THE DEAD HAND.
This figure hath high price: 't was wrought with love
Ages ago in finest ivory;
Nought modish in it, pure and noble lines
Of generous womanhood that fits all time
That too is costly ware; majolica
Of deft design, to please a lordly eye:
The smile, you see, is perfect—wonderful
As mere Faience! a table ornament
To suit the richest mounting."
Dorothea seldom left home without her husband, but she did occasionally
drive into Middlemarch alone, on little errands of shopping or charity
such as occur to every lady of any wealth when she lives within three
miles of a town. Two days after that scene in the Yew-tree Walk, she
determined to use such an opportunity in order if possible to see
Lydgate, and learn from him whether her husband had really felt any
depressing change of symptoms which he was concealing from her, and
whether he had insisted on knowing the utmost about himself. She felt
almost guilty in asking for knowledge about him from another, but the
dread of being without it—the dread of that ignorance which would make
her unjust or hard—overcame every scruple. That there had been some
crisis in her husband's mind she was certain: he had the very next day
begun a new method of arranging his notes, and had associated her quite
newly in carrying out his plan. Poor Dorothea needed to lay up stores
It was about four o'clock when she drove to Lydgate's house in Lowick
Gate, wishing, in her immediate doubt of finding him at home, that she
had written beforehand. And he was not at home.
"Is Mrs. Lydgate at home?" said Dorothea, who had never, that she knew
of, seen Rosamond, but now remembered the fact of the marriage. Yes,
Mrs. Lydgate was at home.
"I will go in and speak to her, if she will allow me. Will you ask her
if she can see me—see Mrs. Casaubon, for a few minutes?"
When the servant had gone to deliver that message, Dorothea could hear
sounds of music through an open window—a few notes from a man's voice
and then a piano bursting into roulades. But the roulades broke off
suddenly, and then the servant came back saying that Mrs. Lydgate would
be happy to see Mrs. Casaubon.
When the drawing-room door opened and Dorothea entered, there was a
sort of contrast not infrequent in country life when the habits of the
different ranks were less blent than now. Let those who know, tell us
exactly what stuff it was that Dorothea wore in those days of mild
autumn—that thin white woollen stuff soft to the touch and soft to the
eye. It always seemed to have been lately washed, and to smell of the
sweet hedges—was always in the shape of a pelisse with sleeves hanging
all out of the fashion. Yet if she had entered before a still audience
as Imogene or Cato's daughter, the dress might have seemed right
enough: the grace and dignity were in her limbs and neck; and about her
simply parted hair and candid eyes the large round poke which was then
in the fate of women, seemed no more odd as a head-dress than the gold
trencher we call a halo. By the present audience of two persons, no
dramatic heroine could have been expected with more interest than Mrs.
Casaubon. To Rosamond she was one of those county divinities not
mixing with Middlemarch mortality, whose slightest marks of manner or
appearance were worthy of her study; moreover, Rosamond was not without
satisfaction that Mrs. Casaubon should have an opportunity of studying
her. What is the use of being exquisite if you are not seen by the
best judges? and since Rosamond had received the highest compliments at
Sir Godwin Lydgate's, she felt quite confident of the impression she
must make on people of good birth. Dorothea put out her hand with her
usual simple kindness, and looked admiringly at Lydgate's lovely
bride—aware that there was a gentleman standing at a distance, but
seeing him merely as a coated figure at a wide angle. The gentleman
was too much occupied with the presence of the one woman to reflect on
the contrast between the two—a contrast that would certainly have been
striking to a calm observer. They were both tall, and their eyes were
on a level; but imagine Rosamond's infantine blondness and wondrous
crown of hair-plaits, with her pale-blue dress of a fit and fashion so
perfect that no dressmaker could look at it without emotion, a large
embroidered collar which it was to be hoped all beholders would know
the price of, her small hands duly set off with rings, and that
controlled self-consciousness of manner which is the expensive
substitute for simplicity.
"Thank you very much for allowing me to interrupt you," said Dorothea,
immediately. "I am anxious to see Mr. Lydgate, if possible, before I
go home, and I hoped that you might possibly tell me where I could find
him, or even allow me to wait for him, if you expect him soon."
"He is at the New Hospital," said Rosamond; "I am not sure how soon he
will come home. But I can send for him."
"Will you let me go and fetch him?" said Will Ladislaw, coming forward.
He had already taken up his hat before Dorothea entered. She colored
with surprise, but put out her hand with a smile of unmistakable
"I did not know it was you: I had no thought of seeing you here."
"May I go to the Hospital and tell Mr. Lydgate that you wish to see
him?" said Will.
"It would be quicker to send the carriage for him," said Dorothea, "if
you will be kind enough to give the message to the coachman."
Will was moving to the door when Dorothea, whose mind had flashed in an
instant over many connected memories, turned quickly and said, "I will
go myself, thank you. I wish to lose no time before getting home
again. I will drive to the Hospital and see Mr. Lydgate there. Pray
excuse me, Mrs. Lydgate. I am very much obliged to you."
Her mind was evidently arrested by some sudden thought, and she left
the room hardly conscious of what was immediately around her—hardly
conscious that Will opened the door for her and offered her his arm to
lead her to the carriage. She took the arm but said nothing. Will was
feeling rather vexed and miserable, and found nothing to say on his
side. He handed her into the carriage in silence, they said good-by,
and Dorothea drove away.
In the five minutes' drive to the Hospital she had time for some
reflections that were quite new to her. Her decision to go, and her
preoccupation in leaving the room, had come from the sudden sense that
there would be a sort of deception in her voluntarily allowing any
further intercourse between herself and Will which she was unable to
mention to her husband, and already her errand in seeking Lydgate was a
matter of concealment. That was all that had been explicitly in her
mind; but she had been urged also by a vague discomfort. Now that she
was alone in her drive, she heard the notes of the man's voice and the
accompanying piano, which she had not noted much at the time, returning
on her inward sense; and she found herself thinking with some wonder
that Will Ladislaw was passing his time with Mrs. Lydgate in her
husband's absence. And then she could not help remembering that he had
passed some time with her under like circumstances, so why should there
be any unfitness in the fact? But Will was Mr. Casaubon's relative,
and one towards whom she was bound to show kindness. Still there had
been signs which perhaps she ought to have understood as implying that
Mr. Casaubon did not like his cousin's visits during his own absence.
"Perhaps I have been mistaken in many things," said poor Dorothea to
herself, while the tears came rolling and she had to dry them quickly.
She felt confusedly unhappy, and the image of Will which had been so
clear to her before was mysteriously spoiled. But the carriage stopped
at the gate of the Hospital. She was soon walking round the grass
plots with Lydgate, and her feelings recovered the strong bent which
had made her seek for this interview.
Will Ladislaw, meanwhile, was mortified, and knew the reason of it
clearly enough. His chances of meeting Dorothea were rare; and here
for the first time there had come a chance which had set him at a
disadvantage. It was not only, as it had been hitherto, that she was
not supremely occupied with him, but that she had seen him under
circumstances in which he might appear not to be supremely occupied
with her. He felt thrust to a new distance from her, amongst the
circles of Middlemarchers who made no part of her life. But that was
not his fault: of course, since he had taken his lodgings in the town,
he had been making as many acquaintances as he could, his position
requiring that he should know everybody and everything. Lydgate was
really better worth knowing than any one else in the neighborhood, and
he happened to have a wife who was musical and altogether worth calling
upon. Here was the whole history of the situation in which Diana had
descended too unexpectedly on her worshipper. It was mortifying. Will
was conscious that he should not have been at Middlemarch but for
Dorothea; and yet his position there was threatening to divide him from
her with those barriers of habitual sentiment which are more fatal to
the persistence of mutual interest than all the distance between Rome
and Britain. Prejudices about rank and status were easy enough to defy
in the form of a tyrannical letter from Mr. Casaubon; but prejudices,
like odorous bodies, have a double existence both solid and subtle—solid
as the pyramids, subtle as the twentieth echo of an echo, or as
the memory of hyacinths which once scented the darkness. And Will was
of a temperament to feel keenly the presence of subtleties: a man of
clumsier perceptions would not have felt, as he did, that for the first
time some sense of unfitness in perfect freedom with him had sprung up
in Dorothea's mind, and that their silence, as he conducted her to the
carriage, had had a chill in it. Perhaps Casaubon, in his hatred and
jealousy, had been insisting to Dorothea that Will had slid below her
socially. Confound Casaubon!
Will re-entered the drawing-room, took up his hat, and looking
irritated as he advanced towards Mrs. Lydgate, who had seated herself
at her work-table, said—
"It is always fatal to have music or poetry interrupted. May I come
another day and just finish about the rendering of 'Lungi dal caro
"I shall be happy to be taught," said Rosamond. "But I am sure you
admit that the interruption was a very beautiful one. I quite envy
your acquaintance with Mrs. Casaubon. Is she very clever? She looks
as if she were."
"Really, I never thought about it," said Will, sulkily.
"That is just the answer Tertius gave me, when I first asked him if she
were handsome. What is it that you gentlemen are thinking of when you
are with Mrs. Casaubon?"
"Herself," said Will, not indisposed to provoke the charming Mrs.
Lydgate. "When one sees a perfect woman, one never thinks of her
attributes—one is conscious of her presence."
"I shall be jealous when Tertius goes to Lowick," said Rosamond,
dimpling, and speaking with aery lightness. "He will come back and
think nothing of me."
"That does not seem to have been the effect on Lydgate hitherto. Mrs.
Casaubon is too unlike other women for them to be compared with her."
"You are a devout worshipper, I perceive. You often see her, I
"No," said Will, almost pettishly. "Worship is usually a matter of
theory rather than of practice. But I am practising it to excess just
at this moment—I must really tear myself away."
"Pray come again some evening: Mr. Lydgate will like to hear the music,
and I cannot enjoy it so well without him."
When her husband was at home again, Rosamond said, standing in front of
him and holding his coat-collar with both her hands, "Mr. Ladislaw was
here singing with me when Mrs. Casaubon came in. He seemed vexed. Do
you think he disliked her seeing him at our house? Surely your
position is more than equal to his—whatever may be his relation to the
"No, no; it must be something else if he were really vexed, Ladislaw is
a sort of gypsy; he thinks nothing of leather and prunella."
"Music apart, he is not always very agreeable. Do you like him?"
"Yes: I think he is a good fellow: rather miscellaneous and
bric-a-brac, but likable."
"Do you know, I think he adores Mrs. Casaubon."
"Poor devil!" said Lydgate, smiling and pinching his wife's ears.
Rosamond felt herself beginning to know a great deal of the world,
especially in discovering what when she was in her unmarried girlhood
had been inconceivable to her except as a dim tragedy in by-gone
costumes—that women, even after marriage, might make conquests and
enslave men. At that time young ladies in the country, even when
educated at Mrs. Lemon's, read little French literature later than
Racine, and public prints had not cast their present magnificent
illumination over the scandals of life. Still, vanity, with a woman's
whole mind and day to work in, can construct abundantly on slight
hints, especially on such a hint as the possibility of indefinite
conquests. How delightful to make captives from the throne of marriage
with a husband as crown-prince by your side—himself in fact a
subject—while the captives look up forever hopeless, losing their
rest probably, and if their appetite too, so much the better! But
Rosamond's romance turned at present chiefly on her crown-prince, and
it was enough to enjoy his assured subjection. When he said, "Poor
devil!" she asked, with playful curiosity—
"Why, what can a man do when he takes to adoring one of you mermaids?
He only neglects his work and runs up bills."
"I am sure you do not neglect your work. You are always at the
Hospital, or seeing poor patients, or thinking about some doctor's
quarrel; and then at home you always want to pore over your microscope
and phials. Confess you like those things better than me."
"Haven't you ambition enough to wish that your husband should be
something better than a Middlemarch doctor?" said Lydgate, letting his
hands fall on to his wife's shoulders, and looking at her with
affectionate gravity. "I shall make you learn my favorite bit from an
'Why should our pride make such a stir to be
And be forgot? What good is like to this,To do worthy the writing, and to write
Worthy the reading and the worlds delight?'
What I want, Rosy, is to do worthy the writing,—and to write out
myself what I have done. A man must work, to do that, my pet."
"Of course, I wish you to make discoveries: no one could more wish you
to attain a high position in some better place than Middlemarch. You
cannot say that I have ever tried to hinder you from working. But we
cannot live like hermits. You are not discontented with me, Tertius?"
"No, dear, no. I am too entirely contented."
"But what did Mrs. Casaubon want to say to you?"
"Merely to ask about her husband's health. But I think she is going to
be splendid to our New Hospital: I think she will give us two hundred
I would not creep along the coast but steer
Out in mid-sea, by guidance of the stars.
When Dorothea, walking round the laurel-planted plots of the New
Hospital with Lydgate, had learned from him that there were no signs of
change in Mr. Casaubon's bodily condition beyond the mental sign of
anxiety to know the truth about his illness, she was silent for a few
moments, wondering whether she had said or done anything to rouse this
new anxiety. Lydgate, not willing to let slip an opportunity of
furthering a favorite purpose, ventured to say—
"I don't know whether your or Mr.—Casaubon's attention has been drawn
to the needs of our New Hospital. Circumstances have made it seem
rather egotistic in me to urge the subject; but that is not my fault:
it is because there is a fight being made against it by the other
medical men. I think you are generally interested in such things, for
I remember that when I first had the pleasure of seeing you at Tipton
Grange before your marriage, you were asking me some questions about
the way in which the health of the poor was affected by their miserable
"Yes, indeed," said Dorothea, brightening. "I shall be quite grateful
to you if you will tell me how I can help to make things a little
better. Everything of that sort has slipped away from me since I have
been married. I mean," she said, after a moment's hesitation, "that
the people in our village are tolerably comfortable, and my mind has
been too much taken up for me to inquire further. But here—in such a
place as Middlemarch—there must be a great deal to be done."
"There is everything to be done," said Lydgate, with abrupt energy.
"And this Hospital is a capital piece of work, due entirely to Mr.
Bulstrode's exertions, and in a great degree to his money. But one man
can't do everything in a scheme of this sort. Of course he looked
forward to help. And now there's a mean, petty feud set up against the
thing in the town, by certain persons who want to make it a failure."
"What can be their reasons?" said Dorothea, with naive surprise.
"Chiefly Mr. Bulstrode's unpopularity, to begin with. Half the town
would almost take trouble for the sake of thwarting him. In this
stupid world most people never consider that a thing is good to be done
unless it is done by their own set. I had no connection with Bulstrode
before I came here. I look at him quite impartially, and I see that he
has some notions—that he has set things on foot—which I can turn to
good public purpose. If a fair number of the better educated men went
to work with the belief that their observations might contribute to the
reform of medical doctrine and practice, we should soon see a change
for the better. That's my point of view. I hold that by refusing to
work with Mr. Bulstrode I should be turning my back on an opportunity
of making my profession more generally serviceable."
"I quite agree with you," said Dorothea, at once fascinated by the
situation sketched in Lydgate's words. "But what is there against Mr.
Bulstrode? I know that my uncle is friendly with him."
"People don't like his religious tone," said Lydgate, breaking off
"That is all the stronger reason for despising such an opposition,"
said Dorothea, looking at the affairs of Middlemarch by the light of
the great persecutions.
"To put the matter quite fairly, they have other objections to him:—he
is masterful and rather unsociable, and he is concerned with trade,
which has complaints of its own that I know nothing about. But what
has that to do with the question whether it would not be a fine thing
to establish here a more valuable hospital than any they have in the
county? The immediate motive to the opposition, however, is the fact
that Bulstrode has put the medical direction into my hands. Of course
I am glad of that. It gives me an opportunity of doing some good
work,—and I am aware that I have to justify his choice of me. But the
consequence is, that the whole profession in Middlemarch have set
themselves tooth and nail against the Hospital, and not only refuse to
cooperate themselves, but try to blacken the whole affair and hinder
"How very petty!" exclaimed Dorothea, indignantly.
"I suppose one must expect to fight one's way: there is hardly anything
to be done without it. And the ignorance of people about here is
stupendous. I don't lay claim to anything else than having used some
opportunities which have not come within everybody's reach; but there
is no stifling the offence of being young, and a new-comer, and
happening to know something more than the old inhabitants. Still, if I
believe that I can set going a better method of treatment—if I
believe that I can pursue certain observations and inquiries which may
be a lasting benefit to medical practice, I should be a base truckler
if I allowed any consideration of personal comfort to hinder me. And
the course is all the clearer from there being no salary in question to
put my persistence in an equivocal light."
"I am glad you have told me this, Mr. Lydgate," said Dorothea,
cordially. "I feel sure I can help a little. I have some money, and
don't know what to do with it—that is often an uncomfortable thought
to me. I am sure I can spare two hundred a-year for a grand purpose
like this. How happy you must be, to know things that you feel sure
will do great good! I wish I could awake with that knowledge every
morning. There seems to be so much trouble taken that one can hardly
see the good of!"
There was a melancholy cadence in Dorothea's voice as she spoke these
last words. But she presently added, more cheerfully, "Pray come to
Lowick and tell us more of this. I will mention the subject to Mr.
Casaubon. I must hasten home now."
She did mention it that evening, and said that she should like to
subscribe two hundred a-year—she had seven hundred a-year as the
equivalent of her own fortune, settled on her at her marriage. Mr.
Casaubon made no objection beyond a passing remark that the sum might
be disproportionate in relation to other good objects, but when
Dorothea in her ignorance resisted that suggestion, he acquiesced. He
did not care himself about spending money, and was not reluctant to
give it. If he ever felt keenly any question of money it was through
the medium of another passion than the love of material property.
Dorothea told him that she had seen Lydgate, and recited the gist of
her conversation with him about the Hospital. Mr. Casaubon did not
question her further, but he felt sure that she had wished to know what
had passed between Lydgate and himself. "She knows that I know," said
the ever-restless voice within; but that increase of tacit knowledge
only thrust further off any confidence between them. He distrusted her
affection; and what loneliness is more lonely than distrust?
It is the humor of many heads to extol the days of their
forefathers, and declaim against the wickedness of times
present. Which notwithstanding they cannot handsomely do,
without the borrowed help and satire of times past;
condemning the vices of their own times, by the expressions
of vices in times which they commend, which cannot but argue
the community of vice in both. Horace, therefore, Juvenal,
and Persius, were no prophets, although their lines did seem
to indigitate and point at our times.—SIR THOMAS BROWNE:
That opposition to the New Fever Hospital which Lydgate had sketched to
Dorothea was, like other oppositions, to be viewed in many different
lights. He regarded it as a mixture of jealousy and dunderheaded
prejudice. Mr. Bulstrode saw in it not only medical jealousy but a
determination to thwart himself, prompted mainly by a hatred of that
vital religion of which he had striven to be an effectual lay
representative—a hatred which certainly found pretexts apart from
religion such as were only too easy to find in the entanglements of
human action. These might be called the ministerial views. But
oppositions have the illimitable range of objections at command, which
need never stop short at the boundary of knowledge, but can draw
forever on the vasts of ignorance. What the opposition in Middlemarch
said about the New Hospital and its administration had certainly a
great deal of echo in it, for heaven has taken care that everybody
shall not be an originator; but there were differences which
represented every social shade between the polished moderation of Dr.
Minchin and the trenchant assertion of Mrs. Dollop, the landlady of the
Tankard in Slaughter Lane.
Mrs. Dollop became more and more convinced by her own asseveration,
that Dr. Lydgate meant to let the people die in the Hospital, if not to
poison them, for the sake of cutting them up without saying by your
leave or with your leave; for it was a known "fac" that he had wanted
to cut up Mrs. Goby, as respectable a woman as any in Parley Street,
who had money in trust before her marriage—a poor tale for a doctor,
who if he was good for anything should know what was the matter with
you before you died, and not want to pry into your inside after you
were gone. If that was not reason, Mrs. Dollop wished to know what
was; but there was a prevalent feeling in her audience that her opinion
was a bulwark, and that if it were overthrown there would be no limits
to the cutting-up of bodies, as had been well seen in Burke and Hare
with their pitch-plaisters—such a hanging business as that was not
wanted in Middlemarch!
And let it not be supposed that opinion at the Tankard in Slaughter
Lane was unimportant to the medical profession: that old authentic
public-house—the original Tankard, known by the name of Dollop's—was
the resort of a great Benefit Club, which had some months before put to
the vote whether its long-standing medical man, "Doctor Gambit," should
not be cashiered in favor of "this Doctor Lydgate," who was capable of
performing the most astonishing cures, and rescuing people altogether
given up by other practitioners. But the balance had been turned
against Lydgate by two members, who for some private reasons held that
this power of resuscitating persons as good as dead was an equivocal
recommendation, and might interfere with providential favors. In the
course of the year, however, there had been a change in the public
sentiment, of which the unanimity at Dollop's was an index.
A good deal more than a year ago, before anything was known of
Lydgate's skill, the judgments on it had naturally been divided,
depending on a sense of likelihood, situated perhaps in the pit of the
stomach or in the pineal gland, and differing in its verdicts, but not
the less valuable as a guide in the total deficit of evidence.
Patients who had chronic diseases or whose lives had long been worn
threadbare, like old Featherstone's, had been at once inclined to try
him; also, many who did not like paying their doctor's bills, thought
agreeably of opening an account with a new doctor and sending for him
without stint if the children's temper wanted a dose, occasions when
the old practitioners were often crusty; and all persons thus inclined
to employ Lydgate held it likely that he was clever. Some considered
that he might do more than others "where there was liver;"—at least
there would be no harm in getting a few bottles of "stuff" from him,
since if these proved useless it would still be possible to return to
the Purifying Pills, which kept you alive if they did not remove the
yellowness. But these were people of minor importance. Good
Middlemarch families were of course not going to change their doctor
without reason shown; and everybody who had employed Mr. Peacock did
not feel obliged to accept a new man merely in the character of his
successor, objecting that he was "not likely to be equal to Peacock."
But Lydgate had not been long in the town before there were particulars
enough reported of him to breed much more specific expectations and to
intensify differences into partisanship; some of the particulars being
of that impressive order of which the significance is entirely hidden,
like a statistical amount without a standard of comparison, but with a
note of exclamation at the end. The cubic feet of oxygen yearly
swallowed by a full-grown man—what a shudder they might have created
in some Middlemarch circles! "Oxygen! nobody knows what that may
be—is it any wonder the cholera has got to Dantzic? And yet there are
people who say quarantine is no good!"
One of the facts quickly rumored was that Lydgate did not dispense
drugs. This was offensive both to the physicians whose exclusive
distinction seemed infringed on, and to the surgeon-apothecaries with
whom he ranged himself; and only a little while before, they might have
counted on having the law on their side against a man who without
calling himself a London-made M.D. dared to ask for pay except as a
charge on drugs. But Lydgate had not been experienced enough to
foresee that his new course would be even more offensive to the laity;
and to Mr. Mawmsey, an important grocer in the Top Market, who, though
not one of his patients, questioned him in an affable manner on the
subject, he was injudicious enough to give a hasty popular explanation
of his reasons, pointing out to Mr. Mawmsey that it must lower the
character of practitioners, and be a constant injury to the public, if
their only mode of getting paid for their work was by their making out
long bills for draughts, boluses, and mixtures.
"It is in that way that hard-working medical men may come to be almost
as mischievous as quacks," said Lydgate, rather thoughtlessly. "To get
their own bread they must overdose the king's lieges; and that's a bad
sort of treason, Mr. Mawmsey—undermines the constitution in a fatal
Mr. Mawmsey was not only an overseer (it was about a question of
outdoor pay that he was having an interview with Lydgate), he was also
asthmatic and had an increasing family: thus, from a medical point of
view, as well as from his own, he was an important man; indeed, an
exceptional grocer, whose hair was arranged in a flame-like pyramid,
and whose retail deference was of the cordial, encouraging
kind—jocosely complimentary, and with a certain considerate abstinence
from letting out the full force of his mind. It was Mr. Mawmsey's
friendly jocoseness in questioning him which had set the tone of
Lydgate's reply. But let the wise be warned against too great
readiness at explanation: it multiplies the sources of mistake,
lengthening the sum for reckoners sure to go wrong.
Lydgate smiled as he ended his speech, putting his foot into the
stirrup, and Mr. Mawmsey laughed more than he would have done if he had
known who the king's lieges were, giving his "Good morning, sir,
good-morning, sir," with the air of one who saw everything clearly
enough. But in truth his views were perturbed. For years he had been
paying bills with strictly made items, so that for every half-crown and
eighteen-pence he was certain something measurable had been delivered.
He had done this with satisfaction, including it among his
responsibilities as a husband and father, and regarding a longer bill
than usual as a dignity worth mentioning. Moreover, in addition to the
massive benefit of the drugs to "self and family," he had enjoyed the
pleasure of forming an acute judgment as to their immediate effects, so
as to give an intelligent statement for the guidance of Mr. Gambit—a
practitioner just a little lower in status than Wrench or Toller, and
especially esteemed as an accoucheur, of whose ability Mr. Mawmsey had
the poorest opinion on all other points, but in doctoring, he was wont
to say in an undertone, he placed Gambit above any of them.
Here were deeper reasons than the superficial talk of a new man, which
appeared still flimsier in the drawing-room over the shop, when they
were recited to Mrs. Mawmsey, a woman accustomed to be made much of as
a fertile mother,—generally under attendance more or less frequent
from Mr. Gambit, and occasionally having attacks which required Dr.
"Does this Mr. Lydgate mean to say there is no use in taking medicine?"
said Mrs. Mawmsey, who was slightly given to drawling. "I should like
him to tell me how I could bear up at Fair time, if I didn't take
strengthening medicine for a month beforehand. Think of what I have to
provide for calling customers, my dear!"—here Mrs. Mawmsey turned to
an intimate female friend who sat by—"a large veal pie—a stuffed
fillet—a round of beef—ham, tongue, et cetera, et cetera! But what
keeps me up best is the pink mixture, not the brown. I wonder, Mr.
Mawmsey, with your experience, you could have patience to listen. I
should have told him at once that I knew a little better than that."
"No, no, no," said Mr. Mawmsey; "I was not going to tell him my
opinion. Hear everything and judge for yourself is my motto. But he
didn't know who he was talking to. I was not to be turned on his
finger. People often pretend to tell me things, when they might as
well say, 'Mawmsey, you're a fool.' But I smile at it: I humor
everybody's weak place. If physic had done harm to self and family, I
should have found it out by this time."
The next day Mr. Gambit was told that Lydgate went about saying physic
was of no use.
"Indeed!" said he, lifting his eyebrows with cautious surprise. (He
was a stout husky man with a large ring on his fourth finger.) "How
will he cure his patients, then?"
"That is what I say," returned Mrs. Mawmsey, who habitually gave weight
to her speech by loading her pronouns. "Does he suppose that people
will pay him only to come and sit with them and go away again?"
Mrs. Mawmsey had had a great deal of sitting from Mr. Gambit, including
very full accounts of his own habits of body and other affairs; but of
course he knew there was no innuendo in her remark, since his spare
time and personal narrative had never been charged for. So he replied,
"Well, Lydgate is a good-looking young fellow, you know."
"Not one that I would employ," said Mrs. Mawmsey. "Others may do as
Hence Mr. Gambit could go away from the chief grocer's without fear of
rivalry, but not without a sense that Lydgate was one of those
hypocrites who try to discredit others by advertising their own
honesty, and that it might be worth some people's while to show him up.
Mr. Gambit, however, had a satisfactory practice, much pervaded by the
smells of retail trading which suggested the reduction of cash payments
to a balance. And he did not think it worth his while to show Lydgate
up until he knew how. He had not indeed great resources of education,
and had had to work his own way against a good deal of professional
contempt; but he made none the worse accoucheur for calling the
breathing apparatus "longs."
Other medical men felt themselves more capable. Mr. Toller shared the
highest practice in the town and belonged to an old Middlemarch family:
there were Tollers in the law and everything else above the line of
retail trade. Unlike our irascible friend Wrench, he had the easiest
way in the world of taking things which might be supposed to annoy him,
being a well-bred, quietly facetious man, who kept a good house, was
very fond of a little sporting when he could get it, very friendly with
Mr. Hawley, and hostile to Mr. Bulstrode. It may seem odd that with
such pleasant habits he should have been given to the heroic treatment,
bleeding and blistering and starving his patients, with a dispassionate
disregard to his personal example; but the incongruity favored the
opinion of his ability among his patients, who commonly observed that
Mr. Toller had lazy manners, but his treatment was as active as you
could desire: no man, said they, carried more seriousness into his
profession: he was a little slow in coming, but when he came, he did
something. He was a great favorite in his own circle, and whatever he
implied to any one's disadvantage told doubly from his careless
He naturally got tired of smiling and saying, "Ah!" when he was told
that Mr. Peacock's successor did not mean to dispense medicines; and
Mr. Hackbutt one day mentioning it over the wine at a dinner-party, Mr.
Toller said, laughingly, "Dibbitts will get rid of his stale drugs,
then. I'm fond of little Dibbitts—I'm glad he's in luck."
"I see your meaning, Toller," said Mr. Hackbutt, "and I am entirely of
your opinion. I shall take an opportunity of expressing myself to that
effect. A medical man should be responsible for the quality of the
drugs consumed by his patients. That is the rationale of the system of
charging which has hitherto obtained; and nothing is more offensive
than this ostentation of reform, where there is no real amelioration."
"Ostentation, Hackbutt?" said Mr. Toller, ironically. "I don't see
that. A man can't very well be ostentatious of what nobody believes
in. There's no reform in the matter: the question is, whether the
profit on the drugs is paid to the medical man by the druggist or by
the patient, and whether there shall be extra pay under the name of
"Ah, to be sure; one of your damned new versions of old humbug," said
Mr. Hawley, passing the decanter to Mr. Wrench.
Mr. Wrench, generally abstemious, often drank wine rather freely at a
party, getting the more irritable in consequence.
"As to humbug, Hawley," he said, "that's a word easy to fling about.
But what I contend against is the way medical men are fouling their own
nest, and setting up a cry about the country as if a general
practitioner who dispenses drugs couldn't be a gentleman. I throw back
the imputation with scorn. I say, the most ungentlemanly trick a man
can be guilty of is to come among the members of his profession with
innovations which are a libel on their time-honored procedure. That is
my opinion, and I am ready to maintain it against any one who
contradicts me." Mr. Wrench's voice had become exceedingly sharp.
"I can't oblige you there, Wrench," said Mr. Hawley, thrusting his
hands into his trouser-pockets.
"My dear fellow," said Mr. Toller, striking in pacifically, and looking
at Mr. Wrench, "the physicians have their toes trodden on more than we
have. If you come to dignity it is a question for Minchin and Sprague."
"Does medical jurisprudence provide nothing against these
infringements?" said Mr. Hackbutt, with a disinterested desire to offer
his lights. "How does the law stand, eh, Hawley?"
"Nothing to be done there," said Mr. Hawley. "I looked into it for
Sprague. You'd only break your nose against a damned judge's decision."
"Pooh! no need of law," said Mr. Toller. "So far as practice is
concerned the attempt is an absurdity. No patient will like
it—certainly not Peacock's, who have been used to depletion. Pass the
Mr. Toller's prediction was partly verified. If Mr. and Mrs. Mawmsey,
who had no idea of employing Lydgate, were made uneasy by his supposed
declaration against drugs, it was inevitable that those who called him
in should watch a little anxiously to see whether he did "use all the
means he might use" in the case. Even good Mr. Powderell, who in his
constant charity of interpretation was inclined to esteem Lydgate the
more for what seemed a conscientious pursuit of a better plan, had his
mind disturbed with doubts during his wife's attack of erysipelas, and
could not abstain from mentioning to Lydgate that Mr. Peacock on a
similar occasion had administered a series of boluses which were not
otherwise definable than by their remarkable effect in bringing Mrs.
Powderell round before Michaelmas from an illness which had begun in a
remarkably hot August. At last, indeed, in the conflict between his
desire not to hurt Lydgate and his anxiety that no "means" should be
lacking, he induced his wife privately to take Widgeon's Purifying
Pills, an esteemed Middlemarch medicine, which arrested every disease
at the fountain by setting to work at once upon the blood. This
co-operative measure was not to be mentioned to Lydgate, and Mr.
Powderell himself had no certain reliance on it, only hoping that it
might be attended with a blessing.
But in this doubtful stage of Lydgate's introduction he was helped by
what we mortals rashly call good fortune. I suppose no doctor ever
came newly to a place without making cures that surprised somebody—cures
which may be called fortune's testimonials, and deserve as much
credit as the written or printed kind. Various patients got well while
Lydgate was attending them, some even of dangerous illnesses; and it
was remarked that the new doctor with his new ways had at least the
merit of bringing people back from the brink of death. The trash
talked on such occasions was the more vexatious to Lydgate, because it
gave precisely the sort of prestige which an incompetent and
unscrupulous man would desire, and was sure to be imputed to him by the
simmering dislike of the other medical men as an encouragement on his
own part of ignorant puffing. But even his proud outspokenness was
checked by the discernment that it was as useless to fight against the
interpretations of ignorance as to whip the fog; and "good fortune"
insisted on using those interpretations.
Mrs. Larcher having just become charitably concerned about alarming
symptoms in her charwoman, when Dr. Minchin called, asked him to see
her then and there, and to give her a certificate for the Infirmary;
whereupon after examination he wrote a statement of the case as one of
tumor, and recommended the bearer Nancy Nash as an out-patient. Nancy,
calling at home on her way to the Infirmary, allowed the stay maker and
his wife, in whose attic she lodged, to read Dr. Minchin's paper, and
by this means became a subject of compassionate conversation in the
neighboring shops of Churchyard Lane as being afflicted with a tumor at
first declared to be as large and hard as a duck's egg, but later in
the day to be about the size of "your fist." Most hearers agreed that
it would have to be cut out, but one had known of oil and another of
"squitchineal" as adequate to soften and reduce any lump in the body
when taken enough of into the inside—the oil by gradually "soopling,"
the squitchineal by eating away.
Meanwhile when Nancy presented herself at the Infirmary, it happened to
be one of Lydgate's days there. After questioning and examining her,
Lydgate said to the house-surgeon in an undertone, "It's not tumor:
it's cramp." He ordered her a blister and some steel mixture, and told
her to go home and rest, giving her at the same time a note to Mrs.
Larcher, who, she said, was her best employer, to testify that she was
in need of good food.
But by-and-by Nancy, in her attic, became portentously worse, the
supposed tumor having indeed given way to the blister, but only
wandered to another region with angrier pain. The staymaker's wife
went to fetch Lydgate, and he continued for a fortnight to attend Nancy
in her own home, until under his treatment she got quite well and went
to work again. But the case continued to be described as one of tumor
in Churchyard Lane and other streets—nay, by Mrs. Larcher also; for
when Lydgate's remarkable cure was mentioned to Dr. Minchin, he
naturally did not like to say, "The case was not one of tumor, and I
was mistaken in describing it as such," but answered, "Indeed! ah! I
saw it was a surgical case, not of a fatal kind." He had been inwardly
annoyed, however, when he had asked at the Infirmary about the woman he
had recommended two days before, to hear from the house-surgeon, a
youngster who was not sorry to vex Minchin with impunity, exactly what
had occurred: he privately pronounced that it was indecent in a general
practitioner to contradict a physician's diagnosis in that open manner,
and afterwards agreed with Wrench that Lydgate was disagreeably
inattentive to etiquette. Lydgate did not make the affair a ground for
valuing himself or (very particularly) despising Minchin, such
rectification of misjudgments often happening among men of equal
qualifications. But report took up this amazing case of tumor, not
clearly distinguished from cancer, and considered the more awful for
being of the wandering sort; till much prejudice against Lydgate's
method as to drugs was overcome by the proof of his marvellous skill in
the speedy restoration of Nancy Nash after she had been rolling and
rolling in agonies from the presence of a tumor both hard and
obstinate, but nevertheless compelled to yield.
How could Lydgate help himself? It is offensive to tell a lady when
she is expressing her amazement at your skill, that she is altogether
mistaken and rather foolish in her amazement. And to have entered into
the nature of diseases would only have added to his breaches of medical
propriety. Thus he had to wince under a promise of success given by
that ignorant praise which misses every valid quality.
In the case of a more conspicuous patient, Mr. Borthrop Trumbull,
Lydgate was conscious of having shown himself something better than an
every-day doctor, though here too it was an equivocal advantage that he
won. The eloquent auctioneer was seized with pneumonia, and having
been a patient of Mr. Peacock's, sent for Lydgate, whom he had
expressed his intention to patronize. Mr Trumbull was a robust man, a
good subject for trying the expectant theory upon—watching the course
of an interesting disease when left as much as possible to itself, so
that the stages might be noted for future guidance; and from the air
with which he described his sensations Lydgate surmised that he would
like to be taken into his medical man's confidence, and be represented
as a partner in his own cure. The auctioneer heard, without much
surprise, that his was a constitution which (always with due watching)
might be left to itself, so as to offer a beautiful example of a
disease with all its phases seen in clear delineation, and that he
probably had the rare strength of mind voluntarily to become the test
of a rational procedure, and thus make the disorder of his pulmonary
functions a general benefit to society.
Mr. Trumbull acquiesced at once, and entered strongly into the view
that an illness of his was no ordinary occasion for medical science.
"Never fear, sir; you are not speaking to one who is altogether
ignorant of the vis medicatrix," said he, with his usual superiority of
expression, made rather pathetic by difficulty of breathing. And he
went without shrinking through his abstinence from drugs, much
sustained by application of the thermometer which implied the
importance of his temperature, by the sense that he furnished objects
for the microscope, and by learning many new words which seemed suited
to the dignity of his secretions. For Lydgate was acute enough to
indulge him with a little technical talk.
It may be imagined that Mr. Trumbull rose from his couch with a
disposition to speak of an illness in which he had manifested the
strength of his mind as well as constitution; and he was not backward
in awarding credit to the medical man who had discerned the quality of
patient he had to deal with. The auctioneer was not an ungenerous man,
and liked to give others their due, feeling that he could afford it.
He had caught the words "expectant method," and rang chimes on this and
other learned phrases to accompany the assurance that Lydgate "knew a
thing or two more than the rest of the doctors—was far better versed
in the secrets of his profession than the majority of his compeers."
This had happened before the affair of Fred Vincy's illness had given
to Mr. Wrench's enmity towards Lydgate more definite personal ground.
The new-comer already threatened to be a nuisance in the shape of
rivalry, and was certainly a nuisance in the shape of practical
criticism or reflections on his hard-driven elders, who had had
something else to do than to busy themselves with untried notions. His
practice had spread in one or two quarters, and from the first the
report of his high family had led to his being pretty generally
invited, so that the other medical men had to meet him at dinner in the
best houses; and having to meet a man whom you dislike is not observed
always to end in a mutual attachment. There was hardly ever so much
unanimity among them as in the opinion that Lydgate was an arrogant
young fellow, and yet ready for the sake of ultimately predominating to
show a crawling subservience to Bulstrode. That Mr. Farebrother, whose
name was a chief flag of the anti-Bulstrode party, always defended
Lydgate and made a friend of him, was referred to Farebrother's
unaccountable way of fighting on both sides.
Here was plenty of preparation for the outburst of professional disgust
at the announcement of the laws Mr. Bulstrode was laying down for the
direction of the New Hospital, which were the more exasperating because
there was no present possibility of interfering with his will and
pleasure, everybody except Lord Medlicote having refused help towards
the building, on the ground that they preferred giving to the Old
Infirmary. Mr. Bulstrode met all the expenses, and had ceased to be
sorry that he was purchasing the right to carry out his notions of
improvement without hindrance from prejudiced coadjutors; but he had
had to spend large sums, and the building had lingered. Caleb Garth
had undertaken it, had failed during its progress, and before the
interior fittings were begun had retired from the management of the
business; and when referring to the Hospital he often said that however
Bulstrode might ring if you tried him, he liked good solid carpentry
and masonry, and had a notion both of drains and chimneys. In fact,
the Hospital had become an object of intense interest to Bulstrode, and
he would willingly have continued to spare a large yearly sum that he
might rule it dictatorially without any Board; but he had another
favorite object which also required money for its accomplishment: he
wished to buy some land in the neighborhood of Middlemarch, and
therefore he wished to get considerable contributions towards
maintaining the Hospital. Meanwhile he framed his plan of management.
The Hospital was to be reserved for fever in all its forms; Lydgate was
to be chief medical superintendent, that he might have free authority
to pursue all comparative investigations which his studies,
particularly in Paris, had shown him the importance of, the other
medical visitors having a consultative influence, but no power to
contravene Lydgate's ultimate decisions; and the general management was
to be lodged exclusively in the hands of five directors associated with
Mr. Bulstrode, who were to have votes in the ratio of their
contributions, the Board itself filling up any vacancy in its numbers,
and no mob of small contributors being admitted to a share of
There was an immediate refusal on the part of every medical man in the
town to become a visitor at the Fever Hospital.
"Very well," said Lydgate to Mr. Bulstrode, "we have a capital
house-surgeon and dispenser, a clear-headed, neat-handed fellow; we'll
get Webbe from Crabsley, as good a country practitioner as any of them,
to come over twice a-week, and in case of any exceptional operation,
Protheroe will come from Brassing. I must work the harder, that's all,
and I have given up my post at the Infirmary. The plan will flourish
in spite of them, and then they'll be glad to come in. Things can't
last as they are: there must be all sorts of reform soon, and then
young fellows may be glad to come and study here." Lydgate was in high
"I shall not flinch, you may depend upon it, Mr. Lydgate," said Mr.
Bulstrode. "While I see you carrying out high intentions with vigor,
you shall have my unfailing support. And I have humble confidence that
the blessing which has hitherto attended my efforts against the spirit
of evil in this town will not be withdrawn. Suitable directors to
assist me I have no doubt of securing. Mr. Brooke of Tipton has
already given me his concurrence, and a pledge to contribute yearly: he
has not specified the sum—probably not a great one. But he will be a
useful member of the board."
A useful member was perhaps to be defined as one who would originate
nothing, and always vote with Mr. Bulstrode.
The medical aversion to Lydgate was hardly disguised now. Neither Dr.
Sprague nor Dr. Minchin said that he disliked Lydgate's knowledge, or
his disposition to improve treatment: what they disliked was his
arrogance, which nobody felt to be altogether deniable. They implied
that he was insolent, pretentious, and given to that reckless
innovation for the sake of noise and show which was the essence of the
The word charlatan once thrown on the air could not be let drop. In
those days the world was agitated about the wondrous doings of Mr. St.
John Long, "noblemen and gentlemen" attesting his extraction of a fluid
like mercury from the temples of a patient.
Mr. Toller remarked one day, smilingly, to Mrs. Taft, that "Bulstrode
had found a man to suit him in Lydgate; a charlatan in religion is sure
to like other sorts of charlatans."
"Yes, indeed, I can imagine," said Mrs. Taft, keeping the number of
thirty stitches carefully in her mind all the while; "there are so many
of that sort. I remember Mr. Cheshire, with his irons, trying to make
people straight when the Almighty had made them crooked."
"No, no," said Mr. Toller, "Cheshire was all right—all fair and above
board. But there's St. John Long—that's the kind of fellow we call a
charlatan, advertising cures in ways nobody knows anything about: a
fellow who wants to make a noise by pretending to go deeper than other
people. The other day he was pretending to tap a man's brain and get
quicksilver out of it."
"Good gracious! what dreadful trifling with people's constitutions!"
said Mrs. Taft.
After this, it came to be held in various quarters that Lydgate played
even with respectable constitutions for his own purposes, and how much
more likely that in his flighty experimenting he should make sixes and
sevens of hospital patients. Especially it was to be expected, as the
landlady of the Tankard had said, that he would recklessly cut up their
dead bodies. For Lydgate having attended Mrs. Goby, who died
apparently of a heart-disease not very clearly expressed in the
symptoms, too daringly asked leave of her relatives to open the body,
and thus gave an offence quickly spreading beyond Parley Street, where
that lady had long resided on an income such as made this association
of her body with the victims of Burke and Hare a flagrant insult to her
Affairs were in this stage when Lydgate opened the subject of the
Hospital to Dorothea. We see that he was bearing enmity and silly
misconception with much spirit, aware that they were partly created by
his good share of success.
"They will not drive me away," he said, talking confidentially in Mr.
Farebrother's study. "I have got a good opportunity here, for the ends
I care most about; and I am pretty sure to get income enough for our
wants. By-and-by I shall go on as quietly as possible: I have no
seductions now away from home and work. And I am more and more
convinced that it will be possible to demonstrate the homogeneous
origin of all the tissues. Raspail and others are on the same track,
and I have been losing time."
"I have no power of prophecy there," said Mr. Farebrother, who had been
puffing at his pipe thoughtfully while Lydgate talked; "but as to the
hostility in the town, you'll weather it if you are prudent."
"How am I to be prudent?" said Lydgate, "I just do what comes before me
to do. I can't help people's ignorance and spite, any more than
Vesalius could. It isn't possible to square one's conduct to silly
conclusions which nobody can foresee."
"Quite true; I didn't mean that. I meant only two things. One is,
keep yourself as separable from Bulstrode as you can: of course, you
can go on doing good work of your own by his help; but don't get tied.
Perhaps it seems like personal feeling in me to say so—and there's a
good deal of that, I own—but personal feeling is not always in the
wrong if you boil it down to the impressions which make it simply an
"Bulstrode is nothing to me," said Lydgate, carelessly, "except on
public grounds. As to getting very closely united to him, I am not
fond enough of him for that. But what was the other thing you meant?"
said Lydgate, who was nursing his leg as comfortably as possible, and
feeling in no great need of advice.
"Why, this. Take care—experto crede—take care not to get hampered
about money matters. I know, by a word you let fall one day, that you
don't like my playing at cards so much for money. You are right enough
there. But try and keep clear of wanting small sums that you haven't
got. I am perhaps talking rather superfluously; but a man likes to
assume superiority over himself, by holding up his bad example and
sermonizing on it."
Lydgate took Mr. Farebrother's hints very cordially, though he would
hardly have borne them from another man. He could not help remembering
that he had lately made some debts, but these had seemed inevitable,
and he had no intention now to do more than keep house in a simple way.
The furniture for which he owed would not want renewing; nor even the
stock of wine for a long while.
Many thoughts cheered him at that time—and justly. A man conscious of
enthusiasm for worthy aims is sustained under petty hostilities by the
memory of great workers who had to fight their way not without wounds,
and who hover in his mind as patron saints, invisibly helping. At
home, that same evening when he had been chatting with Mr. Farebrother,
he had his long legs stretched on the sofa, his head thrown back, and
his hands clasped behind it according to his favorite ruminating
attitude, while Rosamond sat at the piano, and played one tune after
another, of which her husband only knew (like the emotional elephant he
was!) that they fell in with his mood as if they had been melodious
There was something very fine in Lydgate's look just then, and any one
might have been encouraged to bet on his achievement. In his dark eyes
and on his mouth and brow there was that placidity which comes from the
fulness of contemplative thought—the mind not searching, but
beholding, and the glance seeming to be filled with what is behind it.
Presently Rosamond left the piano and seated herself on a chair close
to the sofa and opposite her husband's face.
"Is that enough music for you, my lord?" she said, folding her hands
before her and putting on a little air of meekness.
"Yes, dear, if you are tired," said Lydgate, gently, turning his eyes
and resting them on her, but not otherwise moving. Rosamond's presence
at that moment was perhaps no more than a spoonful brought to the lake,
and her woman's instinct in this matter was not dull.
"What is absorbing you?" she said, leaning forward and bringing her
face nearer to his.
He moved his hands and placed them gently behind her shoulders.
"I am thinking of a great fellow, who was about as old as I am three
hundred years ago, and had already begun a new era in anatomy."
"I can't guess," said Rosamond, shaking her head. "We used to play at
guessing historical characters at Mrs. Lemon's, but not anatomists."
"I'll tell you. His name was Vesalius. And the only way he could get
to know anatomy as he did, was by going to snatch bodies at night, from
graveyards and places of execution."
"Oh!" said Rosamond, with a look of disgust on her pretty face, "I am
very glad you are not Vesalius. I should have thought he might find
some less horrible way than that."
"No, he couldn't," said Lydgate, going on too earnestly to take much
notice of her answer. "He could only get a complete skeleton by
snatching the whitened bones of a criminal from the gallows, and
burying them, and fetching them away by bits secretly, in the dead of
"I hope he is not one of your great heroes," said Rosamond, half
playfully, half anxiously, "else I shall have you getting up in the
night to go to St. Peter's churchyard. You know how angry you told me
the people were about Mrs. Goby. You have enemies enough already."
"So had Vesalius, Rosy. No wonder the medical fogies in Middlemarch
are jealous, when some of the greatest doctors living were fierce upon
Vesalius because they had believed in Galen, and he showed that Galen
was wrong. They called him a liar and a poisonous monster. But the
facts of the human frame were on his side; and so he got the better of
"And what happened to him afterwards?" said Rosamond, with some
"Oh, he had a good deal of fighting to the last. And they did
exasperate him enough at one time to make him burn a good deal of his
work. Then he got shipwrecked just as he was coming from Jerusalem to
take a great chair at Padua. He died rather miserably."
There was a moment's pause before Rosamond said, "Do you know, Tertius,
I often wish you had not been a medical man."
"Nay, Rosy, don't say that," said Lydgate, drawing her closer to him.
"That is like saying you wish you had married another man."
"Not at all; you are clever enough for anything: you might easily have
been something else. And your cousins at Quallingham all think that
you have sunk below them in your choice of a profession."
"The cousins at Quallingham may go to the devil!" said Lydgate, with
scorn. "It was like their impudence if they said anything of the sort
"Still," said Rosamond, "I do not think it is a nice profession,
dear." We know that she had much quiet perseverance in her opinion.
"It is the grandest profession in the world, Rosamond," said Lydgate,
gravely. "And to say that you love me without loving the medical man
in me, is the same sort of thing as to say that you like eating a peach
but don't like its flavor. Don't say that again, dear, it pains me."
"Very well, Doctor Grave-face," said Rosy, dimpling, "I will declare in
future that I dote on skeletons, and body-snatchers, and bits of things
in phials, and quarrels with everybody, that end in your dying
"No, no, not so bad as that," said Lydgate, giving up remonstrance and
petting her resignedly.
Pues no podemos haber aquello que queremos, queramos
aquello que podremos.
Since we cannot get what we like, let us like
what we can get.—Spanish Proverb.
While Lydgate, safely married and with the Hospital under his command,
felt himself struggling for Medical Reform against Middlemarch,
Middlemarch was becoming more and more conscious of the national
struggle for another kind of Reform.
By the time that Lord John Russell's measure was being debated in the
House of Commons, there was a new political animation in Middlemarch,
and a new definition of parties which might show a decided change of
balance if a new election came. And there were some who already
predicted this event, declaring that a Reform Bill would never be
carried by the actual Parliament. This was what Will Ladislaw dwelt on
to Mr. Brooke as a reason for congratulation that he had not yet tried
his strength at the hustings.
"Things will grow and ripen as if it were a comet year," said Will.
"The public temper will soon get to a cometary heat, now the question
of Reform has set in. There is likely to be another election before
long, and by that time Middlemarch will have got more ideas into its
head. What we have to work at now is the 'Pioneer' and political
"Quite right, Ladislaw; we shall make a new thing of opinion here,"
said Mr. Brooke. "Only I want to keep myself independent about Reform,
you know; I don't want to go too far. I want to take up
Wilberforce's and Romilly's line, you know, and work at Negro
Emancipation, Criminal Law—that kind of thing. But of course I should
"If you go in for the principle of Reform, you must be prepared to take
what the situation offers," said Will. "If everybody pulled for his
own bit against everybody else, the whole question would go to tatters."
"Yes, yes, I agree with you—I quite take that point of view. I should
put it in that light. I should support Grey, you know. But I don't
want to change the balance of the constitution, and I don't think Grey
"But that is what the country wants," said Will. "Else there would be
no meaning in political unions or any other movement that knows what
it's about. It wants to have a House of Commons which is not weighted
with nominees of the landed class, but with representatives of the
other interests. And as to contending for a reform short of that, it
is like asking for a bit of an avalanche which has already begun to
"That is fine, Ladislaw: that is the way to put it. Write that down,
now. We must begin to get documents about the feeling of the country,
as well as the machine-breaking and general distress."
"As to documents," said Will, "a two-inch card will hold plenty. A few
rows of figures are enough to deduce misery from, and a few more will
show the rate at which the political determination of the people is
"Good: draw that out a little more at length, Ladislaw. That is an
idea, now: write it out in the 'Pioneer.' Put the figures and deduce
the misery, you know; and put the other figures and deduce—and so on.
You have a way of putting things. Burke, now:—when I think of Burke,
I can't help wishing somebody had a pocket-borough to give you,
Ladislaw. You'd never get elected, you know. And we shall always want
talent in the House: reform as we will, we shall always want talent.
That avalanche and the thunder, now, was really a little like Burke. I
want that sort of thing—not ideas, you know, but a way of putting
"Pocket-boroughs would be a fine thing," said Ladislaw, "if they were
always in the right pocket, and there were always a Burke at hand."
Will was not displeased with that complimentary comparison, even from
Mr. Brooke; for it is a little too trying to human flesh to be
conscious of expressing one's self better than others and never to have
it noticed, and in the general dearth of admiration for the right
thing, even a chance bray of applause falling exactly in time is rather
fortifying. Will felt that his literary refinements were usually
beyond the limits of Middlemarch perception; nevertheless, he was
beginning thoroughly to like the work of which when he began he had
said to himself rather languidly, "Why not?"—and he studied the
political situation with as ardent an interest as he had ever given to
poetic metres or mediaevalism. It is undeniable that but for the
desire to be where Dorothea was, and perhaps the want of knowing what
else to do, Will would not at this time have been meditating on the
needs of the English people or criticising English statesmanship: he
would probably have been rambling in Italy sketching plans for several
dramas, trying prose and finding it too jejune, trying verse and
finding it too artificial, beginning to copy "bits" from old pictures,
leaving off because they were "no good," and observing that, after all,
self-culture was the principal point; while in politics he would have
been sympathizing warmly with liberty and progress in general. Our
sense of duty must often wait for some work which shall take the place
of dilettanteism and make us feel that the quality of our action is not
a matter of indifference.
Ladislaw had now accepted his bit of work, though it was not that
indeterminate loftiest thing which he had once dreamed of as alone
worthy of continuous effort. His nature warmed easily in the presence
of subjects which were visibly mixed with life and action, and the
easily stirred rebellion in him helped the glow of public spirit. In
spite of Mr. Casaubon and the banishment from Lowick, he was rather
happy; getting a great deal of fresh knowledge in a vivid way and for
practical purposes, and making the "Pioneer" celebrated as far as
Brassing (never mind the smallness of the area; the writing was not
worse than much that reaches the four corners of the earth).
Mr. Brooke was occasionally irritating; but Will's impatience was
relieved by the division of his time between visits to the Grange and
retreats to his Middlemarch lodgings, which gave variety to his life.
"Shift the pegs a little," he said to himself, "and Mr. Brooke might be
in the Cabinet, while I was Under-Secretary. That is the common order
of things: the little waves make the large ones and are of the same
pattern. I am better here than in the sort of life Mr. Casaubon would
have trained me for, where the doing would be all laid down by a
precedent too rigid for me to react upon. I don't care for prestige or
As Lydgate had said of him, he was a sort of gypsy, rather enjoying the
sense of belonging to no class; he had a feeling of romance in his
position, and a pleasant consciousness of creating a little surprise
wherever he went. That sort of enjoyment had been disturbed when he
had felt some new distance between himself and Dorothea in their
accidental meeting at Lydgate's, and his irritation had gone out
towards Mr. Casaubon, who had declared beforehand that Will would lose
caste. "I never had any caste," he would have said, if that prophecy
had been uttered to him, and the quick blood would have come and gone
like breath in his transparent skin. But it is one thing to like
defiance, and another thing to like its consequences.
Meanwhile, the town opinion about the new editor of the "Pioneer" was
tending to confirm Mr. Casaubon's view. Will's relationship in that
distinguished quarter did not, like Lydgate's high connections, serve
as an advantageous introduction: if it was rumored that young Ladislaw
was Mr. Casaubon's nephew or cousin, it was also rumored that "Mr.
Casaubon would have nothing to do with him."
"Brooke has taken him up," said Mr. Hawley, "because that is what no
man in his senses could have expected. Casaubon has devilish good
reasons, you may be sure, for turning the cold shoulder on a young
fellow whose bringing-up he paid for. Just like Brooke—one of those
fellows who would praise a cat to sell a horse."
And some oddities of Will's, more or less poetical, appeared to support
Mr. Keck, the editor of the "Trumpet," in asserting that Ladislaw, if
the truth were known, was not only a Polish emissary but crack-brained,
which accounted for the preternatural quickness and glibness of his
speech when he got on to a platform—as he did whenever he had an
opportunity, speaking with a facility which cast reflections on solid
Englishmen generally. It was disgusting to Keck to see a strip of a
fellow, with light curls round his head, get up and speechify by the
hour against institutions "which had existed when he was in his
cradle." And in a leading article of the "Trumpet," Keck characterized
Ladislaw's speech at a Reform meeting as "the violence of an
energumen—a miserable effort to shroud in the brilliancy of fireworks
the daring of irresponsible statements and the poverty of a knowledge
which was of the cheapest and most recent description."
"That was a rattling article yesterday, Keck," said Dr. Sprague, with
sarcastic intentions. "But what is an energumen?"
"Oh, a term that came up in the French Revolution," said Keck.
This dangerous aspect of Ladislaw was strangely contrasted with other
habits which became matter of remark. He had a fondness, half
artistic, half affectionate, for little children—the smaller they were
on tolerably active legs, and the funnier their clothing, the better
Will liked to surprise and please them. We know that in Rome he was
given to ramble about among the poor people, and the taste did not quit
him in Middlemarch.
He had somehow picked up a troop of droll children, little hatless boys
with their galligaskins much worn and scant shirting to hang out,
little girls who tossed their hair out of their eyes to look at him,
and guardian brothers at the mature age of seven. This troop he had
led out on gypsy excursions to Halsell Wood at nutting-time, and since
the cold weather had set in he had taken them on a clear day to gather
sticks for a bonfire in the hollow of a hillside, where he drew out a
small feast of gingerbread for them, and improvised a Punch-and-Judy
drama with some private home-made puppets. Here was one oddity.
Another was, that in houses where he got friendly, he was given to
stretch himself at full length on the rug while he talked, and was apt
to be discovered in this attitude by occasional callers for whom such
an irregularity was likely to confirm the notions of his dangerously
mixed blood and general laxity.
But Will's articles and speeches naturally recommended him in families
which the new strictness of party division had marked off on the side
of Reform. He was invited to Mr. Bulstrode's; but here he could not
lie down on the rug, and Mrs. Bulstrode felt that his mode of talking
about Catholic countries, as if there were any truce with Antichrist,
illustrated the usual tendency to unsoundness in intellectual men.
At Mr. Farebrother's, however, whom the irony of events had brought on
the same side with Bulstrode in the national movement, Will became a
favorite with the ladies; especially with little Miss Noble, whom it
was one of his oddities to escort when he met her in the street with
her little basket, giving her his arm in the eyes of the town, and
insisting on going with her to pay some call where she distributed her
small filchings from her own share of sweet things.
But the house where he visited oftenest and lay most on the rug was
Lydgate's. The two men were not at all alike, but they agreed none the
worse. Lydgate was abrupt but not irritable, taking little notice of
megrims in healthy people; and Ladislaw did not usually throw away his
susceptibilities on those who took no notice of them. With Rosamond,
on the other hand, he pouted and was wayward—nay, often
uncomplimentary, much to her inward surprise; nevertheless he was
gradually becoming necessary to her entertainment by his companionship
in her music, his varied talk, and his freedom from the grave
preoccupation which, with all her husband's tenderness and indulgence,
often made his manners unsatisfactory to her, and confirmed her dislike
of the medical profession.
Lydgate, inclined to be sarcastic on the superstitious faith of the
people in the efficacy of "the bill," while nobody cared about the low
state of pathology, sometimes assailed Will with troublesome questions.
One evening in March, Rosamond in her cherry-colored dress with
swansdown trimming about the throat sat at the tea-table; Lydgate,
lately come in tired from his outdoor work, was seated sideways on an
easy-chair by the fire with one leg over the elbow, his brow looking a
little troubled as his eyes rambled over the columns of the "Pioneer,"
while Rosamond, having noticed that he was perturbed, avoided looking
at him, and inwardly thanked heaven that she herself had not a moody
disposition. Will Ladislaw was stretched on the rug contemplating the
curtain-pole abstractedly, and humming very low the notes of "When
first I saw thy face;" while the house spaniel, also stretched out with
small choice of room, looked from between his paws at the usurper of
the rug with silent but strong objection.
Rosamond bringing Lydgate his cup of tea, he threw down the paper, and
said to Will, who had started up and gone to the table—
"It's no use your puffing Brooke as a reforming landlord, Ladislaw:
they only pick the more holes in his coat in the 'Trumpet.'"
"No matter; those who read the 'Pioneer' don't read the 'Trumpet,'"
said Will, swallowing his tea and walking about. "Do you suppose the
public reads with a view to its own conversion? We should have a
witches' brewing with a vengeance then—'Mingle, mingle, mingle,
mingle, You that mingle may'—and nobody would know which side he was
going to take."
"Farebrother says, he doesn't believe Brooke would get elected if the
opportunity came: the very men who profess to be for him would bring
another member out of the bag at the right moment."
"There's no harm in trying. It's good to have resident members."
"Why?" said Lydgate, who was much given to use that inconvenient word
in a curt tone.
"They represent the local stupidity better," said Will, laughing, and
shaking his curls; "and they are kept on their best behavior in the
neighborhood. Brooke is not a bad fellow, but he has done some good
things on his estate that he never would have done but for this
"He's not fitted to be a public man," said Lydgate, with contemptuous
decision. "He would disappoint everybody who counted on him: I can see
that at the Hospital. Only, there Bulstrode holds the reins and drives
"That depends on how you fix your standard of public men," said Will.
"He's good enough for the occasion: when the people have made up their
mind as they are making it up now, they don't want a man—they only
want a vote."
"That is the way with you political writers, Ladislaw—crying up a
measure as if it were a universal cure, and crying up men who are a
part of the very disease that wants curing."
"Why not? Men may help to cure themselves off the face of the land
without knowing it," said Will, who could find reasons impromptu, when
he had not thought of a question beforehand.
"That is no excuse for encouraging the superstitious exaggeration of
hopes about this particular measure, helping the cry to swallow it
whole and to send up voting popinjays who are good for nothing but to
carry it. You go against rottenness, and there is nothing more
thoroughly rotten than making people believe that society can be cured
by a political hocus-pocus."
"That's very fine, my dear fellow. But your cure must begin somewhere,
and put it that a thousand things which debase a population can never
be reformed without this particular reform to begin with. Look what
Stanley said the other day—that the House had been tinkering long
enough at small questions of bribery, inquiring whether this or that
voter has had a guinea when everybody knows that the seats have been
sold wholesale. Wait for wisdom and conscience in public
agents—fiddlestick! The only conscience we can trust to is the
massive sense of wrong in a class, and the best wisdom that will work
is the wisdom of balancing claims. That's my text—which side is
injured? I support the man who supports their claims; not the virtuous
upholder of the wrong."
"That general talk about a particular case is mere question begging,
Ladislaw. When I say, I go in for the dose that cures, it doesn't
follow that I go in for opium in a given case of gout."
"I am not begging the question we are upon—whether we are to try for
nothing till we find immaculate men to work with. Should you go on
that plan? If there were one man who would carry you a medical reform
and another who would oppose it, should you inquire which had the
better motives or even the better brains?"
"Oh, of course," said Lydgate, seeing himself checkmated by a move
which he had often used himself, "if one did not work with such men as
are at hand, things must come to a dead-lock. Suppose the worst opinion
in the town about Bulstrode were a true one, that would not make it
less true that he has the sense and the resolution to do what I think
ought to be done in the matters I know and care most about; but that is
the only ground on which I go with him," Lydgate added rather proudly,
bearing in mind Mr. Farebrother's remarks. "He is nothing to me
otherwise; I would not cry him up on any personal ground—I would keep
clear of that."
"Do you mean that I cry up Brooke on any personal ground?" said Will
Ladislaw, nettled, and turning sharp round. For the first time he felt
offended with Lydgate; not the less so, perhaps, because he would have
declined any close inquiry into the growth of his relation to Mr.
"Not at all," said Lydgate, "I was simply explaining my own action. I
meant that a man may work for a special end with others whose motives
and general course are equivocal, if he is quite sure of his personal
independence, and that he is not working for his private
interest—either place or money."
"Then, why don't you extend your liberality to others?" said Will,
still nettled. "My personal independence is as important to me as
yours is to you. You have no more reason to imagine that I have
personal expectations from Brooke, than I have to imagine that you have
personal expectations from Bulstrode. Motives are points of honor, I
suppose—nobody can prove them. But as to money and place in the
world." Will ended, tossing back his head, "I think it is pretty clear
that I am not determined by considerations of that sort."
"You quite mistake me, Ladislaw," said Lydgate, surprised. He had been
preoccupied with his own vindication, and had been blind to what
Ladislaw might infer on his own account. "I beg your pardon for
unintentionally annoying you. In fact, I should rather attribute to
you a romantic disregard of your own worldly interests. On the
political question, I referred simply to intellectual bias."
"How very unpleasant you both are this evening!" said Rosamond. "I
cannot conceive why money should have been referred to. Polities and
Medicine are sufficiently disagreeable to quarrel upon. You can both
of you go on quarrelling with all the world and with each other on
those two topics."
Rosamond looked mildly neutral as she said this, rising to ring the
bell, and then crossing to her work-table.
"Poor Rosy!" said Lydgate, putting out his hand to her as she was
passing him. "Disputation is not amusing to cherubs. Have some music.
Ask Ladislaw to sing with you."
When Will was gone Rosamond said to her husband, "What put you out of
temper this evening, Tertius?"
"Me? It was Ladislaw who was out of temper. He is like a bit of
"But I mean, before that. Something had vexed you before you came in,
you looked cross. And that made you begin to dispute with Mr.
Ladislaw. You hurt me very much when you look so, Tertius."
"Do I? Then I am a brute," said Lydgate, caressing her penitently.
"What vexed you?"
"Oh, outdoor things—business." It was really a letter insisting on
the payment of a bill for furniture. But Rosamond was expecting to
have a baby, and Lydgate wished to save her from any perturbation.
Was never true love loved in vain,
For truest love is highest gain.
No art can make it: it must spring
Where elements are fostering.
So in heaven's spot and hour
Springs the little native flower,
Downward root and upward eye,
Shapen by the earth and sky.
It happened to be on a Saturday evening that Will Ladislaw had that
little discussion with Lydgate. Its effect when he went to his own
rooms was to make him sit up half the night, thinking over again, under
a new irritation, all that he had before thought of his having settled
in Middlemarch and harnessed himself with Mr. Brooke. Hesitations
before he had taken the step had since turned into susceptibility to
every hint that he would have been wiser not to take it; and hence came
his heat towards Lydgate—a heat which still kept him restless. Was he
not making a fool of himself?—and at a time when he was more than
ever conscious of being something better than a fool? And for what end?
Well, for no definite end. True, he had dreamy visions of
possibilities: there is no human being who having both passions and
thoughts does not think in consequence of his passions—does not find
images rising in his mind which soothe the passion with hope or sting
it with dread. But this, which happens to us all, happens to some with
a wide difference; and Will was not one of those whose wit "keeps the
roadway:" he had his bypaths where there were little joys of his own
choosing, such as gentlemen cantering on the highroad might have
thought rather idiotic. The way in which he made a sort of happiness
for himself out of his feeling for Dorothea was an example of this. It
may seem strange, but it is the fact, that the ordinary vulgar vision
of which Mr. Casaubon suspected him—namely, that Dorothea might become
a widow, and that the interest he had established in her mind might
turn into acceptance of him as a husband—had no tempting, arresting
power over him; he did not live in the scenery of such an event, and
follow it out, as we all do with that imagined "otherwise" which is our
practical heaven. It was not only that he was unwilling to entertain
thoughts which could be accused of baseness, and was already uneasy in
the sense that he had to justify himself from the charge of
ingratitude—the latent consciousness of many other barriers between
himself and Dorothea besides the existence of her husband, had helped
to turn away his imagination from speculating on what might befall Mr.
Casaubon. And there were yet other reasons. Will, we know, could not
bear the thought of any flaw appearing in his crystal: he was at once
exasperated and delighted by the calm freedom with which Dorothea
looked at him and spoke to him, and there was something so exquisite in
thinking of her just as she was, that he could not long for a change
which must somehow change her. Do we not shun the street version of a
fine melody?—or shrink from the news that the rarity—some bit of
chiselling or engraving perhaps—which we have dwelt on even with
exultation in the trouble it has cost us to snatch glimpses of it, is
really not an uncommon thing, and may be obtained as an every-day
possession? Our good depends on the quality and breadth of our
emotion; and to Will, a creature who cared little for what are called
the solid things of life and greatly for its subtler influences, to
have within him such a feeling as he had towards Dorothea, was like the
inheritance of a fortune. What others might have called the futility
of his passion, made an additional delight for his imagination: he was
conscious of a generous movement, and of verifying in his own
experience that higher love-poetry which had charmed his fancy.
Dorothea, he said to himself, was forever enthroned in his soul: no
other woman could sit higher than her footstool; and if he could have
written out in immortal syllables the effect she wrought within him, he
might have boasted after the example of old Drayton, that,—
"Queens hereafter might be glad to liveUpon the alms of her superfluous praise."
But this result was questionable. And what else could he do for
Dorothea? What was his devotion worth to her? It was impossible to
tell. He would not go out of her reach. He saw no creature among her
friends to whom he could believe that she spoke with the same simple
confidence as to him. She had once said that she would like him to
stay; and stay he would, whatever fire-breathing dragons might hiss
This had always been the conclusion of Will's hesitations. But he was
not without contradictoriness and rebellion even towards his own
resolve. He had often got irritated, as he was on this particular
night, by some outside demonstration that his public exertions with Mr.
Brooke as a chief could not seem as heroic as he would like them to be,
and this was always associated with the other ground of
irritation—that notwithstanding his sacrifice of dignity for
Dorothea's sake, he could hardly ever see her. Whereupon, not being
able to contradict these unpleasant facts, he contradicted his own
strongest bias and said, "I am a fool."
Nevertheless, since the inward debate necessarily turned on Dorothea,
he ended, as he had done before, only by getting a livelier sense of
what her presence would be to him; and suddenly reflecting that the
morrow would be Sunday, he determined to go to Lowick Church and see
her. He slept upon that idea, but when he was dressing in the rational
morning light, Objection said—
"That will be a virtual defiance of Mr. Casaubon's prohibition to visit
Lowick, and Dorothea will be displeased."
"Nonsense!" argued Inclination, "it would be too monstrous for him to
hinder me from going out to a pretty country church on a spring
morning. And Dorothea will be glad."
"It will be clear to Mr. Casaubon that you have come either to annoy
him or to see Dorothea."
"It is not true that I go to annoy him, and why should I not go to see
Dorothea? Is he to have everything to himself and be always
comfortable? Let him smart a little, as other people are obliged to
do. I have always liked the quaintness of the church and congregation;
besides, I know the Tuckers: I shall go into their pew."
Having silenced Objection by force of unreason, Will walked to Lowick
as if he had been on the way to Paradise, crossing Halsell Common and
skirting the wood, where the sunlight fell broadly under the budding
boughs, bringing out the beauties of moss and lichen, and fresh green
growths piercing the brown. Everything seemed to know that it was
Sunday, and to approve of his going to Lowick Church. Will easily felt
happy when nothing crossed his humor, and by this time the thought of
vexing Mr. Casaubon had become rather amusing to him, making his face
break into its merry smile, pleasant to see as the breaking of sunshine
on the water—though the occasion was not exemplary. But most of us
are apt to settle within ourselves that the man who blocks our way is
odious, and not to mind causing him a little of the disgust which his
personality excites in ourselves. Will went along with a small book
under his arm and a hand in each side-pocket, never reading, but
chanting a little, as he made scenes of what would happen in church and
coming out. He was experimenting in tunes to suit some words of his
own, sometimes trying a ready-made melody, sometimes improvising. The
words were not exactly a hymn, but they certainly fitted his Sunday
"O me, O me, what frugal cheer
My love doth feed upon!
A touch, a ray, that is not here
A shadow that is gone:
"A dream of breath that might be near,
An inly-echoed tone,
The thought that one may think me dear,
The place where one was known,
"The tremor of a banished fear,
An ill that was not done—
O me, O me, what frugal cheer
My love doth feed upon!"
Sometimes, when he took off his hat, shaking his head backward, and
showing his delicate throat as he sang, he looked like an incarnation
of the spring whose spirit filled the air—a bright creature, abundant
in uncertain promises.
The bells were still ringing when he got to Lowick, and he went into
the curate's pew before any one else arrived there. But he was still
left alone in it when the congregation had assembled. The curate's pew
was opposite the rector's at the entrance of the small chancel, and
Will had time to fear that Dorothea might not come while he looked
round at the group of rural faces which made the congregation from year
to year within the white-washed walls and dark old pews, hardly with
more change than we see in the boughs of a tree which breaks here and
there with age, but yet has young shoots. Mr. Rigg's frog-face was
something alien and unaccountable, but notwithstanding this shock to
the order of things, there were still the Waules and the rural stock of
the Powderells in their pews side by side; brother Samuel's cheek had
the same purple round as ever, and the three generations of decent
cottagers came as of old with a sense of duty to their betters
generally—the smaller children regarding Mr. Casaubon, who wore the
black gown and mounted to the highest box, as probably the chief of all
betters, and the one most awful if offended. Even in 1831 Lowick was
at peace, not more agitated by Reform than by the solemn tenor of the
Sunday sermon. The congregation had been used to seeing Will at church
in former days, and no one took much note of him except the choir, who
expected him to make a figure in the singing.
Dorothea did at last appear on this quaint background, walking up the
short aisle in her white beaver bonnet and gray cloak—the same she had
worn in the Vatican. Her face being, from her entrance, towards the
chancel, even her shortsighted eyes soon discerned Will, but there was
no outward show of her feeling except a slight paleness and a grave bow
as she passed him. To his own surprise Will felt suddenly
uncomfortable, and dared not look at her after they had bowed to each
other. Two minutes later, when Mr. Casaubon came out of the vestry,
and, entering the pew, seated himself in face of Dorothea, Will felt
his paralysis more complete. He could look nowhere except at the choir
in the little gallery over the vestry-door: Dorothea was perhaps
pained, and he had made a wretched blunder. It was no longer amusing
to vex Mr. Casaubon, who had the advantage probably of watching him and
seeing that he dared not turn his head. Why had he not imagined this
beforehand?—but he could not expect that he should sit in that square
pew alone, unrelieved by any Tuckers, who had apparently departed from
Lowick altogether, for a new clergyman was in the desk. Still he
called himself stupid now for not foreseeing that it would be
impossible for him to look towards Dorothea—nay, that she might feel
his coming an impertinence. There was no delivering himself from his
cage, however; and Will found his places and looked at his book as if
he had been a school-mistress, feeling that the morning service had
never been so immeasurably long before, that he was utterly ridiculous,
out of temper, and miserable. This was what a man got by worshipping
the sight of a woman! The clerk observed with surprise that Mr.
Ladislaw did not join in the tune of Hanover, and reflected that he
might have a cold.
Mr. Casaubon did not preach that morning, and there was no change in
Will's situation until the blessing had been pronounced and every one
rose. It was the fashion at Lowick for "the betters" to go out first.
With a sudden determination to break the spell that was upon him, Will
looked straight at Mr. Casaubon. But that gentleman's eyes were on the
button of the pew-door, which he opened, allowing Dorothea to pass, and
following her immediately without raising his eyelids. Will's glance
had caught Dorothea's as she turned out of the pew, and again she
bowed, but this time with a look of agitation, as if she were
repressing tears. Will walked out after them, but they went on towards
the little gate leading out of the churchyard into the shrubbery, never
It was impossible for him to follow them, and he could only walk back
sadly at mid-day along the same road which he had trodden hopefully in
the morning. The lights were all changed for him both without and
Surely the golden hours are turning gray
And dance no more, and vainly strive to run:
I see their white locks streaming in the wind—
Each face is haggard as it looks at me,
Slow turning in the constant clasping round
Dorothea's distress when she was leaving the church came chiefly from
the perception that Mr. Casaubon was determined not to speak to his
cousin, and that Will's presence at church had served to mark more
strongly the alienation between them. Will's coming seemed to her
quite excusable, nay, she thought it an amiable movement in him towards
a reconciliation which she herself had been constantly wishing for. He
had probably imagined, as she had, that if Mr. Casaubon and he could
meet easily, they would shake hands and friendly intercourse might
return. But now Dorothea felt quite robbed of that hope. Will was
banished further than ever, for Mr. Casaubon must have been newly
embittered by this thrusting upon him of a presence which he refused to
He had not been very well that morning, suffering from some difficulty
in breathing, and had not preached in consequence; she was not
surprised, therefore, that he was nearly silent at luncheon, still less
that he made no allusion to Will Ladislaw. For her own part she felt
that she could never again introduce that subject. They usually spent
apart the hours between luncheon and dinner on a Sunday; Mr. Casaubon
in the library dozing chiefly, and Dorothea in her boudoir, where she
was wont to occupy herself with some of her favorite books. There was
a little heap of them on the table in the bow-window—of various sorts,
from Herodotus, which she was learning to read with Mr. Casaubon, to
her old companion Pascal, and Keble's "Christian Year." But to-day
opened one after another, and could read none of them. Everything
seemed dreary: the portents before the birth of Cyrus—Jewish
antiquities—oh dear!—devout epigrams—the sacred chime of favorite
hymns—all alike were as flat as tunes beaten on wood: even the spring
flowers and the grass had a dull shiver in them under the afternoon
clouds that hid the sun fitfully; even the sustaining thoughts which
had become habits seemed to have in them the weariness of long future
days in which she would still live with them for her sole companions.
It was another or rather a fuller sort of companionship that poor
Dorothea was hungering for, and the hunger had grown from the perpetual
effort demanded by her married life. She was always trying to be what
her husband wished, and never able to repose on his delight in what she
was. The thing that she liked, that she spontaneously cared to have,
seemed to be always excluded from her life; for if it was only granted
and not shared by her husband it might as well have been denied. About
Will Ladislaw there had been a difference between them from the first,
and it had ended, since Mr. Casaubon had so severely repulsed
Dorothea's strong feeling about his claims on the family property, by
her being convinced that she was in the right and her husband in the
wrong, but that she was helpless. This afternoon the helplessness was
more wretchedly benumbing than ever: she longed for objects who could
be dear to her, and to whom she could be dear. She longed for work
which would be directly beneficent like the sunshine and the rain, and
now it appeared that she was to live more and more in a virtual tomb,
where there was the apparatus of a ghastly labor producing what would
never see the light. Today she had stood at the door of the tomb and
seen Will Ladislaw receding into the distant world of warm activity and
fellowship—turning his face towards her as he went.
Books were of no use. Thinking was of no use. It was Sunday, and she
could not have the carriage to go to Celia, who had lately had a baby.
There was no refuge now from spiritual emptiness and discontent, and
Dorothea had to bear her bad mood, as she would have borne a headache.
After dinner, at the hour when she usually began to read aloud, Mr.
Casaubon proposed that they should go into the library, where, he said,
he had ordered a fire and lights. He seemed to have revived, and to be
In the library Dorothea observed that he had newly arranged a row of
his note-books on a table, and now he took up and put into her hand a
well-known volume, which was a table of contents to all the others.
"You will oblige me, my dear," he said, seating himself, "if instead of
other reading this evening, you will go through this aloud, pencil in
hand, and at each point where I say 'mark,' will make a cross with your
pencil. This is the first step in a sifting process which I have long
had in view, and as we go on I shall be able to indicate to you certain
principles of selection whereby you will, I trust, have an intelligent
participation in my purpose."
This proposal was only one more sign added to many since his memorable
interview with Lydgate, that Mr. Casaubon's original reluctance to let
Dorothea work with him had given place to the contrary disposition,
namely, to demand much interest and labor from her.
After she had read and marked for two hours, he said, "We will take the
volume up-stairs—and the pencil, if you please—and in case of
reading in the night, we can pursue this task. It is not wearisome to
you, I trust, Dorothea?"
"I prefer always reading what you like best to hear," said Dorothea,
who told the simple truth; for what she dreaded was to exert herself in
reading or anything else which left him as joyless as ever.
It was a proof of the force with which certain characteristics in
Dorothea impressed those around her, that her husband, with all his
jealousy and suspicion, had gathered implicit trust in the integrity of
her promises, and her power of devoting herself to her idea of the
right and best. Of late he had begun to feel that these qualities were
a peculiar possession for himself, and he wanted to engross them.
The reading in the night did come. Dorothea in her young weariness had
slept soon and fast: she was awakened by a sense of light, which seemed
to her at first like a sudden vision of sunset after she had climbed a
steep hill: she opened her eyes and saw her husband wrapped in his warm
gown seating himself in the arm-chair near the fire-place where the
embers were still glowing. He had lit two candles, expecting that
Dorothea would awake, but not liking to rouse her by more direct means.
"Are you ill, Edward?" she said, rising immediately.
"I felt some uneasiness in a reclining posture. I will sit here for a
time." She threw wood on the fire, wrapped herself up, and said, "You
would like me to read to you?"
"You would oblige me greatly by doing so, Dorothea," said Mr. Casaubon,
with a shade more meekness than usual in his polite manner. "I am
wakeful: my mind is remarkably lucid."
"I fear that the excitement may be too great for you," said Dorothea,
remembering Lydgate's cautions.
"No, I am not conscious of undue excitement. Thought is easy."
Dorothea dared not insist, and she read for an hour or more on the same
plan as she had done in the evening, but getting over the pages with
more quickness. Mr. Casaubon's mind was more alert, and he seemed to
anticipate what was coming after a very slight verbal indication,
saying, "That will do—mark that"—or "Pass on to the next head—I omit
the second excursus on Crete." Dorothea was amazed to think of the
bird-like speed with which his mind was surveying the ground where it
had been creeping for years. At last he said—
"Close the book now, my dear. We will resume our work to-morrow. I
have deferred it too long, and would gladly see it completed. But you
observe that the principle on which my selection is made, is to give
adequate, and not disproportionate illustration to each of the theses
enumerated in my introduction, as at present sketched. You have
perceived that distinctly, Dorothea?"
"Yes," said Dorothea, rather tremulously. She felt sick at heart.
"And now I think that I can take some repose," said Mr. Casaubon. He
laid down again and begged her to put out the lights. When she had
lain down too, and there was a darkness only broken by a dull glow on
the hearth, he said—
"Before I sleep, I have a request to make, Dorothea."
"What is it?" said Dorothea, with dread in her mind.
"It is that you will let me know, deliberately, whether, in case of my
death, you will carry out my wishes: whether you will avoid doing what
I should deprecate, and apply yourself to do what I should desire."
Dorothea was not taken by surprise: many incidents had been leading her
to the conjecture of some intention on her husband's part which might
make a new yoke for her. She did not answer immediately.
"You refuse?" said Mr. Casaubon, with more edge in his tone.
"No, I do not yet refuse," said Dorothea, in a clear voice, the need of
freedom asserting itself within her; "but it is too solemn—I think it
is not right—to make a promise when I am ignorant what it will bind me
to. Whatever affection prompted I would do without promising."
"But you would use your own judgment: I ask you to obey mine; you
"No, dear, no!" said Dorothea, beseechingly, crushed by opposing fears.
"But may I wait and reflect a little while? I desire with my whole
soul to do what will comfort you; but I cannot give any pledge
suddenly—still less a pledge to do I know not what."
"You cannot then confide in the nature of my wishes?"
"Grant me till to-morrow," said Dorothea, beseechingly.
"Till to-morrow then," said Mr. Casaubon.
Soon she could hear that he was sleeping, but there was no more sleep
for her. While she constrained herself to lie still lest she should
disturb him, her mind was carrying on a conflict in which imagination
ranged its forces first on one side and then on the other. She had no
presentiment that the power which her husband wished to establish over
her future action had relation to anything else than his work. But it
was clear enough to her that he would expect her to devote herself to
sifting those mixed heaps of material, which were to be the doubtful
illustration of principles still more doubtful. The poor child had
become altogether unbelieving as to the trustworthiness of that Key
which had made the ambition and the labor of her husband's life. It
was not wonderful that, in spite of her small instruction, her judgment
in this matter was truer than his: for she looked with unbiassed
comparison and healthy sense at probabilities on which he had risked
all his egoism. And now she pictured to herself the days, and months,
and years which she must spend in sorting what might be called
shattered mummies, and fragments of a tradition which was itself a
mosaic wrought from crushed ruins—sorting them as food for a theory
which was already withered in the birth like an elfin child. Doubtless
a vigorous error vigorously pursued has kept the embryos of truth
a-breathing: the quest of gold being at the same time a questioning of
substances, the body of chemistry is prepared for its soul, and
Lavoisier is born. But Mr. Casaubon's theory of the elements which
made the seed of all tradition was not likely to bruise itself unawares
against discoveries: it floated among flexible conjectures no more
solid than those etymologies which seemed strong because of likeness in
sound until it was shown that likeness in sound made them impossible:
it was a method of interpretation which was not tested by the necessity
of forming anything which had sharper collisions than an elaborate
notion of Gog and Magog: it was as free from interruption as a plan for
threading the stars together. And Dorothea had so often had to check
her weariness and impatience over this questionable riddle-guessing, as
it revealed itself to her instead of the fellowship in high knowledge
which was to make life worthier! She could understand well enough now
why her husband had come to cling to her, as possibly the only hope
left that his labors would ever take a shape in which they could be
given to the world. At first it had seemed that he wished to keep even
her aloof from any close knowledge of what he was doing; but gradually
the terrible stringency of human need—the prospect of a too speedy
And here Dorothea's pity turned from her own future to her husband's
past—nay, to his present hard struggle with a lot which had grown out
of that past: the lonely labor, the ambition breathing hardly under the
pressure of self-distrust; the goal receding, and the heavier limbs;
and now at last the sword visibly trembling above him! And had she not
wished to marry him that she might help him in his life's labor?—But
she had thought the work was to be something greater, which she could
serve in devoutly for its own sake. Was it right, even to soothe his
grief—would it be possible, even if she promised—to work as in a
And yet, could she deny him? Could she say, "I refuse to content this
pining hunger?" It would be refusing to do for him dead, what she was
almost sure to do for him living. If he lived as Lydgate had said he
might, for fifteen years or more, her life would certainly be spent in
helping him and obeying him.
Still, there was a deep difference between that devotion to the living
and that indefinite promise of devotion to the dead. While he lived,
he could claim nothing that she would not still be free to remonstrate
against, and even to refuse. But—the thought passed through her mind
more than once, though she could not believe in it—might he not mean
to demand something more from her than she had been able to imagine,
since he wanted her pledge to carry out his wishes without telling her
exactly what they were? No; his heart was bound up in his work only:
that was the end for which his failing life was to be eked out by hers.
And now, if she were to say, "No! if you die, I will put no finger to
your work"—it seemed as if she would be crushing that bruised heart.
For four hours Dorothea lay in this conflict, till she felt ill and
bewildered, unable to resolve, praying mutely. Helpless as a child
which has sobbed and sought too long, she fell into a late morning
sleep, and when she waked Mr. Casaubon was already up. Tantripp told
her that he had read prayers, breakfasted, and was in the library.
"I never saw you look so pale, madam," said Tantripp, a solid-figured
woman who had been with the sisters at Lausanne.
"Was I ever high-colored, Tantripp?" said Dorothea, smiling faintly.
"Well, not to say high-colored, but with a bloom like a Chiny rose.
But always smelling those leather books, what can be expected? Do rest
a little this morning, madam. Let me say you are ill and not able to
go into that close library."
"Oh no, no! let me make haste," said Dorothea. "Mr. Casaubon wants me
When she went down she felt sure that she should promise to fulfil his
wishes; but that would be later in the day—not yet.
As Dorothea entered the library, Mr. Casaubon turned round from the
table where he had been placing some books, and said—
"I was waiting for your appearance, my dear. I had hoped to set to
work at once this morning, but I find myself under some indisposition,
probably from too much excitement yesterday. I am going now to take a
turn in the shrubbery, since the air is milder."
"I am glad to hear that," said Dorothea. "Your mind, I feared, was too
active last night."
"I would fain have it set at rest on the point I last spoke of,
Dorothea. You can now, I hope, give me an answer."
"May I come out to you in the garden presently?" said Dorothea, winning
a little breathing space in that way.
"I shall be in the Yew-tree Walk for the next half-hour," said Mr.
Casaubon, and then he left her.
Dorothea, feeling very weary, rang and asked Tantripp to bring her some
wraps. She had been sitting still for a few minutes, but not in any
renewal of the former conflict: she simply felt that she was going to
say "Yes" to her own doom: she was too weak, too full of dread at the
thought of inflicting a keen-edged blow on her husband, to do anything
but submit completely. She sat still and let Tantripp put on her
bonnet and shawl, a passivity which was unusual with her, for she liked
to wait on herself.
"God bless you, madam!" said Tantripp, with an irrepressible movement
of love towards the beautiful, gentle creature for whom she felt unable
to do anything more, now that she had finished tying the bonnet.
This was too much for Dorothea's highly-strung feeling, and she burst
into tears, sobbing against Tantripp's arm. But soon she checked
herself, dried her eyes, and went out at the glass door into the
"I wish every book in that library was built into a caticom for your
master," said Tantripp to Pratt, the butler, finding him in the
breakfast-room. She had been at Rome, and visited the antiquities, as
we know; and she always declined to call Mr. Casaubon anything but
"your master," when speaking to the other servants.
Pratt laughed. He liked his master very well, but he liked Tantripp
When Dorothea was out on the gravel walks, she lingered among the
nearer clumps of trees, hesitating, as she had done once before, though
from a different cause. Then she had feared lest her effort at
fellowship should be unwelcome; now she dreaded going to the spot where
she foresaw that she must bind herself to a fellowship from which she
shrank. Neither law nor the world's opinion compelled her to
this—only her husband's nature and her own compassion, only the ideal
and not the real yoke of marriage. She saw clearly enough the whole
situation, yet she was fettered: she could not smite the stricken soul
that entreated hers. If that were weakness, Dorothea was weak. But
the half-hour was passing, and she must not delay longer. When she
entered the Yew-tree Walk she could not see her husband; but the walk
had bends, and she went, expecting to catch sight of his figure wrapped
in a blue cloak, which, with a warm velvet cap, was his outer garment
on chill days for the garden. It occurred to her that he might be
resting in the summer-house, towards which the path diverged a little.
Turning the angle, she could see him seated on the bench, close to a
stone table. His arms were resting on the table, and his brow was
bowed down on them, the blue cloak being dragged forward and screening
his face on each side.
"He exhausted himself last night," Dorothea said to herself, thinking
at first that he was asleep, and that the summer-house was too damp a
place to rest in. But then she remembered that of late she had seen
him take that attitude when she was reading to him, as if he found it
easier than any other; and that he would sometimes speak, as well as
listen, with his face down in that way. She went into the summerhouse
and said, "I am come, Edward; I am ready."
He took no notice, and she thought that he must be fast asleep. She
laid her hand on his shoulder, and repeated, "I am ready!" Still he was
motionless; and with a sudden confused fear, she leaned down to him,
took off his velvet cap, and leaned her cheek close to his head, crying
in a distressed tone—
"Wake, dear, wake! Listen to me. I am come to answer." But Dorothea
never gave her answer.
Later in the day, Lydgate was seated by her bedside, and she was
talking deliriously, thinking aloud, and recalling what had gone
through her mind the night before. She knew him, and called him by his
name, but appeared to think it right that she should explain everything
to him; and again, and again, begged him to explain everything to her
"Tell him I shall go to him soon: I am ready to promise. Only,
thinking about it was so dreadful—it has made me ill. Not very ill.
I shall soon be better. Go and tell him."
But the silence in her husband's ear was never more to be broken.
A task too strong for wizard spells
This squire had brought about;
'T is easy dropping stones in wells,
But who shall get them out?"
"I wish to God we could hinder Dorothea from knowing this," said Sir
James Chettam, with a little frown on his brow, and an expression of
intense disgust about his mouth.
He was standing on the hearth-rug in the library at Lowick Grange, and
speaking to Mr. Brooke. It was the day after Mr. Casaubon had been
buried, and Dorothea was not yet able to leave her room.
"That would be difficult, you know, Chettam, as she is an executrix,
and she likes to go into these things—property, land, that kind of
thing. She has her notions, you know," said Mr. Brooke, sticking his
eye-glasses on nervously, and exploring the edges of a folded paper
which he held in his hand; "and she would like to act—depend upon it,
as an executrix Dorothea would want to act. And she was twenty-one
last December, you know. I can hinder nothing."
Sir James looked at the carpet for a minute in silence, and then
lifting his eyes suddenly fixed them on Mr. Brooke, saying, "I will
tell you what we can do. Until Dorothea is well, all business must be
kept from her, and as soon as she is able to be moved she must come to
us. Being with Celia and the baby will be the best thing in the world
for her, and will pass away the time. And meanwhile you must get rid
of Ladislaw: you must send him out of the country." Here Sir James's
look of disgust returned in all its intensity.
Mr. Brooke put his hands behind him, walked to the window and
straightened his back with a little shake before he replied.
"That is easily said, Chettam, easily said, you know."
"My dear sir," persisted Sir James, restraining his indignation within
respectful forms, "it was you who brought him here, and you who keep
him here—I mean by the occupation you give him."
"Yes, but I can't dismiss him in an instant without assigning reasons,
my dear Chettam. Ladislaw has been invaluable, most satisfactory. I
consider that I have done this part of the country a service by
bringing him—by bringing him, you know." Mr. Brooke ended with a nod,
turning round to give it.
"It's a pity this part of the country didn't do without him, that's all
I have to say about it. At any rate, as Dorothea's brother-in-law, I
feel warranted in objecting strongly to his being kept here by any
action on the part of her friends. You admit, I hope, that I have a
right to speak about what concerns the dignity of my wife's sister?"
Sir James was getting warm.
"Of course, my dear Chettam, of course. But you and I have different
"Not about this action of Casaubon's, I should hope," interrupted Sir
James. "I say that he has most unfairly compromised Dorothea. I say
that there never was a meaner, more ungentlemanly action than this—a
codicil of this sort to a will which he made at the time of his
marriage with the knowledge and reliance of her family—a positive
insult to Dorothea!"
"Well, you know, Casaubon was a little twisted about Ladislaw.
Ladislaw has told me the reason—dislike of the bent he took, you
know—Ladislaw didn't think much of Casaubon's notions, Thoth and
Dagon—that sort of thing: and I fancy that Casaubon didn't like the
independent position Ladislaw had taken up. I saw the letters between
them, you know. Poor Casaubon was a little buried in books—he didn't
know the world."
"It's all very well for Ladislaw to put that color on it," said Sir
James. "But I believe Casaubon was only jealous of him on Dorothea's
account, and the world will suppose that she gave him some reason; and
that is what makes it so abominable—coupling her name with this young
"My dear Chettam, it won't lead to anything, you know," said Mr.
Brooke, seating himself and sticking on his eye-glass again. "It's all
of a piece with Casaubon's oddity. This paper, now, 'Synoptical
Tabulation' and so on, 'for the use of Mrs. Casaubon,' it was locked up
in the desk with the will. I suppose he meant Dorothea to publish his
researches, eh? and she'll do it, you know; she has gone into his
"My dear sir," said Sir James, impatiently, "that is neither here nor
there. The question is, whether you don't see with me the propriety of
sending young Ladislaw away?"
"Well, no, not the urgency of the thing. By-and-by, perhaps, it may
come round. As to gossip, you know, sending him away won't hinder
gossip. People say what they like to say, not what they have chapter
and verse for," said Mr Brooke, becoming acute about the truths that
lay on the side of his own wishes. "I might get rid of Ladislaw up to
a certain point—take away the 'Pioneer' from him, and that sort of
thing; but I couldn't send him out of the country if he didn't choose
to go—didn't choose, you know."
Mr. Brooke, persisting as quietly as if he were only discussing the
nature of last year's weather, and nodding at the end with his usual
amenity, was an exasperating form of obstinacy.
"Good God!" said Sir James, with as much passion as he ever showed,
"let us get him a post; let us spend money on him. If he could go in
the suite of some Colonial Governor! Grampus might take him—and I
could write to Fulke about it."
"But Ladislaw won't be shipped off like a head of cattle, my dear
fellow; Ladislaw has his ideas. It's my opinion that if he were to
part from me to-morrow, you'd only hear the more of him in the country.
With his talent for speaking and drawing up documents, there are few
men who could come up to him as an agitator—an agitator, you know."
"Agitator!" said Sir James, with bitter emphasis, feeling that the
syllables of this word properly repeated were a sufficient exposure of
"But be reasonable, Chettam. Dorothea, now. As you say, she had
better go to Celia as soon as possible. She can stay under your roof,
and in the mean time things may come round quietly. Don't let us be
firing off our guns in a hurry, you know. Standish will keep our
counsel, and the news will be old before it's known. Twenty things may
happen to carry off Ladislaw—without my doing anything, you know."
"Then I am to conclude that you decline to do anything?"
"Decline, Chettam?—no—I didn't say decline. But I really don't see
what I could do. Ladislaw is a gentleman."
"I am glad to hear it!" said Sir James, his irritation making him
forget himself a little. "I am sure Casaubon was not."
"Well, it would have been worse if he had made the codicil to hinder
her from marrying again at all, you know."
"I don't know that," said Sir James. "It would have been less
"One of poor Casaubon's freaks! That attack upset his brain a little.
It all goes for nothing. She doesn't want to marry Ladislaw."
"But this codicil is framed so as to make everybody believe that she
did. I don't believe anything of the sort about Dorothea," said Sir
James—then frowningly, "but I suspect Ladislaw. I tell you frankly,
I suspect Ladislaw."
"I couldn't take any immediate action on that ground, Chettam. In
fact, if it were possible to pack him off—send him to Norfolk
Island—that sort of thing—it would look all the worse for Dorothea
to those who knew about it. It would seem as if we distrusted
her—distrusted her, you know."
That Mr. Brooke had hit on an undeniable argument, did not tend to
soothe Sir James. He put out his hand to reach his hat, implying that
he did not mean to contend further, and said, still with some heat—
"Well, I can only say that I think Dorothea was sacrificed once,
because her friends were too careless. I shall do what I can, as her
brother, to protect her now."
"You can't do better than get her to Freshitt as soon as possible,
Chettam. I approve that plan altogether," said Mr. Brooke, well
pleased that he had won the argument. It would have been highly
inconvenient to him to part with Ladislaw at that time, when a
dissolution might happen any day, and electors were to be convinced of
the course by which the interests of the country would be best served.
Mr. Brooke sincerely believed that this end could be secured by his own
return to Parliament: he offered the forces of his mind honestly to the
"'This Loller here wol precilen us somewhat.'
'Nay by my father's soule! that schal he nat,'
Sayde the Schipman, 'here schal he not preche,
We schal no gospel glosen here ne teche.
We leven all in the gret God,' quod he.
He wolden sowen some diffcultee."—Canterbury Tales.
Dorothea had been safe at Freshitt Hall nearly a week before she had
asked any dangerous questions. Every morning now she sat with Celia in
the prettiest of up-stairs sitting-rooms, opening into a small
conservatory—Celia all in white and lavender like a bunch of mixed
violets, watching the remarkable acts of the baby, which were so
dubious to her inexperienced mind that all conversation was interrupted
by appeals for their interpretation made to the oracular nurse.
Dorothea sat by in her widow's dress, with an expression which rather
provoked Celia, as being much too sad; for not only was baby quite
well, but really when a husband had been so dull and troublesome while
he lived, and besides that had—well, well! Sir James, of course, had
told Celia everything, with a strong representation how important it
was that Dorothea should not know it sooner than was inevitable.
But Mr. Brooke had been right in predicting that Dorothea would not
long remain passive where action had been assigned to her; she knew the
purport of her husband's will made at the time of their marriage, and
her mind, as soon as she was clearly conscious of her position, was
silently occupied with what she ought to do as the owner of Lowick
Manor with the patronage of the living attached to it.
One morning when her uncle paid his usual visit, though with an unusual
alacrity in his manner which he accounted for by saying that it was now
pretty certain Parliament would be dissolved forthwith, Dorothea said—
"Uncle, it is right now that I should consider who is to have the
living at Lowick. After Mr. Tucker had been provided for, I never
heard my husband say that he had any clergyman in his mind as a
successor to himself. I think I ought to have the keys now and go to
Lowick to examine all my husband's papers. There may be something that
would throw light on his wishes."
"No hurry, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, quietly. "By-and-by, you know,
you can go, if you like. But I cast my eyes over things in the desks
and drawers—there was nothing—nothing but deep subjects, you
know—besides the will. Everything can be done by-and-by. As to the
living, I have had an application for interest already—I should say
rather good. Mr. Tyke has been strongly recommended to me—I had
something to do with getting him an appointment before. An apostolic
man, I believe—the sort of thing that would suit you, my dear."
"I should like to have fuller knowledge about him, uncle, and judge for
myself, if Mr. Casaubon has not left any expression of his wishes. He
has perhaps made some addition to his will—there may be some
instructions for me," said Dorothea, who had all the while had this
conjecture in her mind with relation to her husband's work.
"Nothing about the rectory, my dear—nothing," said Mr. Brooke, rising
to go away, and putting out his hand to his nieces: "nor about his
researches, you know. Nothing in the will."
Dorothea's lip quivered.
"Come, you must not think of these things yet, my dear. By-and-by, you
"I am quite well now, uncle; I wish to exert myself."
"Well, well, we shall see. But I must run away now—I have no end of
work now—it's a crisis—a political crisis, you know. And here is
Celia and her little man—you are an aunt, you know, now, and I am a
sort of grandfather," said Mr. Brooke, with placid hurry, anxious to
get away and tell Chettam that it would not be his (Mr. Brooke's) fault
if Dorothea insisted on looking into everything.
Dorothea sank back in her chair when her uncle had left the room, and
cast her eyes down meditatively on her crossed hands.
"Look, Dodo! look at him! Did you ever see anything like that?" said
Celia, in her comfortable staccato.
"What, Kitty?" said Dorothea, lifting her eyes rather absently.
"What? why, his upper lip; see how he is drawing it down, as if he
meant to make a face. Isn't it wonderful! He may have his little
thoughts. I wish nurse were here. Do look at him."
A large tear which had been for some time gathering, rolled down
Dorothea's cheek as she looked up and tried to smile.
"Don't be sad, Dodo; kiss baby. What are you brooding over so? I am
sure you did everything, and a great deal too much. You should be
"I wonder if Sir James would drive me to Lowick. I want to look over
everything—to see if there were any words written for me."
"You are not to go till Mr. Lydgate says you may go. And he has not
said so yet (here you are, nurse; take baby and walk up and down the
gallery). Besides, you have got a wrong notion in your head as usual,
Dodo—I can see that: it vexes me."
"Where am I wrong, Kitty?" said Dorothea, quite meekly. She was almost
ready now to think Celia wiser than herself, and was really wondering
with some fear what her wrong notion was. Celia felt her advantage,
and was determined to use it. None of them knew Dodo as well as she
did, or knew how to manage her. Since Celia's baby was born, she had
had a new sense of her mental solidity and calm wisdom. It seemed
clear that where there was a baby, things were right enough, and that
error, in general, was a mere lack of that central poising force.
"I can see what you are thinking of as well as can be, Dodo," said
Celia. "You are wanting to find out if there is anything uncomfortable
for you to do now, only because Mr. Casaubon wished it. As if you had
not been uncomfortable enough before. And he doesn't deserve it, and
you will find that out. He has behaved very badly. James is as angry
with him as can be. And I had better tell you, to prepare you."
"Celia," said Dorothea, entreatingly, "you distress me. Tell me at
once what you mean." It glanced through her mind that Mr. Casaubon
had left the property away from her—which would not be so very
"Why, he has made a codicil to his will, to say the property was all to
go away from you if you married—I mean—"
"That is of no consequence," said Dorothea, breaking in impetuously.
"But if you married Mr. Ladislaw, not anybody else," Celia went on with
persevering quietude. "Of course that is of no consequence in one
way—you never would marry Mr. Ladislaw; but that only makes it worse
of Mr. Casaubon."
The blood rushed to Dorothea's face and neck painfully. But Celia was
administering what she thought a sobering dose of fact. It was taking
up notions that had done Dodo's health so much harm. So she went on in
her neutral tone, as if she had been remarking on baby's robes.
"James says so. He says it is abominable, and not like a gentleman.
And there never was a better judge than James. It is as if Mr.
Casaubon wanted to make people believe that you would wish to marry Mr.
Ladislaw—which is ridiculous. Only James says it was to hinder Mr.
Ladislaw from wanting to marry you for your money—just as if he ever
would think of making you an offer. Mrs. Cadwallader said you might as
well marry an Italian with white mice! But I must just go and look at
baby," Celia added, without the least change of tone, throwing a light
shawl over her, and tripping away.
Dorothea by this time had turned cold again, and now threw herself back
helplessly in her chair. She might have compared her experience at
that moment to the vague, alarmed consciousness that her life was
taking on a new form, that she was undergoing a metamorphosis in which
memory would not adjust itself to the stirring of new organs.
Everything was changing its aspect: her husband's conduct, her own
duteous feeling towards him, every struggle between them—and yet
more, her whole relation to Will Ladislaw. Her world was in a state of
convulsive change; the only thing she could say distinctly to herself
was, that she must wait and think anew. One change terrified her as if
it had been a sin; it was a violent shock of repulsion from her
departed husband, who had had hidden thoughts, perhaps perverting
everything she said and did. Then again she was conscious of another
change which also made her tremulous; it was a sudden strange yearning
of heart towards Will Ladislaw. It had never before entered her mind
that he could, under any circumstances, be her lover: conceive the
effect of the sudden revelation that another had thought of him in that
light—that perhaps he himself had been conscious of such a
possibility,—and this with the hurrying, crowding vision of unfitting
conditions, and questions not soon to be solved.
It seemed a long while—she did not know how long—before she heard
Celia saying, "That will do, nurse; he will be quiet on my lap now.
You can go to lunch, and let Garratt stay in the next room." "What I
think, Dodo," Celia went on, observing nothing more than that Dorothea
was leaning back in her chair, and likely to be passive, "is that Mr.
Casaubon was spiteful. I never did like him, and James never did. I
think the corners of his mouth were dreadfully spiteful. And now he
has behaved in this way, I am sure religion does not require you to
make yourself uncomfortable about him. If he has been taken away, that
is a mercy, and you ought to be grateful. We should not grieve, should
we, baby?" said Celia confidentially to that unconscious centre and
poise of the world, who had the most remarkable fists all complete even
to the nails, and hair enough, really, when you took his cap off, to
make—you didn't know what:—in short, he was Bouddha in a Western
At this crisis Lydgate was announced, and one of the first things he
said was, "I fear you are not so well as you were, Mrs. Casaubon; have
you been agitated? allow me to feel your pulse." Dorothea's hand was
of a marble coldness.
"She wants to go to Lowick, to look over papers," said Celia. "She
ought not, ought she?"
Lydgate did not speak for a few moments. Then he said, looking at
Dorothea. "I hardly know. In my opinion Mrs. Casaubon should do what
would give her the most repose of mind. That repose will not always
come from being forbidden to act."
"Thank you," said Dorothea, exerting herself, "I am sure that is wise.
There are so many things which I ought to attend to. Why should I sit
here idle?" Then, with an effort to recall subjects not connected with
her agitation, she added, abruptly, "You know every one in Middlemarch,
I think, Mr. Lydgate. I shall ask you to tell me a great deal. I have
serious things to do now. I have a living to give away. You know Mr.
Tyke and all the—" But Dorothea's effort was too much for her; she
broke off and burst into sobs. Lydgate made her drink a dose of sal
"Let Mrs. Casaubon do as she likes," he said to Sir James, whom he
asked to see before quitting the house. "She wants perfect freedom, I
think, more than any other prescription."
His attendance on Dorothea while her brain was excited, had enabled him
to form some true conclusions concerning the trials of her life. He
felt sure that she had been suffering from the strain and conflict of
self-repression; and that she was likely now to feel herself only in
another sort of pinfold than that from which she had been released.
Lydgate's advice was all the easier for Sir James to follow when he
found that Celia had already told Dorothea the unpleasant fact about
the will. There was no help for it now—no reason for any further
delay in the execution of necessary business. And the next day Sir
James complied at once with her request that he would drive her to
"I have no wish to stay there at present," said Dorothea; "I could
hardly bear it. I am much happier at Freshitt with Celia. I shall be
able to think better about what should be done at Lowick by looking at
it from a distance. And I should like to be at the Grange a little
while with my uncle, and go about in all the old walks and among the
people in the village."
"Not yet, I think. Your uncle is having political company, and you are
better out of the way of such doings," said Sir James, who at that
moment thought of the Grange chiefly as a haunt of young Ladislaw's.
But no word passed between him and Dorothea about the objectionable
part of the will; indeed, both of them felt that the mention of it
between them would be impossible. Sir James was shy, even with men,
about disagreeable subjects; and the one thing that Dorothea would have
chosen to say, if she had spoken on the matter at all, was forbidden to
her at present because it seemed to be a further exposure of her
husband's injustice. Yet she did wish that Sir James could know what
had passed between her and her husband about Will Ladislaw's moral
claim on the property: it would then, she thought, be apparent to him
as it was to her, that her husband's strange indelicate proviso had
been chiefly urged by his bitter resistance to that idea of claim, and
not merely by personal feelings more difficult to talk about. Also, it
must be admitted, Dorothea wished that this could be known for Will's
sake, since her friends seemed to think of him as simply an object of
Mr. Casaubon's charity. Why should he be compared with an Italian
carrying white mice? That word quoted from Mrs. Cadwallader seemed
like a mocking travesty wrought in the dark by an impish finger.
At Lowick Dorothea searched desk and drawer—searched all her husband's
places of deposit for private writing, but found no paper addressed
especially to her, except that "Synoptical Tabulation," which was
probably only the beginning of many intended directions for her
guidance. In carrying out this bequest of labor to Dorothea, as in all
else, Mr. Casaubon had been slow and hesitating, oppressed in the plan
of transmitting his work, as he had been in executing it, by the sense
of moving heavily in a dim and clogging medium: distrust of Dorothea's
competence to arrange what he had prepared was subdued only by distrust
of any other redactor. But he had come at last to create a trust for
himself out of Dorothea's nature: she could do what she resolved to do:
and he willingly imagined her toiling under the fetters of a promise to
erect a tomb with his name upon it. (Not that Mr. Casaubon called the
future volumes a tomb; he called them the Key to all Mythologies.) But
the months gained on him and left his plans belated: he had only had
time to ask for that promise by which he sought to keep his cold grasp
on Dorothea's life.
The grasp had slipped away. Bound by a pledge given from the depths of
her pity, she would have been capable of undertaking a toil which her
judgment whispered was vain for all uses except that consecration of
faithfulness which is a supreme use. But now her judgment, instead of
being controlled by duteous devotion, was made active by the
imbittering discovery that in her past union there had lurked the
hidden alienation of secrecy and suspicion. The living, suffering man
was no longer before her to awaken her pity: there remained only the
retrospect of painful subjection to a husband whose thoughts had been
lower than she had believed, whose exorbitant claims for himself had
even blinded his scrupulous care for his own character, and made him
defeat his own pride by shocking men of ordinary honor. As for the
property which was the sign of that broken tie, she would have been
glad to be free from it and have nothing more than her original fortune
which had been settled on her, if there had not been duties attached to
ownership, which she ought not to flinch from. About this property
many troublous questions insisted on rising: had she not been right in
thinking that the half of it ought to go to Will Ladislaw?—but was it
not impossible now for her to do that act of justice? Mr. Casaubon had
taken a cruelly effective means of hindering her: even with indignation
against him in her heart, any act that seemed a triumphant eluding of
his purpose revolted her.
After collecting papers of business which she wished to examine, she
locked up again the desks and drawers—all empty of personal words for
her—empty of any sign that in her husband's lonely brooding his heart
had gone out to her in excuse or explanation; and she went back to
Freshitt with the sense that around his last hard demand and his last
injurious assertion of his power, the silence was unbroken.
Dorothea tried now to turn her thoughts towards immediate duties, and
one of these was of a kind which others were determined to remind her
of. Lydgate's ear had caught eagerly her mention of the living, and as
soon as he could, he reopened the subject, seeing here a possibility of
making amends for the casting-vote he had once given with an
ill-satisfied conscience. "Instead of telling you anything about Mr.
Tyke," he said, "I should like to speak of another man—Mr.
Farebrother, the Vicar of St. Botolph's. His living is a poor one, and
gives him a stinted provision for himself and his family. His mother,
aunt, and sister all live with him, and depend upon him. I believe he
has never married because of them. I never heard such good preaching
as his—such plain, easy eloquence. He would have done to preach at
St. Paul's Cross after old Latimer. His talk is just as good about all
subjects: original, simple, clear. I think him a remarkable fellow: he
ought to have done more than he has done."
"Why has he not done more?" said Dorothea, interested now in all who
had slipped below their own intention.
"That's a hard question," said Lydgate. "I find myself that it's
uncommonly difficult to make the right thing work: there are so many
strings pulling at once. Farebrother often hints that he has got into
the wrong profession; he wants a wider range than that of a poor
clergyman, and I suppose he has no interest to help him on. He is very
fond of Natural History and various scientific matters, and he is
hampered in reconciling these tastes with his position. He has no
money to spare—hardly enough to use; and that has led him into
card-playing—Middlemarch is a great place for whist. He does play for
money, and he wins a good deal. Of course that takes him into company
a little beneath him, and makes him slack about some things; and yet,
with all that, looking at him as a whole, I think he is one of the most
blameless men I ever knew. He has neither venom nor doubleness in him,
and those often go with a more correct outside."
"I wonder whether he suffers in his conscience because of that habit,"
said Dorothea; "I wonder whether he wishes he could leave it off."
"I have no doubt he would leave it off, if he were transplanted into
plenty: he would be glad of the time for other things."
"My uncle says that Mr. Tyke is spoken of as an apostolic man," said
Dorothea, meditatively. She was wishing it were possible to restore
the times of primitive zeal, and yet thinking of Mr. Farebrother with a
strong desire to rescue him from his chance-gotten money.
"I don't pretend to say that Farebrother is apostolic," said Lydgate.
"His position is not quite like that of the Apostles: he is only a
parson among parishioners whose lives he has to try and make better.
Practically I find that what is called being apostolic now, is an
impatience of everything in which the parson doesn't cut the principal
figure. I see something of that in Mr. Tyke at the Hospital: a good
deal of his doctrine is a sort of pinching hard to make people
uncomfortably aware of him. Besides, an apostolic man at Lowick!—he
ought to think, as St. Francis did, that it is needful to preach to the
"True," said Dorothea. "It is hard to imagine what sort of notions our
farmers and laborers get from their teaching. I have been looking into
a volume of sermons by Mr. Tyke: such sermons would be of no use at
Lowick—I mean, about imputed righteousness and the prophecies in the
Apocalypse. I have always been thinking of the different ways in which
Christianity is taught, and whenever I find one way that makes it a
wider blessing than any other, I cling to that as the truest—I mean
that which takes in the most good of all kinds, and brings in the most
people as sharers in it. It is surely better to pardon too much, than
to condemn too much. But I should like to see Mr. Farebrother and hear
"Do," said Lydgate; "I trust to the effect of that. He is very much
beloved, but he has his enemies too: there are always people who can't
forgive an able man for differing from them. And that money-winning
business is really a blot. You don't, of course, see many Middlemarch
people: but Mr. Ladislaw, who is constantly seeing Mr. Brooke, is a
great friend of Mr. Farebrother's old ladies, and would be glad to sing
the Vicar's praises. One of the old ladies—Miss Noble, the aunt—is a
wonderfully quaint picture of self-forgetful goodness, and Ladislaw
gallants her about sometimes. I met them one day in a back street: you
know Ladislaw's look—a sort of Daphnis in coat and waistcoat; and this
little old maid reaching up to his arm—they looked like a couple
dropped out of a romantic comedy. But the best evidence about
Farebrother is to see him and hear him."
Happily Dorothea was in her private sitting-room when this conversation
occurred, and there was no one present to make Lydgate's innocent
introduction of Ladislaw painful to her. As was usual with him in
matters of personal gossip, Lydgate had quite forgotten Rosamond's
remark that she thought Will adored Mrs. Casaubon. At that moment he
was only caring for what would recommend the Farebrother family; and he
had purposely given emphasis to the worst that could be said about the
Vicar, in order to forestall objections. In the weeks since Mr.
Casaubon's death he had hardly seen Ladislaw, and he had heard no rumor
to warn him that Mr. Brooke's confidential secretary was a dangerous
subject with Mrs. Casaubon. When he was gone, his picture of Ladislaw
lingered in her mind and disputed the ground with that question of the
Lowick living. What was Will Ladislaw thinking about her? Would he
hear of that fact which made her cheeks burn as they never used to do?
And how would he feel when he heard it?—But she could see as well as
possible how he smiled down at the little old maid. An Italian with
white mice!—on the contrary, he was a creature who entered into every
one's feelings, and could take the pressure of their thought instead of
urging his own with iron resistance.
Party is Nature too, and you shall see
By force of Logic how they both agree:
The Many in the One, the One in Many;
All is not Some, nor Some the same as Any:
Genus holds species, both are great or small;
One genus highest, one not high at all;
Each species has its differentia too,
This is not That, and He was never You,
Though this and that are AYES, and you and he
Are like as one to one, or three to three.
No gossip about Mr. Casaubon's will had yet reached Ladislaw: the air
seemed to be filled with the dissolution of Parliament and the coming
election, as the old wakes and fairs were filled with the rival clatter
of itinerant shows; and more private noises were taken little notice
of. The famous "dry election" was at hand, in which the depths of
public feeling might be measured by the low flood-mark of drink. Will
Ladislaw was one of the busiest at this time; and though Dorothea's
widowhood was continually in his thought, he was so far from wishing to
be spoken to on the subject, that when Lydgate sought him out to tell
him what had passed about the Lowick living, he answered rather
"Why should you bring me into the matter? I never see Mrs. Casaubon,
and am not likely to see her, since she is at Freshitt. I never go
there. It is Tory ground, where I and the 'Pioneer' are no more
welcome than a poacher and his gun."
The fact was that Will had been made the more susceptible by observing
that Mr. Brooke, instead of wishing him, as before, to come to the
Grange oftener than was quite agreeable to himself, seemed now to
contrive that he should go there as little as possible. This was a
shuffling concession of Mr. Brooke's to Sir James Chettam's indignant
remonstrance; and Will, awake to the slightest hint in this direction,
concluded that he was to be kept away from the Grange on Dorothea's
account. Her friends, then, regarded him with some suspicion? Their
fears were quite superfluous: they were very much mistaken if they
imagined that he would put himself forward as a needy adventurer trying
to win the favor of a rich woman.
Until now Will had never fully seen the chasm between himself and
Dorothea—until now that he was come to the brink of it, and saw her on
the other side. He began, not without some inward rage, to think of
going away from the neighborhood: it would be impossible for him to
show any further interest in Dorothea without subjecting himself to
disagreeable imputations—perhaps even in her mind, which others might
try to poison.
"We are forever divided," said Will. "I might as well be at Rome; she
would be no farther from me." But what we call our despair is often
only the painful eagerness of unfed hope. There were plenty of reasons
why he should not go—public reasons why he should not quit his post at
this crisis, leaving Mr. Brooke in the lurch when he needed "coaching"
for the election, and when there was so much canvassing, direct and
indirect, to be carried on. Will could not like to leave his own
chessmen in the heat of a game; and any candidate on the right side,
even if his brain and marrow had been as soft as was consistent with a
gentlemanly bearing, might help to turn a majority. To coach Mr.
Brooke and keep him steadily to the idea that he must pledge himself to
vote for the actual Reform Bill, instead of insisting on his
independence and power of pulling up in time, was not an easy task.
Mr. Farebrother's prophecy of a fourth candidate "in the bag" had not
yet been fulfilled, neither the Parliamentary Candidate Society nor any
other power on the watch to secure a reforming majority seeing a worthy
nodus for interference while there was a second reforming candidate
like Mr. Brooke, who might be returned at his own expense; and the
fight lay entirely between Pinkerton the old Tory member, Bagster the
new Whig member returned at the last election, and Brooke the future
independent member, who was to fetter himself for this occasion only.
Mr. Hawley and his party would bend all their forces to the return of
Pinkerton, and Mr. Brooke's success must depend either on plumpers
which would leave Bagster in the rear, or on the new minting of Tory
votes into reforming votes. The latter means, of course, would be
This prospect of converting votes was a dangerous distraction to Mr.
Brooke: his impression that waverers were likely to be allured by
wavering statements, and also the liability of his mind to stick afresh
at opposing arguments as they turned up in his memory, gave Will
Ladislaw much trouble.
"You know there are tactics in these things," said Mr. Brooke; "meeting
people half-way—tempering your ideas—saying, 'Well now, there's
something in that,' and so on. I agree with you that this is a
peculiar occasion—the country with a will of its own—political
unions—that sort of thing—but we sometimes cut with rather too sharp
a knife, Ladislaw. These ten-pound householders, now: why ten? Draw
the line somewhere—yes: but why just at ten? That's a difficult
question, now, if you go into it."
"Of course it is," said Will, impatiently. "But if you are to wait
till we get a logical Bill, you must put yourself forward as a
revolutionist, and then Middlemarch would not elect you, I fancy. As
for trimming, this is not a time for trimming."
Mr. Brooke always ended by agreeing with Ladislaw, who still appeared
to him a sort of Burke with a leaven of Shelley; but after an interval
the wisdom of his own methods reasserted itself, and he was again drawn
into using them with much hopefulness. At this stage of affairs he was
in excellent spirits, which even supported him under large advances of
money; for his powers of convincing and persuading had not yet been
tested by anything more difficult than a chairman's speech introducing
other orators, or a dialogue with a Middlemarch voter, from which he
came away with a sense that he was a tactician by nature, and that it
was a pity he had not gone earlier into this kind of thing. He was a
little conscious of defeat, however, with Mr. Mawmsey, a chief
representative in Middlemarch of that great social power, the retail
trader, and naturally one of the most doubtful voters in the
borough—willing for his own part to supply an equal quality of teas
and sugars to reformer and anti-reformer, as well as to agree
impartially with both, and feeling like the burgesses of old that this
necessity of electing members was a great burthen to a town; for even
if there were no danger in holding out hopes to all parties beforehand,
there would be the painful necessity at last of disappointing
respectable people whose names were on his books. He was accustomed to
receive large orders from Mr. Brooke of Tipton; but then, there were
many of Pinkerton's committee whose opinions had a great weight of
grocery on their side. Mr. Mawmsey thinking that Mr. Brooke, as not
too "clever in his intellects," was the more likely to forgive a grocer
who gave a hostile vote under pressure, had become confidential in his
"As to Reform, sir, put it in a family light," he said, rattling the
small silver in his pocket, and smiling affably. "Will it support Mrs.
Mawmsey, and enable her to bring up six children when I am no more? I
put the question fictiously, knowing what must be the answer. Very
well, sir. I ask you what, as a husband and a father, I am to do when
gentlemen come to me and say, 'Do as you like, Mawmsey; but if you vote
against us, I shall get my groceries elsewhere: when I sugar my liquor
I like to feel that I am benefiting the country by maintaining
tradesmen of the right color.' Those very words have been spoken to
me, sir, in the very chair where you are now sitting. I don't mean by
your honorable self, Mr. Brooke."
"No, no, no—that's narrow, you know. Until my butler complains to me
of your goods, Mr. Mawmsey," said Mr. Brooke, soothingly, "until I hear
that you send bad sugars, spices—that sort of thing—I shall never
order him to go elsewhere."
"Sir, I am your humble servant, and greatly obliged," said Mr. Mawmsey,
feeling that politics were clearing up a little. "There would be some
pleasure in voting for a gentleman who speaks in that honorable manner."
"Well, you know, Mr. Mawmsey, you would find it the right thing to put
yourself on our side. This Reform will touch everybody by-and-by—a
thoroughly popular measure—a sort of A, B, C, you know, that must come
first before the rest can follow. I quite agree with you that you've
got to look at the thing in a family light: but public spirit, now.
We're all one family, you know—it's all one cupboard. Such a thing
as a vote, now: why, it may help to make men's fortunes at the
Cape—there's no knowing what may be the effect of a vote," Mr. Brooke
ended, with a sense of being a little out at sea, though finding it
still enjoyable. But Mr. Mawmsey answered in a tone of decisive check.
"I beg your pardon, sir, but I can't afford that. When I give a vote I
must know what I am doing; I must look to what will be the effects on
my till and ledger, speaking respectfully. Prices, I'll admit, are
what nobody can know the merits of; and the sudden falls after you've
bought in currants, which are a goods that will not keep—I've never;
myself seen into the ins and outs there; which is a rebuke to human
pride. But as to one family, there's debtor and creditor, I hope;
they're not going to reform that away; else I should vote for things
staying as they are. Few men have less need to cry for change than I
have, personally speaking—that is, for self and family. I am not one
of those who have nothing to lose: I mean as to respectability both in
parish and private business, and noways in respect of your honorable
self and custom, which you was good enough to say you would not
withdraw from me, vote or no vote, while the article sent in was
After this conversation Mr. Mawmsey went up and boasted to his wife
that he had been rather too many for Brooke of Tipton, and that he
didn't mind so much now about going to the poll.
Mr. Brooke on this occasion abstained from boasting of his tactics to
Ladislaw, who for his part was glad enough to persuade himself that he
had no concern with any canvassing except the purely argumentative
sort, and that he worked no meaner engine than knowledge. Mr. Brooke,
necessarily, had his agents, who understood the nature of the
Middlemarch voter and the means of enlisting his ignorance on the side
of the Bill—which were remarkably similar to the means of enlisting it
on the side against the Bill. Will stopped his ears. Occasionally
Parliament, like the rest of our lives, even to our eating and apparel,
could hardly go on if our imaginations were too active about processes.
There were plenty of dirty-handed men in the world to do dirty
business; and Will protested to himself that his share in bringing Mr.
Brooke through would be quite innocent.
But whether he should succeed in that mode of contributing to the
majority on the right side was very doubtful to him. He had written
out various speeches and memoranda for speeches, but he had begun to
perceive that Mr. Brooke's mind, if it had the burthen of remembering
any train of thought, would let it drop, run away in search of it, and
not easily come back again. To collect documents is one mode of
serving your country, and to remember the contents of a document is
another. No! the only way in which Mr. Brooke could be coerced into
thinking of the right arguments at the right time was to be well plied
with them till they took up all the room in his brain. But here there
was the difficulty of finding room, so many things having been taken in
beforehand. Mr. Brooke himself observed that his ideas stood rather in
his way when he was speaking.
However, Ladislaw's coaching was forthwith to be put to the test, for
before the day of nomination Mr. Brooke was to explain himself to the
worthy electors of Middlemarch from the balcony of the White Hart,
which looked out advantageously at an angle of the market-place,
commanding a large area in front and two converging streets. It was a
fine May morning, and everything seemed hopeful: there was some
prospect of an understanding between Bagster's committee and Brooke's,
to which Mr. Bulstrode, Mr. Standish as a Liberal lawyer, and such
manufacturers as Mr. Plymdale and Mr. Vincy, gave a solidity which
almost counterbalanced Mr. Hawley and his associates who sat for
Pinkerton at the Green Dragon. Mr. Brooke, conscious of having
weakened the blasts of the "Trumpet" against him, by his reforms as a
landlord in the last half year, and hearing himself cheered a little as
he drove into the town, felt his heart tolerably light under his
buff-colored waistcoat. But with regard to critical occasions, it
often happens that all moments seem comfortably remote until the last.
"This looks well, eh?" said Mr. Brooke as the crowd gathered. "I shall
have a good audience, at any rate. I like this, now—this kind of
public made up of one's own neighbors, you know."
The weavers and tanners of Middlemarch, unlike Mr. Mawmsey, had never
thought of Mr. Brooke as a neighbor, and were not more attached to him
than if he had been sent in a box from London. But they listened
without much disturbance to the speakers who introduced the candidate,
one of them—a political personage from Brassing, who came to tell
Middlemarch its duty—spoke so fully, that it was alarming to think
what the candidate could find to say after him. Meanwhile the crowd
became denser, and as the political personage neared the end of his
speech, Mr. Brooke felt a remarkable change in his sensations while he
still handled his eye-glass, trifled with documents before him, and
exchanged remarks with his committee, as a man to whom the moment of
summons was indifferent.
"I'll take another glass of sherry, Ladislaw," he said, with an easy
air, to Will, who was close behind him, and presently handed him the
supposed fortifier. It was ill-chosen; for Mr. Brooke was an
abstemious man, and to drink a second glass of sherry quickly at no
great interval from the first was a surprise to his system which tended
to scatter his energies instead of collecting them. Pray pity him: so
many English gentlemen make themselves miserable by speechifying on
entirely private grounds! whereas Mr. Brooke wished to serve his
country by standing for Parliament—which, indeed, may also be done on
private grounds, but being once undertaken does absolutely demand some
It was not about the beginning of his speech that Mr. Brooke was at all
anxious; this, he felt sure, would be all right; he should have it
quite pat, cut out as neatly as a set of couplets from Pope. Embarking
would be easy, but the vision of open sea that might come after was
alarming. "And questions, now," hinted the demon just waking up in his
stomach, "somebody may put questions about the schedules.—Ladislaw,"
he continued, aloud, "just hand me the memorandum of the schedules."
When Mr. Brooke presented himself on the balcony, the cheers were quite
loud enough to counterbalance the yells, groans, brayings, and other
expressions of adverse theory, which were so moderate that Mr. Standish
(decidedly an old bird) observed in the ear next to him, "This looks
dangerous, by God! Hawley has got some deeper plan than this." Still,
the cheers were exhilarating, and no candidate could look more amiable
than Mr. Brooke, with the memorandum in his breast-pocket, his left
hand on the rail of the balcony, and his right trifling with his
eye-glass. The striking points in his appearance were his buff
waistcoat, short-clipped blond hair, and neutral physiognomy. He began
with some confidence.
"Gentlemen—Electors of Middlemarch!"
This was so much the right thing that a little pause after it seemed
"I'm uncommonly glad to be here—I was never so proud and happy in my
life—never so happy, you know."
This was a bold figure of speech, but not exactly the right thing; for,
unhappily, the pat opening had slipped away—even couplets from Pope
may be but "fallings from us, vanishings," when fear clutches us, and a
glass of sherry is hurrying like smoke among our ideas. Ladislaw, who
stood at the window behind the speaker, thought, "it's all up now. The
only chance is that, since the best thing won't always do, floundering
may answer for once." Mr. Brooke, meanwhile, having lost other clews,
fell back on himself and his qualifications—always an appropriate
graceful subject for a candidate.
"I am a close neighbor of yours, my good friends—you've known me on
the bench a good while—I've always gone a good deal into public
questions—machinery, now, and machine-breaking—you're many of you
concerned with machinery, and I've been going into that lately. It
won't do, you know, breaking machines: everything must go on—trade,
manufactures, commerce, interchange of staples—that kind of
thing—since Adam Smith, that must go on. We must look all over the
globe:—'Observation with extensive view,' must look everywhere, 'from
China to Peru,' as somebody says—Johnson, I think, 'The Rambler,' you
know. That is what I have done up to a certain point—not as far as
Peru; but I've not always stayed at home—I saw it wouldn't do. I've
been in the Levant, where some of your Middlemarch goods go—and then,
again, in the Baltic. The Baltic, now."
Plying among his recollections in this way, Mr. Brooke might have got
along, easily to himself, and would have come back from the remotest
seas without trouble; but a diabolical procedure had been set up by the
enemy. At one and the same moment there had risen above the shoulders
of the crowd, nearly opposite Mr. Brooke, and within ten yards of him,
the effigy of himself: buff-colored waistcoat, eye-glass, and neutral
physiognomy, painted on rag; and there had arisen, apparently in the
air, like the note of the cuckoo, a parrot-like, Punch-voiced echo of
his words. Everybody looked up at the open windows in the houses at
the opposite angles of the converging streets; but they were either
blank, or filled by laughing listeners. The most innocent echo has an
impish mockery in it when it follows a gravely persistent speaker, and
this echo was not at all innocent; if it did not follow with the
precision of a natural echo, it had a wicked choice of the words it
overtook. By the time it said, "The Baltic, now," the laugh which had
been running through the audience became a general shout, and but for
the sobering effects of party and that great public cause which the
entanglement of things had identified with "Brooke of Tipton," the
laugh might have caught his committee. Mr. Bulstrode asked,
reprehensively, what the new police was doing; but a voice could not
well be collared, and an attack on the effigy of the candidate would
have been too equivocal, since Hawley probably meant it to be pelted.
Mr. Brooke himself was not in a position to be quickly conscious of
anything except a general slipping away of ideas within himself: he had
even a little singing in the ears, and he was the only person who had
not yet taken distinct account of the echo or discerned the image of
himself. Few things hold the perceptions more thoroughly captive than
anxiety about what we have got to say. Mr. Brooke heard the laughter;
but he had expected some Tory efforts at disturbance, and he was at
this moment additionally excited by the tickling, stinging sense that
his lost exordium was coming back to fetch him from the Baltic.
"That reminds me," he went on, thrusting a hand into his side-pocket,
with an easy air, "if I wanted a precedent, you know—but we never want
a precedent for the right thing—but there is Chatham, now; I can't say
I should have supported Chatham, or Pitt, the younger Pitt—he was not
a man of ideas, and we want ideas, you know."
"Blast your ideas! we want the Bill," said a loud rough voice from the
Immediately the invisible Punch, who had hitherto followed Mr. Brooke,
repeated, "Blast your ideas! we want the Bill." The laugh was louder
than ever, and for the first time Mr. Brooke being himself silent,
heard distinctly the mocking echo. But it seemed to ridicule his
interrupter, and in that light was encouraging; so he replied with
"There is something in what you say, my good friend, and what do we
meet for but to speak our minds—freedom of opinion, freedom of the
press, liberty—that kind of thing? The Bill, now—you shall have the
Bill"—here Mr. Brooke paused a moment to fix on his eye-glass and take
the paper from his breast-pocket, with a sense of being practical and
coming to particulars. The invisible Punch followed:—
"You shall have the Bill, Mr. Brooke, per electioneering contest, and a
seat outside Parliament as delivered, five thousand pounds, seven
shillings, and fourpence."
Mr. Brooke, amid the roars of laughter, turned red, let his eye-glass
fall, and looking about him confusedly, saw the image of himself, which
had come nearer. The next moment he saw it dolorously bespattered with
eggs. His spirit rose a little, and his voice too.
"Buffoonery, tricks, ridicule the test of truth—all that is very
well"—here an unpleasant egg broke on Mr. Brooke's shoulder, as the
echo said, "All that is very well;" then came a hail of eggs, chiefly
aimed at the image, but occasionally hitting the original, as if by
chance. There was a stream of new men pushing among the crowd;
whistles, yells, bellowings, and fifes made all the greater hubbub
because there was shouting and struggling to put them down. No voice
would have had wing enough to rise above the uproar, and Mr. Brooke,
disagreeably anointed, stood his ground no longer. The frustration
would have been less exasperating if it had been less gamesome and
boyish: a serious assault of which the newspaper reporter "can aver
that it endangered the learned gentleman's ribs," or can respectfully
bear witness to "the soles of that gentleman's boots having been
visible above the railing," has perhaps more consolations attached to
Mr. Brooke re-entered the committee-room, saying, as carelessly as he
could, "This is a little too bad, you know. I should have got the ear
of the people by-and-by—but they didn't give me time. I should have
gone into the Bill by-and-by, you know," he added, glancing at
Ladislaw. "However, things will come all right at the nomination."
But it was not resolved unanimously that things would come right; on
the contrary, the committee looked rather grim, and the political
personage from Brassing was writing busily, as if he were brewing new
"It was Bowyer who did it," said Mr. Standish, evasively. "I know it
as well as if he had been advertised. He's uncommonly good at
ventriloquism, and he did it uncommonly well, by God! Hawley has been
having him to dinner lately: there's a fund of talent in Bowyer."
"Well, you know, you never mentioned him to me, Standish, else I would
have invited him to dine," said poor Mr. Brooke, who had gone through a
great deal of inviting for the good of his country.
"There's not a more paltry fellow in Middlemarch than Bowyer," said
Ladislaw, indignantly, "but it seems as if the paltry fellows were
always to turn the scale."
Will was thoroughly out of temper with himself as well as with his
"principal," and he went to shut himself in his rooms with a
half-formed resolve to throw up the "Pioneer" and Mr. Brooke together.
Why should he stay? If the impassable gulf between himself and
Dorothea were ever to be filled up, it must rather be by his going away
and getting into a thoroughly different position than by staying here
and slipping into deserved contempt as an understrapper of Brooke's.
Then came the young dream of wonders that he might do—in five years,
for example: political writing, political speaking, would get a higher
value now public life was going to be wider and more national, and they
might give him such distinction that he would not seem to be asking
Dorothea to step down to him. Five years:—if he could only be sure
that she cared for him more than for others; if he could only make her
aware that he stood aloof until he could tell his love without lowering
himself—then he could go away easily, and begin a career which at
five-and-twenty seemed probable enough in the inward order of things,
where talent brings fame, and fame everything else which is delightful.
He could speak and he could write; he could master any subject if he
chose, and he meant always to take the side of reason and justice, on
which he would carry all his ardor. Why should he not one day be
lifted above the shoulders of the crowd, and feel that he had won that
eminence well? Without doubt he would leave Middlemarch, go to town,
and make himself fit for celebrity by "eating his dinners."
But not immediately: not until some kind of sign had passed between him
and Dorothea. He could not be satisfied until she knew why, even if he
were the man she would choose to marry, he would not marry her. Hence
he must keep his post and bear with Mr. Brooke a little longer.
But he soon had reason to suspect that Mr. Brooke had anticipated him
in the wish to break up their connection. Deputations without and
voices within had concurred in inducing that philanthropist to take a
stronger measure than usual for the good of mankind; namely, to
withdraw in favor of another candidate, to whom he left the advantages
of his canvassing machinery. He himself called this a strong measure,
but observed that his health was less capable of sustaining excitement
than he had imagined.
"I have felt uneasy about the chest—it won't do to carry that too
far," he said to Ladislaw in explaining the affair. "I must pull up.
Poor Casaubon was a warning, you know. I've made some heavy advances,
but I've dug a channel. It's rather coarse work—this electioneering,
eh, Ladislaw? dare say you are tired of it. However, we have dug a
channel with the 'Pioneer'—put things in a track, and so on. A more
ordinary man than you might carry it on now—more ordinary, you know."
"Do you wish me to give it up?" said Will, the quick color coming in
his face, as he rose from the writing-table, and took a turn of three
steps with his hands in his pockets. "I am ready to do so whenever you
"As to wishing, my dear Ladislaw, I have the highest opinion of your
powers, you know. But about the 'Pioneer,' I have been consulting a
little with some of the men on our side, and they are inclined to take
it into their hands—indemnify me to a certain extent—carry it on, in
fact. And under the circumstances, you might like to give up—might
find a better field. These people might not take that high view of you
which I have always taken, as an alter ego, a right hand—though I
always looked forward to your doing something else. I think of having
a run into France. But I'll write you any letters, you know—to
Althorpe and people of that kind. I've met Althorpe."
"I am exceedingly obliged to you," said Ladislaw, proudly. "Since you
are going to part with the 'Pioneer,' I need not trouble you about the
steps I shall take. I may choose to continue here for the present."
After Mr. Brooke had left him Will said to himself, "The rest of the
family have been urging him to get rid of me, and he doesn't care now
about my going. I shall stay as long as I like. I shall go of my own
movements and not because they are afraid of me."
The lowliest duties on itself did lay."
On that June evening when Mr. Farebrother knew that he was to have the
Lowick living, there was joy in the old fashioned parlor, and even the
portraits of the great lawyers seemed to look on with satisfaction.
His mother left her tea and toast untouched, but sat with her usual
pretty primness, only showing her emotion by that flush in the cheeks
and brightness in the eyes which give an old woman a touching momentary
identity with her far-off youthful self, and saying decisively—
"The greatest comfort, Camden, is that you have deserved it."
"When a man gets a good berth, mother, half the deserving must come
after," said the son, brimful of pleasure, and not trying to conceal
it. The gladness in his face was of that active kind which seems to
have energy enough not only to flash outwardly, but to light up busy
vision within: one seemed to see thoughts, as well as delight, in his
"Now, aunt," he went on, rubbing his hands and looking at Miss Noble,
who was making tender little beaver-like noises, "There shall be
sugar-candy always on the table for you to steal and give to the
children, and you shall have a great many new stockings to make
presents of, and you shall darn your own more than ever!"
Miss Noble nodded at her nephew with a subdued half-frightened laugh,
conscious of having already dropped an additional lump of sugar into
her basket on the strength of the new preferment.
"As for you, Winny"—the Vicar went on—"I shall make no difficulty
about your marrying any Lowick bachelor—Mr. Solomon Featherstone, for
example, as soon as I find you are in love with him."
Miss Winifred, who had been looking at her brother all the while and
crying heartily, which was her way of rejoicing, smiled through her
tears and said, "You must set me the example, Cam: you must marry
"With all my heart. But who is in love with me? I am a seedy old
fellow," said the Vicar, rising, pushing his chair away and looking
down at himself. "What do you say, mother?"
"You are a handsome man, Camden: though not so fine a figure of a man
as your father," said the old lady.
"I wish you would marry Miss Garth, brother," said Miss Winifred. "She
would make us so lively at Lowick."
"Very fine! You talk as if young women were tied up to be chosen, like
poultry at market; as if I had only to ask and everybody would have
me," said the Vicar, not caring to specify.
"We don't want everybody," said Miss Winifred. "But you would like
Miss Garth, mother, shouldn't you?"
"My son's choice shall be mine," said Mrs. Farebrother, with majestic
discretion, "and a wife would be most welcome, Camden. You will want
your whist at home when we go to Lowick, and Henrietta Noble never was
a whist-player." (Mrs. Farebrother always called her tiny old sister by
that magnificent name.)
"I shall do without whist now, mother."
"Why so, Camden? In my time whist was thought an undeniable amusement
for a good churchman," said Mrs. Farebrother, innocent of the meaning
that whist had for her son, and speaking rather sharply, as at some
dangerous countenancing of new doctrine.
"I shall be too busy for whist; I shall have two parishes," said the
Vicar, preferring not to discuss the virtues of that game.
He had already said to Dorothea, "I don't feel bound to give up St.
Botolph's. It is protest enough against the pluralism they want to
reform if I give somebody else most of the money. The stronger thing
is not to give up power, but to use it well."
"I have thought of that," said Dorothea. "So far as self is concerned,
I think it would be easier to give up power and money than to keep
them. It seems very unfitting that I should have this patronage, yet I
felt that I ought not to let it be used by some one else instead of me."
"It is I who am bound to act so that you will not regret your power,"
said Mr. Farebrother.
His was one of the natures in which conscience gets the more active
when the yoke of life ceases to gall them. He made no display of
humility on the subject, but in his heart he felt rather ashamed that
his conduct had shown laches which others who did not get benefices
were free from.
"I used often to wish I had been something else than a clergyman," he
said to Lydgate, "but perhaps it will be better to try and make as good
a clergyman out of myself as I can. That is the well-beneficed point
of view, you perceive, from which difficulties are much simplified," he
The Vicar did feel then as if his share of duties would be easy. But
Duty has a trick of behaving unexpectedly—something like a heavy
friend whom we have amiably asked to visit us, and who breaks his leg
within our gates.
Hardly a week later, Duty presented itself in his study under the
disguise of Fred Vincy, now returned from Omnibus College with his
"I am ashamed to trouble you, Mr. Farebrother," said Fred, whose fair
open face was propitiating, "but you are the only friend I can consult.
I told you everything once before, and you were so good that I can't
help coming to you again."
"Sit down, Fred, I'm ready to hear and do anything I can," said the
Vicar, who was busy packing some small objects for removal, and went on
with his work.
"I wanted to tell you—" Fred hesitated an instant and then went on
plungingly, "I might go into the Church now; and really, look where I
may, I can't see anything else to do. I don't like it, but I know it's
uncommonly hard on my father to say so, after he has spent a good deal
of money in educating me for it." Fred paused again an instant, and
then repeated, "and I can't see anything else to do."
"I did talk to your father about it, Fred, but I made little way with
him. He said it was too late. But you have got over one bridge now:
what are your other difficulties?"
"Merely that I don't like it. I don't like divinity, and preaching,
and feeling obliged to look serious. I like riding across country, and
doing as other men do. I don't mean that I want to be a bad fellow in
any way; but I've no taste for the sort of thing people expect of a
clergyman. And yet what else am I to do? My father can't spare me any
capital, else I might go into farming. And he has no room for me in
his trade. And of course I can't begin to study for law or physic now,
when my father wants me to earn something. It's all very well to say
I'm wrong to go into the Church; but those who say so might as well
tell me to go into the backwoods."
Fred's voice had taken a tone of grumbling remonstrance, and Mr.
Farebrother might have been inclined to smile if his mind had not been
too busy in imagining more than Fred told him.
"Have you any difficulties about doctrines—about the Articles?" he
said, trying hard to think of the question simply for Fred's sake.
"No; I suppose the Articles are right. I am not prepared with any
arguments to disprove them, and much better, cleverer fellows than I am
go in for them entirely. I think it would be rather ridiculous in me
to urge scruples of that sort, as if I were a judge," said Fred, quite
"I suppose, then, it has occurred to you that you might be a fair
parish priest without being much of a divine?"
"Of course, if I am obliged to be a clergyman, I shall try and do my
duty, though I mayn't like it. Do you think any body ought to blame
"For going into the Church under the circumstances? That depends on
your conscience, Fred—how far you have counted the cost, and seen what
your position will require of you. I can only tell you about myself,
that I have always been too lax, and have been uneasy in consequence."
"But there is another hindrance," said Fred, coloring. "I did not tell
you before, though perhaps I may have said things that made you guess
it. There is somebody I am very fond of: I have loved her ever since
we were children."
"Miss Garth, I suppose?" said the Vicar, examining some labels very
"Yes. I shouldn't mind anything if she would have me. And I know I
could be a good fellow then."
"And you think she returns the feeling?"
"She never will say so; and a good while ago she made me promise not to
speak to her about it again. And she has set her mind especially
against my being a clergyman; I know that. But I can't give her up. I
do think she cares about me. I saw Mrs. Garth last night, and she said
that Mary was staying at Lowick Rectory with Miss Farebrother."
"Yes, she is very kindly helping my sister. Do you wish to go there?"
"No, I want to ask a great favor of you. I am ashamed to bother you in
this way; but Mary might listen to what you said, if you mentioned the
subject to her—I mean about my going into the Church."
"That is rather a delicate task, my dear Fred. I shall have to
presuppose your attachment to her; and to enter on the subject as you
wish me to do, will be asking her to tell me whether she returns it."
"That is what I want her to tell you," said Fred, bluntly. "I don't
know what to do, unless I can get at her feeling."
"You mean that you would be guided by that as to your going into the
"If Mary said she would never have me I might as well go wrong in one
way as another."
"That is nonsense, Fred. Men outlive their love, but they don't
outlive the consequences of their recklessness."
"Not my sort of love: I have never been without loving Mary. If I had
to give her up, it would be like beginning to live on wooden legs."
"Will she not be hurt at my intrusion?"
"No, I feel sure she will not. She respects you more than any one, and
she would not put you off with fun as she does me. Of course I could
not have told any one else, or asked any one else to speak to her, but
you. There is no one else who could be such a friend to both of us."
Fred paused a moment, and then said, rather complainingly, "And she
ought to acknowledge that I have worked in order to pass. She ought to
believe that I would exert myself for her sake."
There was a moment's silence before Mr. Farebrother laid down his work,
and putting out his hand to Fred said—
"Very well, my boy. I will do what you wish."
That very day Mr. Farebrother went to Lowick parsonage on the nag which
he had just set up. "Decidedly I am an old stalk," he thought, "the
young growths are pushing me aside."
He found Mary in the garden gathering roses and sprinkling the petals
on a sheet. The sun was low, and tall trees sent their shadows across
the grassy walks where Mary was moving without bonnet or parasol. She
did not observe Mr. Farebrother's approach along the grass, and had
just stooped down to lecture a small black-and-tan terrier, which would
persist in walking on the sheet and smelling at the rose-leaves as Mary
sprinkled them. She took his fore-paws in one hand, and lifted up the
forefinger of the other, while the dog wrinkled his brows and looked
embarrassed. "Fly, Fly, I am ashamed of you," Mary was saying in a
grave contralto. "This is not becoming in a sensible dog; anybody
would think you were a silly young gentleman."
"You are unmerciful to young gentlemen, Miss Garth," said the Vicar,
within two yards of her.
Mary started up and blushed. "It always answers to reason with Fly,"
she said, laughingly.
"But not with young gentlemen?"
"Oh, with some, I suppose; since some of them turn into excellent men."
"I am glad of that admission, because I want at this very moment to
interest you in a young gentleman."
"Not a silly one, I hope," said Mary, beginning to pluck the roses
again, and feeling her heart beat uncomfortably.
"No; though perhaps wisdom is not his strong point, but rather
affection and sincerity. However, wisdom lies more in those two
qualities than people are apt to imagine. I hope you know by those
marks what young gentleman I mean."
"Yes, I think I do," said Mary, bravely, her face getting more serious,
and her hands cold; "it must be Fred Vincy."
"He has asked me to consult you about his going into the Church. I
hope you will not think that I consented to take a liberty in promising
to do so."
"On the contrary, Mr. Farebrother," said Mary, giving up the roses, and
folding her arms, but unable to look up, "whenever you have anything to
say to me I feel honored."
"But before I enter on that question, let me just touch a point on
which your father took me into confidence; by the way, it was that very
evening on which I once before fulfilled a mission from Fred, just
after he had gone to college. Mr. Garth told me what happened on the
night of Featherstone's death—how you refused to burn the will; and he
said that you had some heart-prickings on that subject, because you had
been the innocent means of hindering Fred from getting his ten thousand
pounds. I have kept that in mind, and I have heard something that may
relieve you on that score—may show you that no sin-offering is
demanded from you there."
Mr. Farebrother paused a moment and looked at Mary. He meant to give
Fred his full advantage, but it would be well, he thought, to clear her
mind of any superstitions, such as women sometimes follow when they do
a man the wrong of marrying him as an act of atonement. Mary's cheeks
had begun to burn a little, and she was mute.
"I mean, that your action made no real difference to Fred's lot. I
find that the first will would not have been legally good after the
burning of the last; it would not have stood if it had been disputed,
and you may be sure it would have been disputed. So, on that score,
you may feel your mind free."
"Thank you, Mr. Farebrother," said Mary, earnestly. "I am grateful to
you for remembering my feelings."
"Well, now I may go on. Fred, you know, has taken his degree. He has
worked his way so far, and now the question is, what is he to do? That
question is so difficult that he is inclined to follow his father's
wishes and enter the Church, though you know better than I do that he
was quite set against that formerly. I have questioned him on the
subject, and I confess I see no insuperable objection to his being a
clergyman, as things go. He says that he could turn his mind to doing
his best in that vocation, on one condition. If that condition were
fulfilled I would do my utmost in helping Fred on. After a time—not,
of course, at first—he might be with me as my curate, and he would
have so much to do that his stipend would be nearly what I used to get
as vicar. But I repeat that there is a condition without which all
this good cannot come to pass. He has opened his heart to me, Miss
Garth, and asked me to plead for him. The condition lies entirely in
Mary looked so much moved, that he said after a moment, "Let us walk a
little;" and when they were walking he added, "To speak quite plainly,
Fred will not take any course which would lessen the chance that you
would consent to be his wife; but with that prospect, he will try his
best at anything you approve."
"I cannot possibly say that I will ever be his wife, Mr. Farebrother:
but I certainly never will be his wife if he becomes a clergyman. What
you say is most generous and kind; I don't mean for a moment to correct
your judgment. It is only that I have my girlish, mocking way of
looking at things," said Mary, with a returning sparkle of playfulness
in her answer which only made its modesty more charming.
"He wishes me to report exactly what you think," said Mr. Farebrother.
"I could not love a man who is ridiculous," said Mary, not choosing to
go deeper. "Fred has sense and knowledge enough to make him
respectable, if he likes, in some good worldly business, but I can
never imagine him preaching and exhorting, and pronouncing blessings,
and praying by the sick, without feeling as if I were looking at a
caricature. His being a clergyman would be only for gentility's sake,
and I think there is nothing more contemptible than such imbecile
gentility. I used to think that of Mr. Crowse, with his empty face and
neat umbrella, and mincing little speeches. What right have such men
to represent Christianity—as if it were an institution for getting up
idiots genteelly—as if—" Mary checked herself. She had been carried
along as if she had been speaking to Fred instead of Mr. Farebrother.
"Young women are severe: they don't feel the stress of action as men
do, though perhaps I ought to make you an exception there. But you
don't put Fred Vincy on so low a level as that?"
"No, indeed, he has plenty of sense, but I think he would not show it
as a clergyman. He would be a piece of professional affectation."
"Then the answer is quite decided. As a clergyman he could have no
Mary shook her head.
"But if he braved all the difficulties of getting his bread in some
other way—will you give him the support of hope? May he count on
"I think Fred ought not to need telling again what I have already said
to him," Mary answered, with a slight resentment in her manner. "I
mean that he ought not to put such questions until he has done
something worthy, instead of saying that he could do it."
Mr. Farebrother was silent for a minute or more, and then, as they
turned and paused under the shadow of a maple at the end of a grassy
walk, said, "I understand that you resist any attempt to fetter you,
but either your feeling for Fred Vincy excludes your entertaining
another attachment, or it does not: either he may count on your
remaining single until he shall have earned your hand, or he may in any
case be disappointed. Pardon me, Mary—you know I used to catechise
you under that name—but when the state of a woman's affections touches
the happiness of another life—of more lives than one—I think it would
be the nobler course for her to be perfectly direct and open."
Mary in her turn was silent, wondering not at Mr. Farebrother's manner
but at his tone, which had a grave restrained emotion in it. When the
strange idea flashed across her that his words had reference to
himself, she was incredulous, and ashamed of entertaining it. She had
never thought that any man could love her except Fred, who had espoused
her with the umbrella ring, when she wore socks and little strapped
shoes; still less that she could be of any importance to Mr.
Farebrother, the cleverest man in her narrow circle. She had only time
to feel that all this was hazy and perhaps illusory; but one thing was
clear and determined—her answer.
"Since you think it my duty, Mr. Farebrother, I will tell you that I
have too strong a feeling for Fred to give him up for any one else. I
should never be quite happy if I thought he was unhappy for the loss of
me. It has taken such deep root in me—my gratitude to him for always
loving me best, and minding so much if I hurt myself, from the time
when we were very little. I cannot imagine any new feeling coming to
make that weaker. I should like better than anything to see him worthy
of every one's respect. But please tell him I will not promise to
marry him till then: I should shame and grieve my father and mother.
He is free to choose some one else."
"Then I have fulfilled my commission thoroughly," said Mr. Farebrother,
putting out his hand to Mary, "and I shall ride back to Middlemarch
forthwith. With this prospect before him, we shall get Fred into the
right niche somehow, and I hope I shall live to join your hands. God
"Oh, please stay, and let me give you some tea," said Mary. Her eyes
filled with tears, for something indefinable, something like the
resolute suppression of a pain in Mr. Farebrother's manner, made her
feel suddenly miserable, as she had once felt when she saw her father's
hands trembling in a moment of trouble.
"No, my dear, no. I must get back."
In three minutes the Vicar was on horseback again, having gone
magnanimously through a duty much harder than the renunciation of
whist, or even than the writing of penitential meditations.
It is but a shallow haste which concludeth insincerity from
what outsiders call inconsistency—putting a dead mechanism
of "ifs" and "therefores" for the living myriad of hidden
suckers whereby the belief and the conduct are wrought into
Mr. Bulstrode, when he was hoping to acquire a new interest in Lowick,
had naturally had an especial wish that the new clergyman should be one
whom he thoroughly approved; and he believed it to be a chastisement
and admonition directed to his own shortcomings and those of the nation
at large, that just about the time when he came in possession of the
deeds which made him the proprietor of Stone Court, Mr. Farebrother
"read himself" into the quaint little church and preached his first
sermon to the congregation of farmers, laborers, and village artisans.
It was not that Mr. Bulstrode intended to frequent Lowick Church or to
reside at Stone Court for a good while to come: he had bought the
excellent farm and fine homestead simply as a retreat which he might
gradually enlarge as to the land and beautify as to the dwelling, until
it should be conducive to the divine glory that he should enter on it
as a residence, partially withdrawing from his present exertions in the
administration of business, and throwing more conspicuously on the side
of Gospel truth the weight of local landed proprietorship, which
Providence might increase by unforeseen occasions of purchase. A
strong leading in this direction seemed to have been given in the
surprising facility of getting Stone Court, when every one had expected
that Mr. Rigg Featherstone would have clung to it as the Garden of
Eden. That was what poor old Peter himself had expected; having often,
in imagination, looked up through the sods above him, and, unobstructed
by perspective, seen his frog-faced legatee enjoying the fine old
place to the perpetual surprise and disappointment of other survivors.
But how little we know what would make paradise for our neighbors! We
judge from our own desires, and our neighbors themselves are not always
open enough even to throw out a hint of theirs. The cool and judicious
Joshua Rigg had not allowed his parent to perceive that Stone Court was
anything less than the chief good in his estimation, and he had
certainly wished to call it his own. But as Warren Hastings looked at
gold and thought of buying Daylesford, so Joshua Rigg looked at Stone
Court and thought of buying gold. He had a very distinct and intense
vision of his chief good, the vigorous greed which he had inherited
having taken a special form by dint of circumstance: and his chief good
was to be a moneychanger. From his earliest employment as an
errand-boy in a seaport, he had looked through the windows of the
moneychangers as other boys look through the windows of the
pastry-cooks; the fascination had wrought itself gradually into a deep
special passion; he meant, when he had property, to do many things, one
of them being to marry a genteel young person; but these were all
accidents and joys that imagination could dispense with. The one joy
after which his soul thirsted was to have a money-changer's shop on a
much-frequented quay, to have locks all round him of which he held the
keys, and to look sublimely cool as he handled the breeding coins of
all nations, while helpless Cupidity looked at him enviously from the
other side of an iron lattice. The strength of that passion had been a
power enabling him to master all the knowledge necessary to gratify it.
And when others were thinking that he had settled at Stone Court for
life, Joshua himself was thinking that the moment now was not far off
when he should settle on the North Quay with the best appointments in
safes and locks.
Enough. We are concerned with looking at Joshua Rigg's sale of his
land from Mr. Bulstrode's point of view, and he interpreted it as a
cheering dispensation conveying perhaps a sanction to a purpose which
he had for some time entertained without external encouragement; he
interpreted it thus, but not too confidently, offering up his
thanksgiving in guarded phraseology. His doubts did not arise from the
possible relations of the event to Joshua Rigg's destiny, which
belonged to the unmapped regions not taken under the providential
government, except perhaps in an imperfect colonial way; but they arose
from reflecting that this dispensation too might be a chastisement for
himself, as Mr. Farebrother's induction to the living clearly was.
This was not what Mr. Bulstrode said to any man for the sake of
deceiving him: it was what he said to himself—it was as genuinely his
mode of explaining events as any theory of yours may be, if you happen
to disagree with him. For the egoism which enters into our theories
does not affect their sincerity; rather, the more our egoism is
satisfied, the more robust is our belief.
However, whether for sanction or for chastisement, Mr. Bulstrode,
hardly fifteen months after the death of Peter Featherstone, had become
the proprietor of Stone Court, and what Peter would say "if he were
worthy to know," had become an inexhaustible and consolatory subject of
conversation to his disappointed relatives. The tables were now turned
on that dear brother departed, and to contemplate the frustration of
his cunning by the superior cunning of things in general was a cud of
delight to Solomon. Mrs. Waule had a melancholy triumph in the proof
that it did not answer to make false Featherstones and cut off the
genuine; and Sister Martha receiving the news in the Chalky Flats said,
"Dear, dear! then the Almighty could have been none so pleased with the
almshouses after all."
Affectionate Mrs. Bulstrode was particularly glad of the advantage
which her husband's health was likely to get from the purchase of Stone
Court. Few days passed without his riding thither and looking over
some part of the farm with the bailiff, and the evenings were delicious
in that quiet spot, when the new hay-ricks lately set up were sending
forth odors to mingle with the breath of the rich old garden. One
evening, while the sun was still above the horizon and burning in
golden lamps among the great walnut boughs, Mr. Bulstrode was pausing
on horseback outside the front gate waiting for Caleb Garth, who had
met him by appointment to give an opinion on a question of stable
drainage, and was now advising the bailiff in the rick-yard.
Mr. Bulstrode was conscious of being in a good spiritual frame and more
than usually serene, under the influence of his innocent recreation.
He was doctrinally convinced that there was a total absence of merit in
himself; but that doctrinal conviction may be held without pain when
the sense of demerit does not take a distinct shape in memory and
revive the tingling of shame or the pang of remorse. Nay, it may be
held with intense satisfaction when the depth of our sinning is but a
measure for the depth of forgiveness, and a clenching proof that we are
peculiar instruments of the divine intention. The memory has as many
moods as the temper, and shifts its scenery like a diorama. At this
moment Mr. Bulstrode felt as if the sunshine were all one with that of
far-off evenings when he was a very young man and used to go out
preaching beyond Highbury. And he would willingly have had that
service of exhortation in prospect now. The texts were there still,
and so was his own facility in expounding them. His brief reverie was
interrupted by the return of Caleb Garth, who also was on horseback,
and was just shaking his bridle before starting, when he exclaimed—
"Bless my heart! what's this fellow in black coming along the lane?
He's like one of those men one sees about after the races."
Mr. Bulstrode turned his horse and looked along the lane, but made no
reply. The comer was our slight acquaintance Mr. Raffles, whose
appearance presented no other change than such as was due to a suit of
black and a crape hat-band. He was within three yards of the horseman
now, and they could see the flash of recognition in his face as he
whirled his stick upward, looking all the while at Mr. Bulstrode, and
at last exclaiming:—
"By Jove, Nick, it's you! I couldn't be mistaken, though the
five-and-twenty years have played old Boguy with us both! How are you,
eh? you didn't expect to see me here. Come, shake us by the hand."
To say that Mr. Raffles' manner was rather excited would be only one
mode of saying that it was evening. Caleb Garth could see that there
was a moment of struggle and hesitation in Mr. Bulstrode, but it ended
in his putting out his hand coldly to Raffles and saying—
"I did not indeed expect to see you in this remote country place."
"Well, it belongs to a stepson of mine," said Raffles, adjusting
himself in a swaggering attitude. "I came to see him here before. I'm
not so surprised at seeing you, old fellow, because I picked up a
letter—what you may call a providential thing. It's uncommonly
fortunate I met you, though; for I don't care about seeing my stepson:
he's not affectionate, and his poor mother's gone now. To tell the
truth, I came out of love to you, Nick: I came to get your address,
for—look here!" Raffles drew a crumpled paper from his pocket.
Almost any other man than Caleb Garth might have been tempted to linger
on the spot for the sake of hearing all he could about a man whose
acquaintance with Bulstrode seemed to imply passages in the banker's
life so unlike anything that was known of him in Middlemarch that they
must have the nature of a secret to pique curiosity. But Caleb was
peculiar: certain human tendencies which are commonly strong were
almost absent from his mind; and one of these was curiosity about
personal affairs. Especially if there was anything discreditable to be
found out concerning another man, Caleb preferred not to know it; and
if he had to tell anybody under him that his evil doings were
discovered, he was more embarrassed than the culprit. He now spurred
his horse, and saying, "I wish you good evening, Mr. Bulstrode; I must
be getting home," set off at a trot.
"You didn't put your full address to this letter," Raffles continued.
"That was not like the first-rate man of business you used to be. 'The
Shrubs,'—they may be anywhere: you live near at hand, eh?—have cut
the London concern altogether—perhaps turned country squire—have a
rural mansion to invite me to. Lord, how many years it is ago! The
old lady must have been dead a pretty long while—gone to glory without
the pain of knowing how poor her daughter was, eh? But, by Jove!
you're very pale and pasty, Nick. Come, if you're going home, I'll
walk by your side."
Mr. Bulstrode's usual paleness had in fact taken an almost deathly hue.
Five minutes before, the expanse of his life had been submerged in its
evening sunshine which shone backward to its remembered morning: sin
seemed to be a question of doctrine and inward penitence, humiliation
an exercise of the closet, the bearing of his deeds a matter of private
vision adjusted solely by spiritual relations and conceptions of the
divine purposes. And now, as if by some hideous magic, this loud red
figure had risen before him in unmanageable solidity—an incorporate
past which had not entered into his imagination of chastisements. But
Mr. Bulstrode's thought was busy, and he was not a man to act or speak
"I was going home," he said, "but I can defer my ride a little. And
you can, if you please, rest here."
"Thank you," said Raffles, making a grimace. "I don't care now about
seeing my stepson. I'd rather go home with you."
"Your stepson, if Mr. Rigg Featherstone was he, is here no longer. I
am master here now."
Raffles opened wide eyes, and gave a long whistle of surprise, before
he said, "Well then, I've no objection. I've had enough walking from
the coach-road. I never was much of a walker, or rider either. What I
like is a smart vehicle and a spirited cob. I was always a little
heavy in the saddle. What a pleasant surprise it must be to you to see
me, old fellow!" he continued, as they turned towards the house. "You
don't say so; but you never took your luck heartily—you were always
thinking of improving the occasion—you'd such a gift for improving
Mr. Raffles seemed greatly to enjoy his own wit, and Swung his leg in a
swaggering manner which was rather too much for his companion's
"If I remember rightly," Mr. Bulstrode observed, with chill anger, "our
acquaintance many years ago had not the sort of intimacy which you are
now assuming, Mr. Raffles. Any services you desire of me will be the
more readily rendered if you will avoid a tone of familiarity which did
not lie in our former intercourse, and can hardly be warranted by more
than twenty years of separation."
"You don't like being called Nick? Why, I always called you Nick in my
heart, and though lost to sight, to memory dear. By Jove! my feelings
have ripened for you like fine old cognac. I hope you've got some in
the house now. Josh filled my flask well the last time."
Mr. Bulstrode had not yet fully learned that even the desire for cognac
was not stronger in Raffles than the desire to torment, and that a hint
of annoyance always served him as a fresh cue. But it was at least
clear that further objection was useless, and Mr. Bulstrode, in giving
orders to the housekeeper for the accommodation of the guest, had a
resolute air of quietude.
There was the comfort of thinking that this housekeeper had been in the
service of Rigg also, and might accept the idea that Mr. Bulstrode
entertained Raffles merely as a friend of her former master.
When there was food and drink spread before his visitor in the
wainscoted parlor, and no witness in the room, Mr. Bulstrode said—
"Your habits and mine are so different, Mr. Raffles, that we can hardly
enjoy each other's society. The wisest plan for both of us will
therefore be to part as soon as possible. Since you say that you
wished to meet me, you probably considered that you had some business
to transact with me. But under the circumstances I will invite you to
remain here for the night, and I will myself ride over here early
to-morrow morning—before breakfast, in fact, when I can receive any
Communication you have to make to me."
"With all my heart," said Raffles; "this is a comfortable place—a
little dull for a continuance; but I can put up with it for a night,
with this good liquor and the prospect of seeing you again in the
morning. You're a much better host than my stepson was; but Josh owed
me a bit of a grudge for marrying his mother; and between you and me
there was never anything but kindness."
Mr. Bulstrode, hoping that the peculiar mixture of joviality and
sneering in Raffles' manner was a good deal the effect of drink, had
determined to wait till he was quite sober before he spent more words
upon him. But he rode home with a terribly lucid vision of the
difficulty there would be in arranging any result that could be
permanently counted on with this man. It was inevitable that he should
wish to get rid of John Raffles, though his reappearance could not be
regarded as lying outside the divine plan. The spirit of evil might
have sent him to threaten Mr. Bulstrode's subversion as an instrument
of good; but the threat must have been permitted, and was a
chastisement of a new kind. It was an hour of anguish for him very
different from the hours in which his struggle had been securely
private, and which had ended with a sense that his secret misdeeds were
pardoned and his services accepted. Those misdeeds even when
committed—had they not been half sanctified by the singleness of his
desire to devote himself and all he possessed to the furtherance of the
divine scheme? And was he after all to become a mere stone of
stumbling and a rock of offence? For who would understand the work
within him? Who would not, when there was the pretext of casting
disgrace upon him, confound his whole life and the truths he had
espoused, in one heap of obloquy?
In his closest meditations the life-long habit of Mr. Bulstrode's mind
clad his most egoistic terrors in doctrinal references to superhuman
ends. But even while we are talking and meditating about the earth's
orbit and the solar system, what we feel and adjust our movements to is
the stable earth and the changing day. And now within all the
automatic succession of theoretic phrases—distinct and inmost as the
shiver and the ache of oncoming fever when we are discussing abstract
pain, was the forecast of disgrace in the presence of his neighbors and
of his own wife. For the pain, as well as the public estimate of
disgrace, depends on the amount of previous profession. To men who
only aim at escaping felony, nothing short of the prisoner's dock is
disgrace. But Mr. Bulstrode had aimed at being an eminent Christian.
It was not more than half-past seven in the morning when he again
reached Stone Court. The fine old place never looked more like a
delightful home than at that moment; the great white lilies were in
flower, the nasturtiums, their pretty leaves all silvered with dew,
were running away over the low stone wall; the very noises all around
had a heart of peace within them. But everything was spoiled for the
owner as he walked on the gravel in front and awaited the descent of
Mr. Raffles, with whom he was condemned to breakfast.
It was not long before they were seated together in the wainscoted
parlor over their tea and toast, which was as much as Raffles cared to
take at that early hour. The difference between his morning and
evening self was not so great as his companion had imagined that it
might be; the delight in tormenting was perhaps even the stronger
because his spirits were rather less highly pitched. Certainly his
manners seemed more disagreeable by the morning light.
"As I have little time to spare, Mr. Raffles," said the banker, who
could hardly do more than sip his tea and break his toast without
eating it, "I shall be obliged if you will mention at once the ground
on which you wished to meet with me. I presume that you have a home
elsewhere and will be glad to return to it."
"Why, if a man has got any heart, doesn't he want to see an old friend,
Nick?—I must call you Nick—we always did call you young Nick when we
knew you meant to marry the old widow. Some said you had a handsome
family likeness to old Nick, but that was your mother's fault, calling
you Nicholas. Aren't you glad to see me again? I expected an invite
to stay with you at some pretty place. My own establishment is broken
up now my wife's dead. I've no particular attachment to any spot; I
would as soon settle hereabout as anywhere."
"May I ask why you returned from America? I considered that the strong
wish you expressed to go there, when an adequate sum was furnished, was
tantamount to an engagement that you would remain there for life."
"Never knew that a wish to go to a place was the same thing as a wish
to stay. But I did stay a matter of ten years; it didn't suit me to
stay any longer. And I'm not going again, Nick." Here Mr. Raffles
winked slowly as he looked at Mr. Bulstrode.
"Do you wish to be settled in any business? What is your calling now?"
"Thank you, my calling is to enjoy myself as much as I can. I don't
care about working any more. If I did anything it would be a little
travelling in the tobacco line—or something of that sort, which takes
a man into agreeable company. But not without an independence to fall
back upon. That's what I want: I'm not so strong as I was, Nick,
though I've got more color than you. I want an independence."
"That could be supplied to you, if you would engage to keep at a
distance," said Mr. Bulstrode, perhaps with a little too much eagerness
in his undertone.
"That must be as it suits my convenience," said Raffles coolly. "I see
no reason why I shouldn't make a few acquaintances hereabout. I'm not
ashamed of myself as company for anybody. I dropped my portmanteau at
the turnpike when I got down—change of linen—genuine—honor bright—more
than fronts and wristbands; and with this suit of mourning, straps
and everything, I should do you credit among the nobs here." Mr.
Raffles had pushed away his chair and looked down at himself,
particularly at his straps. His chief intention was to annoy
Bulstrode, but he really thought that his appearance now would produce
a good effect, and that he was not only handsome and witty, but clad in
a mourning style which implied solid connections.
"If you intend to rely on me in any way, Mr. Raffles," said Bulstrode,
after a moment's pause, "you will expect to meet my wishes."
"Ah, to be sure," said Raffles, with a mocking cordiality. "Didn't I
always do it? Lord, you made a pretty thing out of me, and I got but
little. I've often thought since, I might have done better by telling
the old woman that I'd found her daughter and her grandchild: it would
have suited my feelings better; I've got a soft place in my heart. But
you've buried the old lady by this time, I suppose—it's all one to her
now. And you've got your fortune out of that profitable business which
had such a blessing on it. You've taken to being a nob, buying land,
being a country bashaw. Still in the Dissenting line, eh? Still
godly? Or taken to the Church as more genteel?"
This time Mr. Raffles' slow wink and slight protrusion of his tongue
was worse than a nightmare, because it held the certitude that it was
not a nightmare, but a waking misery. Mr. Bulstrode felt a shuddering
nausea, and did not speak, but was considering diligently whether he
should not leave Raffles to do as he would, and simply defy him as a
slanderer. The man would soon show himself disreputable enough to make
people disbelieve him. "But not when he tells any ugly-looking truth
about you," said discerning consciousness. And again: it seemed no
wrong to keep Raffles at a distance, but Mr. Bulstrode shrank from the
direct falsehood of denying true statements. It was one thing to look
back on forgiven sins, nay, to explain questionable conformity to lax
customs, and another to enter deliberately on the necessity of
But since Bulstrode did not speak, Raffles ran on, by way of using time
to the utmost.
"I've not had such fine luck as you, by Jove! Things went confoundedly
with me in New York; those Yankees are cool hands, and a man of
gentlemanly feelings has no chance with them. I married when I came
back—a nice woman in the tobacco trade—very fond of me—but the
trade was restricted, as we say. She had been settled there a good
many years by a friend; but there was a son too much in the case. Josh
and I never hit it off. However, I made the most of the position, and
I've always taken my glass in good company. It's been all on the
square with me; I'm as open as the day. You won't take it ill of me
that I didn't look you up before. I've got a complaint that makes me a
little dilatory. I thought you were trading and praying away in London
still, and didn't find you there. But you see I was sent to you,
Nick—perhaps for a blessing to both of us."
Mr. Raffles ended with a jocose snuffle: no man felt his intellect more
superior to religious cant. And if the cunning which calculates on the
meanest feelings in men could be, called intellect, he had his share,
for under the blurting rallying tone with which he spoke to Bulstrode,
there was an evident selection of statements, as if they had been so
many moves at chess. Meanwhile Bulstrode had determined on his move,
and he said, with gathered resolution—
"You will do well to reflect, Mr. Raffles, that it is possible for a
man to overreach himself in the effort to secure undue advantage.
Although I am not in any way bound to you, I am willing to supply you
with a regular annuity—in quarterly payments—so long as you fulfil a
promise to remain at a distance from this neighborhood. It is in your
power to choose. If you insist on remaining here, even for a short
time, you will get nothing from me. I shall decline to know you."
"Ha, ha!" said Raffles, with an affected explosion, "that reminds me of
a droll dog of a thief who declined to know the constable."
"Your allusions are lost on me sir," said Bulstrode, with white heat;
"the law has no hold on me either through your agency or any other."
"You can't understand a joke, my good fellow. I only meant that I
should never decline to know you. But let us be serious. Your
quarterly payment won't quite suit me. I like my freedom."
Here Raffles rose and stalked once or twice up and down the room,
swinging his leg, and assuming an air of masterly meditation. At last
he stopped opposite Bulstrode, and said, "I'll tell you what! Give us
a couple of hundreds—come, that's modest—and I'll go away—honor
bright!—pick up my portmanteau and go away. But I shall not give up
my Liberty for a dirty annuity. I shall come and go where I like.
Perhaps it may suit me to stay away, and correspond with a friend;
perhaps not. Have you the money with you?"
"No, I have one hundred," said Bulstrode, feeling the immediate
riddance too great a relief to be rejected on the ground of future
uncertainties. "I will forward you the other if you will mention an
"No, I'll wait here till you bring it," said Raffles. "I'll take a
stroll and have a snack, and you'll be back by that time."
Mr. Bulstrode's sickly body, shattered by the agitations he had gone
through since the last evening, made him feel abjectly in the power of
this loud invulnerable man. At that moment he snatched at a temporary
repose to be won on any terms. He was rising to do what Raffles
suggested, when the latter said, lifting up his finger as if with a
"I did have another look after Sarah again, though I didn't tell you;
I'd a tender conscience about that pretty young woman. I didn't find
her, but I found out her husband's name, and I made a note of it. But
hang it, I lost my pocketbook. However, if I heard it, I should know
it again. I've got my faculties as if I was in my prime, but names
wear out, by Jove! Sometimes I'm no better than a confounded tax-paper
before the names are filled in. However, if I hear of her and her
family, you shall know, Nick. You'd like to do something for her, now
she's your step-daughter."
"Doubtless," said Mr. Bulstrode, with the usual steady look of his
light-gray eyes; "though that might reduce my power of assisting you."
As he walked out of the room, Raffles winked slowly at his back, and
then turned towards the window to watch the banker riding away—virtually
at his command. His lips first curled with a smile and then opened
with a short triumphant laugh.
"But what the deuce was the name?" he presently said, half aloud,
scratching his head, and wrinkling his brows horizontally. He had not
really cared or thought about this point of forgetfulness until it
occurred to him in his invention of annoyances for Bulstrode.
"It began with L; it was almost all l's I fancy," he went on, with a
sense that he was getting hold of the slippery name. But the hold was
too slight, and he soon got tired of this mental chase; for few men
were more impatient of private occupation or more in need of making
themselves continually heard than Mr. Raffles. He preferred using his
time in pleasant conversation with the bailiff and the housekeeper,
from whom he gathered as much as he wanted to know about Mr.
Bulstrode's position in Middlemarch.
After all, however, there was a dull space of time which needed
relieving with bread and cheese and ale, and when he was seated alone
with these resources in the wainscoted parlor, he suddenly slapped his
knee, and exclaimed, "Ladislaw!" That action of memory which he had
tried to set going, and had abandoned in despair, had suddenly
completed itself without conscious effort—a common experience,
agreeable as a completed sneeze, even if the name remembered is of no
value. Raffles immediately took out his pocket-book, and wrote down
the name, not because he expected to use it, but merely for the sake of
not being at a loss if he ever did happen to want it. He was not going
to tell Bulstrode: there was no actual good in telling, and to a mind
like that of Mr. Raffles there is always probable good in a secret.
He was satisfied with his present success, and by three o'clock that
day he had taken up his portmanteau at the turnpike and mounted the
coach, relieving Mr. Bulstrode's eyes of an ugly black spot on the
landscape at Stone Court, but not relieving him of the dread that the
black spot might reappear and become inseparable even from the vision
of his hearth.
THE WIDOW AND THE WIFE.
"Negli occhi porta la mia donna Amore;
Per che si fa gentil eio ch'ella mira:
Ov'ella passa, ogni uom ver lei si gira,
E cui saluta fa tremar lo core.
Sicche, bassando il viso, tutto smore,
E d'ogni suo difetto allor sospira:
Fuggon dinanzi a lei Superbia ed Ira:
Aiutatemi, donne, a farle onore.
Ogni dolcezza, ogni pensiero umile
Nasee nel core a chi parlar la sente;
Ond' e beato chi prima la vide.
Quel ch'ella par quand' un poco sorride,
Non si pub dicer, ne tener a mente,
Si e nuovo miracolo gentile."
—DANTE: la Vita Nuova.
By that delightful morning when the hay-ricks at Stone Court were
scenting the air quite impartially, as if Mr. Raffles had been a guest
worthy of finest incense, Dorothea had again taken up her abode at
Lowick Manor. After three months Freshitt had become rather
oppressive: to sit like a model for Saint Catherine looking rapturously
at Celia's baby would not do for many hours in the day, and to remain
in that momentous babe's presence with persistent disregard was a
course that could not have been tolerated in a childless sister.
Dorothea would have been capable of carrying baby joyfully for a mile
if there had been need, and of loving it the more tenderly for that
labor; but to an aunt who does not recognize her infant nephew as
Bouddha, and has nothing to do for him but to admire, his behavior is
apt to appear monotonous, and the interest of watching him exhaustible.
This possibility was quite hidden from Celia, who felt that Dorothea's
childless widowhood fell in quite prettily with the birth of little
Arthur (baby was named after Mr. Brooke).
"Dodo is just the creature not to mind about having anything of her
own—children or anything!" said Celia to her husband. "And if she
had had a baby, it never could have been such a dear as Arthur. Could
"Not if it had been like Casaubon," said Sir James, conscious of some
indirectness in his answer, and of holding a strictly private opinion
as to the perfections of his first-born.
"No! just imagine! Really it was a mercy," said Celia; "and I think it
is very nice for Dodo to be a widow. She can be just as fond of our
baby as if it were her own, and she can have as many notions of her own
as she likes."
"It is a pity she was not a queen," said the devout Sir James.
"But what should we have been then? We must have been something else,"
said Celia, objecting to so laborious a flight of imagination. "I like
her better as she is."
Hence, when she found that Dorothea was making arrangements for her
final departure to Lowick, Celia raised her eyebrows with
disappointment, and in her quiet unemphatic way shot a needle-arrow of
"What will you do at Lowick, Dodo? You say yourself there is nothing
to be done there: everybody is so clean and well off, it makes you
quite melancholy. And here you have been so happy going all about
Tipton with Mr. Garth into the worst backyards. And now uncle is
abroad, you and Mr. Garth can have it all your own way; and I am sure
James does everything you tell him."
"I shall often come here, and I shall see how baby grows all the
better," said Dorothea.
"But you will never see him washed," said Celia; "and that is quite the
best part of the day." She was almost pouting: it did seem to her very
hard in Dodo to go away from the baby when she might stay.
"Dear Kitty, I will come and stay all night on purpose," said Dorothea;
"but I want to be alone now, and in my own home. I wish to know the
Farebrothers better, and to talk to Mr. Farebrother about what there is
to be done in Middlemarch."
Dorothea's native strength of will was no longer all converted into
resolute submission. She had a great yearning to be at Lowick, and was
simply determined to go, not feeling bound to tell all her reasons.
But every one around her disapproved. Sir James was much pained, and
offered that they should all migrate to Cheltenham for a few months
with the sacred ark, otherwise called a cradle: at that period a man
could hardly know what to propose if Cheltenham were rejected.
The Dowager Lady Chettam, just returned from a visit to her daughter in
town, wished, at least, that Mrs. Vigo should be written to, and
invited to accept the office of companion to Mrs. Casaubon: it was not
credible that Dorothea as a young widow would think of living alone in
the house at Lowick. Mrs. Vigo had been reader and secretary to royal
personages, and in point of knowledge and sentiments even Dorothea
could have nothing to object to her.
Mrs. Cadwallader said, privately, "You will certainly go mad in that
house alone, my dear. You will see visions. We have all got to exert
ourselves a little to keep sane, and call things by the same names as
other people call them by. To be sure, for younger sons and women who
have no money, it is a sort of provision to go mad: they are taken care
of then. But you must not run into that. I dare say you are a little
bored here with our good dowager; but think what a bore you might
become yourself to your fellow-creatures if you were always playing
tragedy queen and taking things sublimely. Sitting alone in that
library at Lowick you may fancy yourself ruling the weather; you must
get a few people round you who wouldn't believe you if you told them.
That is a good lowering medicine."
"I never called everything by the same name that all the people about
me did," said Dorothea, stoutly.
"But I suppose you have found out your mistake, my dear," said Mrs.
Cadwallader, "and that is a proof of sanity."
Dorothea was aware of the sting, but it did not hurt her. "No," she
said, "I still think that the greater part of the world is mistaken
about many things. Surely one may be sane and yet think so, since the
greater part of the world has often had to come round from its opinion."
Mrs. Cadwallader said no more on that point to Dorothea, but to her
husband she remarked, "It will be well for her to marry again as soon
as it is proper, if one could get her among the right people. Of
course the Chettams would not wish it. But I see clearly a husband is
the best thing to keep her in order. If we were not so poor I would
invite Lord Triton. He will be marquis some day, and there is no
denying that she would make a good marchioness: she looks handsomer
than ever in her mourning."
"My dear Elinor, do let the poor woman alone. Such contrivances are of
no use," said the easy Rector.
"No use? How are matches made, except by bringing men and women
together? And it is a shame that her uncle should have run away and
shut up the Grange just now. There ought to be plenty of eligible
matches invited to Freshitt and the Grange. Lord Triton is precisely
the man: full of plans for making the people happy in a soft-headed
sort of way. That would just suit Mrs. Casaubon."
"Let Mrs. Casaubon choose for herself, Elinor."
"That is the nonsense you wise men talk! How can she choose if she has
no variety to choose from? A woman's choice usually means taking the
only man she can get. Mark my words, Humphrey. If her friends don't
exert themselves, there will be a worse business than the Casaubon
"For heaven's sake don't touch on that topic, Elinor! It is a very sore
point with Sir James. He would be deeply offended if you entered on it
to him unnecessarily."
"I have never entered on it," said Mrs Cadwallader, opening her hands.
"Celia told me all about the will at the beginning, without any asking
"Yes, yes; but they want the thing hushed up, and I understand that the
young fellow is going out of the neighborhood."
Mrs. Cadwallader said nothing, but gave her husband three significant
nods, with a very sarcastic expression in her dark eyes.
Dorothea quietly persisted in spite of remonstrance and persuasion. So
by the end of June the shutters were all opened at Lowick Manor, and
the morning gazed calmly into the library, shining on the rows of
note-books as it shines on the weary waste planted with huge stones,
the mute memorial of a forgotten faith; and the evening laden with
roses entered silently into the blue-green boudoir where Dorothea chose
oftenest to sit. At first she walked into every room, questioning the
eighteen months of her married life, and carrying on her thoughts as if
they were a speech to be heard by her husband. Then, she lingered in
the library and could not be at rest till she had carefully ranged all
the note-books as she imagined that he would wish to see them, in
orderly sequence. The pity which had been the restraining compelling
motive in her life with him still clung about his image, even while she
remonstrated with him in indignant thought and told him that he was
unjust. One little act of hers may perhaps be smiled at as
superstitious. The Synoptical Tabulation for the use of Mrs. Casaubon,
she carefully enclosed and sealed, writing within the envelope, "I
could not use it. Do you not see now that I could not submit my soul
to yours, by working hopelessly at what I have no belief in—Dorothea?"
Then she deposited the paper in her own desk.
That silent colloquy was perhaps only the more earnest because
underneath and through it all there was always the deep longing which
had really determined her to come to Lowick. The longing was to see
Will Ladislaw. She did not know any good that could come of their
meeting: she was helpless; her hands had been tied from making up to
him for any unfairness in his lot. But her soul thirsted to see him.
How could it be otherwise? If a princess in the days of enchantment
had seen a four-footed creature from among those which live in herds
come to her once and again with a human gaze which rested upon her with
choice and beseeching, what would she think of in her journeying, what
would she look for when the herds passed her? Surely for the gaze
which had found her, and which she would know again. Life would be no
better than candle-light tinsel and daylight rubbish if our spirits
were not touched by what has been, to issues of longing and constancy.
It was true that Dorothea wanted to know the Farebrothers better, and
especially to talk to the new rector, but also true that remembering
what Lydgate had told her about Will Ladislaw and little Miss Noble,
she counted on Will's coming to Lowick to see the Farebrother family.
The very first Sunday, before she entered the church, she saw him as
she had seen him the last time she was there, alone in the clergyman's
pew; but when she entered his figure was gone.
In the week-days when she went to see the ladies at the Rectory, she
listened in vain for some word that they might let fall about Will; but
it seemed to her that Mrs. Farebrother talked of every one else in the
neighborhood and out of it.
"Probably some of Mr. Farebrother's Middlemarch hearers may follow him
to Lowick sometimes. Do you not think so?" said Dorothea, rather
despising herself for having a secret motive in asking the question.
"If they are wise they will, Mrs. Casaubon," said the old lady. "I see
that you set a right value on my son's preaching. His grandfather on
my side was an excellent clergyman, but his father was in the law:—most
exemplary and honest nevertheless, which is a reason for our never
being rich. They say Fortune is a woman and capricious. But sometimes
she is a good woman and gives to those who merit, which has been the
case with you, Mrs. Casaubon, who have given a living to my son."
Mrs. Farebrother recurred to her knitting with a dignified satisfaction
in her neat little effort at oratory, but this was not what Dorothea
wanted to hear. Poor thing! she did not even know whether Will
Ladislaw was still at Middlemarch, and there was no one whom she dared
to ask, unless it were Lydgate. But just now she could not see Lydgate
without sending for him or going to seek him. Perhaps Will Ladislaw,
having heard of that strange ban against him left by Mr. Casaubon, had
felt it better that he and she should not meet again, and perhaps she
was wrong to wish for a meeting that others might find many good
reasons against. Still "I do wish it" came at the end of those wise
reflections as naturally as a sob after holding the breath. And the
meeting did happen, but in a formal way quite unexpected by her.
One morning, about eleven, Dorothea was seated in her boudoir with a
map of the land attached to the manor and other papers before her,
which were to help her in making an exact statement for herself of her
income and affairs. She had not yet applied herself to her work, but
was seated with her hands folded on her lap, looking out along the
avenue of limes to the distant fields. Every leaf was at rest in the
sunshine, the familiar scene was changeless, and seemed to represent
the prospect of her life, full of motiveless ease—motiveless, if her
own energy could not seek out reasons for ardent action. The widow's
cap of those times made an oval frame for the face, and had a crown
standing up; the dress was an experiment in the utmost laying on of
crape; but this heavy solemnity of clothing made her face look all the
younger, with its recovered bloom, and the sweet, inquiring candor of
Her reverie was broken by Tantripp, who came to say that Mr. Ladislaw
was below, and begged permission to see Madam if it were not too early.
"I will see him," said Dorothea, rising immediately. "Let him be shown
into the drawing-room."
The drawing-room was the most neutral room in the house to her—the
one least associated with the trials of her married life: the damask
matched the wood-work, which was all white and gold; there were two
tall mirrors and tables with nothing on them—in brief, it was a room
where you had no reason for sitting in one place rather than in
another. It was below the boudoir, and had also a bow-window looking
out on the avenue. But when Pratt showed Will Ladislaw into it the
window was open; and a winged visitor, buzzing in and out now and then
without minding the furniture, made the room look less formal and
"Glad to see you here again, sir," said Pratt, lingering to adjust a
"I am only come to say good-by, Pratt," said Will, who wished even the
butler to know that he was too proud to hang about Mrs. Casaubon now
she was a rich widow.
"Very sorry to hear it, sir," said Pratt, retiring. Of course, as a
servant who was to be told nothing, he knew the fact of which Ladislaw
was still ignorant, and had drawn his inferences; indeed, had not
differed from his betrothed Tantripp when she said, "Your master was as
jealous as a fiend—and no reason. Madam would look higher than Mr.
Ladislaw, else I don't know her. Mrs. Cadwallader's maid says there's
a lord coming who is to marry her when the mourning's over."
There were not many moments for Will to walk about with his hat in his
hand before Dorothea entered. The meeting was very different from that
first meeting in Rome when Will had been embarrassed and Dorothea calm.
This time he felt miserable but determined, while she was in a state of
agitation which could not be hidden. Just outside the door she had
felt that this longed-for meeting was after all too difficult, and when
she saw Will advancing towards her, the deep blush which was rare in
her came with painful suddenness. Neither of them knew how it was, but
neither of them spoke. She gave her hand for a moment, and then they
went to sit down near the window, she on one settee and he on another
opposite. Will was peculiarly uneasy: it seemed to him not like
Dorothea that the mere fact of her being a widow should cause such a
change in her manner of receiving him; and he knew of no other
condition which could have affected their previous relation to each
other—except that, as his imagination at once told him, her friends
might have been poisoning her mind with their suspicions of him.
"I hope I have not presumed too much in calling," said Will; "I could
not bear to leave the neighborhood and begin a new life without seeing
you to say good-by."
"Presumed? Surely not. I should have thought it unkind if you had not
wished to see me," said Dorothea, her habit of speaking with perfect
genuineness asserting itself through all her uncertainty and agitation.
"Are you going away immediately?"
"Very soon, I think. I intend to go to town and eat my dinners as a
barrister, since, they say, that is the preparation for all public
business. There will be a great deal of political work to be done
by-and-by, and I mean to try and do some of it. Other men have managed
to win an honorable position for themselves without family or money."
"And that will make it all the more honorable," said Dorothea,
ardently. "Besides, you have so many talents. I have heard from my
uncle how well you speak in public, so that every one is sorry when you
leave off, and how clearly you can explain things. And you care that
justice should be done to every one. I am so glad. When we were in
Rome, I thought you only cared for poetry and art, and the things that
adorn life for us who are well off. But now I know you think about the
rest of the world."
While she was speaking Dorothea had lost her personal embarrassment,
and had become like her former self. She looked at Will with a direct
glance, full of delighted confidence.
"You approve of my going away for years, then, and never coming here
again till I have made myself of some mark in the world?" said Will,
trying hard to reconcile the utmost pride with the utmost effort to get
an expression of strong feeling from Dorothea.
She was not aware how long it was before she answered. She had turned
her head and was looking out of the window on the rose-bushes, which
seemed to have in them the summers of all the years when Will would be
away. This was not judicious behavior. But Dorothea never thought of
studying her manners: she thought only of bowing to a sad necessity
which divided her from Will. Those first words of his about his
intentions had seemed to make everything clear to her: he knew, she
supposed, all about Mr. Casaubon's final conduct in relation to him,
and it had come to him with the same sort of shock as to herself. He
had never felt more than friendship for her—had never had anything in
his mind to justify what she felt to be her husband's outrage on the
feelings of both: and that friendship he still felt. Something which
may be called an inward silent sob had gone on in Dorothea before she
said with a pure voice, just trembling in the last words as if only
from its liquid flexibility—
"Yes, it must be right for you to do as you say. I shall be very happy
when I hear that you have made your value felt. But you must have
patience. It will perhaps be a long while."
Will never quite knew how it was that he saved himself from falling
down at her feet, when the "long while" came forth with its gentle
tremor. He used to say that the horrible hue and surface of her crape
dress was most likely the sufficient controlling force. He sat still,
however, and only said—
"I shall never hear from you. And you will forget all about me."
"No," said Dorothea, "I shall never forget you. I have never forgotten
any one whom I once knew. My life has never been crowded, and seems
not likely to be so. And I have a great deal of space for memory at
Lowick, haven't I?" She smiled.
"Good God!" Will burst out passionately, rising, with his hat still in
his hand, and walking away to a marble table, where he suddenly turned
and leaned his back against it. The blood had mounted to his face and
neck, and he looked almost angry. It had seemed to him as if they were
like two creatures slowly turning to marble in each other's presence,
while their hearts were conscious and their eyes were yearning. But
there was no help for it. It should never be true of him that in this
meeting to which he had come with bitter resolution he had ended by a
confession which might be interpreted into asking for her fortune.
Moreover, it was actually true that he was fearful of the effect which
such confessions might have on Dorothea herself.
She looked at him from that distance in some trouble, imagining that
there might have been an offence in her words. But all the while there
was a current of thought in her about his probable want of money, and
the impossibility of her helping him. If her uncle had been at home,
something might have been done through him! It was this preoccupation
with the hardship of Will's wanting money, while she had what ought to
have been his share, which led her to say, seeing that he remained
silent and looked away from her—
"I wonder whether you would like to have that miniature which hangs
up-stairs—I mean that beautiful miniature of your grandmother. I
think it is not right for me to keep it, if you would wish to have it.
It is wonderfully like you."
"You are very good," said Will, irritably. "No; I don't mind about it.
It is not very consoling to have one's own likeness. It would be more
consoling if others wanted to have it."
"I thought you would like to cherish her memory—I thought—" Dorothea
broke off an instant, her imagination suddenly warning her away from
Aunt Julia's history—"you would surely like to have the miniature as a
"Why should I have that, when I have nothing else! A man with only a
portmanteau for his stowage must keep his memorials in his head."
Will spoke at random: he was merely venting his petulance; it was a
little too exasperating to have his grandmother's portrait offered him
at that moment. But to Dorothea's feeling his words had a peculiar
sting. She rose and said with a touch of indignation as well as
"You are much the happier of us two, Mr. Ladislaw, to have nothing."
Will was startled. Whatever the words might be, the tone seemed like a
dismissal; and quitting his leaning posture, he walked a little way
towards her. Their eyes met, but with a strange questioning gravity.
Something was keeping their minds aloof, and each was left to
conjecture what was in the other. Will had really never thought of
himself as having a claim of inheritance on the property which was held
by Dorothea, and would have required a narrative to make him understand
her present feeling.
"I never felt it a misfortune to have nothing till now," he said. "But
poverty may be as bad as leprosy, if it divides us from what we most
The words cut Dorothea to the heart, and made her relent. She answered
in a tone of sad fellowship.
"Sorrow comes in so many ways. Two years ago I had no notion of
that—I mean of the unexpected way in which trouble comes, and ties our
hands, and makes us silent when we long to speak. I used to despise
women a little for not shaping their lives more, and doing better
things. I was very fond of doing as I liked, but I have almost given
it up," she ended, smiling playfully.
"I have not given up doing as I like, but I can very seldom do it,"
said Will. He was standing two yards from her with his mind full of
contradictory desires and resolves—desiring some unmistakable proof
that she loved him, and yet dreading the position into which such a
proof might bring him. "The thing one most longs for may be surrounded
with conditions that would be intolerable."
At this moment Pratt entered and said, "Sir James Chettam is in the
"Ask Sir James to come in here," said Dorothea, immediately. It was as
if the same electric shock had passed through her and Will. Each of
them felt proudly resistant, and neither looked at the other, while
they awaited Sir James's entrance.
After shaking hands with Dorothea, he bowed as slightly as possible to
Ladislaw, who repaid the slightness exactly, and then going towards
"I must say good-by, Mrs. Casaubon; and probably for a long while."
Dorothea put out her hand and said her good-by cordially. The sense
that Sir James was depreciating Will, and behaving rudely to him,
roused her resolution and dignity: there was no touch of confusion in
her manner. And when Will had left the room, she looked with such calm
self-possession at Sir James, saying, "How is Celia?" that he was
obliged to behave as if nothing had annoyed him. And what would be the
use of behaving otherwise? Indeed, Sir James shrank with so much
dislike from the association even in thought of Dorothea with Ladislaw
as her possible lover, that he would himself have wished to avoid an
outward show of displeasure which would have recognized the
disagreeable possibility. If any one had asked him why he shrank in
that way, I am not sure that he would at first have said anything
fuller or more precise than "That Ladislaw!"—though on reflection
he might have urged that Mr. Casaubon's codicil, barring Dorothea's
marriage with Will, except under a penalty, was enough to cast
unfitness over any relation at all between them. His aversion was all
the stronger because he felt himself unable to interfere.
But Sir James was a power in a way unguessed by himself. Entering at
that moment, he was an incorporation of the strongest reasons through
which Will's pride became a repellent force, keeping him asunder from
Hath she her faults? I would you had them too.
They are the fruity must of soundest wine;
Or say, they are regenerating fire
Such as hath turned the dense black element
Into a crystal pathway for the sun.
If youth is the season of hope, it is often so only in the sense that
our elders are hopeful about us; for no age is so apt as youth to think
its emotions, partings, and resolves are the last of their kind. Each
crisis seems final, simply because it is new. We are told that the
oldest inhabitants in Peru do not cease to be agitated by the
earthquakes, but they probably see beyond each shock, and reflect that
there are plenty more to come.
To Dorothea, still in that time of youth when the eyes with their long
full lashes look out after their rain of tears unsoiled and unwearied
as a freshly opened passion-flower, that morning's parting with Will
Ladislaw seemed to be the close of their personal relations. He was
going away into the distance of unknown years, and if ever he came back
he would be another man. The actual state of his mind—his proud
resolve to give the lie beforehand to any suspicion that he would play
the needy adventurer seeking a rich woman—lay quite out of her
imagination, and she had interpreted all his behavior easily enough by
her supposition that Mr. Casaubon's codicil seemed to him, as it did to
her, a gross and cruel interdict on any active friendship between them.
Their young delight in speaking to each other, and saying what no one
else would care to hear, was forever ended, and become a treasure of
the past. For this very reason she dwelt on it without inward check.
That unique happiness too was dead, and in its shadowed silent chamber
she might vent the passionate grief which she herself wondered at. For
the first time she took down the miniature from the wall and kept it
before her, liking to blend the woman who had been too hardly judged
with the grandson whom her own heart and judgment defended. Can any
one who has rejoiced in woman's tenderness think it a reproach to her
that she took the little oval picture in her palm and made a bed for it
there, and leaned her cheek upon it, as if that would soothe the
creatures who had suffered unjust condemnation? She did not know then
that it was Love who had come to her briefly, as in a dream before
awaking, with the hues of morning on his wings—that it was Love to
whom she was sobbing her farewell as his image was banished by the
blameless rigor of irresistible day. She only felt that there was
something irrevocably amiss and lost in her lot, and her thoughts about
the future were the more readily shapen into resolve. Ardent souls,
ready to construct their coming lives, are apt to commit themselves to
the fulfilment of their own visions.
One day that she went to Freshitt to fulfil her promise of staying all
night and seeing baby washed, Mrs. Cadwallader came to dine, the Rector
being gone on a fishing excursion. It was a warm evening, and even in
the delightful drawing-room, where the fine old turf sloped from the
open window towards a lilied pool and well-planted mounds, the heat was
enough to make Celia in her white muslin and light curls reflect with
pity on what Dodo must feel in her black dress and close cap. But this
was not until some episodes with baby were over, and had left her mind
at leisure. She had seated herself and taken up a fan for some time
before she said, in her quiet guttural—
"Dear Dodo, do throw off that cap. I am sure your dress must make you
"I am so used to the cap—it has become a sort of shell," said
Dorothea, smiling. "I feel rather bare and exposed when it is off."
"I must see you without it; it makes us all warm," said Celia, throwing
down her fan, and going to Dorothea. It was a pretty picture to see
this little lady in white muslin unfastening the widow's cap from her
more majestic sister, and tossing it on to a chair. Just as the coils
and braids of dark-brown hair had been set free, Sir James entered the
room. He looked at the released head, and said, "Ah!" in a tone of
"It was I who did it, James," said Celia. "Dodo need not make such a
slavery of her mourning; she need not wear that cap any more among her
"My dear Celia," said Lady Chettam, "a widow must wear her mourning at
least a year."
"Not if she marries again before the end of it," said Mrs. Cadwallader,
who had some pleasure in startling her good friend the Dowager. Sir
James was annoyed, and leaned forward to play with Celia's Maltese dog.
"That is very rare, I hope," said Lady Chettam, in a tone intended to
guard against such events. "No friend of ours ever committed herself
in that way except Mrs. Beevor, and it was very painful to Lord
Grinsell when she did so. Her first husband was objectionable, which
made it the greater wonder. And severely she was punished for it.
They said Captain Beevor dragged her about by the hair, and held up
loaded pistols at her."
"Oh, if she took the wrong man!" said Mrs. Cadwallader, who was in a
decidedly wicked mood. "Marriage is always bad then, first or second.
Priority is a poor recommendation in a husband if he has got no other.
I would rather have a good second husband than an indifferent first."
"My dear, your clever tongue runs away with you," said Lady Chettam.
"I am sure you would be the last woman to marry again prematurely, if
our dear Rector were taken away."
"Oh, I make no vows; it might be a necessary economy. It is lawful to
marry again, I suppose; else we might as well be Hindoos instead of
Christians. Of course if a woman accepts the wrong man, she must take
the consequences, and one who does it twice over deserves her fate.
But if she can marry blood, beauty, and bravery—the sooner the
"I think the subject of our conversation is very ill-chosen," said Sir
James, with a look of disgust. "Suppose we change it."
"Not on my account, Sir James," said Dorothea, determined not to lose
the opportunity of freeing herself from certain oblique references to
excellent matches. "If you are speaking on my behalf, I can assure you
that no question can be more indifferent and impersonal to me than
second marriage. It is no more to me than if you talked of women going
fox-hunting: whether it is admirable in them or not, I shall not follow
them. Pray let Mrs. Cadwallader amuse herself on that subject as much
as on any other."
"My dear Mrs. Casaubon," said Lady Chettam, in her stateliest way, "you
do not, I hope, think there was any allusion to you in my mentioning
Mrs. Beevor. It was only an instance that occurred to me. She was
step-daughter to Lord Grinsell: he married Mrs. Teveroy for his second
wife. There could be no possible allusion to you."
"Oh no," said Celia. "Nobody chose the subject; it all came out of
Dodo's cap. Mrs. Cadwallader only said what was quite true. A woman
could not be married in a widow's cap, James."
"Hush, my dear!" said Mrs. Cadwallader. "I will not offend again. I
will not even refer to Dido or Zenobia. Only what are we to talk
about? I, for my part, object to the discussion of Human Nature,
because that is the nature of rectors' wives."
Later in the evening, after Mrs. Cadwallader was gone, Celia said
privately to Dorothea, "Really, Dodo, taking your cap off made you like
yourself again in more ways than one. You spoke up just as you used to
do, when anything was said to displease you. But I could hardly make
out whether it was James that you thought wrong, or Mrs. Cadwallader."
"Neither," said Dorothea. "James spoke out of delicacy to me, but he
was mistaken in supposing that I minded what Mrs. Cadwallader said. I
should only mind if there were a law obliging me to take any piece of
blood and beauty that she or anybody else recommended."
"But you know, Dodo, if you ever did marry, it would be all the better
to have blood and beauty," said Celia, reflecting that Mr. Casaubon had
not been richly endowed with those gifts, and that it would be well to
caution Dorothea in time.
"Don't be anxious, Kitty; I have quite other thoughts about my life. I
shall never marry again," said Dorothea, touching her sister's chin,
and looking at her with indulgent affection. Celia was nursing her
baby, and Dorothea had come to say good-night to her.
"Really—quite?" said Celia. "Not anybody at all—if he were very
Dorothea shook her head slowly. "Not anybody at all. I have
delightful plans. I should like to take a great deal of land, and
drain it, and make a little colony, where everybody should work, and
all the work should be done well. I should know every one of the
people and be their friend. I am going to have great consultations
with Mr. Garth: he can tell me almost everything I want to know."
"Then you will be happy, if you have a plan, Dodo?" said Celia.
"Perhaps little Arthur will like plans when he grows up, and then he
can help you."
Sir James was informed that same night that Dorothea was really quite
set against marrying anybody at all, and was going to take to "all
sorts of plans," just like what she used to have. Sir James made no
remark. To his secret feeling there was something repulsive in a
woman's second marriage, and no match would prevent him from feeling it
a sort of desecration for Dorothea. He was aware that the world would
regard such a sentiment as preposterous, especially in relation to a
woman of one-and-twenty; the practice of "the world" being to treat of
a young widow's second marriage as certain and probably near, and to
smile with meaning if the widow acts accordingly. But if Dorothea did
choose to espouse her solitude, he felt that the resolution would well
"How happy is he born and taught
That serveth not another's will;
Whose armor is his honest thought,
And simple truth his only skill!
. . . . . . .
This man is freed from servile bands
Of hope to rise or fear to fall;
Lord of himself though not of lands;
And having nothing yet hath all."
—SIR HENRY WOTTON.
Dorothea's confidence in Caleb Garth's knowledge, which had begun on
her hearing that he approved of her cottages, had grown fast during her
stay at Freshitt, Sir James having induced her to take rides over the
two estates in company with himself and Caleb, who quite returned her
admiration, and told his wife that Mrs. Casaubon had a head for
business most uncommon in a woman. It must be remembered that by
"business" Caleb never meant money transactions, but the skilful
application of labor.
"Most uncommon!" repeated Caleb. "She said a thing I often used to
think myself when I was a lad:—'Mr. Garth, I should like to feel, if I
lived to be old, that I had improved a great piece of land and built a
great many good cottages, because the work is of a healthy kind while
it is being done, and after it is done, men are the better for it.'
Those were the very words: she sees into things in that way."
"But womanly, I hope," said Mrs. Garth, half suspecting that Mrs.
Casaubon might not hold the true principle of subordination.
"Oh, you can't think!" said Caleb, shaking his head. "You would like
to hear her speak, Susan. She speaks in such plain words, and a voice
like music. Bless me! it reminds me of bits in the 'Messiah'—'and
straightway there appeared a multitude of the heavenly host, praising
God and saying;' it has a tone with it that satisfies your ear."
Caleb was very fond of music, and when he could afford it went to hear
an oratorio that came within his reach, returning from it with a
profound reverence for this mighty structure of tones, which made him
sit meditatively, looking on the floor and throwing much unutterable
language into his outstretched hands.
With this good understanding between them, it was natural that Dorothea
asked Mr. Garth to undertake any business connected with the three
farms and the numerous tenements attached to Lowick Manor; indeed, his
expectation of getting work for two was being fast fulfilled. As he
said, "Business breeds." And one form of business which was beginning
to breed just then was the construction of railways. A projected line
was to run through Lowick parish where the cattle had hitherto grazed
in a peace unbroken by astonishment; and thus it happened that the
infant struggles of the railway system entered into the affairs of
Caleb Garth, and determined the course of this history with regard to
two persons who were dear to him. The submarine railway may have its
difficulties; but the bed of the sea is not divided among various
landed proprietors with claims for damages not only measurable but
sentimental. In the hundred to which Middlemarch belonged railways
were as exciting a topic as the Reform Bill or the imminent horrors of
Cholera, and those who held the most decided views on the subject were
women and landholders. Women both old and young regarded travelling by
steam as presumptuous and dangerous, and argued against it by saying
that nothing should induce them to get into a railway carriage; while
proprietors, differing from each other in their arguments as much as
Mr. Solomon Featherstone differed from Lord Medlicote, were yet
unanimous in the opinion that in selling land, whether to the Enemy of
mankind or to a company obliged to purchase, these pernicious agencies
must be made to pay a very high price to landowners for permission to
But the slower wits, such as Mr. Solomon and Mrs. Waule, who both
occupied land of their own, took a long time to arrive at this
conclusion, their minds halting at the vivid conception of what it
would be to cut the Big Pasture in two, and turn it into three-cornered
bits, which would be "nohow;" while accommodation-bridges and high
payments were remote and incredible.
"The cows will all cast their calves, brother," said Mrs. Waule, in a
tone of deep melancholy, "if the railway comes across the Near Close;
and I shouldn't wonder at the mare too, if she was in foal. It's a
poor tale if a widow's property is to be spaded away, and the law say
nothing to it. What's to hinder 'em from cutting right and left if
they begin? It's well known, I can't fight."
"The best way would be to say nothing, and set somebody on to send 'em
away with a flea in their ear, when they came spying and measuring,"
said Solomon. "Folks did that about Brassing, by what I can
understand. It's all a pretence, if the truth was known, about their
being forced to take one way. Let 'em go cutting in another parish.
And I don't believe in any pay to make amends for bringing a lot of
ruffians to trample your crops. Where's a company's pocket?"
"Brother Peter, God forgive him, got money out of a company," said Mrs.
Waule. "But that was for the manganese. That wasn't for railways to
blow you to pieces right and left."
"Well, there's this to be said, Jane," Mr. Solomon concluded, lowering
his voice in a cautious manner—"the more spokes we put in their wheel,
the more they'll pay us to let 'em go on, if they must come whether or
This reasoning of Mr. Solomon's was perhaps less thorough than he
imagined, his cunning bearing about the same relation to the course of
railways as the cunning of a diplomatist bears to the general chill or
catarrh of the solar system. But he set about acting on his views in a
thoroughly diplomatic manner, by stimulating suspicion. His side of
Lowick was the most remote from the village, and the houses of the
laboring people were either lone cottages or were collected in a hamlet
called Frick, where a water-mill and some stone-pits made a little
centre of slow, heavy-shouldered industry.
In the absence of any precise idea as to what railways were, public
opinion in Frick was against them; for the human mind in that grassy
corner had not the proverbial tendency to admire the unknown, holding
rather that it was likely to be against the poor man, and that
suspicion was the only wise attitude with regard to it. Even the rumor
of Reform had not yet excited any millennial expectations in Frick,
there being no definite promise in it, as of gratuitous grains to
fatten Hiram Ford's pig, or of a publican at the "Weights and Scales"
who would brew beer for nothing, or of an offer on the part of the
three neighboring farmers to raise wages during winter. And without
distinct good of this kind in its promises, Reform seemed on a footing
with the bragging of pedlers, which was a hint for distrust to every
knowing person. The men of Frick were not ill-fed, and were less given
to fanaticism than to a strong muscular suspicion; less inclined to
believe that they were peculiarly cared for by heaven, than to regard
heaven itself as rather disposed to take them in—a disposition
observable in the weather.
Thus the mind of Frick was exactly of the sort for Mr. Solomon
Featherstone to work upon, he having more plenteous ideas of the same
order, with a suspicion of heaven and earth which was better fed and
more entirely at leisure. Solomon was overseer of the roads at that
time, and on his slow-paced cob often took his rounds by Frick to look
at the workmen getting the stones there, pausing with a mysterious
deliberation, which might have misled you into supposing that he had
some other reason for staying than the mere want of impulse to move.
After looking for a long while at any work that was going on, he would
raise his eyes a little and look at the horizon; finally he would shake
his bridle, touch his horse with the whip, and get it to move slowly
onward. The hour-hand of a clock was quick by comparison with Mr.
Solomon, who had an agreeable sense that he could afford to be slow.
He was in the habit of pausing for a cautious, vaguely designing chat
with every hedger or ditcher on his way, and was especially willing to
listen even to news which he had heard before, feeling himself at an
advantage over all narrators in partially disbelieving them. One day,
however, he got into a dialogue with Hiram Ford, a wagoner, in which he
himself contributed information. He wished to know whether Hiram had
seen fellows with staves and instruments spying about: they called
themselves railroad people, but there was no telling what they were or
what they meant to do. The least they pretended was that they were
going to cut Lowick Parish into sixes and sevens.
"Why, there'll be no stirrin' from one pla-ace to another," said Hiram,
thinking of his wagon and horses.
"Not a bit," said Mr. Solomon. "And cutting up fine land such as this
parish! Let 'em go into Tipton, say I. But there's no knowing what
there is at the bottom of it. Traffic is what they put for'ard; but
it's to do harm to the land and the poor man in the long-run."
"Why, they're Lunnon chaps, I reckon," said Hiram, who had a dim notion
of London as a centre of hostility to the country.
"Ay, to be sure. And in some parts against Brassing, by what I've
heard say, the folks fell on 'em when they were spying, and broke their
peep-holes as they carry, and drove 'em away, so as they knew better
than come again."
"It war good foon, I'd be bound," said Hiram, whose fun was much
restricted by circumstances.
"Well, I wouldn't meddle with 'em myself," said Solomon. "But some say
this country's seen its best days, and the sign is, as it's being
overrun with these fellows trampling right and left, and wanting to cut
it up into railways; and all for the big traffic to swallow up the
little, so as there shan't be a team left on the land, nor a whip to
"I'll crack my whip about their ear'n, afore they bring it to that,
though," said Hiram, while Mr. Solomon, shaking his bridle, moved
Nettle-seed needs no digging. The ruin of this countryside by
railroads was discussed, not only at the "Weights and Scales," but in
the hay-field, where the muster of working hands gave opportunities for
talk such as were rarely had through the rural year.
One morning, not long after that interview between Mr. Farebrother and
Mary Garth, in which she confessed to him her feeling for Fred Vincy,
it happened that her father had some business which took him to
Yoddrell's farm in the direction of Frick: it was to measure and value
an outlying piece of land belonging to Lowick Manor, which Caleb
expected to dispose of advantageously for Dorothea (it must be
confessed that his bias was towards getting the best possible terms
from railroad companies). He put up his gig at Yoddrell's, and in
walking with his assistant and measuring-chain to the scene of his
work, he encountered the party of the company's agents, who were
adjusting their spirit-level. After a little chat he left them,
observing that by-and-by they would reach him again where he was going
to measure. It was one of those gray mornings after light rains, which
become delicious about twelve o'clock, when the clouds part a little,
and the scent of the earth is sweet along the lanes and by the
The scent would have been sweeter to Fred Vincy, who was coming along
the lanes on horseback, if his mind had not been worried by
unsuccessful efforts to imagine what he was to do, with his father on
one side expecting him straightway to enter the Church, with Mary on
the other threatening to forsake him if he did enter it, and with the
working-day world showing no eager need whatever of a young gentleman
without capital and generally unskilled. It was the harder to Fred's
disposition because his father, satisfied that he was no longer
rebellious, was in good humor with him, and had sent him on this
pleasant ride to see after some greyhounds. Even when he had fixed on
what he should do, there would be the task of telling his father. But
it must be admitted that the fixing, which had to come first, was the
more difficult task:—what secular avocation on earth was there for a
young man (whose friends could not get him an "appointment") which was
at once gentlemanly, lucrative, and to be followed without special
knowledge? Riding along the lanes by Frick in this mood, and
slackening his pace while he reflected whether he should venture to go
round by Lowick Parsonage to call on Mary, he could see over the hedges
from one field to another. Suddenly a noise roused his attention, and
on the far side of a field on his left hand he could see six or seven
men in smock-frocks with hay-forks in their hands making an offensive
approach towards the four railway agents who were facing them, while
Caleb Garth and his assistant were hastening across the field to join
the threatened group. Fred, delayed a few moments by having to find
the gate, could not gallop up to the spot before the party in
smock-frocks, whose work of turning the hay had not been too pressing
after swallowing their mid-day beer, were driving the men in coats
before them with their hay-forks; while Caleb Garth's assistant, a lad
of seventeen, who had snatched up the spirit-level at Caleb's order,
had been knocked down and seemed to be lying helpless. The coated men
had the advantage as runners, and Fred covered their retreat by getting
in front of the smock-frocks and charging them suddenly enough to throw
their chase into confusion. "What do you confounded fools mean?"
shouted Fred, pursuing the divided group in a zigzag, and cutting right
and left with his whip. "I'll swear to every one of you before the
magistrate. You've knocked the lad down and killed him, for what I
know. You'll every one of you be hanged at the next assizes, if you
don't mind," said Fred, who afterwards laughed heartily as he
remembered his own phrases.
The laborers had been driven through the gate-way into their hay-field,
and Fred had checked his horse, when Hiram Ford, observing himself at a
safe challenging distance, turned back and shouted a defiance which he
did not know to be Homeric.
"Yo're a coward, yo are. Yo git off your horse, young measter, and
I'll have a round wi' ye, I wull. Yo daredn't come on wi'out your hoss
an' whip. I'd soon knock the breath out on ye, I would."
"Wait a minute, and I'll come back presently, and have a round with you
all in turn, if you like," said Fred, who felt confidence in his power
of boxing with his dearly beloved brethren. But just now he wanted to
hasten back to Caleb and the prostrate youth.
The lad's ankle was strained, and he was in much pain from it, but he
was no further hurt, and Fred placed him on the horse that he might
ride to Yoddrell's and be taken care of there.
"Let them put the horse in the stable, and tell the surveyors they can
come back for their traps," said Fred. "The ground is clear now."
"No, no," said Caleb, "here's a breakage. They'll have to give up for
to-day, and it will be as well. Here, take the things before you on
the horse, Tom. They'll see you coming, and they'll turn back."
"I'm glad I happened to be here at the right moment, Mr. Garth," said
Fred, as Tom rode away. "No knowing what might have happened if the
cavalry had not come up in time."
"Ay, ay, it was lucky," said Caleb, speaking rather absently, and
looking towards the spot where he had been at work at the moment of
interruption. "But—deuce take it—this is what comes of men being
fools—I'm hindered of my day's work. I can't get along without
somebody to help me with the measuring-chain. However!" He was
beginning to move towards the spot with a look of vexation, as if he
had forgotten Fred's presence, but suddenly he turned round and said
quickly, "What have you got to do to-day, young fellow?"
"Nothing, Mr. Garth. I'll help you with pleasure—can I?" said Fred,
with a sense that he should be courting Mary when he was helping her
"Well, you mustn't mind stooping and getting hot."
"I don't mind anything. Only I want to go first and have a round with
that hulky fellow who turned to challenge me. It would be a good
lesson for him. I shall not be five minutes."
"Nonsense!" said Caleb, with his most peremptory intonation. "I shall
go and speak to the men myself. It's all ignorance. Somebody has been
telling them lies. The poor fools don't know any better."
"I shall go with you, then," said Fred.
"No, no; stay where you are. I don't want your young blood. I can
take care of myself."
Caleb was a powerful man and knew little of any fear except the fear of
hurting others and the fear of having to speechify. But he felt it his
duty at this moment to try and give a little harangue. There was a
striking mixture in him—which came from his having always been a
hard-working man himself—of rigorous notions about workmen and
practical indulgence towards them. To do a good day's work and to do
it well, he held to be part of their welfare, as it was the chief part
of his own happiness; but he had a strong sense of fellowship with
them. When he advanced towards the laborers they had not gone to work
again, but were standing in that form of rural grouping which consists
in each turning a shoulder towards the other, at a distance of two or
three yards. They looked rather sulkily at Caleb, who walked quickly
with one hand in his pocket and the other thrust between the buttons of
his waistcoat, and had his every-day mild air when he paused among them.
"Why, my lads, how's this?" he began, taking as usual to brief phrases,
which seemed pregnant to himself, because he had many thoughts lying
under them, like the abundant roots of a plant that just manages to
peep above the water. "How came you to make such a mistake as this?
Somebody has been telling you lies. You thought those men up there
wanted to do mischief."
"Aw!" was the answer, dropped at intervals by each according to his
degree of unreadiness.
"Nonsense! No such thing! They're looking out to see which way the
railroad is to take. Now, my lads, you can't hinder the railroad: it
will be made whether you like it or not. And if you go fighting
against it, you'll get yourselves into trouble. The law gives those
men leave to come here on the land. The owner has nothing to say
against it, and if you meddle with them you'll have to do with the
constable and Justice Blakesley, and with the handcuffs and Middlemarch
jail. And you might be in for it now, if anybody informed against you."
Caleb paused here, and perhaps the greatest orator could not have
chosen either his pause or his images better for the occasion.
"But come, you didn't mean any harm. Somebody told you the railroad
was a bad thing. That was a lie. It may do a bit of harm here and
there, to this and to that; and so does the sun in heaven. But the
railway's a good thing."
"Aw! good for the big folks to make money out on," said old Timothy
Cooper, who had stayed behind turning his hay while the others had been
gone on their spree;—"I'n seen lots o' things turn up sin' I war a
young un—the war an' the peace, and the canells, an' the oald King
George, an' the Regen', an' the new King George, an' the new un as has
got a new ne-ame—an' it's been all aloike to the poor mon. What's the
canells been t' him? They'n brought him neyther me-at nor be-acon, nor
wage to lay by, if he didn't save it wi' clemmin' his own inside.
Times ha' got wusser for him sin' I war a young un. An' so it'll be
wi' the railroads. They'll on'y leave the poor mon furder behind. But
them are fools as meddle, and so I told the chaps here. This is the
big folks's world, this is. But yo're for the big folks, Muster Garth,
Timothy was a wiry old laborer, of a type lingering in those times—who
had his savings in a stocking-foot, lived in a lone cottage, and was
not to be wrought on by any oratory, having as little of the feudal
spirit, and believing as little, as if he had not been totally
unacquainted with the Age of Reason and the Rights of Man. Caleb was
in a difficulty known to any person attempting in dark times and
unassisted by miracle to reason with rustics who are in possession of
an undeniable truth which they know through a hard process of feeling,
and can let it fall like a giant's club on your neatly carved argument
for a social benefit which they do not feel. Caleb had no cant at
command, even if he could have chosen to use it; and he had been
accustomed to meet all such difficulties in no other way than by doing
his "business" faithfully. He answered—
"If you don't think well of me, Tim, never mind; that's neither here
nor there now. Things may be bad for the poor man—bad they are; but I
want the lads here not to do what will make things worse for
themselves. The cattle may have a heavy load, but it won't help 'em to
throw it over into the roadside pit, when it's partly their own fodder."
"We war on'y for a bit o' foon," said Hiram, who was beginning to see
consequences. "That war all we war arter."
"Well, promise me not to meddle again, and I'll see that nobody informs
"I'n ne'er meddled, an' I'n no call to promise," said Timothy.
"No, but the rest. Come, I'm as hard at work as any of you to-day, and
I can't spare much time. Say you'll be quiet without the constable."
"Aw, we wooant meddle—they may do as they loike for oos"—were the
forms in which Caleb got his pledges; and then he hastened back to
Fred, who had followed him, and watched him in the gateway.
They went to work, and Fred helped vigorously. His spirits had risen,
and he heartily enjoyed a good slip in the moist earth under the
hedgerow, which soiled his perfect summer trousers. Was it his
successful onset which had elated him, or the satisfaction of helping
Mary's father? Something more. The accidents of the morning had
helped his frustrated imagination to shape an employment for himself
which had several attractions. I am not sure that certain fibres in
Mr. Garth's mind had not resumed their old vibration towards the very
end which now revealed itself to Fred. For the effective accident is
but the touch of fire where there is oil and tow; and it always
appeared to Fred that the railway brought the needed touch. But they
went on in silence except when their business demanded speech. At
last, when they had finished and were walking away, Mr. Garth said—
"A young fellow needn't be a B. A. to do this sort of work, eh, Fred?"
"I wish I had taken to it before I had thought of being a B. A.," said
Fred. He paused a moment, and then added, more hesitatingly, "Do you
think I am too old to learn your business, Mr. Garth?"
"My business is of many sorts, my boy," said Mr. Garth, smiling. "A
good deal of what I know can only come from experience: you can't learn
it off as you learn things out of a book. But you are young enough to
lay a foundation yet." Caleb pronounced the last sentence
emphatically, but paused in some uncertainty. He had been under the
impression lately that Fred had made up his mind to enter the Church.
"You do think I could do some good at it, if I were to try?" said Fred,
"That depends," said Caleb, turning his head on one side and lowering
his voice, with the air of a man who felt himself to be saying
something deeply religious. "You must be sure of two things: you must
love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting
your play to begin. And the other is, you must not be ashamed of your
work, and think it would be more honorable to you to be doing something
else. You must have a pride in your own work and in learning to do it
well, and not be always saying, There's this and there's that—if I had
this or that to do, I might make something of it. No matter what a man
is—I wouldn't give twopence for him"—here Caleb's mouth looked
bitter, and he snapped his fingers—"whether he was the prime minister
or the rick-thatcher, if he didn't do well what he undertook to do."
"I can never feel that I should do that in being a clergyman," said
Fred, meaning to take a step in argument.
"Then let it alone, my boy," said Caleb, abruptly, "else you'll never
be easy. Or, if you are easy, you'll be a poor stick."
"That is very nearly what Mary thinks about it," said Fred, coloring.
"I think you must know what I feel for Mary, Mr. Garth: I hope it does
not displease you that I have always loved her better than any one
else, and that I shall never love any one as I love her."
The expression of Caleb's face was visibly softening while Fred spoke.
But he swung his head with a solemn slowness, and said—
"That makes things more serious, Fred, if you want to take Mary's
happiness into your keeping."
"I know that, Mr. Garth," said Fred, eagerly, "and I would do anything
for her. She says she will never have me if I go into the Church;
and I shall be the most miserable devil in the world if I lose all hope
of Mary. Really, if I could get some other profession,
business—anything that I am at all fit for, I would work hard, I would
deserve your good opinion. I should like to have to do with outdoor
things. I know a good deal about land and cattle already. I used to
believe, you know—though you will think me rather foolish for it—that
I should have land of my own. I am sure knowledge of that sort would
come easily to me, especially if I could be under you in any way."
"Softly, my boy," said Caleb, having the image of "Susan" before his
eyes. "What have you said to your father about all this?"
"Nothing, yet; but I must tell him. I am only waiting to know what I
can do instead of entering the Church. I am very sorry to disappoint
him, but a man ought to be allowed to judge for himself when he is
four-and-twenty. How could I know when I was fifteen, what it would be
right for me to do now? My education was a mistake."
"But hearken to this, Fred," said Caleb. "Are you sure Mary is fond of
you, or would ever have you?"
"I asked Mr. Farebrother to talk to her, because she had forbidden
me—I didn't know what else to do," said Fred, apologetically. "And he
says that I have every reason to hope, if I can put myself in an
honorable position—I mean, out of the Church I dare say you think it
unwarrantable in me, Mr. Garth, to be troubling you and obtruding my
own wishes about Mary, before I have done anything at all for myself.
Of course I have not the least claim—indeed, I have already a debt to
you which will never be discharged, even when I have been, able to pay
it in the shape of money."
"Yes, my boy, you have a claim," said Caleb, with much feeling in his
voice. "The young ones have always a claim on the old to help them
forward. I was young myself once and had to do without much help; but
help would have been welcome to me, if it had been only for the
fellow-feeling's sake. But I must consider. Come to me to-morrow at
the office, at nine o'clock. At the office, mind."
Mr. Garth would take no important step without consulting Susan, but it
must be confessed that before he reached home he had taken his
resolution. With regard to a large number of matters about which other
men are decided or obstinate, he was the most easily manageable man in
the world. He never knew what meat he would choose, and if Susan had
said that they ought to live in a four-roomed cottage, in order to
save, he would have said, "Let us go," without inquiring into details.
But where Caleb's feeling and judgment strongly pronounced, he was a
ruler; and in spite of his mildness and timidity in reproving, every
one about him knew that on the exceptional occasions when he chose, he
was absolute. He never, indeed, chose to be absolute except on some
one else's behalf. On ninety-nine points Mrs. Garth decided, but on
the hundredth she was often aware that she would have to perform the
singularly difficult task of carrying out her own principle, and to
make herself subordinate.
"It is come round as I thought, Susan," said Caleb, when they were
seated alone in the evening. He had already narrated the adventure
which had brought about Fred's sharing in his work, but had kept back
the further result. "The children are fond of each other—I mean,
Fred and Mary."
Mrs. Garth laid her work on her knee, and fixed her penetrating eyes
anxiously on her husband.
"After we'd done our work, Fred poured it all out to me. He can't bear
to be a clergyman, and Mary says she won't have him if he is one; and
the lad would like to be under me and give his mind to business. And
I've determined to take him and make a man of him."
"Caleb!" said Mrs. Garth, in a deep contralto, expressive of resigned
"It's a fine thing to do," said Mr. Garth, settling himself firmly
against the back of his chair, and grasping the elbows. "I shall have
trouble with him, but I think I shall carry it through. The lad loves
Mary, and a true love for a good woman is a great thing, Susan. It
shapes many a rough fellow."
"Has Mary spoken to you on the subject?" said Mrs Garth, secretly a
little hurt that she had to be informed on it herself.
"Not a word. I asked her about Fred once; I gave her a bit of a
warning. But she assured me she would never marry an idle
self-indulgent man—nothing since. But it seems Fred set on Mr.
Farebrother to talk to her, because she had forbidden him to speak
himself, and Mr. Farebrother has found out that she is fond of Fred,
but says he must not be a clergyman. Fred's heart is fixed on Mary,
that I can see: it gives me a good opinion of the lad—and we always
liked him, Susan."
"It is a pity for Mary, I think," said Mrs. Garth.
"Because, Caleb, she might have had a man who is worth twenty Fred
"Ah?" said Caleb, with surprise.
"I firmly believe that Mr. Farebrother is attached to her, and meant to
make her an offer; but of course, now that Fred has used him as an
envoy, there is an end to that better prospect." There was a severe
precision in Mrs. Garth's utterance. She was vexed and disappointed,
but she was bent on abstaining from useless words.
Caleb was silent a few moments under a conflict of feelings. He looked
at the floor and moved his head and hands in accompaniment to some
inward argumentation. At last he said—
"That would have made me very proud and happy, Susan, and I should have
been glad for your sake. I've always felt that your belongings have
never been on a level with you. But you took me, though I was a plain
"I took the best and cleverest man I had ever known," said Mrs. Garth,
convinced that she would never have loved any one who came short of
"Well, perhaps others thought you might have done better. But it would
have been worse for me. And that is what touches me close about Fred.
The lad is good at bottom, and clever enough to do, if he's put in the
right way; and he loves and honors my daughter beyond anything, and she
has given him a sort of promise according to what he turns out. I say,
that young man's soul is in my hand; and I'll do the best I can for
him, so help me God! It's my duty, Susan."
Mrs. Garth was not given to tears, but there was a large one rolling
down her face before her husband had finished. It came from the
pressure of various feelings, in which there was much affection and
some vexation. She wiped it away quickly, saying—
"Few men besides you would think it a duty to add to their anxieties in
that way, Caleb."
"That signifies nothing—what other men would think. I've got a clear
feeling inside me, and that I shall follow; and I hope your heart will
go with me, Susan, in making everything as light as can be to Mary,
Caleb, leaning back in his chair, looked with anxious appeal towards
his wife. She rose and kissed him, saying, "God bless you, Caleb! Our
children have a good father."
But she went out and had a hearty cry to make up for the suppression of
her words. She felt sure that her husband's conduct would be
misunderstood, and about Fred she was rational and unhopeful. Which
would turn out to have the more foresight in it—her rationality or
Caleb's ardent generosity?
When Fred went to the office the next morning, there was a test to be
gone through which he was not prepared for.
"Now Fred," said Caleb, "you will have some desk-work. I have always
done a good deal of writing myself, but I can't do without help, and as
I want you to understand the accounts and get the values into your
head, I mean to do without another clerk. So you must buckle to. How
are you at writing and arithmetic?"
Fred felt an awkward movement of the heart; he had not thought of
desk-work; but he was in a resolute mood, and not going to shrink.
"I'm not afraid of arithmetic, Mr. Garth: it always came easily to me.
I think you know my writing."
"Let us see," said Caleb, taking up a pen, examining it carefully and
handing it, well dipped, to Fred with a sheet of ruled paper. "Copy me
a line or two of that valuation, with the figures at the end."
At that time the opinion existed that it was beneath a gentleman to
write legibly, or with a hand in the least suitable to a clerk. Fred
wrote the lines demanded in a hand as gentlemanly as that of any
viscount or bishop of the day: the vowels were all alike and the
consonants only distinguishable as turning up or down, the strokes had
a blotted solidity and the letters disdained to keep the line—in
short, it was a manuscript of that venerable kind easy to interpret
when you know beforehand what the writer means.
As Caleb looked on, his visage showed a growing depression, but when
Fred handed him the paper he gave something like a snarl, and rapped
the paper passionately with the back of his hand. Bad work like this
dispelled all Caleb's mildness.
"The deuce!" he exclaimed, snarlingly. "To think that this is a
country where a man's education may cost hundreds and hundreds, and it
turns you out this!" Then in a more pathetic tone, pushing up his
spectacles and looking at the unfortunate scribe, "The Lord have mercy
on us, Fred, I can't put up with this!"
"What can I do, Mr. Garth?" said Fred, whose spirits had sunk very low,
not only at the estimate of his handwriting, but at the vision of
himself as liable to be ranked with office clerks.
"Do? Why, you must learn to form your letters and keep the line.
What's the use of writing at all if nobody can understand it?" asked
Caleb, energetically, quite preoccupied with the bad quality of the
work. "Is there so little business in the world that you must be
sending puzzles over the country? But that's the way people are
brought up. I should lose no end of time with the letters some people
send me, if Susan did not make them out for me. It's disgusting." Here
Caleb tossed the paper from him.
Any stranger peeping into the office at that moment might have wondered
what was the drama between the indignant man of business, and the
fine-looking young fellow whose blond complexion was getting rather
patchy as he bit his lip with mortification. Fred was struggling with
many thoughts. Mr. Garth had been so kind and encouraging at the
beginning of their interview, that gratitude and hopefulness had been
at a high pitch, and the downfall was proportionate. He had not
thought of desk-work—in fact, like the majority of young gentlemen, he
wanted an occupation which should be free from disagreeables. I cannot
tell what might have been the consequences if he had not distinctly
promised himself that he would go to Lowick to see Mary and tell her
that he was engaged to work under her father. He did not like to
disappoint himself there.
"I am very sorry," were all the words that he could muster. But Mr.
Garth was already relenting.
"We must make the best of it, Fred," he began, with a return to his
usual quiet tone. "Every man can learn to write. I taught myself. Go
at it with a will, and sit up at night if the day-time isn't enough.
We'll be patient, my boy. Callum shall go on with the books for a bit,
while you are learning. But now I must be off," said Caleb, rising.
"You must let your father know our agreement. You'll save me Callum's
salary, you know, when you can write; and I can afford to give you
eighty pounds for the first year, and more after."
When Fred made the necessary disclosure to his parents, the relative
effect on the two was a surprise which entered very deeply into his
memory. He went straight from Mr. Garth's office to the warehouse,
rightly feeling that the most respectful way in which he could behave
to his father was to make the painful communication as gravely and
formally as possible. Moreover, the decision would be more certainly
understood to be final, if the interview took place in his father's
gravest hours, which were always those spent in his private room at the
Fred entered on the subject directly, and declared briefly what he had
done and was resolved to do, expressing at the end his regret that he
should be the cause of disappointment to his father, and taking the
blame on his own deficiencies. The regret was genuine, and inspired
Fred with strong, simple words.
Mr. Vincy listened in profound surprise without uttering even an
exclamation, a silence which in his impatient temperament was a sign of
unusual emotion. He had not been in good spirits about trade that
morning, and the slight bitterness in his lips grew intense as he
listened. When Fred had ended, there was a pause of nearly a minute,
during which Mr. Vincy replaced a book in his desk and turned the key
emphatically. Then he looked at his son steadily, and said—
"So you've made up your mind at last, sir?"
"Very well; stick to it. I've no more to say. You've thrown away your
education, and gone down a step in life, when I had given you the means
of rising, that's all."
"I am very sorry that we differ, father. I think I can be quite as
much of a gentleman at the work I have undertaken, as if I had been a
curate. But I am grateful to you for wishing to do the best for me."
"Very well; I have no more to say. I wash my hands of you. I only
hope, when you have a son of your own he will make a better return for
the pains you spend on him."
This was very cutting to Fred. His father was using that unfair
advantage possessed by us all when we are in a pathetic situation and
see our own past as if it were simply part of the pathos. In reality,
Mr. Vincy's wishes about his son had had a great deal of pride,
inconsiderateness, and egoistic folly in them. But still the
disappointed father held a strong lever; and Fred felt as if he were
being banished with a malediction.
"I hope you will not object to my remaining at home, sir?" he said,
after rising to go; "I shall have a sufficient salary to pay for my
board, as of course I should wish to do."
"Board be hanged!" said Mr. Vincy, recovering himself in his disgust at
the notion that Fred's keep would be missed at his table. "Of course
your mother will want you to stay. But I shall keep no horse for you,
you understand; and you will pay your own tailor. You will do with a
suit or two less, I fancy, when you have to pay for 'em."
Fred lingered; there was still something to be said. At last it came.
"I hope you will shake hands with me, father, and forgive me the
vexation I have caused you."
Mr. Vincy from his chair threw a quick glance upward at his son, who
had advanced near to him, and then gave his hand, saying hurriedly,
"Yes, yes, let us say no more."
Fred went through much more narrative and explanation with his mother,
but she was inconsolable, having before her eyes what perhaps her
husband had never thought of, the certainty that Fred would marry Mary
Garth, that her life would henceforth be spoiled by a perpetual
infusion of Garths and their ways, and that her darling boy, with his
beautiful face and stylish air "beyond anybody else's son in
Middlemarch," would be sure to get like that family in plainness of
appearance and carelessness about his clothes. To her it seemed that
there was a Garth conspiracy to get possession of the desirable Fred,
but she dared not enlarge on this opinion, because a slight hint of it
had made him "fly out" at her as he had never done before. Her temper
was too sweet for her to show any anger, but she felt that her
happiness had received a bruise, and for several days merely to look at
Fred made her cry a little as if he were the subject of some baleful
prophecy. Perhaps she was the slower to recover her usual cheerfulness
because Fred had warned her that she must not reopen the sore question
with his father, who had accepted his decision and forgiven him. If
her husband had been vehement against Fred, she would have been urged
into defence of her darling. It was the end of the fourth day when Mr.
Vincy said to her—
"Come, Lucy, my dear, don't be so down-hearted. You always have spoiled
the boy, and you must go on spoiling him."
"Nothing ever did cut me so before, Vincy," said the wife, her fair
throat and chin beginning to tremble again, "only his illness."
"Pooh, pooh, never mind! We must expect to have trouble with our
children. Don't make it worse by letting me see you out of spirits."
"Well, I won't," said Mrs. Vincy, roused by this appeal and adjusting
herself with a little shake as of a bird which lays down its ruffled
"It won't do to begin making a fuss about one," said Mr. Vincy, wishing
to combine a little grumbling with domestic cheerfulness. "There's
Rosamond as well as Fred."
"Yes, poor thing. I'm sure I felt for her being disappointed of her
baby; but she got over it nicely."
"Baby, pooh! I can see Lydgate is making a mess of his practice, and
getting into debt too, by what I hear. I shall have Rosamond coming to
me with a pretty tale one of these days. But they'll get no money from
me, I know. Let his family help him. I never did like that
marriage. But it's no use talking. Ring the bell for lemons, and
don't look dull any more, Lucy. I'll drive you and Louisa to Riverston
They numbered scarce eight summers when a name
Rose on their souls and stirred such motions there
As thrill the buds and shape their hidden frame
At penetration of the quickening air:
His name who told of loyal Evan Dhu,
Of quaint Bradwardine, and Vich Ian Vor,
Making the little world their childhood knew
Large with a land of mountain lake and scaur,
And larger yet with wonder love belief
Toward Walter Scott who living far away
Sent them this wealth of joy and noble grief.
The book and they must part, but day by day,
In lines that thwart like portly spiders ran
They wrote the tale, from Tully Veolan.
The evening that Fred Vincy walked to Lowick parsonage (he had begun to
see that this was a world in which even a spirited young man must
sometimes walk for want of a horse to carry him) he set out at five
o'clock and called on Mrs. Garth by the way, wishing to assure himself
that she accepted their new relations willingly.
He found the family group, dogs and cats included, under the great
apple-tree in the orchard. It was a festival with Mrs. Garth, for her
eldest son, Christy, her peculiar joy and pride, had come home for a
short holiday—Christy, who held it the most desirable thing in the
world to be a tutor, to study all literatures and be a regenerate
Porson, and who was an incorporate criticism on poor Fred, a sort of
object-lesson given to him by the educational mother. Christy himself,
a square-browed, broad-shouldered masculine edition of his mother not
much higher than Fred's shoulder—which made it the harder that he
should be held superior—was always as simple as possible, and thought
no more of Fred's disinclination to scholarship than of a giraffe's,
wishing that he himself were more of the same height. He was lying on
the ground now by his mother's chair, with his straw hat laid flat over
his eyes, while Jim on the other side was reading aloud from that
beloved writer who has made a chief part in the happiness of many young
lives. The volume was "Ivanhoe," and Jim was in the great archery
scene at the tournament, but suffered much interruption from Ben, who
had fetched his own old bow and arrows, and was making himself
dreadfully disagreeable, Letty thought, by begging all present to
observe his random shots, which no one wished to do except Brownie, the
active-minded but probably shallow mongrel, while the grizzled
Newfoundland lying in the sun looked on with the dull-eyed neutrality
of extreme old age. Letty herself, showing as to her mouth and
pinafore some slight signs that she had been assisting at the gathering
of the cherries which stood in a coral-heap on the tea-table, was now
seated on the grass, listening open-eyed to the reading.
But the centre of interest was changed for all by the arrival of Fred
Vincy. When, seating himself on a garden-stool, he said that he was on
his way to Lowick Parsonage, Ben, who had thrown down his bow, and
snatched up a reluctant half-grown kitten instead, strode across Fred's
outstretched leg, and said "Take me!"
"Oh, and me too," said Letty.
"You can't keep up with Fred and me," said Ben.
"Yes, I can. Mother, please say that I am to go," urged Letty, whose
life was much checkered by resistance to her depreciation as a girl.
"I shall stay with Christy," observed Jim; as much as to say that he
had the advantage of those simpletons; whereupon Letty put her hand up
to her head and looked with jealous indecision from the one to the
"Let us all go and see Mary," said Christy, opening his arms.
"No, my dear child, we must not go in a swarm to the parsonage. And
that old Glasgow suit of yours would never do. Besides, your father
will come home. We must let Fred go alone. He can tell Mary that you
are here, and she will come back to-morrow."
Christy glanced at his own threadbare knees, and then at Fred's
beautiful white trousers. Certainly Fred's tailoring suggested the
advantages of an English university, and he had a graceful way even of
looking warm and of pushing his hair back with his handkerchief.
"Children, run away," said Mrs. Garth; "it is too warm to hang about
your friends. Take your brother and show him the rabbits."
The eldest understood, and led off the children immediately. Fred felt
that Mrs. Garth wished to give him an opportunity of saying anything he
had to say, but he could only begin by observing—
"How glad you must be to have Christy here!"
"Yes; he has come sooner than I expected. He got down from the coach
at nine o'clock, just after his father went out. I am longing for
Caleb to come and hear what wonderful progress Christy is making. He
has paid his expenses for the last year by giving lessons, carrying on
hard study at the same time. He hopes soon to get a private tutorship
and go abroad."
"He is a great fellow," said Fred, to whom these cheerful truths had a
medicinal taste, "and no trouble to anybody." After a slight pause, he
added, "But I fear you will think that I am going to be a great deal of
trouble to Mr. Garth."
"Caleb likes taking trouble: he is one of those men who always do more
than any one would have thought of asking them to do," answered Mrs.
Garth. She was knitting, and could either look at Fred or not, as she
chose—always an advantage when one is bent on loading speech with
salutary meaning; and though Mrs. Garth intended to be duly reserved,
she did wish to say something that Fred might be the better for.
"I know you think me very undeserving, Mrs. Garth, and with good
reason," said Fred, his spirit rising a little at the perception of
something like a disposition to lecture him. "I happen to have behaved
just the worst to the people I can't help wishing for the most from.
But while two men like Mr. Garth and Mr. Farebrother have not given me
up, I don't see why I should give myself up." Fred thought it might be
well to suggest these masculine examples to Mrs. Garth.
"Assuredly," said she, with gathering emphasis. "A young man for whom
two such elders had devoted themselves would indeed be culpable if he
threw himself away and made their sacrifices vain."
Fred wondered a little at this strong language, but only said, "I hope
it will not be so with me, Mrs. Garth, since I have some encouragement
to believe that I may win Mary. Mr. Garth has told you about that?
You were not surprised, I dare say?" Fred ended, innocently referring
only to his own love as probably evident enough.
"Not surprised that Mary has given you encouragement?" returned Mrs.
Garth, who thought it would be well for Fred to be more alive to the
fact that Mary's friends could not possibly have wished this
beforehand, whatever the Vincys might suppose. "Yes, I confess I was
"She never did give me any—not the least in the world, when I talked
to her myself," said Fred, eager to vindicate Mary. "But when I asked
Mr. Farebrother to speak for me, she allowed him to tell me there was a
The power of admonition which had begun to stir in Mrs. Garth had not
yet discharged itself. It was a little too provoking even for her
self-control that this blooming youngster should flourish on the
disappointments of sadder and wiser people—making a meal of a
nightingale and never knowing it—and that all the while his family
should suppose that hers was in eager need of this sprig; and her
vexation had fermented the more actively because of its total
repression towards her husband. Exemplary wives will sometimes find
scapegoats in this way. She now said with energetic decision, "You
made a great mistake, Fred, in asking Mr. Farebrother to speak for you."
"Did I?" said Fred, reddening instantaneously. He was alarmed, but at
a loss to know what Mrs. Garth meant, and added, in an apologetic tone,
"Mr. Farebrother has always been such a friend of ours; and Mary, I
knew, would listen to him gravely; and he took it on himself quite
"Yes, young people are usually blind to everything but their own
wishes, and seldom imagine how much those wishes cost others," said
Mrs. Garth. She did not mean to go beyond this salutary general
doctrine, and threw her indignation into a needless unwinding of her
worsted, knitting her brow at it with a grand air.
"I cannot conceive how it could be any pain to Mr. Farebrother," said
Fred, who nevertheless felt that surprising conceptions were beginning
to form themselves.
"Precisely; you cannot conceive," said Mrs. Garth, cutting her words as
neatly as possible.
For a moment Fred looked at the horizon with a dismayed anxiety, and
then turning with a quick movement said almost sharply—
"Do you mean to say, Mrs. Garth, that Mr. Farebrother is in love with
"And if it were so, Fred, I think you are the last person who ought to
be surprised," returned Mrs. Garth, laying her knitting down beside her
and folding her arms. It was an unwonted sign of emotion in her that
she should put her work out of her hands. In fact her feelings were
divided between the satisfaction of giving Fred his discipline and the
sense of having gone a little too far. Fred took his hat and stick and
"Then you think I am standing in his way, and in Mary's too?" he said,
in a tone which seemed to demand an answer.
Mrs. Garth could not speak immediately. She had brought herself into
the unpleasant position of being called on to say what she really felt,
yet what she knew there were strong reasons for concealing. And to her
the consciousness of having exceeded in words was peculiarly
mortifying. Besides, Fred had given out unexpected electricity, and he
now added, "Mr. Garth seemed pleased that Mary should be attached to
me. He could not have known anything of this."
Mrs. Garth felt a severe twinge at this mention of her husband, the
fear that Caleb might think her in the wrong not being easily
endurable. She answered, wanting to check unintended consequences—
"I spoke from inference only. I am not aware that Mary knows anything
of the matter."
But she hesitated to beg that he would keep entire silence on a subject
which she had herself unnecessarily mentioned, not being used to stoop
in that way; and while she was hesitating there was already a rush of
unintended consequences under the apple-tree where the tea-things
stood. Ben, bouncing across the grass with Brownie at his heels, and
seeing the kitten dragging the knitting by a lengthening line of wool,
shouted and clapped his hands; Brownie barked, the kitten, desperate,
jumped on the tea-table and upset the milk, then jumped down again and
swept half the cherries with it; and Ben, snatching up the half-knitted
sock-top, fitted it over the kitten's head as a new source of madness,
while Letty arriving cried out to her mother against this cruelty—it
was a history as full of sensation as "This is the house that Jack
built." Mrs. Garth was obliged to interfere, the other young ones came
up and the tete-a-tete with Fred was ended. He got away as soon as he
could, and Mrs. Garth could only imply some retractation of her
severity by saying "God bless you" when she shook hands with him.
She was unpleasantly conscious that she had been on the verge of
speaking as "one of the foolish women speaketh"—telling first and
entreating silence after. But she had not entreated silence, and to
prevent Caleb's blame she determined to blame herself and confess all
to him that very night. It was curious what an awful tribunal the mild
Caleb's was to her, whenever he set it up. But she meant to point out
to him that the revelation might do Fred Vincy a great deal of good.
No doubt it was having a strong effect on him as he walked to Lowick.
Fred's light hopeful nature had perhaps never had so much of a bruise
as from this suggestion that if he had been out of the way Mary might
have made a thoroughly good match. Also he was piqued that he had been
what he called such a stupid lout as to ask that intervention from Mr.
Farebrother. But it was not in a lover's nature—it was not in
Fred's, that the new anxiety raised about Mary's feeling should not
surmount every other. Notwithstanding his trust in Mr. Farebrother's
generosity, notwithstanding what Mary had said to him, Fred could not
help feeling that he had a rival: it was a new consciousness, and he
objected to it extremely, not being in the least ready to give up Mary
for her good, being ready rather to fight for her with any man
whatsoever. But the fighting with Mr. Farebrother must be of a
metaphorical kind, which was much more difficult to Fred than the
muscular. Certainly this experience was a discipline for Fred hardly
less sharp than his disappointment about his uncle's will. The iron
had not entered into his soul, but he had begun to imagine what the
sharp edge would be. It did not once occur to Fred that Mrs. Garth
might be mistaken about Mr. Farebrother, but he suspected that she
might be wrong about Mary. Mary had been staying at the parsonage
lately, and her mother might know very little of what had been passing
in her mind.
He did not feel easier when he found her looking cheerful with the
three ladies in the drawing-room. They were in animated discussion on
some subject which was dropped when he entered, and Mary was copying
the labels from a heap of shallow cabinet drawers, in a minute
handwriting which she was skilled in. Mr. Farebrother was somewhere in
the village, and the three ladies knew nothing of Fred's peculiar
relation to Mary: it was impossible for either of them to propose that
they should walk round the garden, and Fred predicted to himself that
he should have to go away without saying a word to her in private. He
told her first of Christy's arrival and then of his own engagement with
her father; and he was comforted by seeing that this latter news
touched her keenly. She said hurriedly, "I am so glad," and then bent
over her writing to hinder any one from noticing her face. But here
was a subject which Mrs. Farebrother could not let pass.
"You don't mean, my dear Miss Garth, that you are glad to hear of a
young man giving up the Church for which he was educated: you only mean
that things being so, you are glad that he should be under an excellent
man like your father."
"No, really, Mrs. Farebrother, I am glad of both, I fear," said Mary,
cleverly getting rid of one rebellious tear. "I have a dreadfully
secular mind. I never liked any clergyman except the Vicar of
Wakefield and Mr. Farebrother."
"Now why, my dear?" said Mrs. Farebrother, pausing on her large wooden
knitting-needles and looking at Mary. "You have always a good reason
for your opinions, but this astonishes me. Of course I put out of the
question those who preach new doctrine. But why should you dislike
"Oh dear," said Mary, her face breaking into merriment as she seemed to
consider a moment, "I don't like their neckcloths."
"Why, you don't like Camden's, then," said Miss Winifred, in some
"Yes, I do," said Mary. "I don't like the other clergymen's
neckcloths, because it is they who wear them."
"How very puzzling!" said Miss Noble, feeling that her own intellect
was probably deficient.
"My dear, you are joking. You would have better reasons than these for
slighting so respectable a class of men," said Mrs. Farebrother,
"Miss Garth has such severe notions of what people should be that it is
difficult to satisfy her," said Fred.
"Well, I am glad at least that she makes an exception in favor of my
son," said the old lady.
Mary was wondering at Fred's piqued tone, when Mr. Farebrother came in
and had to hear the news about the engagement under Mr. Garth. At the
end he said with quiet satisfaction, "That is right;" and then bent
to look at Mary's labels and praise her handwriting. Fred felt
horribly jealous—was glad, of course, that Mr. Farebrother was so
estimable, but wished that he had been ugly and fat as men at forty
sometimes are. It was clear what the end would be, since Mary openly
placed Farebrother above everybody, and these women were all evidently
encouraging the affair. He, was feeling sure that he should have no
chance of speaking to Mary, when Mr. Farebrother said—
"Fred, help me to carry these drawers back into my study—you have
never seen my fine new study. Pray come too, Miss Garth. I want you
to see a stupendous spider I found this morning."
Mary at once saw the Vicar's intention. He had never since the
memorable evening deviated from his old pastoral kindness towards her,
and her momentary wonder and doubt had quite gone to sleep. Mary was
accustomed to think rather rigorously of what was probable, and if a
belief flattered her vanity she felt warned to dismiss it as
ridiculous, having early had much exercise in such dismissals. It was
as she had foreseen: when Fred had been asked to admire the fittings of
the study, and she had been asked to admire the spider, Mr. Farebrother
"Wait here a minute or two. I am going to look out an engraving which
Fred is tall enough to hang for me. I shall be back in a few minutes."
And then he went out. Nevertheless, the first word Fred said to Mary
"It is of no use, whatever I do, Mary. You are sure to marry
Farebrother at last." There was some rage in his tone.
"What do you mean, Fred?" Mary exclaimed indignantly, blushing deeply,
and surprised out of all her readiness in reply.
"It is impossible that you should not see it all clearly enough—you
who see everything."
"I only see that you are behaving very ill, Fred, in speaking so of Mr.
Farebrother after he has pleaded your cause in every way. How can you
have taken up such an idea?"
Fred was rather deep, in spite of his irritation. If Mary had really
been unsuspicious, there was no good in telling her what Mrs. Garth had
"It follows as a matter of course," he replied. "When you are
continually seeing a man who beats me in everything, and whom you set
up above everybody, I can have no fair chance."
"You are very ungrateful, Fred," said Mary. "I wish I had never told
Mr. Farebrother that I cared for you in the least."
"No, I am not ungrateful; I should be the happiest fellow in the world
if it were not for this. I told your father everything, and he was
very kind; he treated me as if I were his son. I could go at the work
with a will, writing and everything, if it were not for this."
"For this? for what?" said Mary, imagining now that something specific
must have been said or done.
"This dreadful certainty that I shall be bowled out by Farebrother."
Mary was appeased by her inclination to laugh.
"Fred," she said, peeping round to catch his eyes, which were sulkily
turned away from her, "you are too delightfully ridiculous. If you
were not such a charming simpleton, what a temptation this would be to
play the wicked coquette, and let you suppose that somebody besides you
has made love to me."
"Do you really like me best, Mary?" said Fred, turning eyes full of
affection on her, and trying to take her hand.
"I don't like you at all at this moment," said Mary, retreating, and
putting her hands behind her. "I only said that no mortal ever made
love to me besides you. And that is no argument that a very wise man
ever will," she ended, merrily.
"I wish you would tell me that you could not possibly ever think of
him," said Fred.
"Never dare to mention this any more to me, Fred," said Mary, getting
serious again. "I don't know whether it is more stupid or ungenerous
in you not to see that Mr. Farebrother has left us together on purpose
that we might speak freely. I am disappointed that you should be so
blind to his delicate feeling."
There was no time to say any more before Mr. Farebrother came back with
the engraving; and Fred had to return to the drawing-room still with a
jealous dread in his heart, but yet with comforting arguments from
Mary's words and manner. The result of the conversation was on the
whole more painful to Mary: inevitably her attention had taken a new
attitude, and she saw the possibility of new interpretations. She was
in a position in which she seemed to herself to be slighting Mr.
Farebrother, and this, in relation to a man who is much honored, is
always dangerous to the firmness of a grateful woman. To have a reason
for going home the next day was a relief, for Mary earnestly desired to
be always clear that she loved Fred best. When a tender affection has
been storing itself in us through many of our years, the idea that we
could accept any exchange for it seems to be a cheapening of our lives.
And we can set a watch over our affections and our constancy as we can
over other treasures.
"Fred has lost all his other expectations; he must keep this," Mary
said to herself, with a smile curling her lips. It was impossible to
help fleeting visions of another kind—new dignities and an
acknowledged value of which she had often felt the absence. But these
things with Fred outside them, Fred forsaken and looking sad for the
want of her, could never tempt her deliberate thought.
"For there can live no hatred in thine eye,
Therefore in that I cannot know thy change:
In many's looks the false heart's history
Is writ in moods and frowns and wrinkles strange:
But Heaven in thy creation did decree
That in thy face sweet love should ever dwell:
Whate'er thy thoughts or thy heart's workings be
Thy looks should nothing thence but sweetness tell."
At the time when Mr. Vincy uttered that presentiment about Rosamond,
she herself had never had the idea that she should be driven to make
the sort of appeal which he foresaw. She had not yet had any anxiety
about ways and means, although her domestic life had been expensive as
well as eventful. Her baby had been born prematurely, and all the
embroidered robes and caps had to be laid by in darkness. This
misfortune was attributed entirely to her having persisted in going out
on horseback one day when her husband had desired her not to do so; but
it must not be supposed that she had shown temper on the occasion, or
rudely told him that she would do as she liked.
What led her particularly to desire horse-exercise was a visit from
Captain Lydgate, the baronet's third son, who, I am sorry to say, was
detested by our Tertius of that name as a vapid fop "parting his hair
from brow to nape in a despicable fashion" (not followed by Tertius
himself), and showing an ignorant security that he knew the proper
thing to say on every topic. Lydgate inwardly cursed his own folly
that he had drawn down this visit by consenting to go to his uncle's on
the wedding-tour, and he made himself rather disagreeable to Rosamond
by saying so in private. For to Rosamond this visit was a source of
unprecedented but gracefully concealed exultation. She was so
intensely conscious of having a cousin who was a baronet's son staying
in the house, that she imagined the knowledge of what was implied by
his presence to be diffused through all other minds; and when she
introduced Captain Lydgate to her guests, she had a placid sense that
his rank penetrated them as if it had been an odor. The satisfaction
was enough for the time to melt away some disappointment in the
conditions of marriage with a medical man even of good birth: it seemed
now that her marriage was visibly as well as ideally floating her above
the Middlemarch level, and the future looked bright with letters and
visits to and from Quallingham, and vague advancement in consequence
for Tertius. Especially as, probably at the Captain's suggestion, his
married sister, Mrs. Mengan, had come with her maid, and stayed two
nights on her way from town. Hence it was clearly worth while for
Rosamond to take pains with her music and the careful selection of her
As to Captain Lydgate himself, his low brow, his aquiline nose bent on
one side, and his rather heavy utterance, might have been
disadvantageous in any young gentleman who had not a military bearing
and mustache to give him what is doted on by some flower-like blond
heads as "style." He had, moreover, that sort of high-breeding which
consists in being free from the petty solicitudes of middle-class
gentility, and he was a great critic of feminine charms. Rosamond
delighted in his admiration now even more than she had done at
Quallingham, and he found it easy to spend several hours of the day in
flirting with her. The visit altogether was one of the pleasantest
larks he had ever had, not the less so perhaps because he suspected
that his queer cousin Tertius wished him away: though Lydgate, who
would rather (hyperbolically speaking) have died than have failed in
polite hospitality, suppressed his dislike, and only pretended
generally not to hear what the gallant officer said, consigning the
task of answering him to Rosamond. For he was not at all a jealous
husband, and preferred leaving a feather-headed young gentleman alone
with his wife to bearing him company.
"I wish you would talk more to the Captain at dinner, Tertius," said
Rosamond, one evening when the important guest was gone to Loamford to
see some brother officers stationed there. "You really look so absent
sometimes—you seem to be seeing through his head into something behind
it, instead of looking at him."
"My dear Rosy, you don't expect me to talk much to such a conceited ass
as that, I hope," said Lydgate, brusquely. "If he got his head broken,
I might look at it with interest, not before."
"I cannot conceive why you should speak of your cousin so
contemptuously," said Rosamond, her fingers moving at her work while
she spoke with a mild gravity which had a touch of disdain in it.
"Ask Ladislaw if he doesn't think your Captain the greatest bore he
ever met with. Ladislaw has almost forsaken the house since he came."
Rosamond thought she knew perfectly well why Mr. Ladislaw disliked the
Captain: he was jealous, and she liked his being jealous.
"It is impossible to say what will suit eccentric persons," she
answered, "but in my opinion Captain Lydgate is a thorough gentleman,
and I think you ought not, out of respect to Sir Godwin, to treat him
"No, dear; but we have had dinners for him. And he comes in and goes
out as he likes. He doesn't want me."
"Still, when he is in the room, you might show him more attention. He
may not be a phoenix of cleverness in your sense; his profession is
different; but it would be all the better for you to talk a little on
his subjects. I think his conversation is quite agreeable. And he
is anything but an unprincipled man."
"The fact is, you would wish me to be a little more like him, Rosy,"
said Lydgate, in a sort of resigned murmur, with a smile which was not
exactly tender, and certainly not merry. Rosamond was silent and did
not smile again; but the lovely curves of her face looked good-tempered
enough without smiling.
Those words of Lydgate's were like a sad milestone marking how far he
had travelled from his old dreamland, in which Rosamond Vincy appeared
to be that perfect piece of womanhood who would reverence her husband's
mind after the fashion of an accomplished mermaid, using her comb and
looking-glass and singing her song for the relaxation of his adored
wisdom alone. He had begun to distinguish between that imagined
adoration and the attraction towards a man's talent because it gives
him prestige, and is like an order in his button-hole or an Honorable
before his name.
It might have been supposed that Rosamond had travelled too, since she
had found the pointless conversation of Mr. Ned Plymdale perfectly
wearisome; but to most mortals there is a stupidity which is
unendurable and a stupidity which is altogether acceptable—else,
indeed, what would become of social bonds? Captain Lydgate's stupidity
was delicately scented, carried itself with "style," talked with a good
accent, and was closely related to Sir Godwin. Rosamond found it quite
agreeable and caught many of its phrases.
Therefore since Rosamond, as we know, was fond of horseback, there were
plenty of reasons why she should be tempted to resume her riding when
Captain Lydgate, who had ordered his man with two horses to follow him
and put up at the "Green Dragon," begged her to go out on the gray
which he warranted to be gentle and trained to carry a lady—indeed, he
had bought it for his sister, and was taking it to Quallingham.
Rosamond went out the first time without telling her husband, and came
back before his return; but the ride had been so thorough a success,
and she declared herself so much the better in consequence, that he was
informed of it with full reliance on his consent that she should go
On the contrary Lydgate was more than hurt—he was utterly confounded
that she had risked herself on a strange horse without referring the
matter to his wish. After the first almost thundering exclamations of
astonishment, which sufficiently warned Rosamond of what was coming, he
was silent for some moments.
"However, you have come back safely," he said, at last, in a decisive
tone. "You will not go again, Rosy; that is understood. If it were
the quietest, most familiar horse in the world, there would always be
the chance of accident. And you know very well that I wished you to
give up riding the roan on that account."
"But there is the chance of accident indoors, Tertius."
"My darling, don't talk nonsense," said Lydgate, in an imploring tone;
"surely I am the person to judge for you. I think it is enough that I
say you are not to go again."
Rosamond was arranging her hair before dinner, and the reflection of
her head in the glass showed no change in its loveliness except a
little turning aside of the long neck. Lydgate had been moving about
with his hands in his pockets, and now paused near her, as if he
awaited some assurance.
"I wish you would fasten up my plaits, dear," said Rosamond, letting
her arms fall with a little sigh, so as to make a husband ashamed of
standing there like a brute. Lydgate had often fastened the plaits
before, being among the deftest of men with his large finely formed
fingers. He swept up the soft festoons of plaits and fastened in the
tall comb (to such uses do men come!); and what could he do then but
kiss the exquisite nape which was shown in all its delicate curves?
But when we do what we have done before, it is often with a difference.
Lydgate was still angry, and had not forgotten his point.
"I shall tell the Captain that he ought to have known better than offer
you his horse," he said, as he moved away.
"I beg you will not do anything of the kind, Tertius," said Rosamond,
looking at him with something more marked than usual in her speech.
"It will be treating me as if I were a child. Promise that you will
leave the subject to me."
There did seem to be some truth in her objection. Lydgate said, "Very
well," with a surly obedience, and thus the discussion ended with his
promising Rosamond, and not with her promising him.
In fact, she had been determined not to promise. Rosamond had that
victorious obstinacy which never wastes its energy in impetuous
resistance. What she liked to do was to her the right thing, and all
her cleverness was directed to getting the means of doing it. She
meant to go out riding again on the gray, and she did go on the next
opportunity of her husband's absence, not intending that he should know
until it was late enough not to signify to her. The temptation was
certainly great: she was very fond of the exercise, and the
gratification of riding on a fine horse, with Captain Lydgate, Sir
Godwin's son, on another fine horse by her side, and of being met in
this position by any one but her husband, was something as good as her
dreams before marriage: moreover she was riveting the connection with
the family at Quallingham, which must be a wise thing to do.
But the gentle gray, unprepared for the crash of a tree that was being
felled on the edge of Halsell wood, took fright, and caused a worse
fright to Rosamond, leading finally to the loss of her baby. Lydgate
could not show his anger towards her, but he was rather bearish to the
Captain, whose visit naturally soon came to an end.
In all future conversations on the subject, Rosamond was mildly certain
that the ride had made no difference, and that if she had stayed at
home the same symptoms would have come on and would have ended in the
same way, because she had felt something like them before.
Lydgate could only say, "Poor, poor darling!"—but he secretly wondered
over the terrible tenacity of this mild creature. There was gathering
within him an amazed sense of his powerlessness over Rosamond. His
superior knowledge and mental force, instead of being, as he had
imagined, a shrine to consult on all occasions, was simply set aside on
every practical question. He had regarded Rosamond's cleverness as
precisely of the receptive kind which became a woman. He was now
beginning to find out what that cleverness was—what was the shape into
which it had run as into a close network aloof and independent. No one
quicker than Rosamond to see causes and effects which lay within the
track of her own tastes and interests: she had seen clearly Lydgate's
preeminence in Middlemarch society, and could go on imaginatively
tracing still more agreeable social effects when his talent should have
advanced him; but for her, his professional and scientific ambition had
no other relation to these desirable effects than if they had been the
fortunate discovery of an ill-smelling oil. And that oil apart, with
which she had nothing to do, of course she believed in her own opinion
more than she did in his. Lydgate was astounded to find in numberless
trifling matters, as well as in this last serious case of the riding,
that affection did not make her compliant. He had no doubt that the
affection was there, and had no presentiment that he had done anything
to repel it. For his own part he said to himself that he loved her as
tenderly as ever, and could make up his mind to her negations;
but—well! Lydgate was much worried, and conscious of new elements in
his life as noxious to him as an inlet of mud to a creature that has
been used to breathe and bathe and dart after its illuminated prey in
the clearest of waters.
Rosamond was soon looking lovelier than ever at her worktable, enjoying
drives in her father's phaeton and thinking it likely that she might be
invited to Quallingham. She knew that she was a much more exquisite
ornament to the drawing-room there than any daughter of the family, and
in reflecting that the gentlemen were aware of that, did not perhaps
sufficiently consider whether the ladies would be eager to see
Lydgate, relieved from anxiety about her, relapsed into what she
inwardly called his moodiness—a name which to her covered his
thoughtful preoccupation with other subjects than herself, as well as
that uneasy look of the brow and distaste for all ordinary things as if
they were mixed with bitter herbs, which really made a sort of
weather-glass to his vexation and foreboding. These latter states of
mind had one cause amongst others, which he had generously but
mistakenly avoided mentioning to Rosamond, lest it should affect her
health and spirits. Between him and her indeed there was that total
missing of each other's mental track, which is too evidently possible
even between persons who are continually thinking of each other. To
Lydgate it seemed that he had been spending month after month in
sacrificing more than half of his best intent and best power to his
tenderness for Rosamond; bearing her little claims and interruptions
without impatience, and, above all, bearing without betrayal of
bitterness to look through less and less of interfering illusion at the
blank unreflecting surface her mind presented to his ardor for the more
impersonal ends of his profession and his scientific study, an ardor
which he had fancied that the ideal wife must somehow worship as
sublime, though not in the least knowing why. But his endurance was
mingled with a self-discontent which, if we know how to be candid, we
shall confess to make more than half our bitterness under grievances,
wife or husband included. It always remains true that if we had been
greater, circumstance would have been less strong against us. Lydgate
was aware that his concessions to Rosamond were often little more than
the lapse of slackening resolution, the creeping paralysis apt to seize
an enthusiasm which is out of adjustment to a constant portion of our
lives. And on Lydgate's enthusiasm there was constantly pressing not a
simple weight of sorrow, but the biting presence of a petty degrading
care, such as casts the blight of irony over all higher effort.
This was the care which he had hitherto abstained from mentioning to
Rosamond; and he believed, with some wonder, that it had never entered
her mind, though certainly no difficulty could be less mysterious. It
was an inference with a conspicuous handle to it, and had been easily
drawn by indifferent observers, that Lydgate was in debt; and he could
not succeed in keeping out of his mind for long together that he was
every day getting deeper into that swamp, which tempts men towards it
with such a pretty covering of flowers and verdure. It is wonderful
how soon a man gets up to his chin there—in a condition in which,
spite of himself, he is forced to think chiefly of release, though he
had a scheme of the universe in his soul.
Eighteen months ago Lydgate was poor, but had never known the eager
want of small sums, and felt rather a burning contempt for any one who
descended a step in order to gain them. He was now experiencing
something worse than a simple deficit: he was assailed by the vulgar
hateful trials of a man who has bought and used a great many things
which might have been done without, and which he is unable to pay for,
though the demand for payment has become pressing.
How this came about may be easily seen without much arithmetic or
knowledge of prices. When a man in setting up a house and preparing
for marriage finds that his furniture and other initial expenses come
to between four and five hundred pounds more than he has capital to pay
for; when at the end of a year it appears that his household expenses,
horses and et caeteras, amount to nearly a thousand, while the proceeds
of the practice reckoned from the old books to be worth eight hundred
per annum have sunk like a summer pond and make hardly five hundred,
chiefly in unpaid entries, the plain inference is that, whether he
minds it or not, he is in debt. Those were less expensive times than
our own, and provincial life was comparatively modest; but the ease
with which a medical man who had lately bought a practice, who thought
that he was obliged to keep two horses, whose table was supplied
without stint, and who paid an insurance on his life and a high rent
for house and garden, might find his expenses doubling his receipts,
can be conceived by any one who does not think these details beneath
his consideration. Rosamond, accustomed from her childhood to an extravagant
household, thought that good housekeeping consisted simply in ordering
the best of everything—nothing else "answered;" and Lydgate supposed
that "if things were done at all, they must be done properly"—he did
not see how they were to live otherwise. If each head of household
expenditure had been mentioned to him beforehand, he would have
probably observed that "it could hardly come to much," and if any one
had suggested a saving on a particular article—for example, the
substitution of cheap fish for dear—it would have appeared to him
simply a penny-wise, mean notion. Rosamond, even without such an
occasion as Captain Lydgate's visit, was fond of giving invitations,
and Lydgate, though he often thought the guests tiresome, did not
interfere. This sociability seemed a necessary part of professional
prudence, and the entertainment must be suitable. It is true Lydgate
was constantly visiting the homes of the poor and adjusting his
prescriptions of diet to their small means; but, dear me! has it not by
this time ceased to be remarkable—is it not rather that we expect in
men, that they should have numerous strands of experience lying side by
side and never compare them with each other? Expenditure—like
ugliness and errors—becomes a totally new thing when we attach our own
personality to it, and measure it by that wide difference which is
manifest (in our own sensations) between ourselves and others. Lydgate
believed himself to be careless about his dress, and he despised a man
who calculated the effects of his costume; it seemed to him only a
matter of course that he had abundance of fresh garments—such things
were naturally ordered in sheaves. It must be remembered that he had
never hitherto felt the check of importunate debt, and he walked by
habit, not by self-criticism. But the check had come.
Its novelty made it the more irritating. He was amazed, disgusted that
conditions so foreign to all his purposes, so hatefully disconnected
with the objects he cared to occupy himself with, should have lain in
ambush and clutched him when he was unaware. And there was not only
the actual debt; there was the certainty that in his present position
he must go on deepening it. Two furnishing tradesmen at Brassing,
whose bills had been incurred before his marriage, and whom
uncalculated current expenses had ever since prevented him from paying,
had repeatedly sent him unpleasant letters which had forced themselves
on his attention. This could hardly have been more galling to any
disposition than to Lydgate's, with his intense pride—his dislike of
asking a favor or being under an obligation to any one. He had scorned
even to form conjectures about Mr. Vincy's intentions on money matters,
and nothing but extremity could have induced him to apply to his
father-in-law, even if he had not been made aware in various indirect
ways since his marriage that Mr. Vincy's own affairs were not
flourishing, and that the expectation of help from him would be
resented. Some men easily trust in the readiness of friends; it had
never in the former part of his life occurred to Lydgate that he should
need to do so: he had never thought what borrowing would be to him; but
now that the idea had entered his mind, he felt that he would rather
incur any other hardship. In the mean time he had no money or
prospects of money; and his practice was not getting more lucrative.
No wonder that Lydgate had been unable to suppress all signs of inward
trouble during the last few months, and now that Rosamond was regaining
brilliant health, he meditated taking her entirely into confidence on
his difficulties. New conversance with tradesmen's bills had forced
his reasoning into a new channel of comparison: he had begun to
consider from a new point of view what was necessary and unnecessary in
goods ordered, and to see that there must be some change of habits.
How could such a change be made without Rosamond's concurrence? The
immediate occasion of opening the disagreeable fact to her was forced
Having no money, and having privately sought advice as to what security
could possibly be given by a man in his position, Lydgate had offered
the one good security in his power to the less peremptory creditor, who
was a silversmith and jeweller, and who consented to take on himself
the upholsterer's credit also, accepting interest for a given term.
The security necessary was a bill of sale on the furniture of his
house, which might make a creditor easy for a reasonable time about a
debt amounting to less than four hundred pounds; and the silversmith,
Mr. Dover, was willing to reduce it by taking back a portion of the
plate and any other article which was as good as new. "Any other
article" was a phrase delicately implying jewellery, and more
particularly some purple amethysts costing thirty pounds, which Lydgate
had bought as a bridal present.
Opinions may be divided as to his wisdom in making this present: some
may think that it was a graceful attention to be expected from a man
like Lydgate, and that the fault of any troublesome consequences lay in
the pinched narrowness of provincial life at that time, which offered
no conveniences for professional people whose fortune was not
proportioned to their tastes; also, in Lydgate's ridiculous
fastidiousness about asking his friends for money.
However, it had seemed a question of no moment to him on that fine
morning when he went to give a final order for plate: in the presence
of other jewels enormously expensive, and as an addition to orders of
which the amount had not been exactly calculated, thirty pounds for
ornaments so exquisitely suited to Rosamond's neck and arms could
hardly appear excessive when there was no ready cash for it to exceed.
But at this crisis Lydgate's imagination could not help dwelling on the
possibility of letting the amethysts take their place again among Mr.
Dover's stock, though he shrank from the idea of proposing this to
Rosamond. Having been roused to discern consequences which he had
never been in the habit of tracing, he was preparing to act on this
discernment with some of the rigor (by no means all) that he would have
applied in pursuing experiment. He was nerving himself to this rigor
as he rode from Brassing, and meditated on the representations he must
make to Rosamond.
It was evening when he got home. He was intensely miserable, this
strong man of nine-and-twenty and of many gifts. He was not saying
angrily within himself that he had made a profound mistake; but the
mistake was at work in him like a recognized chronic disease, mingling
its uneasy importunities with every prospect, and enfeebling every
thought. As he went along the passage to the drawing-room, he heard
the piano and singing. Of course, Ladislaw was there. It was some
weeks since Will had parted from Dorothea, yet he was still at the old
post in Middlemarch. Lydgate had no objection in general to Ladislaw's
coming, but just now he was annoyed that he could not find his hearth
free. When he opened the door the two singers went on towards the
key-note, raising their eyes and looking at him indeed, but not
regarding his entrance as an interruption. To a man galled with his
harness as poor Lydgate was, it is not soothing to see two people
warbling at him, as he comes in with the sense that the painful day has
still pains in store. His face, already paler than usual, took on a
scowl as he walked across the room and flung himself into a chair.
The singers feeling themselves excused by the fact that they had only
three bars to sing, now turned round.
"How are you, Lydgate?" said Will, coming forward to shake hands.
Lydgate took his hand, but did not think it necessary to speak.
"Have you dined, Tertius? I expected you much earlier," said Rosamond,
who had already seen that her husband was in a "horrible humor." She
seated herself in her usual place as she spoke.
"I have dined. I should like some tea, please," said Lydgate, curtly,
still scowling and looking markedly at his legs stretched out before
Will was too quick to need more. "I shall be off," he said, reaching
"Tea is coming," said Rosamond; "pray don't go."
"Yes, Lydgate is bored," said Will, who had more comprehension of
Lydgate than Rosamond had, and was not offended by his manner, easily
imagining outdoor causes of annoyance.
"There is the more need for you to stay," said Rosamond, playfully, and
in her lightest accent; "he will not speak to me all the evening."
"Yes, Rosamond, I shall," said Lydgate, in his strong baritone. "I
have some serious business to speak to you about."
No introduction of the business could have been less like that which
Lydgate had intended; but her indifferent manner had been too provoking.
"There! you see," said Will. "I'm going to the meeting about the
Mechanics' Institute. Good-by;" and he went quickly out of the room.
Rosamond did not look at her husband, but presently rose and took her
place before the tea-tray. She was thinking that she had never seen him
so disagreeable. Lydgate turned his dark eyes on her and watched her
as she delicately handled the tea-service with her taper fingers, and
looked at the objects immediately before her with no curve in her face
disturbed, and yet with an ineffable protest in her air against all
people with unpleasant manners. For the moment he lost the sense of
his wound in a sudden speculation about this new form of feminine
impassibility revealing itself in the sylph-like frame which he had
once interpreted as the sign of a ready intelligent sensitiveness. His
mind glancing back to Laure while he looked at Rosamond, he said
inwardly, "Would she kill me because I wearied her?" and then, "It is
the way with all women." But this power of generalizing which gives men
so much the superiority in mistake over the dumb animals, was
immediately thwarted by Lydgate's memory of wondering impressions from
the behavior of another woman—from Dorothea's looks and tones of
emotion about her husband when Lydgate began to attend him—from her
passionate cry to be taught what would best comfort that man for whose
sake it seemed as if she must quell every impulse in her except the
yearnings of faithfulness and compassion. These revived impressions
succeeded each other quickly and dreamily in Lydgate's mind while the
tea was being brewed. He had shut his eyes in the last instant of
reverie while he heard Dorothea saying, "Advise me—think what I can
do—he has been all his life laboring and looking forward. He minds
about nothing else—and I mind about nothing else."
That voice of deep-souled womanhood had remained within him as the
enkindling conceptions of dead and sceptred genius had remained within
him (is there not a genius for feeling nobly which also reigns over
human spirits and their conclusions?); the tones were a music from
which he was falling away—he had really fallen into a momentary doze,
when Rosamond said in her silvery neutral way, "Here is your tea,
Tertius," setting it on the small table by his side, and then moved
back to her place without looking at him. Lydgate was too hasty in
attributing insensibility to her; after her own fashion, she was
sensitive enough, and took lasting impressions. Her impression now was
one of offence and repulsion. But then, Rosamond had no scowls and had
never raised her voice: she was quite sure that no one could justly
find fault with her.
Perhaps Lydgate and she had never felt so far off each other before;
but there were strong reasons for not deferring his revelation, even if
he had not already begun it by that abrupt announcement; indeed some of
the angry desire to rouse her into more sensibility on his account
which had prompted him to speak prematurely, still mingled with his
pain in the prospect of her pain. But he waited till the tray was
gone, the candles were lit, and the evening quiet might be counted on:
the interval had left time for repelled tenderness to return into the
old course. He spoke kindly.
"Dear Rosy, lay down your work and come to sit by me," he said, gently,
pushing away the table, and stretching out his arm to draw a chair near
Rosamond obeyed. As she came towards him in her drapery of transparent
faintly tinted muslin, her slim yet round figure never looked more
graceful; as she sat down by him and laid one hand on the elbow of his
chair, at last looking at him and meeting his eyes, her delicate neck
and cheek and purely cut lips never had more of that untarnished beauty
which touches as in spring-time and infancy and all sweet freshness.
It touched Lydgate now, and mingled the early moments of his love for
her with all the other memories which were stirred in this crisis of
deep trouble. He laid his ample hand softly on hers, saying—
"Dear!" with the lingering utterance which affection gives to the word.
Rosamond too was still under the power of that same past, and her
husband was still in part the Lydgate whose approval had stirred
delight. She put his hair lightly away from his forehead, then laid
her other hand on his, and was conscious of forgiving him.
"I am obliged to tell you what will hurt you, Rosy. But there are
things which husband and wife must think of together. I dare say it
has occurred to you already that I am short of money."
Lydgate paused; but Rosamond turned her neck and looked at a vase on
"I was not able to pay for all the things we had to get before we were
married, and there have been expenses since which I have been obliged
to meet. The consequence is, there is a large debt at Brassing—three
hundred and eighty pounds—which has been pressing on me a good while,
and in fact we are getting deeper every day, for people don't pay me
the faster because others want the money. I took pains to keep it from
you while you were not well; but now we must think together about it,
and you must help me."
"What can—I—do, Tertius?" said Rosamond, turning her eyes on him
again. That little speech of four words, like so many others in all
languages, is capable by varied vocal inflections of expressing all
states of mind from helpless dimness to exhaustive argumentative
perception, from the completest self-devoting fellowship to the most
neutral aloofness. Rosamond's thin utterance threw into the words
"What can—I—do!" as much neutrality as they could hold. They fell
like a mortal chill on Lydgate's roused tenderness. He did not storm
in indignation—he felt too sad a sinking of the heart. And when he
spoke again it was more in the tone of a man who forces himself to
fulfil a task.
"It is necessary for you to know, because I have to give security for a
time, and a man must come to make an inventory of the furniture."
Rosamond colored deeply. "Have you not asked papa for money?" she
said, as soon as she could speak.
"Then I must ask him!" she said, releasing her hands from Lydgate's,
and rising to stand at two yards' distance from him.
"No, Rosy," said Lydgate, decisively. "It is too late to do that. The
inventory will be begun to-morrow. Remember it is a mere security: it
will make no difference: it is a temporary affair. I insist upon it
that your father shall not know, unless I choose to tell him," added
Lydgate, with a more peremptory emphasis.
This certainly was unkind, but Rosamond had thrown him back on evil
expectation as to what she would do in the way of quiet steady
disobedience. The unkindness seemed unpardonable to her: she was not
given to weeping and disliked it, but now her chin and lips began to
tremble and the tears welled up. Perhaps it was not possible for
Lydgate, under the double stress of outward material difficulty and of
his own proud resistance to humiliating consequences, to imagine fully
what this sudden trial was to a young creature who had known nothing
but indulgence, and whose dreams had all been of new indulgence, more
exactly to her taste. But he did wish to spare her as much as he
could, and her tears cut him to the heart. He could not speak again
immediately; but Rosamond did not go on sobbing: she tried to conquer
her agitation and wiped away her tears, continuing to look before her
at the mantel-piece.
"Try not to grieve, darling," said Lydgate, turning his eyes up towards
her. That she had chosen to move away from him in this moment of her
trouble made everything harder to say, but he must absolutely go on.
"We must brace ourselves to do what is necessary. It is I who have
been in fault: I ought to have seen that I could not afford-to live in
this way. But many things have told against me in my practice, and it
really just now has ebbed to a low point. I may recover it, but in the
mean time we must pull up—we must change our way of living. We shall
weather it. When I have given this security I shall have time to look
about me; and you are so clever that if you turn your mind to managing
you will school me into carefulness. I have been a thoughtless rascal
about squaring prices—but come, dear, sit down and forgive me."
Lydgate was bowing his neck under the yoke like a creature who had
talons, but who had Reason too, which often reduces us to meekness.
When he had spoken the last words in an imploring tone, Rosamond
returned to the chair by his side. His self-blame gave her some hope
that he would attend to her opinion, and she said—
"Why can you not put off having the inventory made? You can send the
men away to-morrow when they come."
"I shall not send them away," said Lydgate, the peremptoriness rising
again. Was it of any use to explain?
"If we left Middlemarch? there would of course be a sale, and that
would do as well."
"But we are not going to leave Middlemarch."
"I am sure, Tertius, it would be much better to do so. Why can we not
go to London? Or near Durham, where your family is known?"
"We can go nowhere without money, Rosamond."
"Your friends would not wish you to be without money. And surely these
odious tradesmen might be made to understand that, and to wait, if you
would make proper representations to them."
"This is idle Rosamond," said Lydgate, angrily. "You must learn to
take my judgment on questions you don't understand. I have made
necessary arrangements, and they must be carried out. As to friends, I
have no expectations whatever from them, and shall not ask them for
Rosamond sat perfectly still. The thought in her mind was that if she
had known how Lydgate would behave, she would never have married him.
"We have no time to waste now on unnecessary words, dear," said
Lydgate, trying to be gentle again. "There are some details that I
want to consider with you. Dover says he will take a good deal of the
plate back again, and any of the jewellery we like. He really behaves
"Are we to go without spoons and forks then?" said Rosamond, whose very
lips seemed to get thinner with the thinness of her utterance. She was
determined to make no further resistance or suggestions.
"Oh no, dear!" said Lydgate. "But look here," he continued, drawing a
paper from his pocket and opening it; "here is Dover's account. See, I
have marked a number of articles, which if we returned them would
reduce the amount by thirty pounds and more. I have not marked any
of the jewellery." Lydgate had really felt this point of the jewellery
very bitter to himself; but he had overcome the feeling by severe
argument. He could not propose to Rosamond that she should return any
particular present of his, but he had told himself that he was bound to
put Dover's offer before her, and her inward prompting might make the
"It is useless for me to look, Tertius," said Rosamond, calmly; "you
will return what you please." She would not turn her eyes on the
paper, and Lydgate, flushing up to the roots of his hair, drew it back
and let it fall on his knee. Meanwhile Rosamond quietly went out of
the room, leaving Lydgate helpless and wondering. Was she not coming
back? It seemed that she had no more identified herself with him than
if they had been creatures of different species and opposing interests.
He tossed his head and thrust his hands deep into his pockets with a
sort of vengeance. There was still science—there were still good
objects to work for. He must give a tug still—all the stronger
because other satisfactions were going.
But the door opened and Rosamond re-entered. She carried the leather
box containing the amethysts, and a tiny ornamental basket which
contained other boxes, and laying them on the chair where she had been
sitting, she said, with perfect propriety in her air—
"This is all the jewellery you ever gave me. You can return what you
like of it, and of the plate also. You will not, of course, expect me
to stay at home to-morrow. I shall go to papa's."
To many women the look Lydgate cast at her would have been more
terrible than one of anger: it had in it a despairing acceptance of the
distance she was placing between them.
"And when shall you come back again?" he said, with a bitter edge on
"Oh, in the evening. Of course I shall not mention the subject to
mamma." Rosamond was convinced that no woman could behave more
irreproachably than she was behaving; and she went to sit down at her
work-table. Lydgate sat meditating a minute or two, and the result was
that he said, with some of the old emotion in his tone—
"Now we have been united, Rosy, you should not leave me to myself in
the first trouble that has come."
"Certainly not," said Rosamond; "I shall do everything it becomes me to
"It is not right that the thing should be left to servants, or that I
should have to speak to them about it. And I shall be obliged to go
out—I don't know how early. I understand your shrinking from the
humiliation of these money affairs. But, my dear Rosamond, as a
question of pride, which I feel just as much as you can, it is surely
better to manage the thing ourselves, and let the servants see as
little of it as possible; and since you are my wife, there is no
hindering your share in my disgraces—if there were disgraces."
Rosamond did not answer immediately, but at last she said, "Very well,
I will stay at home."
"I shall not touch these jewels, Rosy. Take them away again. But I
will write out a list of plate that we may return, and that can be
packed up and sent at once."
"The servants will know that," said Rosamond, with the slightest
touch of sarcasm.
"Well, we must meet some disagreeables as necessities. Where is the
ink, I wonder?" said Lydgate, rising, and throwing the account on the
larger table where he meant to write.
Rosamond went to reach the inkstand, and after setting it on the table
was going to turn away, when Lydgate, who was standing close by, put
his arm round her and drew her towards him, saying—
"Come, darling, let us make the best of things. It will only be for a
time, I hope, that we shall have to be stingy and particular. Kiss me."
His native warm-heartedness took a great deal of quenching, and it is a
part of manliness for a husband to feel keenly the fact that an
inexperienced girl has got into trouble by marrying him. She received
his kiss and returned it faintly, and in this way an appearance of
accord was recovered for the time. But Lydgate could not help looking
forward with dread to the inevitable future discussions about
expenditure and the necessity for a complete change in their way of
They said of old the Soul had human shape,
But smaller, subtler than the fleshly self,
So wandered forth for airing when it pleased.
And see! beside her cherub-face there floats
A pale-lipped form aerial whispering
Its promptings in that little shell her ear."
News is often dispersed as thoughtlessly and effectively as that pollen
which the bees carry off (having no idea how powdery they are) when
they are buzzing in search of their particular nectar. This fine
comparison has reference to Fred Vincy, who on that evening at Lowick
Parsonage heard a lively discussion among the ladies on the news which
their old servant had got from Tantripp concerning Mr. Casaubon's
strange mention of Mr. Ladislaw in a codicil to his will made not long
before his death. Miss Winifred was astounded to find that her brother
had known the fact before, and observed that Camden was the most
wonderful man for knowing things and not telling them; whereupon Mary
Garth said that the codicil had perhaps got mixed up with the habits of
spiders, which Miss Winifred never would listen to. Mrs. Farebrother
considered that the news had something to do with their having only
once seen Mr. Ladislaw at Lowick, and Miss Noble made many small
Fred knew little and cared less about Ladislaw and the Casaubons, and
his mind never recurred to that discussion till one day calling on
Rosamond at his mother's request to deliver a message as he passed, he
happened to see Ladislaw going away. Fred and Rosamond had little to
say to each other now that marriage had removed her from collision with
the unpleasantness of brothers, and especially now that he had taken
what she held the stupid and even reprehensible step of giving up the
Church to take to such a business as Mr. Garth's. Hence Fred talked by
preference of what he considered indifferent news, and "a propos of
that young Ladislaw" mentioned what he had heard at Lowick Parsonage.
Now Lydgate, like Mr. Farebrother, knew a great deal more than he told,
and when he had once been set thinking about the relation between Will
and Dorothea his conjectures had gone beyond the fact. He imagined
that there was a passionate attachment on both sides, and this struck
him as much too serious to gossip about. He remembered Will's
irritability when he had mentioned Mrs. Casaubon, and was the more
circumspect. On the whole his surmises, in addition to what he knew of
the fact, increased his friendliness and tolerance towards Ladislaw,
and made him understand the vacillation which kept him at Middlemarch
after he had said that he should go away. It was significant of the
separateness between Lydgate's mind and Rosamond's that he had no
impulse to speak to her on the subject; indeed, he did not quite trust
her reticence towards Will. And he was right there; though he had no
vision of the way in which her mind would act in urging her to speak.
When she repeated Fred's news to Lydgate, he said, "Take care you don't
drop the faintest hint to Ladislaw, Rosy. He is likely to fly out as
if you insulted him. Of course it is a painful affair."
Rosamond turned her neck and patted her hair, looking the image of
placid indifference. But the next time Will came when Lydgate was
away, she spoke archly about his not going to London as he had
"I know all about it. I have a confidential little bird," said she,
showing very pretty airs of her head over the bit of work held high
between her active fingers. "There is a powerful magnet in this
"To be sure there is. Nobody knows that better than you," said Will,
with light gallantry, but inwardly prepared to be angry.
"It is really the most charming romance: Mr. Casaubon jealous, and
foreseeing that there was no one else whom Mrs. Casaubon would so much
like to marry, and no one who would so much like to marry her as a
certain gentleman; and then laying a plan to spoil all by making her
forfeit her property if she did marry that gentleman—and then—and
then—and then—oh, I have no doubt the end will be thoroughly
"Great God! what do you mean?" said Will, flushing over face and ears,
his features seeming to change as if he had had a violent shake.
"Don't joke; tell me what you mean."
"You don't really know?" said Rosamond, no longer playful, and desiring
nothing better than to tell in order that she might evoke effects.
"No!" he returned, impatiently.
"Don't know that Mr. Casaubon has left it in his will that if Mrs.
Casaubon marries you she is to forfeit all her property?"
"How do you know that it is true?" said Will, eagerly.
"My brother Fred heard it from the Farebrothers." Will started up from
his chair and reached his hat.
"I dare say she likes you better than the property," said Rosamond,
looking at him from a distance.
"Pray don't say any more about it," said Will, in a hoarse undertone
extremely unlike his usual light voice. "It is a foul insult to her
and to me." Then he sat down absently, looking before him, but seeing
"Now you are angry with me," said Rosamond. "It is too bad to bear
me malice. You ought to be obliged to me for telling you."
"So I am," said Will, abruptly, speaking with that kind of double soul
which belongs to dreamers who answer questions.
"I expect to hear of the marriage," said Rosamond, playfully.
"Never! You will never hear of the marriage!"
With those words uttered impetuously, Will rose, put out his hand to
Rosamond, still with the air of a somnambulist, and went away.
When he was gone, Rosamond left her chair and walked to the other end
of the room, leaning when she got there against a chiffonniere, and
looking out of the window wearily. She was oppressed by ennui, and by
that dissatisfaction which in women's minds is continually turning into
a trivial jealousy, referring to no real claims, springing from no
deeper passion than the vague exactingness of egoism, and yet capable
of impelling action as well as speech. "There really is nothing to
care for much," said poor Rosamond inwardly, thinking of the family at
Quallingham, who did not write to her; and that perhaps Tertius when he
came home would tease her about expenses. She had already secretly
disobeyed him by asking her father to help them, and he had ended
decisively by saying, "I am more likely to want help myself."
Good phrases are surely, and ever were, very commendable.
A few days afterwards—it was already the end of August—there was an
occasion which caused some excitement in Middlemarch: the public, if it
chose, was to have the advantage of buying, under the distinguished
auspices of Mr. Borthrop Trumbull, the furniture, books, and pictures
which anybody might see by the handbills to be the best in every kind,
belonging to Edwin Larcher, Esq. This was not one of the sales
indicating the depression of trade; on the contrary, it was due to Mr.
Larcher's great success in the carrying business, which warranted his
purchase of a mansion near Riverston already furnished in high style by
an illustrious Spa physician—furnished indeed with such large
framefuls of expensive flesh-painting in the dining-room, that Mrs.
Larcher was nervous until reassured by finding the subjects to be
Scriptural. Hence the fine opportunity to purchasers which was well
pointed out in the handbills of Mr. Borthrop Trumbull, whose
acquaintance with the history of art enabled him to state that the hall
furniture, to be sold without reserve, comprised a piece of carving by
a contemporary of Gibbons.
At Middlemarch in those times a large sale was regarded as a kind of
festival. There was a table spread with the best cold eatables, as at
a superior funeral; and facilities were offered for that
generous-drinking of cheerful glasses which might lead to generous and
cheerful bidding for undesirable articles. Mr. Larcher's sale was the
more attractive in the fine weather because the house stood just at the
end of the town, with a garden and stables attached, in that pleasant
issue from Middlemarch called the London Road, which was also the road
to the New Hospital and to Mr. Bulstrode's retired residence, known as
the Shrubs. In short, the auction was as good as a fair, and drew all
classes with leisure at command: to some, who risked making bids in
order simply to raise prices, it was almost equal to betting at the
races. The second day, when the best furniture was to be sold,
"everybody" was there; even Mr. Thesiger, the rector of St. Peter's,
had looked in for a short time, wishing to buy the carved table, and
had rubbed elbows with Mr. Bambridge and Mr. Horrock. There was a
wreath of Middlemarch ladies accommodated with seats round the large
table in the dining-room, where Mr. Borthrop Trumbull was mounted with
desk and hammer; but the rows chiefly of masculine faces behind were
often varied by incomings and outgoings both from the door and the
large bow-window opening on to the lawn.
"Everybody" that day did not include Mr. Bulstrode, whose health could
not well endure crowds and draughts. But Mrs. Bulstrode had
particularly wished to have a certain picture—a "Supper at Emmaus,"
attributed in the catalogue to Guido; and at the last moment before the
day of the sale Mr. Bulstrode had called at the office of the
"Pioneer," of which he was now one of the proprietors, to beg of Mr.
Ladislaw as a great favor that he would obligingly use his remarkable
knowledge of pictures on behalf of Mrs. Bulstrode, and judge of the
value of this particular painting—"if," added the scrupulously polite
banker, "attendance at the sale would not interfere with the
arrangements for your departure, which I know is imminent."
This proviso might have sounded rather satirically in Will's ear if he
had been in a mood to care about such satire. It referred to an
understanding entered into many weeks before with the proprietors of
the paper, that he should be at liberty any day he pleased to hand over
the management to the subeditor whom he had been training; since he
wished finally to quit Middlemarch. But indefinite visions of ambition
are weak against the ease of doing what is habitual or beguilingly
agreeable; and we all know the difficulty of carrying out a resolve
when we secretly long that it may turn out to be unnecessary. In such
states of mind the most incredulous person has a private leaning
towards miracle: impossible to conceive how our wish could be
fulfilled, still—very wonderful things have happened! Will did not
confess this weakness to himself, but he lingered. What was the use of
going to London at that time of the year? The Rugby men who would
remember him were not there; and so far as political writing was
concerned, he would rather for a few weeks go on with the "Pioneer."
At the present moment, however, when Mr. Bulstrode was speaking to him,
he had both a strengthened resolve to go and an equally strong resolve
not to go till he had once more seen Dorothea. Hence he replied that
he had reasons for deferring his departure a little, and would be happy
to go to the sale.
Will was in a defiant mood, his consciousness being deeply stung with
the thought that the people who looked at him probably knew a fact
tantamount to an accusation against him as a fellow with low designs
which were to be frustrated by a disposal of property. Like most
people who assert their freedom with regard to conventional
distinction, he was prepared to be sudden and quick at quarrel with any
one who might hint that he had personal reasons for that assertion—that
there was anything in his blood, his bearing, or his character to
which he gave the mask of an opinion. When he was under an irritating
impression of this kind he would go about for days with a defiant look,
the color changing in his transparent skin as if he were on the qui
vive, watching for something which he had to dart upon.
This expression was peculiarly noticeable in him at the sale, and those
who had only seen him in his moods of gentle oddity or of bright
enjoyment would have been struck with a contrast. He was not sorry to
have this occasion for appearing in public before the Middlemarch
tribes of Toller, Hackbutt, and the rest, who looked down on him as an
adventurer, and were in a state of brutal ignorance about Dante—who
sneered at his Polish blood, and were themselves of a breed very much
in need of crossing. He stood in a conspicuous place not far from the
auctioneer, with a fore-finger in each side-pocket and his head thrown
backward, not caring to speak to anybody, though he had been cordially
welcomed as a connoissure by Mr. Trumbull, who was enjoying the
utmost activity of his great faculties.
And surely among all men whose vocation requires them to exhibit their
powers of speech, the happiest is a prosperous provincial auctioneer
keenly alive to his own jokes and sensible of his encyclopedic
knowledge. Some saturnine, sour-blooded persons might object to be
constantly insisting on the merits of all articles from boot-jacks to
"Berghems;" but Mr. Borthrop Trumbull had a kindly liquid in his veins;
he was an admirer by nature, and would have liked to have the universe
under his hammer, feeling that it would go at a higher figure for his
Meanwhile Mrs. Larcher's drawing-room furniture was enough for him.
When Will Ladislaw had come in, a second fender, said to have been
forgotten in its right place, suddenly claimed the auctioneer's
enthusiasm, which he distributed on the equitable principle of praising
those things most which were most in need of praise. The fender was of
polished steel, with much lancet-shaped open-work and a sharp edge.
"Now, ladies," said he, "I shall appeal to you. Here is a fender which
at any other sale would hardly be offered with out reserve, being, as I
may say, for quality of steel and quaintness of design, a kind of
thing"—here Mr. Trumbull dropped his voice and became slightly nasal,
trimming his outlines with his left finger—"that might not fall in
with ordinary tastes. Allow me to tell you that by-and-by this style
of workmanship will be the only one in vogue—half-a-crown, you said?
thank you—going at half-a-crown, this characteristic fender; and I
have particular information that the antique style is very much sought
after in high quarters. Three shillings—three-and-sixpence—hold it
well up, Joseph! Look, ladies, at the chastity of the design—I have
no doubt myself that it was turned out in the last century! Four
shillings, Mr. Mawmsey?—four shillings."
"It's not a thing I would put in my drawing-room," said Mrs. Mawmsey,
audibly, for the warning of the rash husband. "I wonder at Mrs.
Larcher. Every blessed child's head that fell against it would be cut
in two. The edge is like a knife."
"Quite true," rejoined Mr. Trumbull, quickly, "and most uncommonly
useful to have a fender at hand that will cut, if you have a leather
shoe-tie or a bit of string that wants cutting and no knife at hand:
many a man has been left hanging because there was no knife to cut him
down. Gentlemen, here's a fender that if you had the misfortune to
hang yourselves would cut you down in no time—with astonishing
thing for a spare bedroom where there was a four-poster and a guest a
little out of his mind—six shillings—thank you, Mr. Clintup—going
at six shillings—going—gone!" The auctioneer's glance, which had
been searching round him with a preternatural susceptibility to all
signs of bidding, here dropped on the paper before him, and his voice
too dropped into a tone of indifferent despatch as he said, "Mr.
Clintup. Be handy, Joseph."
"It was worth six shillings to have a fender you could always tell that
joke on," said Mr. Clintup, laughing low and apologetically to his next
neighbor. He was a diffident though distinguished nurseryman, and
feared that the audience might regard his bid as a foolish one.
Meanwhile Joseph had brought a trayful of small articles. "Now,
ladies," said Mr. Trumbull, taking up one of the articles, "this tray
contains a very recherchy lot—a collection of trifles for the
drawing-room table—and trifles make the sum of human things—nothing
more important than trifles—(yes, Mr. Ladislaw, yes, by-and-by)—but
pass the tray round, Joseph—these bijoux must be examined, ladies.
This I have in my hand is an ingenious contrivance—a sort of
practical rebus, I may call it: here, you see, it looks like an elegant
heart-shaped box, portable—for the pocket; there, again, it becomes
like a splendid double flower—an ornament for the table; and now"—Mr.
Trumbull allowed the flower to fall alarmingly into strings of
heart-shaped leaves—"a book of riddles! No less than five hundred
printed in a beautiful red. Gentlemen, if I had less of a conscience,
I should not wish you to bid high for this lot—I have a longing for
it myself. What can promote innocent mirth, and I may say virtue, more
than a good riddle?—it hinders profane language, and attaches a man to
the society of refined females. This ingenious article itself, without
the elegant domino-box, card-basket, &c., ought alone to give a high
price to the lot. Carried in the pocket it might make an individual
welcome in any society. Four shillings, sir?—four shillings for this
remarkable collection of riddles with the et caeteras. Here is a
sample: 'How must you spell honey to make it catch lady-birds?
Answer—money.' You hear?—lady-birds—honey money. This is an
amusement to sharpen the intellect; it has a sting—it has what we call
satire, and wit without indecency. Four-and-sixpence—five shillings."
The bidding ran on with warming rivalry. Mr. Bowyer was a bidder, and
this was too exasperating. Bowyer couldn't afford it, and only wanted
to hinder every other man from making a figure. The current carried
even Mr. Horrock with it, but this committal of himself to an opinion
fell from him with so little sacrifice of his neutral expression, that
the bid might not have been detected as his but for the friendly oaths
of Mr. Bambridge, who wanted to know what Horrock would do with blasted
stuff only fit for haberdashers given over to that state of perdition
which the horse-dealer so cordially recognized in the majority of
earthly existences. The lot was finally knocked down at a guinea to
Mr. Spilkins, a young Slender of the neighborhood, who was reckless
with his pocket-money and felt his want of memory for riddles.
"Come, Trumbull, this is too bad—you've been putting some old maid's
rubbish into the sale," murmured Mr. Toller, getting close to the
auctioneer. "I want to see how the prints go, and I must be off soon."
"Immediately, Mr. Toller. It was only an act of benevolence which
your noble heart would approve. Joseph! quick with the prints—Lot
235. Now, gentlemen, you who are connoissures, you are going to have
a treat. Here is an engraving of the Duke of Wellington surrounded by
his staff on the Field of Waterloo; and notwithstanding recent events
which have, as it were, enveloped our great Hero in a cloud, I will be
bold to say—for a man in my line must not be blown about by political
winds—that a finer subject—of the modern order, belonging to our own
time and epoch—the understanding of man could hardly conceive: angels
might, perhaps, but not men, sirs, not men."
"Who painted it?" said Mr. Powderell, much impressed.
"It is a proof before the letter, Mr. Powderell—the painter is not
known," answered Trumbull, with a certain gaspingness in his last
words, after which he pursed up his lips and stared round him.
"I'll bid a pound!" said Mr. Powderell, in a tone of resolved emotion,
as of a man ready to put himself in the breach. Whether from awe or
pity, nobody raised the price on him.
Next came two Dutch prints which Mr. Toller had been eager for, and
after he had secured them he went away. Other prints, and afterwards
some paintings, were sold to leading Middlemarchers who had come with a
special desire for them, and there was a more active movement of the
audience in and out; some, who had bought what they wanted, going away,
others coming in either quite newly or from a temporary visit to the
refreshments which were spread under the marquee on the lawn. It was
this marquee that Mr. Bambridge was bent on buying, and he appeared to
like looking inside it frequently, as a foretaste of its possession.
On the last occasion of his return from it he was observed to bring
with him a new companion, a stranger to Mr. Trumbull and every one
else, whose appearance, however, led to the supposition that he might
be a relative of the horse-dealer's—also "given to indulgence." His
large whiskers, imposing swagger, and swing of the leg, made him a
striking figure; but his suit of black, rather shabby at the edges,
caused the prejudicial inference that he was not able to afford himself
as much indulgence as he liked.
"Who is it you've picked up, Bam?" said Mr. Horrock, aside.
"Ask him yourself," returned Mr. Bambridge. "He said he'd just turned
in from the road."
Mr. Horrock eyed the stranger, who was leaning back against his stick
with one hand, using his toothpick with the other, and looking about
him with a certain restlessness apparently under the silence imposed on
him by circumstances.
At length the "Supper at Emmaus" was brought forward, to Will's immense
relief, for he was getting so tired of the proceedings that he had
drawn back a little and leaned his shoulder against the wall just
behind the auctioneer. He now came forward again, and his eye caught
the conspicuous stranger, who, rather to his surprise, was staring at
him markedly. But Will was immediately appealed to by Mr. Trumbull.
"Yes, Mr. Ladislaw, yes; this interests you as a connoissure, I
think. It is some pleasure," the auctioneer went on with a rising
fervor, "to have a picture like this to show to a company of ladies and
gentlemen—a picture worth any sum to an individual whose means were on
a level with his judgment. It is a painting of the Italian school—by
the celebrated Guydo, the greatest painter in the world, the chief of
the Old Masters, as they are called—I take it, because they were up
to a thing or two beyond most of us—in possession of secrets now lost
to the bulk of mankind. Let me tell you, gentlemen, I have seen a
great many pictures by the Old Masters, and they are not all up to this
mark—some of them are darker than you might like and not family
subjects. But here is a Guydo—the frame alone is worth pounds—which
any lady might be proud to hang up—a suitable thing for what we call a
refectory in a charitable institution, if any gentleman of the
Corporation wished to show his munificence. Turn it a little, sir?
yes. Joseph, turn it a little towards Mr. Ladislaw—Mr. Ladislaw,
having been abroad, understands the merit of these things, you observe."
All eyes were for a moment turned towards Will, who said, coolly, "Five
pounds." The auctioneer burst out in deep remonstrance.
"Ah! Mr. Ladislaw! the frame alone is worth that. Ladies and
gentlemen, for the credit of the town! Suppose it should be discovered
hereafter that a gem of art has been amongst us in this town, and
nobody in Middlemarch awake to it. Five guineas—five seven-six—five
ten. Still, ladies, still! It is a gem, and 'Full many a gem,' as the
poet says, has been allowed to go at a nominal price because the public
knew no better, because it was offered in circles where there was—I
was going to say a low feeling, but no!—Six pounds—six guineas—a
Guydo of the first order going at six guineas—it is an insult to
religion, ladies; it touches us all as Christians, gentlemen, that a
subject like this should go at such a low figure—six pounds
The bidding was brisk, and Will continued to share in it, remembering
that Mrs. Bulstrode had a strong wish for the picture, and thinking
that he might stretch the price to twelve pounds. But it was knocked
down to him at ten guineas, whereupon he pushed his way towards the
bow-window and went out. He chose to go under the marquee to get a
glass of water, being hot and thirsty: it was empty of other visitors,
and he asked the woman in attendance to fetch him some fresh water; but
before she was well gone he was annoyed to see entering the florid
stranger who had stared at him. It struck Will at this moment that the
man might be one of those political parasitic insects of the bloated
kind who had once or twice claimed acquaintance with him as having
heard him speak on the Reform question, and who might think of getting
a shilling by news. In this light his person, already rather heating
to behold on a summer's day, appeared the more disagreeable; and Will,
half-seated on the elbow of a garden-chair, turned his eyes carefully
away from the comer. But this signified little to our acquaintance Mr.
Raffles, who never hesitated to thrust himself on unwilling
observation, if it suited his purpose to do so. He moved a step or two
till he was in front of Will, and said with full-mouthed haste, "Excuse
me, Mr. Ladislaw—was your mother's name Sarah Dunkirk?"
Will, starting to his feet, moved backward a step, frowning, and saying
with some fierceness, "Yes, sir, it was. And what is that to you?"
It was in Will's nature that the first spark it threw out was a direct
answer of the question and a challenge of the consequences. To have
said, "What is that to you?" in the first instance, would have seemed
like shuffling—as if he minded who knew anything about his origin!
Raffles on his side had not the same eagerness for a collision which
was implied in Ladislaw's threatening air. The slim young fellow with
his girl's complexion looked like a tiger-cat ready to spring on him.
Under such circumstances Mr. Raffles's pleasure in annoying his company
was kept in abeyance.
"No offence, my good sir, no offence! I only remember your mother—knew
her when she was a girl. But it is your father that you feature,
sir. I had the pleasure of seeing your father too. Parents alive, Mr.
"No!" thundered Will, in the same attitude as before.
"Should be glad to do you a service, Mr. Ladislaw—by Jove, I should!
Hope to meet again."
Hereupon Raffles, who had lifted his hat with the last words, turned
himself round with a swing of his leg and walked away. Will looked
after him a moment, and could see that he did not re-enter the
auction-room, but appeared to be walking towards the road. For an
instant he thought that he had been foolish not to let the man go on
talking;—but no! on the whole he preferred doing without knowledge
from that source.
Later in the evening, however, Raffles overtook him in the street, and
appearing either to have forgotten the roughness of his former
reception or to intend avenging it by a forgiving familiarity, greeted
him jovially and walked by his side, remarking at first on the
pleasantness of the town and neighborhood. Will suspected that the man
had been drinking and was considering how to shake him off when Raffles
"I've been abroad myself, Mr. Ladislaw—I've seen the world—used to
parley-vous a little. It was at Boulogne I saw your father—a most
uncommon likeness you are of him, by Jove! mouth—nose—eyes—hair
turned off your brow just like his—a little in the foreign style.
John Bull doesn't do much of that. But your father was very ill when I
saw him. Lord, lord! hands you might see through. You were a small
youngster then. Did he get well?"
"No," said Will, curtly.
"Ah! Well! I've often wondered what became of your mother. She ran
away from her friends when she was a young lass—a proud-spirited
lass, and pretty, by Jove! I knew the reason why she ran away," said
Raffles, winking slowly as he looked sideways at Will.
"You know nothing dishonorable of her, sir," said Will, turning on him
rather savagely. But Mr. Raffles just now was not sensitive to shades
"Not a bit!" said he, tossing his head decisively "She was a little too
honorable to like her friends—that was it!" Here Raffles again winked
slowly. "Lord bless you, I knew all about 'em—a little in what you
may call the respectable thieving line—the high style of
receiving-house—none of your holes and corners—first-rate. Slap-up
shop, high profits and no mistake. But Lord! Sarah would have known
nothing about it—a dashing young lady she was—fine
boarding-school—fit for a lord's wife—only Archie Duncan threw it at
her out of spite, because she would have nothing to do with him. And
so she ran away from the whole concern. I travelled for 'em, sir, in a
gentlemanly way—at a high salary. They didn't mind her running away
at first—godly folks, sir, very godly—and she was for the stage. The
son was alive then, and the daughter was at a discount. Hallo! here we
are at the Blue Bull. What do you say, Mr. Ladislaw?—shall we turn in
and have a glass?"
"No, I must say good evening," said Will, dashing up a passage which
led into Lowick Gate, and almost running to get out of Raffles's reach.
He walked a long while on the Lowick road away from the town, glad of
the starlit darkness when it came. He felt as if he had had dirt cast
on him amidst shouts of scorn. There was this to confirm the fellow's
statement—that his mother never would tell him the reason why she had
run away from her family.
Well! what was he, Will Ladislaw, the worse, supposing the truth about
that family to be the ugliest? His mother had braved hardship in order
to separate herself from it. But if Dorothea's friends had known this
story—if the Chettams had known it—they would have had a fine color
to give their suspicions a welcome ground for thinking him unfit to
come near her. However, let them suspect what they pleased, they would
find themselves in the wrong. They would find out that the blood in
his veins was as free from the taint of meanness as theirs.
"Inconsistencies," answered Imlac, "cannot both be right,
but imputed to man they may both be true."—Rasselas.
The same night, when Mr. Bulstrode returned from a journey to Brassing
on business, his good wife met him in the entrance-hall and drew him
into his private sitting-room.
"Nicholas," she said, fixing her honest eyes upon him anxiously, "there
has been such a disagreeable man here asking for you—it has made me
"What kind of man, my dear," said Mr. Bulstrode, dreadfully certain of
"A red-faced man with large whiskers, and most impudent in his manner.
He declared he was an old friend of yours, and said you would be sorry
not to see him. He wanted to wait for you here, but I told him he
could see you at the Bank to-morrow morning. Most impudent he
was!—stared at me, and said his friend Nick had luck in wives. I
don't believe he would have gone away, if Blucher had not happened to
break his chain and come running round on the gravel—for I was in the
garden; so I said, 'You'd better go away—the dog is very fierce, and I
can't hold him.' Do you really know anything of such a man?"
"I believe I know who he is, my dear," said Mr. Bulstrode, in his usual
subdued voice, "an unfortunate dissolute wretch, whom I helped too much
in days gone by. However, I presume you will not be troubled by him
again. He will probably come to the Bank—to beg, doubtless."
No more was said on the subject until the next day, when Mr. Bulstrode
had returned from the town and was dressing for dinner. His wife, not
sure that he was come home, looked into his dressing-room and saw him
with his coat and cravat off, leaning one arm on a chest of drawers and
staring absently at the ground. He started nervously and looked up as
"You look very ill, Nicholas. Is there anything the matter?"
"I have a good deal of pain in my head," said Mr. Bulstrode, who was so
frequently ailing that his wife was always ready to believe in this
cause of depression.
"Sit down and let me sponge it with vinegar."
Physically Mr. Bulstrode did not want the vinegar, but morally the
affectionate attention soothed him. Though always polite, it was his
habit to receive such services with marital coolness, as his wife's
duty. But to-day, while she was bending over him, he said, "You are
very good, Harriet," in a tone which had something new in it to her
ear; she did not know exactly what the novelty was, but her woman's
solicitude shaped itself into a darting thought that he might be going
to have an illness.
"Has anything worried you?" she said. "Did that man come to you at the
"Yes; it was as I had supposed. He is a man who at one time might have
done better. But he has sunk into a drunken debauched creature."
"Is he quite gone away?" said Mrs. Bulstrode, anxiously but for certain
reasons she refrained from adding, "It was very disagreeable to hear
him calling himself a friend of yours." At that moment she would not
have liked to say anything which implied her habitual consciousness
that her husband's earlier connections were not quite on a level with
her own. Not that she knew much about them. That her husband had at
first been employed in a bank, that he had afterwards entered into what
he called city business and gained a fortune before he was
three-and-thirty, that he had married a widow who was much older than
himself—a Dissenter, and in other ways probably of that
disadvantageous quality usually perceptible in a first wife if inquired
into with the dispassionate judgment of a second—was almost as much as
she had cared to learn beyond the glimpses which Mr. Bulstrode's
narrative occasionally gave of his early bent towards religion, his
inclination to be a preacher, and his association with missionary and
philanthropic efforts. She believed in him as an excellent man whose
piety carried a peculiar eminence in belonging to a layman, whose
influence had turned her own mind toward seriousness, and whose share
of perishable good had been the means of raising her own position. But
she also liked to think that it was well in every sense for Mr.
Bulstrode to have won the hand of Harriet Vincy; whose family was
undeniable in a Middlemarch light—a better light surely than any
thrown in London thoroughfares or dissenting chapel-yards. The
unreformed provincial mind distrusted London; and while true religion
was everywhere saving, honest Mrs. Bulstrode was convinced that to be
saved in the Church was more respectable. She so much wished to ignore
towards others that her husband had ever been a London Dissenter, that
she liked to keep it out of sight even in talking to him. He was quite
aware of this; indeed in some respects he was rather afraid of this
ingenuous wife, whose imitative piety and native worldliness were
equally sincere, who had nothing to be ashamed of, and whom he had
married out of a thorough inclination still subsisting. But his fears
were such as belong to a man who cares to maintain his recognized
supremacy: the loss of high consideration from his wife, as from every
one else who did not clearly hate him out of enmity to the truth, would
be as the beginning of death to him. When she said—
"Is he quite gone away?"
"Oh, I trust so," he answered, with an effort to throw as much sober
unconcern into his tone as possible!
But in truth Mr. Bulstrode was very far from a state of quiet trust.
In the interview at the Bank, Raffles had made it evident that his
eagerness to torment was almost as strong in him as any other greed.
He had frankly said that he had turned out of the way to come to
Middlemarch, just to look about him and see whether the neighborhood
would suit him to live in. He had certainly had a few debts to pay
more than he expected, but the two hundred pounds were not gone yet: a
cool five-and-twenty would suffice him to go away with for the present.
What he had wanted chiefly was to see his friend Nick and family, and
know all about the prosperity of a man to whom he was so much attached.
By-and-by he might come back for a longer stay. This time Raffles
declined to be "seen off the premises," as he expressed it—declined to
quit Middlemarch under Bulstrode's eyes. He meant to go by coach the
next day—if he chose.
Bulstrode felt himself helpless. Neither threats nor coaxing could
avail: he could not count on any persistent fear nor on any promise.
On the contrary, he felt a cold certainty at his heart that
Raffles—unless providence sent death to hinder him—would come back
to Middlemarch before long. And that certainty was a terror.
It was not that he was in danger of legal punishment or of beggary: he
was in danger only of seeing disclosed to the judgment of his neighbors
and the mournful perception of his wife certain facts of his past life
which would render him an object of scorn and an opprobrium of the
religion with which he had diligently associated himself. The terror
of being judged sharpens the memory: it sends an inevitable glare over
that long-unvisited past which has been habitually recalled only in
general phrases. Even without memory, the life is bound into one by a
zone of dependence in growth and decay; but intense memory forces a man
to own his blameworthy past. With memory set smarting like a reopened
wound, a man's past is not simply a dead history, an outworn
preparation of the present: it is not a repented error shaken loose
from the life: it is a still quivering part of himself, bringing
shudders and bitter flavors and the tinglings of a merited shame.
Into this second life Bulstrode's past had now risen, only the
pleasures of it seeming to have lost their quality. Night and day,
without interruption save of brief sleep which only wove retrospect and
fear into a fantastic present, he felt the scenes of his earlier life
coming between him and everything else, as obstinately as when we look
through the window from a lighted room, the objects we turn our backs
on are still before us, instead of the grass and the trees. The
successive events inward and outward were there in one view: though
each might be dwelt on in turn, the rest still kept their hold in the
Once more he saw himself the young banker's clerk, with an agreeable
person, as clever in figures as he was fluent in speech and fond of
theological definition: an eminent though young member of a Calvinistic
dissenting church at Highbury, having had striking experience in
conviction of sin and sense of pardon. Again he heard himself called
for as Brother Bulstrode in prayer meetings, speaking on religious
platforms, preaching in private houses. Again he felt himself thinking
of the ministry as possibly his vocation, and inclined towards
missionary labor. That was the happiest time of his life: that was the
spot he would have chosen now to awake in and find the rest a dream.
The people among whom Brother Bulstrode was distinguished were very
few, but they were very near to him, and stirred his satisfaction the
more; his power stretched through a narrow space, but he felt its
effect the more intensely. He believed without effort in the peculiar
work of grace within him, and in the signs that God intended him for
Then came the moment of transition; it was with the sense of promotion
he had when he, an orphan educated at a commercial charity-school, was
invited to a fine villa belonging to Mr. Dunkirk, the richest man in
the congregation. Soon he became an intimate there, honored for his
piety by the wife, marked out for his ability by the husband, whose
wealth was due to a flourishing city and west-end trade. That was the
setting-in of a new current for his ambition, directing his prospects
of "instrumentality" towards the uniting of distinguished religious
gifts with successful business.
By-and-by came a decided external leading: a confidential subordinate
partner died, and nobody seemed to the principal so well fitted to fill
the severely felt vacancy as his young friend Bulstrode, if he would
become confidential accountant. The offer was accepted. The business
was a pawnbroker's, of the most magnificent sort both in extent and
profits; and on a short acquaintance with it Bulstrode became aware
that one source of magnificent profit was the easy reception of any
goods offered, without strict inquiry as to where they came from. But
there was a branch house at the west end, and no pettiness or dinginess
to give suggestions of shame.
He remembered his first moments of shrinking. They were private, and
were filled with arguments; some of these taking the form of prayer.
The business was established and had old roots; is it not one thing to
set up a new gin-palace and another to accept an investment in an old
one? The profits made out of lost souls—where can the line be drawn
at which they begin in human transactions? Was it not even God's way
of saving His chosen? "Thou knowest,"—the young Bulstrode had said
then, as the older Bulstrode was saying now—"Thou knowest how loose
my soul sits from these things—how I view them all as implements for
tilling Thy garden rescued here and there from the wilderness."
Metaphors and precedents were not wanting; peculiar spiritual
experiences were not wanting which at last made the retention of his
position seem a service demanded of him: the vista of a fortune had
already opened itself, and Bulstrode's shrinking remained private. Mr.
Dunkirk had never expected that there would be any shrinking at all: he
had never conceived that trade had anything to do with the scheme of
salvation. And it was true that Bulstrode found himself carrying on
two distinct lives; his religious activity could not be incompatible
with his business as soon as he had argued himself into not feeling it
Mentally surrounded with that past again, Bulstrode had the same
pleas—indeed, the years had been perpetually spinning them into
intricate thickness, like masses of spider-web, padding the moral
sensibility; nay, as age made egoism more eager but less enjoying, his
soul had become more saturated with the belief that he did everything
for God's sake, being indifferent to it for his own. And yet—if he
could be back in that far-off spot with his youthful poverty—why, then
he would choose to be a missionary.
But the train of causes in which he had locked himself went on. There
was trouble in the fine villa at Highbury. Years before, the only
daughter had run away, defied her parents, and gone on the stage; and
now the only boy died, and after a short time Mr. Dunkirk died also.
The wife, a simple pious woman, left with all the wealth in and out of
the magnificent trade, of which she never knew the precise nature, had
come to believe in Bulstrode, and innocently adore him as women often
adore their priest or "man-made" minister. It was natural that after a
time marriage should have been thought of between them. But Mrs.
Dunkirk had qualms and yearnings about her daughter, who had long been
regarded as lost both to God and her parents. It was known that the
daughter had married, but she was utterly gone out of sight. The
mother, having lost her boy, imagined a grandson, and wished in a
double sense to reclaim her daughter. If she were found, there would
be a channel for property—perhaps a wide one—in the provision for
several grandchildren. Efforts to find her must be made before Mrs.
Dunkirk would marry again. Bulstrode concurred; but after
advertisement as well as other modes of inquiry had been tried, the
mother believed that her daughter was not to be found, and consented to
marry without reservation of property.
The daughter had been found; but only one man besides Bulstrode knew
it, and he was paid for keeping silence and carrying himself away.
That was the bare fact which Bulstrode was now forced to see in the
rigid outline with which acts present themselves onlookers. But for
himself at that distant time, and even now in burning memory, the fact
was broken into little sequences, each justified as it came by
reasonings which seemed to prove it righteous. Bulstrode's course up
to that time had, he thought, been sanctioned by remarkable
providences, appearing to point the way for him to be the agent in
making the best use of a large property and withdrawing it from
perversion. Death and other striking dispositions, such as feminine
trustfulness, had come; and Bulstrode would have adopted Cromwell's
words—"Do you call these bare events? The Lord pity you!" The
events were comparatively small, but the essential condition was
there—namely, that they were in favor of his own ends. It was easy
for him to settle what was due from him to others by inquiring what
were God's intentions with regard to himself. Could it be for God's
service that this fortune should in any considerable proportion go to a
young woman and her husband who were given up to the lightest pursuits,
and might scatter it abroad in triviality—people who seemed to lie
outside the path of remarkable providences? Bulstrode had never said
to himself beforehand, "The daughter shall not be found"—nevertheless
when the moment came he kept her existence hidden; and when other
moments followed, he soothed the mother with consolation in the
probability that the unhappy young woman might be no more.
There were hours in which Bulstrode felt that his action was
unrighteous; but how could he go back? He had mental exercises, called
himself nought, laid hold on redemption, and went on in his course of
instrumentality. And after five years Death again came to widen his
path, by taking away his wife. He did gradually withdraw his capital,
but he did not make the sacrifices requisite to put an end to the
business, which was carried on for thirteen years afterwards before it
finally collapsed. Meanwhile Nicholas Bulstrode had used his hundred
thousand discreetly, and was become provincially, solidly important—a
banker, a Churchman, a public benefactor; also a sleeping partner in
trading concerns, in which his ability was directed to economy in the
raw material, as in the case of the dyes which rotted Mr. Vincy's silk.
And now, when this respectability had lasted undisturbed for nearly
thirty years—when all that preceded it had long lain benumbed in the
consciousness—that past had risen and immersed his thought as if with
the terrible irruption of a new sense overburthening the feeble being.
Meanwhile, in his conversation with Raffles, he had learned something
momentous, something which entered actively into the struggle of his
longings and terrors. There, he thought, lay an opening towards
spiritual, perhaps towards material rescue.
The spiritual kind of rescue was a genuine need with him. There may be
coarse hypocrites, who consciously affect beliefs and emotions for the
sake of gulling the world, but Bulstrode was not one of them. He was
simply a man whose desires had been stronger than his theoretic
beliefs, and who had gradually explained the gratification of his
desires into satisfactory agreement with those beliefs. If this be
hypocrisy, it is a process which shows itself occasionally in us all,
to whatever confession we belong, and whether we believe in the future
perfection of our race or in the nearest date fixed for the end of the
world; whether we regard the earth as a putrefying nidus for a saved
remnant, including ourselves, or have a passionate belief in the
solidarity of mankind.
The service he could do to the cause of religion had been through life
the ground he alleged to himself for his choice of action: it had been
the motive which he had poured out in his prayers. Who would use money
and position better than he meant to use them? Who could surpass him
in self-abhorrence and exaltation of God's cause? And to Mr. Bulstrode
God's cause was something distinct from his own rectitude of conduct:
it enforced a discrimination of God's enemies, who were to be used
merely as instruments, and whom it would be as well if possible to keep
out of money and consequent influence. Also, profitable investments in
trades where the power of the prince of this world showed its most
active devices, became sanctified by a right application of the profits
in the hands of God's servant.
This implicit reasoning is essentially no more peculiar to evangelical
belief than the use of wide phrases for narrow motives is peculiar to
Englishmen. There is no general doctrine which is not capable of
eating out our morality if unchecked by the deep-seated habit of direct
fellow-feeling with individual fellow-men.
But a man who believes in something else than his own greed, has
necessarily a conscience or standard to which he more or less adapts
himself. Bulstrode's standard had been his serviceableness to God's
cause: "I am sinful and nought—a vessel to be consecrated by use—but
use me!"—had been the mould into which he had constrained his immense
need of being something important and predominating. And now had come
a moment in which that mould seemed in danger of being broken and
utterly cast away.
What if the acts he had reconciled himself to because they made him a
stronger instrument of the divine glory, were to become the pretext of
the scoffer, and a darkening of that glory? If this were to be the
ruling of Providence, he was cast out from the temple as one who had
brought unclean offerings.
He had long poured out utterances of repentance. But today a
repentance had come which was of a bitterer flavor, and a threatening
Providence urged him to a kind of propitiation which was not simply a
doctrinal transaction. The divine tribunal had changed its aspect for
him; self-prostration was no longer enough, and he must bring
restitution in his hand. It was really before his God that Bulstrode
was about to attempt such restitution as seemed possible: a great dread
had seized his susceptible frame, and the scorching approach of shame
wrought in him a new spiritual need. Night and day, while the
resurgent threatening past was making a conscience within him, he was
thinking by what means he could recover peace and trust—by what
sacrifice he could stay the rod. His belief in these moments of dread
was, that if he spontaneously did something right, God would save him
from the consequences of wrong-doing. For religion can only change when
the emotions which fill it are changed; and the religion of personal
fear remains nearly at the level of the savage.
He had seen Raffles actually going away on the Brassing coach, and this
was a temporary relief; it removed the pressure of an immediate dread,
but did not put an end to the spiritual conflict and the need to win
protection. At last he came to a difficult resolve, and wrote a letter
to Will Ladislaw, begging him to be at the Shrubs that evening for a
private interview at nine o'clock. Will had felt no particular surprise
at the request, and connected it with some new notions about the
"Pioneer;" but when he was shown into Mr. Bulstrode's private room, he
was struck with the painfully worn look on the banker's face, and was
going to say, "Are you ill?" when, checking himself in that abruptness,
he only inquired after Mrs. Bulstrode, and her satisfaction with the
picture bought for her.
"Thank you, she is quite satisfied; she has gone out with her daughters
this evening. I begged you to come, Mr. Ladislaw, because I have a
communication of a very private—indeed, I will say, of a sacredly
confidential nature, which I desire to make to you. Nothing, I dare
say, has been farther from your thoughts than that there had been
important ties in the past which could connect your history with mine."
Will felt something like an electric shock. He was already in a state
of keen sensitiveness and hardly allayed agitation on the subject of
ties in the past, and his presentiments were not agreeable. It seemed
like the fluctuations of a dream—as if the action begun by that loud
bloated stranger were being carried on by this pale-eyed sickly looking
piece of respectability, whose subdued tone and glib formality of
speech were at this moment almost as repulsive to him as their
remembered contrast. He answered, with a marked change of color—
"No, indeed, nothing."
"You see before you, Mr. Ladislaw, a man who is deeply stricken. But
for the urgency of conscience and the knowledge that I am before the
bar of One who seeth not as man seeth, I should be under no compulsion
to make the disclosure which has been my object in asking you to come
here to-night. So far as human laws go, you have no claim on me
Will was even more uncomfortable than wondering. Mr. Bulstrode had
paused, leaning his head on his hand, and looking at the floor. But he
now fixed his examining glance on Will and said—
"I am told that your mother's name was Sarah Dunkirk, and that she ran
away from her friends to go on the stage. Also, that your father was
at one time much emaciated by illness. May I ask if you can confirm
"Yes, they are all true," said Will, struck with the order in which an
inquiry had come, that might have been expected to be preliminary to
the banker's previous hints. But Mr. Bulstrode had to-night followed
the order of his emotions; he entertained no doubt that the opportunity
for restitution had come, and he had an overpowering impulse towards
the penitential expression by which he was deprecating chastisement.
"Do you know any particulars of your mother's family?" he continued.
"No; she never liked to speak of them. She was a very generous,
honorable woman," said Will, almost angrily.
"I do not wish to allege anything against her. Did she never mention
her mother to you at all?"
"I have heard her say that she thought her mother did not know the
reason of her running away. She said 'poor mother' in a pitying tone."
"That mother became my wife," said Bulstrode, and then paused a moment
before he added, "you have a claim on me, Mr. Ladislaw: as I said
before, not a legal claim, but one which my conscience recognizes. I
was enriched by that marriage—a result which would probably not have
taken place—certainly not to the same extent—if your grandmother
could have discovered her daughter. That daughter, I gather, is no
"No," said Will, feeling suspicion and repugnance rising so strongly
within him, that without quite knowing what he did, he took his hat
from the floor and stood up. The impulse within him was to reject the
"Pray be seated, Mr. Ladislaw," said Bulstrode, anxiously. "Doubtless
you are startled by the suddenness of this discovery. But I entreat
your patience with one who is already bowed down by inward trial."
Will reseated himself, feeling some pity which was half contempt for
this voluntary self-abasement of an elderly man.
"It is my wish, Mr. Ladislaw, to make amends for the deprivation which
befell your mother. I know that you are without fortune, and I wish to
supply you adequately from a store which would have probably already
been yours had your grandmother been certain of your mother's existence
and been able to find her."
Mr. Bulstrode paused. He felt that he was performing a striking piece
of scrupulosity in the judgment of his auditor, and a penitential act
in the eyes of God. He had no clew to the state of Will Ladislaw's
mind, smarting as it was from the clear hints of Raffles, and with its
natural quickness in construction stimulated by the expectation of
discoveries which he would have been glad to conjure back into
darkness. Will made no answer for several moments, till Mr. Bulstrode,
who at the end of his speech had cast his eyes on the floor, now raised
them with an examining glance, which Will met fully, saying—
"I suppose you did know of my mother's existence, and knew where she
might have been found."
Bulstrode shrank—there was a visible quivering in his face and hands.
He was totally unprepared to have his advances met in this way, or to
find himself urged into more revelation than he had beforehand set down
as needful. But at that moment he dared not tell a lie, and he felt
suddenly uncertain of his ground which he had trodden with some
"I will not deny that you conjecture rightly," he answered, with a
faltering in his tone. "And I wish to make atonement to you as the one
still remaining who has suffered a loss through me. You enter, I
trust, into my purpose, Mr. Ladislaw, which has a reference to higher
than merely human claims, and as I have already said, is entirely
independent of any legal compulsion. I am ready to narrow my own
resources and the prospects of my family by binding myself to allow you
five hundred pounds yearly during my life, and to leave you a
proportional capital at my death—nay, to do still more, if more should
be definitely necessary to any laudable project on your part." Mr.
Bulstrode had gone on to particulars in the expectation that these
would work strongly on Ladislaw, and merge other feelings in grateful
But Will was looking as stubborn as possible, with his lip pouting and
his fingers in his side-pockets. He was not in the least touched, and
"Before I make any reply to your proposition, Mr. Bulstrode, I must beg
you to answer a question or two. Were you connected with the business
by which that fortune you speak of was originally made?"
Mr. Bulstrode's thought was, "Raffles has told him." How could he
refuse to answer when he had volunteered what drew forth the question?
He answered, "Yes."
"And was that business—or was it not—a thoroughly dishonorable
one—nay, one that, if its nature had been made public, might have
ranked those concerned in it with thieves and convicts?"
Will's tone had a cutting bitterness: he was moved to put his question
as nakedly as he could.
Bulstrode reddened with irrepressible anger. He had been prepared for
a scene of self-abasement, but his intense pride and his habit of
supremacy overpowered penitence, and even dread, when this young man,
whom he had meant to benefit, turned on him with the air of a judge.
"The business was established before I became connected with it, sir;
nor is it for you to institute an inquiry of that kind," he answered,
not raising his voice, but speaking with quick defiantness.
"Yes, it is," said Will, starting up again with his hat in his hand.
"It is eminently mine to ask such questions, when I have to decide
whether I will have transactions with you and accept your money. My
unblemished honor is important to me. It is important to me to have no
stain on my birth and connections. And now I find there is a stain
which I can't help. My mother felt it, and tried to keep as clear of
it as she could, and so will I. You shall keep your ill-gotten money.
If I had any fortune of my own, I would willingly pay it to any one who
could disprove what you have told me. What I have to thank you for is
that you kept the money till now, when I can refuse it. It ought to
lie with a man's self that he is a gentleman. Good-night, sir."
Bulstrode was going to speak, but Will, with determined quickness, was
out of the room in an instant, and in another the hall-door had closed
behind him. He was too strongly possessed with passionate rebellion
against this inherited blot which had been thrust on his knowledge to
reflect at present whether he had not been too hard on Bulstrode—too
arrogantly merciless towards a man of sixty, who was making efforts at
retrieval when time had rendered them vain.
No third person listening could have thoroughly understood the
impetuosity of Will's repulse or the bitterness of his words. No one
but himself then knew how everything connected with the sentiment of
his own dignity had an immediate bearing for him on his relation to
Dorothea and to Mr. Casaubon's treatment of him. And in the rush of
impulses by which he flung back that offer of Bulstrode's there was
mingled the sense that it would have been impossible for him ever to
tell Dorothea that he had accepted it.
As for Bulstrode—when Will was gone he suffered a violent reaction,
and wept like a woman. It was the first time he had encountered an
open expression of scorn from any man higher than Raffles; and with
that scorn hurrying like venom through his system, there was no
sensibility left to consolations. But the relief of weeping had to be
checked. His wife and daughters soon came home from hearing the
address of an Oriental missionary, and were full of regret that papa
had not heard, in the first instance, the interesting things which they
tried to repeat to him.
Perhaps, through all other hidden thoughts, the one that breathed most
comfort was, that Will Ladislaw at least was not likely to publish what
had taken place that evening.
"He was a squyer of lowe degre, That loved the king's daughter of Hungrie.
Will Ladislaw's mind was now wholly bent on seeing Dorothea again, and
forthwith quitting Middlemarch. The morning after his agitating scene
with Bulstrode he wrote a brief letter to her, saying that various
causes had detained him in the neighborhood longer than he had
expected, and asking her permission to call again at Lowick at some
hour which she would mention on the earliest possible day, he being
anxious to depart, but unwilling to do so until she had granted him an
interview. He left the letter at the office, ordering the messenger to
carry it to Lowick Manor, and wait for an answer.
Ladislaw felt the awkwardness of asking for more last words. His
former farewell had been made in the hearing of Sir James Chettam, and
had been announced as final even to the butler. It is certainly trying
to a man's dignity to reappear when he is not expected to do so: a
first farewell has pathos in it, but to come back for a second lends an
opening to comedy, and it was possible even that there might be bitter
sneers afloat about Will's motives for lingering. Still it was on the
whole more satisfactory to his feeling to take the directest means of
seeing Dorothea, than to use any device which might give an air of
chance to a meeting of which he wished her to understand that it was
what he earnestly sought. When he had parted from her before, he had
been in ignorance of facts which gave a new aspect to the relation
between them, and made a more absolute severance than he had then
believed in. He knew nothing of Dorothea's private fortune, and being
little used to reflect on such matters, took it for granted that
according to Mr. Casaubon's arrangement marriage to him, Will Ladislaw,
would mean that she consented to be penniless. That was not what he
could wish for even in his secret heart, or even if she had been ready
to meet such hard contrast for his sake. And then, too, there was the
fresh smart of that disclosure about his mother's family, which if
known would be an added reason why Dorothea's friends should look down
upon him as utterly below her. The secret hope that after some years
he might come back with the sense that he had at least a personal value
equal to her wealth, seemed now the dreamy continuation of a dream.
This change would surely justify him in asking Dorothea to receive him
But Dorothea on that morning was not at home to receive Will's note.
In consequence of a letter from her uncle announcing his intention to
be at home in a week, she had driven first to Freshitt to carry the
news, meaning to go on to the Grange to deliver some orders with which
her uncle had intrusted her—thinking, as he said, "a little mental
occupation of this sort good for a widow."
If Will Ladislaw could have overheard some of the talk at Freshitt that
morning, he would have felt all his suppositions confirmed as to the
readiness of certain people to sneer at his lingering in the
neighborhood. Sir James, indeed, though much relieved concerning
Dorothea, had been on the watch to learn Ladislaw's movements, and had
an instructed informant in Mr. Standish, who was necessarily in his
confidence on this matter. That Ladislaw had stayed in Middlemarch
nearly two months after he had declared that he was going immediately,
was a fact to embitter Sir James's suspicions, or at least to justify
his aversion to a "young fellow" whom he represented to himself as
slight, volatile, and likely enough to show such recklessness as
naturally went along with a position unriveted by family ties or a
strict profession. But he had just heard something from Standish
which, while it justified these surmises about Will, offered a means of
nullifying all danger with regard to Dorothea.
Unwonted circumstances may make us all rather unlike ourselves: there
are conditions under which the most majestic person is obliged to
sneeze, and our emotions are liable to be acted on in the same
incongruous manner. Good Sir James was this morning so far unlike
himself that he was irritably anxious to say something to Dorothea on a
subject which he usually avoided as if it had been a matter of shame to
them both. He could not use Celia as a medium, because he did not
choose that she should know the kind of gossip he had in his mind; and
before Dorothea happened to arrive he had been trying to imagine how,
with his shyness and unready tongue, he could ever manage to introduce
his communication. Her unexpected presence brought him to utter
hopelessness in his own power of saying anything unpleasant; but
desperation suggested a resource; he sent the groom on an unsaddled
horse across the park with a pencilled note to Mrs. Cadwallader, who
already knew the gossip, and would think it no compromise of herself to
repeat it as often as required.
Dorothea was detained on the good pretext that Mr. Garth, whom she
wanted to see, was expected at the hall within the hour, and she was
still talking to Caleb on the gravel when Sir James, on the watch for
the rector's wife, saw her coming and met her with the needful hints.
"Enough! I understand,"—said Mrs. Cadwallader. "You shall be
innocent. I am such a blackamoor that I cannot smirch myself."
"I don't mean that it's of any consequence," said Sir James, disliking
that Mrs. Cadwallader should understand too much. "Only it is
desirable that Dorothea should know there are reasons why she should
not receive him again; and I really can't say so to her. It will come
lightly from you."
It came very lightly indeed. When Dorothea quitted Caleb and turned to
meet them, it appeared that Mrs. Cadwallader had stepped across the
park by the merest chance in the world, just to chat with Celia in a
matronly way about the baby. And so Mr. Brooke was coming back?
Delightful!—coming back, it was to be hoped, quite cured of
Parliamentary fever and pioneering. Apropos of the "Pioneer"—somebody
had prophesied that it would soon be like a dying dolphin, and turn all
colors for want of knowing how to help itself, because Mr. Brooke's
protege, the brilliant young Ladislaw, was gone or going. Had Sir
James heard that?
The three were walking along the gravel slowly, and Sir James, turning
aside to whip a shrub, said he had heard something of that sort.
"All false!" said Mrs. Cadwallader. "He is not gone, or going,
apparently; the 'Pioneer' keeps its color, and Mr. Orlando Ladislaw is
making a sad dark-blue scandal by warbling continually with your Mr.
Lydgate's wife, who they tell me is as pretty as pretty can be. It
seems nobody ever goes into the house without finding this young
gentleman lying on the rug or warbling at the piano. But the people in
manufacturing towns are always disreputable."
"You began by saying that one report was false, Mrs. Cadwallader, and I
believe this is false too," said Dorothea, with indignant energy; "at
least, I feel sure it is a misrepresentation. I will not hear any evil
spoken of Mr. Ladislaw; he has already suffered too much injustice."
Dorothea when thoroughly moved cared little what any one thought of her
feelings; and even if she had been able to reflect, she would have held
it petty to keep silence at injurious words about Will from fear of
being herself misunderstood. Her face was flushed and her lip trembled.
Sir James, glancing at her, repented of his stratagem; but Mrs.
Cadwallader, equal to all occasions, spread the palms of her hands
outward and said—"Heaven grant it, my dear!—I mean that all bad tales
about anybody may be false. But it is a pity that young Lydgate should
have married one of these Middlemarch girls. Considering he's a son of
somebody, he might have got a woman with good blood in her veins, and
not too young, who would have put up with his profession. There's
Clara Harfager, for instance, whose friends don't know what to do with
her; and she has a portion. Then we might have had her among us.
However!—it's no use being wise for other people. Where is Celia?
Pray let us go in."
"I am going on immediately to Tipton," said Dorothea, rather haughtily.
Sir James could say nothing as he accompanied her to the carriage. He
was altogether discontented with the result of a contrivance which had
cost him some secret humiliation beforehand.
Dorothea drove along between the berried hedgerows and the shorn
corn-fields, not seeing or hearing anything around. The tears came and
rolled down her cheeks, but she did not know it. The world, it seemed,
was turning ugly and hateful, and there was no place for her
trustfulness. "It is not true—it is not true!" was the voice within
her that she listened to; but all the while a remembrance to which
there had always clung a vague uneasiness would thrust itself on her
attention—the remembrance of that day when she had found Will Ladislaw
with Mrs. Lydgate, and had heard his voice accompanied by the piano.
"He said he would never do anything that I disapproved—I wish I could
have told him that I disapproved of that," said poor Dorothea,
inwardly, feeling a strange alternation between anger with Will and the
passionate defence of him. "They all try to blacken him before me; but
I will care for no pain, if he is not to blame. I always believed he
was good."—These were her last thoughts before she felt that the
carriage was passing under the archway of the lodge-gate at the Grange,
when she hurriedly pressed her handkerchief to her face and began to
think of her errands. The coachman begged leave to take out the horses
for half an hour as there was something wrong with a shoe; and
Dorothea, having the sense that she was going to rest, took off her
gloves and bonnet, while she was leaning against a statue in the
entrance-hall, and talking to the housekeeper. At last she said—
"I must stay here a little, Mrs. Kell. I will go into the library and
write you some memoranda from my uncle's letter, if you will open the
shutters for me."
"The shutters are open, madam," said Mrs. Kell, following Dorothea, who
had walked along as she spoke. "Mr. Ladislaw is there, looking for
(Will had come to fetch a portfolio of his own sketches which he had
missed in the act of packing his movables, and did not choose to leave
Dorothea's heart seemed to turn over as if it had had a blow, but she
was not perceptibly checked: in truth, the sense that Will was there
was for the moment all-satisfying to her, like the sight of something
precious that one has lost. When she reached the door she said to Mrs.
"Go in first, and tell him that I am here."
Will had found his portfolio, and had laid it on the table at the far
end of the room, to turn over the sketches and please himself by
looking at the memorable piece of art which had a relation to nature
too mysterious for Dorothea. He was smiling at it still, and shaking
the sketches into order with the thought that he might find a letter
from her awaiting him at Middlemarch, when Mrs. Kell close to his elbow
"Mrs. Casaubon is coming in, sir."
Will turned round quickly, and the next moment Dorothea was entering.
As Mrs. Kell closed the door behind her they met: each was looking at
the other, and consciousness was overflowed by something that
suppressed utterance. It was not confusion that kept them silent, for
they both felt that parting was near, and there is no shamefacedness in
a sad parting.
She moved automatically towards her uncle's chair against the
writing-table, and Will, after drawing it out a little for her, went a
few paces off and stood opposite to her.
"Pray sit down," said Dorothea, crossing her hands on her lap; "I am
very glad you were here." Will thought that her face looked just as it
did when she first shook hands with him in Rome; for her widow's cap,
fixed in her bonnet, had gone off with it, and he could see that she
had lately been shedding tears. But the mixture of anger in her
agitation had vanished at the sight of him; she had been used, when
they were face to face, always to feel confidence and the happy freedom
which comes with mutual understanding, and how could other people's
words hinder that effect on a sudden? Let the music which can take
possession of our frame and fill the air with joy for us, sound once
more—what does it signify that we heard it found fault with in its
"I have sent a letter to Lowick Manor to-day, asking leave to see you,"
said Will, seating himself opposite to her. "I am going away
immediately, and I could not go without speaking to you again."
"I thought we had parted when you came to Lowick many weeks ago—you
thought you were going then," said Dorothea, her voice trembling a
"Yes; but I was in ignorance then of things which I know now—things
which have altered my feelings about the future. When I saw you
before, I was dreaming that I might come back some day. I don't think
I ever shall—now." Will paused here.
"You wished me to know the reasons?" said Dorothea, timidly.
"Yes," said Will, impetuously, shaking his head backward, and looking
away from her with irritation in his face. "Of course I must wish it.
I have been grossly insulted in your eyes and in the eyes of others.
There has been a mean implication against my character. I wish you to
know that under no circumstances would I have lowered myself by—under
no circumstances would I have given men the chance of saying that I
sought money under the pretext of seeking—something else. There was
no need of other safeguard against me—the safeguard of wealth was
Will rose from his chair with the last word and went—he hardly knew
where; but it was to the projecting window nearest him, which had been
open as now about the same season a year ago, when he and Dorothea had
stood within it and talked together. Her whole heart was going out at
this moment in sympathy with Will's indignation: she only wanted to
convince him that she had never done him injustice, and he seemed to
have turned away from her as if she too had been part of the unfriendly
"It would be very unkind of you to suppose that I ever attributed any
meanness to you," she began. Then in her ardent way, wanting to plead
with him, she moved from her chair and went in front of him to her old
place in the window, saying, "Do you suppose that I ever disbelieved in
When Will saw her there, he gave a start and moved backward out of the
window, without meeting her glance. Dorothea was hurt by this movement
following up the previous anger of his tone. She was ready to say that
it was as hard on her as on him, and that she was helpless; but those
strange particulars of their relation which neither of them could
explicitly mention kept her always in dread of saying too much. At
this moment she had no belief that Will would in any case have wanted
to marry her, and she feared using words which might imply such a
belief. She only said earnestly, recurring to his last word—
"I am sure no safeguard was ever needed against you."
Will did not answer. In the stormy fluctuation of his feelings these
words of hers seemed to him cruelly neutral, and he looked pale and
miserable after his angry outburst. He went to the table and fastened
up his portfolio, while Dorothea looked at him from the distance. They
were wasting these last moments together in wretched silence. What
could he say, since what had got obstinately uppermost in his mind was
the passionate love for her which he forbade himself to utter? What
could she say, since she might offer him no help—since she was forced
to keep the money that ought to have been his?—since to-day he seemed
not to respond as he used to do to her thorough trust and liking?
But Will at last turned away from his portfolio and approached the
"I must go," he said, with that peculiar look of the eyes which
sometimes accompanies bitter feeling, as if they had been tired and
burned with gazing too close at a light.
"What shall you do in life?" said Dorothea, timidly. "Have your
intentions remained just the same as when we said good-by before?"
"Yes," said Will, in a tone that seemed to waive the subject as
uninteresting. "I shall work away at the first thing that offers. I
suppose one gets a habit of doing without happiness or hope."
"Oh, what sad words!" said Dorothea, with a dangerous tendency to sob.
Then trying to smile, she added, "We used to agree that we were alike
in speaking too strongly."
"I have not spoken too strongly now," said Will, leaning back against
the angle of the wall. "There are certain things which a man can only
go through once in his life; and he must know some time or other that
the best is over with him. This experience has happened to me while I
am very young—that is all. What I care more for than I can ever care
for anything else is absolutely forbidden to me—I don't mean merely
by being out of my reach, but forbidden me, even if it were within my
reach, by my own pride and honor—by everything I respect myself for.
Of course I shall go on living as a man might do who had seen heaven in
Will paused, imagining that it would be impossible for Dorothea to
misunderstand this; indeed he felt that he was contradicting himself
and offending against his self-approval in speaking to her so plainly;
but still—it could not be fairly called wooing a woman to tell her
that he would never woo her. It must be admitted to be a ghostly kind
But Dorothea's mind was rapidly going over the past with quite another
vision than his. The thought that she herself might be what Will most
cared for did throb through her an instant, but then came doubt: the
memory of the little they had lived through together turned pale and
shrank before the memory which suggested how much fuller might have
been the intercourse between Will and some one else with whom he had
had constant companionship. Everything he had said might refer to that
other relation, and whatever had passed between him and herself was
thoroughly explained by what she had always regarded as their simple
friendship and the cruel obstruction thrust upon it by her husband's
injurious act. Dorothea stood silent, with her eyes cast down
dreamily, while images crowded upon her which left the sickening
certainty that Will was referring to Mrs. Lydgate. But why sickening?
He wanted her to know that here too his conduct should be above
Will was not surprised at her silence. His mind also was tumultuously
busy while he watched her, and he was feeling rather wildly that
something must happen to hinder their parting—some miracle, clearly
nothing in their own deliberate speech. Yet, after all, had she any
love for him?—he could not pretend to himself that he would rather
believe her to be without that pain. He could not deny that a secret
longing for the assurance that she loved him was at the root of all his
Neither of them knew how long they stood in that way. Dorothea was
raising her eyes, and was about to speak, when the door opened and her
footman came to say—
"The horses are ready, madam, whenever you like to start."
"Presently," said Dorothea. Then turning to Will, she said, "I have
some memoranda to write for the housekeeper."
"I must go," said Will, when the door had closed again—advancing
towards her. "The day after to-morrow I shall leave Middlemarch."
"You have acted in every way rightly," said Dorothea, in a low tone,
feeling a pressure at her heart which made it difficult to speak.
She put out her hand, and Will took it for an instant without speaking,
for her words had seemed to him cruelly cold and unlike herself. Their
eyes met, but there was discontent in his, and in hers there was only
sadness. He turned away and took his portfolio under his arm.
"I have never done you injustice. Please remember me," said Dorothea,
repressing a rising sob.
"Why should you say that?" said Will, with irritation. "As if I were
not in danger of forgetting everything else."
He had really a movement of anger against her at that moment, and it
impelled him to go away without pause. It was all one flash to
Dorothea—his last words—his distant bow to her as he reached the
door—the sense that he was no longer there. She sank into the chair,
and for a few moments sat like a statue, while images and emotions were
hurrying upon her. Joy came first, in spite of the threatening train
behind it—joy in the impression that it was really herself whom Will
loved and was renouncing, that there was really no other love less
permissible, more blameworthy, which honor was hurrying him away from.
They were parted all the same, but—Dorothea drew a deep breath and
felt her strength return—she could think of him unrestrainedly. At
that moment the parting was easy to bear: the first sense of loving and
being loved excluded sorrow. It was as if some hard icy pressure had
melted, and her consciousness had room to expand: her past was come
back to her with larger interpretation. The joy was not the
less—perhaps it was the more complete just then—because of the
irrevocable parting; for there was no reproach, no contemptuous wonder
to imagine in any eye or from any lips. He had acted so as to defy
reproach, and make wonder respectful.
Any one watching her might have seen that there was a fortifying
thought within her. Just as when inventive power is working with glad
ease some small claim on the attention is fully met as if it were only
a cranny opened to the sunlight, it was easy now for Dorothea to write
her memoranda. She spoke her last words to the housekeeper in cheerful
tones, and when she seated herself in the carriage her eyes were bright
and her cheeks blooming under the dismal bonnet. She threw back the
heavy "weepers," and looked before her, wondering which road Will had
taken. It was in her nature to be proud that he was blameless, and
through all her feelings there ran this vein—"I was right to defend
The coachman was used to drive his grays at a good pace, Mr. Casaubon
being unenjoying and impatient in everything away from his desk, and
wanting to get to the end of all journeys; and Dorothea was now bowled
along quickly. Driving was pleasant, for rain in the night had laid
the dust, and the blue sky looked far off, away from the region of the
great clouds that sailed in masses. The earth looked like a happy
place under the vast heavens, and Dorothea was wishing that she might
overtake Will and see him once more.
After a turn of the road, there he was with the portfolio under his
arm; but the next moment she was passing him while he raised his hat,
and she felt a pang at being seated there in a sort of exaltation,
leaving him behind. She could not look back at him. It was as if a
crowd of indifferent objects had thrust them asunder, and forced them
along different paths, taking them farther and farther away from each
other, and making it useless to look back. She could no more make any
sign that would seem to say, "Need we part?" than she could stop the
carriage to wait for him. Nay, what a world of reasons crowded upon
her against any movement of her thought towards a future that might
reverse the decision of this day!
"I only wish I had known before—I wish he knew—then we could be quite
happy in thinking of each other, though we are forever parted. And if
I could but have given him the money, and made things easier for
him!"—were the longings that came back the most persistently. And
yet, so heavily did the world weigh on her in spite of her independent
energy, that with this idea of Will as in need of such help and at a
disadvantage with the world, there came always the vision of that
unfittingness of any closer relation between them which lay in the
opinion of every one connected with her. She felt to the full all the
imperativeness of the motives which urged Will's conduct. How could he
dream of her defying the barrier that her husband had placed between
them?—how could she ever say to herself that she would defy it?
Will's certainty as the carriage grew smaller in the distance, had much
more bitterness in it. Very slight matters were enough to gall him in
his sensitive mood, and the sight of Dorothea driving past him while he
felt himself plodding along as a poor devil seeking a position in a
world which in his present temper offered him little that he coveted,
made his conduct seem a mere matter of necessity, and took away the
sustainment of resolve. After all, he had no assurance that she loved
him: could any man pretend that he was simply glad in such a case to
have the suffering all on his own side?
That evening Will spent with the Lydgates; the next evening he was gone.