not be a spoon who takes things literally.
The color of the horse was a dappled gray, and Fred happened to know
that Lord Medlicote's man was on the look-out for just such a horse.
After all his running down, Bambridge let it out in the course of the
evening, when the farmer was absent, that he had seen worse horses go
for eighty pounds. Of course he contradicted himself twenty times
over, but when you know what is likely to be true you can test a man's
admissions. And Fred could not but reckon his own judgment of a horse
as worth something. The farmer had paused over Fred's respectable
though broken-winded steed long enough to show that he thought it worth
consideration, and it seemed probable that he would take it, with
five-and-twenty pounds in addition, as the equivalent of Diamond. In
that case Fred, when he had parted with his new horse for at least
eighty pounds, would be fifty-five pounds in pocket by the transaction,
and would have a hundred and thirty-five pounds towards meeting the
bill; so that the deficit temporarily thrown on Mr. Garth would at the
utmost be twenty-five pounds. By the time he was hurrying on his
clothes in the morning, he saw so clearly the importance of not losing
this rare chance, that if Bambridge and Horrock had both dissuaded him,
he would not have been deluded into a direct interpretation of their
purpose: he would have been aware that those deep hands held something
else than a young fellow's interest. With regard to horses, distrust
was your only clew. But scepticism, as we know, can never be
thoroughly applied, else life would come to a standstill: something we
must believe in and do, and whatever that something may be called, it
is virtually our own judgment, even when it seems like the most slavish
reliance on another. Fred believed in the excellence of his bargain,
and even before the fair had well set in, had got possession of the
dappled gray, at the price of his old horse and thirty pounds in
addition—only five pounds more than he had expected to give.
But he felt a little worried and wearied, perhaps with mental debate,
and without waiting for the further gayeties of the horse-fair, he set
out alone on his fourteen miles' journey, meaning to take it very
quietly and keep his horse fresh.
"The offender's sorrow brings but small relief
To him who wears the strong offence's cross."
I am sorry to say that only the third day after the propitious events
at Houndsley Fred Vincy had fallen into worse spirits than he had known
in his life before. Not that he had been disappointed as to the
possible market for his horse, but that before the bargain could be
concluded with Lord Medlicote's man, this Diamond, in which hope to the
amount of eighty pounds had been invested, had without the slightest
warning exhibited in the stable a most vicious energy in kicking, had
just missed killing the groom, and had ended in laming himself severely
by catching his leg in a rope that overhung the stable-board. There was
no more redress for this than for the discovery of bad temper after
marriage—which of course old companions were aware of before the
ceremony. For some reason or other, Fred had none of his usual
elasticity under this stroke of ill-fortune: he was simply aware that
he had only fifty pounds, that there was no chance of his getting any
more at present, and that the bill for a hundred and sixty would be
presented in five days. Even if he had applied to his father on the
plea that Mr. Garth should be saved from loss, Fred felt smartingly
that his father would angrily refuse to rescue Mr. Garth from the
consequence of what he would call encouraging extravagance and deceit.
He was so utterly downcast that he could frame no other project than to
go straight to Mr. Garth and tell him the sad truth, carrying with him
the fifty pounds, and getting that sum at least safely out of his own
hands. His father, being at the warehouse, did not yet know of the
accident: when he did, he would storm about the vicious brute being
brought into his stable; and before meeting that lesser annoyance Fred
wanted to get away with all his courage to face the greater. He took
his father's nag, for he had made up his mind that when he had told Mr.
Garth, he would ride to Stone Court and confess all to Mary. In fact,
it is probable that but for Mary's existence and Fred's love for her,
his conscience would have been much less active both in previously
urging the debt on his thought and impelling him not to spare himself
after his usual fashion by deferring an unpleasant task, but to act as
directly and simply as he could. Even much stronger mortals than Fred
Vincy hold half their rectitude in the mind of the being they love
best. "The theatre of all my actions is fallen," said an antique
personage when his chief friend was dead; and they are fortunate who
get a theatre where the audience demands their best. Certainly it
would have made a considerable difference to Fred at that time if Mary
Garth had had no decided notions as to what was admirable in character.
Mr. Garth was not at the office, and Fred rode on to his house, which
was a little way outside the town—a homely place with an orchard in
front of it, a rambling, old-fashioned, half-timbered building, which
before the town had spread had been a farm-house, but was now
surrounded with the private gardens of the townsmen. We get the fonder
of our houses if they have a physiognomy of their own, as our friends
have. The Garth family, which was rather a large one, for Mary had
four brothers and one sister, were very fond of their old house, from
which all the best furniture had long been sold. Fred liked it too,
knowing it by heart even to the attic which smelt deliciously of apples
and quinces, and until to-day he had never come to it without pleasant
expectations; but his heart beat uneasily now with the sense that he
should probably have to make his confession before Mrs. Garth, of whom
he was rather more in awe than of her husband. Not that she was
inclined to sarcasm and to impulsive sallies, as Mary was. In her
present matronly age at least, Mrs. Garth never committed herself by
over-hasty speech; having, as she said, borne the yoke in her youth,
and learned self-control. She had that rare sense which discerns what
is unalterable, and submits to it without murmuring. Adoring her
husband's virtues, she had very early made up her mind to his
incapacity of minding his own interests, and had met the consequences
cheerfully. She had been magnanimous enough to renounce all pride in
teapots or children's frilling, and had never poured any pathetic
confidences into the ears of her feminine neighbors concerning Mr.
Garth's want of prudence and the sums he might have had if he had been
like other men. Hence these fair neighbors thought her either proud or
eccentric, and sometimes spoke of her to their husbands as "your fine
Mrs. Garth." She was not without her criticism of them in return, being
more accurately instructed than most matrons in Middlemarch, and—where
is the blameless woman?—apt to be a little severe towards her own sex,
which in her opinion was framed to be entirely subordinate. On the
other hand, she was disproportionately indulgent towards the failings
of men, and was often heard to say that these were natural. Also, it
must be admitted that Mrs. Garth was a trifle too emphatic in her
resistance to what she held to be follies: the passage from governess
into housewife had wrought itself a little too strongly into her
consciousness, and she rarely forgot that while her grammar and accent
were above the town standard, she wore a plain cap, cooked the family
dinner, and darned all the stockings. She had sometimes taken pupils
in a peripatetic fashion, making them follow her about in the kitchen
with their book or slate. She thought it good for them to see that she
could make an excellent lather while she corrected their blunders
"without looking,"—that a woman with her sleeves tucked up above her
elbows might know all about the Subjunctive Mood or the Torrid
Zone—that, in short, she might possess "education" and other good
things ending in "tion," and worthy to be pronounced emphatically,
without being a useless doll. When she made remarks to this edifying
effect, she had a firm little frown on her brow, which yet did not
hinder her face from looking benevolent, and her words which came forth
like a procession were uttered in a fervid agreeable contralto.
Certainly, the exemplary Mrs. Garth had her droll aspects, but her
character sustained her oddities, as a very fine wine sustains a flavor
Towards Fred Vincy she had a motherly feeling, and had always been
disposed to excuse his errors, though she would probably not have
excused Mary for engaging herself to him, her daughter being included
in that more rigorous judgment which she applied to her own sex. But
this very fact of her exceptional indulgence towards him made it the
harder to Fred that he must now inevitably sink in her opinion. And
the circumstances of his visit turned out to be still more unpleasant
than he had expected; for Caleb Garth had gone out early to look at
some repairs not far off. Mrs. Garth at certain hours was always in
the kitchen, and this morning she was carrying on several occupations
at once there—making her pies at the well-scoured deal table on one
side of that airy room, observing Sally's movements at the oven and
dough-tub through an open door, and giving lessons to her youngest boy
and girl, who were standing opposite to her at the table with their
books and slates before them. A tub and a clothes-horse at the other
end of the kitchen indicated an intermittent wash of small things also
Mrs. Garth, with her sleeves turned above her elbows, deftly handling
her pastry—applying her rolling-pin and giving ornamental pinches,
while she expounded with grammatical fervor what were the right views
about the concord of verbs and pronouns with "nouns of multitude or
signifying many," was a sight agreeably amusing. She was of the same
curly-haired, square-faced type as Mary, but handsomer, with more
delicacy of feature, a pale skin, a solid matronly figure, and a
remarkable firmness of glance. In her snowy-frilled cap she reminded
one of that delightful Frenchwoman whom we have all seen marketing,
basket on arm. Looking at the mother, you might hope that the daughter
would become like her, which is a prospective advantage equal to a
dowry—the mother too often standing behind the daughter like a
malignant prophecy—"Such as I am, she will shortly be."
"Now let us go through that once more," said Mrs. Garth, pinching an
apple-puff which seemed to distract Ben, an energetic young male with a
heavy brow, from due attention to the lesson. "'Not without regard to
the import of the word as conveying unity or plurality of idea'—tell
me again what that means, Ben."
(Mrs. Garth, like more celebrated educators, had her favorite ancient
paths, and in a general wreck of society would have tried to hold her
"Lindley Murray" above the waves.)
"Oh—it means—you must think what you mean," said Ben, rather
peevishly. "I hate grammar. What's the use of it?"
"To teach you to speak and write correctly, so that you can be
understood," said Mrs. Garth, with severe precision. "Should you like
to speak as old Job does?"
"Yes," said Ben, stoutly; "it's funnier. He says, 'Yo goo'—that's
just as good as 'You go.'"
"But he says, 'A ship's in the garden,' instead of 'a sheep,'" said
Letty, with an air of superiority. "You might think he meant a ship
off the sea."
"No, you mightn't, if you weren't silly," said Ben. "How could a ship
off the sea come there?"
"These things belong only to pronunciation, which is the least part of
grammar," said Mrs. Garth. "That apple-peel is to be eaten by the
pigs, Ben; if you eat it, I must give them your piece of pasty. Job
has only to speak about very plain things. How do you think you would
write or speak about anything more difficult, if you knew no more of
grammar than he does? You would use wrong words, and put words in the
wrong places, and instead of making people understand you, they would
turn away from you as a tiresome person. What would you do then?"
"I shouldn't care, I should leave off," said Ben, with a sense that
this was an agreeable issue where grammar was concerned.
"I see you are getting tired and stupid, Ben," said Mrs. Garth,
accustomed to these obstructive arguments from her male offspring.
Having finished her pies, she moved towards the clothes-horse, and
said, "Come here and tell me the story I told you on Wednesday, about
"I know! he was a farmer," said Ben.
"Now, Ben, he was a Roman—let me tell," said Letty, using her elbow
"You silly thing, he was a Roman farmer, and he was ploughing."
"Yes, but before that—that didn't come first—people wanted him," said
"Well, but you must say what sort of a man he was first," insisted Ben.
"He was a wise man, like my father, and that made the people want his
advice. And he was a brave man, and could fight. And so could my
father—couldn't he, mother?"
"Now, Ben, let me tell the story straight on, as mother told it us,"
said Letty, frowning. "Please, mother, tell Ben not to speak."
"Letty, I am ashamed of you," said her mother, wringing out the caps
from the tub. "When your brother began, you ought to have waited to
see if he could not tell the story. How rude you look, pushing and
frowning, as if you wanted to conquer with your elbows! Cincinnatus, I
am sure, would have been sorry to see his daughter behave so." (Mrs.
Garth delivered this awful sentence with much majesty of enunciation,
and Letty felt that between repressed volubility and general disesteem,
that of the Romans inclusive, life was already a painful affair.) "Now,
"Well—oh—well—why, there was a great deal of fighting, and they were
all blockheads, and—I can't tell it just how you told it—but they
wanted a man to be captain and king and everything—"
"Dictator, now," said Letty, with injured looks, and not without a wish
to make her mother repent.
"Very well, dictator!" said Ben, contemptuously. "But that isn't a
good word: he didn't tell them to write on slates."
"Come, come, Ben, you are not so ignorant as that," said Mrs. Garth,
carefully serious. "Hark, there is a knock at the door! Run, Letty,
and open it."
The knock was Fred's; and when Letty said that her father was not in
yet, but that her mother was in the kitchen, Fred had no alternative.
He could not depart from his usual practice of going to see Mrs. Garth
in the kitchen if she happened to be at work there. He put his arm
round Letty's neck silently, and led her into the kitchen without his
usual jokes and caresses.
Mrs. Garth was surprised to see Fred at this hour, but surprise was not
a feeling that she was given to express, and she only said, quietly
continuing her work—
"You, Fred, so early in the day? You look quite pale. Has anything
"I want to speak to Mr. Garth," said Fred, not yet ready to say
more—"and to you also," he added, after a little pause, for he had no
doubt that Mrs. Garth knew everything about the bill, and he must in the
end speak of it before her, if not to her solely.
"Caleb will be in again in a few minutes," said Mrs. Garth, who
imagined some trouble between Fred and his father. "He is sure not to
be long, because he has some work at his desk that must be done this
morning. Do you mind staying with me, while I finish my matters here?"
"But we needn't go on about Cincinnatus, need we?" said Ben, who had
taken Fred's whip out of his hand, and was trying its efficiency on the
"No, go out now. But put that whip down. How very mean of you to whip
poor old Tortoise! Pray take the whip from him, Fred."
"Come, old boy, give it me," said Fred, putting out his hand.
"Will you let me ride on your horse to-day?" said Ben, rendering up the
whip, with an air of not being obliged to do it.
"Not to-day—another time. I am not riding my own horse."
"Shall you see Mary to-day?"
"Yes, I think so," said Fred, with an unpleasant twinge.
"Tell her to come home soon, and play at forfeits, and make fun."
"Enough, enough, Ben! run away," said Mrs. Garth, seeing that Fred was
teased. . .
"Are Letty and Ben your only pupils now, Mrs. Garth?" said Fred, when
the children were gone and it was needful to say something that would
pass the time. He was not yet sure whether he should wait for Mr.
Garth, or use any good opportunity in conversation to confess to Mrs.
Garth herself, give her the money and ride away.
"One—only one. Fanny Hackbutt comes at half past eleven. I am not
getting a great income now," said Mrs. Garth, smiling. "I am at a low
ebb with pupils. But I have saved my little purse for Alfred's
premium: I have ninety-two pounds. He can go to Mr. Hanmer's now; he
is just at the right age."
This did not lead well towards the news that Mr. Garth was on the brink
of losing ninety-two pounds and more. Fred was silent. "Young
gentlemen who go to college are rather more costly than that," Mrs.
Garth innocently continued, pulling out the edging on a cap-border.
"And Caleb thinks that Alfred will turn out a distinguished engineer:
he wants to give the boy a good chance. There he is! I hear him
coming in. We will go to him in the parlor, shall we?"
When they entered the parlor Caleb had thrown down his hat and was
seated at his desk.
"What! Fred, my boy!" he said, in a tone of mild surprise, holding his
pen still undipped; "you are here betimes." But missing the usual
expression of cheerful greeting in Fred's face, he immediately added,
"Is there anything up at home?—anything the matter?"
"Yes, Mr. Garth, I am come to tell something that I am afraid will give
you a bad opinion of me. I am come to tell you and Mrs. Garth that I
can't keep my word. I can't find the money to meet the bill after all.
I have been unfortunate; I have only got these fifty pounds towards the
hundred and sixty."
While Fred was speaking, he had taken out the notes and laid them on
the desk before Mr. Garth. He had burst forth at once with the plain
fact, feeling boyishly miserable and without verbal resources. Mrs.
Garth was mutely astonished, and looked at her husband for an
explanation. Caleb blushed, and after a little pause said—
"Oh, I didn't tell you, Susan: I put my name to a bill for Fred; it was
for a hundred and sixty pounds. He made sure he could meet it himself."
There was an evident change in Mrs. Garth's face, but it was like a
change below the surface of water which remains smooth. She fixed her
eyes on Fred, saying—
"I suppose you have asked your father for the rest of the money and he
has refused you."
"No," said Fred, biting his lip, and speaking with more difficulty;
"but I know it will be of no use to ask him; and unless it were of use,
I should not like to mention Mr. Garth's name in the matter."
"It has come at an unfortunate time," said Caleb, in his hesitating
way, looking down at the notes and nervously fingering the paper,
"Christmas upon us—I'm rather hard up just now. You see, I have to
cut out everything like a tailor with short measure. What can we do,
Susan? I shall want every farthing we have in the bank. It's a
hundred and ten pounds, the deuce take it!"
"I must give you the ninety-two pounds that I have put by for Alfred's
premium," said Mrs. Garth, gravely and decisively, though a nice ear
might have discerned a slight tremor in some of the words. "And I have
no doubt that Mary has twenty pounds saved from her salary by this
time. She will advance it."
Mrs. Garth had not again looked at Fred, and was not in the least
calculating what words she should use to cut him the most effectively.
Like the eccentric woman she was, she was at present absorbed in
considering what was to be done, and did not fancy that the end could
be better achieved by bitter remarks or explosions. But she had made
Fred feel for the first time something like the tooth of remorse.
Curiously enough, his pain in the affair beforehand had consisted
almost entirely in the sense that he must seem dishonorable, and sink
in the opinion of the Garths: he had not occupied himself with the
inconvenience and possible injury that his breach might occasion them,
for this exercise of the imagination on other people's needs is not
common with hopeful young gentlemen. Indeed we are most of us brought
up in the notion that the highest motive for not doing a wrong is
something irrespective of the beings who would suffer the wrong. But
at this moment he suddenly saw himself as a pitiful rascal who was
robbing two women of their savings.
"I shall certainly pay it all, Mrs. Garth—ultimately," he stammered
"Yes, ultimately," said Mrs. Garth, who having a special dislike to
fine words on ugly occasions, could not now repress an epigram. "But
boys cannot well be apprenticed ultimately: they should be apprenticed
at fifteen." She had never been so little inclined to make excuses for
"I was the most in the wrong, Susan," said Caleb. "Fred made sure of
finding the money. But I'd no business to be fingering bills. I
suppose you have looked all round and tried all honest means?" he
added, fixing his merciful gray eyes on Fred. Caleb was too delicate,
to specify Mr. Featherstone.
"Yes, I have tried everything—I really have. I should have had a
hundred and thirty pounds ready but for a misfortune with a horse which
I was about to sell. My uncle had given me eighty pounds, and I paid
away thirty with my old horse in order to get another which I was going
to sell for eighty or more—I meant to go without a horse—but now it
has turned out vicious and lamed itself. I wish I and the horses too
had been at the devil, before I had brought this on you. There's no
one else I care so much for: you and Mrs. Garth have always been so
kind to me. However, it's no use saying that. You will always think
me a rascal now."
Fred turned round and hurried out of the room, conscious that he was
getting rather womanish, and feeling confusedly that his being sorry
was not of much use to the Garths. They could see him mount, and
quickly pass through the gate.
"I am disappointed in Fred Vincy," said Mrs. Garth. "I would not have
believed beforehand that he would have drawn you into his debts. I
knew he was extravagant, but I did not think that he would be so mean
as to hang his risks on his oldest friend, who could the least afford
"I was a fool, Susan:"
"That you were," said the wife, nodding and smiling. "But I should not
have gone to publish it in the market-place. Why should you keep such
things from me? It is just so with your buttons: you let them burst
off without telling me, and go out with your wristband hanging. If I
had only known I might have been ready with some better plan."
"You are sadly cut up, I know, Susan," said Caleb, looking feelingly at
her. "I can't abide your losing the money you've scraped together for
"It is very well that I had scraped it together; and it is you who
will have to suffer, for you must teach the boy yourself. You must
give up your bad habits. Some men take to drinking, and you have taken
to working without pay. You must indulge yourself a little less in
that. And you must ride over to Mary, and ask the child what money she
Caleb had pushed his chair back, and was leaning forward, shaking his
head slowly, and fitting his finger-tips together with much nicety.
"Poor Mary!" he said. "Susan," he went on in a lowered tone, "I'm
afraid she may be fond of Fred."
"Oh no! She always laughs at him; and he is not likely to think of her
in any other than a brotherly way."
Caleb made no rejoinder, but presently lowered his spectacles, drew up
his chair to the desk, and said, "Deuce take the bill—I wish it was
at Hanover! These things are a sad interruption to business!"
The first part of this speech comprised his whole store of maledictory
expression, and was uttered with a slight snarl easy to imagine. But
it would be difficult to convey to those who never heard him utter the
word "business," the peculiar tone of fervid veneration, of religious
regard, in which he wrapped it, as a consecrated symbol is wrapped in
its gold-fringed linen.
Caleb Garth often shook his head in meditation on the value, the
indispensable might of that myriad-headed, myriad-handed labor by which
the social body is fed, clothed, and housed. It had laid hold of his
imagination in boyhood. The echoes of the great hammer where roof or
keel were a-making, the signal-shouts of the workmen, the roar of the
furnace, the thunder and plash of the engine, were a sublime music to
him; the felling and lading of timber, and the huge trunk vibrating
star-like in the distance along the highway, the crane at work on the
wharf, the piled-up produce in warehouses, the precision and variety of
muscular effort wherever exact work had to be turned out,—all these
sights of his youth had acted on him as poetry without the aid of the
poets, had made a philosophy for him without the aid of philosophers,
a religion without the aid of theology. His early ambition had been to
have as effective a share as possible in this sublime labor, which was
peculiarly dignified by him with the name of "business;" and though he
had only been a short time under a surveyor, and had been chiefly his
own teacher, he knew more of land, building, and mining than most of
the special men in the county.
His classification of human employments was rather crude, and, like the
categories of more celebrated men, would not be acceptable in these
advanced times. He divided them into "business, politics, preaching,
learning, and amusement." He had nothing to say against the last four;
but he regarded them as a reverential pagan regarded other gods than
his own. In the same way, he thought very well of all ranks, but he
would not himself have liked to be of any rank in which he had not such
close contact with "business" as to get often honorably decorated with
marks of dust and mortar, the damp of the engine, or the sweet soil of
the woods and fields. Though he had never regarded himself as other
than an orthodox Christian, and would argue on prevenient grace if the
subject were proposed to him, I think his virtual divinities were good
practical schemes, accurate work, and the faithful completion of
undertakings: his prince of darkness was a slack workman. But there
was no spirit of denial in Caleb, and the world seemed so wondrous to
him that he was ready to accept any number of systems, like any number
of firmaments, if they did not obviously interfere with the best
land-drainage, solid building, correct measuring, and judicious boring
(for coal). In fact, he had a reverential soul with a strong practical
intelligence. But he could not manage finance: he knew values well,
but he had no keenness of imagination for monetary results in the shape
of profit and loss: and having ascertained this to his cost, he
determined to give up all forms of his beloved "business" which
required that talent. He gave himself up entirely to the many kinds of
work which he could do without handling capital, and was one of those
precious men within his own district whom everybody would choose to
work for them, because he did his work well, charged very little, and
often declined to charge at all. It is no wonder, then, that the
Garths were poor, and "lived in a small way." However, they did not
"Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care
But for another gives its ease
And builds a heaven in hell's despair.
. . . . . . .
Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven's despite."
—W. BLAKE: Songs of Experience
Fred Vincy wanted to arrive at Stone Court when Mary could not expect
him, and when his uncle was not down-stairs in that case she might be
sitting alone in the wainscoted parlor. He left his horse in the yard
to avoid making a noise on the gravel in front, and entered the parlor
without other notice than the noise of the door-handle. Mary was in her
usual corner, laughing over Mrs. Piozzi's recollections of Johnson, and
looked up with the fun still in her face. It gradually faded as she
saw Fred approach her without speaking, and stand before her with his
elbow on the mantel-piece, looking ill. She too was silent, only
raising her eyes to him inquiringly.
"Mary," he began, "I am a good-for-nothing blackguard."
"I should think one of those epithets would do at a time," said Mary,
trying to smile, but feeling alarmed.
"I know you will never think well of me any more. You will think me a
liar. You will think me dishonest. You will think I didn't care for
you, or your father and mother. You always do make the worst of me, I
"I cannot deny that I shall think all that of you, Fred, if you give me
good reasons. But please to tell me at once what you have done. I
would rather know the painful truth than imagine it."
"I owed money—a hundred and sixty pounds. I asked your father to put
his name to a bill. I thought it would not signify to him. I made
sure of paying the money myself, and I have tried as hard as I could.
And now, I have been so unlucky—a horse has turned out badly—I can
only pay fifty pounds. And I can't ask my father for the money: he
would not give me a farthing. And my uncle gave me a hundred a little
while ago. So what can I do? And now your father has no ready money
to spare, and your mother will have to pay away her ninety-two pounds
that she has saved, and she says your savings must go too. You see
"Oh, poor mother, poor father!" said Mary, her eyes filling with tears,
and a little sob rising which she tried to repress. She looked
straight before her and took no notice of Fred, all the consequences at
home becoming present to her. He too remained silent for some moments,
feeling more miserable than ever. "I wouldn't have hurt you for the
world, Mary," he said at last. "You can never forgive me."
"What does it matter whether I forgive you?" said Mary, passionately.
"Would that make it any better for my mother to lose the money she has
been earning by lessons for four years, that she might send Alfred to
Mr. Hanmer's? Should you think all that pleasant enough if I forgave
"Say what you like, Mary. I deserve it all."
"I don't want to say anything," said Mary, more quietly, "and my anger
is of no use." She dried her eyes, threw aside her book, rose and
fetched her sewing.
Fred followed her with his eyes, hoping that they would meet hers, and
in that way find access for his imploring penitence. But no! Mary
could easily avoid looking upward.
"I do care about your mother's money going," he said, when she was
seated again and sewing quickly. "I wanted to ask you, Mary—don't
you think that Mr. Featherstone—if you were to tell him—tell him, I
mean, about apprenticing Alfred—would advance the money?"
"My family is not fond of begging, Fred. We would rather work for our
money. Besides, you say that Mr. Featherstone has lately given you a
hundred pounds. He rarely makes presents; he has never made presents
to us. I am sure my father will not ask him for anything; and even if
I chose to beg of him, it would be of no use."
"I am so miserable, Mary—if you knew how miserable I am, you would be
sorry for me."
"There are other things to be more sorry for than that. But selfish
people always think their own discomfort of more importance than
anything else in the world. I see enough of that every day."
"It is hardly fair to call me selfish. If you knew what things other
young men do, you would think me a good way off the worst."
"I know that people who spend a great deal of money on themselves
without knowing how they shall pay, must be selfish. They are always
thinking of what they can get for themselves, and not of what other
people may lose."
"Any man may be unfortunate, Mary, and find himself unable to pay when
he meant it. There is not a better man in the world than your father,
and yet he got into trouble."
"How dare you make any comparison between my father and you, Fred?"
said Mary, in a deep tone of indignation. "He never got into trouble
by thinking of his own idle pleasures, but because he was always
thinking of the work he was doing for other people. And he has fared
hard, and worked hard to make good everybody's loss."
"And you think that I shall never try to make good anything, Mary. It
is not generous to believe the worst of a man. When you have got any
power over him, I think you might try and use it to make him better;
but that is what you never do. However, I'm going," Fred ended,
languidly. "I shall never speak to you about anything again. I'm very
sorry for all the trouble I've caused—that's all."
Mary had dropped her work out of her hand and looked up. There is
often something maternal even in a girlish love, and Mary's hard
experience had wrought her nature to an impressibility very different
from that hard slight thing which we call girlishness. At Fred's last
words she felt an instantaneous pang, something like what a mother
feels at the imagined sobs or cries of her naughty truant child, which
may lose itself and get harm. And when, looking up, her eyes met his
dull despairing glance, her pity for him surmounted her anger and all
her other anxieties.
"Oh, Fred, how ill you look! Sit down a moment. Don't go yet. Let me
tell uncle that you are here. He has been wondering that he has not
seen you for a whole week." Mary spoke hurriedly, saying the words
that came first without knowing very well what they were, but saying
them in a half-soothing half-beseeching tone, and rising as if to go
away to Mr. Featherstone. Of course Fred felt as if the clouds had
parted and a gleam had come: he moved and stood in her way.
"Say one word, Mary, and I will do anything. Say you will not think
the worst of me—will not give me up altogether."
"As if it were any pleasure to me to think ill of you," said Mary, in a
mournful tone. "As if it were not very painful to me to see you an
idle frivolous creature. How can you bear to be so contemptible, when
others are working and striving, and there are so many things to be
done—how can you bear to be fit for nothing in the world that is
useful? And with so much good in your disposition, Fred,—you might
be worth a great deal."
"I will try to be anything you like, Mary, if you will say that you
"I should be ashamed to say that I loved a man who must always be
hanging on others, and reckoning on what they would do for him. What
will you be when you are forty? Like Mr. Bowyer, I suppose—just as
idle, living in Mrs. Beck's front parlor—fat and shabby, hoping
somebody will invite you to dinner—spending your morning in learning a
comic song—oh no! learning a tune on the flute."
Mary's lips had begun to curl with a smile as soon as she had asked
that question about Fred's future (young souls are mobile), and before
she ended, her face had its full illumination of fun. To him it was
like the cessation of an ache that Mary could laugh at him, and with a
passive sort of smile he tried to reach her hand; but she slipped away
quickly towards the door and said, "I shall tell uncle. You must see
him for a moment or two."
Fred secretly felt that his future was guaranteed against the
fulfilment of Mary's sarcastic prophecies, apart from that "anything"
which he was ready to do if she would define it. He never dared in
Mary's presence to approach the subject of his expectations from Mr.
Featherstone, and she always ignored them, as if everything depended on
himself. But if ever he actually came into the property, she must
recognize the change in his position. All this passed through his mind
somewhat languidly, before he went up to see his uncle. He stayed but
a little while, excusing himself on the ground that he had a cold; and
Mary did not reappear before he left the house. But as he rode home,
he began to be more conscious of being ill, than of being melancholy.
When Caleb Garth arrived at Stone Court soon after dusk, Mary was not
surprised, although he seldom had leisure for paying her a visit, and
was not at all fond of having to talk with Mr. Featherstone. The old
man, on the other hand, felt himself ill at ease with a brother-in-law
whom he could not annoy, who did not mind about being considered poor,
had nothing to ask of him, and understood all kinds of farming and
mining business better than he did. But Mary had felt sure that her
parents would want to see her, and if her father had not come, she
would have obtained leave to go home for an hour or two the next day.
After discussing prices during tea with Mr. Featherstone Caleb rose to
bid him good-by, and said, "I want to speak to you, Mary."
She took a candle into another large parlor, where there was no fire,
and setting down the feeble light on the dark mahogany table, turned
round to her father, and putting her arms round his neck kissed him
with childish kisses which he delighted in,—the expression of his
large brows softening as the expression of a great beautiful dog
softens when it is caressed. Mary was his favorite child, and whatever
Susan might say, and right as she was on all other subjects, Caleb
thought it natural that Fred or any one else should think Mary more
lovable than other girls.
"I've got something to tell you, my dear," said Caleb in his hesitating
way. "No very good news; but then it might be worse."
"About money, father? I think I know what it is."
"Ay? how can that be? You see, I've been a bit of a fool again, and
put my name to a bill, and now it comes to paying; and your mother has
got to part with her savings, that's the worst of it, and even they
won't quite make things even. We wanted a hundred and ten pounds: your
mother has ninety-two, and I have none to spare in the bank; and she
thinks that you have some savings."
"Oh yes; I have more than four-and-twenty pounds. I thought you would
come, father, so I put it in my bag. See! beautiful white notes and
Mary took out the folded money from her reticule and put it into her
"Well, but how—we only want eighteen—here, put the rest back,
child,—but how did you know about it?" said Caleb, who, in his
unconquerable indifference to money, was beginning to be chiefly
concerned about the relation the affair might have to Mary's affections.
"Fred told me this morning."
"Ah! Did he come on purpose?"
"Yes, I think so. He was a good deal distressed."
"I'm afraid Fred is not to be trusted, Mary," said the father, with
hesitating tenderness. "He means better than he acts, perhaps. But I
should think it a pity for any body's happiness to be wrapped up in
him, and so would your mother."
"And so should I, father," said Mary, not looking up, but putting the
back of her father's hand against her cheek.
"I don't want to pry, my dear. But I was afraid there might be
something between you and Fred, and I wanted to caution you. You see,
Mary"—here Caleb's voice became more tender; he had been pushing his
hat about on the table and looking at it, but finally he turned his
eyes on his daughter—"a woman, let her be as good as she may, has got
to put up with the life her husband makes for her. Your mother has had
to put up with a good deal because of me."
Mary turned the back of her father's hand to her lips and smiled at him.
"Well, well, nobody's perfect, but"—here Mr. Garth shook his head to
help out the inadequacy of words—"what I am thinking of is—what it
must be for a wife when she's never sure of her husband, when he hasn't
got a principle in him to make him more afraid of doing the wrong thing
by others than of getting his own toes pinched. That's the long and
the short of it, Mary. Young folks may get fond of each other before
they know what life is, and they may think it all holiday if they can
only get together; but it soon turns into working day, my dear.
However, you have more sense than most, and you haven't been kept in
cotton-wool: there may be no occasion for me to say this, but a father
trembles for his daughter, and you are all by yourself here."
"Don't fear for me, father," said Mary, gravely meeting her father's
eyes; "Fred has always been very good to me; he is kind-hearted and
affectionate, and not false, I think, with all his self-indulgence. But
I will never engage myself to one who has no manly independence, and
who goes on loitering away his time on the chance that others will
provide for him. You and my mother have taught me too much pride for
"That's right—that's right. Then I am easy," said Mr. Garth, taking
up his hat. "But it's hard to run away with your earnings, eh child."
"Father!" said Mary, in her deepest tone of remonstrance. "Take
pocketfuls of love besides to them all at home," was her last word
before he closed the outer door on himself.
"I suppose your father wanted your earnings," said old Mr.
Featherstone, with his usual power of unpleasant surmise, when Mary
returned to him. "He makes but a tight fit, I reckon. You're of age
now; you ought to be saving for yourself."
"I consider my father and mother the best part of myself, sir," said
Mr. Featherstone grunted: he could not deny that an ordinary sort of
girl like her might be expected to be useful, so he thought of another
rejoinder, disagreeable enough to be always apropos. "If Fred Vincy
comes to-morrow, now, don't you keep him chattering: let him come up to
"He beats me and I rail at him: O worthy satisfaction!
would it were otherwise—that I could beat him while
he railed at me.—"—Troilus and Cressida.
But Fred did not go to Stone Court the next day, for reasons that were
quite peremptory. From those visits to unsanitary Houndsley streets in
search of Diamond, he had brought back not only a bad bargain in
horse-flesh, but the further misfortune of some ailment which for a day
or two had deemed mere depression and headache, but which got so much
worse when he returned from his visit to Stone Court that, going into
the dining-room, he threw himself on the sofa, and in answer to his
mother's anxious question, said, "I feel very ill: I think you must
send for Wrench."
Wrench came, but did not apprehend anything serious, spoke of a "slight
derangement," and did not speak of coming again on the morrow. He had
a due value for the Vincys' house, but the wariest men are apt to be
dulled by routine, and on worried mornings will sometimes go through
their business with the zest of the daily bell-ringer. Mr. Wrench was
a small, neat, bilious man, with a well-dressed wig: he had a laborious
practice, an irascible temper, a lymphatic wife and seven children; and
he was already rather late before setting out on a four-miles drive to
meet Dr. Minchin on the other side of Tipton, the decease of Hicks, a
rural practitioner, having increased Middlemarch practice in that
direction. Great statesmen err, and why not small medical men? Mr.
Wrench did not neglect sending the usual white parcels, which this time
had black and drastic contents. Their effect was not alleviating to
poor Fred, who, however, unwilling as he said to believe that he was
"in for an illness," rose at his usual easy hour the next morning and
went down-stairs meaning to breakfast, but succeeded in nothing but in
sitting and shivering by the fire. Mr. Wrench was again sent for, but
was gone on his rounds, and Mrs. Vincy seeing her darling's changed
looks and general misery, began to cry and said she would send for Dr.
"Oh, nonsense, mother! It's nothing," said Fred, putting out his hot
dry hand to her, "I shall soon be all right. I must have taken cold in
that nasty damp ride."
"Mamma!" said Rosamond, who was seated near the window (the dining-room
windows looked on that highly respectable street called Lowick Gate),
"there is Mr. Lydgate, stopping to speak to some one. If I were you I
would call him in. He has cured Ellen Bulstrode. They say he cures
Mrs. Vincy sprang to the window and opened it in an instant, thinking
only of Fred and not of medical etiquette. Lydgate was only two yards
off on the other side of some iron palisading, and turned round at the
sudden sound of the sash, before she called to him. In two minutes he
was in the room, and Rosamond went out, after waiting just long enough
to show a pretty anxiety conflicting with her sense of what was
Lydgate had to hear a narrative in which Mrs. Vincy's mind insisted
with remarkable instinct on every point of minor importance, especially
on what Mr. Wrench had said and had not said about coming again. That
there might be an awkward affair with Wrench, Lydgate saw at once; but
the case was serious enough to make him dismiss that consideration: he
was convinced that Fred was in the pink-skinned stage of typhoid fever,
and that he had taken just the wrong medicines. He must go to bed
immediately, must have a regular nurse, and various appliances and
precautions must be used, about which Lydgate was particular. Poor
Mrs. Vincy's terror at these indications of danger found vent in such
words as came most easily. She thought it "very ill usage on the part
of Mr. Wrench, who had attended their house so many years in preference
to Mr. Peacock, though Mr. Peacock was equally a friend. Why Mr.
Wrench should neglect her children more than others, she could not for
the life of her understand. He had not neglected Mrs. Larcher's when
they had the measles, nor indeed would Mrs. Vincy have wished that he
should. And if anything should happen—"
Here poor Mrs. Vincy's spirit quite broke down, and her Niobe throat
and good-humored face were sadly convulsed. This was in the hall out
of Fred's hearing, but Rosamond had opened the drawing-room door, and
now came forward anxiously. Lydgate apologized for Mr. Wrench, said
that the symptoms yesterday might have been disguising, and that this
form of fever was very equivocal in its beginnings: he would go
immediately to the druggist's and have a prescription made up in order
to lose no time, but he would write to Mr. Wrench and tell him what had
"But you must come again—you must go on attending Fred. I can't have
my boy left to anybody who may come or not. I bear nobody ill-will,
thank God, and Mr. Wrench saved me in the pleurisy, but he'd better
have let me die—if—if—"
"I will meet Mr. Wrench here, then, shall I?" said Lydgate, really
believing that Wrench was not well prepared to deal wisely with a case
of this kind.
"Pray make that arrangement, Mr. Lydgate," said Rosamond, coming to her
mother's aid, and supporting her arm to lead her away.
When Mr. Vincy came home he was very angry with Wrench, and did not
care if he never came into his house again. Lydgate should go on now,
whether Wrench liked it or not. It was no joke to have fever in the
house. Everybody must be sent to now, not to come to dinner on
Thursday. And Pritchard needn't get up any wine: brandy was the best
thing against infection. "I shall drink brandy," added Mr. Vincy,
emphatically—as much as to say, this was not an occasion for firing
with blank-cartridges. "He's an uncommonly unfortunate lad, is Fred.
He'd need have—some luck by-and-by to make up for all this—else I
don't know who'd have an eldest son."
"Don't say so, Vincy," said the mother, with a quivering lip, "if you
don't want him to be taken from me."
"It will worret you to death, Lucy; that I can see," said Mr. Vincy,
more mildly. "However, Wrench shall know what I think of the matter."
(What Mr. Vincy thought confusedly was, that the fever might somehow
have been hindered if Wrench had shown the proper solicitude about
his—the Mayor's—family.) "I'm the last man to give in to the cry
about new doctors, or new parsons either—whether they're Bulstrode's
men or not. But Wrench shall know what I think, take it as he will."
Wrench did not take it at all well. Lydgate was as polite as he could
be in his offhand way, but politeness in a man who has placed you at a
disadvantage is only an additional exasperation, especially if he
happens to have been an object of dislike beforehand. Country
practitioners used to be an irritable species, susceptible on the point
of honor; and Mr. Wrench was one of the most irritable among them. He
did not refuse to meet Lydgate in the evening, but his temper was
somewhat tried on the occasion. He had to hear Mrs. Vincy say—
"Oh, Mr. Wrench, what have I ever done that you should use me so?— To
go away, and never to come again! And my boy might have been stretched
Mr. Vincy, who had been keeping up a sharp fire on the enemy Infection,
and was a good deal heated in consequence, started up when he heard
Wrench come in, and went into the hall to let him know what he thought.
"I'll tell you what, Wrench, this is beyond a joke," said the Mayor,
who of late had had to rebuke offenders with an official air, and how
broadened himself by putting his thumbs in his armholes.— "To let
fever get unawares into a house like this. There are some things that
ought to be actionable, and are not so— that's my opinion."
But irrational reproaches were easier to bear than the sense of being
instructed, or rather the sense that a younger man, like Lydgate,
inwardly considered him in need of instruction, for "in point of fact,"
Mr. Wrench afterwards said, Lydgate paraded flighty, foreign notions,
which would not wear. He swallowed his ire for the moment, but he
afterwards wrote to decline further attendance in the case. The house
might be a good one, but Mr. Wrench was not going to truckle to anybody
on a professional matter. He reflected, with much probability on his
side, that Lydgate would by-and-by be caught tripping too, and that his
ungentlemanly attempts to discredit the sale of drugs by his
professional brethren, would by-and-by recoil on himself. He threw out
biting remarks on Lydgate's tricks, worthy only of a quack, to get
himself a factitious reputation with credulous people. That cant about
cures was never got up by sound practitioners.
This was a point on which Lydgate smarted as much as Wrench could
desire. To be puffed by ignorance was not only humiliating, but
perilous, and not more enviable than the reputation of the
weather-prophet. He was impatient of the foolish expectations amidst
which all work must be carried on, and likely enough to damage himself
as much as Mr. Wrench could wish, by an unprofessional openness.
However, Lydgate was installed as medical attendant on the Vincys, and
the event was a subject of general conversation in Middlemarch. Some
said, that the Vincys had behaved scandalously, that Mr. Vincy had
threatened Wrench, and that Mrs. Vincy had accused him of poisoning her
son. Others were of opinion that Mr. Lydgate's passing by was
providential, that he was wonderfully clever in fevers, and that
Bulstrode was in the right to bring him forward. Many people believed
that Lydgate's coming to the town at all was really due to Bulstrode;
and Mrs. Taft, who was always counting stitches and gathered her
information in misleading fragments caught between the rows of her
knitting, had got it into her head that Mr. Lydgate was a natural son
of Bulstrode's, a fact which seemed to justify her suspicions of
She one day communicated this piece of knowledge to Mrs. Farebrother,
who did not fail to tell her son of it, observing—
"I should not be surprised at anything in Bulstrode, but I should be
sorry to think it of Mr. Lydgate."
"Why, mother," said Mr. Farebrother, after an explosive laugh, "you
know very well that Lydgate is of a good family in the North. He never
heard of Bulstrode before he came here."
"That is satisfactory so far as Mr. Lydgate is concerned, Camden," said
the old lady, with an air of precision.—"But as to Bulstrode—the
report may be true of some other son."
Let the high Muse chant loves Olympian:
We are but mortals, and must sing of man.
An eminent philosopher among my friends, who can dignify even your ugly
furniture by lifting it into the serene light of science, has shown me
this pregnant little fact. Your pier-glass or extensive surface of
polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid, will be minutely and
multitudinously scratched in all directions; but place now against it a
lighted candle as a centre of illumination, and lo! the scratches will
seem to arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric circles round
that little sun. It is demonstrable that the scratches are going
everywhere impartially and it is only your candle which produces the
flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with
an exclusive optical selection. These things are a parable. The
scratches are events, and the candle is the egoism of any person now
absent—of Miss Vincy, for example. Rosamond had a Providence of her
own who had kindly made her more charming than other girls, and who
seemed to have arranged Fred's illness and Mr. Wrench's mistake in
order to bring her and Lydgate within effective proximity. It would
have been to contravene these arrangements if Rosamond had consented to
go away to Stone Court or elsewhere, as her parents wished her to do,
especially since Mr. Lydgate thought the precaution needless.
Therefore, while Miss Morgan and the children were sent away to a
farmhouse the morning after Fred's illness had declared itself,
Rosamond refused to leave papa and mamma.
Poor mamma indeed was an object to touch any creature born of woman;
and Mr. Vincy, who doted on his wife, was more alarmed on her account
than on Fred's. But for his insistence she would have taken no rest:
her brightness was all bedimmed; unconscious of her costume which had
always been so fresh and gay, she was like a sick bird with languid eye
and plumage ruffled, her senses dulled to the sights and sounds that
used most to interest her. Fred's delirium, in which he seemed to be
wandering out of her reach, tore her heart. After her first outburst
against Mr. Wrench she went about very quietly: her one low cry was to
Lydgate. She would follow him out of the room and put her hand on his
arm moaning out, "Save my boy." Once she pleaded, "He has always been
good to me, Mr. Lydgate: he never had a hard word for his mother,"—as
if poor Fred's suffering were an accusation against him. All the
deepest fibres of the mother's memory were stirred, and the young man
whose voice took a gentler tone when he spoke to her, was one with the
babe whom she had loved, with a love new to her, before he was born.
"I have good hope, Mrs. Vincy," Lydgate would say. "Come down with me
and let us talk about the food." In that way he led her to the parlor
where Rosamond was, and made a change for her, surprising her into
taking some tea or broth which had been prepared for her. There was a
constant understanding between him and Rosamond on these matters. He
almost always saw her before going to the sickroom, and she appealed to
him as to what she could do for mamma. Her presence of mind and
adroitness in carrying out his hints were admirable, and it is not
wonderful that the idea of seeing Rosamond began to mingle itself with
his interest in the case. Especially when the critical stage was
passed, and he began to feel confident of Fred's recovery. In the more
doubtful time, he had advised calling in Dr. Sprague (who, if he could,
would rather have remained neutral on Wrench's account); but after two
consultations, the conduct of the case was left to Lydgate, and there
was every reason to make him assiduous. Morning and evening he was at
Mr. Vincy's, and gradually the visits became cheerful as Fred became
simply feeble, and lay not only in need of the utmost petting but
conscious of it, so that Mrs. Vincy felt as if, after all, the illness
had made a festival for her tenderness.
Both father and mother held it an added reason for good spirits, when
old Mr. Featherstone sent messages by Lydgate, saying that Fred must
make haste and get well, as he, Peter Featherstone, could not do
without him, and missed his visits sadly. The old man himself was
getting bedridden. Mrs. Vincy told these messages to Fred when he
could listen, and he turned towards her his delicate, pinched face,
from which all the thick blond hair had been cut away, and in which the
eyes seemed to have got larger, yearning for some word about
Mary—wondering what she felt about his illness. No word passed his
lips; but "to hear with eyes belongs to love's rare wit," and the
mother in the fulness of her heart not only divined Fred's longing, but
felt ready for any sacrifice in order to satisfy him.
"If I can only see my boy strong again," she said, in her loving folly;
"and who knows?—perhaps master of Stone Court! and he can marry
anybody he likes then."
"Not if they won't have me, mother," said Fred. The illness had made
him childish, and tears came as he spoke.
"Oh, take a bit of jelly, my dear," said Mrs. Vincy, secretly
incredulous of any such refusal.
She never left Fred's side when her husband was not in the house, and
thus Rosamond was in the unusual position of being much alone.
Lydgate, naturally, never thought of staying long with her, yet it
seemed that the brief impersonal conversations they had together were
creating that peculiar intimacy which consists in shyness. They were
obliged to look at each other in speaking, and somehow the looking
could not be carried through as the matter of course which it really
was. Lydgate began to feel this sort of consciousness unpleasant and
one day looked down, or anywhere, like an ill-worked puppet. But this
turned out badly: the next day, Rosamond looked down, and the
consequence was that when their eyes met again, both were more
conscious than before. There was no help for this in science, and as
Lydgate did not want to flirt, there seemed to be no help for it in
folly. It was therefore a relief when neighbors no longer considered
the house in quarantine, and when the chances of seeing Rosamond alone
were very much reduced.
But that intimacy of mutual embarrassment, in which each feels that the
other is feeling something, having once existed, its effect is not to
be done away with. Talk about the weather and other well-bred topics
is apt to seem a hollow device, and behavior can hardly become easy
unless it frankly recognizes a mutual fascination—which of course need
not mean anything deep or serious. This was the way in which Rosamond
and Lydgate slid gracefully into ease, and made their intercourse
lively again. Visitors came and went as usual, there was once more
music in the drawing-room, and all the extra hospitality of Mr. Vincy's
mayoralty returned. Lydgate, whenever he could, took his seat by
Rosamond's side, and lingered to hear her music, calling himself her
captive—meaning, all the while, not to be her captive. The
preposterousness of the notion that he could at once set up a
satisfactory establishment as a married man was a sufficient guarantee
against danger. This play at being a little in love was agreeable, and
did not interfere with graver pursuits. Flirtation, after all, was not
necessarily a singeing process. Rosamond, for her part, had never
enjoyed the days so much in her life before: she was sure of being
admired by some one worth captivating, and she did not distinguish
flirtation from love, either in herself or in another. She seemed to
be sailing with a fair wind just whither she would go, and her thoughts
were much occupied with a handsome house in Lowick Gate which she hoped
would by-and-by be vacant. She was quite determined, when she was
married, to rid herself adroitly of all the visitors who were not
agreeable to her at her father's; and she imagined the drawing-room in
her favorite house with various styles of furniture.
Certainly her thoughts were much occupied with Lydgate himself; he
seemed to her almost perfect: if he had known his notes so that his
enchantment under her music had been less like an emotional elephant's,
and if he had been able to discriminate better the refinements of her
taste in dress, she could hardly have mentioned a deficiency in him.
How different he was from young Plymdale or Mr. Caius Larcher! Those
young men had not a notion of French, and could speak on no subject
with striking knowledge, except perhaps the dyeing and carrying trades,
which of course they were ashamed to mention; they were Middlemarch
gentry, elated with their silver-headed whips and satin stocks, but
embarrassed in their manners, and timidly jocose: even Fred was above
them, having at least the accent and manner of a university man.
Whereas Lydgate was always listened to, bore himself with the careless
politeness of conscious superiority, and seemed to have the right
clothes on by a certain natural affinity, without ever having to think
about them. Rosamond was proud when he entered the room, and when he
approached her with a distinguishing smile, she had a delicious sense
that she was the object of enviable homage. If Lydgate had been aware
of all the pride he excited in that delicate bosom, he might have been
just as well pleased as any other man, even the most densely ignorant
of humoral pathology or fibrous tissue: he held it one of the prettiest
attitudes of the feminine mind to adore a man's pre-eminence without
too precise a knowledge of what it consisted in. But Rosamond was not
one of those helpless girls who betray themselves unawares, and whose
behavior is awkwardly driven by their impulses, instead of being
steered by wary grace and propriety. Do you imagine that her rapid
forecast and rumination concerning house-furniture and society were
ever discernible in her conversation, even with her mamma? On the
contrary, she would have expressed the prettiest surprise and
disapprobation if she had heard that another young lady had been
detected in that immodest prematureness—indeed, would probably have
disbelieved in its possibility. For Rosamond never showed any
unbecoming knowledge, and was always that combination of correct
sentiments, music, dancing, drawing, elegant note-writing, private
album for extracted verse, and perfect blond loveliness, which made the
irresistible woman for the doomed man of that date. Think no unfair
evil of her, pray: she had no wicked plots, nothing sordid or
mercenary; in fact, she never thought of money except as something
necessary which other people would always provide. She was not in the
habit of devising falsehoods, and if her statements were no direct clew
to fact, why, they were not intended in that light—they were among
her elegant accomplishments, intended to please. Nature had inspired
many arts in finishing Mrs. Lemon's favorite pupil, who by general
consent (Fred's excepted) was a rare compound of beauty, cleverness,
Lydgate found it more and more agreeable to be with her, and there was
no constraint now, there was a delightful interchange of influence in
their eyes, and what they said had that superfluity of meaning for
them, which is observable with some sense of flatness by a third
person; still they had no interviews or asides from which a third
person need have been excluded. In fact, they flirted; and Lydgate was
secure in the belief that they did nothing else. If a man could not
love and be wise, surely he could flirt and be wise at the same time?
Really, the men in Middlemarch, except Mr. Farebrother, were great
bores, and Lydgate did not care about commercial politics or cards:
what was he to do for relaxation? He was often invited to the
Bulstrodes'; but the girls there were hardly out of the schoolroom; and
Mrs. Bulstrode's naive way of conciliating piety and worldliness, the
nothingness of this life and the desirability of cut glass, the
consciousness at once of filthy rags and the best damask, was not a
sufficient relief from the weight of her husband's invariable
seriousness. The Vincys' house, with all its faults, was the
pleasanter by contrast; besides, it nourished Rosamond—sweet to look
at as a half-opened blush-rose, and adorned with accomplishments for
the refined amusement of man.
But he made some enemies, other than medical, by his success with Miss
Vincy. One evening he came into the drawing-room rather late, when
several other visitors were there. The card-table had drawn off the
elders, and Mr. Ned Plymdale (one of the good matches in Middlemarch,
though not one of its leading minds) was in tete-a-tete with Rosamond.
He had brought the last "Keepsake," the gorgeous watered-silk
publication which marked modern progress at that time; and he
considered himself very fortunate that he could be the first to look
over it with her, dwelling on the ladies and gentlemen with shiny
copper-plate cheeks and copper-plate smiles, and pointing to comic
verses as capital and sentimental stories as interesting. Rosamond was
gracious, and Mr. Ned was satisfied that he had the very best thing in
art and literature as a medium for "paying addresses"—the very thing
to please a nice girl. He had also reasons, deep rather than
ostensible, for being satisfied with his own appearance. To
superficial observers his chin had too vanishing an aspect, looking as
if it were being gradually reabsorbed. And it did indeed cause him
some difficulty about the fit of his satin stocks, for which chins were
at that time useful.
"I think the Honorable Mrs. S. is something like you," said Mr. Ned.
He kept the book open at the bewitching portrait, and looked at it
"Her back is very large; she seems to have sat for that," said
Rosamond, not meaning any satire, but thinking how red young Plymdale's
hands were, and wondering why Lydgate did not come. She went on with
her tatting all the while.
"I did not say she was as beautiful as you are," said Mr. Ned,
venturing to look from the portrait to its rival.
"I suspect you of being an adroit flatterer," said Rosamond, feeling
sure that she should have to reject this young gentleman a second time.
But now Lydgate came in; the book was closed before he reached
Rosamond's corner, and as he took his seat with easy confidence on the
other side of her, young Plymdale's jaw fell like a barometer towards
the cheerless side of change. Rosamond enjoyed not only Lydgate's
presence but its effect: she liked to excite jealousy.
"What a late comer you are!" she said, as they shook hands. "Mamma had
given you up a little while ago. How do you find Fred?"
"As usual; going on well, but slowly. I want him to go away—to Stone
Court, for example. But your mamma seems to have some objection."
"Poor fellow!" said Rosamond, prettily. "You will see Fred so
changed," she added, turning to the other suitor; "we have looked to
Mr. Lydgate as our guardian angel during this illness."
Mr. Ned smiled nervously, while Lydgate, drawing the "Keepsake" towards
him and opening it, gave a short scornful laugh and tossed up his
chin, as if in wonderment at human folly.
"What are you laughing at so profanely?" said Rosamond, with bland
"I wonder which would turn out to be the silliest—the engravings or
the writing here," said Lydgate, in his most convinced tone, while he
turned over the pages quickly, seeming to see all through the book in
no time, and showing his large white hands to much advantage, as
Rosamond thought. "Do look at this bridegroom coming out of church:
did you ever see such a 'sugared invention'—as the Elizabethans used
to say? Did any haberdasher ever look so smirking? Yet I will answer
for it the story makes him one of the first gentlemen in the land."
"You are so severe, I am frightened at you," said Rosamond, keeping her
amusement duly moderate. Poor young Plymdale had lingered with
admiration over this very engraving, and his spirit was stirred.
"There are a great many celebrated people writing in the 'Keepsake,' at
all events," he said, in a tone at once piqued and timid. "This is the
first time I have heard it called silly."
"I think I shall turn round on you and accuse you of being a Goth,"
said Rosamond, looking at Lydgate with a smile. "I suspect you know
nothing about Lady Blessington and L. E. L." Rosamond herself was not
without relish for these writers, but she did not readily commit
herself by admiration, and was alive to the slightest hint that
anything was not, according to Lydgate, in the very highest taste.
"But Sir Walter Scott—I suppose Mr. Lydgate knows him," said young
Plymdale, a little cheered by this advantage.
"Oh, I read no literature now," said Lydgate, shutting the book, and
pushing it away. "I read so much when I was a lad, that I suppose it
will last me all my life. I used to know Scott's poems by heart."
"I should like to know when you left off," said Rosamond, "because then
I might be sure that I knew something which you did not know."
"Mr. Lydgate would say that was not worth knowing," said Mr. Ned,
"On the contrary," said Lydgate, showing no smart; but smiling with
exasperating confidence at Rosamond. "It would be worth knowing by the
fact that Miss Vincy could tell it me."
Young Plymdale soon went to look at the whist-playing, thinking that
Lydgate was one of the most conceited, unpleasant fellows it had ever
been his ill-fortune to meet.
"How rash you are!" said Rosamond, inwardly delighted. "Do you see
that you have given offence?"
"What! is it Mr. Plymdale's book? I am sorry. I didn't think about
"I shall begin to admit what you said of yourself when you first came
here—that you are a bear, and want teaching by the birds."
"Well, there is a bird who can teach me what she will. Don't I listen
to her willingly?"
To Rosamond it seemed as if she and Lydgate were as good as engaged.
That they were some time to be engaged had long been an idea in her
mind; and ideas, we know, tend to a more solid kind of existence, the
necessary materials being at hand. It is true, Lydgate had the
counter-idea of remaining unengaged; but this was a mere negative, a
shadow cast by other resolves which themselves were capable of
shrinking. Circumstance was almost sure to be on the side of
Rosamond's idea, which had a shaping activity and looked through
watchful blue eyes, whereas Lydgate's lay blind and unconcerned as a
jelly-fish which gets melted without knowing it.
That evening when he went home, he looked at his phials to see how a
process of maceration was going on, with undisturbed interest; and he
wrote out his daily notes with as much precision as usual. The
reveries from which it was difficult for him to detach himself were
ideal constructions of something else than Rosamond's virtues, and the
primitive tissue was still his fair unknown. Moreover, he was
beginning to feel some zest for the growing though half-suppressed feud
between him and the other medical men, which was likely to become more
manifest, now that Bulstrode's method of managing the new hospital was
about to be declared; and there were various inspiriting signs that his
non-acceptance by some of Peacock's patients might be counterbalanced
by the impression he had produced in other quarters. Only a few days
later, when he had happened to overtake Rosamond on the Lowick road and
had got down from his horse to walk by her side until he had quite
protected her from a passing drove, he had been stopped by a servant on
horseback with a message calling him in to a house of some importance
where Peacock had never attended; and it was the second instance of
this kind. The servant was Sir James Chettam's, and the house was
1st Gent. All times are good to seek your wedded home
Bringing a mutual delight.
2d Gent. Why, true.
The calendar hath not an evil day
For souls made one by love, and even death
Were sweetness, if it came like rolling waves
While they two clasped each other, and foresaw
No life apart.
Mr. and Mrs. Casaubon, returning from their wedding journey, arrived at
Lowick Manor in the middle of January. A light snow was falling as
they descended at the door, and in the morning, when Dorothea passed
from her dressing-room avenue the blue-green boudoir that we know of,
she saw the long avenue of limes lifting their trunks from a white
earth, and spreading white branches against the dun and motionless sky.
The distant flat shrank in uniform whiteness and low-hanging uniformity
of cloud. The very furniture in the room seemed to have shrunk since
she saw it before: the stag in the tapestry looked more like a ghost in
his ghostly blue-green world; the volumes of polite literature in the
bookcase looked more like immovable imitations of books. The bright
fire of dry oak-boughs burning on the logs seemed an incongruous
renewal of life and glow—like the figure of Dorothea herself as she
entered carrying the red-leather cases containing the cameos for Celia.
She was glowing from her morning toilet as only healthful youth can
glow: there was gem-like brightness on her coiled hair and in her hazel
eyes; there was warm red life in her lips; her throat had a breathing
whiteness above the differing white of the fur which itself seemed to
wind about her neck and cling down her blue-gray pelisse with a
tenderness gathered from her own, a sentient commingled innocence which
kept its loveliness against the crystalline purity of the outdoor snow.
As she laid the cameo-cases on the table in the bow-window, she
unconsciously kept her hands on them, immediately absorbed in looking
out on the still, white enclosure which made her visible world.
Mr. Casaubon, who had risen early complaining of palpitation, was in
the library giving audience to his curate Mr. Tucker. By-and-by Celia
would come in her quality of bridesmaid as well as sister, and through
the next weeks there would be wedding visits received and given; all in
continuance of that transitional life understood to correspond with the
excitement of bridal felicity, and keeping up the sense of busy
ineffectiveness, as of a dream which the dreamer begins to suspect.
The duties of her married life, contemplated as so great beforehand,
seemed to be shrinking with the furniture and the white vapor-walled
landscape. The clear heights where she expected to walk in full
communion had become difficult to see even in her imagination; the
delicious repose of the soul on a complete superior had been shaken
into uneasy effort and alarmed with dim presentiment. When would the
days begin of that active wifely devotion which was to strengthen her
husband's life and exalt her own? Never perhaps, as she had
preconceived them; but somehow—still somehow. In this solemnly
pledged union of her life, duty would present itself in some new form
of inspiration and give a new meaning to wifely love.
Meanwhile there was the snow and the low arch of dun vapor—there was
the stifling oppression of that gentlewoman's world, where everything
was done for her and none asked for her aid—where the sense of
connection with a manifold pregnant existence had to be kept up
painfully as an inward vision, instead of coming from without in claims
that would have shaped her energies.— "What shall I do?" "Whatever you
please, my dear:" that had been her brief history since she had left
off learning morning lessons and practising silly rhythms on the hated
piano. Marriage, which was to bring guidance into worthy and
imperative occupation, had not yet freed her from the gentlewoman's
oppressive liberty: it had not even filled her leisure with the
ruminant joy of unchecked tenderness. Her blooming full-pulsed youth
stood there in a moral imprisonment which made itself one with the
chill, colorless, narrowed landscape, with the shrunken furniture, the
never-read books, and the ghostly stag in a pale fantastic world that
seemed to be vanishing from the daylight.
In the first minutes when Dorothea looked out she felt nothing but the
dreary oppression; then came a keen remembrance, and turning away from
the window she walked round the room. The ideas and hopes which were
living in her mind when she first saw this room nearly three months
before were present now only as memories: she judged them as we judge
transient and departed things. All existence seemed to beat with a
lower pulse than her own, and her religious faith was a solitary cry,
the struggle out of a nightmare in which every object was withering and
shrinking away from her. Each remembered thing in the room was
disenchanted, was deadened as an unlit transparency, till her wandering
gaze came to the group of miniatures, and there at last she saw
something which had gathered new breath and meaning: it was the
miniature of Mr. Casaubon's aunt Julia, who had made the unfortunate
marriage—of Will Ladislaw's grandmother. Dorothea could fancy that
it was alive now—the delicate woman's face which yet had a headstrong
look, a peculiarity difficult to interpret. Was it only her friends
who thought her marriage unfortunate? or did she herself find it out to
be a mistake, and taste the salt bitterness of her tears in the
merciful silence of the night? What breadths of experience Dorothea
seemed to have passed over since she first looked at this miniature!
She felt a new companionship with it, as if it had an ear for her and
could see how she was looking at it. Here was a woman who had known
some difficulty about marriage. Nay, the colors deepened, the lips and
chin seemed to get larger, the hair and eyes seemed to be sending out
light, the face was masculine and beamed on her with that full gaze
which tells her on whom it falls that she is too interesting for the
slightest movement of her eyelid to pass unnoticed and uninterpreted.
The vivid presentation came like a pleasant glow to Dorothea: she felt
herself smiling, and turning from the miniature sat down and looked up
as if she were again talking to a figure in front of her. But the
smile disappeared as she went on meditating, and at last she said
"Oh, it was cruel to speak so! How sad—how dreadful!"
She rose quickly and went out of the room, hurrying along the corridor,
with the irresistible impulse to go and see her husband and inquire if
she could do anything for him. Perhaps Mr. Tucker was gone and Mr.
Casaubon was alone in the library. She felt as if all her morning's
gloom would vanish if she could see her husband glad because of her
But when she reached the head of the dark oak there was Celia coming
up, and below there was Mr. Brooke, exchanging welcomes and
congratulations with Mr. Casaubon.
"Dodo!" said Celia, in her quiet staccato; then kissed her sister,
whose arms encircled her, and said no more. I think they both cried a
little in a furtive manner, while Dorothea ran down-stairs to greet her
"I need not ask how you are, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, after kissing
her forehead. "Rome has agreed with you, I see—happiness, frescos,
the antique—that sort of thing. Well, it's very pleasant to have you
back again, and you understand all about art now, eh? But Casaubon is
a little pale, I tell him—a little pale, you know. Studying hard in
his holidays is carrying it rather too far. I overdid it at one
time"—Mr. Brooke still held Dorothea's hand, but had turned his face
to Mr. Casaubon—"about topography, ruins, temples—I thought I had a
clew, but I saw it would carry me too far, and nothing might come of
it. You may go any length in that sort of thing, and nothing may come
of it, you know."
Dorothea's eyes also were turned up to her husband's face with some
anxiety at the idea that those who saw him afresh after absence might
be aware of signs which she had not noticed.
"Nothing to alarm you, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, observing her
expression. "A little English beef and mutton will soon make a
difference. It was all very well to look pale, sitting for the
portrait of Aquinas, you know—we got your letter just in time. But
Aquinas, now—he was a little too subtle, wasn't he? Does anybody read
"He is not indeed an author adapted to superficial minds," said Mr.
Casaubon, meeting these timely questions with dignified patience.
"You would like coffee in your own room, uncle?" said Dorothea, coming
to the rescue.
"Yes; and you must go to Celia: she has great news to tell you, you
know. I leave it all to her."
The blue-green boudoir looked much more cheerful when Celia was seated
there in a pelisse exactly like her sister's, surveying the cameos with
a placid satisfaction, while the conversation passed on to other topics.
"Do you think it nice to go to Rome on a wedding journey?" said Celia,
with her ready delicate blush which Dorothea was used to on the
"It would not suit all—not you, dear, for example," said Dorothea,
quietly. No one would ever know what she thought of a wedding journey
"Mrs. Cadwallader says it is nonsense, people going a long journey when
they are married. She says they get tired to death of each other, and
can't quarrel comfortably, as they would at home. And Lady Chettam
says she went to Bath." Celia's color changed again and again—seemed
"To come and go with tidings from the heart, As it a running messenger had been."
It must mean more than Celia's blushing usually did.
"Celia! has something happened?" said Dorothea, in a tone full of
sisterly feeling. "Have you really any great news to tell me?"
"It was because you went away, Dodo. Then there was nobody but me for
Sir James to talk to," said Celia, with a certain roguishness in her
"I understand. It is as I used to hope and believe," said Dorothea,
taking her sister's face between her hands, and looking at her half
anxiously. Celia's marriage seemed more serious than it used to do.
"It was only three days ago," said Celia. "And Lady Chettam is very
"And you are very happy?"
"Yes. We are not going to be married yet. Because every thing is to
be got ready. And I don't want to be married so very soon, because I
think it is nice to be engaged. And we shall be married all our lives
"I do believe you could not marry better, Kitty. Sir James is a good,
honorable man," said Dorothea, warmly.
"He has gone on with the cottages, Dodo. He will tell you about them
when he comes. Shall you be glad to see him?"
"Of course I shall. How can you ask me?"
"Only I was afraid you would be getting so learned," said Celia,
regarding Mr. Casaubon's learning as a kind of damp which might in due
time saturate a neighboring body.
"I found that no genius in another could please me.
My unfortunate paradoxes had entirely dried up that source of
One morning, some weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea—but why
always Dorothea? Was her point of view the only possible one with
regard to this marriage? I protest against all our interest, all our
effort at understanding being given to the young skins that look
blooming in spite of trouble; for these too will get faded, and will
know the older and more eating griefs which we are helping to neglect.
In spite of the blinking eyes and white moles objectionable to Celia,
and the want of muscular curve which was morally painful to Sir James,
Mr. Casaubon had an intense consciousness within him, and was
spiritually a-hungered like the rest of us. He had done nothing
exceptional in marrying—nothing but what society sanctions, and
considers an occasion for wreaths and bouquets. It had occurred to him
that he must not any longer defer his intention of matrimony, and he
had reflected that in taking a wife, a man of good position should
expect and carefully choose a blooming young lady—the younger the
better, because more educable and submissive—of a rank equal to his
own, of religious principles, virtuous disposition, and good
understanding. On such a young lady he would make handsome
settlements, and he would neglect no arrangement for her happiness: in
return, he should receive family pleasures and leave behind him that
copy of himself which seemed so urgently required of a man—to the
sonneteers of the sixteenth century. Times had altered since then, and
no sonneteer had insisted on Mr. Casaubon's leaving a copy of himself;
moreover, he had not yet succeeded in issuing copies of his
mythological key; but he had always intended to acquit himself by
marriage, and the sense that he was fast leaving the years behind him,
that the world was getting dimmer and that he felt lonely, was a reason
to him for losing no more time in overtaking domestic delights before
they too were left behind by the years.
And when he had seen Dorothea he believed that he had found even more
than he demanded: she might really be such a helpmate to him as would
enable him to dispense with a hired secretary, an aid which Mr.
Casaubon had never yet employed and had a suspicious dread of. (Mr.
Casaubon was nervously conscious that he was expected to manifest a
powerful mind.) Providence, in its kindness, had supplied him with the
wife he needed. A wife, a modest young lady, with the purely
appreciative, unambitious abilities of her sex, is sure to think her
husband's mind powerful. Whether Providence had taken equal care of
Miss Brooke in presenting her with Mr. Casaubon was an idea which could
hardly occur to him. Society never made the preposterous demand that a
man should think as much about his own qualifications for making a
charming girl happy as he thinks of hers for making himself happy. As
if a man could choose not only his wife but his wife's husband! Or as
if he were bound to provide charms for his posterity in his own
person!— When Dorothea accepted him with effusion, that was only
natural; and Mr. Casaubon believed that his happiness was going to
He had not had much foretaste of happiness in his previous life. To
know intense joy without a strong bodily frame, one must have an
enthusiastic soul. Mr. Casaubon had never had a strong bodily frame,
and his soul was sensitive without being enthusiastic: it was too
languid to thrill out of self-consciousness into passionate delight; it
went on fluttering in the swampy ground where it was hatched, thinking
of its wings and never flying. His experience was of that pitiable
kind which shrinks from pity, and fears most of all that it should be
known: it was that proud narrow sensitiveness which has not mass enough
to spare for transformation into sympathy, and quivers thread-like in
small currents of self-preoccupation or at best of an egoistic
scrupulosity. And Mr. Casaubon had many scruples: he was capable of a
severe self-restraint; he was resolute in being a man of honor
according to the code; he would be unimpeachable by any recognized
opinion. In conduct these ends had been attained; but the difficulty
of making his Key to all Mythologies unimpeachable weighed like lead
upon his mind; and the pamphlets—or "Parerga" as he called them—by
which he tested his public and deposited small monumental records of
his march, were far from having been seen in all their significance.
He suspected the Archdeacon of not having read them; he was in painful
doubt as to what was really thought of them by the leading minds of
Brasenose, and bitterly convinced that his old acquaintance Carp had
been the writer of that depreciatory recension which was kept locked in
a small drawer of Mr. Casaubon's desk, and also in a dark closet of his
verbal memory. These were heavy impressions to struggle against, and
brought that melancholy embitterment which is the consequence of all
excessive claim: even his religious faith wavered with his wavering
trust in his own authorship, and the consolations of the Christian hope
in immortality seemed to lean on the immortality of the still unwritten
Key to all Mythologies. For my part I am very sorry for him. It is an
uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and yet not to
enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life and never to be
liberated from a small hungry shivering self—never to be fully
possessed by the glory we behold, never to have our consciousness
rapturously transformed into the vividness of a thought, the ardor of a
passion, the energy of an action, but always to be scholarly and
uninspired, ambitious and timid, scrupulous and dim-sighted. Becoming a
dean or even a bishop would make little difference, I fear, to Mr.
Casaubon's uneasiness. Doubtless some ancient Greek has observed that
behind the big mask and the speaking-trumpet, there must always be our
poor little eyes peeping as usual and our timorous lips more or less
under anxious control.
To this mental estate mapped out a quarter of a century before, to
sensibilities thus fenced in, Mr. Casaubon had thought of annexing
happiness with a lovely young bride; but even before marriage, as we
have seen, he found himself under a new depression in the consciousness
that the new bliss was not blissful to him. Inclination yearned back
to its old, easier custom. And the deeper he went in domesticity the
more did the sense of acquitting himself and acting with propriety
predominate over any other satisfaction. Marriage, like religion and
erudition, nay, like authorship itself, was fated to become an outward
requirement, and Edward Casaubon was bent on fulfilling unimpeachably
all requirements. Even drawing Dorothea into use in his study,
according to his own intention before marriage, was an effort which he
was always tempted to defer, and but for her pleading insistence it
might never have begun. But she had succeeded in making it a matter of
course that she should take her place at an early hour in the library
and have work either of reading aloud or copying assigned her. The
work had been easier to define because Mr. Casaubon had adopted an
immediate intention: there was to be a new Parergon, a small monograph
on some lately traced indications concerning the Egyptian mysteries
whereby certain assertions of Warburton's could be corrected.
References were extensive even here, but not altogether shoreless; and
sentences were actually to be written in the shape wherein they would
be scanned by Brasenose and a less formidable posterity. These minor
monumental productions were always exciting to Mr. Casaubon; digestion
was made difficult by the interference of citations, or by the rivalry
of dialectical phrases ringing against each other in his brain. And
from the first there was to be a Latin dedication about which
everything was uncertain except that it was not to be addressed to
Carp: it was a poisonous regret to Mr. Casaubon that he had once
addressed a dedication to Carp in which he had numbered that member of
the animal kingdom among the viros nullo aevo perituros, a mistake
which would infallibly lay the dedicator open to ridicule in the next
age, and might even be chuckled over by Pike and Tench in the present.
Thus Mr. Casaubon was in one of his busiest epochs, and as I began to
say a little while ago, Dorothea joined him early in the library where
he had breakfasted alone. Celia at this time was on a second visit to
Lowick, probably the last before her marriage, and was in the
drawing-room expecting Sir James.
Dorothea had learned to read the signs of her husband's mood, and she
saw that the morning had become more foggy there during the last hour.
She was going silently to her desk when he said, in that distant tone
which implied that he was discharging a disagreeable duty—
"Dorothea, here is a letter for you, which was enclosed in one
addressed to me."
It was a letter of two pages, and she immediately looked at the
"Mr. Ladislaw! What can he have to say to me?" she exclaimed, in a
tone of pleased surprise. "But," she added, looking at Mr. Casaubon,
"I can imagine what he has written to you about."
"You can, if you please, read the letter," said Mr. Casaubon, severely
pointing to it with his pen, and not looking at her. "But I may as
well say beforehand, that I must decline the proposal it contains to
pay a visit here. I trust I may be excused for desiring an interval of
complete freedom from such distractions as have been hitherto
inevitable, and especially from guests whose desultory vivacity makes
their presence a fatigue."
There had been no clashing of temper between Dorothea and her husband
since that little explosion in Rome, which had left such strong traces
in her mind that it had been easier ever since to quell emotion than to
incur the consequence of venting it. But this ill-tempered
anticipation that she could desire visits which might be disagreeable
to her husband, this gratuitous defence of himself against selfish
complaint on her part, was too sharp a sting to be meditated on until
after it had been resented. Dorothea had thought that she could have
been patient with John Milton, but she had never imagined him behaving
in this way; and for a moment Mr. Casaubon seemed to be stupidly
undiscerning and odiously unjust. Pity, that "new-born babe" which was
by-and-by to rule many a storm within her, did not "stride the blast"
on this occasion. With her first words, uttered in a tone that shook
him, she startled Mr. Casaubon into looking at her, and meeting the
flash of her eyes.
"Why do you attribute to me a wish for anything that would annoy you?
You speak to me as if I were something you had to contend against.
Wait at least till I appear to consult my own pleasure apart from
"Dorothea, you are hasty," answered Mr. Casaubon, nervously.
Decidedly, this woman was too young to be on the formidable level of
wifehood—unless she had been pale and featureless and taken
everything for granted.
"I think it was you who were first hasty in your false suppositions
about my feeling," said Dorothea, in the same tone. The fire was not
dissipated yet, and she thought it was ignoble in her husband not to
apologize to her.
"We will, if you please, say no more on this subject, Dorothea. I have
neither leisure nor energy for this kind of debate."
Here Mr. Casaubon dipped his pen and made as if he would return to his
writing, though his hand trembled so much that the words seemed to be
written in an unknown character. There are answers which, in turning
away wrath, only send it to the other end of the room, and to have a
discussion coolly waived when you feel that justice is all on your own
side is even more exasperating in marriage than in philosophy.
Dorothea left Ladislaw's two letters unread on her husband's
writing-table and went to her own place, the scorn and indignation
within her rejecting the reading of these letters, just as we hurl away
any trash towards which we seem to have been suspected of mean
cupidity. She did not in the least divine the subtle sources of her
husband's bad temper about these letters: she only knew that they had
caused him to offend her. She began to work at once, and her hand did
not tremble; on the contrary, in writing out the quotations which had
been given to her the day before, she felt that she was forming her
letters beautifully, and it seemed to her that she saw the construction
of the Latin she was copying, and which she was beginning to
understand, more clearly than usual. In her indignation there was a
sense of superiority, but it went out for the present in firmness of
stroke, and did not compress itself into an inward articulate voice
pronouncing the once "affable archangel" a poor creature.
There had been this apparent quiet for half an hour, and Dorothea had
not looked away from her own table, when she heard the loud bang of a
book on the floor, and turning quickly saw Mr. Casaubon on the library
steps clinging forward as if he were in some bodily distress. She
started up and bounded towards him in an instant: he was evidently in
great straits for breath. Jumping on a stool she got close to his
elbow and said with her whole soul melted into tender alarm—
"Can you lean on me, dear?"
He was still for two or three minutes, which seemed endless to her,
unable to speak or move, gasping for breath. When at last he descended
the three steps and fell backward in the large chair which Dorothea had
drawn close to the foot of the ladder, he no longer gasped but seemed
helpless and about to faint. Dorothea rang the bell violently, and
presently Mr. Casaubon was helped to the couch: he did not faint, and
was gradually reviving, when Sir James Chettam came in, having been met
in the hall with the news that Mr. Casaubon had "had a fit in the
"Good God! this is just what might have been expected," was his
immediate thought. If his prophetic soul had been urged to
particularize, it seemed to him that "fits" would have been the
definite expression alighted upon. He asked his informant, the butler,
whether the doctor had been sent for. The butler never knew his master
to want the doctor before; but would it not be right to send for a
When Sir James entered the library, however, Mr. Casaubon could make
some signs of his usual politeness, and Dorothea, who in the reaction
from her first terror had been kneeling and sobbing by his side now
rose and herself proposed that some one should ride off for a medical
"I recommend you to send for Lydgate," said Sir James. "My mother has
called him in, and she has found him uncommonly clever. She has had a
poor opinion of the physicians since my father's death."
Dorothea appealed to her husband, and he made a silent sign of
approval. So Mr. Lydgate was sent for and he came wonderfully soon,
for the messenger, who was Sir James Chettam's man and knew Mr.
Lydgate, met him leading his horse along the Lowick road and giving his
arm to Miss Vincy.
Celia, in the drawing-room, had known nothing of the trouble till Sir
James told her of it. After Dorothea's account, he no longer
considered the illness a fit, but still something "of that nature."
"Poor dear Dodo—how dreadful!" said Celia, feeling as much grieved as
her own perfect happiness would allow. Her little hands were clasped,
and enclosed by Sir James's as a bud is enfolded by a liberal calyx.
"It is very shocking that Mr. Casaubon should be ill; but I never did
like him. And I think he is not half fond enough of Dorothea; and he
ought to be, for I am sure no one else would have had him—do you
think they would?"
"I always thought it a horrible sacrifice of your sister," said Sir
"Yes. But poor Dodo never did do what other people do, and I think she
"She is a noble creature," said the loyal-hearted Sir James. He had
just had a fresh impression of this kind, as he had seen Dorothea
stretching her tender arm under her husband's neck and looking at him
with unspeakable sorrow. He did not know how much penitence there was
in the sorrow.
"Yes," said Celia, thinking it was very well for Sir James to say so,
but he would not have been comfortable with Dodo. "Shall I go to
her? Could I help her, do you think?"
"I think it would be well for you just to go and see her before Lydgate
comes," said Sir James, magnanimously. "Only don't stay long."
While Celia was gone he walked up and down remembering what he had
originally felt about Dorothea's engagement, and feeling a revival of
his disgust at Mr. Brooke's indifference. If Cadwallader—if every
one else had regarded the affair as he, Sir James, had done, the
marriage might have been hindered. It was wicked to let a young girl
blindly decide her fate in that way, without any effort to save her.
Sir James had long ceased to have any regrets on his own account: his
heart was satisfied with his engagement to Celia. But he had a
chivalrous nature (was not the disinterested service of woman among the
ideal glories of old chivalry?): his disregarded love had not turned to
bitterness; its death had made sweet odors—floating memories that
clung with a consecrating effect to Dorothea. He could remain her
brotherly friend, interpreting her actions with generous trustfulness.
"Qui veut delasser hors de propos, lasse."—PASCAL.
Mr. Casaubon had no second attack of equal severity with the first, and
in a few days began to recover his usual condition. But Lydgate seemed
to think the case worth a great deal of attention. He not only used
his stethoscope (which had not become a matter of course in practice at
that time), but sat quietly by his patient and watched him. To Mr.
Casaubon's questions about himself, he replied that the source of the
illness was the common error of intellectual men—a too eager and
monotonous application: the remedy was, to be satisfied with moderate
work, and to seek variety of relaxation. Mr. Brooke, who sat by on one
occasion, suggested that Mr. Casaubon should go fishing, as Cadwallader
did, and have a turning-room, make toys, table-legs, and that kind of
"In short, you recommend me to anticipate the arrival of my second
childhood," said poor Mr. Casaubon, with some bitterness. "These
things," he added, looking at Lydgate, "would be to me such relaxation
as tow-picking is to prisoners in a house of correction."
"I confess," said Lydgate, smiling, "amusement is rather an
unsatisfactory prescription. It is something like telling people to
keep up their spirits. Perhaps I had better say, that you must submit
to be mildly bored rather than to go on working."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. Brooke. "Get Dorothea to play backgammon with you
in the evenings. And shuttlecock, now—I don't know a finer game than
shuttlecock for the daytime. I remember it all the fashion. To be
sure, your eyes might not stand that, Casaubon. But you must unbend,
you know. Why, you might take to some light study: conchology, now: I
always think that must be a light study. Or get Dorothea to read you
light things, Smollett—'Roderick Random,' 'Humphrey Clinker:' they
are a little broad, but she may read anything now she's married, you
know. I remember they made me laugh uncommonly—there's a droll bit
about a postilion's breeches. We have no such humor now. I have gone
through all these things, but they might be rather new to you."
"As new as eating thistles," would have been an answer to represent Mr.
Casaubon's feelings. But he only bowed resignedly, with due respect to
his wife's uncle, and observed that doubtless the works he mentioned
had "served as a resource to a certain order of minds."
"You see," said the able magistrate to Lydgate, when they were outside
the door, "Casaubon has been a little narrow: it leaves him rather at a
loss when you forbid him his particular work, which I believe is
something very deep indeed—in the line of research, you know. I would
never give way to that; I was always versatile. But a clergyman is
tied a little tight. If they would make him a bishop, now!—he did a
very good pamphlet for Peel. He would have more movement then, more
show; he might get a little flesh. But I recommend you to talk to Mrs.
Casaubon. She is clever enough for anything, is my niece. Tell her,
her husband wants liveliness, diversion: put her on amusing tactics."
Without Mr. Brooke's advice, Lydgate had determined on speaking to
Dorothea. She had not been present while her uncle was throwing out
his pleasant suggestions as to the mode in which life at Lowick might
be enlivened, but she was usually by her husband's side, and the
unaffected signs of intense anxiety in her face and voice about
whatever touched his mind or health, made a drama which Lydgate was
inclined to watch. He said to himself that he was only doing right in
telling her the truth about her husband's probable future, but he
certainly thought also that it would be interesting to talk
confidentially with her. A medical man likes to make psychological
observations, and sometimes in the pursuit of such studies is too
easily tempted into momentous prophecy which life and death easily set
at nought. Lydgate had often been satirical on this gratuitous
prediction, and he meant now to be guarded.
He asked for Mrs. Casaubon, but being told that she was out walking, he
was going away, when Dorothea and Celia appeared, both glowing from
their struggle with the March wind. When Lydgate begged to speak with
her alone, Dorothea opened the library door which happened to be the
nearest, thinking of nothing at the moment but what he might have to
say about Mr. Casaubon. It was the first time she had entered this
room since her husband had been taken ill, and the servant had chosen
not to open the shutters. But there was light enough to read by from
the narrow upper panes of the windows.
"You will not mind this sombre light," said Dorothea, standing in the
middle of the room. "Since you forbade books, the library has been out
of the question. But Mr. Casaubon will soon be here again, I hope. Is
he not making progress?"
"Yes, much more rapid progress than I at first expected. Indeed, he is
already nearly in his usual state of health."
"You do not fear that the illness will return?" said Dorothea, whose
quick ear had detected some significance in Lydgate's tone.
"Such cases are peculiarly difficult to pronounce upon," said Lydgate.
"The only point on which I can be confident is that it will be
desirable to be very watchful on Mr. Casaubon's account, lest he should
in any way strain his nervous power."
"I beseech you to speak quite plainly," said Dorothea, in an imploring
tone. "I cannot bear to think that there might be something which I
did not know, and which, if I had known it, would have made me act
differently." The words came out like a cry: it was evident that they
were the voice of some mental experience which lay not very far off.
"Sit down," she added, placing herself on the nearest chair, and
throwing off her bonnet and gloves, with an instinctive discarding of
formality where a great question of destiny was concerned.
"What you say now justifies my own view," said Lydgate. "I think it is
one's function as a medical man to hinder regrets of that sort as far
as possible. But I beg you to observe that Mr. Casaubon's case is
precisely of the kind in which the issue is most difficult to pronounce
upon. He may possibly live for fifteen years or more, without much
worse health than he has had hitherto."
Dorothea had turned very pale, and when Lydgate paused she said in a
low voice, "You mean if we are very careful."
"Yes—careful against mental agitation of all kinds, and against
"He would be miserable, if he had to give up his work," said Dorothea,
with a quick prevision of that wretchedness.
"I am aware of that. The only course is to try by all means, direct
and indirect, to moderate and vary his occupations. With a happy
concurrence of circumstances, there is, as I said, no immediate danger
from that affection of the heart, which I believe to have been the
cause of his late attack. On the other hand, it is possible that the
disease may develop itself more rapidly: it is one of those eases in
which death is sometimes sudden. Nothing should be neglected which
might be affected by such an issue."
There was silence for a few moments, while Dorothea sat as if she had
been turned to marble, though the life within her was so intense that
her mind had never before swept in brief time over an equal range of
scenes and motives.
"Help me, pray," she said, at last, in the same low voice as before.
"Tell me what I can do."
"What do you think of foreign travel? You have been lately in Rome, I
The memories which made this resource utterly hopeless were a new
current that shook Dorothea out of her pallid immobility.
"Oh, that would not do—that would be worse than anything," she said
with a more childlike despondency, while the tears rolled down.
"Nothing will be of any use that he does not enjoy."
"I wish that I could have spared you this pain," said Lydgate, deeply
touched, yet wondering about her marriage. Women just like Dorothea
had not entered into his traditions.
"It was right of you to tell me. I thank you for telling me the truth."
"I wish you to understand that I shall not say anything to enlighten
Mr. Casaubon himself. I think it desirable for him to know nothing
more than that he must not overwork himself, and must observe certain
rules. Anxiety of any kind would be precisely the most unfavorable
condition for him."
Lydgate rose, and Dorothea mechanically rose at the same time,
unclasping her cloak and throwing it off as if it stifled her. He was
bowing and quitting her, when an impulse which if she had been alone
would have turned into a prayer, made her say with a sob in her voice—
"Oh, you are a wise man, are you not? You know all about life and
death. Advise me. Think what I can do. He has been laboring all his
life and looking forward. He minds about nothing else.— And I mind
about nothing else—"
For years after Lydgate remembered the impression produced in him by
this involuntary appeal—this cry from soul to soul, without other
consciousness than their moving with kindred natures in the same
embroiled medium, the same troublous fitfully illuminated life. But
what could he say now except that he should see Mr. Casaubon again
When he was gone, Dorothea's tears gushed forth, and relieved her
stifling oppression. Then she dried her eyes, reminded that her
distress must not be betrayed to her husband; and looked round the room
thinking that she must order the servant to attend to it as usual,
since Mr. Casaubon might now at any moment wish to enter. On his
writing-table there were letters which had lain untouched since the
morning when he was taken ill, and among them, as Dorothea well
remembered, there were young Ladislaw's letters, the one addressed to
her still unopened. The associations of these letters had been made
the more painful by that sudden attack of illness which she felt that
the agitation caused by her anger might have helped to bring on: it
would be time enough to read them when they were again thrust upon her,
and she had had no inclination to fetch them from the library. But now
it occurred to her that they should be put out of her husband's sight:
whatever might have been the sources of his annoyance about them, he
must, if possible, not be annoyed again; and she ran her eyes first
over the letter addressed to him to assure herself whether or not it
would be necessary to write in order to hinder the offensive visit.
Will wrote from Rome, and began by saying that his obligations to Mr.
Casaubon were too deep for all thanks not to seem impertinent. It was
plain that if he were not grateful, he must be the poorest-spirited
rascal who had ever found a generous friend. To expand in wordy thanks
would be like saying, "I am honest." But Will had come to perceive that
his defects—defects which Mr. Casaubon had himself often pointed
to—needed for their correction that more strenuous position which his
relative's generosity had hitherto prevented from being inevitable. He
trusted that he should make the best return, if return were possible,
by showing the effectiveness of the education for which he was
indebted, and by ceasing in future to need any diversion towards
himself of funds on which others might have a better claim. He was
coming to England, to try his fortune, as many other young men were
obliged to do whose only capital was in their brains. His friend
Naumann had desired him to take charge of the "Dispute"—the picture
painted for Mr. Casaubon, with whose permission, and Mrs. Casaubon's,
Will would convey it to Lowick in person. A letter addressed to the
Poste Restante in Paris within the fortnight would hinder him, if
necessary, from arriving at an inconvenient moment. He enclosed a
letter to Mrs. Casaubon in which he continued a discussion about art,
begun with her in Rome.
Opening her own letter Dorothea saw that it was a lively continuation
of his remonstrance with her fanatical sympathy and her want of sturdy
neutral delight in things as they were—an outpouring of his young
vivacity which it was impossible to read just now. She had immediately
to consider what was to be done about the other letter: there was still
time perhaps to prevent Will from coming to Lowick. Dorothea ended by
giving the letter to her uncle, who was still in the house, and begging
him to let Will know that Mr. Casaubon had been ill, and that his
health would not allow the reception of any visitors.
No one more ready than Mr. Brooke to write a letter: his only
difficulty was to write a short one, and his ideas in this case
expanded over the three large pages and the inward foldings. He had
simply said to Dorothea—
"To be sure, I will write, my dear. He's a very clever young
fellow—this young Ladislaw—I dare say will be a rising young man.
It's a good letter—marks his sense of things, you know. However, I
will tell him about Casaubon."
But the end of Mr. Brooke's pen was a thinking organ, evolving
sentences, especially of a benevolent kind, before the rest of his mind
could well overtake them. It expressed regrets and proposed remedies,
which, when Mr. Brooke read them, seemed felicitously
worded—surprisingly the right thing, and determined a sequel which he
had never before thought of. In this case, his pen found it such a pity
young Ladislaw should not have come into the neighborhood just at
that time, in order that Mr. Brooke might make his acquaintance more
fully, and that they might go over the long-neglected Italian drawings
together—it also felt such an interest in a young man who was starting
in life with a stock of ideas—that by the end of the second page it
had persuaded Mr. Brooke to invite young Ladislaw, since he could not
be received at Lowick, to come to Tipton Grange. Why not? They could
find a great many things to do together, and this was a period of
peculiar growth—the political horizon was expanding, and—in short,
Mr. Brooke's pen went off into a little speech which it had lately
reported for that imperfectly edited organ the "Middlemarch Pioneer."
While Mr. Brooke was sealing this letter, he felt elated with an influx
of dim projects:—a young man capable of putting ideas into form, the
"Pioneer" purchased to clear the pathway for a new candidate, documents
utilized—who knew what might come of it all? Since Celia was going to
marry immediately, it would be very pleasant to have a young fellow at
table with him, at least for a time.
But he went away without telling Dorothea what he had put into the
letter, for she was engaged with her husband, and—in fact, these
things were of no importance to her.
How will you know the pitch of that great bell
Too large for you to stir? Let but a flute
Play 'neath the fine-mixed metal listen close
Till the right note flows forth, a silvery rill.
Then shall the huge bell tremble—then the mass
With myriad waves concurrent shall respond
In low soft unison.
Lydgate that evening spoke to Miss Vincy of Mrs. Casaubon, and laid
some emphasis on the strong feeling she appeared to have for that
formal studious man thirty years older than herself.
"Of course she is devoted to her husband," said Rosamond, implying a
notion of necessary sequence which the scientific man regarded as the
prettiest possible for a woman; but she was thinking at the same time
that it was not so very melancholy to be mistress of Lowick Manor with
a husband likely to die soon. "Do you think her very handsome?"
"She certainly is handsome, but I have not thought about it," said
"I suppose it would be unprofessional," said Rosamond, dimpling. "But
how your practice is spreading! You were called in before to the
Chettams, I think; and now, the Casaubons."
"Yes," said Lydgate, in a tone of compulsory admission. "But I don't
really like attending such people so well as the poor. The cases are
more monotonous, and one has to go through more fuss and listen more
deferentially to nonsense."
"Not more than in Middlemarch," said Rosamond. "And at least you go
through wide corridors and have the scent of rose-leaves everywhere."
"That is true, Mademoiselle de Montmorenci," said Lydgate, just bending
his head to the table and lifting with his fourth finger her delicate
handkerchief which lay at the mouth of her reticule, as if to enjoy its
scent, while he looked at her with a smile.
But this agreeable holiday freedom with which Lydgate hovered about the
flower of Middlemarch, could not continue indefinitely. It was not
more possible to find social isolation in that town than elsewhere, and
two people persistently flirting could by no means escape from "the
various entanglements, weights, blows, clashings, motions, by which
things severally go on." Whatever Miss Vincy did must be remarked, and
she was perhaps the more conspicuous to admirers and critics because
just now Mrs. Vincy, after some struggle, had gone with Fred to stay a
little while at Stone Court, there being no other way of at once
gratifying old Featherstone and keeping watch against Mary Garth, who
appeared a less tolerable daughter-in-law in proportion as Fred's
Aunt Bulstrode, for example, came a little oftener into Lowick Gate to
see Rosamond, now she was alone. For Mrs. Bulstrode had a true
sisterly feeling for her brother; always thinking that he might have
married better, but wishing well to the children. Now Mrs. Bulstrode
had a long-standing intimacy with Mrs. Plymdale. They had nearly the
same preferences in silks, patterns for underclothing, china-ware, and
clergymen; they confided their little troubles of health and household
management to each other, and various little points of superiority on
Mrs. Bulstrode's side, namely, more decided seriousness, more
admiration for mind, and a house outside the town, sometimes served to
give color to their conversation without dividing them—well-meaning
women both, knowing very little of their own motives.
Mrs. Bulstrode, paying a morning visit to Mrs. Plymdale, happened to
say that she could not stay longer, because she was going to see poor
"Why do you say 'poor Rosamond'?" said Mrs. Plymdale, a round-eyed
sharp little woman, like a tamed falcon.
"She is so pretty, and has been brought up in such thoughtlessness.
The mother, you know, had always that levity about her, which makes me
anxious for the children."
"Well, Harriet, if I am to speak my mind," said Mrs. Plymdale, with
emphasis, "I must say, anybody would suppose you and Mr. Bulstrode
would be delighted with what has happened, for you have done everything
to put Mr. Lydgate forward."
"Selina, what do you mean?" said Mrs. Bulstrode, in genuine surprise.
"Not but what I am truly thankful for Ned's sake," said Mrs. Plymdale.
"He could certainly better afford to keep such a wife than some people
can; but I should wish him to look elsewhere. Still a mother has
anxieties, and some young men would take to a bad life in consequence.
Besides, if I was obliged to speak, I should say I was not fond of
strangers coming into a town."
"I don't know, Selina," said Mrs. Bulstrode, with a little emphasis in
her turn. "Mr. Bulstrode was a stranger here at one time. Abraham and
Moses were strangers in the land, and we are told to entertain
strangers. And especially," she added, after a slight pause, "when
they are unexceptionable."
"I was not speaking in a religious sense, Harriet. I spoke as a
"Selina, I am sure you have never heard me say anything against a niece
of mine marrying your son."
"Oh, it is pride in Miss Vincy—I am sure it is nothing else," said
Mrs. Plymdale, who had never before given all her confidence to
"Harriet" on this subject. "No young man in Middlemarch was good
enough for her: I have heard her mother say as much. That is not a
Christian spirit, I think. But now, from all I hear, she has found a
man as proud as herself."
"You don't mean that there is anything between Rosamond and Mr.
Lydgate?" said Mrs. Bulstrode, rather mortified at finding out her own
"Is it possible you don't know, Harriet?"
"Oh, I go about so little; and I am not fond of gossip; I really never
hear any. You see so many people that I don't see. Your circle is
rather different from ours."
"Well, but your own niece and Mr. Bulstrode's great favorite—and
yours too, I am sure, Harriet! I thought, at one time, you meant him
for Kate, when she is a little older."
"I don't believe there can be anything serious at present," said Mrs.
Bulstrode. "My brother would certainly have told me."
"Well, people have different ways, but I understand that nobody can see
Miss Vincy and Mr. Lydgate together without taking them to be engaged.
However, it is not my business. Shall I put up the pattern of mittens?"
After this Mrs. Bulstrode drove to her niece with a mind newly
weighted. She was herself handsomely dressed, but she noticed with a
little more regret than usual that Rosamond, who was just come in and
met her in walking-dress, was almost as expensively equipped. Mrs.
Bulstrode was a feminine smaller edition of her brother, and had none
of her husband's low-toned pallor. She had a good honest glance and
used no circumlocution.
"You are alone, I see, my dear," she said, as they entered the
drawing-room together, looking round gravely. Rosamond felt sure that
her aunt had something particular to say, and they sat down near each
other. Nevertheless, the quilling inside Rosamond's bonnet was so
charming that it was impossible not to desire the same kind of thing
for Kate, and Mrs. Bulstrode's eyes, which were rather fine, rolled
round that ample quilled circuit, while she spoke.
"I have just heard something about you that has surprised me very much,
"What is that, aunt?" Rosamond's eyes also were roaming over her
aunt's large embroidered collar.
"I can hardly believe it—that you should be engaged without my knowing
it—without your father's telling me." Here Mrs. Bulstrode's eyes
finally rested on Rosamond's, who blushed deeply, and said—
"I am not engaged, aunt."
"How is it that every one says so, then—that it is the town's talk?"
"The town's talk is of very little consequence, I think," said
Rosamond, inwardly gratified.
"Oh, my dear, be more thoughtful; don't despise your neighbors so.
Remember you are turned twenty-two now, and you will have no fortune:
your father, I am sure, will not be able to spare you anything. Mr.
Lydgate is very intellectual and clever; I know there is an attraction
in that. I like talking to such men myself; and your uncle finds him
very useful. But the profession is a poor one here. To be sure, this
life is not everything; but it is seldom a medical man has true
religious views—there is too much pride of intellect. And you are not
fit to marry a poor man.
"Mr. Lydgate is not a poor man, aunt. He has very high connections."
"He told me himself he was poor."
"That is because he is used to people who have a high style of living."
"My dear Rosamond, you must not think of living in high style."
Rosamond looked down and played with her reticule. She was not a fiery
young lady and had no sharp answers, but she meant to live as she
"Then it is really true?" said Mrs. Bulstrode, looking very earnestly
at her niece. "You are thinking of Mr. Lydgate—there is some
understanding between you, though your father doesn't know. Be open,
my dear Rosamond: Mr. Lydgate has really made you an offer?"
Poor Rosamond's feelings were very unpleasant. She had been quite easy
as to Lydgate's feeling and intention, but now when her aunt put this
question she did not like being unable to say Yes. Her pride was hurt,
but her habitual control of manner helped her.
"Pray excuse me, aunt. I would rather not speak on the subject."
"You would not give your heart to a man without a decided prospect, I
trust, my dear. And think of the two excellent offers I know of that
you have refused!—and one still within your reach, if you will not
throw it away. I knew a very great beauty who married badly at last,
by doing so. Mr. Ned Plymdale is a nice young man—some might think
good-looking; and an only son; and a large business of that kind is
better than a profession. Not that marrying is everything. I would
have you seek first the kingdom of God. But a girl should keep her
heart within her own power."
"I should never give it to Mr. Ned Plymdale, if it were. I have
already refused him. If I loved, I should love at once and without
change," said Rosamond, with a great sense of being a romantic heroine,
and playing the part prettily.
"I see how it is, my dear," said Mrs. Bulstrode, in a melancholy voice,
rising to go. "You have allowed your affections to be engaged without
"No, indeed, aunt," said Rosamond, with emphasis.
"Then you are quite confident that Mr. Lydgate has a serious attachment
Rosamond's cheeks by this time were persistently burning, and she felt
much mortification. She chose to be silent, and her aunt went away all
the more convinced.
Mr. Bulstrode in things worldly and indifferent was disposed to do what
his wife bade him, and she now, without telling her reasons, desired
him on the next opportunity to find out in conversation with Mr.
Lydgate whether he had any intention of marrying soon. The result was
a decided negative. Mr. Bulstrode, on being cross-questioned, showed
that Lydgate had spoken as no man would who had any attachment that
could issue in matrimony. Mrs. Bulstrode now felt that she had a
serious duty before her, and she soon managed to arrange a tete-a-tete
with Lydgate, in which she passed from inquiries about Fred Vincy's
health, and expressions of her sincere anxiety for her brother's large
family, to general remarks on the dangers which lay before young people
with regard to their settlement in life. Young men were often wild and
disappointing, making little return for the money spent on them, and a
girl was exposed to many circumstances which might interfere with her
"Especially when she has great attractions, and her parents see much
company," said Mrs. Bulstrode "Gentlemen pay her attention, and engross
her all to themselves, for the mere pleasure of the moment, and that
drives off others. I think it is a heavy responsibility, Mr. Lydgate,
to interfere with the prospects of any girl." Here Mrs. Bulstrode fixed
her eyes on him, with an unmistakable purpose of warning, if not of
"Clearly," said Lydgate, looking at her—perhaps even staring a little
in return. "On the other hand, a man must be a great coxcomb to go
about with a notion that he must not pay attention to a young lady lest
she should fall in love with him, or lest others should think she must."
"Oh, Mr. Lydgate, you know well what your advantages are. You know
that our young men here cannot cope with you. Where you frequent a
house it may militate very much against a girl's making a desirable
settlement in life, and prevent her from accepting offers even if they
Lydgate was less flattered by his advantage over the Middlemarch
Orlandos than he was annoyed by the perception of Mrs. Bulstrode's
meaning. She felt that she had spoken as impressively as it was
necessary to do, and that in using the superior word "militate" she had
thrown a noble drapery over a mass of particulars which were still
Lydgate was fuming a little, pushed his hair back with one hand, felt
curiously in his waistcoat-pocket with the other, and then stooped to
beckon the tiny black spaniel, which had the insight to decline his
hollow caresses. It would not have been decent to go away, because he
had been dining with other guests, and had just taken tea. But Mrs.
Bulstrode, having no doubt that she had been understood, turned the
Solomon's Proverbs, I think, have omitted to say, that as the sore
palate findeth grit, so an uneasy consciousness heareth innuendoes.
The next day Mr. Farebrother, parting from Lydgate in the street,
supposed that they should meet at Vincy's in the evening. Lydgate
answered curtly, no—he had work to do—he must give up going out in
"What! you are going to get lashed to the mast, eh, and are stopping
your ears?" said the Vicar. "Well, if you don't mean to be won by the
sirens, you are right to take precautions in time."
A few days before, Lydgate would have taken no notice of these words as
anything more than the Vicar's usual way of putting things. They
seemed now to convey an innuendo which confirmed the impression that he
had been making a fool of himself and behaving so as to be
misunderstood: not, he believed, by Rosamond herself; she, he felt
sure, took everything as lightly as he intended it. She had an
exquisite tact and insight in relation to all points of manners; but
the people she lived among were blunderers and busybodies. However,
the mistake should go no farther. He resolved—and kept his
resolution—that he would not go to Mr. Vincy's except on business.
Rosamond became very unhappy. The uneasiness first stirred by her
aunt's questions grew and grew till at the end of ten days that she had
not seen Lydgate, it grew into terror at the blank that might possibly
come—into foreboding of that ready, fatal sponge which so cheaply
wipes out the hopes of mortals. The world would have a new dreariness
for her, as a wilderness that a magician's spells had turned for a
little while into a garden. She felt that she was beginning to know
the pang of disappointed love, and that no other man could be the
occasion of such delightful aerial building as she had been enjoying
for the last six months. Poor Rosamond lost her appetite and felt as
forlorn as Ariadne—as a charming stage Ariadne left behind with all
her boxes full of costumes and no hope of a coach.
There are many wonderful mixtures in the world which are all alike
called love, and claim the privileges of a sublime rage which is an
apology for everything (in literature and the drama). Happily Rosamond
did not think of committing any desperate act: she plaited her fair
hair as beautifully as usual, and kept herself proudly calm. Her most
cheerful supposition was that her aunt Bulstrode had interfered in some
way to hinder Lydgate's visits: everything was better than a
spontaneous indifference in him. Any one who imagines ten days too
short a time—not for falling into leanness, lightness, or other
measurable effects of passion, but—for the whole spiritual circuit of
alarmed conjecture and disappointment, is ignorant of what can go on in
the elegant leisure of a young lady's mind.
On the eleventh day, however, Lydgate when leaving Stone Court was
requested by Mrs. Vincy to let her husband know that there was a marked
change in Mr. Featherstone's health, and that she wished him to come to
Stone Court on that day. Now Lydgate might have called at the
warehouse, or might have written a message on a leaf of his pocket-book
and left it at the door. Yet these simple devices apparently did not
occur to him, from which we may conclude that he had no strong
objection to calling at the house at an hour when Mr. Vincy was not at
home, and leaving the message with Miss Vincy. A man may, from various
motives, decline to give his company, but perhaps not even a sage would
be gratified that nobody missed him. It would be a graceful, easy way
of piecing on the new habits to the old, to have a few playful words
with Rosamond about his resistance to dissipation, and his firm resolve
to take long fasts even from sweet sounds. It must be confessed, also,
that momentary speculations as to all the possible grounds for Mrs.
Bulstrode's hints had managed to get woven like slight clinging hairs
into the more substantial web of his thoughts.
Miss Vincy was alone, and blushed so deeply when Lydgate came in that
he felt a corresponding embarrassment, and instead of any playfulness,
he began at once to speak of his reason for calling, and to beg her,
almost formally, to deliver the message to her father. Rosamond, who
at the first moment felt as if her happiness were returning, was keenly
hurt by Lydgate's manner; her blush had departed, and she assented
coldly, without adding an unnecessary word, some trivial chain-work
which she had in her hands enabling her to avoid looking at Lydgate
higher than his chin. In all failures, the beginning is certainly the
half of the whole. After sitting two long moments while he moved his
whip and could say nothing, Lydgate rose to go, and Rosamond, made
nervous by her struggle between mortification and the wish not to
betray it, dropped her chain as if startled, and rose too,
mechanically. Lydgate instantaneously stooped to pick up the chain.
When he rose he was very near to a lovely little face set on a fair
long neck which he had been used to see turning about under the most
perfect management of self-contented grace. But as he raised his eyes
now he saw a certain helpless quivering which touched him quite newly,
and made him look at Rosamond with a questioning flash. At this moment
she was as natural as she had ever been when she was five years old:
she felt that her tears had risen, and it was no use to try to do
anything else than let them stay like water on a blue flower or let
them fall over her cheeks, even as they would.
That moment of naturalness was the crystallizing feather-touch: it
shook flirtation into love. Remember that the ambitious man who was
looking at those Forget-me-nots under the water was very warm-hearted
and rash. He did not know where the chain went; an idea had thrilled
through the recesses within him which had a miraculous effect in
raising the power of passionate love lying buried there in no sealed
sepulchre, but under the lightest, easily pierced mould. His words
were quite abrupt and awkward; but the tone made them sound like an
ardent, appealing avowal.
"What is the matter? you are distressed. Tell me, pray."
Rosamond had never been spoken to in such tones before. I am not sure
that she knew what the words were: but she looked at Lydgate and the
tears fell over her cheeks. There could have been no more complete
answer than that silence, and Lydgate, forgetting everything else,
completely mastered by the outrush of tenderness at the sudden belief
that this sweet young creature depended on him for her joy, actually
put his arms round her, folding her gently and protectingly—he was
used to being gentle with the weak and suffering—and kissed each of
the two large tears. This was a strange way of arriving at an
understanding, but it was a short way. Rosamond was not angry, but she
moved backward a little in timid happiness, and Lydgate could now sit
near her and speak less incompletely. Rosamond had to make her little
confession, and he poured out words of gratitude and tenderness with
impulsive lavishment. In half an hour he left the house an engaged
man, whose soul was not his own, but the woman's to whom he had bound
He came again in the evening to speak with Mr. Vincy, who, just
returned from Stone Court, was feeling sure that it would not be long
before he heard of Mr. Featherstone's demise. The felicitous word
"demise," which had seasonably occurred to him, had raised his spirits
even above their usual evening pitch. The right word is always a
power, and communicates its definiteness to our action. Considered as
a demise, old Featherstone's death assumed a merely legal aspect, so
that Mr. Vincy could tap his snuff-box over it and be jovial, without
even an intermittent affectation of solemnity; and Mr. Vincy hated both
solemnity and affectation. Who was ever awe struck about a testator,
or sang a hymn on the title to real property? Mr. Vincy was inclined
to take a jovial view of all things that evening: he even observed to
Lydgate that Fred had got the family constitution after all, and would
soon be as fine a fellow as ever again; and when his approbation of
Rosamond's engagement was asked for, he gave it with astonishing
facility, passing at once to general remarks on the desirableness of
matrimony for young men and maidens, and apparently deducing from the
whole the appropriateness of a little more punch.
"They'll take suggestion as a cat laps milk."
The triumphant confidence of the Mayor founded on Mr. Featherstone's
insistent demand that Fred and his mother should not leave him, was a
feeble emotion compared with all that was agitating the breasts of the
old man's blood-relations, who naturally manifested more their sense of
the family tie and were more visibly numerous now that he had become
bedridden. Naturally: for when "poor Peter" had occupied his arm-chair
in the wainscoted parlor, no assiduous beetles for whom the cook
prepares boiling water could have been less welcome on a hearth which
they had reasons for preferring, than those persons whose Featherstone
blood was ill-nourished, not from penuriousness on their part, but from
poverty. Brother Solomon and Sister Jane were rich, and the family
candor and total abstinence from false politeness with which they were
always received seemed to them no argument that their brother in the
solemn act of making his will would overlook the superior claims of
wealth. Themselves at least he had never been unnatural enough to
banish from his house, and it seemed hardly eccentric that he should
have kept away Brother Jonah, Sister Martha, and the rest, who had no
shadow of such claims. They knew Peter's maxim, that money was a good
egg, and should be laid in a warm nest.
But Brother Jonah, Sister Martha, and all the needy exiles, held a
different point of view. Probabilities are as various as the faces to
be seen at will in fretwork or paper-hangings: every form is there,
from Jupiter to Judy, if you only look with creative inclination. To
the poorer and least favored it seemed likely that since Peter had done
nothing for them in his life, he would remember them at the last.
Jonah argued that men liked to make a surprise of their wills, while
Martha said that nobody need be surprised if he left the best part of
his money to those who least expected it. Also it was not to be
thought but that an own brother "lying there" with dropsy in his legs
must come to feel that blood was thicker than water, and if he didn't
alter his will, he might have money by him. At any rate some
blood-relations should be on the premises and on the watch against
those who were hardly relations at all. Such things had been known as
forged wills and disputed wills, which seemed to have the golden-hazy
advantage of somehow enabling non-legatees to live out of them. Again,
those who were no blood-relations might be caught making away with
things—and poor Peter "lying there" helpless! Somebody should be on
the watch. But in this conclusion they were at one with Solomon and
Jane; also, some nephews, nieces, and cousins, arguing with still
greater subtilty as to what might be done by a man able to "will away"
his property and give himself large treats of oddity, felt in a
handsome sort of way that there was a family interest to be attended
to, and thought of Stone Court as a place which it would be nothing but
right for them to visit. Sister Martha, otherwise Mrs. Cranch, living
with some wheeziness in the Chalky Flats, could not undertake the
journey; but her son, as being poor Peter's own nephew, could represent
her advantageously, and watch lest his uncle Jonah should make an
unfair use of the improbable things which seemed likely to happen. In
fact there was a general sense running in the Featherstone blood that
everybody must watch everybody else, and that it would be well for
everybody else to reflect that the Almighty was watching him.
Thus Stone Court continually saw one or other blood-relation alighting
or departing, and Mary Garth had the unpleasant task of carrying their
messages to Mr. Featherstone, who would see none of them, and sent her
down with the still more unpleasant task of telling them so. As
manager of the household she felt bound to ask them in good provincial
fashion to stay and eat; but she chose to consult Mrs. Vincy on the
point of extra down-stairs consumption now that Mr. Featherstone was
"Oh, my dear, you must do things handsomely where there's last illness
and a property. God knows, I don't grudge them every ham in the
house—only, save the best for the funeral. Have some stuffed veal
always, and a fine cheese in cut. You must expect to keep open house
in these last illnesses," said liberal Mrs. Vincy, once more of
cheerful note and bright plumage.
But some of the visitors alighted and did not depart after the handsome
treating to veal and ham. Brother Jonah, for example (there are such
unpleasant people in most families; perhaps even in the highest
aristocracy there are Brobdingnag specimens, gigantically in debt and
bloated at greater expense)—Brother Jonah, I say, having come down in
the world, was mainly supported by a calling which he was modest enough
not to boast of, though it was much better than swindling either on
exchange or turf, but which did not require his presence at Brassing so
long as he had a good corner to sit in and a supply of food. He chose
the kitchen-corner, partly because he liked it best, and partly because
he did not want to sit with Solomon, concerning whom he had a strong
brotherly opinion. Seated in a famous arm-chair and in his best suit,
constantly within sight of good cheer, he had a comfortable
consciousness of being on the premises, mingled with fleeting
suggestions of Sunday and the bar at the Green Man; and he informed
Mary Garth that he should not go out of reach of his brother Peter
while that poor fellow was above ground. The troublesome ones in a
family are usually either the wits or the idiots. Jonah was the wit
among the Featherstones, and joked with the maid-servants when they
came about the hearth, but seemed to consider Miss Garth a suspicious
character, and followed her with cold eyes.
Mary would have borne this one pair of eyes with comparative ease, but
unfortunately there was young Cranch, who, having come all the way from
the Chalky Flats to represent his mother and watch his uncle Jonah,
also felt it his duty to stay and to sit chiefly in the kitchen to give
his uncle company. Young Cranch was not exactly the balancing point
between the wit and the idiot,—verging slightly towards the latter
type, and squinting so as to leave everything in doubt about his
sentiments except that they were not of a forcible character. When
Mary Garth entered the kitchen and Mr. Jonah Featherstone began to
follow her with his cold detective eyes, young Cranch turning his head
in the same direction seemed to insist on it that she should remark how
he was squinting, as if he did it with design, like the gypsies when
Borrow read the New Testament to them. This was rather too much for
poor Mary; sometimes it made her bilious, sometimes it upset her
gravity. One day that she had an opportunity she could not resist
describing the kitchen scene to Fred, who would not be hindered from
immediately going to see it, affecting simply to pass through. But no
sooner did he face the four eyes than he had to rush through the
nearest door which happened to lead to the dairy, and there under the
high roof and among the pans he gave way to laughter which made a
hollow resonance perfectly audible in the kitchen. He fled by another
doorway, but Mr. Jonah, who had not before seen Fred's white
complexion, long legs, and pinched delicacy of face, prepared many
sarcasms in which these points of appearance were wittily combined with
the lowest moral attributes.
"Why, Tom, you don't wear such gentlemanly trousers—you haven't got
half such fine long legs," said Jonah to his nephew, winking at the
same time, to imply that there was something more in these statements
than their undeniableness. Tom looked at his legs, but left it
uncertain whether he preferred his moral advantages to a more vicious
length of limb and reprehensible gentility of trouser.
In the large wainscoted parlor too there were constantly pairs of eyes
on the watch, and own relatives eager to be "sitters-up." Many came,
lunched, and departed, but Brother Solomon and the lady who had been
Jane Featherstone for twenty-five years before she was Mrs. Waule found
it good to be there every day for hours, without other calculable
occupation than that of observing the cunning Mary Garth (who was so
deep that she could be found out in nothing) and giving occasional dry
wrinkly indications of crying—as if capable of torrents in a wetter
season—at the thought that they were not allowed to go into Mr.
Featherstone's room. For the old man's dislike of his own family
seemed to get stronger as he got less able to amuse himself by saying
biting things to them. Too languid to sting, he had the more venom
refluent in his blood.
Not fully believing the message sent through Mary Garth, they had
presented themselves together within the door of the bedroom, both in
black—Mrs. Waule having a white handkerchief partially unfolded in her
hand—and both with faces in a sort of half-mourning purple; while Mrs.
Vincy with her pink cheeks and pink ribbons flying was actually
administering a cordial to their own brother, and the
light-complexioned Fred, his short hair curling as might be expected in
a gambler's, was lolling at his ease in a large chair.
Old Featherstone no sooner caught sight of these funereal figures
appearing in spite of his orders than rage came to strengthen him more
successfully than the cordial. He was propped up on a bed-rest, and
always had his gold-headed stick lying by him. He seized it now and
swept it backwards and forwards in as large an area as he could,
apparently to ban these ugly spectres, crying in a hoarse sort of
"Back, back, Mrs. Waule! Back, Solomon!"
"Oh, Brother. Peter," Mrs. Waule began—but Solomon put his hand
before her repressingly. He was a large-cheeked man, nearly seventy,
with small furtive eyes, and was not only of much blander temper but
thought himself much deeper than his brother Peter; indeed not likely
to be deceived in any of his fellow-men, inasmuch as they could not
well be more greedy and deceitful than he suspected them of being.
Even the invisible powers, he thought, were likely to be soothed by a
bland parenthesis here and there—coming from a man of property, who
might have been as impious as others.
"Brother Peter," he said, in a wheedling yet gravely official tone,
"It's nothing but right I should speak to you about the Three Crofts
and the Manganese. The Almighty knows what I've got on my mind—"
"Then he knows more than I want to know," said Peter, laying down his
stick with a show of truce which had a threat in it too, for he
reversed the stick so as to make the gold handle a club in case of
closer fighting, and looked hard at Solomon's bald head.
"There's things you might repent of, Brother, for want of speaking to
me," said Solomon, not advancing, however. "I could sit up with you
to-night, and Jane with me, willingly, and you might take your own time
to speak, or let me speak."
"Yes, I shall take my own time—you needn't offer me yours," said Peter.
"But you can't take your own time to die in, Brother," began Mrs.
Waule, with her usual woolly tone. "And when you lie speechless you
may be tired of having strangers about you, and you may think of me and
my children"—but here her voice broke under the touching thought which
she was attributing to her speechless brother; the mention of ourselves
being naturally affecting.
"No, I shan't," said old Featherstone, contradictiously. "I shan't
think of any of you. I've made my will, I tell you, I've made my
will." Here he turned his head towards Mrs. Vincy, and swallowed some
more of his cordial.
"Some people would be ashamed to fill up a place belonging by rights to
others," said Mrs. Waule, turning her narrow eyes in the same direction.
"Oh, sister," said Solomon, with ironical softness, "you and me are not
fine, and handsome, and clever enough: we must be humble and let smart
people push themselves before us."
Fred's spirit could not bear this: rising and looking at Mr.
Featherstone, he said, "Shall my mother and I leave the room, sir, that
you may be alone with your friends?"
"Sit down, I tell you," said old Featherstone, snappishly. "Stop where
you are. Good-by, Solomon," he added, trying to wield his stick again,
but failing now that he had reversed the handle. "Good-by, Mrs. Waule.
Don't you come again."
"I shall be down-stairs, Brother, whether or no," said Solomon. "I
shall do my duty, and it remains to be seen what the Almighty will
"Yes, in property going out of families," said Mrs. Waule, in
continuation,—"and where there's steady young men to carry on. But I
pity them who are not such, and I pity their mothers. Good-by, Brother
"Remember, I'm the eldest after you, Brother, and prospered from the
first, just as you did, and have got land already by the name of
Featherstone," said Solomon, relying much on that reflection, as one
which might be suggested in the watches of the night. "But I bid you
good-by for the present."
Their exit was hastened by their seeing old Mr. Featherstone pull his
wig on each side and shut his eyes with his mouth-widening grimace, as
if he were determined to be deaf and blind.
None the less they came to Stone Court daily and sat below at the post
of duty, sometimes carrying on a slow dialogue in an undertone in which
the observation and response were so far apart, that any one hearing
them might have imagined himself listening to speaking automata, in
some doubt whether the ingenious mechanism would really work, or wind
itself up for a long time in order to stick and be silent. Solomon and
Jane would have been sorry to be quick: what that led to might be seen
on the other side of the wall in the person of Brother Jonah.
But their watch in the wainscoted parlor was sometimes varied by the
presence of other guests from far or near. Now that Peter Featherstone
was up-stairs, his property could be discussed with all that local
enlightenment to be found on the spot: some rural and Middlemarch
neighbors expressed much agreement with the family and sympathy with
their interest against the Vincys, and feminine visitors were even
moved to tears, in conversation with Mrs. Waule, when they recalled the
fact that they themselves had been disappointed in times past by
codicils and marriages for spite on the part of ungrateful elderly
gentlemen, who, it might have been supposed, had been spared for
something better. Such conversation paused suddenly, like an organ
when the bellows are let drop, if Mary Garth came into the room; and
all eyes were turned on her as a possible legatee, or one who might get
access to iron chests.
But the younger men who were relatives or connections of the family,
were disposed to admire her in this problematic light, as a girl who
showed much conduct, and who among all the chances that were flying
might turn out to be at least a moderate prize. Hence she had her
share of compliments and polite attentions.
Especially from Mr. Borthrop Trumbull, a distinguished bachelor and
auctioneer of those parts, much concerned in the sale of land and
cattle: a public character, indeed, whose name was seen on widely
distributed placards, and who might reasonably be sorry for those who
did not know of him. He was second cousin to Peter Featherstone, and
had been treated by him with more amenity than any other relative,
being useful in matters of business; and in that programme of his
funeral which the old man had himself dictated, he had been named as a
Bearer. There was no odious cupidity in Mr. Borthrop Trumbull—nothing
more than a sincere sense of his own merit, which, he was aware, in
case of rivalry might tell against competitors; so that if Peter
Featherstone, who so far as he, Trumbull, was concerned, had
behaved like as good a soul as ever breathed, should have done anything
handsome by him, all he could say was, that he had never fished and
fawned, but had advised him to the best of his experience, which now
extended over twenty years from the time of his apprenticeship at
fifteen, and was likely to yield a knowledge of no surreptitious kind.
His admiration was far from being confined to himself, but was
accustomed professionally as well as privately to delight in estimating
things at a high rate. He was an amateur of superior phrases, and
never used poor language without immediately correcting himself—which
was fortunate, as he was rather loud, and given to predominate,
standing or walking about frequently, pulling down his waistcoat with
the air of a man who is very much of his own opinion, trimming himself
rapidly with his fore-finger, and marking each new series in these
movements by a busy play with his large seals. There was occasionally
a little fierceness in his demeanor, but it was directed chiefly
against false opinion, of which there is so much to correct in the
world that a man of some reading and experience necessarily has his
patience tried. He felt that the Featherstone family generally was of
limited understanding, but being a man of the world and a public
character, took everything as a matter of course, and even went to
converse with Mr. Jonah and young Cranch in the kitchen, not doubting
that he had impressed the latter greatly by his leading questions
concerning the Chalky Flats. If anybody had observed that Mr. Borthrop
Trumbull, being an auctioneer, was bound to know the nature of
everything, he would have smiled and trimmed himself silently with the
sense that he came pretty near that. On the whole, in an auctioneering
way, he was an honorable man, not ashamed of his business, and feeling
that "the celebrated Peel, now Sir Robert," if introduced to him, would
not fail to recognize his importance.
"I don't mind if I have a slice of that ham, and a glass of that ale,
Miss Garth, if you will allow me," he said, coming into the parlor at
half-past eleven, after having had the exceptional privilege of seeing
old Featherstone, and standing with his back to the fire between Mrs.
Waule and Solomon.
"It's not necessary for you to go out;—let me ring the bell."
"Thank you," said Mary, "I have an errand."
"Well, Mr. Trumbull, you're highly favored," said Mrs. Waule.
"What! seeing the old man?" said the auctioneer, playing with his seals
dispassionately. "Ah, you see he has relied on me considerably." Here
he pressed his lips together, and frowned meditatively.
"Might anybody ask what their brother has been saying?" said Solomon,
in a soft tone of humility, in which he had a sense of luxurious
cunning, he being a rich man and not in need of it.
"Oh yes, anybody may ask," said Mr. Trumbull, with loud and
good-humored though cutting sarcasm. "Anybody may interrogate. Any
one may give their remarks an interrogative turn," he continued, his
sonorousness rising with his style. "This is constantly done by good
speakers, even when they anticipate no answer. It is what we call a
figure of speech—speech at a high figure, as one may say." The
eloquent auctioneer smiled at his own ingenuity.
"I shouldn't be sorry to hear he'd remembered you, Mr. Trumbull," said
Solomon. "I never was against the deserving. It's the undeserving I'm
"Ah, there it is, you see, there it is," said Mr. Trumbull,
significantly. "It can't be denied that undeserving people have been
legatees, and even residuary legatees. It is so, with testamentary
dispositions." Again he pursed up his lips and frowned a little.
"Do you mean to say for certain, Mr. Trumbull, that my brother has left
his land away from our family?" said Mrs. Waule, on whom, as an
unhopeful woman, those long words had a depressing effect.
"A man might as well turn his land into charity land at once as leave
it to some people," observed Solomon, his sister's question having
drawn no answer.
"What, Blue-Coat land?" said Mrs. Waule, again. "Oh, Mr. Trumbull, you
never can mean to say that. It would be flying in the face of the
Almighty that's prospered him."
While Mrs. Waule was speaking, Mr. Borthrop Trumbull walked away from
the fireplace towards the window, patrolling with his fore-finger round
the inside of his stock, then along his whiskers and the curves of his
hair. He now walked to Miss Garth's work-table, opened a book which
lay there and read the title aloud with pompous emphasis as if he were
offering it for sale:
"'Anne of Geierstein' (pronounced Jeersteen) or the 'Maiden of the
Mist, by the author of Waverley.'" Then turning the page, he began
sonorously—"The course of four centuries has well-nigh elapsed since
the series of events which are related in the following chapters took
place on the Continent." He pronounced the last truly admirable word
with the accent on the last syllable, not as unaware of vulgar usage,
but feeling that this novel delivery enhanced the sonorous beauty which
his reading had given to the whole.
And now the servant came in with the tray, so that the moments for
answering Mrs. Waule's question had gone by safely, while she and
Solomon, watching Mr. Trumbull's movements, were thinking that high
learning interfered sadly with serious affairs. Mr. Borthrop Trumbull
really knew nothing about old Featherstone's will; but he could hardly
have been brought to declare any ignorance unless he had been arrested
for misprision of treason.
"I shall take a mere mouthful of ham and a glass of ale," he said,
reassuringly. "As a man with public business, I take a snack when I
can. I will back this ham," he added, after swallowing some morsels
with alarming haste, "against any ham in the three kingdoms. In my
opinion it is better than the hams at Freshitt Hall—and I think I am
a tolerable judge."
"Some don't like so much sugar in their hams," said Mrs. Waule. "But
my poor brother would always have sugar."
"If any person demands better, he is at liberty to do so; but, God
bless me, what an aroma! I should be glad to buy in that quality, I
know. There is some gratification to a gentleman"—here Mr.
Trumbull's voice conveyed an emotional remonstrance—"in having this
kind of ham set on his table."
He pushed aside his plate, poured out his glass of ale and drew his
chair a little forward, profiting by the occasion to look at the inner
side of his legs, which he stroked approvingly—Mr. Trumbull having
all those less frivolous airs and gestures which distinguish the
predominant races of the north.
"You have an interesting work there, I see, Miss Garth," he observed,
when Mary re-entered. "It is by the author of 'Waverley': that is Sir
Walter Scott. I have bought one of his works myself—a very nice
thing, a very superior publication, entitled 'Ivanhoe.' You will not
get any writer to beat him in a hurry, I think—he will not, in my
opinion, be speedily surpassed. I have just been reading a portion at
the commencement of 'Anne of Jeersteen.' It commences well." (Things
never began with Mr. Borthrop Trumbull: they always commenced, both in
private life and on his handbills.) "You are a reader, I see. Do you
subscribe to our Middlemarch library?"
"No," said Mary. "Mr. Fred Vincy brought this book."
"I am a great bookman myself," returned Mr. Trumbull. "I have no less
than two hundred volumes in calf, and I flatter myself they are well
selected. Also pictures by Murillo, Rubens, Teniers, Titian, Vandyck,
and others. I shall be happy to lend you any work you like to mention,
"I am much obliged," said Mary, hastening away again, "but I have
little time for reading."
"I should say my brother has done something for her in his will,"
said Mr. Solomon, in a very low undertone, when she had shut the door
behind her, pointing with his head towards the absent Mary.
"His first wife was a poor match for him, though," said Mrs. Waule.
"She brought him nothing: and this young woman is only her niece,—and
very proud. And my brother has always paid her wage."
"A sensible girl though, in my opinion," said Mr. Trumbull, finishing
his ale and starting up with an emphatic adjustment of his waistcoat.
"I have observed her when she has been mixing medicine in drops. She
minds what she is doing, sir. That is a great point in a woman, and a
great point for our friend up-stairs, poor dear old soul. A man whose
life is of any value should think of his wife as a nurse: that is what
I should do, if I married; and I believe I have lived single long
enough not to make a mistake in that line. Some men must marry to
elevate themselves a little, but when I am in need of that, I hope some
one will tell me so—I hope some individual will apprise me of the
fact. I wish you good morning, Mrs. Waule. Good morning, Mr. Solomon.
I trust we shall meet under less melancholy auspices."
When Mr. Trumbull had departed with a fine bow, Solomon, leaning
forward, observed to his sister, "You may depend, Jane, my brother has
left that girl a lumping sum."
"Anybody would think so, from the way Mr. Trumbull talks," said Jane.
Then, after a pause, "He talks as if my daughters wasn't to be trusted
to give drops."
"Auctioneers talk wild," said Solomon. "Not but what Trumbull has made
"Close up his eyes and draw the curtain close;
And let us all to meditation."
—2 Henry VI.
That night after twelve o'clock Mary Garth relieved the watch in Mr.
Featherstone's room, and sat there alone through the small hours. She
often chose this task, in which she found some pleasure,
notwithstanding the old man's testiness whenever he demanded her
attentions. There were intervals in which she could sit perfectly
still, enjoying the outer stillness and the subdued light. The red
fire with its gently audible movement seemed like a solemn existence
calmly independent of the petty passions, the imbecile desires, the
straining after worthless uncertainties, which were daily moving her
contempt. Mary was fond of her own thoughts, and could amuse herself
well sitting in twilight with her hands in her lap; for, having early
had strong reason to believe that things were not likely to be arranged
for her peculiar satisfaction, she wasted no time in astonishment and
annoyance at that fact. And she had already come to take life very
much as a comedy in which she had a proud, nay, a generous resolution
not to act the mean or treacherous part. Mary might have become
cynical if she had not had parents whom she honored, and a well of
affectionate gratitude within her, which was all the fuller because she
had learned to make no unreasonable claims.
She sat to-night revolving, as she was wont, the scenes of the day, her
lips often curling with amusement at the oddities to which her fancy
added fresh drollery: people were so ridiculous with their illusions,
carrying their fool's caps unawares, thinking their own lies opaque
while everybody else's were transparent, making themselves exceptions
to everything, as if when all the world looked yellow under a lamp they
alone were rosy. Yet there were some illusions under Mary's eyes which
were not quite comic to her. She was secretly convinced, though she
had no other grounds than her close observation of old Featherstone's
nature, that in spite of his fondness for having the Vincys about him,
they were as likely to be disappointed as any of the relations whom he
kept at a distance. She had a good deal of disdain for Mrs. Vincy's
evident alarm lest she and Fred should be alone together, but it did
not hinder her from thinking anxiously of the way in which Fred would
be affected, if it should turn out that his uncle had left him as poor
as ever. She could make a butt of Fred when he was present, but she
did not enjoy his follies when he was absent.
Yet she liked her thoughts: a vigorous young mind not overbalanced by
passion, finds a good in making acquaintance with life, and watches its
own powers with interest. Mary had plenty of merriment within.
Her thought was not veined by any solemnity or pathos about the old man
on the bed: such sentiments are easier to affect than to feel about an
aged creature whose life is not visibly anything but a remnant of
vices. She had always seen the most disagreeable side of Mr.
Featherstone: he was not proud of her, and she was only useful to him.
To be anxious about a soul that is always snapping at you must be left
to the saints of the earth; and Mary was not one of them. She had
never returned him a harsh word, and had waited on him faithfully: that
was her utmost. Old Featherstone himself was not in the least anxious
about his soul, and had declined to see Mr. Tucker on the subject.
To-night he had not snapped, and for the first hour or two he lay
remarkably still, until at last Mary heard him rattling his bunch of
keys against the tin box which he always kept in the bed beside him.
About three o'clock he said, with remarkable distinctness, "Missy, come
Mary obeyed, and found that he had already drawn the tin box from under
the clothes, though he usually asked to have this done for him; and he
had selected the key. He now unlocked the box, and, drawing from it
another key, looked straight at her with eyes that seemed to have
recovered all their sharpness and said, "How many of 'em are in the
"You mean of your own relations, sir," said Mary, well used to the old
man's way of speech. He nodded slightly and she went on.
"Mr. Jonah Featherstone and young Cranch are sleeping here."
"Oh ay, they stick, do they? and the rest—they come every day, I'll
warrant—Solomon and Jane, and all the young uns? They come peeping,
and counting and casting up?"
"Not all of them every day. Mr. Solomon and Mrs. Waule are here every
day, and the others come often."
The old man listened with a grimace while she spoke, and then said,
relaxing his face, "The more fools they. You hearken, missy. It's
three o'clock in the morning, and I've got all my faculties as well as
ever I had in my life. I know all my property, and where the money's
put out, and everything. And I've made everything ready to change my
mind, and do as I like at the last. Do you hear, missy? I've got my
"Well, sir?" said Mary, quietly.
He now lowered his tone with an air of deeper cunning. "I've made two
wills, and I'm going to burn one. Now you do as I tell you. This is
the key of my iron chest, in the closet there. You push well at the
side of the brass plate at the top, till it goes like a bolt: then you
can put the key in the front lock and turn it. See and do that; and
take out the topmost paper—Last Will and Testament—big printed."
"No, sir," said Mary, in a firm voice, "I cannot do that."
"Not do it? I tell you, you must," said the old man, his voice
beginning to shake under the shock of this resistance.
"I cannot touch your iron chest or your will. I must refuse to do
anything that might lay me open to suspicion."
"I tell you, I'm in my right mind. Shan't I do as I like at the last?
I made two wills on purpose. Take the key, I say."
"No, sir, I will not," said Mary, more resolutely still. Her repulsion
was getting stronger.
"I tell you, there's no time to lose."
"I cannot help that, sir. I will not let the close of your life soil
the beginning of mine. I will not touch your iron chest or your will."
She moved to a little distance from the bedside.
The old man paused with a blank stare for a little while, holding the
one key erect on the ring; then with an agitated jerk he began to work
with his bony left hand at emptying the tin box before him.
"Missy," he began to say, hurriedly, "look here! take the money—the
notes and gold—look here—take it—you shall have it all—do as I
He made an effort to stretch out the key towards her as far as
possible, and Mary again retreated.
"I will not touch your key or your money, sir. Pray don't ask me to do
it again. If you do, I must go and call your brother."
He let his hand fall, and for the first time in her life Mary saw old
Peter Featherstone begin to cry childishly. She said, in as gentle a
tone as she could command, "Pray put up your money, sir;" and then went
away to her seat by the fire, hoping this would help to convince him
that it was useless to say more. Presently he rallied and said
"Look here, then. Call the young chap. Call Fred Vincy."
Mary's heart began to beat more quickly. Various ideas rushed through
her mind as to what the burning of a second will might imply. She had
to make a difficult decision in a hurry.
"I will call him, if you will let me call Mr. Jonah and others with
"Nobody else, I say. The young chap. I shall do as I like."
"Wait till broad daylight, sir, when every one is stirring. Or let me
call Simmons now, to go and fetch the lawyer? He can be here in less
than two hours."
"Lawyer? What do I want with the lawyer? Nobody shall know—I say,
nobody shall know. I shall do as I like."
"Let me call some one else, sir," said Mary, persuasively. She did not
like her position—alone with the old man, who seemed to show a strange
flaring of nervous energy which enabled him to speak again and again
without falling into his usual cough; yet she desired not to push
unnecessarily the contradiction which agitated him. "Let me, pray,
call some one else."
"You let me alone, I say. Look here, missy. Take the money. You'll
never have the chance again. It's pretty nigh two hundred—there's
more in the box, and nobody knows how much there was. Take it and do
as I tell you."
Mary, standing by the fire, saw its red light falling on the old man,
propped up on his pillows and bed-rest, with his bony hand holding out
the key, and the money lying on the quilt before him. She never forgot
that vision of a man wanting to do as he liked at the last. But the
way in which he had put the offer of the money urged her to speak with
harder resolution than ever.
"It is of no use, sir. I will not do it. Put up your money. I will
not touch your money. I will do anything else I can to comfort you;
but I will not touch your keys or your money."
"Anything else anything else!" said old Featherstone, with hoarse rage,
which, as if in a nightmare, tried to be loud, and yet was only just
audible. "I want nothing else. You come here—you come here."
Mary approached him cautiously, knowing him too well. She saw him
dropping his keys and trying to grasp his stick, while he looked at her
like an aged hyena, the muscles of his face getting distorted with the
effort of his hand. She paused at a safe distance.
"Let me give you some cordial," she said, quietly, "and try to compose
yourself. You will perhaps go to sleep. And to-morrow by daylight you
can do as you like."
He lifted the stick, in spite of her being beyond his reach, and threw
it with a hard effort which was but impotence. It fell, slipping over
the foot of the bed. Mary let it lie, and retreated to her chair by
the fire. By-and-by she would go to him with the cordial. Fatigue
would make him passive. It was getting towards the chillest moment of
the morning, the fire had got low, and she could see through the chink
between the moreen window-curtains the light whitened by the blind.
Having put some wood on the fire and thrown a shawl over her, she sat
down, hoping that Mr. Featherstone might now fall asleep. If she went
near him the irritation might be kept up. He had said nothing after
throwing the stick, but she had seen him taking his keys again and
laying his right hand on the money. He did not put it up, however, and
she thought that he was dropping off to sleep.
But Mary herself began to be more agitated by the remembrance of what
she had gone through, than she had been by the reality—questioning
those acts of hers which had come imperatively and excluded all
question in the critical moment.
Presently the dry wood sent out a flame which illuminated every
crevice, and Mary saw that the old man was lying quietly with his head
turned a little on one side. She went towards him with inaudible
steps, and thought that his face looked strangely motionless; but the
next moment the movement of the flame communicating itself to all
objects made her uncertain. The violent beating of her heart rendered
her perceptions so doubtful that even when she touched him and listened
for his breathing, she could not trust her conclusions. She went to
the window and gently propped aside the curtain and blind, so that the
still light of the sky fell on the bed.
The next moment she ran to the bell and rang it energetically. In a
very little while there was no longer any doubt that Peter Featherstone
was dead, with his right hand clasping the keys, and his left hand
lying on the heap of notes and gold.
THREE LOVE PROBLEMS.
1st Gent. Such men as this are feathers, chips, and straws.
2d Gent. But levity
Is causal too, and makes the sum of weight.
For power finds its place in lack of power;
Advance is cession, and the driven ship
May run aground because the helmsman's thought
Lacked force to balance opposites."
It was on a morning of May that Peter Featherstone was buried. In the
prosaic neighborhood of Middlemarch, May was not always warm and sunny,
and on this particular morning a chill wind was blowing the blossoms
from the surrounding gardens on to the green mounds of Lowick
churchyard. Swiftly moving clouds only now and then allowed a gleam to
light up any object, whether ugly or beautiful, that happened to stand
within its golden shower. In the churchyard the objects were
remarkably various, for there was a little country crowd waiting to see
the funeral. The news had spread that it was to be a "big burying;"
the old gentleman had left written directions about everything and
meant to have a funeral "beyond his betters." This was true; for old
Featherstone had not been a Harpagon whose passions had all been
devoured by the ever-lean and ever-hungry passion of saving, and who
would drive a bargain with his undertaker beforehand. He loved money,
but he also loved to spend it in gratifying his peculiar tastes, and
perhaps he loved it best of all as a means of making others feel his
power more or less uncomfortably. If any one will here contend that
there must have been traits of goodness in old Featherstone, I will not
presume to deny this; but I must observe that goodness is of a modest
nature, easily discouraged, and when much privacy, elbowed in early
life by unabashed vices, is apt to retire into extreme privacy, so that
it is more easily believed in by those who construct a selfish old
gentleman theoretically, than by those who form the narrower judgments
based on his personal acquaintance. In any case, he had been bent on
having a handsome funeral, and on having persons "bid" to it who would
rather have stayed at home. He had even desired that female relatives
should follow him to the grave, and poor sister Martha had taken a
difficult journey for this purpose from the Chalky Flats. She and Jane
would have been altogether cheered (in a tearful manner) by this sign
that a brother who disliked seeing them while he was living had been
prospectively fond of their presence when he should have become a
testator, if the sign had not been made equivocal by being extended to
Mrs. Vincy, whose expense in handsome crape seemed to imply the most
presumptuous hopes, aggravated by a bloom of complexion which told
pretty plainly that she was not a blood-relation, but of that generally
objectionable class called wife's kin.
We are all of us imaginative in some form or other, for images are the
brood of desire; and poor old Featherstone, who laughed much at the way
in which others cajoled themselves, did not escape the fellowship of
illusion. In writing the programme for his burial he certainly did not
make clear to himself that his pleasure in the little drama of which it
formed a part was confined to anticipation. In chuckling over the
vexations he could inflict by the rigid clutch of his dead hand, he
inevitably mingled his consciousness with that livid stagnant presence,
and so far as he was preoccupied with a future life, it was with one of
gratification inside his coffin. Thus old Featherstone was
imaginative, after his fashion.
However, the three mourning-coaches were filled according to the
written orders of the deceased. There were pall-bearers on horseback,
with the richest scarfs and hatbands, and even the under-bearers had
trappings of woe which were of a good well-priced quality. The black
procession, when dismounted, looked the larger for the smallness of the
churchyard; the heavy human faces and the black draperies shivering in
the wind seemed to tell of a world strangely incongruous with the
lightly dropping blossoms and the gleams of sunshine on the daisies.
The clergyman who met the procession was Mr. Cadwallader—also
according to the request of Peter Featherstone, prompted as usual by
peculiar reasons. Having a contempt for curates, whom he always called
understrappers, he was resolved to be buried by a beneficed clergyman.
Mr. Casaubon was out of the question, not merely because he declined
duty of this sort, but because Featherstone had an especial dislike to
him as the rector of his own parish, who had a lien on the land in the
shape of tithe, also as the deliverer of morning sermons, which the old
man, being in his pew and not at all sleepy, had been obliged to sit
through with an inward snarl. He had an objection to a parson stuck up
above his head preaching to him. But his relations with Mr.
Cadwallader had been of a different kind: the trout-stream which ran
through Mr. Casaubon's land took its course through Featherstone's
also, so that Mr. Cadwallader was a parson who had had to ask a favor
instead of preaching. Moreover, he was one of the high gentry living
four miles away from Lowick, and was thus exalted to an equal sky with
the sheriff of the county and other dignities vaguely regarded as
necessary to the system of things. There would be a satisfaction in
being buried by Mr. Cadwallader, whose very name offered a fine
opportunity for pronouncing wrongly if you liked.
This distinction conferred on the Rector of Tipton and Freshitt was the
reason why Mrs. Cadwallader made one of the group that watched old
Featherstone's funeral from an upper window of the manor. She was not
fond of visiting that house, but she liked, as she said, to see
collections of strange animals such as there would be at this funeral;
and she had persuaded Sir James and the young Lady Chettam to drive the
Rector and herself to Lowick in order that the visit might be
"I will go anywhere with you, Mrs. Cadwallader," Celia had said; "but I
don't like funerals."
"Oh, my dear, when you have a clergyman in your family you must
accommodate your tastes: I did that very early. When I married
Humphrey I made up my mind to like sermons, and I set out by liking the
end very much. That soon spread to the middle and the beginning,
because I couldn't have the end without them."
"No, to be sure not," said the Dowager Lady Chettam, with stately
The upper window from which the funeral could be well seen was in the
room occupied by Mr. Casaubon when he had been forbidden to work; but
he had resumed nearly his habitual style of life now in spite of
warnings and prescriptions, and after politely welcoming Mrs.
Cadwallader had slipped again into the library to chew a cud of erudite
mistake about Cush and Mizraim.
But for her visitors Dorothea too might have been shut up in the
library, and would not have witnessed this scene of old Featherstone's
funeral, which, aloof as it seemed to be from the tenor of her life,
always afterwards came back to her at the touch of certain sensitive
points in memory, just as the vision of St. Peter's at Rome was inwoven
with moods of despondency. Scenes which make vital changes in our
neighbors' lot are but the background of our own, yet, like a
particular aspect of the fields and trees, they become associated for
us with the epochs of our own history, and make a part of that unity
which lies in the selection of our keenest consciousness.
The dream-like association of something alien and ill-understood with
the deepest secrets of her experience seemed to mirror that sense of
loneliness which was due to the very ardor of Dorothea's nature. The
country gentry of old time lived in a rarefied social air: dotted apart
on their stations up the mountain they looked down with imperfect
discrimination on the belts of thicker life below. And Dorothea was
not at ease in the perspective and chilliness of that height.
"I shall not look any more," said Celia, after the train had entered
the church, placing herself a little behind her husband's elbow so that
she could slyly touch his coat with her cheek. "I dare say Dodo likes
it: she is fond of melancholy things and ugly people."
"I am fond of knowing something about the people I live among," said
Dorothea, who had been watching everything with the interest of a monk
on his holiday tour. "It seems to me we know nothing of our neighbors,
unless they are cottagers. One is constantly wondering what sort of
lives other people lead, and how they take things. I am quite obliged
to Mrs. Cadwallader for coming and calling me out of the library."
"Quite right to feel obliged to me," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "Your rich
Lowick farmers are as curious as any buffaloes or bisons, and I dare
say you don't half see them at church. They are quite different from
your uncle's tenants or Sir James's—monsters—farmers without
landlords—one can't tell how to class them."
"Most of these followers are not Lowick people," said Sir James; "I
suppose they are legatees from a distance, or from Middlemarch.
Lovegood tells me the old fellow has left a good deal of money as well
"Think of that now! when so many younger sons can't dine at their own
expense," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "Ah," turning round at the sound of
the opening door, "here is Mr. Brooke. I felt that we were incomplete
before, and here is the explanation. You are come to see this odd
funeral, of course?"
"No, I came to look after Casaubon—to see how he goes on, you know.
And to bring a little news—a little news, my dear," said Mr. Brooke,
nodding at Dorothea as she came towards him. "I looked into the
library, and I saw Casaubon over his books. I told him it wouldn't do:
I said, 'This will never do, you know: think of your wife, Casaubon.'
And he promised me to come up. I didn't tell him my news: I said, he
must come up."
"Ah, now they are coming out of church," Mrs. Cadwallader exclaimed.
"Dear me, what a wonderfully mixed set! Mr. Lydgate as doctor, I
suppose. But that is really a good looking woman, and the fair young
man must be her son. Who are they, Sir James, do you know?"
"I see Vincy, the Mayor of Middlemarch; they are probably his wife and
son," said Sir James, looking interrogatively at Mr. Brooke, who nodded
"Yes, a very decent family—a very good fellow is Vincy; a credit to
the manufacturing interest. You have seen him at my house, you know."
"Ah, yes: one of your secret committee," said Mrs. Cadwallader,
"A coursing fellow, though," said Sir James, with a fox-hunter's
"And one of those who suck the life out of the wretched handloom
weavers in Tipton and Freshitt. That is how his family look so fair
and sleek," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "Those dark, purple-faced people
are an excellent foil. Dear me, they are like a set of jugs! Do look
at Humphrey: one might fancy him an ugly archangel towering above them
in his white surplice."
"It's a solemn thing, though, a funeral," said Mr. Brooke, "if you take
it in that light, you know."
"But I am not taking it in that light. I can't wear my solemnity too
often, else it will go to rags. It was time the old man died, and none
of these people are sorry."
"How piteous!" said Dorothea. "This funeral seems to me the most
dismal thing I ever saw. It is a blot on the morning I cannot bear to
think that any one should die and leave no love behind."
She was going to say more, but she saw her husband enter and seat
himself a little in the background. The difference his presence made
to her was not always a happy one: she felt that he often inwardly
objected to her speech.
"Positively," exclaimed Mrs. Cadwallader, "there is a new face come out
from behind that broad man queerer than any of them: a little round
head with bulging eyes—a sort of frog-face—do look. He must be of
another blood, I think."
"Let me see!" said Celia, with awakened curiosity, standing behind Mrs.
Cadwallader and leaning forward over her head. "Oh, what an odd face!"
Then with a quick change to another sort of surprised expression, she
added, "Why, Dodo, you never told me that Mr. Ladislaw was come again!"
Dorothea felt a shock of alarm: every one noticed her sudden paleness
as she looked up immediately at her uncle, while Mr. Casaubon looked at
"He came with me, you know; he is my guest—puts up with me at the
Grange," said Mr. Brooke, in his easiest tone, nodding at Dorothea, as
if the announcement were just what she might have expected. "And we
have brought the picture at the top of the carriage. I knew you would
be pleased with the surprise, Casaubon. There you are to the very
life—as Aquinas, you know. Quite the right sort of thing. And you
will hear young Ladislaw talk about it. He talks uncommonly
well—points out this, that, and the other—knows art and everything of
that kind—companionable, you know—is up with you in any track—what
I've been wanting a long while."
Mr. Casaubon bowed with cold politeness, mastering his irritation, but
only so far as to be silent. He remembered Will's letter quite as well
as Dorothea did; he had noticed that it was not among the letters which
had been reserved for him on his recovery, and secretly concluding that
Dorothea had sent word to Will not to come to Lowick, he had shrunk
with proud sensitiveness from ever recurring to the subject. He now
inferred that she had asked her uncle to invite Will to the Grange; and
she felt it impossible at that moment to enter into any explanation.
Mrs. Cadwallader's eyes, diverted from the churchyard, saw a good deal
of dumb show which was not so intelligible to her as she could have
desired, and could not repress the question, "Who is Mr. Ladislaw?"
"A young relative of Mr. Casaubon's," said Sir James, promptly. His
good-nature often made him quick and clear-seeing in personal matters,
and he had divined from Dorothea's glance at her husband that there was
some alarm in her mind.
"A very nice young fellow—Casaubon has done everything for him,"
explained Mr. Brooke. "He repays your expense in him, Casaubon," he
went on, nodding encouragingly. "I hope he will stay with me a long
while and we shall make something of my documents. I have plenty of
ideas and facts, you know, and I can see he is just the man to put them
into shape—remembers what the right quotations are, omne tulit
punctum, and that sort of thing—gives subjects a kind of turn. I
invited him some time ago when you were ill, Casaubon; Dorothea said
you couldn't have anybody in the house, you know, and she asked me to
Poor Dorothea felt that every word of her uncle's was about as pleasant
as a grain of sand in the eye to Mr. Casaubon. It would be altogether
unfitting now to explain that she had not wished her uncle to invite
Will Ladislaw. She could not in the least make clear to herself the
reasons for her husband's dislike to his presence—a dislike painfully
impressed on her by the scene in the library; but she felt the
unbecomingness of saying anything that might convey a notion of it to
others. Mr. Casaubon, indeed, had not thoroughly represented those
mixed reasons to himself; irritated feeling with him, as with all of
us, seeking rather for justification than for self-knowledge. But he
wished to repress outward signs, and only Dorothea could discern the
changes in her husband's face before he observed with more of dignified
bending and sing-song than usual—
"You are exceedingly hospitable, my dear sir; and I owe you
acknowledgments for exercising your hospitality towards a relative of
The funeral was ended now, and the churchyard was being cleared.
"Now you can see him, Mrs. Cadwallader," said Celia. "He is just like
a miniature of Mr. Casaubon's aunt that hangs in Dorothea's
"A very pretty sprig," said Mrs. Cadwallader, dryly. "What is your
nephew to be, Mr. Casaubon?"
"Pardon me, he is not my nephew. He is my cousin."
"Well, you know," interposed Mr. Brooke, "he is trying his wings. He
is just the sort of young fellow to rise. I should be glad to give him
an opportunity. He would make a good secretary, now, like Hobbes,
Milton, Swift—that sort of man."
"I understand," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "One who can write speeches."
"I'll fetch him in now, eh, Casaubon?" said Mr. Brooke. "He wouldn't
come in till I had announced him, you know. And we'll go down and look
at the picture. There you are to the life: a deep subtle sort of
thinker with his fore-finger on the page, while Saint Bonaventure or
somebody else, rather fat and florid, is looking up at the Trinity.
Everything is symbolical, you know—the higher style of art: I like
that up to a certain point, but not too far—it's rather straining to
keep up with, you know. But you are at home in that, Casaubon. And
your painter's flesh is good—solidity, transparency, everything of
that sort. I went into that a great deal at one time. However, I'll
go and fetch Ladislaw."
"Non, je ne comprends pas de plus charmant plaisir
Que de voir d'heritiers une troupe affligee
Le maintien interdit, et la mine allongee,
Lire un long testament ou pales, etonnes
On leur laisse un bonsoir avec un pied de nez.
Pour voir au naturel leur tristesse profonde
Je reviendrais, je crois, expres de l'autre monde."
—REGNARD: Le Legataire Universel.
When the animals entered the Ark in pairs, one may imagine that allied
species made much private remark on each other, and were tempted to
think that so many forms feeding on the same store of fodder were
eminently superfluous, as tending to diminish the rations. (I fear the
part played by the vultures on that occasion would be too painful for
art to represent, those birds being disadvantageously naked about the
gullet, and apparently without rites and ceremonies.)
The same sort of temptation befell the Christian Carnivora who formed
Peter Featherstone's funeral procession; most of them having their
minds bent on a limited store which each would have liked to get the
most of. The long-recognized blood-relations and connections by
marriage made already a goodly number, which, multiplied by
possibilities, presented a fine range for jealous conjecture and
pathetic hopefulness. Jealousy of the Vincys had created a fellowship
in hostility among all persons of the Featherstone blood, so that in
the absence of any decided indication that one of themselves was to
have more than the rest, the dread lest that long-legged Fred Vincy
should have the land was necessarily dominant, though it left abundant
feeling and leisure for vaguer jealousies, such as were entertained
towards Mary Garth. Solomon found time to reflect that Jonah was
undeserving, and Jonah to abuse Solomon as greedy; Jane, the elder
sister, held that Martha's children ought not to expect so much as the
young Waules; and Martha, more lax on the subject of primogeniture, was
sorry to think that Jane was so "having." These nearest of kin were
naturally impressed with the unreasonableness of expectations in
cousins and second cousins, and used their arithmetic in reckoning the
large sums that small legacies might mount to, if there were too many
of them. Two cousins were present to hear the will, and a second
cousin besides Mr. Trumbull. This second cousin was a Middlemarch
mercer of polite manners and superfluous aspirates. The two cousins
were elderly men from Brassing, one of them conscious of claims on the
score of inconvenient expense sustained by him in presents of oysters
and other eatables to his rich cousin Peter; the other entirely
saturnine, leaning his hands and chin on a stick, and conscious of
claims based on no narrow performance but on merit generally: both
blameless citizens of Brassing, who wished that Jonah Featherstone did
not live there. The wit of a family is usually best received among
"Why, Trumbull himself is pretty sure of five hundred—that you may
depend,—I shouldn't wonder if my brother promised him," said Solomon,
musing aloud with his sisters, the evening before the funeral.
"Dear, dear!" said poor sister Martha, whose imagination of hundreds
had been habitually narrowed to the amount of her unpaid rent.
But in the morning all the ordinary currents of conjecture were
disturbed by the presence of a strange mourner who had plashed among
them as if from the moon. This was the stranger described by Mrs.
Cadwallader as frog-faced: a man perhaps about two or three and thirty,
whose prominent eyes, thin-lipped, downward-curved mouth, and hair
sleekly brushed away from a forehead that sank suddenly above the ridge
of the eyebrows, certainly gave his face a batrachian unchangeableness
of expression. Here, clearly, was a new legatee; else why was he
bidden as a mourner? Here were new possibilities, raising a new
uncertainty, which almost checked remark in the mourning-coaches. We
are all humiliated by the sudden discovery of a fact which has existed
very comfortably and perhaps been staring at us in private while we
have been making up our world entirely without it. No one had seen
this questionable stranger before except Mary Garth, and she knew
nothing more of him than that he had twice been to Stone Court when Mr.
Featherstone was down-stairs, and had sat alone with him for several
hours. She had found an opportunity of mentioning this to her father,
and perhaps Caleb's were the only eyes, except the lawyer's, which
examined the stranger with more of inquiry than of disgust or
suspicion. Caleb Garth, having little expectation and less cupidity,
was interested in the verification of his own guesses, and the calmness
with which he half smilingly rubbed his chin and shot intelligent
glances much as if he were valuing a tree, made a fine contrast with
the alarm or scorn visible in other faces when the unknown mourner,
whose name was understood to be Rigg, entered the wainscoted parlor and
took his seat near the door to make part of the audience when the will
should be read. Just then Mr. Solomon and Mr. Jonah were gone
up-stairs with the lawyer to search for the will; and Mrs. Waule,
seeing two vacant seats between herself and Mr. Borthrop Trumbull, had
the spirit to move next to that great authority, who was handling his
watch-seals and trimming his outlines with a determination not to show
anything so compromising to a man of ability as wonder or surprise.
"I suppose you know everything about what my poor brother's done, Mr.
Trumbull," said Mrs. Waule, in the lowest of her woolly tones, while
she turned her crape-shadowed bonnet towards Mr. Trumbull's ear.
"My good lady, whatever was told me was told in confidence," said the
auctioneer, putting his hand up to screen that secret.
"Them who've made sure of their good-luck may be disappointed yet,"
Mrs. Waule continued, finding some relief in this communication.
"Hopes are often delusive," said Mr. Trumbull, still in confidence.
"Ah!" said Mrs. Waule, looking across at the Vincys, and then moving
back to the side of her sister Martha.
"It's wonderful how close poor Peter was," she said, in the same
undertones. "We none of us know what he might have had on his mind. I
only hope and trust he wasn't a worse liver than we think of, Martha."
Poor Mrs. Cranch was bulky, and, breathing asthmatically, had the
additional motive for making her remarks unexceptionable and giving
them a general bearing, that even her whispers were loud and liable to
sudden bursts like those of a deranged barrel-organ.
"I never was covetous, Jane," she replied; "but I have six children
and have buried three, and I didn't marry into money. The eldest, that
sits there, is but nineteen—so I leave you to guess. And stock always
short, and land most awkward. But if ever I've begged and prayed; it's
been to God above; though where there's one brother a bachelor and the
other childless after twice marrying—anybody might think!"
Meanwhile, Mr. Vincy had glanced at the passive face of Mr. Rigg, and
had taken out his snuff-box and tapped it, but had put it again
unopened as an indulgence which, however clarifying to the judgment,
was unsuited to the occasion. "I shouldn't wonder if Featherstone had
better feelings than any of us gave him credit for," he observed, in
the ear of his wife. "This funeral shows a thought about everybody: it
looks well when a man wants to be followed by his friends, and if they
are humble, not to be ashamed of them. I should be all the better
pleased if he'd left lots of small legacies. They may be uncommonly
useful to fellows in a small way."
"Everything is as handsome as could be, crape and silk and everything,"
said Mrs. Vincy, contentedly.
But I am sorry to say that Fred was under some difficulty in repressing
a laugh, which would have been more unsuitable than his father's
snuff-box. Fred had overheard Mr. Jonah suggesting something about a
"love-child," and with this thought in his mind, the stranger's face,
which happened to be opposite him, affected him too ludicrously. Mary
Garth, discerning his distress in the twitchings of his mouth, and his
recourse to a cough, came cleverly to his rescue by asking him to
change seats with her, so that he got into a shadowy corner. Fred was
feeling as good-naturedly as possible towards everybody, including
Rigg; and having some relenting towards all these people who were less
lucky than he was aware of being himself, he would not for the world
have behaved amiss; still, it was particularly easy to laugh.
But the entrance of the lawyer and the two brothers drew every one's
attention. The lawyer was Mr. Standish, and he had come to Stone Court
this morning believing that he knew thoroughly well who would be
pleased and who disappointed before the day was over. The will he
expected to read was the last of three which he had drawn up for Mr.
Featherstone. Mr. Standish was not a man who varied his manners: he
behaved with the same deep-voiced, off-hand civility to everybody, as
if he saw no difference in them, and talked chiefly of the hay-crop,
which would be "very fine, by God!" of the last bulletins concerning
the King, and of the Duke of Clarence, who was a sailor every inch of
him, and just the man to rule over an island like Britain.
Old Featherstone had often reflected as he sat looking at the fire that
Standish would be surprised some day: it is true that if he had done as
he liked at the last, and burnt the will drawn up by another lawyer, he
would not have secured that minor end; still he had had his pleasure in
ruminating on it. And certainly Mr. Standish was surprised, but not at
all sorry; on the contrary, he rather enjoyed the zest of a little
curiosity in his own mind, which the discovery of a second will added
to the prospective amazement on the part of the Featherstone family.
As to the sentiments of Solomon and Jonah, they were held in utter
suspense: it seemed to them that the old will would have a certain
validity, and that there might be such an interlacement of poor Peter's
former and latter intentions as to create endless "lawing" before
anybody came by their own—an inconvenience which would have at least
the advantage of going all round. Hence the brothers showed a
thoroughly neutral gravity as they re-entered with Mr. Standish; but
Solomon took out his white handkerchief again with a sense that in any
case there would be affecting passages, and crying at funerals, however
dry, was customarily served up in lawn.
Perhaps the person who felt the most throbbing excitement at this
moment was Mary Garth, in the consciousness that it was she who had
virtually determined the production of this second will, which might
have momentous effects on the lot of some persons present. No soul
except herself knew what had passed on that final night.
"The will I hold in my hand," said Mr. Standish, who, seated at the
table in the middle of the room, took his time about everything,
including the coughs with which he showed a disposition to clear his
voice, "was drawn up by myself and executed by our deceased friend on
the 9th of August, 1825. But I find that there is a subsequent
instrument hitherto unknown to me, bearing date the 20th of July, 1826,
hardly a year later than the previous one. And there is farther, I
see"—Mr. Standish was cautiously travelling over the document with his
spectacles—"a codicil to this latter will, bearing date March 1, 1828."
"Dear, dear!" said sister Martha, not meaning to be audible, but driven
to some articulation under this pressure of dates.
"I shall begin by reading the earlier will," continued Mr. Standish,
"since such, as appears by his not having destroyed the document, was
the intention of deceased."
The preamble was felt to be rather long, and several besides Solomon
shook their heads pathetically, looking on the ground: all eyes avoided
meeting other eyes, and were chiefly fixed either on the spots in the
table-cloth or on Mr. Standish's bald head; excepting Mary Garth's.
When all the rest were trying to look nowhere in particular, it was
safe for her to look at them. And at the sound of the first "give and
bequeath" she could see all complexions changing subtly, as if some
faint vibration were passing through them, save that of Mr. Rigg. He
sat in unaltered calm, and, in fact, the company, preoccupied with more
important problems, and with the complication of listening to bequests
which might or might not be revoked, had ceased to think of him. Fred
blushed, and Mr. Vincy found it impossible to do without his snuff-box
in his hand, though he kept it closed.
The small bequests came first, and even the recollection that there was
another will and that poor Peter might have thought better of it, could
not quell the rising disgust and indignation. One likes to be done
well by in every tense, past, present, and future. And here was Peter
capable five years ago of leaving only two hundred apiece to his own
brothers and sisters, and only a hundred apiece to his own nephews and
nieces: the Garths were not mentioned, but Mrs. Vincy and Rosamond were
each to have a hundred. Mr. Trumbull was to have the gold-headed cane
and fifty pounds; the other second cousins and the cousins present were
each to have the like handsome sum, which, as the saturnine cousin
observed, was a sort of legacy that left a man nowhere; and there was
much more of such offensive dribbling in favor of persons not
present—problematical, and, it was to be feared, low connections.
Altogether, reckoning hastily, here were about three thousand disposed of.
Where then had Peter meant the rest of the money to go—and where the
land? and what was revoked and what not revoked—and was the revocation
for better or for worse? All emotion must be conditional, and might turn
out to be the wrong thing. The men were strong enough to bear up and
keep quiet under this confused suspense; some letting their lower lip
fall, others pursing it up, according to the habit of their muscles.
But Jane and Martha sank under the rush of questions, and began to cry;
poor Mrs. Cranch being half moved with the consolation of getting any
hundreds at all without working for them, and half aware that her share
was scanty; whereas Mrs. Waule's mind was entirely flooded with the
sense of being an own sister and getting little, while somebody else
was to have much. The general expectation now was that the "much"
would fall to Fred Vincy, but the Vincys themselves were surprised when
ten thousand pounds in specified investments were declared to be
bequeathed to him:—was the land coming too? Fred bit his lips: it was
difficult to help smiling, and Mrs. Vincy felt herself the happiest of
women—possible revocation shrinking out of sight in this dazzling
There was still a residue of personal property as well as the land, but
the whole was left to one person, and that person was—O
possibilities! O expectations founded on the favor of "close" old
gentlemen! O endless vocatives that would still leave expression
slipping helpless from the measurement of mortal folly!—that
residuary legatee was Joshua Rigg, who was also sole executor, and who
was to take thenceforth the name of Featherstone.
There was a rustling which seemed like a shudder running round the
room. Every one stared afresh at Mr. Rigg, who apparently experienced
"A most singular testamentary disposition!" exclaimed Mr. Trumbull,
preferring for once that he should be considered ignorant in the past.
"But there is a second will—there is a further document. We have not
yet heard the final wishes of the deceased."
Mary Garth was feeling that what they had yet to hear were not the
final wishes. The second will revoked everything except the legacies
to the low persons before mentioned (some alterations in these being
the occasion of the codicil), and the bequest of all the land lying in
Lowick parish with all the stock and household furniture, to Joshua
Rigg. The residue of the property was to be devoted to the erection
and endowment of almshouses for old men, to be called Featherstone's
Alms-Houses, and to be built on a piece of land near Middlemarch
already bought for the purpose by the testator, he wishing—so the
document declared—to please God Almighty. Nobody present had a
farthing; but Mr. Trumbull had the gold-headed cane. It took some time
for the company to recover the power of expression. Mary dared not
look at Fred.
Mr. Vincy was the first to speak—after using his snuff-box
energetically—and he spoke with loud indignation. "The most
unaccountable will I ever heard! I should say he was not in his right
mind when he made it. I should say this last will was void," added Mr.
Vincy, feeling that this expression put the thing in the true light.
"Our deceased friend always knew what he was about, I think," said Mr.
Standish. "Everything is quite regular. Here is a letter from
Clemmens of Brassing tied with the will. He drew it up. A very
"I never noticed any alienation of mind—any aberration of intellect in
the late Mr. Featherstone," said Borthrop Trumbull, "but I call this
will eccentric. I was always willingly of service to the old soul; and
he intimated pretty plainly a sense of obligation which would show
itself in his will. The gold-headed cane is farcical considered as an
acknowledgment to me; but happily I am above mercenary considerations."
"There's nothing very surprising in the matter that I can see," said
Caleb Garth. "Anybody might have had more reason for wondering if the
will had been what you might expect from an open-minded straightforward
man. For my part, I wish there was no such thing as a will."
"That's a strange sentiment to come from a Christian man, by God!" said
the lawyer. "I should like to know how you will back that up, Garth!"
"Oh," said Caleb, leaning forward, adjusting his finger-tips with
nicety and looking meditatively on the ground. It always seemed to him
that words were the hardest part of "business."
But here Mr. Jonah Featherstone made himself heard. "Well, he always
was a fine hypocrite, was my brother Peter. But this will cuts out
everything. If I'd known, a wagon and six horses shouldn't have drawn
me from Brassing. I'll put a white hat and drab coat on to-morrow."
"Dear, dear," wept Mrs. Cranch, "and we've been at the expense of
travelling, and that poor lad sitting idle here so long! It's the
first time I ever heard my brother Peter was so wishful to please God
Almighty; but if I was to be struck helpless I must say it's hard—I
can think no other."
"It'll do him no good where he's gone, that's my belief," said Solomon,
with a bitterness which was remarkably genuine, though his tone could
not help being sly. "Peter was a bad liver, and almshouses won't cover
it, when he's had the impudence to show it at the last."
"And all the while had got his own lawful family—brothers and sisters
and nephews and nieces—and has sat in church with 'em whenever he
thought well to come," said Mrs. Waule. "And might have left his
property so respectable, to them that's never been used to extravagance
or unsteadiness in no manner of way—and not so poor but what they
could have saved every penny and made more of it. And me—the trouble
I've been at, times and times, to come here and be sisterly—and him
with things on his mind all the while that might make anybody's flesh
creep. But if the Almighty's allowed it, he means to punish him for
it. Brother Solomon, I shall be going, if you'll drive me."
"I've no desire to put my foot on the premises again," said Solomon.
"I've got land of my own and property of my own to will away."
"It's a poor tale how luck goes in the world," said Jonah. "It never
answers to have a bit of spirit in you. You'd better be a dog in the
manger. But those above ground might learn a lesson. One fool's will
is enough in a family."
"There's more ways than one of being a fool," said Solomon. "I shan't
leave my money to be poured down the sink, and I shan't leave it to
foundlings from Africay. I like Featherstones that were brewed such,
and not turned Featherstones with sticking the name on 'em."
Solomon addressed these remarks in a loud aside to Mrs. Waule as he
rose to accompany her. Brother Jonah felt himself capable of much more
stinging wit than this, but he reflected that there was no use in
offending the new proprietor of Stone Court, until you were certain
that he was quite without intentions of hospitality towards witty men
whose name he was about to bear.
Mr. Joshua Rigg, in fact, appeared to trouble himself little about any
innuendoes, but showed a notable change of manner, walking coolly up to
Mr. Standish and putting business questions with much coolness. He had
a high chirping voice and a vile accent. Fred, whom he no longer moved
to laughter, thought him the lowest monster he had ever seen. But Fred
was feeling rather sick. The Middlemarch mercer waited for an
opportunity of engaging Mr. Rigg in conversation: there was no knowing
how many pairs of legs the new proprietor might require hose for, and
profits were more to be relied on than legacies. Also, the mercer, as
a second cousin, was dispassionate enough to feel curiosity.
Mr. Vincy, after his one outburst, had remained proudly silent, though
too much preoccupied with unpleasant feelings to think of moving, till
he observed that his wife had gone to Fred's side and was crying
silently while she held her darling's hand. He rose immediately, and
turning his back on the company while he said to her in an
undertone,—"Don't give way, Lucy; don't make a fool of yourself, my
dear, before these people," he added in his usual loud voice—"Go and
order the phaeton, Fred; I have no time to waste."
Mary Garth had before this been getting ready to go home with her
father. She met Fred in the hall, and now for the first time had the
courage to look at him. He had that withered sort of paleness which
will sometimes come on young faces, and his hand was very cold when she
shook it. Mary too was agitated; she was conscious that fatally,
without will of her own, she had perhaps made a great difference to
"Good-by," she said, with affectionate sadness. "Be brave, Fred. I do
believe you are better without the money. What was the good of it to
"That's all very fine," said Fred, pettishly. "What is a fellow to do?
I must go into the Church now." (He knew that this would vex Mary:
very well; then she must tell him what else he could do.) "And I
thought I should be able to pay your father at once and make everything
right. And you have not even a hundred pounds left you. What shall
you do now, Mary?"
"Take another situation, of course, as soon as I can get one. My
father has enough to do to keep the rest, without me. Good-by."
In a very short time Stone Court was cleared of well-brewed
Featherstones and other long-accustomed visitors. Another stranger had
been brought to settle in the neighborhood of Middlemarch, but in the
case of Mr. Rigg Featherstone there was more discontent with immediate
visible consequences than speculation as to the effect which his
presence might have in the future. No soul was prophetic enough to
have any foreboding as to what might appear on the trial of Joshua Rigg.
And here I am naturally led to reflect on the means of elevating a low
subject. Historical parallels are remarkably efficient in this way.
The chief objection to them is, that the diligent narrator may lack
space, or (what is often the same thing) may not be able to think of
them with any degree of particularity, though he may have a
philosophical confidence that if known they would be illustrative. It
seems an easier and shorter way to dignity, to observe that—since
there never was a true story which could not be told in parables, where
you might put a monkey for a margrave, and vice versa—whatever has
been or is to be narrated by me about low people, may be ennobled by
being considered a parable; so that if any bad habits and ugly
consequences are brought into view, the reader may have the relief of
regarding them as not more than figuratively ungenteel, and may feel
himself virtually in company with persons of some style. Thus while I
tell the truth about loobies, my reader's imagination need not be
entirely excluded from an occupation with lords; and the petty sums
which any bankrupt of high standing would be sorry to retire upon, may
be lifted to the level of high commercial transactions by the
inexpensive addition of proportional ciphers.
As to any provincial history in which the agents are all of high moral
rank, that must be of a date long posterior to the first Reform Bill,
and Peter Featherstone, you perceive, was dead and buried some months
before Lord Grey came into office.
"'Tis strange to see the humors of these men,
These great aspiring spirits, that should be wise:
. . . . . . . .
For being the nature of great spirits to love
To be where they may be most eminent;
They, rating of themselves so farre above
Us in conceit, with whom they do frequent,
Imagine how we wonder and esteeme
All that they do or say; which makes them strive
To make our admiration more extreme,
Which they suppose they cannot, 'less they give
Notice of their extreme and highest thoughts.
—DANIEL: Tragedy of Philotas.
Mr. Vincy went home from the reading of the will with his point of view
considerably changed in relation to many subjects. He was an
open-minded man, but given to indirect modes of expressing himself:
when he was disappointed in a market for his silk braids, he swore at
the groom; when his brother-in-law Bulstrode had vexed him, he made
cutting remarks on Methodism; and it was now apparent that he regarded
Fred's idleness with a sudden increase of severity, by his throwing an
embroidered cap out of the smoking-room on to the hall-floor.
"Well, sir," he observed, when that young gentleman was moving off to
bed, "I hope you've made up your mind now to go up next term and pass
your examination. I've taken my resolution, so I advise you to lose no
time in taking yours."
Fred made no answer: he was too utterly depressed. Twenty-four hours
ago he had thought that instead of needing to know what he should do,
he should by this time know that he needed to do nothing: that he
should hunt in pink, have a first-rate hunter, ride to cover on a fine
hack, and be generally respected for doing so; moreover, that he should
be able at once to pay Mr. Garth, and that Mary could no longer have
any reason for not marrying him. And all this was to have come without
study or other inconvenience, purely by the favor of providence in the
shape of an old gentleman's caprice. But now, at the end of the
twenty-four hours, all those firm expectations were upset. It was
"rather hard lines" that while he was smarting under this
disappointment he should be treated as if he could have helped it. But
he went away silently and his mother pleaded for him.
"Don't be hard on the poor boy, Vincy. He'll turn out well yet, though
that wicked man has deceived him. I feel as sure as I sit here, Fred
will turn out well—else why was he brought back from the brink of the
grave? And I call it a robbery: it was like giving him the land, to
promise it; and what is promising, if making everybody believe is not
promising? And you see he did leave him ten thousand pounds, and then
took it away again."
"Took it away again!" said Mr. Vincy, pettishly. "I tell you the lad's
an unlucky lad, Lucy. And you've always spoiled him."
"Well, Vincy, he was my first, and you made a fine fuss with him when
he came. You were as proud as proud," said Mrs. Vincy, easily
recovering her cheerful smile.
"Who knows what babies will turn to? I was fool enough, I dare say,"
said the husband—more mildly, however.
"But who has handsomer, better children than ours? Fred is far beyond
other people's sons: you may hear it in his speech, that he has kept
college company. And Rosamond—where is there a girl like her? She
might stand beside any lady in the land, and only look the better for
it. You see—Mr. Lydgate has kept the highest company and been
everywhere, and he fell in love with her at once. Not but what I could
have wished Rosamond had not engaged herself. She might have met
somebody on a visit who would have been a far better match; I mean at
her schoolfellow Miss Willoughby's. There are relations in that family
quite as high as Mr. Lydgate's."
"Damn relations!" said Mr. Vincy; "I've had enough of them. I don't
want a son-in-law who has got nothing but his relations to recommend
"Why, my dear," said Mrs. Vincy, "you seemed as pleased as could be
about it. It's true, I wasn't at home; but Rosamond told me you hadn't
a word to say against the engagement. And she has begun to buy in the
best linen and cambric for her underclothing."
"Not by my will," said Mr. Vincy. "I shall have enough to do this
year, with an idle scamp of a son, without paying for wedding-clothes.
The times are as tight as can be; everybody is being ruined; and I
don't believe Lydgate has got a farthing. I shan't give my consent to
their marrying. Let 'em wait, as their elders have done before 'em."
"Rosamond will take it hard, Vincy, and you know you never could bear
to cross her."
"Yes, I could. The sooner the engagement's off, the better. I don't
believe he'll ever make an income, the way he goes on. He makes
enemies; that's all I hear of his making."
"But he stands very high with Mr. Bulstrode, my dear. The marriage
would please him, I should think."
"Please the deuce!" said Mr. Vincy. "Bulstrode won't pay for their
keep. And if Lydgate thinks I'm going to give money for them to set up
housekeeping, he's mistaken, that's all. I expect I shall have to put
down my horses soon. You'd better tell Rosy what I say."
This was a not infrequent procedure with Mr. Vincy—to be rash in
jovial assent, and on becoming subsequently conscious that he had been
rash, to employ others in making the offensive retractation. However,
Mrs. Vincy, who never willingly opposed her husband, lost no time the
next morning in letting Rosamond know what he had said. Rosamond,
examining some muslin-work, listened in silence, and at the end gave a
certain turn of her graceful neck, of which only long experience could
teach you that it meant perfect obstinacy.
"What do you say, my dear?" said her mother, with affectionate
"Papa does not mean anything of the kind," said Rosamond, quite calmly.
"He has always said that he wished me to marry the man I loved. And I
shall marry Mr. Lydgate. It is seven weeks now since papa gave his
consent. And I hope we shall have Mrs. Bretton's house."
"Well, my dear, I shall leave you to manage your papa. You always do
manage everybody. But if we ever do go and get damask, Sadler's is the
place—far better than Hopkins's. Mrs. Bretton's is very large, though:
I should love you to have such a house; but it will take a great deal
of furniture—carpeting and everything, besides plate and glass. And
you hear, your papa says he will give no money. Do you think Mr.
Lydgate expects it?"
"You cannot imagine that I should ask him, mamma. Of course he
understands his own affairs."
"But he may have been looking for money, my dear, and we all thought of
your having a pretty legacy as well as Fred;—and now everything is so
dreadful—there's no pleasure in thinking of anything, with that poor
boy disappointed as he is."
"That has nothing to do with my marriage, mamma. Fred must leave off
being idle. I am going up-stairs to take this work to Miss Morgan: she
does the open hemming very well. Mary Garth might do some work for me
now, I should think. Her sewing is exquisite; it is the nicest thing I
know about Mary. I should so like to have all my cambric frilling
double-hemmed. And it takes a long time."
Mrs. Vincy's belief that Rosamond could manage her papa was well
founded. Apart from his dinners and his coursing, Mr. Vincy,
blustering as he was, had as little of his own way as if he had been a
prime minister: the force of circumstances was easily too much for him,
as it is for most pleasure-loving florid men; and the circumstance
called Rosamond was particularly forcible by means of that mild
persistence which, as we know, enables a white soft living substance to
make its way in spite of opposing rock. Papa was not a rock: he had no
other fixity than that fixity of alternating impulses sometimes called
habit, and this was altogether unfavorable to his taking the only
decisive line of conduct in relation to his daughter's
engagement—namely, to inquire thoroughly into Lydgate's circumstances,
declare his own inability to furnish money, and forbid alike either a
speedy marriage or an engagement which must be too lengthy. That seems
very simple and easy in the statement; but a disagreeable resolve
formed in the chill hours of the morning had as many conditions against
it as the early frost, and rarely persisted under the warming
influences of the day. The indirect though emphatic expression of
opinion to which Mr. Vincy was prone suffered much restraint in this
case: Lydgate was a proud man towards whom innuendoes were obviously
unsafe, and throwing his hat on the floor was out of the question. Mr.
Vincy was a little in awe of him, a little vain that he wanted to marry
Rosamond, a little indisposed to raise a question of money in which his
own position was not advantageous, a little afraid of being worsted in
dialogue with a man better educated and more highly bred than himself,
and a little afraid of doing what his daughter would not like. The
part Mr. Vincy preferred playing was that of the generous host whom
nobody criticises. In the earlier half of the day there was business
to hinder any formal communication of an adverse resolve; in the later
there was dinner, wine, whist, and general satisfaction. And in the
mean while the hours were each leaving their little deposit and
gradually forming the final reason for inaction, namely, that action
was too late. The accepted lover spent most of his evenings in Lowick
Gate, and a love-making not at all dependent on money-advances from
fathers-in-law, or prospective income from a profession, went on
flourishingly under Mr. Vincy's own eyes. Young love-making—that
gossamer web! Even the points it clings to—the things whence its
subtle interlacings are swung—are scarcely perceptible: momentary
touches of fingertips, meetings of rays from blue and dark orbs,
unfinished phrases, lightest changes of cheek and lip, faintest
tremors. The web itself is made of spontaneous beliefs and indefinable
joys, yearnings of one life towards another, visions of completeness,
indefinite trust. And Lydgate fell to spinning that web from his
inward self with wonderful rapidity, in spite of experience supposed to
be finished off with the drama of Laure—in spite too of medicine and
biology; for the inspection of macerated muscle or of eyes presented in
a dish (like Santa Lucia's), and other incidents of scientific inquiry,
are observed to be less incompatible with poetic love than a native
dulness or a lively addiction to the lowest prose. As for Rosamond,
she was in the water-lily's expanding wonderment at its own fuller
life, and she too was spinning industriously at the mutual web. All
this went on in the corner of the drawing-room where the piano stood,
and subtle as it was, the light made it a sort of rainbow visible to
many observers besides Mr. Farebrother. The certainty that Miss Vincy
and Mr. Lydgate were engaged became general in Middlemarch without the
aid of formal announcement.
Aunt Bulstrode was again stirred to anxiety; but this time she
addressed herself to her brother, going to the warehouse expressly to
avoid Mrs. Vincy's volatility. His replies were not satisfactory.
"Walter, you never mean to tell me that you have allowed all this to go
on without inquiry into Mr. Lydgate's prospects?" said Mrs. Bulstrode,
opening her eyes with wider gravity at her brother, who was in his
peevish warehouse humor. "Think of this girl brought up in luxury—in
too worldly a way, I am sorry to say—what will she do on a small
"Oh, confound it, Harriet! What can I do when men come into the town
without any asking of mine? Did you shut your house up against
Lydgate? Bulstrode has pushed him forward more than anybody. I never
made any fuss about the young fellow. You should go and talk to your
husband about it, not me."
"Well, really, Walter, how can Mr. Bulstrode be to blame? I am sure he
did not wish for the engagement."
"Oh, if Bulstrode had not taken him by the hand, I should never have
"But you called him in to attend on Fred, and I am sure that was a
mercy," said Mrs. Bulstrode, losing her clew in the intricacies of the
"I don't know about mercy," said Mr. Vincy, testily. "I know I am
worried more than I like with my family. I was a good brother to you,
Harriet, before you married Bulstrode, and I must say he doesn't always
show that friendly spirit towards your family that might have been
expected of him." Mr. Vincy was very little like a Jesuit, but no
accomplished Jesuit could have turned a question more adroitly.
Harriet had to defend her husband instead of blaming her brother, and
the conversation ended at a point as far from the beginning as some
recent sparring between the brothers-in-law at a vestry meeting.
Mrs. Bulstrode did not repeat her brother's complaints to her husband,
but in the evening she spoke to him of Lydgate and Rosamond. He did
not share her warm interest, however; and only spoke with resignation
of the risks attendant on the beginning of medical practice and the
desirability of prudence.
"I am sure we are bound to pray for that thoughtless girl—brought up
as she has been," said Mrs. Bulstrode, wishing to rouse her husband's
"Truly, my dear," said Mr. Bulstrode, assentingly. "Those who are not
of this world can do little else to arrest the errors of the
obstinately worldly. That is what we must accustom ourselves to
recognize with regard to your brother's family. I could have wished
that Mr. Lydgate had not entered into such a union; but my relations
with him are limited to that use of his gifts for God's purposes which
is taught us by the divine government under each dispensation."
Mrs. Bulstrode said no more, attributing some dissatisfaction which she
felt to her own want of spirituality. She believed that her husband
was one of those men whose memoirs should be written when they died.
As to Lydgate himself, having been accepted, he was prepared to accept
all the consequences which he believed himself to foresee with perfect
clearness. Of course he must be married in a year—perhaps even in
half a year. This was not what he had intended; but other schemes
would not be hindered: they would simply adjust themselves anew.
Marriage, of course, must be prepared for in the usual way. A house
must be taken instead of the rooms he at present occupied; and Lydgate,
having heard Rosamond speak with admiration of old Mrs. Bretton's house
(situated in Lowick Gate), took notice when it fell vacant after the
old lady's death, and immediately entered into treaty for it.
He did this in an episodic way, very much as he gave orders to his
tailor for every requisite of perfect dress, without any notion of
being extravagant. On the contrary, he would have despised any
ostentation of expense; his profession had familiarized him with all
grades of poverty, and he cared much for those who suffered hardships.
He would have behaved perfectly at a table where the sauce was served
in a jug with the handle off, and he would have remembered nothing
about a grand dinner except that a man was there who talked well. But
it had never occurred to him that he should live in any other than what
he would have called an ordinary way, with green glasses for hock, and
excellent waiting at table. In warming himself at French social
theories he had brought away no smell of scorching. We may handle even
extreme opinions with impunity while our furniture, our dinner-giving,
and preference for armorial bearings in our own case, link us
indissolubly with the established order. And Lydgate's tendency was
not towards extreme opinions: he would have liked no barefooted
doctrines, being particular about his boots: he was no radical in
relation to anything but medical reform and the prosecution of
discovery. In the rest of practical life he walked by hereditary
habit; half from that personal pride and unreflecting egoism which I
have already called commonness, and half from that naivete which
belonged to preoccupation with favorite ideas.
Any inward debate Lydgate had as to the consequences of this engagement
which had stolen upon him, turned on the paucity of time rather than of
money. Certainly, being in love and being expected continually by some
one who always turned out to be prettier than memory could represent
her to be, did interfere with the diligent use of spare hours which
might serve some "plodding fellow of a German" to make the great,
imminent discovery. This was really an argument for not deferring the
marriage too long, as he implied to Mr. Farebrother, one day that the
Vicar came to his room with some pond-products which he wanted to
examine under a better microscope than his own, and, finding Lydgate's
tableful of apparatus and specimens in confusion, said sarcastically—
"Eros has degenerated; he began by introducing order and harmony, and
now he brings back chaos."
"Yes, at some stages," said Lydgate, lifting his brows and smiling,
while he began to arrange his microscope. "But a better order will
"Soon?" said the Vicar.
"I hope so, really. This unsettled state of affairs uses up the time,
and when one has notions in science, every moment is an opportunity. I
feel sure that marriage must be the best thing for a man who wants to
work steadily. He has everything at home then—no teasing with
personal speculations—he can get calmness and freedom."
"You are an enviable dog," said the Vicar, "to have such a
prospect—Rosamond, calmness and freedom, all to your share. Here am
I with nothing but my pipe and pond-animalcules. Now, are you ready?"
Lydgate did not mention to the Vicar another reason he had for wishing
to shorten the period of courtship. It was rather irritating to him,
even with the wine of love in his veins, to be obliged to mingle so
often with the family party at the Vincys', and to enter so much into
Middlemarch gossip, protracted good cheer, whist-playing, and general
futility. He had to be deferential when Mr. Vincy decided questions
with trenchant ignorance, especially as to those liquors which were the
best inward pickle, preserving you from the effects of bad air. Mrs.
Vincy's openness and simplicity were quite unstreaked with suspicion as
to the subtle offence she might give to the taste of her intended
son-in-law; and altogether Lydgate had to confess to himself that he
was descending a little in relation to Rosamond's family. But that
exquisite creature herself suffered in the same sort of way:—it was
at least one delightful thought that in marrying her, he could give her
a much-needed transplantation.
"Dear!" he said to her one evening, in his gentlest tone, as he sat
down by her and looked closely at her face—
But I must first say that he had found her alone in the drawing-room,
where the great old-fashioned window, almost as large as the side of
the room, was opened to the summer scents of the garden at the back of
the house. Her father and mother were gone to a party, and the rest
were all out with the butterflies.
"Dear! your eyelids are red."
"Are they?" said Rosamond. "I wonder why." It was not in her nature
to pour forth wishes or grievances. They only came forth gracefully on
"As if you could hide it from me!" said Lydgate, laying his hand
tenderly on both of hers. "Don't I see a tiny drop on one of the
lashes? Things trouble you, and you don't tell me. That is unloving."
"Why should I tell you what you cannot alter? They are every-day
things:—perhaps they have been a little worse lately."
"Family annoyances. Don't fear speaking. I guess them."
"Papa has been more irritable lately. Fred makes him angry, and this
morning there was a fresh quarrel because Fred threatens to throw his
whole education away, and do something quite beneath him. And
Rosamond hesitated, and her cheeks were gathering a slight flush.
Lydgate had never seen her in trouble since the morning of their
engagement, and he had never felt so passionately towards her as at
this moment. He kissed the hesitating lips gently, as if to encourage
"I feel that papa is not quite pleased about our engagement," Rosamond
continued, almost in a whisper; "and he said last night that he should
certainly speak to you and say it must be given up."
"Will you give it up?" said Lydgate, with quick energy—almost angrily.
"I never give up anything that I choose to do," said Rosamond,
recovering her calmness at the touching of this chord.
"God bless you!" said Lydgate, kissing her again. This constancy of
purpose in the right place was adorable. He went on:—
"It is too late now for your father to say that our engagement must be
given up. You are of age, and I claim you as mine. If anything is
done to make you unhappy,—that is a reason for hastening our marriage."
An unmistakable delight shone forth from the blue eyes that met his,
and the radiance seemed to light up all his future with mild sunshine.
Ideal happiness (of the kind known in the Arabian Nights, in which you
are invited to step from the labor and discord of the street into a
paradise where everything is given to you and nothing claimed) seemed
to be an affair of a few weeks' waiting, more or less.
"Why should we defer it?" he said, with ardent insistence. "I have
taken the house now: everything else can soon be got ready—can it
not? You will not mind about new clothes. Those can be bought
"What original notions you clever men have!" said Rosamond, dimpling
with more thorough laughter than usual at this humorous incongruity.
"This is the first time I ever heard of wedding-clothes being bought
"But you don't mean to say you would insist on my waiting months for
the sake of clothes?" said Lydgate, half thinking that Rosamond was
tormenting him prettily, and half fearing that she really shrank from
speedy marriage. "Remember, we are looking forward to a better sort of
happiness even than this—being continually together, independent of
others, and ordering our lives as we will. Come, dear, tell me how
soon you can be altogether mine."
There was a serious pleading in Lydgate's tone, as if he felt that she
would be injuring him by any fantastic delays. Rosamond became serious
too, and slightly meditative; in fact, she was going through many
intricacies of lace-edging and hosiery and petticoat-tucking, in order
to give an answer that would at least be approximative.
"Six weeks would be ample—say so, Rosamond," insisted Lydgate,
releasing her hands to put his arm gently round her.
One little hand immediately went to pat her hair, while she gave her
neck a meditative turn, and then said seriously—
"There would be the house-linen and the furniture to be prepared.
Still, mamma could see to those while we were away."
"Yes, to be sure. We must be away a week or so."
"Oh, more than that!" said Rosamond, earnestly. She was thinking of
her evening dresses for the visit to Sir Godwin Lydgate's, which she
had long been secretly hoping for as a delightful employment of at
least one quarter of the honeymoon, even if she deferred her
introduction to the uncle who was a doctor of divinity (also a pleasing
though sober kind of rank, when sustained by blood). She looked at her
lover with some wondering remonstrance as she spoke, and he readily
understood that she might wish to lengthen the sweet time of double
"Whatever you wish, my darling, when the day is fixed. But let us take
a decided course, and put an end to any discomfort you may be
suffering. Six weeks!—I am sure they would be ample."
"I could certainly hasten the work," said Rosamond. "Will you, then,
mention it to papa?—I think it would be better to write to him." She
blushed and looked at him as the garden flowers look at us when we walk
forth happily among them in the transcendent evening light: is there
not a soul beyond utterance, half nymph, half child, in those delicate
petals which glow and breathe about the centres of deep color?
He touched her ear and a little bit of neck under it with his lips, and
they sat quite still for many minutes which flowed by them like a small
gurgling brook with the kisses of the sun upon it. Rosamond thought
that no one could be more in love than she was; and Lydgate thought
that after all his wild mistakes and absurd credulity, he had found
perfect womanhood—felt as if already breathed upon by exquisite wedded
affection such as would be bestowed by an accomplished creature who
venerated his high musings and momentous labors and would never
interfere with them; who would create order in the home and accounts
with still magic, yet keep her fingers ready to touch the lute and
transform life into romance at any moment; who was instructed to the
true womanly limit and not a hair's-breadth beyond—docile, therefore,
and ready to carry out behests which came from that limit. It was
plainer now than ever that his notion of remaining much longer a
bachelor had been a mistake: marriage would not be an obstruction but a
furtherance. And happening the next day to accompany a patient to
Brassing, he saw a dinner-service there which struck him as so exactly
the right thing that he bought it at once. It saved time to do these
things just when you thought of them, and Lydgate hated ugly crockery.
The dinner-service in question was expensive, but that might be in the
nature of dinner-services. Furnishing was necessarily expensive; but
then it had to be done only once.
"It must be lovely," said Mrs. Vincy, when Lydgate mentioned his
purchase with some descriptive touches. "Just what Rosy ought to have.
I trust in heaven it won't be broken!"
"One must hire servants who will not break things," said Lydgate.
(Certainly, this was reasoning with an imperfect vision of sequences.
But at that period there was no sort of reasoning which was not more or
less sanctioned by men of science.)
Of course it was unnecessary to defer the mention of anything to mamma,
who did not readily take views that were not cheerful, and being a
happy wife herself, had hardly any feeling but pride in her daughter's
marriage. But Rosamond had good reasons for suggesting to Lydgate that
papa should be appealed to in writing. She prepared for the arrival of
the letter by walking with her papa to the warehouse the next morning,
and telling him on the way that Mr. Lydgate wished to be married soon.
"Nonsense, my dear!" said Mr. Vincy. "What has he got to marry on?
You'd much better give up the engagement. I've told you so pretty
plainly before this. What have you had such an education for, if you
are to go and marry a poor man? It's a cruel thing for a father to
"Mr. Lydgate is not poor, papa. He bought Mr. Peacock's practice,
which, they say, is worth eight or nine hundred a-year."
"Stuff and nonsense! What's buying a practice? He might as well buy
next year's swallows. It'll all slip through his fingers."
"On the contrary, papa, he will increase the practice. See how he has
been called in by the Chettams and Casaubons."
"I hope he knows I shan't give anything—with this disappointment about
Fred, and Parliament going to be dissolved, and machine-breaking
everywhere, and an election coming on—"
"Dear papa! what can that have to do with my marriage?"
"A pretty deal to do with it! We may all be ruined for what I know—the
country's in that state! Some say it's the end of the world, and
be hanged if I don't think it looks like it! Anyhow, it's not a time
for me to be drawing money out of my business, and I should wish
Lydgate to know that."
"I am sure he expects nothing, papa. And he has such very high
connections: he is sure to rise in one way or another. He is engaged
in making scientific discoveries."
Mr. Vincy was silent.
"I cannot give up my only prospect of happiness, papa. Mr. Lydgate is a
gentleman. I could never love any one who was not a perfect gentleman.
You would not like me to go into a consumption, as Arabella Hawley did.
And you know that I never change my mind."
Again papa was silent.
"Promise me, papa, that you will consent to what we wish. We shall
never give each other up; and you know that you have always objected to
long courtships and late marriages."
There was a little more urgency of this kind, till Mr. Vincy said,
"Well, well, child, he must write to me first before I can answer
him,"—and Rosamond was certain that she had gained her point.
Mr. Vincy's answer consisted chiefly in a demand that Lydgate should
insure his life—a demand immediately conceded. This was a
delightfully reassuring idea supposing that Lydgate died, but in the
mean time not a self-supporting idea. However, it seemed to make
everything comfortable about Rosamond's marriage; and the necessary
purchases went on with much spirit. Not without prudential
considerations, however. A bride (who is going to visit at a
baronet's) must have a few first-rate pocket-handkerchiefs; but beyond
the absolutely necessary half-dozen, Rosamond contented herself without
the very highest style of embroidery and Valenciennes. Lydgate also,
finding that his sum of eight hundred pounds had been considerably
reduced since he had come to Middlemarch, restrained his inclination
for some plate of an old pattern which was shown to him when he went
into Kibble's establishment at Brassing to buy forks and spoons. He
was too proud to act as if he presupposed that Mr. Vincy would advance
money to provide furniture; and though, since it would not be
necessary to pay for everything at once, some bills would be left
standing over, he did not waste time in conjecturing how much his
father-in-law would give in the form of dowry, to make payment easy.
He was not going to do anything extravagant, but the requisite things
must be bought, and it would be bad economy to buy them of a poor
quality. All these matters were by the bye. Lydgate foresaw that
science and his profession were the objects he should alone pursue
enthusiastically; but he could not imagine himself pursuing them in
such a home as Wrench had—the doors all open, the oil-cloth worn, the
children in soiled pinafores, and lunch lingering in the form of bones,
black-handled knives, and willow-pattern. But Wrench had a wretched
lymphatic wife who made a mummy of herself indoors in a large shawl;
and he must have altogether begun with an ill-chosen domestic apparatus.
Rosamond, however, was on her side much occupied with conjectures,
though her quick imitative perception warned her against betraying them
"I shall like so much to know your family," she said one day, when the
wedding journey was being discussed. "We might perhaps take a
direction that would allow us to see them as we returned. Which of
your uncles do you like best?"
"Oh,—my uncle Godwin, I think. He is a good-natured old fellow."
"You were constantly at his house at Quallingham, when you were a boy,
were you not? I should so like to see the old spot and everything you
were used to. Does he know you are going to be married?"
"No," said Lydgate, carelessly, turning in his chair and rubbing his
"Do send him word of it, you naughty undutiful nephew. He will perhaps
ask you to take me to Quallingham; and then you could show me about the
grounds, and I could imagine you there when you were a boy. Remember,
you see me in my home, just as it has been since I was a child. It is
not fair that I should be so ignorant of yours. But perhaps you would
be a little ashamed of me. I forgot that."
Lydgate smiled at her tenderly, and really accepted the suggestion that
the proud pleasure of showing so charming a bride was worth some
trouble. And now he came to think of it, he would like to see the old
spots with Rosamond.
"I will write to him, then. But my cousins are bores."
It seemed magnificent to Rosamond to be able to speak so slightingly of
a baronet's family, and she felt much contentment in the prospect of
being able to estimate them contemptuously on her own account.
But mamma was near spoiling all, a day or two later, by saying—
"I hope your uncle Sir Godwin will not look down on Rosy, Mr. Lydgate.
I should think he would do something handsome. A thousand or two can
be nothing to a baronet."
"Mamma!" said Rosamond, blushing deeply; and Lydgate pitied her so much
that he remained silent and went to the other end of the room to
examine a print curiously, as if he had been absent-minded. Mamma had a
little filial lecture afterwards, and was docile as usual. But
Rosamond reflected that if any of those high-bred cousins who were
bores, should be induced to visit Middlemarch, they would see many
things in her own family which might shock them. Hence it seemed
desirable that Lydgate should by-and-by get some first-rate position
elsewhere than in Middlemarch; and this could hardly be difficult in
the case of a man who had a titled uncle and could make discoveries.
Lydgate, you perceive, had talked fervidly to Rosamond of his hopes as
to the highest uses of his life, and had found it delightful to be
listened to by a creature who would bring him the sweet furtherance of
satisfying affection—beauty—repose—such help as our thoughts get
from the summer sky and the flower-fringed meadows.
Lydgate relied much on the psychological difference between what for
the sake of variety I will call goose and gander: especially on the
innate submissiveness of the goose as beautifully corresponding to the
strength of the gander.
"Thrice happy she that is so well assured
Unto herself and settled so in heart
That neither will for better be allured
Ne fears to worse with any chance to start,
But like a steddy ship doth strongly part
The raging waves and keeps her course aright;
Ne aught for tempest doth from it depart,
Ne aught for fairer weather's false delight.
Such self-assurance need not fear the spight
Of grudging foes; ne favour seek of friends;
But in the stay of her own stedfast might
Neither to one herself nor other bends.
Most happy she that most assured doth rest,
But he most happy who such one loves best."
The doubt hinted by Mr. Vincy whether it were only the general election
or the end of the world that was coming on, now that George the Fourth
was dead, Parliament dissolved, Wellington and Peel generally
depreciated and the new King apologetic, was a feeble type of the
uncertainties in provincial opinion at that time. With the glow-worm
lights of country places, how could men see which were their own
thoughts in the confusion of a Tory Ministry passing Liberal measures,
of Tory nobles and electors being anxious to return Liberals rather
than friends of the recreant Ministers, and of outcries for remedies
which seemed to have a mysteriously remote bearing on private interest,
and were made suspicious by the advocacy of disagreeable neighbors?
Buyers of the Middlemarch newspapers found themselves in an anomalous
position: during the agitation on the Catholic Question many had given
up the "Pioneer"—which had a motto from Charles James Fox and was in
the van of progress—because it had taken Peel's side about the
Papists, and had thus blotted its Liberalism with a toleration of
Jesuitry and Baal; but they were ill-satisfied with the "Trumpet,"
which—since its blasts against Rome, and in the general flaccidity of
the public mind (nobody knowing who would support whom)—had become
feeble in its blowing.
It was a time, according to a noticeable article in the "Pioneer," when
the crying needs of the country might well counteract a reluctance to
public action on the part of men whose minds had from long experience
acquired breadth as well as concentration, decision of judgment as well
as tolerance, dispassionateness as well as energy—in fact, all those
qualities which in the melancholy experience of mankind have been the
least disposed to share lodgings.
Mr. Hackbutt, whose fluent speech was at that time floating more widely
than usual, and leaving much uncertainty as to its ultimate channel,
was heard to say in Mr. Hawley's office that the article in question
"emanated" from Brooke of Tipton, and that Brooke had secretly bought
the "Pioneer" some months ago.
"That means mischief, eh?" said Mr. Hawley. "He's got the freak of
being a popular man now, after dangling about like a stray tortoise.
So much the worse for him. I've had my eye on him for some time. He
shall be prettily pumped upon. He's a damned bad landlord. What
business has an old county man to come currying favor with a low set of
dark-blue freemen? As to his paper, I only hope he may do the writing
himself. It would be worth our paying for."
"I understand he has got a very brilliant young fellow to edit it, who
can write the highest style of leading article, quite equal to anything
in the London papers. And he means to take very high ground on Reform."
"Let Brooke reform his rent-roll. He's a cursed old screw, and the
buildings all over his estate are going to rack. I suppose this young
fellow is some loose fish from London."
"His name is Ladislaw. He is said to be of foreign extraction."
"I know the sort," said Mr. Hawley; "some emissary. He'll begin with
flourishing about the Rights of Man and end with murdering a wench.
That's the style."
"You must concede that there are abuses, Hawley," said Mr. Hackbutt,
foreseeing some political disagreement with his family lawyer. "I
myself should never favor immoderate views—in fact I take my stand
with Huskisson—but I cannot blind myself to the consideration that the
non-representation of large towns—"
"Large towns be damned!" said Mr. Hawley, impatient of exposition. "I
know a little too much about Middlemarch elections. Let 'em quash
every pocket borough to-morrow, and bring in every mushroom town in the
kingdom—they'll only increase the expense of getting into Parliament.
I go upon facts."
Mr. Hawley's disgust at the notion of the "Pioneer" being edited by an
emissary, and of Brooke becoming actively political—as if a tortoise
of desultory pursuits should protrude its small head ambitiously and
become rampant—was hardly equal to the annoyance felt by some members
of Mr. Brooke's own family. The result had oozed forth gradually, like
the discovery that your neighbor has set up an unpleasant kind of
manufacture which will be permanently under your nostrils without legal
remedy. The "Pioneer" had been secretly bought even before Will
Ladislaw's arrival, the expected opportunity having offered itself in
the readiness of the proprietor to part with a valuable property which
did not pay; and in the interval since Mr. Brooke had written his
invitation, those germinal ideas of making his mind tell upon the world
at large which had been present in him from his younger years, but had
hitherto lain in some obstruction, had been sprouting under cover.
The development was much furthered by a delight in his guest which
proved greater even than he had anticipated. For it seemed that Will
was not only at home in all those artistic and literary subjects which
Mr. Brooke had gone into at one time, but that he was strikingly ready
at seizing the points of the political situation, and dealing with them
in that large spirit which, aided by adequate memory, lends itself to
quotation and general effectiveness of treatment.
"He seems to me a kind of Shelley, you know," Mr. Brooke took an
opportunity of saying, for the gratification of Mr. Casaubon. "I don't
mean as to anything objectionable—laxities or atheism, or anything of
that kind, you know—Ladislaw's sentiments in every way I am sure are
good—indeed, we were talking a great deal together last night. But he
has the same sort of enthusiasm for liberty, freedom, emancipation—a
fine thing under guidance—under guidance, you know. I think I shall
be able to put him on the right tack; and I am the more pleased because
he is a relation of yours, Casaubon."
If the right tack implied anything more precise than the rest of Mr.
Brooke's speech, Mr. Casaubon silently hoped that it referred to some
occupation at a great distance from Lowick. He had disliked Will while
he helped him, but he had begun to dislike him still more now that Will
had declined his help. That is the way with us when we have any uneasy
jealousy in our disposition: if our talents are chiefly of the
burrowing kind, our honey-sipping cousin (whom we have grave reasons
for objecting to) is likely to have a secret contempt for us, and any
one who admires him passes an oblique criticism on ourselves. Having
the scruples of rectitude in our souls, we are above the meanness of
injuring him—rather we meet all his claims on us by active benefits;
and the drawing of cheques for him, being a superiority which he must
recognize, gives our bitterness a milder infusion. Now Mr. Casaubon
had been deprived of that superiority (as anything more than a
remembrance) in a sudden, capricious manner. His antipathy to Will did
not spring from the common jealousy of a winter-worn husband: it was
something deeper, bred by his lifelong claims and discontents; but
Dorothea, now that she was present—Dorothea, as a young wife who
herself had shown an offensive capability of criticism, necessarily
gave concentration to the uneasiness which had before been vague.
Will Ladislaw on his side felt that his dislike was flourishing at the
expense of his gratitude, and spent much inward discourse in justifying
the dislike. Casaubon hated him—he knew that very well; on his first
entrance he could discern a bitterness in the mouth and a venom in the
glance which would almost justify declaring war in spite of past
benefits. He was much obliged to Casaubon in the past, but really the
act of marrying this wife was a set-off against the obligation. It was
a question whether gratitude which refers to what is done for one's
self ought not to give way to indignation at what is done against
another. And Casaubon had done a wrong to Dorothea in marrying her. A
man was bound to know himself better than that, and if he chose to grow
gray crunching bones in a cavern, he had no business to be luring a
girl into his companionship. "It is the most horrible of
virgin-sacrifices," said Will; and he painted to himself what were
Dorothea's inward sorrows as if he had been writing a choric wail. But
he would never lose sight of her: he would watch over her—if he gave
up everything else in life he would watch over her, and she should know
that she had one slave in the world, Will had—to use Sir Thomas
Browne's phrase—a "passionate prodigality" of statement both to
himself and others. The simple truth was that nothing then invited him
so strongly as the presence of Dorothea.
Invitations of the formal kind had been wanting, however, for Will had
never been asked to go to Lowick. Mr. Brooke, indeed, confident of
doing everything agreeable which Casaubon, poor fellow, was too much
absorbed to think of, had arranged to bring Ladislaw to Lowick several
times (not neglecting meanwhile to introduce him elsewhere on every
opportunity as "a young relative of Casaubon's"). And though Will had
not seen Dorothea alone, their interviews had been enough to restore
her former sense of young companionship with one who was cleverer than
herself, yet seemed ready to be swayed by her. Poor Dorothea before
her marriage had never found much room in other minds for what she
cared most to say; and she had not, as we know, enjoyed her husband's
superior instruction so much as she had expected. If she spoke with
any keenness of interest to Mr. Casaubon, he heard her with an air of
patience as if she had given a quotation from the Delectus familiar to
him from his tender years, and sometimes mentioned curtly what ancient
sects or personages had held similar ideas, as if there were too much
of that sort in stock already; at other times he would inform her that
she was mistaken, and reassert what her remark had questioned.
But Will Ladislaw always seemed to see more in what she said than she
herself saw. Dorothea had little vanity, but she had the ardent
woman's need to rule beneficently by making the joy of another soul.
Hence the mere chance of seeing Will occasionally was like a lunette
opened in the wall of her prison, giving her a glimpse of the sunny
air; and this pleasure began to nullify her original alarm at what her
husband might think about the introduction of Will as her uncle's
guest. On this subject Mr. Casaubon had remained dumb.
But Will wanted to talk with Dorothea alone, and was impatient of slow
circumstance. However slight the terrestrial intercourse between Dante
and Beatrice or Petrarch and Laura, time changes the proportion of
things, and in later days it is preferable to have fewer sonnets and
more conversation. Necessity excused stratagem, but stratagem was
limited by the dread of offending Dorothea. He found out at last that
he wanted to take a particular sketch at Lowick; and one morning when
Mr. Brooke had to drive along the Lowick road on his way to the county
town, Will asked to be set down with his sketch-book and camp-stool at
Lowick, and without announcing himself at the Manor settled himself to
sketch in a position where he must see Dorothea if she came out to
walk—and he knew that she usually walked an hour in the morning.
But the stratagem was defeated by the weather. Clouds gathered with
treacherous quickness, the rain came down, and Will was obliged to take
shelter in the house. He intended, on the strength of relationship, to
go into the drawing-room and wait there without being announced; and
seeing his old acquaintance the butler in the hall, he said, "Don't
mention that I am here, Pratt; I will wait till luncheon; I know Mr.
Casaubon does not like to be disturbed when he is in the library."
"Master is out, sir; there's only Mrs. Casaubon in the library. I'd
better tell her you're here, sir," said Pratt, a red-cheeked man given
to lively converse with Tantripp, and often agreeing with her that it
must be dull for Madam.
"Oh, very well; this confounded rain has hindered me from sketching,"
said Will, feeling so happy that he affected indifference with
In another minute he was in the library, and Dorothea was meeting him
with her sweet unconstrained smile.
"Mr. Casaubon has gone to the Archdeacon's," she said, at once. "I
don't know whether he will be at home again long before dinner. He was
uncertain how long he should be. Did you want to say anything
particular to him?"
"No; I came to sketch, but the rain drove me in. Else I would not have
disturbed you yet. I supposed that Mr. Casaubon was here, and I know
he dislikes interruption at this hour."
"I am indebted to the rain, then. I am so glad to see you." Dorothea
uttered these common words with the simple sincerity of an unhappy
child, visited at school.
"I really came for the chance of seeing you alone," said Will,
mysteriously forced to be just as simple as she was. He could not stay
to ask himself, why not? "I wanted to talk about things, as we did in
Rome. It always makes a difference when other people are present."
"Yes," said Dorothea, in her clear full tone of assent. "Sit down."
She seated herself on a dark ottoman with the brown books behind her,
looking in her plain dress of some thin woollen-white material, without
a single ornament on her besides her wedding-ring, as if she were under
a vow to be different from all other women; and Will sat down opposite
her at two yards' distance, the light falling on his bright curls and
delicate but rather petulant profile, with its defiant curves of lip
and chin. Each looked at the other as if they had been two flowers
which had opened then and there. Dorothea for the moment forgot her
husband's mysterious irritation against Will: it seemed fresh water at
her thirsty lips to speak without fear to the one person whom she had
found receptive; for in looking backward through sadness she
exaggerated a past solace.
"I have often thought that I should like to talk to you again," she
said, immediately. "It seems strange to me how many things I said to
"I remember them all," said Will, with the unspeakable content in his
soul of feeling that he was in the presence of a creature worthy to be
perfectly loved. I think his own feelings at that moment were perfect,
for we mortals have our divine moments, when love is satisfied in the
completeness of the beloved object.
"I have tried to learn a great deal since we were in Rome," said
Dorothea. "I can read Latin a little, and I am beginning to understand
just a little Greek. I can help Mr. Casaubon better now. I can find
out references for him and save his eyes in many ways. But it is very
difficult to be learned; it seems as if people were worn out on the way
to great thoughts, and can never enjoy them because they are too tired."
"If a man has a capacity for great thoughts, he is likely to overtake
them before he is decrepit," said Will, with irrepressible quickness.
But through certain sensibilities Dorothea was as quick as he, and
seeing her face change, he added, immediately, "But it is quite true
that the best minds have been sometimes overstrained in working out
"You correct me," said Dorothea. "I expressed myself ill. I should
have said that those who have great thoughts get too much worn in
working them out. I used to feel about that, even when I was a little
girl; and it always seemed to me that the use I should like to make of
my life would be to help some one who did great works, so that his
burthen might be lighter."
Dorothea was led on to this bit of autobiography without any sense of
making a revelation. But she had never before said anything to Will
which threw so strong a light on her marriage. He did not shrug his
shoulders; and for want of that muscular outlet he thought the more
irritably of beautiful lips kissing holy skulls and other emptinesses
ecclesiastically enshrined. Also he had to take care that his speech
should not betray that thought.
"But you may easily carry the help too far," he said, "and get
over-wrought yourself. Are you not too much shut up? You already look
paler. It would be better for Mr. Casaubon to have a secretary; he
could easily get a man who would do half his work for him. It would
save him more effectually, and you need only help him in lighter ways."
"How can you think of that?" said Dorothea, in a tone of earnest
remonstrance. "I should have no happiness if I did not help him in his
work. What could I do? There is no good to be done in Lowick. The
only thing I desire is to help him more. And he objects to a
secretary: please not to mention that again."
"Certainly not, now I know your feeling. But I have heard both Mr.
Brooke and Sir James Chettam express the same wish."
"Yes?" said Dorothea, "but they don't understand—they want me to be a
great deal on horseback, and have the garden altered and new
conservatories, to fill up my days. I thought you could understand
that one's mind has other wants," she added, rather
impatiently—"besides, Mr. Casaubon cannot bear to hear of a secretary."
"My mistake is excusable," said Will. "In old days I used to hear Mr.
Casaubon speak as if he looked forward to having a secretary. Indeed
he held out the prospect of that office to me. But I turned out to
be—not good enough for it."
Dorothea was trying to extract out of this an excuse for her husband's
evident repulsion, as she said, with a playful smile, "You were not a
steady worker enough."
"No," said Will, shaking his head backward somewhat after the manner of
a spirited horse. And then, the old irritable demon prompting him to
give another good pinch at the moth-wings of poor Mr. Casaubon's glory,
he went on, "And I have seen since that Mr. Casaubon does not like any
one to overlook his work and know thoroughly what he is doing. He is
too doubtful—too uncertain of himself. I may not be good for much,
but he dislikes me because I disagree with him."
Will was not without his intentions to be always generous, but our
tongues are little triggers which have usually been pulled before
general intentions can be brought to bear. And it was too intolerable
that Casaubon's dislike of him should not be fairly accounted for to
Dorothea. Yet when he had spoken he was rather uneasy as to the effect
But Dorothea was strangely quiet—not immediately indignant, as she had
been on a like occasion in Rome. And the cause lay deep. She was no
longer struggling against the perception of facts, but adjusting
herself to their clearest perception; and now when she looked steadily
at her husband's failure, still more at his possible consciousness of
failure, she seemed to be looking along the one track where duty became
tenderness. Will's want of reticence might have been met with more
severity, if he had not already been recommended to her mercy by her
husband's dislike, which must seem hard to her till she saw better
reason for it.
She did not answer at once, but after looking down ruminatingly she
said, with some earnestness, "Mr. Casaubon must have overcome his
dislike of you so far as his actions were concerned: and that is
"Yes; he has shown a sense of justice in family matters. It was an
abominable thing that my grandmother should have been disinherited
because she made what they called a mesalliance, though there was
nothing to be said against her husband except that he was a Polish
refugee who gave lessons for his bread."
"I wish I knew all about her!" said Dorothea. "I wonder how she bore
the change from wealth to poverty: I wonder whether she was happy with
her husband! Do you know much about them?"
"No; only that my grandfather was a patriot—a bright fellow—could
speak many languages—musical—got his bread by teaching all sorts of
things. They both died rather early. And I never knew much of my
father, beyond what my mother told me; but he inherited the musical
talents. I remember his slow walk and his long thin hands; and one day
remains with me when he was lying ill, and I was very hungry, and had
only a little bit of bread."
"Ah, what a different life from mine!" said Dorothea, with keen
interest, clasping her hands on her lap. "I have always had too much
of everything. But tell me how it was—Mr. Casaubon could not have
known about you then."
"No; but my father had made himself known to Mr. Casaubon, and that was
my last hungry day. My father died soon after, and my mother and I
were well taken care of. Mr. Casaubon always expressly recognized it
as his duty to take care of us because of the harsh injustice which had
been shown to his mother's sister. But now I am telling you what is
not new to you."
In his inmost soul Will was conscious of wishing to tell Dorothea what
was rather new even in his own construction of things—namely, that
Mr. Casaubon had never done more than pay a debt towards him. Will was
much too good a fellow to be easy under the sense of being ungrateful.
And when gratitude has become a matter of reasoning there are many ways
of escaping from its bonds.
"No," answered Dorothea; "Mr. Casaubon has always avoided dwelling on
his own honorable actions." She did not feel that her husband's
conduct was depreciated; but this notion of what justice had required
in his relations with Will Ladislaw took strong hold on her mind.
After a moment's pause, she added, "He had never told me that he
supported your mother. Is she still living?"
"No; she died by an accident—a fall—four years ago. It is curious
that my mother, too, ran away from her family, but not for the sake of
her husband. She never would tell me anything about her family, except
that she forsook them to get her own living—went on the stage, in
fact. She was a dark-eyed creature, with crisp ringlets, and never
seemed to be getting old. You see I come of rebellious blood on both
sides," Will ended, smiling brightly at Dorothea, while she was still
looking with serious intentness before her, like a child seeing a drama
for the first time.
But her face, too, broke into a smile as she said, "That is your
apology, I suppose, for having yourself been rather rebellious; I mean,
to Mr. Casaubon's wishes. You must remember that you have not done
what he thought best for you. And if he dislikes you—you were
speaking of dislike a little while ago—but I should rather say, if he
has shown any painful feelings towards you, you must consider how
sensitive he has become from the wearing effect of study. Perhaps,"
she continued, getting into a pleading tone, "my uncle has not told you
how serious Mr. Casaubon's illness was. It would be very petty of us
who are well and can bear things, to think much of small offences from
those who carry a weight of trial."
"You teach me better," said Will. "I will never grumble on that
subject again." There was a gentleness in his tone which came from the
unutterable contentment of perceiving—what Dorothea was hardly
conscious of—that she was travelling into the remoteness of pure pity
and loyalty towards her husband. Will was ready to adore her pity and
loyalty, if she would associate himself with her in manifesting them.
"I have really sometimes been a perverse fellow," he went on, "but I
will never again, if I can help it, do or say what you would
"That is very good of you," said Dorothea, with another open smile. "I
shall have a little kingdom then, where I shall give laws. But you
will soon go away, out of my rule, I imagine. You will soon be tired
of staying at the Grange."
"That is a point I wanted to mention to you—one of the reasons why I
wished to speak to you alone. Mr. Brooke proposes that I should stay
in this neighborhood. He has bought one of the Middlemarch newspapers,
and he wishes me to conduct that, and also to help him in other ways."
"Would not that be a sacrifice of higher prospects for you?" said
"Perhaps; but I have always been blamed for thinking of prospects, and
not settling to anything. And here is something offered to me. If you
would not like me to accept it, I will give it up. Otherwise I would
rather stay in this part of the country than go away. I belong to
nobody anywhere else."
"I should like you to stay very much," said Dorothea, at once, as
simply and readily as she had spoken at Rome. There was not the shadow
of a reason in her mind at the moment why she should not say so.
"Then I will stay," said Ladislaw, shaking his head backward, rising
and going towards the window, as if to see whether the rain had ceased.
But the next moment, Dorothea, according to a habit which was getting
continually stronger, began to reflect that her husband felt
differently from herself, and she colored deeply under the double
embarrassment of having expressed what might be in opposition to her
husband's feeling, and of having to suggest this opposition to Will.
His face was not turned towards her, and this made it easier to say—
"But my opinion is of little consequence on such a subject. I think
you should be guided by Mr. Casaubon. I spoke without thinking of
anything else than my own feeling, which has nothing to do with the
real question. But it now occurs to me—perhaps Mr. Casaubon might
see that the proposal was not wise. Can you not wait now and mention
it to him?"
"I can't wait to-day," said Will, inwardly seared by the possibility
that Mr. Casaubon would enter. "The rain is quite over now. I told
Mr. Brooke not to call for me: I would rather walk the five miles. I
shall strike across Halsell Common, and see the gleams on the wet
grass. I like that."
He approached her to shake hands quite hurriedly, longing but not
daring to say, "Don't mention the subject to Mr. Casaubon." No, he
dared not, could not say it. To ask her to be less simple and direct
would be like breathing on the crystal that you want to see the light
through. And there was always the other great dread—of himself
becoming dimmed and forever ray-shorn in her eyes.
"I wish you could have stayed," said Dorothea, with a touch of
mournfulness, as she rose and put out her hand. She also had her
thought which she did not like to express:—Will certainly ought to
lose no time in consulting Mr. Casaubon's wishes, but for her to urge
this might seem an undue dictation.
So they only said "Good-by," and Will quitted the house, striking
across the fields so as not to run any risk of encountering Mr.
Casaubon's carriage, which, however, did not appear at the gate until
four o'clock. That was an unpropitious hour for coming home: it was too
early to gain the moral support under ennui of dressing his person for
dinner, and too late to undress his mind of the day's frivolous
ceremony and affairs, so as to be prepared for a good plunge into the
serious business of study. On such occasions he usually threw into an
easy-chair in the library, and allowed Dorothea to read the London
papers to him, closing his eyes the while. To-day, however, he
declined that relief, observing that he had already had too many public
details urged upon him; but he spoke more cheerfully than usual, when
Dorothea asked about his fatigue, and added with that air of formal
effort which never forsook him even when he spoke without his waistcoat
"I have had the gratification of meeting my former acquaintance, Dr.
Spanning, to-day, and of being praised by one who is himself a worthy
recipient of praise. He spoke very handsomely of my late tractate on
the Egyptian Mysteries,—using, in fact, terms which it would not
become me to repeat." In uttering the last clause, Mr. Casaubon leaned
over the elbow of his chair, and swayed his head up and down,
apparently as a muscular outlet instead of that recapitulation which
would not have been becoming.
"I am very glad you have had that pleasure," said Dorothea, delighted
to see her husband less weary than usual at this hour. "Before you
came I had been regretting that you happened to be out to-day."
"Why so, my dear?" said Mr. Casaubon, throwing himself backward again.
"Because Mr. Ladislaw has been here; and he has mentioned a proposal of
my uncle's which I should like to know your opinion of." Her husband
she felt was really concerned in this question. Even with her
ignorance of the world she had a vague impression that the position
offered to Will was out of keeping with his family connections, and
certainly Mr. Casaubon had a claim to be consulted. He did not speak,
but merely bowed.
"Dear uncle, you know, has many projects. It appears that he has
bought one of the Middlemarch newspapers, and he has asked Mr. Ladislaw
to stay in this neighborhood and conduct the paper for him, besides
helping him in other ways."
Dorothea looked at her husband while she spoke, but he had at first
blinked and finally closed his eyes, as if to save them; while his lips
became more tense. "What is your opinion?" she added, rather timidly,
after a slight pause.
"Did Mr. Ladislaw come on purpose to ask my opinion?" said Mr.
Casaubon, opening his eyes narrowly with a knife-edged look at
Dorothea. She was really uncomfortable on the point he inquired about,
but she only became a little more serious, and her eyes did not swerve.
"No," she answered immediately, "he did not say that he came to ask
your opinion. But when he mentioned the proposal, he of course
expected me to tell you of it."
Mr. Casaubon was silent.
"I feared that you might feel some objection. But certainly a young
man with so much talent might be very useful to my uncle—might help
him to do good in a better way. And Mr. Ladislaw wishes to have some
fixed occupation. He has been blamed, he says, for not seeking
something of that kind, and he would like to stay in this neighborhood
because no one cares for him elsewhere."
Dorothea felt that this was a consideration to soften her husband.
However, he did not speak, and she presently recurred to Dr. Spanning
and the Archdeacon's breakfast. But there was no longer sunshine on
The next morning, without Dorothea's knowledge, Mr. Casaubon despatched
the following letter, beginning "Dear Mr. Ladislaw" (he had always
before addressed him as "Will"):—
"Mrs. Casaubon informs me that a proposal has been made to you, and
(according to an inference by no means stretched) has on your part been
in some degree entertained, which involves your residence in this
neighborhood in a capacity which I am justified in saying touches my
own position in such a way as renders it not only natural and
warrantable in me when that effect is viewed under the influence of
legitimate feeling, but incumbent on me when the same effect is
considered in the light of my responsibilities, to state at once that
your acceptance of the proposal above indicated would be highly
offensive to me. That I have some claim to the exercise of a veto
here, would not, I believe, be denied by any reasonable person
cognizant of the relations between us: relations which, though thrown
into the past by your recent procedure, are not thereby annulled in
their character of determining antecedents. I will not here make
reflections on any person's judgment. It is enough for me to point out
to yourself that there are certain social fitnesses and proprieties
which should hinder a somewhat near relative of mine from becoming any
wise conspicuous in this vicinity in a status not only much beneath my
own, but associated at best with the sciolism of literary or political
adventurers. At any rate, the contrary issue must exclude you from
further reception at my house.
Meanwhile Dorothea's mind was innocently at work towards the further
embitterment of her husband; dwelling, with a sympathy that grew to
agitation, on what Will had told her about his parents and
grandparents. Any private hours in her day were usually spent in her
blue-green boudoir, and she had come to be very fond of its pallid
quaintness. Nothing had been outwardly altered there; but while the
summer had gradually advanced over the western fields beyond the avenue
of elms, the bare room had gathered within it those memories of an
inward life which fill the air as with a cloud of good or bad angels,
the invisible yet active forms of our spiritual triumphs or our
spiritual falls. She had been so used to struggle for and to find
resolve in looking along the avenue towards the arch of western light
that the vision itself had gained a communicating power. Even the pale
stag seemed to have reminding glances and to mean mutely, "Yes, we
know." And the group of delicately touched miniatures had made an
audience as of beings no longer disturbed about their own earthly lot,
but still humanly interested. Especially the mysterious "Aunt Julia"
about whom Dorothea had never found it easy to question her husband.
And now, since her conversation with Will, many fresh images had
gathered round that Aunt Julia who was Will's grandmother; the presence
of that delicate miniature, so like a living face that she knew,
helping to concentrate her feelings. What a wrong, to cut off the girl
from the family protection and inheritance only because she had chosen
a man who was poor! Dorothea, early troubling her elders with
questions about the facts around her, had wrought herself into some
independent clearness as to the historical, political reasons why
eldest sons had superior rights, and why land should be entailed: those
reasons, impressing her with a certain awe, might be weightier than she
knew, but here was a question of ties which left them uninfringed.
Here was a daughter whose child—even according to the ordinary aping
of aristocratic institutions by people who are no more aristocratic
than retired grocers, and who have no more land to "keep together" than
a lawn and a paddock—would have a prior claim. Was inheritance a
question of liking or of responsibility? All the energy of Dorothea's
nature went on the side of responsibility—the fulfilment of claims
founded on our own deeds, such as marriage and parentage.
It was true, she said to herself, that Mr. Casaubon had a debt to the
Ladislaws—that he had to pay back what the Ladislaws had been wronged
of. And now she began to think of her husband's will, which had been
made at the time of their marriage, leaving the bulk of his property to
her, with proviso in case of her having children. That ought to be
altered; and no time ought to be lost. This very question which had
just arisen about Will Ladislaw's occupation, was the occasion for
placing things on a new, right footing. Her husband, she felt sure,
according to all his previous conduct, would be ready to take the just
view, if she proposed it—she, in whose interest an unfair
concentration of the property had been urged. His sense of right had
surmounted and would continue to surmount anything that might be called
antipathy. She suspected that her uncle's scheme was disapproved by
Mr. Casaubon, and this made it seem all the more opportune that a fresh
understanding should be begun, so that instead of Will's starting
penniless and accepting the first function that offered itself, he
should find himself in possession of a rightful income which should be
paid by her husband during his life, and, by an immediate alteration of
the will, should be secured at his death. The vision of all this as
what ought to be done seemed to Dorothea like a sudden letting in of
daylight, waking her from her previous stupidity and incurious
self-absorbed ignorance about her husband's relation to others. Will
Ladislaw had refused Mr. Casaubon's future aid on a ground that no
longer appeared right to her; and Mr. Casaubon had never himself seen
fully what was the claim upon him. "But he will!" said Dorothea. "The
great strength of his character lies here. And what are we doing with
our money? We make no use of half of our income. My own money buys me
nothing but an uneasy conscience."
There was a peculiar fascination for Dorothea in this division of
property intended for herself, and always regarded by her as excessive.
She was blind, you see, to many things obvious to others—likely to
tread in the wrong places, as Celia had warned her; yet her blindness
to whatever did not lie in her own pure purpose carried her safely by
the side of precipices where vision would have been perilous with fear.
The thoughts which had gathered vividness in the solitude of her
boudoir occupied her incessantly through the day on which Mr. Casaubon
had sent his letter to Will. Everything seemed hindrance to her till
she could find an opportunity of opening her heart to her husband. To
his preoccupied mind all subjects were to be approached gently, and she
had never since his illness lost from her consciousness the dread of
agitating him. But when young ardor is set brooding over the
conception of a prompt deed, the deed itself seems to start forth with
independent life, mastering ideal obstacles. The day passed in a
sombre fashion, not unusual, though Mr. Casaubon was perhaps unusually
silent; but there were hours of the night which might be counted on as
opportunities of conversation; for Dorothea, when aware of her
husband's sleeplessness, had established a habit of rising, lighting a
candle, and reading him to sleep again. And this night she was from
the beginning sleepless, excited by resolves. He slept as usual for a
few hours, but she had risen softly and had sat in the darkness for
nearly an hour before he said—
"Dorothea, since you are up, will you light a candle?"
"Do you feel ill, dear?" was her first question, as she obeyed him.
"No, not at all; but I shall be obliged, since you are up, if you will
read me a few pages of Lowth."
"May I talk to you a little instead?" said Dorothea.
"I have been thinking about money all day—that I have always had too
much, and especially the prospect of too much."
"These, my dear Dorothea, are providential arrangements."
"But if one has too much in consequence of others being wronged, it
seems to me that the divine voice which tells us to set that wrong
right must be obeyed."
"What, my love, is the bearing of your remark?"
"That you have been too liberal in arrangements for me—I mean, with
regard to property; and that makes me unhappy."
"How so? I have none but comparatively distant connections."
"I have been led to think about your aunt Julia, and how she was left
in poverty only because she married a poor man, an act which was not
disgraceful, since he was not unworthy. It was on that ground, I know,
that you educated Mr. Ladislaw and provided for his mother."
Dorothea waited a few moments for some answer that would help her
onward. None came, and her next words seemed the more forcible to her,
falling clear upon the dark silence.
"But surely we should regard his claim as a much greater one, even to
the half of that property which I know that you have destined for me.
And I think he ought at once to be provided for on that understanding.
It is not right that he should be in the dependence of poverty while we
are rich. And if there is any objection to the proposal he mentioned,
the giving him his true place and his true share would set aside any
motive for his accepting it."
"Mr. Ladislaw has probably been speaking to you on this subject?" said
Mr. Casaubon, with a certain biting quickness not habitual to him.
"Indeed, no!" said Dorothea, earnestly. "How can you imagine it, since
he has so lately declined everything from you? I fear you think too
hardly of him, dear. He only told me a little about his parents and
grandparents, and almost all in answer to my questions. You are so
good, so just—you have done everything you thought to be right. But
it seems to me clear that more than that is right; and I must speak
about it, since I am the person who would get what is called benefit by
that 'more' not being done."
There was a perceptible pause before Mr. Casaubon replied, not quickly
as before, but with a still more biting emphasis.
"Dorothea, my love, this is not the first occasion, but it were well
that it should be the last, on which you have assumed a judgment on
subjects beyond your scope. Into the question how far conduct,
especially in the matter of alliances, constitutes a forfeiture of
family claims, I do not now enter. Suffice it, that you are not here
qualified to discriminate. What I now wish you to understand is, that
I accept no revision, still less dictation within that range of affairs
which I have deliberated upon as distinctly and properly mine. It is
not for you to interfere between me and Mr. Ladislaw, and still less to
encourage communications from him to you which constitute a criticism
on my procedure."
Poor Dorothea, shrouded in the darkness, was in a tumult of conflicting
emotions. Alarm at the possible effect on himself of her husband's
strongly manifested anger, would have checked any expression of her own
resentment, even if she had been quite free from doubt and compunction
under the consciousness that there might be some justice in his last
insinuation. Hearing him breathe quickly after he had spoken, she sat
listening, frightened, wretched—with a dumb inward cry for help to
bear this nightmare of a life in which every energy was arrested by
dread. But nothing else happened, except that they both remained a
long while sleepless, without speaking again.
The next day, Mr. Casaubon received the following answer from Will
"DEAR MR. CASAUBON,—I have given all due consideration to your letter
of yesterday, but I am unable to take precisely your view of our mutual
position. With the fullest acknowledgment of your generous conduct to
me in the past, I must still maintain that an obligation of this kind
cannot fairly fetter me as you appear to expect that it should.
Granted that a benefactor's wishes may constitute a claim; there must
always be a reservation as to the quality of those wishes. They may
possibly clash with more imperative considerations. Or a benefactor's
veto might impose such a negation on a man's life that the consequent
blank might be more cruel than the benefaction was generous. I am
merely using strong illustrations. In the present case I am unable to
take your view of the bearing which my acceptance of occupation—not
enriching certainly, but not dishonorable—will have on your own
position which seems to me too substantial to be affected in that
shadowy manner. And though I do not believe that any change in our
relations will occur (certainly none has yet occurred) which can
nullify the obligations imposed on me by the past, pardon me for not
seeing that those obligations should restrain me from using the
ordinary freedom of living where I choose, and maintaining myself by
any lawful occupation I may choose. Regretting that there exists this
difference between us as to a relation in which the conferring of
benefits has been entirely on your side—
I remain, yours with persistent obligation,
Poor Mr. Casaubon felt (and must not we, being impartial, feel with him
a little?) that no man had juster cause for disgust and suspicion than
he. Young Ladislaw, he was sure, meant to defy and annoy him, meant to
win Dorothea's confidence and sow her mind with disrespect, and perhaps
aversion, towards her husband. Some motive beneath the surface had
been needed to account for Will's sudden change of in rejecting Mr.
Casaubon's aid and quitting his travels; and this defiant determination
to fix himself in the neighborhood by taking up something so much at
variance with his former choice as Mr. Brooke's Middlemarch projects,
revealed clearly enough that the undeclared motive had relation to
Dorothea. Not for one moment did Mr. Casaubon suspect Dorothea of any
doubleness: he had no suspicions of her, but he had (what was little
less uncomfortable) the positive knowledge that her tendency to form
opinions about her husband's conduct was accompanied with a disposition
to regard Will Ladislaw favorably and be influenced by what he said.
His own proud reticence had prevented him from ever being undeceived in
the supposition that Dorothea had originally asked her uncle to invite
Will to his house.
And now, on receiving Will's letter, Mr. Casaubon had to consider his
duty. He would never have been easy to call his action anything else
than duty; but in this case, contending motives thrust him back into
Should he apply directly to Mr. Brooke, and demand of that troublesome
gentleman to revoke his proposal? Or should he consult Sir James
Chettam, and get him to concur in remonstrance against a step which
touched the whole family? In either case Mr. Casaubon was aware that
failure was just as probable as success. It was impossible for him to
mention Dorothea's name in the matter, and without some alarming
urgency Mr. Brooke was as likely as not, after meeting all
representations with apparent assent, to wind up by saying, "Never
fear, Casaubon! Depend upon it, young Ladislaw will do you credit.
Depend upon it, I have put my finger on the right thing." And Mr.
Casaubon shrank nervously from communicating on the subject with Sir
James Chettam, between whom and himself there had never been any
cordiality, and who would immediately think of Dorothea without any
mention of her.
Poor Mr. Casaubon was distrustful of everybody's feeling towards him,
especially as a husband. To let any one suppose that he was jealous
would be to admit their (suspected) view of his disadvantages: to let
them know that he did not find marriage particularly blissful would
imply his conversion to their (probably) earlier disapproval. It would
be as bad as letting Carp, and Brasenose generally, know how backward
he was in organizing the matter for his "Key to all Mythologies." All
through his life Mr. Casaubon had been trying not to admit even to
himself the inward sores of self-doubt and jealousy. And on the most
delicate of all personal subjects, the habit of proud suspicious
reticence told doubly.
Thus Mr. Casaubon remained proudly, bitterly silent. But he had
forbidden Will to come to Lowick Manor, and he was mentally preparing
other measures of frustration.
"C'est beaucoup que le jugement des hommes sur les actions
humaines; tot ou tard il devient efficace."—GUIZOT.
Sir James Chettam could not look with any satisfaction on Mr. Brooke's
new courses; but it was easier to object than to hinder. Sir James
accounted for his having come in alone one day to lunch with the
Cadwalladers by saying—
"I can't talk to you as I want, before Celia: it might hurt her.
Indeed, it would not be right."
"I know what you mean—the 'Pioneer' at the Grange!" darted in Mrs.
Cadwallader, almost before the last word was off her friend's tongue.
"It is frightful—this taking to buying whistles and blowing them in
everybody's hearing. Lying in bed all day and playing at dominoes,
like poor Lord Plessy, would be more private and bearable."
"I see they are beginning to attack our friend Brooke in the
'Trumpet,'" said the Rector, lounging back and smiling easily, as he
would have done if he had been attacked himself. "There are tremendous
sarcasms against a landlord not a hundred miles from Middlemarch, who
receives his own rents, and makes no returns."
"I do wish Brooke would leave that off," said Sir James, with his
little frown of annoyance.
"Is he really going to be put in nomination, though?" said Mr.
Cadwallader. "I saw Farebrother yesterday—he's Whiggish himself,
hoists Brougham and Useful Knowledge; that's the worst I know of
him;—and he says that Brooke is getting up a pretty strong party.
Bulstrode, the banker, is his foremost man. But he thinks Brooke would
come off badly at a nomination."
"Exactly," said Sir James, with earnestness. "I have been inquiring
into the thing, for I've never known anything about Middlemarch
politics before—the county being my business. What Brooke trusts to,
is that they are going to turn out Oliver because he is a Peelite. But
Hawley tells me that if they send up a Whig at all it is sure to be
Bagster, one of those candidates who come from heaven knows where, but
dead against Ministers, and an experienced Parliamentary man. Hawley's
rather rough: he forgot that he was speaking to me. He said if Brooke
wanted a pelting, he could get it cheaper than by going to the
"I warned you all of it," said Mrs. Cadwallader, waving her hands
outward. "I said to Humphrey long ago, Mr. Brooke is going to make a
splash in the mud. And now he has done it."
"Well, he might have taken it into his head to marry," said the Rector.
"That would have been a graver mess than a little flirtation with
"He may do that afterwards," said Mrs. Cadwallader—"when he has come
out on the other side of the mud with an ague."
"What I care for most is his own dignity," said Sir James. "Of course
I care the more because of the family. But he's getting on in life
now, and I don't like to think of his exposing himself. They will be
raking up everything against him."
"I suppose it's no use trying any persuasion," said the Rector.
"There's such an odd mixture of obstinacy and changeableness in Brooke.
Have you tried him on the subject?"
"Well, no," said Sir James; "I feel a delicacy in appearing to dictate.
But I have been talking to this young Ladislaw that Brooke is making a
factotum of. Ladislaw seems clever enough for anything. I thought it
as well to hear what he had to say; and he is against Brooke's standing
this time. I think he'll turn him round: I think the nomination may be
"I know," said Mrs. Cadwallader, nodding. "The independent member
hasn't got his speeches well enough by heart."
"But this Ladislaw—there again is a vexatious business," said Sir
James. "We have had him two or three times to dine at the Hall (you
have met him, by the bye) as Brooke's guest and a relation of
Casaubon's, thinking he was only on a flying visit. And now I find
he's in everybody's mouth in Middlemarch as the editor of the
'Pioneer.' There are stories going about him as a quill-driving alien,
a foreign emissary, and what not."
"Casaubon won't like that," said the Rector.
"There is some foreign blood in Ladislaw," returned Sir James. "I
hope he won't go into extreme opinions and carry Brooke on."
"Oh, he's a dangerous young sprig, that Mr. Ladislaw," said Mrs.
Cadwallader, "with his opera songs and his ready tongue. A sort of
Byronic hero—an amorous conspirator, it strikes me. And Thomas
Aquinas is not fond of him. I could see that, the day the picture was
"I don't like to begin on the subject with Casaubon," said Sir James.
"He has more right to interfere than I. But it's a disagreeable affair
all round. What a character for anybody with decent connections to
show himself in!—one of those newspaper fellows! You have only to
look at Keck, who manages the 'Trumpet.' I saw him the other day with
Hawley. His writing is sound enough, I believe, but he's such a low
fellow, that I wished he had been on the wrong side."
"What can you expect with these peddling Middlemarch papers?" said the
Rector. "I don't suppose you could get a high style of man anywhere to
be writing up interests he doesn't really care about, and for pay that
hardly keeps him in at elbows."
"Exactly: that makes it so annoying that Brooke should have put a man
who has a sort of connection with the family in a position of that
kind. For my part, I think Ladislaw is rather a fool for accepting."
"It is Aquinas's fault," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "Why didn't he use his
interest to get Ladislaw made an attache or sent to India? That is how
families get rid of troublesome sprigs."
"There is no knowing to what lengths the mischief may go," said Sir
James, anxiously. "But if Casaubon says nothing, what can I do?"
"Oh my dear Sir James," said the Rector, "don't let us make too much of
all this. It is likely enough to end in mere smoke. After a month or
two Brooke and this Master Ladislaw will get tired of each other;
Ladislaw will take wing; Brooke will sell the 'Pioneer,' and everything
will settle down again as usual."
"There is one good chance—that he will not like to feel his money
oozing away," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "If I knew the items of election
expenses I could scare him. It's no use plying him with wide words
like Expenditure: I wouldn't talk of phlebotomy, I would empty a pot of
leeches upon him. What we good stingy people don't like, is having our
sixpences sucked away from us."
"And he will not like having things raked up against him," said Sir
James. "There is the management of his estate. They have begun upon
that already. And it really is painful for me to see. It is a
nuisance under one's very nose. I do think one is bound to do the best
for one's land and tenants, especially in these hard times."
"Perhaps the 'Trumpet' may rouse him to make a change, and some good
may come of it all," said the Rector. "I know I should be glad. I
should hear less grumbling when my tithe is paid. I don't know what I
should do if there were not a modus in Tipton."
"I want him to have a proper man to look after things—I want him to
take on Garth again," said Sir James. "He got rid of Garth twelve
years ago, and everything has been going wrong since. I think of
getting Garth to manage for me—he has made such a capital plan for my
buildings; and Lovegood is hardly up to the mark. But Garth would not
undertake the Tipton estate again unless Brooke left it entirely to
"In the right of it too," said the Rector. "Garth is an independent
fellow: an original, simple-minded fellow. One day, when he was doing
some valuation for me, he told me point-blank that clergymen seldom
understood anything about business, and did mischief when they meddled;
but he said it as quietly and respectfully as if he had been talking to
me about sailors. He would make a different parish of Tipton, if
Brooke would let him manage. I wish, by the help of the 'Trumpet,' you
could bring that round."
"If Dorothea had kept near her uncle, there would have been some
chance," said Sir James. "She might have got some power over him in
time, and she was always uneasy about the estate. She had wonderfully
good notions about such things. But now Casaubon takes her up
entirely. Celia complains a good deal. We can hardly get her to dine
with us, since he had that fit." Sir James ended with a look of pitying
disgust, and Mrs. Cadwallader shrugged her shoulders as much as to say
that she was not likely to see anything new in that direction.
"Poor Casaubon!" the Rector said. "That was a nasty attack. I thought
he looked shattered the other day at the Archdeacon's."
"In point of fact," resumed Sir James, not choosing to dwell on "fits,"
"Brooke doesn't mean badly by his tenants or any one else, but he has
got that way of paring and clipping at expenses."
"Come, that's a blessing," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "That helps him to
find himself in a morning. He may not know his own opinions, but he
does know his own pocket."
"I don't believe a man is in pocket by stinginess on his land," said
"Oh, stinginess may be abused like other virtues: it will not do to
keep one's own pigs lean," said Mrs. Cadwallader, who had risen to look
out of the window. "But talk of an independent politician and he will
"What! Brooke?" said her husband.
"Yes. Now, you ply him with the 'Trumpet,' Humphrey; and I will put
the leeches on him. What will you do, Sir James?"
"The fact is, I don't like to begin about it with Brooke, in our mutual
position; the whole thing is so unpleasant. I do wish people would
behave like gentlemen," said the good baronet, feeling that this was a
simple and comprehensive programme for social well-being.
"Here you all are, eh?" said Mr. Brooke, shuffling round and shaking
hands. "I was going up to the Hall by-and-by, Chettam. But it's
pleasant to find everybody, you know. Well, what do you think of
things?—going on a little fast! It was true enough, what Lafitte
said—'Since yesterday, a century has passed away:'—they're in the
next century, you know, on the other side of the water. Going on
faster than we are."
"Why, yes," said the Rector, taking up the newspaper. "Here is the
'Trumpet' accusing you of lagging behind—did you see?"
"Eh? no," said Mr. Brooke, dropping his gloves into his hat and hastily
adjusting his eye-glass. But Mr. Cadwallader kept the paper in his
hand, saying, with a smile in his eyes—
"Look here! all this is about a landlord not a hundred miles from
Middlemarch, who receives his own rents. They say he is the most
retrogressive man in the county. I think you must have taught them
that word in the 'Pioneer.'"
"Oh, that is Keck—an illiterate fellow, you know. Retrogressive, now!
Come, that's capital. He thinks it means destructive: they want to
make me out a destructive, you know," said Mr. Brooke, with that
cheerfulness which is usually sustained by an adversary's ignorance.
"I think he knows the meaning of the word. Here is a sharp stroke or
two. If we had to describe a man who is retrogressive in the most evil
sense of the word—we should say, he is one who would dub himself a
reformer of our constitution, while every interest for which he is
immediately responsible is going to decay: a philanthropist who cannot
bear one rogue to be hanged, but does not mind five honest tenants
being half-starved: a man who shrieks at corruption, and keeps his
farms at rack-rent: who roars himself red at rotten boroughs, and does
not mind if every field on his farms has a rotten gate: a man very
open-hearted to Leeds and Manchester, no doubt; he would give any
number of representatives who will pay for their seats out of their own
pockets: what he objects to giving, is a little return on rent-days to
help a tenant to buy stock, or an outlay on repairs to keep the weather
out at a tenant's barn-door or make his house look a little less like
an Irish cottier's. But we all know the wag's definition of a
philanthropist: a man whose charity increases directly as the square of
the distance. And so on. All the rest is to show what sort of
legislator a philanthropist is likely to make," ended the Rector,
throwing down the paper, and clasping his hands at the back of his
head, while he looked at Mr. Brooke with an air of amused neutrality.
"Come, that's rather good, you know," said Mr. Brooke, taking up the
paper and trying to bear the attack as easily as his neighbor did, but
coloring and smiling rather nervously; "that about roaring himself red
at rotten boroughs—I never made a speech about rotten boroughs in my
life. And as to roaring myself red and that kind of thing—these men
never understand what is good satire. Satire, you know, should be true
up to a certain point. I recollect they said that in 'The Edinburgh'
somewhere—it must be true up to a certain point."
"Well, that is really a hit about the gates," said Sir James, anxious
to tread carefully. "Dagley complained to me the other day that he
hadn't got a decent gate on his farm. Garth has invented a new pattern
of gate—I wish you would try it. One ought to use some of one's
timber in that way."
"You go in for fancy farming, you know, Chettam," said Mr. Brooke,
appearing to glance over the columns of the "Trumpet." "That's your
hobby, and you don't mind the expense."
"I thought the most expensive hobby in the world was standing for
Parliament," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "They said the last unsuccessful
candidate at Middlemarch—Giles, wasn't his name?—spent ten thousand
pounds and failed because he did not bribe enough. What a bitter
reflection for a man!"
"Somebody was saying," said the Rector, laughingly, "that East Retford
was nothing to Middlemarch, for bribery."
"Nothing of the kind," said Mr. Brooke. "The Tories bribe, you know:
Hawley and his set bribe with treating, hot codlings, and that sort of
thing; and they bring the voters drunk to the poll. But they are not
going to have it their own way in future—not in future, you know.
Middlemarch is a little backward, I admit—the freemen are a little
backward. But we shall educate them—we shall bring them on, you
know. The best people there are on our side."
"Hawley says you have men on your side who will do you harm," remarked
Sir James. "He says Bulstrode the banker will do you harm."
"And that if you got pelted," interposed Mrs. Cadwallader, "half the
rotten eggs would mean hatred of your committee-man. Good heavens!
Think what it must be to be pelted for wrong opinions. And I seem to
remember a story of a man they pretended to chair and let him fall into
a dust-heap on purpose!"
"Pelting is nothing to their finding holes in one's coat," said the
Rector. "I confess that's what I should be afraid of, if we parsons
had to stand at the hustings for preferment. I should be afraid of
their reckoning up all my fishing days. Upon my word, I think the
truth is the hardest missile one can be pelted with."
"The fact is," said Sir James, "if a man goes into public life he must
be prepared for the consequences. He must make himself proof against
"My dear Chettam, that is all very fine, you know," said Mr. Brooke.
"But how will you make yourself proof against calumny? You should read
history—look at ostracism, persecution, martyrdom, and that kind of
thing. They always happen to the best men, you know. But what is that
in Horace?—'fiat justitia, ruat … something or other."
"Exactly," said Sir James, with a little more heat than usual. "What I
mean by being proof against calumny is being able to point to the fact
as a contradiction."
"And it is not martyrdom to pay bills that one has run into one's
self," said Mrs. Cadwallader.
But it was Sir James's evident annoyance that most stirred Mr. Brooke.
"Well, you know, Chettam," he said, rising, taking up his hat and
leaning on his stick, "you and I have a different system. You are all
for outlay with your farms. I don't want to make out that my system is
good under all circumstances—under all circumstances, you know."
"There ought to be a new valuation made from time to time," said Sir
James. "Returns are very well occasionally, but I like a fair
valuation. What do you say, Cadwallader?"
"I agree with you. If I were Brooke, I would choke the 'Trumpet' at
once by getting Garth to make a new valuation of the farms, and giving
him carte blanche about gates and repairs: that's my view of the
political situation," said the Rector, broadening himself by sticking
his thumbs in his armholes, and laughing towards Mr. Brooke.
"That's a showy sort of thing to do, you know," said Mr. Brooke. "But
I should like you to tell me of another landlord who has distressed his
tenants for arrears as little as I have. I let the old tenants stay
on. I'm uncommonly easy, let me tell you, uncommonly easy. I have my
own ideas, and I take my stand on them, you know. A man who does that
is always charged with eccentricity, inconsistency, and that kind of
thing. When I change my line of action, I shall follow my own ideas."
After that, Mr. Brooke remembered that there was a packet which he had
omitted to send off from the Grange, and he bade everybody hurriedly
"I didn't want to take a liberty with Brooke," said Sir James; "I see
he is nettled. But as to what he says about old tenants, in point of
fact no new tenant would take the farms on the present terms."
"I have a notion that he will be brought round in time," said the
Rector. "But you were pulling one way, Elinor, and we were pulling
another. You wanted to frighten him away from expense, and we want to
frighten him into it. Better let him try to be popular and see that
his character as a landlord stands in his way. I don't think it
signifies two straws about the 'Pioneer,' or Ladislaw, or Brooke's
speechifying to the Middlemarchers. But it does signify about the
parishioners in Tipton being comfortable."
"Excuse me, it is you two who are on the wrong tack," said Mrs.
Cadwallader. "You should have proved to him that he loses money by bad
management, and then we should all have pulled together. If you put
him a-horseback on politics, I warn you of the consequences. It was
all very well to ride on sticks at home and call them ideas."
"If, as I have, you also doe,
Vertue attired in woman see,
And dare love that, and say so too,
And forget the He and She;
And if this love, though placed so,
From prophane men you hide,
Which will no faith on this bestow,
Or, if they doe, deride:
Then you have done a braver thing
Than all the Worthies did,
And a braver thence will spring,
Which is, to keep that hid."
Sir James Chettam's mind was not fruitful in devices, but his growing
anxiety to "act on Brooke," once brought close to his constant belief
in Dorothea's capacity for influence, became formative, and issued in a
little plan; namely, to plead Celia's indisposition as a reason for
fetching Dorothea by herself to the Hall, and to leave her at the
Grange with the carriage on the way, after making her fully aware of
the situation concerning the management of the estate.
In this way it happened that one day near four o'clock, when Mr. Brooke
and Ladislaw were seated in the library, the door opened and Mrs.
Casaubon was announced.
Will, the moment before, had been low in the depths of boredom, and,
obliged to help Mr. Brooke in arranging "documents" about hanging
sheep-stealers, was exemplifying the power our minds have of riding
several horses at once by inwardly arranging measures towards getting a
lodging for himself in Middlemarch and cutting short his constant
residence at the Grange; while there flitted through all these steadier
images a tickling vision of a sheep-stealing epic written with Homeric
particularity. When Mrs. Casaubon was announced he started up as from
an electric shock, and felt a tingling at his finger-ends. Any one
observing him would have seen a change in his complexion, in the
adjustment of his facial muscles, in the vividness of his glance, which
might have made them imagine that every molecule in his body had passed
the message of a magic touch. And so it had. For effective magic is
transcendent nature; and who shall measure the subtlety of those
touches which convey the quality of soul as well as body, and make a
man's passion for one woman differ from his passion for another as joy
in the morning light over valley and river and white mountain-top
differs from joy among Chinese lanterns and glass panels? Will, too,
was made of very impressible stuff. The bow of a violin drawn near him
cleverly, would at one stroke change the aspect of the world for him,
and his point of view shifted—as easily as his mood. Dorothea's
entrance was the freshness of morning.
"Well, my dear, this is pleasant, now," said Mr. Brooke, meeting and
kissing her. "You have left Casaubon with his books, I suppose.
That's right. We must not have you getting too learned for a woman,
"There is no fear of that, uncle," said Dorothea, turning to Will and
shaking hands with open cheerfulness, while she made no other form of
greeting, but went on answering her uncle. "I am very slow. When I
want to be busy with books, I am often playing truant among my
thoughts. I find it is not so easy to be learned as to plan cottages."
She seated herself beside her uncle opposite to Will, and was evidently
preoccupied with something that made her almost unmindful of him. He
was ridiculously disappointed, as if he had imagined that her coming
had anything to do with him.
"Why, yes, my dear, it was quite your hobby to draw plans. But it was
good to break that off a little. Hobbies are apt to ran away with us,
you know; it doesn't do to be run away with. We must keep the reins.
I have never let myself be run away with; I always pulled up. That is
what I tell Ladislaw. He and I are alike, you know: he likes to go
into everything. We are working at capital punishment. We shall do a
great deal together, Ladislaw and I."
"Yes," said Dorothea, with characteristic directness, "Sir James has
been telling me that he is in hope of seeing a great change made soon
in your management of the estate—that you are thinking of having the
farms valued, and repairs made, and the cottages improved, so that
Tipton may look quite another place. Oh, how happy!"—she went on,
clasping her hands, with a return to that more childlike impetuous
manner, which had been subdued since her marriage. "If I were at home
still, I should take to riding again, that I might go about with you
and see all that! And you are going to engage Mr. Garth, who praised
my cottages, Sir James says."
"Chettam is a little hasty, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, coloring
slightly; "a little hasty, you know. I never said I should do anything
of the kind. I never said I should not do it, you know."
"He only feels confident that you will do it," said Dorothea, in a
voice as clear and unhesitating as that of a young chorister chanting a
credo, "because you mean to enter Parliament as a member who cares for
the improvement of the people, and one of the first things to be made
better is the state of the land and the laborers. Think of Kit Downes,
uncle, who lives with his wife and seven children in a house with one
sitting room and one bedroom hardly larger than this table!—and those
poor Dagleys, in their tumble-down farmhouse, where they live in the
back kitchen and leave the other rooms to the rats! That is one reason
why I did not like the pictures here, dear uncle—which you think me
stupid about. I used to come from the village with all that dirt and
coarse ugliness like a pain within me, and the simpering pictures in
the drawing-room seemed to me like a wicked attempt to find delight in
what is false, while we don't mind how hard the truth is for the
neighbors outside our walls. I think we have no right to come forward
and urge wider changes for good, until we have tried to alter the evils
which lie under our own hands."
Dorothea had gathered emotion as she went on, and had forgotten
everything except the relief of pouring forth her feelings, unchecked:
an experience once habitual with her, but hardly ever present since her
marriage, which had been a perpetual struggle of energy with fear. For
the moment, Will's admiration was accompanied with a chilling sense of
remoteness. A man is seldom ashamed of feeling that he cannot love a
woman so well when he sees a certain greatness in her: nature having
intended greatness for men. But nature has sometimes made sad
oversights in carrying out her intention; as in the case of good Mr.
Brooke, whose masculine consciousness was at this moment in rather a
stammering condition under the eloquence of his niece. He could not
immediately find any other mode of expressing himself than that of
rising, fixing his eye-glass, and fingering the papers before him. At
last he said—
"There is something in what you say, my dear, something in what you
say—but not everything—eh, Ladislaw? You and I don't like our
pictures and statues being found fault with. Young ladies are a little
ardent, you know—a little one-sided, my dear. Fine art, poetry, that
kind of thing, elevates a nation—emollit mores—you understand a
little Latin now. But—eh? what?"
These interrogatives were addressed to the footman who had come in to
say that the keeper had found one of Dagley's boys with a leveret in
his hand just killed.
"I'll come, I'll come. I shall let him off easily, you know," said Mr.
Brooke aside to Dorothea, shuffling away very cheerfully.
"I hope you feel how right this change is that I—that Sir James wishes
for," said Dorothea to Will, as soon as her uncle was gone.
"I do, now I have heard you speak about it. I shall not forget what
you have said. But can you think of something else at this moment? I
may not have another opportunity of speaking to you about what has
occurred," said Will, rising with a movement of impatience, and holding
the back of his chair with both hands.
"Pray tell me what it is," said Dorothea, anxiously, also rising and
going to the open window, where Monk was looking in, panting and
wagging his tail. She leaned her back against the window-frame, and
laid her hand on the dog's head; for though, as we know, she was not
fond of pets that must be held in the hands or trodden on, she was
always attentive to the feelings of dogs, and very polite if she had to
decline their advances.
Will followed her only with his eyes and said, "I presume you know that
Mr. Casaubon has forbidden me to go to his house."
"No, I did not," said Dorothea, after a moment's pause. She was
evidently much moved. "I am very, very sorry," she added, mournfully.
She was thinking of what Will had no knowledge of—the conversation
between her and her husband in the darkness; and she was anew smitten
with hopelessness that she could influence Mr. Casaubon's action. But
the marked expression of her sorrow convinced Will that it was not all
given to him personally, and that Dorothea had not been visited by the
idea that Mr. Casaubon's dislike and jealousy of him turned upon
herself. He felt an odd mixture of delight and vexation: of delight
that he could dwell and be cherished in her thought as in a pure home,
without suspicion and without stint—of vexation because he was of too
little account with her, was not formidable enough, was treated with an
unhesitating benevolence which did not flatter him. But his dread of
any change in Dorothea was stronger than his discontent, and he began
to speak again in a tone of mere explanation.
"Mr. Casaubon's reason is, his displeasure at my taking a position here
which he considers unsuited to my rank as his cousin. I have told him
that I cannot give way on this point. It is a little too hard on me to
expect that my course in life is to be hampered by prejudices which I
think ridiculous. Obligation may be stretched till it is no better
than a brand of slavery stamped on us when we were too young to know
its meaning. I would not have accepted the position if I had not meant
to make it useful and honorable. I am not bound to regard family
dignity in any other light."
Dorothea felt wretched. She thought her husband altogether in the
wrong, on more grounds than Will had mentioned.
"It is better for us not to speak on the subject," she said, with a
tremulousness not common in her voice, "since you and Mr. Casaubon
disagree. You intend to remain?" She was looking out on the lawn,
with melancholy meditation.
"Yes; but I shall hardly ever see you now," said Will, in a tone of
almost boyish complaint.
"No," said Dorothea, turning her eyes full upon him, "hardly ever. But
I shall hear of you. I shall know what you are doing for my uncle."
"I shall know hardly anything about you," said Will. "No one will tell
"Oh, my life is very simple," said Dorothea, her lips curling with an
exquisite smile, which irradiated her melancholy. "I am always at
"That is a dreadful imprisonment," said Will, impetuously.
"No, don't think that," said Dorothea. "I have no longings."
He did not speak, but she replied to some change in his expression. "I
mean, for myself. Except that I should like not to have so much more
than my share without doing anything for others. But I have a belief
of my own, and it comforts me."
"What is that?" said Will, rather jealous of the belief.
"That by desiring what is perfectly good, even when we don't quite know
what it is and cannot do what we would, we are part of the divine power
against evil—widening the skirts of light and making the struggle with
"That is a beautiful mysticism—it is a—"
"Please not to call it by any name," said Dorothea, putting out her
hands entreatingly. "You will say it is Persian, or something else
geographical. It is my life. I have found it out, and cannot part
with it. I have always been finding out my religion since I was a
little girl. I used to pray so much—now I hardly ever pray. I try
not to have desires merely for myself, because they may not be good for
others, and I have too much already. I only told you, that you might
know quite well how my days go at Lowick."
"God bless you for telling me!" said Will, ardently, and rather
wondering at himself. They were looking at each other like two fond
children who were talking confidentially of birds.
"What is your religion?" said Dorothea. "I mean—not what you know
about religion, but the belief that helps you most?"
"To love what is good and beautiful when I see it," said Will. "But I
am a rebel: I don't feel bound, as you do, to submit to what I don't
"But if you like what is good, that comes to the same thing," said
"Now you are subtle," said Will.
"Yes; Mr. Casaubon often says I am too subtle. I don't feel as if I
were subtle," said Dorothea, playfully. "But how long my uncle is! I
must go and look for him. I must really go on to the Hall. Celia is
Will offered to tell Mr. Brooke, who presently came and said that he
would step into the carriage and go with Dorothea as far as Dagley's,
to speak about the small delinquent who had been caught with the
leveret. Dorothea renewed the subject of the estate as they drove
along, but Mr. Brooke, not being taken unawares, got the talk under his
"Chettam, now," he replied; "he finds fault with me, my dear; but I
should not preserve my game if it were not for Chettam, and he can't
say that that expense is for the sake of the tenants, you know. It's a
little against my feeling:—poaching, now, if you come to look into
it—I have often thought of getting up the subject. Not long ago,
Flavell, the Methodist preacher, was brought up for knocking down a
hare that came across his path when he and his wife were walking out
together. He was pretty quick, and knocked it on the neck."
"That was very brutal, I think," said Dorothea
"Well, now, it seemed rather black to me, I confess, in a Methodist
preacher, you know. And Johnson said, 'You may judge what a
hypocrite he is.' And upon my word, I thought Flavell looked very
little like 'the highest style of man'—as somebody calls the
Christian—Young, the poet Young, I think—you know Young? Well, now,
Flavell in his shabby black gaiters, pleading that he thought the Lord
had sent him and his wife a good dinner, and he had a right to knock it
down, though not a mighty hunter before the Lord, as Nimrod was—I
assure you it was rather comic: Fielding would have made something of
it—or Scott, now—Scott might have worked it up. But really, when I
came to think of it, I couldn't help liking that the fellow should have
a bit of hare to say grace over. It's all a matter of
prejudice—prejudice with the law on its side, you know—about the
stick and the gaiters, and so on. However, it doesn't do to reason
about things; and law is law. But I got Johnson to be quiet, and I
hushed the matter up. I doubt whether Chettam would not have been more
severe, and yet he comes down on me as if I were the hardest man in the
county. But here we are at Dagley's."
Mr. Brooke got down at a farmyard-gate, and Dorothea drove on. It is
wonderful how much uglier things will look when we only suspect that we
are blamed for them. Even our own persons in the glass are apt to
change their aspect for us after we have heard some frank remark on
their less admirable points; and on the other hand it is astonishing
how pleasantly conscience takes our encroachments on those who never
complain or have nobody to complain for them. Dagley's homestead never
before looked so dismal to Mr. Brooke as it did today, with his mind
thus sore about the fault-finding of the "Trumpet," echoed by Sir James.
It is true that an observer, under that softening influence of the fine
arts which makes other people's hardships picturesque, might have been
delighted with this homestead called Freeman's End: the old house had
dormer-windows in the dark red roof, two of the chimneys were choked
with ivy, the large porch was blocked up with bundles of sticks, and
half the windows were closed with gray worm-eaten shutters about which
the jasmine-boughs grew in wild luxuriance; the mouldering garden wall
with hollyhocks peeping over it was a perfect study of highly mingled
subdued color, and there was an aged goat (kept doubtless on
interesting superstitious grounds) lying against the open back-kitchen
door. The mossy thatch of the cow-shed, the broken gray barn-doors,
the pauper laborers in ragged breeches who had nearly finished
unloading a wagon of corn into the barn ready for early thrashing; the
scanty dairy of cows being tethered for milking and leaving one half of
the shed in brown emptiness; the very pigs and white ducks seeming to
wander about the uneven neglected yard as if in low spirits from
feeding on a too meagre quality of rinsings,—all these objects under
the quiet light of a sky marbled with high clouds would have made a
sort of picture which we have all paused over as a "charming bit,"
touching other sensibilities than those which are stirred by the
depression of the agricultural interest, with the sad lack of farming
capital, as seen constantly in the newspapers of that time. But these
troublesome associations were just now strongly present to Mr. Brooke,
and spoiled the scene for him. Mr. Dagley himself made a figure in the
landscape, carrying a pitchfork and wearing his milking-hat—a very old
beaver flattened in front. His coat and breeches were the best he had,
and he would not have been wearing them on this weekday occasion if he
had not been to market and returned later than usual, having given
himself the rare treat of dining at the public table of the Blue Bull.
How he came to fall into this extravagance would perhaps be matter of
wonderment to himself on the morrow; but before dinner something in the
state of the country, a slight pause in the harvest before the Far Dips
were cut, the stories about the new King and the numerous handbills on
the walls, had seemed to warrant a little recklessness. It was a maxim
about Middlemarch, and regarded as self-evident, that good meat should
have good drink, which last Dagley interpreted as plenty of table ale
well followed up by rum-and-water. These liquors have so far truth in
them that they were not false enough to make poor Dagley seem merry:
they only made his discontent less tongue-tied than usual. He had also
taken too much in the shape of muddy political talk, a stimulant
dangerously disturbing to his farming conservatism, which consisted in
holding that whatever is, is bad, and any change is likely to be worse.
He was flushed, and his eyes had a decidedly quarrelsome stare as he
stood still grasping his pitchfork, while the landlord approached with
his easy shuffling walk, one hand in his trouser-pocket and the other
swinging round a thin walking-stick.
"Dagley, my good fellow," began Mr. Brooke, conscious that he was going
to be very friendly about the boy.
"Oh, ay, I'm a good feller, am I? Thank ye, sir, thank ye," said
Dagley, with a loud snarling irony which made Fag the sheep-dog stir
from his seat and prick his ears; but seeing Monk enter the yard after
some outside loitering, Fag seated himself again in an attitude of
observation. "I'm glad to hear I'm a good feller."
Mr. Brooke reflected that it was market-day, and that his worthy tenant
had probably been dining, but saw no reason why he should not go on,
since he could take the precaution of repeating what he had to say to
"Your little lad Jacob has been caught killing a leveret, Dagley: I
have told Johnson to lock him up in the empty stable an hour or two,
just to frighten him, you know. But he will be brought home by-and-by,
before night: and you'll just look after him, will you, and give him a
reprimand, you know?"
"No, I woon't: I'll be dee'd if I'll leather my boy to please you or
anybody else, not if you was twenty landlords istid o' one, and that a
Dagley's words were loud enough to summon his wife to the back-kitchen
door—the only entrance ever used, and one always open except in bad
weather—and Mr. Brooke, saying soothingly, "Well, well, I'll speak to
your wife—I didn't mean beating, you know," turned to walk to the
house. But Dagley, only the more inclined to "have his say" with a
gentleman who walked away from him, followed at once, with Fag
slouching at his heels and sullenly evading some small and probably
charitable advances on the part of Monk.
"How do you do, Mrs. Dagley?" said Mr. Brooke, making some haste. "I
came to tell you about your boy: I don't want you to give him the
stick, you know." He was careful to speak quite plainly this time.
Overworked Mrs. Dagley—a thin, worn woman, from whose life pleasure
had so entirely vanished that she had not even any Sunday clothes which
could give her satisfaction in preparing for church—had already had a
misunderstanding with her husband since he had come home, and was in
low spirits, expecting the worst. But her husband was beforehand in
"No, nor he woon't hev the stick, whether you want it or no," pursued
Dagley, throwing out his voice, as if he wanted it to hit hard.
"You've got no call to come an' talk about sticks o' these primises, as
you woon't give a stick tow'rt mending. Go to Middlemarch to ax for
"You'd far better hold your tongue, Dagley," said the wife, "and not
kick your own trough over. When a man as is father of a family has
been an' spent money at market and made himself the worse for liquor,
he's done enough mischief for one day. But I should like to know what
my boy's done, sir."
"Niver do you mind what he's done," said Dagley, more fiercely, "it's
my business to speak, an' not yourn. An' I wull speak, too. I'll hev
my say—supper or no. An' what I say is, as I've lived upo' your
ground from my father and grandfather afore me, an' hev dropped our
money into't, an' me an' my children might lie an' rot on the ground
for top-dressin' as we can't find the money to buy, if the King wasn't
to put a stop."
"My good fellow, you're drunk, you know," said Mr. Brooke,
confidentially but not judiciously. "Another day, another day," he
added, turning as if to go.
But Dagley immediately fronted him, and Fag at his heels growled low,
as his master's voice grew louder and more insulting, while Monk also
drew close in silent dignified watch. The laborers on the wagon were
pausing to listen, and it seemed wiser to be quite passive than to
attempt a ridiculous flight pursued by a bawling man.
"I'm no more drunk nor you are, nor so much," said Dagley. "I can
carry my liquor, an' I know what I meean. An' I meean as the King 'ull
put a stop to 't, for them say it as knows it, as there's to be a
Rinform, and them landlords as never done the right thing by their
tenants 'ull be treated i' that way as they'll hev to scuttle off. An'
there's them i' Middlemarch knows what the Rinform is—an' as knows
who'll hev to scuttle. Says they, 'I know who your landlord is.'
An' says I, 'I hope you're the better for knowin' him, I arn't.' Says
they, 'He's a close-fisted un.' 'Ay ay,' says I. 'He's a man for the
Rinform,' says they. That's what they says. An' I made out what the
Rinform were—an' it were to send you an' your likes a-scuttlin' an'
wi' pretty strong-smellin' things too. An' you may do as you like now,
for I'm none afeard on you. An' you'd better let my boy aloan, an'
look to yoursen, afore the Rinform has got upo' your back. That's what
I'n got to say," concluded Mr. Dagley, striking his fork into the
ground with a firmness which proved inconvenient as he tried to draw it
At this last action Monk began to bark loudly, and it was a moment for
Mr. Brooke to escape. He walked out of the yard as quickly as he
could, in some amazement at the novelty of his situation. He had never
been insulted on his own land before, and had been inclined to regard
himself as a general favorite (we are all apt to do so, when we think
of our own amiability more than of what other people are likely to want
of us). When he had quarrelled with Caleb Garth twelve years before he
had thought that the tenants would be pleased at the landlord's taking
everything into his own hands.
Some who follow the narrative of his experience may wonder at the
midnight darkness of Mr. Dagley; but nothing was easier in those times
than for an hereditary farmer of his grade to be ignorant, in spite
somehow of having a rector in the twin parish who was a gentleman to
the backbone, a curate nearer at hand who preached more learnedly than
the rector, a landlord who had gone into everything, especially fine
art and social improvement, and all the lights of Middlemarch only
three miles off. As to the facility with which mortals escape
knowledge, try an average acquaintance in the intellectual blaze of
London, and consider what that eligible person for a dinner-party would
have been if he had learned scant skill in "summing" from the
parish-clerk of Tipton, and read a chapter in the Bible with immense
difficulty, because such names as Isaiah or Apollos remained
unmanageable after twice spelling. Poor Dagley read a few verses
sometimes on a Sunday evening, and the world was at least not darker to
him than it had been before. Some things he knew thoroughly, namely,
the slovenly habits of farming, and the awkwardness of weather, stock
and crops, at Freeman's End—so called apparently by way of sarcasm,
to imply that a man was free to quit it if he chose, but that there was
no earthly "beyond" open to him.
Wise in his daily work was he:
To fruits of diligence,
And not to faiths or polity,
He plied his utmost sense.
These perfect in their little parts,
Whose work is all their prize—
Without them how could laws, or arts,
Or towered cities rise?
In watching effects, if only of an electric battery, it is often
necessary to change our place and examine a particular mixture or group
at some distance from the point where the movement we are interested in
was set up. The group I am moving towards is at Caleb Garth's
breakfast-table in the large parlor where the maps and desk were:
father, mother, and five of the children. Mary was just now at home
waiting for a situation, while Christy, the boy next to her, was
getting cheap learning and cheap fare in Scotland, having to his
father's disappointment taken to books instead of that sacred calling
The letters had come—nine costly letters, for which the postman had
been paid three and twopence, and Mr. Garth was forgetting his tea and
toast while he read his letters and laid them open one above the other,
sometimes swaying his head slowly, sometimes screwing up his mouth in
inward debate, but not forgetting to cut off a large red seal unbroken,
which Letty snatched up like an eager terrier.
The talk among the rest went on unrestrainedly, for nothing disturbed
Caleb's absorption except shaking the table when he was writing.
Two letters of the nine had been for Mary. After reading them, she had
passed them to her mother, and sat playing with her tea-spoon absently,
till with a sudden recollection she returned to her sewing, which she
had kept on her lap during breakfast.
"Oh, don't sew, Mary!" said Ben, pulling her arm down. "Make me a
peacock with this bread-crumb." He had been kneading a small mass for
"No, no, Mischief!" said Mary, good-humoredly, while she pricked his
hand lightly with her needle. "Try and mould it yourself: you have
seen me do it often enough. I must get this sewing done. It is for
Rosamond Vincy: she is to be married next week, and she can't be
married without this handkerchief." Mary ended merrily, amused with
the last notion.
"Why can't she, Mary?" said Letty, seriously interested in this
mystery, and pushing her head so close to her sister that Mary now
turned the threatening needle towards Letty's nose.
"Because this is one of a dozen, and without it there would only be
eleven," said Mary, with a grave air of explanation, so that Letty sank
back with a sense of knowledge.
"Have you made up your mind, my dear?" said Mrs. Garth, laying the
"I shall go to the school at York," said Mary. "I am less unfit to
teach in a school than in a family. I like to teach classes best.
And, you see, I must teach: there is nothing else to be done."
"Teaching seems to me the most delightful work in the world," said Mrs.
Garth, with a touch of rebuke in her tone. "I could understand your
objection to it if you had not knowledge enough, Mary, or if you
"I suppose we never quite understand why another dislikes what we like,
mother," said Mary, rather curtly. "I am not fond of a schoolroom: I
like the outside world better. It is a very inconvenient fault of
"It must be very stupid to be always in a girls' school," said Alfred.
"Such a set of nincompoops, like Mrs. Ballard's pupils walking two and
"And they have no games worth playing at," said Jim. "They can neither
throw nor leap. I don't wonder at Mary's not liking it."
"What is that Mary doesn't like, eh?" said the father, looking over his
spectacles and pausing before he opened his next letter.
"Being among a lot of nincompoop girls," said Alfred.
"Is it the situation you had heard of, Mary?" said Caleb, gently,
looking at his daughter.
"Yes, father: the school at York. I have determined to take it. It is
quite the best. Thirty-five pounds a-year, and extra pay for teaching
the smallest strummers at the piano."
"Poor child! I wish she could stay at home with us, Susan," said
Caleb, looking plaintively at his wife.
"Mary would not be happy without doing her duty," said Mrs. Garth,
magisterially, conscious of having done her own.
"It wouldn't make me happy to do such a nasty duty as that," said
Alfred—at which Mary and her father laughed silently, but Mrs. Garth
"Do find a fitter word than nasty, my dear Alfred, for everything that
you think disagreeable. And suppose that Mary could help you to go to
Mr. Hanmer's with the money she gets?"
"That seems to me a great shame. But she's an old brick," said Alfred,
rising from his chair, and pulling Mary's head backward to kiss her.
Mary colored and laughed, but could not conceal that the tears were
coming. Caleb, looking on over his spectacles, with the angles of his
eyebrows falling, had an expression of mingled delight and sorrow as he
returned to the opening of his letter; and even Mrs. Garth, her lips
curling with a calm contentment, allowed that inappropriate language to
pass without correction, although Ben immediately took it up, and sang,
"She's an old brick, old brick, old brick!" to a cantering measure,
which he beat out with his fist on Mary's arm.
But Mrs. Garth's eyes were now drawn towards her husband, who was
already deep in the letter he was reading. His face had an expression
of grave surprise, which alarmed her a little, but he did not like to
be questioned while he was reading, and she remained anxiously watching
till she saw him suddenly shaken by a little joyous laugh as he turned
back to the beginning of the letter, and looking at her above his
spectacles, said, in a low tone, "What do you think, Susan?"
She went and stood behind him, putting her hand on his shoulder, while
they read the letter together. It was from Sir James Chettam, offering
to Mr. Garth the management of the family estates at Freshitt and
elsewhere, and adding that Sir James had been requested by Mr. Brooke
of Tipton to ascertain whether Mr. Garth would be disposed at the same
time to resume the agency of the Tipton property. The Baronet added in
very obliging words that he himself was particularly desirous of seeing
the Freshitt and Tipton estates under the same management, and he hoped
to be able to show that the double agency might be held on terms
agreeable to Mr. Garth, whom he would be glad to see at the Hall at
twelve o'clock on the following day.
"He writes handsomely, doesn't he, Susan?" said Caleb, turning his eyes
upward to his wife, who raised her hand from his shoulder to his ear,
while she rested her chin on his head. "Brooke didn't like to ask me
himself, I can see," he continued, laughing silently.
"Here is an honor to your father, children," said Mrs. Garth, looking
round at the five pair of eyes, all fixed on the parents. "He is asked
to take a post again by those who dismissed him long ago. That shows
that he did his work well, so that they feel the want of him."
"Like Cincinnatus—hooray!" said Ben, riding on his chair, with a
pleasant confidence that discipline was relaxed.
"Will they come to fetch him, mother?" said Letty, thinking of the
Mayor and Corporation in their robes.
Mrs. Garth patted Letty's head and smiled, but seeing that her husband
was gathering up his letters and likely soon to be out of reach in that
sanctuary "business," she pressed his shoulder and said emphatically—
"Now, mind you ask fair pay, Caleb."
"Oh yes," said Caleb, in a deep voice of assent, as if it would be
unreasonable to suppose anything else of him. "It'll come to between
four and five hundred, the two together." Then with a little start of
remembrance he said, "Mary, write and give up that school. Stay and
help your mother. I'm as pleased as Punch, now I've thought of that."
No manner could have been less like that of Punch triumphant than
Caleb's, but his talents did not lie in finding phrases, though he was
very particular about his letter-writing, and regarded his wife as a
treasury of correct language.
There was almost an uproar among the children now, and Mary held up the
cambric embroidery towards her mother entreatingly, that it might be
put out of reach while the boys dragged her into a dance. Mrs. Garth,
in placid joy, began to put the cups and plates together, while Caleb
pushing his chair from the table, as if he were going to move to the
desk, still sat holding his letters in his hand and looking on the
ground meditatively, stretching out the fingers of his left hand,
according to a mute language of his own. At last he said—
"It's a thousand pities Christy didn't take to business, Susan. I
shall want help by-and-by. And Alfred must go off to the
engineering—I've made up my mind to that." He fell into meditation and
finger-rhetoric again for a little while, and then continued: "I shall
make Brooke have new agreements with the tenants, and I shall draw up a
rotation of crops. And I'll lay a wager we can get fine bricks out of
the clay at Bott's corner. I must look into that: it would cheapen the
repairs. It's a fine bit of work, Susan! A man without a family would
be glad to do it for nothing."
"Mind you don't, though," said his wife, lifting up her finger.
"No, no; but it's a fine thing to come to a man when he's seen into the
nature of business: to have the chance of getting a bit of the country
into good fettle, as they say, and putting men into the right way with
their farming, and getting a bit of good contriving and solid building
done—that those who are living and those who come after will be the
better for. I'd sooner have it than a fortune. I hold it the most
honorable work that is." Here Caleb laid down his letters, thrust his
fingers between the buttons of his waistcoat, and sat upright, but
presently proceeded with some awe in his voice and moving his head
slowly aside—"It's a great gift of God, Susan."
"That it is, Caleb," said his wife, with answering fervor. "And it
will be a blessing to your children to have had a father who did such
work: a father whose good work remains though his name may be
forgotten." She could not say any more to him then about the pay.
In the evening, when Caleb, rather tired with his day's work, was
seated in silence with his pocket-book open on his knee, while Mrs.
Garth and Mary were at their sewing, and Letty in a corner was
whispering a dialogue with her doll, Mr. Farebrother came up the
orchard walk, dividing the bright August lights and shadows with the
tufted grass and the apple-tree boughs. We know that he was fond of
his parishioners the Garths, and had thought Mary worth mentioning to
Lydgate. He used to the full the clergyman's privilege of disregarding
the Middlemarch discrimination of ranks, and always told his mother
that Mrs. Garth was more of a lady than any matron in the town. Still,
you see, he spent his evenings at the Vincys', where the matron, though
less of a lady, presided over a well-lit drawing-room and whist. In
those days human intercourse was not determined solely by respect. But
the Vicar did heartily respect the Garths, and a visit from him was no
surprise to that family. Nevertheless he accounted for it even while
he was shaking hands, by saying, "I come as an envoy, Mrs. Garth: I
have something to say to you and Garth on behalf of Fred Vincy. The
fact is, poor fellow," he continued, as he seated himself and looked
round with his bright glance at the three who were listening to him,
"he has taken me into his confidence."
Mary's heart beat rather quickly: she wondered how far Fred's
confidence had gone.
"We haven't seen the lad for months," said Caleb. "I couldn't think
what was become of him."
"He has been away on a visit," said the Vicar, "because home was a
little too hot for him, and Lydgate told his mother that the poor
fellow must not begin to study yet. But yesterday he came and poured
himself out to me. I am very glad he did, because I have seen him grow
up from a youngster of fourteen, and I am so much at home in the house
that the children are like nephews and nieces to me. But it is a
difficult case to advise upon. However, he has asked me to come and
tell you that he is going away, and that he is so miserable about his
debt to you, and his inability to pay, that he can't bear to come
himself even to bid you good by."
"Tell him it doesn't signify a farthing," said Caleb, waving his hand.
"We've had the pinch and have got over it. And now I'm going to be as
rich as a Jew."
"Which means," said Mrs. Garth, smiling at the Vicar, "that we are
going to have enough to bring up the boys well and to keep Mary at
"What is the treasure-trove?" said Mr. Farebrother.
"I'm going to be agent for two estates, Freshitt and Tipton; and
perhaps for a pretty little bit of land in Lowick besides: it's all the
same family connection, and employment spreads like water if it's once
set going. It makes me very happy, Mr. Farebrother"—here Caleb threw
back his head a little, and spread his arms on the elbows of his
chair—"that I've got an opportunity again with the letting of the
land, and carrying out a notion or two with improvements. It's a most
uncommonly cramping thing, as I've often told Susan, to sit on
horseback and look over the hedges at the wrong thing, and not be able
to put your hand to it to make it right. What people do who go into
politics I can't think: it drives me almost mad to see mismanagement
over only a few hundred acres."
It was seldom that Caleb volunteered so long a speech, but his
happiness had the effect of mountain air: his eyes were bright, and the
words came without effort.
"I congratulate you heartily, Garth," said the Vicar. "This is the
best sort of news I could have had to carry to Fred Vincy, for he dwelt
a good deal on the injury he had done you in causing you to part with
money—robbing you of it, he said—which you wanted for other purposes.
I wish Fred were not such an idle dog; he has some very good points,
and his father is a little hard upon him."
"Where is he going?" said Mrs. Garth, rather coldly.
"He means to try again for his degree, and he is going up to study
before term. I have advised him to do that. I don't urge him to enter
the Church—on the contrary. But if he will go and work so as to pass,
that will be some guarantee that he has energy and a will; and he is
quite at sea; he doesn't know what else to do. So far he will please
his father, and I have promised in the mean time to try and reconcile
Vincy to his son's adopting some other line of life. Fred says frankly
he is not fit for a clergyman, and I would do anything I could to
hinder a man from the fatal step of choosing the wrong profession. He
quoted to me what you said, Miss Garth—do you remember it?" (Mr.
Farebrother used to say "Mary" instead of "Miss Garth," but it was part
of his delicacy to treat her with the more deference because, according
to Mrs. Vincy's phrase, she worked for her bread.)
Mary felt uncomfortable, but, determined to take the matter lightly,
answered at once, "I have said so many impertinent things to Fred—we
are such old playfellows."
"You said, according to him, that he would be one of those ridiculous
clergymen who help to make the whole clergy ridiculous. Really, that
was so cutting that I felt a little cut myself."
Caleb laughed. "She gets her tongue from you, Susan," he said, with
"Not its flippancy, father," said Mary, quickly, fearing that her
mother would be displeased. "It is rather too bad of Fred to repeat my
flippant speeches to Mr. Farebrother."
"It was certainly a hasty speech, my dear," said Mrs. Garth, with whom
speaking evil of dignities was a high misdemeanor. "We should not
value our Vicar the less because there was a ridiculous curate in the
"There's something in what she says, though," said Caleb, not disposed
to have Mary's sharpness undervalued. "A bad workman of any sort makes
his fellows mistrusted. Things hang together," he added, looking on
the floor and moving his feet uneasily with a sense that words were
scantier than thoughts.
"Clearly," said the Vicar, amused. "By being contemptible we set men's
minds, to the tune of contempt. I certainly agree with Miss Garth's
view of the matter, whether I am condemned by it or not. But as to
Fred Vincy, it is only fair he should be excused a little: old
Featherstone's delusive behavior did help to spoil him. There was
something quite diabolical in not leaving him a farthing after all.
But Fred has the good taste not to dwell on that. And what he cares
most about is having offended you, Mrs. Garth; he supposes you will
never think well of him again."
"I have been disappointed in Fred," said Mrs. Garth, with decision.
"But I shall be ready to think well of him again when he gives me good
reason to do so."
At this point Mary went out of the room, taking Letty with her.
"Oh, we must forgive young people when they're sorry," said Caleb,
watching Mary close the door. "And as you say, Mr. Farebrother, there
was the very devil in that old man."
Now Mary's gone out, I must tell you a thing—it's only known to Susan
and me, and you'll not tell it again. The old scoundrel wanted Mary to
burn one of the wills the very night he died, when she was sitting up
with him by herself, and he offered her a sum of money that he had in
the box by him if she would do it. But Mary, you understand, could do
no such thing—would not be handling his iron chest, and so on. Now,
you see, the will he wanted burnt was this last, so that if Mary had
done what he wanted, Fred Vincy would have had ten thousand pounds.
The old man did turn to him at the last. That touches poor Mary close;
she couldn't help it—she was in the right to do what she did, but she
feels, as she says, much as if she had knocked down somebody's property
and broken it against her will, when she was rightfully defending
herself. I feel with her, somehow, and if I could make any amends to
the poor lad, instead of bearing him a grudge for the harm he did us, I
should be glad to do it. Now, what is your opinion, sir? Susan
doesn't agree with me. She says—tell what you say, Susan."
"Mary could not have acted otherwise, even if she had known what would
be the effect on Fred," said Mrs. Garth, pausing from her work, and
looking at Mr. Farebrother.
"And she was quite ignorant of it. It seems to me, a loss which falls
on another because we have done right is not to lie upon our
The Vicar did not answer immediately, and Caleb said, "It's the
feeling. The child feels in that way, and I feel with her. You don't
mean your horse to tread on a dog when you're backing out of the way;
but it goes through you, when it's done."
"I am sure Mrs. Garth would agree with you there," said Mr.
Farebrother, who for some reason seemed more inclined to ruminate than
to speak. "One could hardly say that the feeling you mention about
Fred is wrong—or rather, mistaken—though no man ought to make a claim
on such feeling."
"Well, well," said Caleb, "it's a secret. You will not tell Fred."
"Certainly not. But I shall carry the other good news—that you can
afford the loss he caused you."
Mr. Farebrother left the house soon after, and seeing Mary in the
orchard with Letty, went to say good-by to her. They made a pretty
picture in the western light which brought out the brightness of the
apples on the old scant-leaved boughs—Mary in her lavender gingham and
black ribbons holding a basket, while Letty in her well-worn nankin
picked up the fallen apples. If you want to know more particularly how
Mary looked, ten to one you will see a face like hers in the crowded
street to-morrow, if you are there on the watch: she will not be among
those daughters of Zion who are haughty, and walk with stretched-out
necks and wanton eyes, mincing as they go: let all those pass, and fix
your eyes on some small plump brownish person of firm but quiet
carriage, who looks about her, but does not suppose that anybody is
looking at her. If she has a broad face and square brow, well-marked
eyebrows and curly dark hair, a certain expression of amusement in her
glance which her mouth keeps the secret of, and for the rest features
entirely insignificant—take that ordinary but not disagreeable person
for a portrait of Mary Garth. If you made her smile, she would show
you perfect little teeth; if you made her angry, she would not raise
her voice, but would probably say one of the bitterest things you have
ever tasted the flavor of; if you did her a kindness, she would never
forget it. Mary admired the keen-faced handsome little Vicar in his
well-brushed threadbare clothes more than any man she had had the
opportunity of knowing. She had never heard him say a foolish thing,
though she knew that he did unwise ones; and perhaps foolish sayings
were more objectionable to her than any of Mr. Farebrother's unwise
doings. At least, it was remarkable that the actual imperfections of
the Vicar's clerical character never seemed to call forth the same
scorn and dislike which she showed beforehand for the predicted
imperfections of the clerical character sustained by Fred Vincy. These
irregularities of judgment, I imagine, are found even in riper minds
than Mary Garth's: our impartiality is kept for abstract merit and
demerit, which none of us ever saw. Will any one guess towards which
of those widely different men Mary had the peculiar woman's
tenderness?—the one she was most inclined to be severe on, or the
"Have you any message for your old playfellow, Miss Garth?" said the
Vicar, as he took a fragrant apple from the basket which she held
towards him, and put it in his pocket. "Something to soften down that
harsh judgment? I am going straight to see him."
"No," said Mary, shaking her head, and smiling. "If I were to say that
he would not be ridiculous as a clergyman, I must say that he would be
something worse than ridiculous. But I am very glad to hear that he is
going away to work."
"On the other hand, I am very glad to hear that you are not going
away to work. My mother, I am sure, will be all the happier if you
will come to see her at the vicarage: you know she is fond of having
young people to talk to, and she has a great deal to tell about old
times. You will really be doing a kindness."
"I should like it very much, if I may," said Mary. "Everything seems
too happy for me all at once. I thought it would always be part of my
life to long for home, and losing that grievance makes me feel rather
empty: I suppose it served instead of sense to fill up my mind?"
"May I go with you, Mary?" whispered Letty—a most inconvenient child,
who listened to everything. But she was made exultant by having her
chin pinched and her cheek kissed by Mr. Farebrother—an incident
which she narrated to her mother and father.
As the Vicar walked to Lowick, any one watching him closely might have
seen him twice shrug his shoulders. I think that the rare Englishmen
who have this gesture are never of the heavy type—for fear of any
lumbering instance to the contrary, I will say, hardly ever; they have
usually a fine temperament and much tolerance towards the smaller
errors of men (themselves inclusive). The Vicar was holding an inward
dialogue in which he told himself that there was probably something
more between Fred and Mary Garth than the regard of old playfellows,
and replied with a question whether that bit of womanhood were not a
great deal too choice for that crude young gentleman. The rejoinder to
this was the first shrug. Then he laughed at himself for being likely
to have felt jealous, as if he had been a man able to marry, which,
added he, it is as clear as any balance-sheet that I am not. Whereupon
followed the second shrug.
What could two men, so different from each other, see in this "brown
patch," as Mary called herself? It was certainly not her plainness
that attracted them (and let all plain young ladies be warned against
the dangerous encouragement given them by Society to confide in their
want of beauty). A human being in this aged nation of ours is a very
wonderful whole, the slow creation of long interchanging influences:
and charm is a result of two such wholes, the one loving and the one
When Mr. and Mrs. Garth were sitting alone, Caleb said, "Susan, guess
what I'm thinking of."
"The rotation of crops," said Mrs. Garth, smiling at him, above her
knitting, "or else the back-doors of the Tipton cottages."
"No," said Caleb, gravely; "I am thinking that I could do a great turn
for Fred Vincy. Christy's gone, Alfred will be gone soon, and it will
be five years before Jim is ready to take to business. I shall want
help, and Fred might come in and learn the nature of things and act
under me, and it might be the making of him into a useful man, if he
gives up being a parson. What do you think?"
"I think, there is hardly anything honest that his family would object
to more," said Mrs. Garth, decidedly.
"What care I about their objecting?" said Caleb, with a sturdiness
which he was apt to show when he had an opinion. "The lad is of age
and must get his bread. He has sense enough and quickness enough; he
likes being on the land, and it's my belief that he could learn
business well if he gave his mind to it."
"But would he? His father and mother wanted him to be a fine
gentleman, and I think he has the same sort of feeling himself. They
all think us beneath them. And if the proposal came from you, I am
sure Mrs. Vincy would say that we wanted Fred for Mary."
"Life is a poor tale, if it is to be settled by nonsense of that sort,"
said Caleb, with disgust.
"Yes, but there is a certain pride which is proper, Caleb."
"I call it improper pride to let fools' notions hinder you from doing a
good action. There's no sort of work," said Caleb, with fervor,
putting out his hand and moving it up and down to mark his emphasis,
"that could ever be done well, if you minded what fools say. You must
have it inside you that your plan is right, and that plan you must
"I will not oppose any plan you have set your mind on, Caleb," said
Mrs. Garth, who was a firm woman, but knew that there were some points
on which her mild husband was yet firmer. "Still, it seems to be fixed
that Fred is to go back to college: will it not be better to wait and
see what he will choose to do after that? It is not easy to keep
people against their will. And you are not yet quite sure enough of
your own position, or what you will want."
"Well, it may be better to wait a bit. But as to my getting plenty of
work for two, I'm pretty sure of that. I've always had my hands full
with scattered things, and there's always something fresh turning up.
Why, only yesterday—bless me, I don't think I told you!—it was rather
odd that two men should have been at me on different sides to do the
same bit of valuing. And who do you think they were?" said Caleb,
taking a pinch of snuff and holding it up between his fingers, as if it
were a part of his exposition. He was fond of a pinch when it occurred
to him, but he usually forgot that this indulgence was at his command.
His wife held down her knitting and looked attentive.
"Why, that Rigg, or Rigg Featherstone, was one. But Bulstrode was
before him, so I'm going to do it for Bulstrode. Whether it's mortgage
or purchase they're going for, I can't tell yet."
"Can that man be going to sell the land just left him—which he has
taken the name for?" said Mrs. Garth.
"Deuce knows," said Caleb, who never referred the knowledge of
discreditable doings to any higher power than the deuce. "But
Bulstrode has long been wanting to get a handsome bit of land under his
fingers—that I know. And it's a difficult matter to get, in this part
of the country."
Caleb scattered his snuff carefully instead of taking it, and then
added, "The ins and outs of things are curious. Here is the land
they've been all along expecting for Fred, which it seems the old man
never meant to leave him a foot of, but left it to this side-slip of a
son that he kept in the dark, and thought of his sticking there and
vexing everybody as well as he could have vexed 'em himself if he could
have kept alive. I say, it would be curious if it got into Bulstrode's
hands after all. The old man hated him, and never would bank with him."
"What reason could the miserable creature have for hating a man whom he
had nothing to do with?" said Mrs. Garth.
"Pooh! where's the use of asking for such fellows' reasons? The soul
of man," said Caleb, with the deep tone and grave shake of the head
which always came when he used this phrase—"The soul of man, when it
gets fairly rotten, will bear you all sorts of poisonous toad-stools,
and no eye can see whence came the seed thereof."
It was one of Caleb's quaintnesses, that in his difficulty of finding
speech for his thought, he caught, as it were, snatches of diction
which he associated with various points of view or states of mind; and
whenever he had a feeling of awe, he was haunted by a sense of Biblical
phraseology, though he could hardly have given a strict quotation.
"By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.
The transactions referred to by Caleb Garth as having gone forward
between Mr. Bulstrode and Mr. Joshua Rigg Featherstone concerning the
land attached to Stone Court, had occasioned the interchange of a
letter or two between these personages.
Who shall tell what may be the effect of writing? If it happens to
have been cut in stone, though it lie face down-most for ages on a
forsaken beach, or "rest quietly under the drums and tramplings of many
conquests," it may end by letting us into the secret of usurpations and
other scandals gossiped about long empires ago:—this world being
apparently a huge whispering-gallery. Such conditions are often
minutely represented in our petty lifetimes. As the stone which has
been kicked by generations of clowns may come by curious little links
of effect under the eyes of a scholar, through whose labors it may at
last fix the date of invasions and unlock religions, so a bit of ink
and paper which has long been an innocent wrapping or stop-gap may at
last be laid open under the one pair of eyes which have knowledge
enough to turn it into the opening of a catastrophe. To Uriel watching
the progress of planetary history from the sun, the one result would be
just as much of a coincidence as the other.
Having made this rather lofty comparison I am less uneasy in calling
attention to the existence of low people by whose interference, however
little we may like it, the course of the world is very much determined.
It would be well, certainly, if we could help to reduce their number,
and something might perhaps be done by not lightly giving occasion to
their existence. Socially speaking, Joshua Rigg would have been
generally pronounced a superfluity. But those who like Peter
Featherstone never had a copy of themselves demanded, are the very last
to wait for such a request either in prose or verse. The copy in this
case bore more of outside resemblance to the mother, in whose sex
frog-features, accompanied with fresh-colored cheeks and a well-rounded
figure, are compatible with much charm for a certain order of admirers.
The result is sometimes a frog-faced male, desirable, surely, to no
order of intelligent beings. Especially when he is suddenly brought
into evidence to frustrate other people's expectations—the very
lowest aspect in which a social superfluity can present himself.
But Mr. Rigg Featherstone's low characteristics were all of the sober,
water-drinking kind. From the earliest to the latest hour of the day
he was always as sleek, neat, and cool as the frog he resembled, and
old Peter had secretly chuckled over an offshoot almost more
calculating, and far more imperturbable, than himself. I will add that
his finger-nails were scrupulously attended to, and that he meant to
marry a well-educated young lady (as yet unspecified) whose person was
good, and whose connections, in a solid middle-class way, were
undeniable. Thus his nails and modesty were comparable to those of
most gentlemen; though his ambition had been educated only by the
opportunities of a clerk and accountant in the smaller commercial
houses of a seaport. He thought the rural Featherstones very simple
absurd people, and they in their turn regarded his "bringing up" in a
seaport town as an exaggeration of the monstrosity that their brother
Peter, and still more Peter's property, should have had such belongings.
The garden and gravel approach, as seen from the two windows of the
wainscoted parlor at Stone Court, were never in better trim than now,
when Mr. Rigg Featherstone stood, with his hands behind him, looking
out on these grounds as their master. But it seemed doubtful whether
he looked out for the sake of contemplation or of turning his back to a
person who stood in the middle of the room, with his legs considerably
apart and his hands in his trouser-pockets: a person in all respects a
contrast to the sleek and cool Rigg. He was a man obviously on the way
towards sixty, very florid and hairy, with much gray in his bushy
whiskers and thick curly hair, a stoutish body which showed to
disadvantage the somewhat worn joinings of his clothes, and the air of
a swaggerer, who would aim at being noticeable even at a show of
fireworks, regarding his own remarks on any other person's performance
as likely to be more interesting than the performance itself.
His name was John Raffles, and he sometimes wrote jocosely W.A.G.
after his signature, observing when he did so, that he was once taught
by Leonard Lamb of Finsbury who wrote B.A. after his name, and that he,
Raffles, originated the witticism of calling that celebrated principal
Ba-Lamb. Such were the appearance and mental flavor of Mr. Raffles,
both of which seemed to have a stale odor of travellers' rooms in the
commercial hotels of that period.
"Come, now, Josh," he was saying, in a full rumbling tone, "look at it
in this light: here is your poor mother going into the vale of years,
and you could afford something handsome now to make her comfortable."
"Not while you live. Nothing would make her comfortable while you
live," returned Rigg, in his cool high voice. "What I give her, you'll
"You bear me a grudge, Josh, that I know. But come, now—as between
man and man—without humbug—a little capital might enable me to make a
first-rate thing of the shop. The tobacco trade is growing. I should
cut my own nose off in not doing the best I could at it. I should
stick to it like a flea to a fleece for my own sake. I should always
be on the spot. And nothing would make your poor mother so happy.
I've pretty well done with my wild oats—turned fifty-five. I want to
settle down in my chimney-corner. And if I once buckled to the tobacco
trade, I could bring an amount of brains and experience to bear on it
that would not be found elsewhere in a hurry. I don't want to be
bothering you one time after another, but to get things once for all
into the right channel. Consider that, Josh—as between man and
man—and with your poor mother to be made easy for her life. I was
always fond of the old woman, by Jove!"
"Have you done?" said Mr. Rigg, quietly, without looking away from the
"Yes, I've done," said Raffles, taking hold of his hat which stood
before him on the table, and giving it a sort of oratorical push.
"Then just listen to me. The more you say anything, the less I shall
believe it. The more you want me to do a thing, the more reason I
shall have for never doing it. Do you think I mean to forget your
kicking me when I was a lad, and eating all the best victual away from
me and my mother? Do you think I forget your always coming home to
sell and pocket everything, and going off again leaving us in the
lurch? I should be glad to see you whipped at the cart-tail. My
mother was a fool to you: she'd no right to give me a father-in-law,
and she's been punished for it. She shall have her weekly allowance
paid and no more: and that shall be stopped if you dare to come on to
these premises again, or to come into this country after me again. The
next time you show yourself inside the gates here, you shall be driven
off with the dogs and the wagoner's whip."
As Rigg pronounced the last words he turned round and looked at Raffles
with his prominent frozen eyes. The contrast was as striking as it
could have been eighteen years before, when Rigg was a most unengaging
kickable boy, and Raffles was the rather thick-set Adonis of bar-rooms
and back-parlors. But the advantage now was on the side of Rigg, and
auditors of this conversation might probably have expected that Raffles
would retire with the air of a defeated dog. Not at all. He made a
grimace which was habitual with him whenever he was "out" in a game;
then subsided into a laugh, and drew a brandy-flask from his pocket.
"Come, Josh," he said, in a cajoling tone, "give us a spoonful of
brandy, and a sovereign to pay the way back, and I'll go. Honor
bright! I'll go like a bullet, by Jove!"
"Mind," said Rigg, drawing out a bunch of keys, "if I ever see you
again, I shan't speak to you. I don't own you any more than if I saw a
crow; and if you want to own me you'll get nothing by it but a
character for being what you are—a spiteful, brassy, bullying rogue."
"That's a pity, now, Josh," said Raffles, affecting to scratch his head
and wrinkle his brows upward as if he were nonplussed. "I'm very fond
of you; by Jove, I am! There's nothing I like better than plaguing
you—you're so like your mother, and I must do without it. But the
brandy and the sovereign's a bargain."
He jerked forward the flask and Rigg went to a fine old oaken bureau
with his keys. But Raffles had reminded himself by his movement with
the flask that it had become dangerously loose from its leather
covering, and catching sight of a folded paper which had fallen within
the fender, he took it up and shoved it under the leather so as to make
the glass firm.
By that time Rigg came forward with a brandy-bottle, filled the flask,
and handed Raffles a sovereign, neither looking at him nor speaking to
him. After locking up the bureau again, he walked to the window and
gazed out as impassibly as he had done at the beginning of the
interview, while Raffles took a small allowance from the flask, screwed
it up, and deposited it in his side-pocket, with provoking slowness,
making a grimace at his stepson's back.
"Farewell, Josh—and if forever!" said Raffles, turning back his head
as he opened the door.
Rigg saw him leave the grounds and enter the lane. The gray day had
turned to a light drizzling rain, which freshened the hedgerows and the
grassy borders of the by-roads, and hastened the laborers who were
loading the last shocks of corn. Raffles, walking with the uneasy gait
of a town loiterer obliged to do a bit of country journeying on foot,
looked as incongruous amid this moist rural quiet and industry as if he
had been a baboon escaped from a menagerie. But there were none to
stare at him except the long-weaned calves, and none to show dislike of
his appearance except the little water-rats which rustled away at his
He was fortunate enough when he got on to the highroad to be overtaken
by the stage-coach, which carried him to Brassing; and there he took
the new-made railway, observing to his fellow-passengers that he
considered it pretty well seasoned now it had done for Huskisson. Mr.
Raffles on most occasions kept up the sense of having been educated at
an academy, and being able, if he chose, to pass well everywhere;
indeed, there was not one of his fellow-men whom he did not feel
himself in a position to ridicule and torment, confident of the
entertainment which he thus gave to all the rest of the company.
He played this part now with as much spirit as if his journey had been
entirely successful, resorting at frequent intervals to his flask. The
paper with which he had wedged it was a letter signed Nicholas
Bulstrode, but Raffles was not likely to disturb it from its present
"How much, methinks, I could despise this man
Were I not bound in charity against it!
—SHAKESPEARE: Henry VIII.
One of the professional calls made by Lydgate soon after his return
from his wedding-journey was to Lowick Manor, in consequence of a
letter which had requested him to fix a time for his visit.
Mr. Casaubon had never put any question concerning the nature of his
illness to Lydgate, nor had he even to Dorothea betrayed any anxiety as
to how far it might be likely to cut short his labors or his life. On
this point, as on all others, he shrank from pity; and if the suspicion
of being pitied for anything in his lot surmised or known in spite of
himself was embittering, the idea of calling forth a show of compassion
by frankly admitting an alarm or a sorrow was necessarily intolerable
to him. Every proud mind knows something of this experience, and
perhaps it is only to be overcome by a sense of fellowship deep enough
to make all efforts at isolation seem mean and petty instead of
But Mr. Casaubon was now brooding over something through which the
question of his health and life haunted his silence with a more
harassing importunity even than through the autumnal unripeness of his
authorship. It is true that this last might be called his central
ambition; but there are some kinds of authorship in which by far the
largest result is the uneasy susceptibility accumulated in the
consciousness of the author—one knows of the river by a few streaks
amid a long-gathered deposit of uncomfortable mud. That was the way
with Mr. Casaubon's hard intellectual labors. Their most
characteristic result was not the "Key to all Mythologies," but a
morbid consciousness that others did not give him the place which he
had not demonstrably merited—a perpetual suspicious conjecture that
the views entertained of him were not to his advantage—a melancholy
absence of passion in his efforts at achievement, and a passionate
resistance to the confession that he had achieved nothing.
Thus his intellectual ambition which seemed to others to have absorbed
and dried him, was really no security against wounds, least of all
against those which came from Dorothea. And he had begun now to frame
possibilities for the future which were somehow more embittering to him
than anything his mind had dwelt on before.
Against certain facts he was helpless: against Will Ladislaw's
existence, his defiant stay in the neighborhood of Lowick, and his
flippant state of mind with regard to the possessors of authentic,
well-stamped erudition: against Dorothea's nature, always taking on
some new shape of ardent activity, and even in submission and silence
covering fervid reasons which it was an irritation to think of: against
certain notions and likings which had taken possession of her mind in
relation to subjects that he could not possibly discuss with her.
There was no denying that Dorothea was as virtuous and lovely a young
lady as he could have obtained for a wife; but a young lady turned out
to be something more troublesome than he had conceived. She nursed
him, she read to him, she anticipated his wants, and was solicitous
about his feelings; but there had entered into the husband's mind the
certainty that she judged him, and that her wifely devotedness was like
a penitential expiation of unbelieving thoughts—was accompanied with a
power of comparison by which himself and his doings were seen too
luminously as a part of things in general. His discontent passed
vapor-like through all her gentle loving manifestations, and clung to
that inappreciative world which she had only brought nearer to him.
Poor Mr. Casaubon! This suffering was the harder to bear because it
seemed like a betrayal: the young creature who had worshipped him with
perfect trust had quickly turned into the critical wife; and early
instances of criticism and resentment had made an impression which no
tenderness and submission afterwards could remove. To his suspicious
interpretation Dorothea's silence now was a suppressed rebellion; a
remark from her which he had not in any way anticipated was an
assertion of conscious superiority; her gentle answers had an
irritating cautiousness in them; and when she acquiesced it was a
self-approved effort of forbearance. The tenacity with which he strove
to hide this inward drama made it the more vivid for him; as we hear
with the more keenness what we wish others not to hear.
Instead of wondering at this result of misery in Mr. Casaubon, I think
it quite ordinary. Will not a tiny speck very close to our vision blot
out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin by which we see the
blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self. And who, if Mr.
Casaubon had chosen to expound his discontents—his suspicions that he
was not any longer adored without criticism—could have denied that
they were founded on good reasons? On the contrary, there was a strong
reason to be added, which he had not himself taken explicitly into
account—namely, that he was not unmixedly adorable. He suspected
this, however, as he suspected other things, without confessing it, and
like the rest of us, felt how soothing it would have been to have a
companion who would never find it out.
This sore susceptibility in relation to Dorothea was thoroughly
prepared before Will Ladislaw had returned to Lowick, and what had
occurred since then had brought Mr. Casaubon's power of suspicious
construction into exasperated activity. To all the facts which he
knew, he added imaginary facts both present and future which became
more real to him than those because they called up a stronger dislike,
a more predominating bitterness. Suspicion and jealousy of Will
Ladislaw's intentions, suspicion and jealousy of Dorothea's
impressions, were constantly at their weaving work. It would be quite
unjust to him to suppose that he could have entered into any coarse
misinterpretation of Dorothea: his own habits of mind and conduct,
quite as much as the open elevation of her nature, saved him from any
such mistake. What he was jealous of was her opinion, the sway that
might be given to her ardent mind in its judgments, and the future
possibilities to which these might lead her. As to Will, though until
his last defiant letter he had nothing definite which he would choose
formally to allege against him, he felt himself warranted in believing
that he was capable of any design which could fascinate a rebellious
temper and an undisciplined impulsiveness. He was quite sure that
Dorothea was the cause of Will's return from Rome, and his
determination to settle in the neighborhood; and he was penetrating
enough to imagine that Dorothea had innocently encouraged this course.
It was as clear as possible that she was ready to be attached to Will
and to be pliant to his suggestions: they had never had a tete-a-tete
without her bringing away from it some new troublesome impression, and
the last interview that Mr. Casaubon was aware of (Dorothea, on
returning from Freshitt Hall, had for the first time been silent about
having seen Will) had led to a scene which roused an angrier feeling
against them both than he had ever known before. Dorothea's outpouring
of her notions about money, in the darkness of the night, had done
nothing but bring a mixture of more odious foreboding into her
And there was the shock lately given to his health always sadly present
with him. He was certainly much revived; he had recovered all his
usual power of work: the illness might have been mere fatigue, and
there might still be twenty years of achievement before him, which
would justify the thirty years of preparation. That prospect was made
the sweeter by a flavor of vengeance against the hasty sneers of Carp &
Company; for even when Mr. Casaubon was carrying his taper among the
tombs of the past, those modern figures came athwart the dim light, and
interrupted his diligent exploration. To convince Carp of his mistake,
so that he would have to eat his own words with a good deal of
indigestion, would be an agreeable accident of triumphant authorship,
which the prospect of living to future ages on earth and to all
eternity in heaven could not exclude from contemplation. Since, thus,
the prevision of his own unending bliss could not nullify the bitter
savors of irritated jealousy and vindictiveness, it is the less
surprising that the probability of a transient earthly bliss for other
persons, when he himself should have entered into glory, had not a
potently sweetening effect. If the truth should be that some
undermining disease was at work within him, there might be large
opportunity for some people to be the happier when he was gone; and if
one of those people should be Will Ladislaw, Mr. Casaubon objected so
strongly that it seemed as if the annoyance would make part of his
This is a very bare and therefore a very incomplete way of putting the
case. The human soul moves in many channels, and Mr. Casaubon, we
know, had a sense of rectitude and an honorable pride in satisfying the
requirements of honor, which compelled him to find other reasons for
his conduct than those of jealousy and vindictiveness. The way in
which Mr. Casaubon put the case was this:—"In marrying Dorothea Brooke
I had to care for her well-being in case of my death. But well-being
is not to be secured by ample, independent possession of property; on
the contrary, occasions might arise in which such possession might
expose her to the more danger. She is ready prey to any man who knows
how to play adroitly either on her affectionate ardor or her Quixotic
enthusiasm; and a man stands by with that very intention in his mind—a
man with no other principle than transient caprice, and who has a
personal animosity towards me—I am sure of it—an animosity which is
fed by the consciousness of his ingratitude, and which he has
constantly vented in ridicule of which I am as well assured as if I had
heard it. Even if I live I shall not be without uneasiness as to what
he may attempt through indirect influence. This man has gained
Dorothea's ear: he has fascinated her attention; he has evidently tried
to impress her mind with the notion that he has claims beyond anything
I have done for him. If I die—and he is waiting here on the watch for
that—he will persuade her to marry him. That would be calamity for
her and success for him. She would not think it calamity: he would
make her believe anything; she has a tendency to immoderate attachment
which she inwardly reproaches me for not responding to, and already her
mind is occupied with his fortunes. He thinks of an easy conquest and
of entering into my nest. That I will hinder! Such a marriage would be
fatal to Dorothea. Has he ever persisted in anything except from
contradiction? In knowledge he has always tried to be showy at small
cost. In religion he could be, as long as it suited him, the facile
echo of Dorothea's vagaries. When was sciolism ever dissociated from
laxity? I utterly distrust his morals, and it is my duty to hinder to
the utmost the fulfilment of his designs."
The arrangements made by Mr. Casaubon on his marriage left strong
measures open to him, but in ruminating on them his mind inevitably
dwelt so much on the probabilities of his own life that the longing to
get the nearest possible calculation had at last overcome his proud
reticence, and had determined him to ask Lydgate's opinion as to the
nature of his illness.
He had mentioned to Dorothea that Lydgate was coming by appointment at
half-past three, and in answer to her anxious question, whether he had
felt ill, replied,—"No, I merely wish to have his opinion concerning
some habitual symptoms. You need not see him, my dear. I shall give
orders that he may be sent to me in the Yew-tree Walk, where I shall be
taking my usual exercise."
When Lydgate entered the Yew-tree Walk he saw Mr. Casaubon slowly
receding with his hands behind him according to his habit, and his head
bent forward. It was a lovely afternoon; the leaves from the lofty
limes were falling silently across the sombre evergreens, while the
lights and shadows slept side by side: there was no sound but the
cawing of the rooks, which to the accustomed ear is a lullaby, or that
last solemn lullaby, a dirge. Lydgate, conscious of an energetic frame
in its prime, felt some compassion when the figure which he was likely
soon to overtake turned round, and in advancing towards him showed more
markedly than ever the signs of premature age—the student's bent
shoulders, the emaciated limbs, and the melancholy lines of the mouth.
"Poor fellow," he thought, "some men with his years are like lions; one
can tell nothing of their age except that they are full grown."
"Mr. Lydgate," said Mr. Casaubon, with his invariably polite air, "I am
exceedingly obliged to you for your punctuality. We will, if you
please, carry on our conversation in walking to and fro."
"I hope your wish to see me is not due to the return of unpleasant
symptoms," said Lydgate, filling up a pause.
"Not immediately—no. In order to account for that wish I must
mention—what it were otherwise needless to refer to—that my life, on
all collateral accounts insignificant, derives a possible importance
from the incompleteness of labors which have extended through all its
best years. In short, I have long had on hand a work which I would
fain leave behind me in such a state, at least, that it might be
committed to the press by—others. Were I assured that this is the
utmost I can reasonably expect, that assurance would be a useful
circumscription of my attempts, and a guide in both the positive and
negative determination of my course."
Here Mr. Casaubon paused, removed one hand from his back and thrust it
between the buttons of his single-breasted coat. To a mind largely
instructed in the human destiny hardly anything could be more
interesting than the inward conflict implied in his formal measured
address, delivered with the usual sing-song and motion of the head.
Nay, are there many situations more sublimely tragic than the struggle
of the soul with the demand to renounce a work which has been all the
significance of its life—a significance which is to vanish as the
waters which come and go where no man has need of them? But there was
nothing to strike others as sublime about Mr. Casaubon, and Lydgate,
who had some contempt at hand for futile scholarship, felt a little
amusement mingling with his pity. He was at present too ill acquainted
with disaster to enter into the pathos of a lot where everything is
below the level of tragedy except the passionate egoism of the sufferer.
"You refer to the possible hindrances from want of health?" he said,
wishing to help forward Mr. Casaubon's purpose, which seemed to be
clogged by some hesitation.
"I do. You have not implied to me that the symptoms which—I am bound
to testify—you watched with scrupulous care, were those of a fatal
disease. But were it so, Mr. Lydgate, I should desire to know the
truth without reservation, and I appeal to you for an exact statement
of your conclusions: I request it as a friendly service. If you can
tell me that my life is not threatened by anything else than ordinary
casualties, I shall rejoice, on grounds which I have already indicated.
If not, knowledge of the truth is even more important to me."
"Then I can no longer hesitate as to my course," said Lydgate; "but the
first thing I must impress on you is that my conclusions are doubly
uncertain—uncertain not only because of my fallibility, but because
diseases of the heart are eminently difficult to found predictions on.
In any case, one can hardly increase appreciably the tremendous
uncertainty of life."
Mr. Casaubon winced perceptibly, but bowed.
"I believe that you are suffering from what is called fatty
degeneration of the heart, a disease which was first divined and
explored by Laennec, the man who gave us the stethoscope, not so very
many years ago. A good deal of experience—a more lengthened
observation—is wanting on the subject. But after what you have said,
it is my duty to tell you that death from this disease is often sudden.
At the same time, no such result can be predicted. Your condition may
be consistent with a tolerably comfortable life for another fifteen
years, or even more. I could add no information to this beyond
anatomical or medical details, which would leave expectation at
precisely the same point." Lydgate's instinct was fine enough to tell
him that plain speech, quite free from ostentatious caution, would be
felt by Mr. Casaubon as a tribute of respect.
"I thank you, Mr. Lydgate," said Mr. Casaubon, after a moment's pause.
"One thing more I have still to ask: did you communicate what you have
now told me to Mrs. Casaubon?"
"Partly—I mean, as to the possible issues." Lydgate was going to
explain why he had told Dorothea, but Mr. Casaubon, with an
unmistakable desire to end the conversation, waved his hand slightly,
and said again, "I thank you," proceeding to remark on the rare beauty
of the day.
Lydgate, certain that his patient wished to be alone, soon left him;
and the black figure with hands behind and head bent forward continued
to pace the walk where the dark yew-trees gave him a mute companionship
in melancholy, and the little shadows of bird or leaf that fleeted
across the isles of sunlight, stole along in silence as in the presence
of a sorrow. Here was a man who now for the first time found himself
looking into the eyes of death—who was passing through one of those
rare moments of experience when we feel the truth of a commonplace,
which is as different from what we call knowing it, as the vision of
waters upon the earth is different from the delirious vision of the
water which cannot be had to cool the burning tongue. When the
commonplace "We must all die" transforms itself suddenly into the acute
consciousness "I must die—and soon," then death grapples us, and his
fingers are cruel; afterwards, he may come to fold us in his arms as
our mother did, and our last moment of dim earthly discerning may be
like the first. To Mr. Casaubon now, it was as if he suddenly found
himself on the dark river-brink and heard the plash of the oncoming
oar, not discerning the forms, but expecting the summons. In such an
hour the mind does not change its lifelong bias, but carries it onward
in imagination to the other side of death, gazing backward—perhaps
with the divine calm of beneficence, perhaps with the petty anxieties
of self-assertion. What was Mr. Casaubon's bias his acts will give us a
clew to. He held himself to be, with some private scholarly
reservations, a believing Christian, as to estimates of the present and
hopes of the future. But what we strive to gratify, though we may call
it a distant hope, is an immediate desire: the future estate for which
men drudge up city alleys exists already in their imagination and love.
And Mr. Casaubon's immediate desire was not for divine communion and
light divested of earthly conditions; his passionate longings, poor
man, clung low and mist-like in very shady places.
Dorothea had been aware when Lydgate had ridden away, and she had
stepped into the garden, with the impulse to go at once to her husband.
But she hesitated, fearing to offend him by obtruding herself; for her
ardor, continually repulsed, served, with her intense memory, to
heighten her dread, as thwarted energy subsides into a shudder; and she
wandered slowly round the nearer clumps of trees until she saw him
advancing. Then she went towards him, and might have represented a
heaven-sent angel coming with a promise that the short hours remaining
should yet be filled with that faithful love which clings the closer to
a comprehended grief. His glance in reply to hers was so chill that
she felt her timidity increased; yet she turned and passed her hand
through his arm.
Mr. Casaubon kept his hands behind him and allowed her pliant arm to
cling with difficulty against his rigid arm.
There was something horrible to Dorothea in the sensation which this
unresponsive hardness inflicted on her. That is a strong word, but not
too strong: it is in these acts called trivialities that the seeds of
joy are forever wasted, until men and women look round with haggard
faces at the devastation their own waste has made, and say, the earth
bears no harvest of sweetness—calling their denial knowledge. You may
ask why, in the name of manliness, Mr. Casaubon should have behaved in
that way. Consider that his was a mind which shrank from pity: have
you ever watched in such a mind the effect of a suspicion that what is
pressing it as a grief may be really a source of contentment, either
actual or future, to the being who already offends by pitying?
Besides, he knew little of Dorothea's sensations, and had not reflected
that on such an occasion as the present they were comparable in
strength to his own sensibilities about Carp's criticisms.
Dorothea did not withdraw her arm, but she could not venture to speak.
Mr. Casaubon did not say, "I wish to be alone," but he directed his
steps in silence towards the house, and as they entered by the glass
door on this eastern side, Dorothea withdrew her arm and lingered on
the matting, that she might leave her husband quite free. He entered
the library and shut himself in, alone with his sorrow.
She went up to her boudoir. The open bow-window let in the serene
glory of the afternoon lying in the avenue, where the lime-trees cast
long shadows. But Dorothea knew nothing of the scene. She threw
herself on a chair, not heeding that she was in the dazzling sun-rays:
if there were discomfort in that, how could she tell that it was not
part of her inward misery?
She was in the reaction of a rebellious anger stronger than any she had
felt since her marriage. Instead of tears there came words:—
"What have I done—what am I—that he should treat me so? He never
knows what is in my mind—he never cares. What is the use of anything
I do? He wishes he had never married me."
She began to hear herself, and was checked into stillness. Like one
who has lost his way and is weary, she sat and saw as in one glance all
the paths of her young hope which she should never find again. And
just as clearly in the miserable light she saw her own and her
husband's solitude—how they walked apart so that she was obliged to
survey him. If he had drawn her towards him, she would never have
surveyed him—never have said, "Is he worth living for?" but would have
felt him simply a part of her own life. Now she said bitterly, "It is
his fault, not mine." In the jar of her whole being, Pity was
overthrown. Was it her fault that she had believed in him—had
believed in his worthiness?—And what, exactly, was he?— She was able
enough to estimate him—she who waited on his glances with trembling,
and shut her best soul in prison, paying it only hidden visits, that
she might be petty enough to please him. In such a crisis as this,
some women begin to hate.
The sun was low when Dorothea was thinking that she would not go down
again, but would send a message to her husband saying that she was not
well and preferred remaining up-stairs. She had never deliberately
allowed her resentment to govern her in this way before, but she
believed now that she could not see him again without telling him the
truth about her feeling, and she must wait till she could do it without
interruption. He might wonder and be hurt at her message. It was good
that he should wonder and be hurt. Her anger said, as anger is apt to
say, that God was with her—that all heaven, though it were crowded
with spirits watching them, must be on her side. She had determined to
ring her bell, when there came a rap at the door.
Mr. Casaubon had sent to say that he would have his dinner in the
library. He wished to be quite alone this evening, being much occupied.
"I shall not dine, then, Tantripp."
"Oh, madam, let me bring you a little something?"
"No; I am not well. Get everything ready in my dressing room, but pray
do not disturb me again."
Dorothea sat almost motionless in her meditative struggle, while the
evening slowly deepened into night. But the struggle changed
continually, as that of a man who begins with a movement towards
striking and ends with conquering his desire to strike. The energy
that would animate a crime is not more than is wanted to inspire a
resolved submission, when the noble habit of the soul reasserts itself.
That thought with which Dorothea had gone out to meet her husband—her
conviction that he had been asking about the possible arrest of all his
work, and that the answer must have wrung his heart, could not be long
without rising beside the image of him, like a shadowy monitor looking
at her anger with sad remonstrance. It cost her a litany of pictured
sorrows and of silent cries that she might be the mercy for those
sorrows—but the resolved submission did come; and when the house was
still, and she knew that it was near the time when Mr. Casaubon
habitually went to rest, she opened her door gently and stood outside
in the darkness waiting for his coming up-stairs with a light in his
hand. If he did not come soon she thought that she would go down and
even risk incurring another pang. She would never again expect
anything else. But she did hear the library door open, and slowly the
light advanced up the staircase without noise from the footsteps on the
carpet. When her husband stood opposite to her, she saw that his face
was more haggard. He started slightly on seeing her, and she looked up
at him beseechingly, without speaking.
"Dorothea!" he said, with a gentle surprise in his tone. "Were you
waiting for me?"
"Yes, I did not like to disturb you."
"Come, my dear, come. You are young, and need not to extend your life
When the kind quiet melancholy of that speech fell on Dorothea's ears,
she felt something like the thankfulness that might well up in us if we
had narrowly escaped hurting a lamed creature. She put her hand into
her husband's, and they went along the broad corridor together.