These little things are great to little man.—GOLDSMITH.
"Have you seen much of your scientific phoenix, Lydgate, lately?" said
Mr. Toller at one of his Christmas dinner-parties, speaking to Mr.
Farebrother on his right hand.
"Not much, I am sorry to say," answered the Vicar, accustomed to parry
Mr. Toller's banter about his belief in the new medical light. "I am
out of the way and he is too busy."
"Is he? I am glad to hear it," said Dr. Minchin, with mingled suavity
"He gives a great deal of time to the New Hospital," said Mr.
Farebrother, who had his reasons for continuing the subject: "I hear of
that from my neighbor, Mrs. Casaubon, who goes there often. She says
Lydgate is indefatigable, and is making a fine thing of Bulstrode's
institution. He is preparing a new ward in case of the cholera coming
"And preparing theories of treatment to try on the patients, I
suppose," said Mr. Toller.
"Come, Toller, be candid," said Mr. Farebrother. "You are too clever
not to see the good of a bold fresh mind in medicine, as well as in
everything else; and as to cholera, I fancy, none of you are very sure
what you ought to do. If a man goes a little too far along a new road,
it is usually himself that he harms more than any one else."
"I am sure you and Wrench ought to be obliged to him," said Dr.
Minchin, looking towards Toller, "for he has sent you the cream of
"Lydgate has been living at a great rate for a young beginner," said
Mr. Harry Toller, the brewer. "I suppose his relations in the North
back him up."
"I hope so," said Mr. Chichely, "else he ought not to have married that
nice girl we were all so fond of. Hang it, one has a grudge against a
man who carries off the prettiest girl in the town."
"Ay, by God! and the best too," said Mr. Standish.
"My friend Vincy didn't half like the marriage, I know that," said Mr.
Chichely. "He wouldn't do much. How the relations on the other side
may have come down I can't say." There was an emphatic kind of
reticence in Mr. Chichely's manner of speaking.
"Oh, I shouldn't think Lydgate ever looked to practice for a living,"
said Mr. Toller, with a slight touch of sarcasm, and there the subject
This was not the first time that Mr. Farebrother had heard hints of
Lydgate's expenses being obviously too great to be met by his practice,
but he thought it not unlikely that there were resources or
expectations which excused the large outlay at the time of Lydgate's
marriage, and which might hinder any bad consequences from the
disappointment in his practice. One evening, when he took the pains to
go to Middlemarch on purpose to have a chat with Lydgate as of old, he
noticed in him an air of excited effort quite unlike his usual easy way
of keeping silence or breaking it with abrupt energy whenever he had
anything to say. Lydgate talked persistently when they were in his
work-room, putting arguments for and against the probability of certain
biological views; but he had none of those definite things to say or to
show which give the waymarks of a patient uninterrupted pursuit, such
as he used himself to insist on, saying that "there must be a systole
and diastole in all inquiry," and that "a man's mind must be
continually expanding and shrinking between the whole human horizon and
the horizon of an object-glass." That evening he seemed to be talking
widely for the sake of resisting any personal bearing; and before long
they went into the drawing room, where Lydgate, having asked Rosamond
to give them music, sank back in his chair in silence, but with a
strange light in his eyes. "He may have been taking an opiate," was a
thought that crossed Mr. Farebrother's mind—"tic-douloureux
perhaps—or medical worries."
It did not occur to him that Lydgate's marriage was not delightful: he
believed, as the rest did, that Rosamond was an amiable, docile
creature, though he had always thought her rather uninteresting—a
little too much the pattern-card of the finishing-school; and his
mother could not forgive Rosamond because she never seemed to see that
Henrietta Noble was in the room. "However, Lydgate fell in love with
her," said the Vicar to himself, "and she must be to his taste."
Mr. Farebrother was aware that Lydgate was a proud man, but having very
little corresponding fibre in himself, and perhaps too little care
about personal dignity, except the dignity of not being mean or
foolish, he could hardly allow enough for the way in which Lydgate
shrank, as from a burn, from the utterance of any word about his
private affairs. And soon after that conversation at Mr. Toller's, the
Vicar learned something which made him watch the more eagerly for an
opportunity of indirectly letting Lydgate know that if he wanted to
open himself about any difficulty there was a friendly ear ready.
The opportunity came at Mr. Vincy's, where, on New Year's Day, there
was a party, to which Mr. Farebrother was irresistibly invited, on the
plea that he must not forsake his old friends on the first new year of
his being a greater man, and Rector as well as Vicar. And this party
was thoroughly friendly: all the ladies of the Farebrother family were
present; the Vincy children all dined at the table, and Fred had
persuaded his mother that if she did not invite Mary Garth, the
Farebrothers would regard it as a slight to themselves, Mary being
their particular friend. Mary came, and Fred was in high spirits,
though his enjoyment was of a checkered kind—triumph that his mother
should see Mary's importance with the chief personages in the party
being much streaked with jealousy when Mr. Farebrother sat down by her.
Fred used to be much more easy about his own accomplishments in the
days when he had not begun to dread being "bowled out by Farebrother,"
and this terror was still before him. Mrs. Vincy, in her fullest
matronly bloom, looked at Mary's little figure, rough wavy hair, and
visage quite without lilies and roses, and wondered; trying
unsuccessfully to fancy herself caring about Mary's appearance in
wedding clothes, or feeling complacency in grandchildren who would
"feature" the Garths. However, the party was a merry one, and Mary was
particularly bright; being glad, for Fred's sake, that his friends were
getting kinder to her, and being also quite willing that they should
see how much she was valued by others whom they must admit to be judges.
Mr. Farebrother noticed that Lydgate seemed bored, and that Mr. Vincy
spoke as little as possible to his son-in-law. Rosamond was perfectly
graceful and calm, and only a subtle observation such as the Vicar had
not been roused to bestow on her would have perceived the total absence
of that interest in her husband's presence which a loving wife is sure
to betray, even if etiquette keeps her aloof from him. When Lydgate
was taking part in the conversation, she never looked towards him any
more than if she had been a sculptured Psyche modelled to look another
way: and when, after being called out for an hour or two, he re-entered
the room, she seemed unconscious of the fact, which eighteen months
before would have had the effect of a numeral before ciphers. In
reality, however, she was intensely aware of Lydgate's voice and
movements; and her pretty good-tempered air of unconsciousness was a
studied negation by which she satisfied her inward opposition to him
without compromise of propriety. When the ladies were in the
drawing-room after Lydgate had been called away from the dessert, Mrs.
Farebrother, when Rosamond happened to be near her, said—"You have to
give up a great deal of your husband's society, Mrs. Lydgate."
"Yes, the life of a medical man is very arduous: especially when he is
so devoted to his profession as Mr. Lydgate is," said Rosamond, who was
standing, and moved easily away at the end of this correct little
"It is dreadfully dull for her when there is no company," said Mrs.
Vincy, who was seated at the old lady's side. "I am sure I thought so
when Rosamond was ill, and I was staying with her. You know, Mrs.
Farebrother, ours is a cheerful house. I am of a cheerful disposition
myself, and Mr. Vincy always likes something to be going on. That is
what Rosamond has been used to. Very different from a husband out at
odd hours, and never knowing when he will come home, and of a close,
proud disposition, I think"—indiscreet Mrs. Vincy did lower her tone
slightly with this parenthesis. "But Rosamond always had an angel of a
temper; her brothers used very often not to please her, but she was
never the girl to show temper; from a baby she was always as good as
good, and with a complexion beyond anything. But my children are all
good-tempered, thank God."
This was easily credible to any one looking at Mrs. Vincy as she threw
back her broad cap-strings, and smiled towards her three little girls,
aged from seven to eleven. But in that smiling glance she was obliged
to include Mary Garth, whom the three girls had got into a corner to
make her tell them stories. Mary was just finishing the delicious tale
of Rumpelstiltskin, which she had well by heart, because Letty was
never tired of communicating it to her ignorant elders from a favorite
red volume. Louisa, Mrs. Vincy's darling, now ran to her with
wide-eyed serious excitement, crying, "Oh mamma, mamma, the little man
stamped so hard on the floor he couldn't get his leg out again!"
"Bless you, my cherub!" said mamma; "you shall tell me all about it
to-morrow. Go and listen!" and then, as her eyes followed Louisa back
towards the attractive corner, she thought that if Fred wished her to
invite Mary again she would make no objection, the children being so
pleased with her.
But presently the corner became still more animated, for Mr.
Farebrother came in, and seating himself behind Louisa, took her on his
lap; whereupon the girls all insisted that he must hear
Rumpelstiltskin, and Mary must tell it over again. He insisted too,
and Mary, without fuss, began again in her neat fashion, with precisely
the same words as before. Fred, who had also seated himself near,
would have felt unmixed triumph in Mary's effectiveness if Mr.
Farebrother had not been looking at her with evident admiration, while
he dramatized an intense interest in the tale to please the children.
"You will never care any more about my one-eyed giant, Loo," said Fred
at the end.
"Yes, I shall. Tell about him now," said Louisa.
"Oh, I dare say; I am quite cut out. Ask Mr. Farebrother."
"Yes," added Mary; "ask Mr. Farebrother to tell you about the ants
whose beautiful house was knocked down by a giant named Tom, and he
thought they didn't mind because he couldn't hear them cry, or see them
use their pocket-handkerchiefs."
"Please," said Louisa, looking up at the Vicar.
"No, no, I am a grave old parson. If I try to draw a story out of my
bag a sermon comes instead. Shall I preach you a sermon?" said he,
putting on his short-sighted glasses, and pursing up his lips.
"Yes," said Louisa, falteringly.
"Let me see, then. Against cakes: how cakes are bad things, especially
if they are sweet and have plums in them."
Louisa took the affair rather seriously, and got down from the Vicar's
knee to go to Fred.
"Ah, I see it will not do to preach on New Year's Day," said Mr.
Farebrother, rising and walking away. He had discovered of late that
Fred had become jealous of him, and also that he himself was not losing
his preference for Mary above all other women.
"A delightful young person is Miss Garth," said Mrs. Farebrother, who
had been watching her son's movements.
"Yes," said Mrs. Vincy, obliged to reply, as the old lady turned to her
expectantly. "It is a pity she is not better-looking."
"I cannot say that," said Mrs. Farebrother, decisively. "I like her
countenance. We must not always ask for beauty, when a good God has
seen fit to make an excellent young woman without it. I put good
manners first, and Miss Garth will know how to conduct herself in any
The old lady was a little sharp in her tone, having a prospective
reference to Mary's becoming her daughter-in-law; for there was this
inconvenience in Mary's position with regard to Fred, that it was not
suitable to be made public, and hence the three ladies at Lowick
Parsonage were still hoping that Camden would choose Miss Garth.
New visitors entered, and the drawing-room was given up to music and
games, while whist-tables were prepared in the quiet room on the other
side of the hall. Mr. Farebrother played a rubber to satisfy his
mother, who regarded her occasional whist as a protest against scandal
and novelty of opinion, in which light even a revoke had its dignity.
But at the end he got Mr. Chichely to take his place, and left the
room. As he crossed the hall, Lydgate had just come in and was taking
off his great-coat.
"You are the man I was going to look for," said the Vicar; and instead
of entering the drawing-room, they walked along the hall and stood
against the fireplace, where the frosty air helped to make a glowing
bank. "You see, I can leave the whist-table easily enough," he went
on, smiling at Lydgate, "now I don't play for money. I owe that to
you, Mrs. Casaubon says."
"How?" said Lydgate, coldly.
"Ah, you didn't mean me to know it; I call that ungenerous reticence.
You should let a man have the pleasure of feeling that you have done
him a good turn. I don't enter into some people's dislike of being
under an obligation: upon my word, I prefer being under an obligation
to everybody for behaving well to me."
"I can't tell what you mean," said Lydgate, "unless it is that I once
spoke of you to Mrs. Casaubon. But I did not think that she would
break her promise not to mention that I had done so," said Lydgate,
leaning his back against the corner of the mantel-piece, and showing no
radiance in his face.
"It was Brooke who let it out, only the other day. He paid me the
compliment of saying that he was very glad I had the living though you
had come across his tactics, and had praised me up as a lien and a
Tillotson, and that sort of thing, till Mrs. Casaubon would hear of no
"Oh, Brooke is such a leaky-minded fool," said Lydgate, contemptuously.
"Well, I was glad of the leakiness then. I don't see why you shouldn't
like me to know that you wished to do me a service, my dear fellow.
And you certainly have done me one. It's rather a strong check to
one's self-complacency to find how much of one's right doing depends on
not being in want of money. A man will not be tempted to say the
Lord's Prayer backward to please the devil, if he doesn't want the
devil's services. I have no need to hang on the smiles of chance now."
"I don't see that there's any money-getting without chance," said
Lydgate; "if a man gets it in a profession, it's pretty sure to come by
Mr. Farebrother thought he could account for this speech, in striking
contrast with Lydgate's former way of talking, as the perversity which
will often spring from the moodiness of a man ill at ease in his
affairs. He answered in a tone of good-humored admission—
"Ah, there's enormous patience wanted with the way of the world. But
it is the easier for a man to wait patiently when he has friends who
love him, and ask for nothing better than to help him through, so far
as it lies in their power."
"Oh yes," said Lydgate, in a careless tone, changing his attitude and
looking at his watch. "People make much more of their difficulties
than they need to do."
He knew as distinctly as possible that this was an offer of help to
himself from Mr. Farebrother, and he could not bear it. So strangely
determined are we mortals, that, after having been long gratified with
the sense that he had privately done the Vicar a service, the
suggestion that the Vicar discerned his need of a service in return
made him shrink into unconquerable reticence. Besides, behind all
making of such offers what else must come?—that he should "mention his
case," imply that he wanted specific things. At that moment, suicide
Mr. Farebrother was too keen a man not to know the meaning of that
reply, and there was a certain massiveness in Lydgate's manner and
tone, corresponding with his physique, which if he repelled your
advances in the first instance seemed to put persuasive devices out of
"What time are you?" said the Vicar, devouring his wounded feeling.
"After eleven," said Lydgate. And they went into the drawing-room.
1st Gent. Where lies the power, there let the blame lie too.
2d Gent. Nay, power is relative; you cannot fright
The coming pest with border fortresses,
Or catch your carp with subtle argument.
All force is twain in one: cause is not cause
Unless effect be there; and action's self
Must needs contain a passive. So command
Exists but with obedience."
Even if Lydgate had been inclined to be quite open about his affairs,
he knew that it would have hardly been in Mr. Farebrother's power to
give him the help he immediately wanted. With the year's bills coming
in from his tradesmen, with Dover's threatening hold on his furniture,
and with nothing to depend on but slow dribbling payments from patients
who must not be offended—for the handsome fees he had had from
Freshitt Hall and Lowick Manor had been easily absorbed—nothing less
than a thousand pounds would have freed him from actual embarrassment,
and left a residue which, according to the favorite phrase of
hopefulness in such circumstances, would have given him "time to look
Naturally, the merry Christmas bringing the happy New Year, when
fellow-citizens expect to be paid for the trouble and goods they have
smilingly bestowed on their neighbors, had so tightened the pressure of
sordid cares on Lydgate's mind that it was hardly possible for him to
think unbrokenly of any other subject, even the most habitual and
soliciting. He was not an ill-tempered man; his intellectual activity,
the ardent kindness of his heart, as well as his strong frame, would
always, under tolerably easy conditions, have kept him above the petty
uncontrolled susceptibilities which make bad temper. But he was now a
prey to that worst irritation which arises not simply from annoyances,
but from the second consciousness underlying those annoyances, of
wasted energy and a degrading preoccupation, which was the reverse of
all his former purposes. "This is what I am thinking of; and that
is what I might have been thinking of," was the bitter incessant murmur
within him, making every difficulty a double goad to impatience.
Some gentlemen have made an amazing figure in literature by general
discontent with the universe as a trap of dulness into which their
great souls have fallen by mistake; but the sense of a stupendous self
and an insignificant world may have its consolations. Lydgate's
discontent was much harder to bear: it was the sense that there was a
grand existence in thought and effective action lying around him, while
his self was being narrowed into the miserable isolation of egoistic
fears, and vulgar anxieties for events that might allay such fears.
His troubles will perhaps appear miserably sordid, and beneath the
attention of lofty persons who can know nothing of debt except on a
magnificent scale. Doubtless they were sordid; and for the majority,
who are not lofty, there is no escape from sordidness but by being free
from money-craving, with all its base hopes and temptations, its
watching for death, its hinted requests, its horse-dealer's desire to
make bad work pass for good, its seeking for function which ought to be
another's, its compulsion often to long for Luck in the shape of a wide
It was because Lydgate writhed under the idea of getting his neck
beneath this vile yoke that he had fallen into a bitter moody state
which was continually widening Rosamond's alienation from him. After
the first disclosure about the bill of sale, he had made many efforts
to draw her into sympathy with him about possible measures for
narrowing their expenses, and with the threatening approach of
Christmas his propositions grew more and more definite. "We two can do
with only one servant, and live on very little," he said, "and I shall
manage with one horse." For Lydgate, as we have seen, had begun to
reason, with a more distinct vision, about the expenses of living, and
any share of pride he had given to appearances of that sort was meagre
compared with the pride which made him revolt from exposure as a
debtor, or from asking men to help him with their money.
"Of course you can dismiss the other two servants, if you like," said
Rosamond; "but I should have thought it would be very injurious to your
position for us to live in a poor way. You must expect your practice
to be lowered."
"My dear Rosamond, it is not a question of choice. We have begun too
expensively. Peacock, you know, lived in a much smaller house than
this. It is my fault: I ought to have known better, and I deserve a
thrashing—if there were anybody who had a right to give it me—for
bringing you into the necessity of living in a poorer way than you have
been used to. But we married because we loved each other, I suppose.
And that may help us to pull along till things get better. Come, dear,
put down that work and come to me."
He was really in chill gloom about her at that moment, but he dreaded a
future without affection, and was determined to resist the oncoming of
division between them. Rosamond obeyed him, and he took her on his
knee, but in her secret soul she was utterly aloof from him. The poor
thing saw only that the world was not ordered to her liking, and
Lydgate was part of that world. But he held her waist with one hand
and laid the other gently on both of hers; for this rather abrupt man
had much tenderness in his manners towards women, seeming to have
always present in his imagination the weakness of their frames and the
delicate poise of their health both in body and mind. And he began
again to speak persuasively.
"I find, now I look into things a little, Rosy, that it is wonderful
what an amount of money slips away in our housekeeping. I suppose the
servants are careless, and we have had a great many people coming. But
there must be many in our rank who manage with much less: they must do
with commoner things, I suppose, and look after the scraps. It seems,
money goes but a little way in these matters, for Wrench has everything
as plain as possible, and he has a very large practice."
"Oh, if you think of living as the Wrenches do!" said Rosamond, with a
little turn of her neck. "But I have heard you express your disgust at
that way of living."
"Yes, they have bad taste in everything—they make economy look ugly.
We needn't do that. I only meant that they avoid expenses, although
Wrench has a capital practice."
"Why should not you have a good practice, Tertius? Mr. Peacock had.
You should be more careful not to offend people, and you should send
out medicines as the others do. I am sure you began well, and you got
several good houses. It cannot answer to be eccentric; you should
think what will be generally liked," said Rosamond, in a decided little
tone of admonition.
Lydgate's anger rose: he was prepared to be indulgent towards feminine
weakness, but not towards feminine dictation. The shallowness of a
waternixie's soul may have a charm until she becomes didactic. But he
controlled himself, and only said, with a touch of despotic firmness—
"What I am to do in my practice, Rosy, it is for me to judge. That is
not the question between us. It is enough for you to know that our
income is likely to be a very narrow one—hardly four hundred, perhaps
less, for a long time to come, and we must try to re-arrange our lives
in accordance with that fact."
Rosamond was silent for a moment or two, looking before her, and then
said, "My uncle Bulstrode ought to allow you a salary for the time you
give to the Hospital: it is not right that you should work for nothing."
"It was understood from the beginning that my services would be
gratuitous. That, again, need not enter into our discussion. I have
pointed out what is the only probability," said Lydgate, impatiently.
Then checking himself, he went on more quietly—
"I think I see one resource which would free us from a good deal of the
present difficulty. I hear that young Ned Plymdale is going to be
married to Miss Sophy Toller. They are rich, and it is not often that
a good house is vacant in Middlemarch. I feel sure that they would be
glad to take this house from us with most of our furniture, and they
would be willing to pay handsomely for the lease. I can employ
Trumbull to speak to Plymdale about it."
Rosamond left her husband's knee and walked slowly to the other end of
the room; when she turned round and walked towards him it was evident
that the tears had come, and that she was biting her under-lip and
clasping her hands to keep herself from crying. Lydgate was
wretched—shaken with anger and yet feeling that it would be unmanly to
vent the anger just now.
"I am very sorry, Rosamond; I know this is painful."
"I thought, at least, when I had borne to send the plate back and have
that man taking an inventory of the furniture—I should have thought
that would suffice."
"I explained it to you at the time, dear. That was only a security and
behind that Security there is a debt. And that debt must be paid
within the next few months, else we shall have our furniture sold. If
young Plymdale will take our house and most of our furniture, we shall
be able to pay that debt, and some others too, and we shall be quit of
a place too expensive for us. We might take a smaller house: Trumbull,
I know, has a very decent one to let at thirty pounds a-year, and this
is ninety." Lydgate uttered this speech in the curt hammering way with
which we usually try to nail down a vague mind to imperative facts.
Tears rolled silently down Rosamond's cheeks; she just pressed her
handkerchief against them, and stood looking at the large vase on the
mantel-piece. It was a moment of more intense bitterness than she had
ever felt before. At last she said, without hurry and with careful
"I never could have believed that you would like to act in that way."
"Like it?" burst out Lydgate, rising from his chair, thrusting his
hands in his pockets and stalking away from the hearth; "it's not a
question of liking. Of course, I don't like it; it's the only thing I
can do." He wheeled round there, and turned towards her.
"I should have thought there were many other means than that," said
Rosamond. "Let us have a sale and leave Middlemarch altogether."
"To do what? What is the use of my leaving my work in Middlemarch to
go where I have none? We should be just as penniless elsewhere as we
are here," said Lydgate still more angrily.
"If we are to be in that position it will be entirely your own doing,
Tertius," said Rosamond, turning round to speak with the fullest
conviction. "You will not behave as you ought to do to your own
family. You offended Captain Lydgate. Sir Godwin was very kind to me
when we were at Quallingham, and I am sure if you showed proper regard
to him and told him your affairs, he would do anything for you. But
rather than that, you like giving up our house and furniture to Mr. Ned
There was something like fierceness in Lydgate's eyes, as he answered
with new violence, "Well, then, if you will have it so, I do like it.
I admit that I like it better than making a fool of myself by going to
beg where it's of no use. Understand then, that it is what I like to
There was a tone in the last sentence which was equivalent to the
clutch of his strong hand on Rosamond's delicate arm. But for all
that, his will was not a whit stronger than hers. She immediately
walked out of the room in silence, but with an intense determination to
hinder what Lydgate liked to do.
He went out of the house, but as his blood cooled he felt that the
chief result of the discussion was a deposit of dread within him at the
idea of opening with his wife in future subjects which might again urge
him to violent speech. It was as if a fracture in delicate crystal had
begun, and he was afraid of any movement that might make it fatal. His
marriage would be a mere piece of bitter irony if they could not go on
loving each other. He had long ago made up his mind to what he thought
was her negative character—her want of sensibility, which showed
itself in disregard both of his specific wishes and of his general
aims. The first great disappointment had been borne: the tender
devotedness and docile adoration of the ideal wife must be renounced,
and life must be taken up on a lower stage of expectation, as it is by
men who have lost their limbs. But the real wife had not only her
claims, she had still a hold on his heart, and it was his intense
desire that the hold should remain strong. In marriage, the certainty,
"She will never love me much," is easier to bear than the fear, "I
shall love her no more." Hence, after that outburst, his inward effort
was entirely to excuse her, and to blame the hard circumstances which
were partly his fault. He tried that evening, by petting her, to heal
the wound he had made in the morning, and it was not in Rosamond's
nature to be repellent or sulky; indeed, she welcomed the signs that
her husband loved her and was under control. But this was something
quite distinct from loving him. Lydgate would not have chosen soon to
recur to the plan of parting with the house; he was resolved to carry
it out, and say as little more about it as possible. But Rosamond
herself touched on it at breakfast by saying, mildly—
"Have you spoken to Trumbull yet?"
"No," said Lydgate, "but I shall call on him as I go by this morning.
No time must be lost." He took Rosamond's question as a sign that she
withdrew her inward opposition, and kissed her head caressingly when he
got up to go away.
As soon as it was late enough to make a call, Rosamond went to Mrs.
Plymdale, Mr. Ned's mother, and entered with pretty congratulations
into the subject of the coming marriage. Mrs. Plymdale's maternal view
was, that Rosamond might possibly now have retrospective glimpses of
her own folly; and feeling the advantages to be at present all on the
side of her son, was too kind a woman not to behave graciously.
"Yes, Ned is most happy, I must say. And Sophy Toller is all I could
desire in a daughter-in-law. Of course her father is able to do
something handsome for her—that is only what would be expected with a
brewery like his. And the connection is everything we should desire.
But that is not what I look at. She is such a very nice girl—no airs,
no pretensions, though on a level with the first. I don't mean with
the titled aristocracy. I see very little good in people aiming out of
their own sphere. I mean that Sophy is equal to the best in the town,
and she is contented with that."
"I have always thought her very agreeable," said Rosamond.
"I look upon it as a reward for Ned, who never held his head too high,
that he should have got into the very best connection," continued Mrs.
Plymdale, her native sharpness softened by a fervid sense that she was
taking a correct view. "And such particular people as the Tollers are,
they might have objected because some of our friends are not theirs.
It is well known that your aunt Bulstrode and I have been intimate from
our youth, and Mr. Plymdale has been always on Mr. Bulstrode's side.
And I myself prefer serious opinions. But the Tollers have welcomed
Ned all the same."
"I am sure he is a very deserving, well-principled young man," said
Rosamond, with a neat air of patronage in return for Mrs. Plymdale's
"Oh, he has not the style of a captain in the army, or that sort of
carriage as if everybody was beneath him, or that showy kind of
talking, and singing, and intellectual talent. But I am thankful he
has not. It is a poor preparation both for here and Hereafter."
"Oh dear, yes; appearances have very little to do with happiness," said
Rosamond. "I think there is every prospect of their being a happy
couple. What house will they take?"
"Oh, as for that, they must put up with what they can get. They have
been looking at the house in St. Peter's Place, next to Mr. Hackbutt's;
it belongs to him, and he is putting it nicely in repair. I suppose
they are not likely to hear of a better. Indeed, I think Ned will
decide the matter to-day."
"I should think it is a nice house; I like St. Peter's Place."
"Well, it is near the Church, and a genteel situation. But the windows
are narrow, and it is all ups and downs. You don't happen to know of
any other that would be at liberty?" said Mrs. Plymdale, fixing her
round black eyes on Rosamond with the animation of a sudden thought in
"Oh no; I hear so little of those things."
Rosamond had not foreseen that question and answer in setting out to
pay her visit; she had simply meant to gather any information which
would help her to avert the parting with her own house under
circumstances thoroughly disagreeable to her. As to the untruth in her
reply, she no more reflected on it than she did on the untruth there
was in her saying that appearances had very little to do with
happiness. Her object, she was convinced, was thoroughly justifiable:
it was Lydgate whose intention was inexcusable; and there was a plan in
her mind which, when she had carried it out fully, would prove how very
false a step it would have been for him to have descended from his
She returned home by Mr. Borthrop Trumbull's office, meaning to call
there. It was the first time in her life that Rosamond had thought of
doing anything in the form of business, but she felt equal to the
occasion. That she should be obliged to do what she intensely
disliked, was an idea which turned her quiet tenacity into active
invention. Here was a case in which it could not be enough simply to
disobey and be serenely, placidly obstinate: she must act according to
her judgment, and she said to herself that her judgment was
right—"indeed, if it had not been, she would not have wished to act on
Mr. Trumbull was in the back-room of his office, and received Rosamond
with his finest manners, not only because he had much sensibility to
her charms, but because the good-natured fibre in him was stirred by
his certainty that Lydgate was in difficulties, and that this
uncommonly pretty woman—this young lady with the highest personal
attractions—was likely to feel the pinch of trouble—to find herself
involved in circumstances beyond her control. He begged her to do him
the honor to take a seat, and stood before her trimming and comporting
himself with an eager solicitude, which was chiefly benevolent.
Rosamond's first question was, whether her husband had called on Mr.
Trumbull that morning, to speak about disposing of their house.
"Yes, ma'am, yes, he did; he did so," said the good auctioneer, trying
to throw something soothing into his iteration. "I was about to fulfil
his order, if possible, this afternoon. He wished me not to
"I called to tell you not to go any further, Mr. Trumbull; and I beg of
you not to mention what has been said on the subject. Will you oblige
"Certainly I will, Mrs. Lydgate, certainly. Confidence is sacred with
me on business or any other topic. I am then to consider the
commission withdrawn?" said Mr. Trumbull, adjusting the long ends of
his blue cravat with both hands, and looking at Rosamond deferentially.
"Yes, if you please. I find that Mr. Ned Plymdale has taken a house—the
one in St. Peter's Place next to Mr. Hackbutt's. Mr. Lydgate would be
annoyed that his orders should be fulfilled uselessly. And besides
that, there are other circumstances which render the proposal
"Very good, Mrs. Lydgate, very good. I am at your commands, whenever
you require any service of me," said Mr. Trumbull, who felt pleasure in
conjecturing that some new resources had been opened. "Rely on me, I
beg. The affair shall go no further."
That evening Lydgate was a little comforted by observing that Rosamond
was more lively than she had usually been of late, and even seemed
interested in doing what would please him without being asked. He
thought, "If she will be happy and I can rub through, what does it all
signify? It is only a narrow swamp that we have to pass in a long
journey. If I can get my mind clear again, I shall do."
He was so much cheered that he began to search for an account of
experiments which he had long ago meant to look up, and had neglected
out of that creeping self-despair which comes in the train of petty
anxieties. He felt again some of the old delightful absorption in a
far-reaching inquiry, while Rosamond played the quiet music which was
as helpful to his meditation as the plash of an oar on the evening
lake. It was rather late; he had pushed away all the books, and was
looking at the fire with his hands clasped behind his head in
forgetfulness of everything except the construction of a new
controlling experiment, when Rosamond, who had left the piano and was
leaning back in her chair watching him, said—
"Mr. Ned Plymdale has taken a house already."
Lydgate, startled and jarred, looked up in silence for a moment, like a
man who has been disturbed in his sleep. Then flushing with an
unpleasant consciousness, he asked—
"How do you know?"
"I called at Mrs. Plymdale's this morning, and she told me that he had
taken the house in St. Peter's Place, next to Mr. Hackbutt's."
Lydgate was silent. He drew his hands from behind his head and pressed
them against the hair which was hanging, as it was apt to do, in a mass
on his forehead, while he rested his elbows on his knees. He was
feeling bitter disappointment, as if he had opened a door out of a
suffocating place and had found it walled up; but he also felt sure
that Rosamond was pleased with the cause of his disappointment. He
preferred not looking at her and not speaking, until he had got over
the first spasm of vexation. After all, he said in his bitterness,
what can a woman care about so much as house and furniture? a husband
without them is an absurdity. When he looked up and pushed his hair
aside, his dark eyes had a miserable blank non-expectance of sympathy
in them, but he only said, coolly—
"Perhaps some one else may turn up. I told Trumbull to be on the
look-out if he failed with Plymdale."
Rosamond made no remark. She trusted to the chance that nothing more
would pass between her husband and the auctioneer until some issue
should have justified her interference; at any rate, she had hindered
the event which she immediately dreaded. After a pause, she said—
"How much money is it that those disagreeable people want?"
"What disagreeable people?"
"Those who took the list—and the others. I mean, how much money would
satisfy them so that you need not be troubled any more?"
Lydgate surveyed her for a moment, as if he were looking for symptoms,
and then said, "Oh, if I could have got six hundred from Plymdale for
furniture and as premium, I might have managed. I could have paid off
Dover, and given enough on account to the others to make them wait
patiently, if we contracted our expenses."
"But I mean how much should you want if we stayed in this house?"
"More than I am likely to get anywhere," said Lydgate, with rather a
grating sarcasm in his tone. It angered him to perceive that
Rosamond's mind was wandering over impracticable wishes instead of
facing possible efforts.
"Why should you not mention the sum?" said Rosamond, with a mild
indication that she did not like his manners.
"Well," said Lydgate in a guessing tone, "it would take at least a
thousand to set me at ease. But," he added, incisively, "I have to
consider what I shall do without it, not with it."
Rosamond said no more.
But the next day she carried out her plan of writing to Sir Godwin
Lydgate. Since the Captain's visit, she had received a letter from
him, and also one from Mrs. Mengan, his married sister, condoling with
her on the loss of her baby, and expressing vaguely the hope that they
should see her again at Quallingham. Lydgate had told her that this
politeness meant nothing; but she was secretly convinced that any
backwardness in Lydgate's family towards him was due to his cold and
contemptuous behavior, and she had answered the letters in her most
charming manner, feeling some confidence that a specific invitation
would follow. But there had been total silence. The Captain evidently
was not a great penman, and Rosamond reflected that the sisters might
have been abroad. However, the season was come for thinking of friends
at home, and at any rate Sir Godwin, who had chucked her under the
chin, and pronounced her to be like the celebrated beauty, Mrs. Croly,
who had made a conquest of him in 1790, would be touched by any appeal
from her, and would find it pleasant for her sake to behave as he ought
to do towards his nephew. Rosamond was naively convinced of what an
old gentleman ought to do to prevent her from suffering annoyance. And
she wrote what she considered the most judicious letter possible—one
which would strike Sir Godwin as a proof of her excellent sense—pointing
out how desirable it was that Tertius should quit such a place
as Middlemarch for one more fitted to his talents, how the unpleasant
character of the inhabitants had hindered his professional success, and
how in consequence he was in money difficulties, from which it would
require a thousand pounds thoroughly to extricate him. She did not say
that Tertius was unaware of her intention to write; for she had the
idea that his supposed sanction of her letter would be in accordance
with what she did say of his great regard for his uncle Godwin as the
relative who had always been his best friend. Such was the force of
Poor Rosamond's tactics now she applied them to affairs.
This had happened before the party on New Year's Day, and no answer had
yet come from Sir Godwin. But on the morning of that day Lydgate had
to learn that Rosamond had revoked his order to Borthrop Trumbull.
Feeling it necessary that she should be gradually accustomed to the
idea of their quitting the house in Lowick Gate, he overcame his
reluctance to speak to her again on the subject, and when they were
"I shall try to see Trumbull this morning, and tell him to advertise
the house in the 'Pioneer' and the 'Trumpet.' If the thing were
advertised, some one might be inclined to take it who would not
otherwise have thought of a change. In these country places many
people go on in their old houses when their families are too large for
them, for want of knowing where they can find another. And Trumbull
seems to have got no bite at all."
Rosamond knew that the inevitable moment was come. "I ordered Trumbull
not to inquire further," she said, with a careful calmness which was
Lydgate stared at her in mute amazement. Only half an hour before he
had been fastening up her plaits for her, and talking the "little
language" of affection, which Rosamond, though not returning it,
accepted as if she had been a serene and lovely image, now and then
miraculously dimpling towards her votary. With such fibres still astir
in him, the shock he received could not at once be distinctly anger; it
was confused pain. He laid down the knife and fork with which he was
carving, and throwing himself back in his chair, said at last, with a
cool irony in his tone—
"May I ask when and why you did so?"
"When I knew that the Plymdales had taken a house, I called to tell him
not to mention ours to them; and at the same time I told him not to let
the affair go on any further. I knew that it would be very injurious
to you if it were known that you wished to part with your house and
furniture, and I had a very strong objection to it. I think that was
"It was of no consequence then that I had told you imperative reasons
of another kind; of no consequence that I had come to a different
conclusion, and given an order accordingly?" said Lydgate, bitingly,
the thunder and lightning gathering about his brow and eyes.
The effect of any one's anger on Rosamond had always been to make her
shrink in cold dislike, and to become all the more calmly correct, in
the conviction that she was not the person to misbehave whatever others
might do. She replied—
"I think I had a perfect right to speak on a subject which concerns me
at least as much as you."
"Clearly—you had a right to speak, but only to me. You had no right
to contradict my orders secretly, and treat me as if I were a fool,"
said Lydgate, in the same tone as before. Then with some added scorn,
"Is it possible to make you understand what the consequences will be?
Is it of any use for me to tell you again why we must try to part with
"It is not necessary for you to tell me again," said Rosamond, in a
voice that fell and trickled like cold water-drops. "I remembered what
you said. You spoke just as violently as you do now. But that does
not alter my opinion that you ought to try every other means rather
than take a step which is so painful to me. And as to advertising the
house, I think it would be perfectly degrading to you."
"And suppose I disregard your opinion as you disregard mine?"
"You can do so, of course. But I think you ought to have told me
before we were married that you would place me in the worst position,
rather than give up your own will."
Lydgate did not speak, but tossed his head on one side, and twitched
the corners of his mouth in despair. Rosamond, seeing that he was not
looking at her, rose and set his cup of coffee before him; but he took
no notice of it, and went on with an inward drama and argument,
occasionally moving in his seat, resting one arm on the table, and
rubbing his hand against his hair. There was a conflux of emotions and
thoughts in him that would not let him either give thorough way to his
anger or persevere with simple rigidity of resolve. Rosamond took
advantage of his silence.
"When we were married everyone felt that your position was very high.
I could not have imagined then that you would want to sell our
furniture, and take a house in Bride Street, where the rooms are like
cages. If we are to live in that way let us at least leave
"These would be very strong considerations," said Lydgate, half
ironically—still there was a withered paleness about his lips as he
looked at his coffee, and did not drink—"these would be very strong
considerations if I did not happen to be in debt."
"Many persons must have been in debt in the same way, but if they are
respectable, people trust them. I am sure I have heard papa say that
the Torbits were in debt, and they went on very well. It cannot be
good to act rashly," said Rosamond, with serene wisdom.
Lydgate sat paralyzed by opposing impulses: since no reasoning he could
apply to Rosamond seemed likely to conquer her assent, he wanted to
smash and grind some object on which he could at least produce an
impression, or else to tell her brutally that he was master, and she
must obey. But he not only dreaded the effect of such extremities on
their mutual life—he had a growing dread of Rosamond's quiet elusive
obstinacy, which would not allow any assertion of power to be final;
and again, she had touched him in a spot of keenest feeling by implying
that she had been deluded with a false vision of happiness in marrying
him. As to saying that he was master, it was not the fact. The very
resolution to which he had wrought himself by dint of logic and
honorable pride was beginning to relax under her torpedo contact. He
swallowed half his cup of coffee, and then rose to go.
"I may at least request that you will not go to Trumbull at
present—until it has been seen that there are no other means," said
Rosamond. Although she was not subject to much fear, she felt it safer
not to betray that she had written to Sir Godwin. "Promise me that you
will not go to him for a few weeks, or without telling me."
Lydgate gave a short laugh. "I think it is I who should exact a
promise that you will do nothing without telling me," he said, turning
his eyes sharply upon her, and then moving to the door.
"You remember that we are going to dine at papa's," said Rosamond,
wishing that he should turn and make a more thorough concession to her.
But he only said "Oh yes," impatiently, and went away. She held it to
be very odious in him that he did not think the painful propositions he
had had to make to her were enough, without showing so unpleasant a
temper. And when she put the moderate request that he would defer
going to Trumbull again, it was cruel in him not to assure her of what
he meant to do. She was convinced of her having acted in every way for
the best; and each grating or angry speech of Lydgate's served only as
an addition to the register of offences in her mind. Poor Rosamond for
months had begun to associate her husband with feelings of
disappointment, and the terribly inflexible relation of marriage had
lost its charm of encouraging delightful dreams. It had freed her from
the disagreeables of her father's house, but it had not given her
everything that she had wished and hoped. The Lydgate with whom she
had been in love had been a group of airy conditions for her, most of
which had disappeared, while their place had been taken by every-day
details which must be lived through slowly from hour to hour, not
floated through with a rapid selection of favorable aspects. The
habits of Lydgate's profession, his home preoccupation with scientific
subjects, which seemed to her almost like a morbid vampire's taste, his
peculiar views of things which had never entered into the dialogue of
courtship—all these continually alienating influences, even without
the fact of his having placed himself at a disadvantage in the town,
and without that first shock of revelation about Dover's debt, would
have made his presence dull to her. There was another presence which
ever since the early days of her marriage, until four months ago, had
been an agreeable excitement, but that was gone: Rosamond would not
confess to herself how much the consequent blank had to do with her
utter ennui; and it seemed to her (perhaps she was right) that an
invitation to Quallingham, and an opening for Lydgate to settle
elsewhere than in Middlemarch—in London, or somewhere likely to be
free from unpleasantness—would satisfy her quite well, and make her
indifferent to the absence of Will Ladislaw, towards whom she felt some
resentment for his exaltation of Mrs. Casaubon.
That was the state of things with Lydgate and Rosamond on the New
Year's Day when they dined at her father's, she looking mildly neutral
towards him in remembrance of his ill-tempered behavior at breakfast,
and he carrying a much deeper effect from the inward conflict in which
that morning scene was only one of many epochs. His flushed effort
while talking to Mr. Farebrother—his effort after the cynical pretence
that all ways of getting money are essentially the same, and that
chance has an empire which reduces choice to a fool's illusion—was but
the symptom of a wavering resolve, a benumbed response to the old
stimuli of enthusiasm.
What was he to do? He saw even more keenly than Rosamond did the
dreariness of taking her into the small house in Bride Street, where
she would have scanty furniture around her and discontent within: a
life of privation and life with Rosamond were two images which had
become more and more irreconcilable ever since the threat of privation
had disclosed itself. But even if his resolves had forced the two
images into combination, the useful preliminaries to that hard change
were not visibly within reach. And though he had not given the promise
which his wife had asked for, he did not go again to Trumbull. He even
began to think of taking a rapid journey to the North and seeing Sir
Godwin. He had once believed that nothing would urge him into making
an application for money to his uncle, but he had not then known the
full pressure of alternatives yet more disagreeable. He could not
depend on the effect of a letter; it was only in an interview, however
disagreeable this might be to himself, that he could give a thorough
explanation and could test the effectiveness of kinship. No sooner had
Lydgate begun to represent this step to himself as the easiest than
there was a reaction of anger that he—he who had long ago determined
to live aloof from such abject calculations, such self-interested
anxiety about the inclinations and the pockets of men with whom he had
been proud to have no aims in common—should have fallen not simply to
their level, but to the level of soliciting them.
"One of us two must bowen douteless,
And, sith a man is more reasonable
Than woman is, ye [men] moste be suffrable.
—CHAUCER: Canterbury Tales.
The bias of human nature to be slow in correspondence triumphs even
over the present quickening in the general pace of things: what wonder
then that in 1832 old Sir Godwin Lydgate was slow to write a letter
which was of consequence to others rather than to himself? Nearly
three weeks of the new year were gone, and Rosamond, awaiting an answer
to her winning appeal, was every day disappointed. Lydgate, in total
ignorance of her expectations, was seeing the bills come in, and
feeling that Dover's use of his advantage over other creditors was
imminent. He had never mentioned to Rosamond his brooding purpose of
going to Quallingham: he did not want to admit what would appear to her
a concession to her wishes after indignant refusal, until the last
moment; but he was really expecting to set off soon. A slice of the
railway would enable him to manage the whole journey and back in four
But one morning after Lydgate had gone out, a letter came addressed to
him, which Rosamond saw clearly to be from Sir Godwin. She was full of
hope. Perhaps there might be a particular note to her enclosed; but
Lydgate was naturally addressed on the question of money or other aid,
and the fact that he was written to, nay, the very delay in writing at
all, seemed to certify that the answer was thoroughly compliant. She
was too much excited by these thoughts to do anything but light
stitching in a warm corner of the dining-room, with the outside of this
momentous letter lying on the table before her. About twelve she heard
her husband's step in the passage, and tripping to open the door, she
said in her lightest tones, "Tertius, come in here—here is a letter
"Ah?" he said, not taking off his hat, but just turning her round
within his arm to walk towards the spot where the letter lay. "My
uncle Godwin!" he exclaimed, while Rosamond reseated herself, and
watched him as he opened the letter. She had expected him to be
While Lydgate's eyes glanced rapidly over the brief letter, she saw his
face, usually of a pale brown, taking on a dry whiteness; with nostrils
and lips quivering he tossed down the letter before her, and said
"It will be impossible to endure life with you, if you will always be
acting secretly—acting in opposition to me and hiding your actions."
He checked his speech and turned his back on her—then wheeled round
and walked about, sat down, and got up again restlessly, grasping hard
the objects deep down in his pockets. He was afraid of saying
something irremediably cruel.
Rosamond too had changed color as she read. The letter ran in this
"DEAR TERTIUS,—Don't set your wife to write to me when you have
anything to ask. It is a roundabout wheedling sort of thing which I
should not have credited you with. I never choose to write to a woman
on matters of business. As to my supplying you with a thousand pounds,
or only half that sum, I can do nothing of the sort. My own family
drains me to the last penny. With two younger sons and three
daughters, I am not likely to have cash to spare. You seem to have got
through your own money pretty quickly, and to have made a mess where
you are; the sooner you go somewhere else the better. But I have
nothing to do with men of your profession, and can't help you there. I
did the best I could for you as guardian, and let you have your own way
in taking to medicine. You might have gone into the army or the
Church. Your money would have held out for that, and there would have
been a surer ladder before you. Your uncle Charles has had a grudge
against you for not going into his profession, but not I. I have always
wished you well, but you must consider yourself on your own legs
Your affectionate uncle,
When Rosamond had finished reading the letter she sat quite still, with
her hands folded before her, restraining any show of her keen
disappointment, and intrenching herself in quiet passivity under her
husband's wrath. Lydgate paused in his movements, looked at her again,
and said, with biting severity—
"Will this be enough to convince you of the harm you may do by secret
meddling? Have you sense enough to recognize now your incompetence to
judge and act for me—to interfere with your ignorance in affairs which
it belongs to me to decide on?"
The words were hard; but this was not the first time that Lydgate had
been frustrated by her. She did not look at him, and made no reply.
"I had nearly resolved on going to Quallingham. It would have cost me
pain enough to do it, yet it might have been of some use. But it has
been of no use for me to think of anything. You have always been
counteracting me secretly. You delude me with a false assent, and then
I am at the mercy of your devices. If you mean to resist every wish I
express, say so and defy me. I shall at least know what I am doing
It is a terrible moment in young lives when the closeness of love's
bond has turned to this power of galling. In spite of Rosamond's
self-control a tear fell silently and rolled over her lips. She still
said nothing; but under that quietude was hidden an intense effect: she
was in such entire disgust with her husband that she wished she had
never seen him. Sir Godwin's rudeness towards her and utter want of
feeling ranged him with Dover and all other creditors—disagreeable
people who only thought of themselves, and did not mind how annoying
they were to her. Even her father was unkind, and might have done more
for them. In fact there was but one person in Rosamond's world whom
she did not regard as blameworthy, and that was the graceful creature
with blond plaits and with little hands crossed before her, who had
never expressed herself unbecomingly, and had always acted for the
best—the best naturally being what she best liked.
Lydgate pausing and looking at her began to feel that half-maddening
sense of helplessness which comes over passionate people when their
passion is met by an innocent-looking silence whose meek victimized air
seems to put them in the wrong, and at last infects even the justest
indignation with a doubt of its justice. He needed to recover the full
sense that he was in the right by moderating his words.
"Can you not see, Rosamond," he began again, trying to be simply grave
and not bitter, "that nothing can be so fatal as a want of openness and
confidence between us? It has happened again and again that I have
expressed a decided wish, and you have seemed to assent, yet after that
you have secretly disobeyed my wish. In that way I can never know what
I have to trust to. There would be some hope for us if you would admit
this. Am I such an unreasonable, furious brute? Why should you not be
open with me?" Still silence.
"Will you only say that you have been mistaken, and that I may depend
on your not acting secretly in future?" said Lydgate, urgently, but
with something of request in his tone which Rosamond was quick to
perceive. She spoke with coolness.
"I cannot possibly make admissions or promises in answer to such words
as you have used towards me. I have not been accustomed to language of
that kind. You have spoken of my 'secret meddling,' and my
'interfering ignorance,' and my 'false assent.' I have never expressed
myself in that way to you, and I think that you ought to apologize.
You spoke of its being impossible to live with me. Certainly you have
not made my life pleasant to me of late. I think it was to be expected
that I should try to avert some of the hardships which our marriage has
brought on me." Another tear fell as Rosamond ceased speaking, and she
pressed it away as quietly as the first.
Lydgate flung himself into a chair, feeling checkmated. What place was
there in her mind for a remonstrance to lodge in? He laid down his
hat, flung an arm over the back of his chair, and looked down for some
moments without speaking. Rosamond had the double purchase over him of
insensibility to the point of justice in his reproach, and of
sensibility to the undeniable hardships now present in her married
life. Although her duplicity in the affair of the house had exceeded
what he knew, and had really hindered the Plymdales from knowing of it,
she had no consciousness that her action could rightly be called false.
We are not obliged to identify our own acts according to a strict
classification, any more than the materials of our grocery and clothes.
Rosamond felt that she was aggrieved, and that this was what Lydgate
had to recognize.
As for him, the need of accommodating himself to her nature, which was
inflexible in proportion to its negations, held him as with pincers.
He had begun to have an alarmed foresight of her irrevocable loss of
love for him, and the consequent dreariness of their life. The ready
fulness of his emotions made this dread alternate quickly with the
first violent movements of his anger. It would assuredly have been a
vain boast in him to say that he was her master.
"You have not made my life pleasant to me of late"—"the hardships
which our marriage has brought on me"—these words were stinging his
imagination as a pain makes an exaggerated dream. If he were not only
to sink from his highest resolve, but to sink into the hideous
fettering of domestic hate?
"Rosamond," he said, turning his eyes on her with a melancholy look,
"you should allow for a man's words when he is disappointed and
provoked. You and I cannot have opposite interests. I cannot part my
happiness from yours. If I am angry with you, it is that you seem not
to see how any concealment divides us. How could I wish to make
anything hard to you either by my words or conduct? When I hurt you, I
hurt part of my own life. I should never be angry with you if you
would be quite open with me."
"I have only wished to prevent you from hurrying us into wretchedness
without any necessity," said Rosamond, the tears coming again from a
softened feeling now that her husband had softened. "It is so very
hard to be disgraced here among all the people we know, and to live in
such a miserable way. I wish I had died with the baby."
She spoke and wept with that gentleness which makes such words and
tears omnipotent over a loving-hearted man. Lydgate drew his chair
near to hers and pressed her delicate head against his cheek with his
powerful tender hand. He only caressed her; he did not say anything;
for what was there to say? He could not promise to shield her from the
dreaded wretchedness, for he could see no sure means of doing so. When
he left her to go out again, he told himself that it was ten times
harder for her than for him: he had a life away from home, and constant
appeals to his activity on behalf of others. He wished to excuse
everything in her if he could—but it was inevitable that in that
excusing mood he should think of her as if she were an animal of
another and feebler species. Nevertheless she had mastered him.
"'Tis one thing to be tempted, Escalus,
Another thing to fall."
—Measure for Measure.
Lydgate certainly had good reason to reflect on the service his
practice did him in counteracting his personal cares. He had no longer
free energy enough for spontaneous research and speculative thinking,
but by the bedside of patients, the direct external calls on his
judgment and sympathies brought the added impulse needed to draw him
out of himself. It was not simply that beneficent harness of routine
which enables silly men to live respectably and unhappy men to live
calmly—it was a perpetual claim on the immediate fresh application of
thought, and on the consideration of another's need and trial. Many of
us looking back through life would say that the kindest man we have
ever known has been a medical man, or perhaps that surgeon whose fine
tact, directed by deeply informed perception, has come to us in our
need with a more sublime beneficence than that of miracle-workers. Some
of that twice-blessed mercy was always with Lydgate in his work at the
Hospital or in private houses, serving better than any opiate to quiet
and sustain him under his anxieties and his sense of mental degeneracy.
Mr. Farebrother's suspicion as to the opiate was true, however. Under
the first galling pressure of foreseen difficulties, and the first
perception that his marriage, if it were not to be a yoked loneliness,
must be a state of effort to go on loving without too much care about
being loved, he had once or twice tried a dose of opium. But he had no
hereditary constitutional craving after such transient escapes from the
hauntings of misery. He was strong, could drink a great deal of wine,
but did not care about it; and when the men round him were drinking
spirits, he took sugar and water, having a contemptuous pity even for
the earliest stages of excitement from drink. It was the same with
gambling. He had looked on at a great deal of gambling in Paris,
watching it as if it had been a disease. He was no more tempted by
such winning than he was by drink. He had said to himself that the
only winning he cared for must be attained by a conscious process of
high, difficult combination tending towards a beneficent result. The
power he longed for could not be represented by agitated fingers
clutching a heap of coin, or by the half-barbarous, half-idiotic
triumph in the eyes of a man who sweeps within his arms the ventures of
twenty chapfallen companions.
But just as he had tried opium, so his thought now began to turn upon
gambling—not with appetite for its excitement, but with a sort of
wistful inward gaze after that easy way of getting money, which implied
no asking and brought no responsibility. If he had been in London or
Paris at that time, it is probable that such thoughts, seconded by
opportunity, would have taken him into a gambling-house, no longer to
watch the gamblers, but to watch with them in kindred eagerness.
Repugnance would have been surmounted by the immense need to win, if
chance would be kind enough to let him. An incident which happened not
very long after that airy notion of getting aid from his uncle had been
excluded, was a strong sign of the effect that might have followed any
extant opportunity of gambling.
The billiard-room at the Green Dragon was the constant resort of a
certain set, most of whom, like our acquaintance Mr. Bambridge, were
regarded as men of pleasure. It was here that poor Fred Vincy had made
part of his memorable debt, having lost money in betting, and been
obliged to borrow of that gay companion. It was generally known in
Middlemarch that a good deal of money was lost and won in this way; and
the consequent repute of the Green Dragon as a place of dissipation
naturally heightened in some quarters the temptation to go there.
Probably its regular visitants, like the initiates of freemasonry,
wished that there were something a little more tremendous to keep to
themselves concerning it; but they were not a closed community, and
many decent seniors as well as juniors occasionally turned into the
billiard-room to see what was going on. Lydgate, who had the muscular
aptitude for billiards, and was fond of the game, had once or twice in
the early days after his arrival in Middlemarch taken his turn with the
cue at the Green Dragon; but afterwards he had no leisure for the game,
and no inclination for the socialities there. One evening, however, he
had occasion to seek Mr. Bambridge at that resort. The horsedealer had
engaged to get him a customer for his remaining good horse, for which
Lydgate had determined to substitute a cheap hack, hoping by this
reduction of style to get perhaps twenty pounds; and he cared now for
every small sum, as a help towards feeding the patience of his
tradesmen. To run up to the billiard-room, as he was passing, would
Mr. Bambridge was not yet come, but would be sure to arrive by-and-by,
said his friend Mr. Horrock; and Lydgate stayed, playing a game for the
sake of passing the time. That evening he had the peculiar light in
the eyes and the unusual vivacity which had been once noticed in him by
Mr. Farebrother. The exceptional fact of his presence was much noticed
in the room, where there was a good deal of Middlemarch company; and
several lookers-on, as well as some of the players, were betting with
animation. Lydgate was playing well, and felt confident; the bets were
dropping round him, and with a swift glancing thought of the probable
gain which might double the sum he was saving from his horse, he began
to bet on his own play, and won again and again. Mr. Bambridge had
come in, but Lydgate did not notice him. He was not only excited with
his play, but visions were gleaming on him of going the next day to
Brassing, where there was gambling on a grander scale to be had, and
where, by one powerful snatch at the devil's bait, he might carry it
off without the hook, and buy his rescue from his daily solicitings.
He was still winning when two new visitors entered. One of them was a
young Hawley, just come from his law studies in town, and the other was
Fred Vincy, who had spent several evenings of late at this old haunt of
his. Young Hawley, an accomplished billiard-player, brought a cool
fresh hand to the cue. But Fred Vincy, startled at seeing Lydgate, and
astonished to see him betting with an excited air, stood aside, and
kept out of the circle round the table.
Fred had been rewarding resolution by a little laxity of late. He had
been working heartily for six months at all outdoor occupations under
Mr. Garth, and by dint of severe practice had nearly mastered the
defects of his handwriting, this practice being, perhaps, a little the
less severe that it was often carried on in the evening at Mr. Garth's
under the eyes of Mary. But the last fortnight Mary had been staying
at Lowick Parsonage with the ladies there, during Mr. Farebrother's
residence in Middlemarch, where he was carrying out some parochial
plans; and Fred, not seeing anything more agreeable to do, had turned
into the Green Dragon, partly to play at billiards, partly to taste the
old flavor of discourse about horses, sport, and things in general,
considered from a point of view which was not strenuously correct. He
had not been out hunting once this season, had had no horse of his own
to ride, and had gone from place to place chiefly with Mr. Garth in his
gig, or on the sober cob which Mr. Garth could lend him. It was a
little too bad, Fred began to think, that he should be kept in the
traces with more severity than if he had been a clergyman. "I will
tell you what, Mistress Mary—it will be rather harder work to learn
surveying and drawing plans than it would have been to write sermons,"
he had said, wishing her to appreciate what he went through for her
sake; "and as to Hercules and Theseus, they were nothing to me. They
had sport, and never learned to write a bookkeeping hand." And now,
Mary being out of the way for a little while, Fred, like any other
strong dog who cannot slip his collar, had pulled up the staple of his
chain and made a small escape, not of course meaning to go fast or far.
There could be no reason why he should not play at billiards, but he
was determined not to bet. As to money just now, Fred had in his mind
the heroic project of saving almost all of the eighty pounds that Mr.
Garth offered him, and returning it, which he could easily do by giving
up all futile money-spending, since he had a superfluous stock of
clothes, and no expense in his board. In that way he could, in one
year, go a good way towards repaying the ninety pounds of which he had
deprived Mrs. Garth, unhappily at a time when she needed that sum more
than she did now. Nevertheless, it must be acknowledged that on this
evening, which was the fifth of his recent visits to the billiard-room,
Fred had, not in his pocket, but in his mind, the ten pounds which he
meant to reserve for himself from his half-year's salary (having before
him the pleasure of carrying thirty to Mrs. Garth when Mary was likely
to be come home again)—he had those ten pounds in his mind as a fund
from which he might risk something, if there were a chance of a good
bet. Why? Well, when sovereigns were flying about, why shouldn't he
catch a few? He would never go far along that road again; but a man
likes to assure himself, and men of pleasure generally, what he could
do in the way of mischief if he chose, and that if he abstains from
making himself ill, or beggaring himself, or talking with the utmost
looseness which the narrow limits of human capacity will allow, it is
not because he is a spooney. Fred did not enter into formal reasons,
which are a very artificial, inexact way of representing the tingling
returns of old habit, and the caprices of young blood: but there was
lurking in him a prophetic sense that evening, that when he began to
play he should also begin to bet—that he should enjoy some
punch-drinking, and in general prepare himself for feeling "rather
seedy" in the morning. It is in such indefinable movements that action
But the last thing likely to have entered Fred's expectation was that
he should see his brother-in-law Lydgate—of whom he had never quite
dropped the old opinion that he was a prig, and tremendously conscious
of his superiority—looking excited and betting, just as he himself
might have done. Fred felt a shock greater than he could quite account
for by the vague knowledge that Lydgate was in debt, and that his
father had refused to help him; and his own inclination to enter into
the play was suddenly checked. It was a strange reversal of attitudes:
Fred's blond face and blue eyes, usually bright and careless, ready to
give attention to anything that held out a promise of amusement,
looking involuntarily grave and almost embarrassed as if by the sight
of something unfitting; while Lydgate, who had habitually an air of
self-possessed strength, and a certain meditativeness that seemed to
lie behind his most observant attention, was acting, watching, speaking
with that excited narrow consciousness which reminds one of an animal
with fierce eyes and retractile claws.
Lydgate, by betting on his own strokes, had won sixteen pounds; but
young Hawley's arrival had changed the poise of things. He made
first-rate strokes himself, and began to bet against Lydgate's strokes,
the strain of whose nerves was thus changed from simple confidence in
his own movements to defying another person's doubt in them. The
defiance was more exciting than the confidence, but it was less sure.
He continued to bet on his own play, but began often to fail. Still he
went on, for his mind was as utterly narrowed into that precipitous
crevice of play as if he had been the most ignorant lounger there.
Fred observed that Lydgate was losing fast, and found himself in the
new situation of puzzling his brains to think of some device by which,
without being offensive, he could withdraw Lydgate's attention, and
perhaps suggest to him a reason for quitting the room. He saw that
others were observing Lydgate's strange unlikeness to himself, and it
occurred to him that merely to touch his elbow and call him aside for a
moment might rouse him from his absorption. He could think of nothing
cleverer than the daring improbability of saying that he wanted to see
Rosy, and wished to know if she were at home this evening; and he was
going desperately to carry out this weak device, when a waiter came up
to him with a message, saying that Mr. Farebrother was below, and
begged to speak with him.
Fred was surprised, not quite comfortably, but sending word that he
would be down immediately, he went with a new impulse up to Lydgate,
said, "Can I speak to you a moment?" and drew him aside.
"Farebrother has just sent up a message to say that he wants to speak
to me. He is below. I thought you might like to know he was there, if
you had anything to say to him."
Fred had simply snatched up this pretext for speaking, because he could
not say, "You are losing confoundedly, and are making everybody stare
at you; you had better come away." But inspiration could hardly have
served him better. Lydgate had not before seen that Fred was present,
and his sudden appearance with an announcement of Mr. Farebrother had
the effect of a sharp concussion.
"No, no," said Lydgate; "I have nothing particular to say to him.
But—the game is up—I must be going—I came in just to see Bambridge."
"Bambridge is over there, but he is making a row—I don't think he's
ready for business. Come down with me to Farebrother. I expect he is
going to blow me up, and you will shield me," said Fred, with some
Lydgate felt shame, but could not bear to act as if he felt it, by
refusing to see Mr. Farebrother; and he went down. They merely shook
hands, however, and spoke of the frost; and when all three had turned
into the street, the Vicar seemed quite willing to say good-by to
Lydgate. His present purpose was clearly to talk with Fred alone, and
he said, kindly, "I disturbed you, young gentleman, because I have some
pressing business with you. Walk with me to St. Botolph's, will you?"
It was a fine night, the sky thick with stars, and Mr. Farebrother
proposed that they should make a circuit to the old church by the
London road. The next thing he said was—
"I thought Lydgate never went to the Green Dragon?"
"So did I," said Fred. "But he said that he went to see Bambridge."
"He was not playing, then?"
Fred had not meant to tell this, but he was obliged now to say, "Yes,
he was. But I suppose it was an accidental thing. I have never seen
him there before."
"You have been going often yourself, then, lately?"
"Oh, about five or six times."
"I think you had some good reason for giving up the habit of going
"Yes. You know all about it," said Fred, not liking to be catechised
in this way. "I made a clean breast to you."
"I suppose that gives me a warrant to speak about the matter now. It
is understood between us, is it not?—that we are on a footing of open
friendship: I have listened to you, and you will be willing to listen
to me. I may take my turn in talking a little about myself?"
"I am under the deepest obligation to you, Mr. Farebrother," said Fred,
in a state of uncomfortable surmise.
"I will not affect to deny that you are under some obligation to me.
But I am going to confess to you, Fred, that I have been tempted to
reverse all that by keeping silence with you just now. When somebody
said to me, 'Young Vincy has taken to being at the billiard-table every
night again—he won't bear the curb long;' I was tempted to do the
opposite of what I am doing—to hold my tongue and wait while you went
down the ladder again, betting first and then—"
"I have not made any bets," said Fred, hastily.
"Glad to hear it. But I say, my prompting was to look on and see you
take the wrong turning, wear out Garth's patience, and lose the best
opportunity of your life—the opportunity which you made some rather
difficult effort to secure. You can guess the feeling which raised
that temptation in me—I am sure you know it. I am sure you know that
the satisfaction of your affections stands in the way of mine."
There was a pause. Mr. Farebrother seemed to wait for a recognition of
the fact; and the emotion perceptible in the tones of his fine voice
gave solemnity to his words. But no feeling could quell Fred's alarm.
"I could not be expected to give her up," he said, after a moment's
hesitation: it was not a case for any pretence of generosity.
"Clearly not, when her affection met yours. But relations of this
sort, even when they are of long standing, are always liable to change.
I can easily conceive that you might act in a way to loosen the tie she
feels towards you—it must be remembered that she is only conditionally
bound to you—and that in that case, another man, who may flatter
himself that he has a hold on her regard, might succeed in winning that
firm place in her love as well as respect which you had let slip. I
can easily conceive such a result," repeated Mr. Farebrother,
emphatically. "There is a companionship of ready sympathy, which might
get the advantage even over the longest associations." It seemed to
Fred that if Mr. Farebrother had had a beak and talons instead of his
very capable tongue, his mode of attack could hardly be more cruel. He
had a horrible conviction that behind all this hypothetic statement
there was a knowledge of some actual change in Mary's feeling.
"Of course I know it might easily be all up with me," he said, in a
troubled voice. "If she is beginning to compare—" He broke off, not
liking to betray all he felt, and then said, by the help of a little
bitterness, "But I thought you were friendly to me."
"So I am; that is why we are here. But I have had a strong disposition
to be otherwise. I have said to myself, 'If there is a likelihood of
that youngster doing himself harm, why should you interfere? Aren't
you worth as much as he is, and don't your sixteen years over and above
his, in which you have gone rather hungry, give you more right to
satisfaction than he has? If there's a chance of his going to the
dogs, let him—perhaps you could nohow hinder it—and do you take the
There was a pause, in which Fred was seized by a most uncomfortable
chill. What was coming next? He dreaded to hear that something had
been said to Mary—he felt as if he were listening to a threat rather
than a warning. When the Vicar began again there was a change in his
tone like the encouraging transition to a major key.
"But I had once meant better than that, and I am come back to my old
intention. I thought that I could hardly secure myself in it better,
Fred, than by telling you just what had gone on in me. And now, do you
understand me? I want you to make the happiness of her life and your
own, and if there is any chance that a word of warning from me may turn
aside any risk to the contrary—well, I have uttered it."
There was a drop in the Vicar's voice when he spoke the last words. He
paused—they were standing on a patch of green where the road diverged
towards St. Botolph's, and he put out his hand, as if to imply that the
conversation was closed. Fred was moved quite newly. Some one highly
susceptible to the contemplation of a fine act has said, that it
produces a sort of regenerating shudder through the frame, and makes
one feel ready to begin a new life. A good degree of that effect was
just then present in Fred Vincy.
"I will try to be worthy," he said, breaking off before he could say
"of you as well as of her." And meanwhile Mr. Farebrother had gathered
the impulse to say something more.
"You must not imagine that I believe there is at present any decline in
her preference of you, Fred. Set your heart at rest, that if you keep
right, other things will keep right."
"I shall never forget what you have done," Fred answered. "I can't say
anything that seems worth saying—only I will try that your goodness
shall not be thrown away."
"That's enough. Good-by, and God bless you."
In that way they parted. But both of them walked about a long while
before they went out of the starlight. Much of Fred's rumination might
be summed up in the words, "It certainly would have been a fine thing
for her to marry Farebrother—but if she loves me best and I am a good
Perhaps Mr. Farebrother's might be concentrated into a single shrug and
one little speech. "To think of the part one little woman can play in
the life of a man, so that to renounce her may be a very good imitation
of heroism, and to win her may be a discipline!"
Now is there civil war within the soul:
Resolve is thrust from off the sacred throne
By clamorous Needs, and Pride the grand-vizier
Makes humble compact, plays the supple part
Of envoy and deft-tongued apologist
For hungry rebels.
Happily Lydgate had ended by losing in the billiard-room, and brought
away no encouragement to make a raid on luck. On the contrary, he felt
unmixed disgust with himself the next day when he had to pay four or
five pounds over and above his gains, and he carried about with him a
most unpleasant vision of the figure he had made, not only rubbing
elbows with the men at the Green Dragon but behaving just as they did.
A philosopher fallen to betting is hardly distinguishable from a
Philistine under the same circumstances: the difference will chiefly be
found in his subsequent reflections, and Lydgate chewed a very
disagreeable cud in that way. His reason told him how the affair might
have been magnified into ruin by a slight change of scenery—if it had
been a gambling-house that he had turned into, where chance could be
clutched with both hands instead of being picked up with thumb and
fore-finger. Nevertheless, though reason strangled the desire to
gamble, there remained the feeling that, with an assurance of luck to
the needful amount, he would have liked to gamble, rather than take the
alternative which was beginning to urge itself as inevitable.
That alternative was to apply to Mr. Bulstrode. Lydgate had so many
times boasted both to himself and others that he was totally
independent of Bulstrode, to whose plans he had lent himself solely
because they enabled him to carry out his own ideas of professional
work and public benefit—he had so constantly in their personal
intercourse had his pride sustained by the sense that he was making a
good social use of this predominating banker, whose opinions he thought
contemptible and whose motives often seemed to him an absurd mixture of
contradictory impressions—that he had been creating for himself
strong ideal obstacles to the proffering of any considerable request to
him on his own account.
Still, early in March his affairs were at that pass in which men begin
to say that their oaths were delivered in ignorance, and to perceive
that the act which they had called impossible to them is becoming
manifestly possible. With Dover's ugly security soon to be put in
force, with the proceeds of his practice immediately absorbed in paying
back debts, and with the chance, if the worst were known, of daily
supplies being refused on credit, above all with the vision of
Rosamond's hopeless discontent continually haunting him, Lydgate had
begun to see that he should inevitably bend himself to ask help from
somebody or other. At first he had considered whether he should write
to Mr. Vincy; but on questioning Rosamond he found that, as he had
suspected, she had already applied twice to her father, the last time
being since the disappointment from Sir Godwin; and papa had said that
Lydgate must look out for himself. "Papa said he had come, with one
bad year after another, to trade more and more on borrowed capital, and
had had to give up many indulgences; he could not spare a single
hundred from the charges of his family. He said, let Lydgate ask
Bulstrode: they have always been hand and glove."
Indeed, Lydgate himself had come to the conclusion that if he must end
by asking for a free loan, his relations with Bulstrode, more at least
than with any other man, might take the shape of a claim which was not
purely personal. Bulstrode had indirectly helped to cause the failure
of his practice, and had also been highly gratified by getting a
medical partner in his plans:—but who among us ever reduced himself
to the sort of dependence in which Lydgate now stood, without trying to
believe that he had claims which diminished the humiliation of asking?
It was true that of late there had seemed to be a new languor of
interest in Bulstrode about the Hospital; but his health had got worse,
and showed signs of a deep-seated nervous affection. In other respects
he did not appear to be changed: he had always been highly polite, but
Lydgate had observed in him from the first a marked coldness about his
marriage and other private circumstances, a coldness which he had
hitherto preferred to any warmth of familiarity between them. He
deferred the intention from day to day, his habit of acting on his
conclusions being made infirm by his repugnance to every possible
conclusion and its consequent act. He saw Mr. Bulstrode often, but he
did not try to use any occasion for his private purpose. At one moment
he thought, "I will write a letter: I prefer that to any circuitous
talk;" at another he thought, "No; if I were talking to him, I could
make a retreat before any signs of disinclination."
Still the days passed and no letter was written, no special interview
sought. In his shrinking from the humiliation of a dependent attitude
towards Bulstrode, he began to familiarize his imagination with another
step even more unlike his remembered self. He began spontaneously to
consider whether it would be possible to carry out that puerile notion
of Rosamond's which had often made him angry, namely, that they should
quit Middlemarch without seeing anything beyond that preface. The
question came—"Would any man buy the practice of me even now, for as
little as it is worth? Then the sale might happen as a necessary
preparation for going away."
But against his taking this step, which he still felt to be a
contemptible relinquishment of present work, a guilty turning aside
from what was a real and might be a widening channel for worthy
activity, to start again without any justified destination, there was
this obstacle, that the purchaser, if procurable at all, might not be
quickly forthcoming. And afterwards? Rosamond in a poor lodging,
though in the largest city or most distant town, would not find the
life that could save her from gloom, and save him from the reproach of
having plunged her into it. For when a man is at the foot of the hill
in his fortunes, he may stay a long while there in spite of
professional accomplishment. In the British climate there is no
incompatibility between scientific insight and furnished lodgings: the
incompatibility is chiefly between scientific ambition and a wife who
objects to that kind of residence.
But in the midst of his hesitation, opportunity came to decide him. A
note from Mr. Bulstrode requested Lydgate to call on him at the Bank.
A hypochondriacal tendency had shown itself in the banker's
constitution of late; and a lack of sleep, which was really only a
slight exaggeration of an habitual dyspeptic symptom, had been dwelt on
by him as a sign of threatening insanity. He wanted to consult Lydgate
without delay on that particular morning, although he had nothing to
tell beyond what he had told before. He listened eagerly to what
Lydgate had to say in dissipation of his fears, though this too was
only repetition; and this moment in which Bulstrode was receiving a
medical opinion with a sense of comfort, seemed to make the
communication of a personal need to him easier than it had been in
Lydgate's contemplation beforehand. He had been insisting that it
would be well for Mr. Bulstrode to relax his attention to business.
"One sees how any mental strain, however slight, may affect a delicate
frame," said Lydgate at that stage of the consultation when the remarks
tend to pass from the personal to the general, "by the deep stamp which
anxiety will make for a time even on the young and vigorous. I am
naturally very strong; yet I have been thoroughly shaken lately by an
accumulation of trouble."
"I presume that a constitution in the susceptible state in which mine
at present is, would be especially liable to fall a victim to cholera,
if it visited our district. And since its appearance near London, we
may well besiege the Mercy-seat for our protection," said Mr.
Bulstrode, not intending to evade Lydgate's allusion, but really
preoccupied with alarms about himself.
"You have at all events taken your share in using good practical
precautions for the town, and that is the best mode of asking for
protection," said Lydgate, with a strong distaste for the broken
metaphor and bad logic of the banker's religion, somewhat increased by
the apparent deafness of his sympathy. But his mind had taken up its
long-prepared movement towards getting help, and was not yet arrested.
He added, "The town has done well in the way of cleansing, and finding
appliances; and I think that if the cholera should come, even our
enemies will admit that the arrangements in the Hospital are a public
"Truly," said Mr. Bulstrode, with some coldness. "With regard to what
you say, Mr. Lydgate, about the relaxation of my mental labor, I have
for some time been entertaining a purpose to that effect—a purpose of
a very decided character. I contemplate at least a temporary
withdrawal from the management of much business, whether benevolent or
commercial. Also I think of changing my residence for a time: probably
I shall close or let 'The Shrubs,' and take some place near the
coast—under advice of course as to salubrity. That would be a measure
which you would recommend?"
"Oh yes," said Lydgate, falling backward in his chair, with
ill-repressed impatience under the banker's pale earnest eyes and
intense preoccupation with himself.
"I have for some time felt that I should open this subject with you in
relation to our Hospital," continued Bulstrode. "Under the
circumstances I have indicated, of course I must cease to have any
personal share in the management, and it is contrary to my views of
responsibility to continue a large application of means to an
institution which I cannot watch over and to some extent regulate. I
shall therefore, in case of my ultimate decision to leave Middlemarch,
consider that I withdraw other support to the New Hospital than that
which will subsist in the fact that I chiefly supplied the expenses of
building it, and have contributed further large sums to its successful
Lydgate's thought, when Bulstrode paused according to his wont, was,
"He has perhaps been losing a good deal of money." This was the most
plausible explanation of a speech which had caused rather a startling
change in his expectations. He said in reply—
"The loss to the Hospital can hardly be made up, I fear."
"Hardly," returned Bulstrode, in the same deliberate, silvery tone;
"except by some changes of plan. The only person who may be certainly
counted on as willing to increase her contributions is Mrs. Casaubon.
I have had an interview with her on the subject, and I have pointed out
to her, as I am about to do to you, that it will be desirable to win a
more general support to the New Hospital by a change of system."
Another pause, but Lydgate did not speak.
"The change I mean is an amalgamation with the Infirmary, so that the
New Hospital shall be regarded as a special addition to the elder
institution, having the same directing board. It will be necessary,
also, that the medical management of the two shall be combined. In
this way any difficulty as to the adequate maintenance of our new
establishment will be removed; the benevolent interests of the town
will cease to be divided."
Mr. Bulstrode had lowered his eyes from Lydgate's face to the buttons
of his coat as he again paused.
"No doubt that is a good device as to ways and means," said Lydgate,
with an edge of irony in his tone. "But I can't be expected to rejoice
in it at once, since one of the first results will be that the other
medical men will upset or interrupt my methods, if it were only because
they are mine."
"I myself, as you know, Mr. Lydgate, highly valued the opportunity of
new and independent procedure which you have diligently employed: the
original plan, I confess, was one which I had much at heart, under
submission to the Divine Will. But since providential indications
demand a renunciation from me, I renounce."
Bulstrode showed a rather exasperating ability in this conversation.
The broken metaphor and bad logic of motive which had stirred his
hearer's contempt were quite consistent with a mode of putting the
facts which made it difficult for Lydgate to vent his own indignation
and disappointment. After some rapid reflection, he only asked—
"What did Mrs. Casaubon say?"
"That was the further statement which I wished to make to you," said
Bulstrode, who had thoroughly prepared his ministerial explanation.
"She is, you are aware, a woman of most munificent disposition, and
happily in possession—not I presume of great wealth, but of funds
which she can well spare. She has informed me that though she has
destined the chief part of those funds to another purpose, she is
willing to consider whether she cannot fully take my place in relation
to the Hospital. But she wishes for ample time to mature her thoughts
on the subject, and I have told her that there is no need for
haste—that, in fact, my own plans are not yet absolute."
Lydgate was ready to say, "If Mrs. Casaubon would take your place,
there would be gain, instead of loss." But there was still a weight on
his mind which arrested this cheerful candor. He replied, "I suppose,
then, that I may enter into the subject with Mrs. Casaubon."
"Precisely; that is what she expressly desires. Her decision, she
says, will much depend on what you can tell her. But not at present:
she is, I believe, just setting out on a journey. I have her letter
here," said Mr. Bulstrode, drawing it out, and reading from it. "'I am
immediately otherwise engaged,' she says. 'I am going into Yorkshire
with Sir James and Lady Chettam; and the conclusions I come to about
some land which I am to see there may affect my power of contributing
to the Hospital.' Thus, Mr. Lydgate, there is no haste necessary in
this matter; but I wished to apprise you beforehand of what may
Mr. Bulstrode returned the letter to his side-pocket, and changed his
attitude as if his business were closed. Lydgate, whose renewed hope
about the Hospital only made him more conscious of the facts which
poisoned his hope, felt that his effort after help, if made at all,
must be made now and vigorously.
"I am much obliged to you for giving me full notice," he said, with a
firm intention in his tone, yet with an interruptedness in his delivery
which showed that he spoke unwillingly. "The highest object to me is
my profession, and I had identified the Hospital with the best use I
can at present make of my profession. But the best use is not always
the same with monetary success. Everything which has made the Hospital
unpopular has helped with other causes—I think they are all connected
with my professional zeal—to make me unpopular as a practitioner. I
get chiefly patients who can't pay me. I should like them best, if I
had nobody to pay on my own side." Lydgate waited a little, but
Bulstrode only bowed, looking at him fixedly, and he went on with the
same interrupted enunciation—as if he were biting an objectional leek.
"I have slipped into money difficulties which I can see no way out of,
unless some one who trusts me and my future will advance me a sum
without other security. I had very little fortune left when I came
here. I have no prospects of money from my own family. My expenses,
in consequence of my marriage, have been very much greater than I had
expected. The result at this moment is that it would take a thousand
pounds to clear me. I mean, to free me from the risk of having all my
goods sold in security of my largest debt—as well as to pay my other
debts—and leave anything to keep us a little beforehand with our small
income. I find that it is out of the question that my wife's father
should make such an advance. That is why I mention my position to—to
the only other man who may be held to have some personal connection
with my prosperity or ruin."
Lydgate hated to hear himself. But he had spoken now, and had spoken
with unmistakable directness. Mr. Bulstrode replied without haste, but
also without hesitation.
"I am grieved, though, I confess, not surprised by this information,
Mr. Lydgate. For my own part, I regretted your alliance with my
brother-in-law's family, which has always been of prodigal habits, and
which has already been much indebted to me for sustainment in its
present position. My advice to you, Mr. Lydgate, would be, that
instead of involving yourself in further obligations, and continuing a
doubtful struggle, you should simply become a bankrupt."
"That would not improve my prospect," said Lydgate, rising and speaking
bitterly, "even if it were a more agreeable thing in itself."
"It is always a trial," said Mr. Bulstrode; "but trial, my dear sir, is
our portion here, and is a needed corrective. I recommend you to weigh
the advice I have given."
"Thank you," said Lydgate, not quite knowing what he said. "I have
occupied you too long. Good-day."
"What suit of grace hath Virtue to put on
If Vice shall wear as good, and do as well?
If Wrong, if Craft, if Indiscretion
Act as fair parts with ends as laudable?
Which all this mighty volume of events
The world, the universal map of deeds,
Strongly controls, and proves from all descents,
That the directest course still best succeeds.
For should not grave and learn'd Experience
That looks with the eyes of all the world beside,
And with all ages holds intelligence,
Go safer than Deceit without a guide!
That change of plan and shifting of interest which Bulstrode stated or
betrayed in his conversation with Lydgate, had been determined in him
by some severe experience which he had gone through since the epoch of
Mr. Larcher's sale, when Raffles had recognized Will Ladislaw, and when
the banker had in vain attempted an act of restitution which might move
Divine Providence to arrest painful consequences.
His certainty that Raffles, unless he were dead, would return to
Middlemarch before long, had been justified. On Christmas Eve he had
reappeared at The Shrubs. Bulstrode was at home to receive him, and
hinder his communication with the rest of the family, but he could not
altogether hinder the circumstances of the visit from compromising
himself and alarming his wife. Raffles proved more unmanageable than
he had shown himself to be in his former appearances, his chronic state
of mental restlessness, the growing effect of habitual intemperance,
quickly shaking off every impression from what was said to him. He
insisted on staying in the house, and Bulstrode, weighing two sets of
evils, felt that this was at least not a worse alternative than his
going into the town. He kept him in his own room for the evening and
saw him to bed, Raffles all the while amusing himself with the
annoyance he was causing this decent and highly prosperous
fellow-sinner, an amusement which he facetiously expressed as sympathy
with his friend's pleasure in entertaining a man who had been
serviceable to him, and who had not had all his earnings. There was a
cunning calculation under this noisy joking—a cool resolve to extract
something the handsomer from Bulstrode as payment for release from this
new application of torture. But his cunning had a little overcast its
Bulstrode was indeed more tortured than the coarse fibre of Raffles
could enable him to imagine. He had told his wife that he was simply
taking care of this wretched creature, the victim of vice, who might
otherwise injure himself; he implied, without the direct form of
falsehood, that there was a family tie which bound him to this care,
and that there were signs of mental alienation in Raffles which urged
caution. He would himself drive the unfortunate being away the next
morning. In these hints he felt that he was supplying Mrs. Bulstrode
with precautionary information for his daughters and servants, and
accounting for his allowing no one but himself to enter the room even
with food and drink. But he sat in an agony of fear lest Raffles
should be overheard in his loud and plain references to past facts—lest
Mrs. Bulstrode should be even tempted to listen at the door. How
could he hinder her, how betray his terror by opening the door to
detect her? She was a woman of honest direct habits, and little likely
to take so low a course in order to arrive at painful knowledge; but
fear was stronger than the calculation of probabilities.
In this way Raffles had pushed the torture too far, and produced an
effect which had not been in his plan. By showing himself hopelessly
unmanageable he had made Bulstrode feel that a strong defiance was the
only resource left. After taking Raffles to bed that night the banker
ordered his closed carriage to be ready at half-past seven the next
morning. At six o'clock he had already been long dressed, and had
spent some of his wretchedness in prayer, pleading his motives for
averting the worst evil if in anything he had used falsity and spoken
what was not true before God. For Bulstrode shrank from a direct lie
with an intensity disproportionate to the number of his more indirect
misdeeds. But many of these misdeeds were like the subtle muscular
movements which are not taken account of in the consciousness, though
they bring about the end that we fix our mind on and desire. And it is
only what we are vividly conscious of that we can vividly imagine to be
seen by Omniscience.
Bulstrode carried his candle to the bedside of Raffles, who was
apparently in a painful dream. He stood silent, hoping that the
presence of the light would serve to waken the sleeper gradually and
gently, for he feared some noise as the consequence of a too sudden
awakening. He had watched for a couple of minutes or more the
shudderings and pantings which seemed likely to end in waking, when
Raffles, with a long half-stifled moan, started up and stared round him
in terror, trembling and gasping. But he made no further noise, and
Bulstrode, setting down the candle, awaited his recovery.
It was a quarter of an hour later before Bulstrode, with a cold
peremptoriness of manner which he had not before shown, said, "I came
to call you thus early, Mr. Raffles, because I have ordered the
carriage to be ready at half-past seven, and intend myself to conduct
you as far as Ilsely, where you can either take the railway or await a
coach." Raffles was about to speak, but Bulstrode anticipated him
imperiously with the words, "Be silent, sir, and hear what I have to
say. I shall supply you with money now, and I will furnish you with a
reasonable sum from time to time, on your application to me by letter;
but if you choose to present yourself here again, if you return to
Middlemarch, if you use your tongue in a manner injurious to me, you
will have to live on such fruits as your malice can bring you, without
help from me. Nobody will pay you well for blasting my name: I know
the worst you can do against me, and I shall brave it if you dare to
thrust yourself upon me again. Get up, sir, and do as I order you,
without noise, or I will send for a policeman to take you off my
premises, and you may carry your stories into every pothouse in the
town, but you shall have no sixpence from me to pay your expenses
Bulstrode had rarely in his life spoken with such nervous energy: he
had been deliberating on this speech and its probable effects through a
large part of the night; and though he did not trust to its ultimately
saving him from any return of Raffles, he had concluded that it was the
best throw he could make. It succeeded in enforcing submission from
the jaded man this morning: his empoisoned system at this moment
quailed before Bulstrode's cold, resolute bearing, and he was taken off
quietly in the carriage before the family breakfast time. The servants
imagined him to be a poor relation, and were not surprised that a
strict man like their master, who held his head high in the world,
should be ashamed of such a cousin and want to get rid of him. The
banker's drive of ten miles with his hated companion was a dreary
beginning of the Christmas day; but at the end of the drive, Raffles
had recovered his spirits, and parted in a contentment for which there
was the good reason that the banker had given him a hundred pounds.
Various motives urged Bulstrode to this open-handedness, but he did not
himself inquire closely into all of them. As he had stood watching
Raffles in his uneasy sleep, it had certainly entered his mind that the
man had been much shattered since the first gift of two hundred pounds.
He had taken care to repeat the incisive statement of his resolve not
to be played on any more; and had tried to penetrate Raffles with the
fact that he had shown the risks of bribing him to be quite equal to
the risks of defying him. But when, freed from his repulsive presence,
Bulstrode returned to his quiet home, he brought with him no confidence
that he had secured more than a respite. It was as if he had had a
loathsome dream, and could not shake off its images with their hateful
kindred of sensations—as if on all the pleasant surroundings of his
life a dangerous reptile had left his slimy traces.
Who can know how much of his most inward life is made up of the
thoughts he believes other men to have about him, until that fabric of
opinion is threatened with ruin?
Bulstrode was only the more conscious that there was a deposit of
uneasy presentiment in his wife's mind, because she carefully avoided
any allusion to it. He had been used every day to taste the flavor of
supremacy and the tribute of complete deference: and the certainty that
he was watched or measured with a hidden suspicion of his having some
discreditable secret, made his voice totter when he was speaking to
edification. Foreseeing, to men of Bulstrode's anxious temperament, is
often worse than seeing; and his imagination continually heightened the
anguish of an imminent disgrace. Yes, imminent; for if his defiance of
Raffles did not keep the man away—and though he prayed for this result
he hardly hoped for it—the disgrace was certain. In vain he said to
himself that, if permitted, it would be a divine visitation, a
chastisement, a preparation; he recoiled from the imagined burning; and
he judged that it must be more for the Divine glory that he should
escape dishonor. That recoil had at last urged him to make
preparations for quitting Middlemarch. If evil truth must be reported
of him, he would then be at a less scorching distance from the contempt
of his old neighbors; and in a new scene, where his life would not have
gathered the same wide sensibility, the tormentor, if he pursued him,
would be less formidable. To leave the place finally would, he knew,
be extremely painful to his wife, and on other grounds he would have
preferred to stay where he had struck root. Hence he made his
preparations at first in a conditional way, wishing to leave on all
sides an opening for his return after brief absence, if any favorable
intervention of Providence should dissipate his fears. He was
preparing to transfer his management of the Bank, and to give up any
active control of other commercial affairs in the neighborhood, on the
ground of his failing health, but without excluding his future
resumption of such work. The measure would cause him some added
expense and some diminution of income beyond what he had already
undergone from the general depression of trade; and the Hospital
presented itself as a principal object of outlay on which he could
This was the experience which had determined his conversation with
Lydgate. But at this time his arrangements had most of them gone no
farther than a stage at which he could recall them if they proved to be
unnecessary. He continually deferred the final steps; in the midst of
his fears, like many a man who is in danger of shipwreck or of being
dashed from his carriage by runaway horses, he had a clinging
impression that something would happen to hinder the worst, and that to
spoil his life by a late transplantation might be over-hasty—especially
since it was difficult to account satisfactorily to his wife for the
project of their indefinite exile from the only place where she would
like to live.
Among the affairs Bulstrode had to care for, was the management of the
farm at Stone Court in case of his absence; and on this as well as on
all other matters connected with any houses and land he possessed in or
about Middlemarch, he had consulted Caleb Garth. Like every one else
who had business of that sort, he wanted to get the agent who was more
anxious for his employer's interests than his own. With regard to
Stone Court, since Bulstrode wished to retain his hold on the stock,
and to have an arrangement by which he himself could, if he chose,
resume his favorite recreation of superintendence, Caleb had advised
him not to trust to a mere bailiff, but to let the land, stock, and
implements yearly, and take a proportionate share of the proceeds.
"May I trust to you to find me a tenant on these terms, Mr. Garth?"
said Bulstrode. "And will you mention to me the yearly sum which would
repay you for managing these affairs which we have discussed together?"
"I'll think about it," said Caleb, in his blunt way. "I'll see how I
can make it out."
If it had not been that he had to consider Fred Vincy's future, Mr.
Garth would not probably have been glad of any addition to his work, of
which his wife was always fearing an excess for him as he grew older.
But on quitting Bulstrode after that conversation, a very alluring idea
occurred to him about this said letting of Stone Court. What if
Bulstrode would agree to his placing Fred Vincy there on the
understanding that he, Caleb Garth, should be responsible for the
management? It would be an excellent schooling for Fred; he might make
a modest income there, and still have time left to get knowledge by
helping in other business. He mentioned his notion to Mrs. Garth with
such evident delight that she could not bear to chill his pleasure by
expressing her constant fear of his undertaking too much.
"The lad would be as happy as two," he said, throwing himself back in
his chair, and looking radiant, "if I could tell him it was all
settled. Think; Susan! His mind had been running on that place for
years before old Featherstone died. And it would be as pretty a turn
of things as could be that he should hold the place in a good
industrious way after all—by his taking to business. For it's likely
enough Bulstrode might let him go on, and gradually buy the stock. He
hasn't made up his mind, I can see, whether or not he shall settle
somewhere else as a lasting thing. I never was better pleased with a
notion in my life. And then the children might be married by-and-by,
"You will not give any hint of the plan to Fred, until you are sure
that Bulstrode would agree to the plan?" said Mrs. Garth, in a tone of
gentle caution. "And as to marriage, Caleb, we old people need not
help to hasten it."
"Oh, I don't know," said Caleb, swinging his head aside. "Marriage is
a taming thing. Fred would want less of my bit and bridle. However, I
shall say nothing till I know the ground I'm treading on. I shall
speak to Bulstrode again."
He took his earliest opportunity of doing so. Bulstrode had anything
but a warm interest in his nephew Fred Vincy, but he had a strong wish
to secure Mr. Garth's services on many scattered points of business at
which he was sure to be a considerable loser, if they were under less
conscientious management. On that ground he made no objection to Mr.
Garth's proposal; and there was also another reason why he was not
sorry to give a consent which was to benefit one of the Vincy family.
It was that Mrs. Bulstrode, having heard of Lydgate's debts, had been
anxious to know whether her husband could not do something for poor
Rosamond, and had been much troubled on learning from him that
Lydgate's affairs were not easily remediable, and that the wisest plan
was to let them "take their course." Mrs. Bulstrode had then said for
the first time, "I think you are always a little hard towards my
family, Nicholas. And I am sure I have no reason to deny any of my
relatives. Too worldly they may be, but no one ever had to say that
they were not respectable."
"My dear Harriet," said Mr. Bulstrode, wincing under his wife's eyes,
which were filling with tears, "I have supplied your brother with a
great deal of capital. I cannot be expected to take care of his
That seemed to be true, and Mrs. Bulstrode's remonstrance subsided into
pity for poor Rosamond, whose extravagant education she had always
foreseen the fruits of.
But remembering that dialogue, Mr. Bulstrode felt that when he had to
talk to his wife fully about his plan of quitting Middlemarch, he
should be glad to tell her that he had made an arrangement which might
be for the good of her nephew Fred. At present he had merely mentioned
to her that he thought of shutting up The Shrubs for a few months, and
taking a house on the Southern Coast.
Hence Mr. Garth got the assurance he desired, namely, that in case of
Bulstrode's departure from Middlemarch for an indefinite time, Fred
Vincy should be allowed to have the tenancy of Stone Court on the terms
Caleb was so elated with his hope of this "neat turn" being given to
things, that if his self-control had not been braced by a little
affectionate wifely scolding, he would have betrayed everything to
Mary, wanting "to give the child comfort." However, he restrained
himself, and kept in strict privacy from Fred certain visits which he
was making to Stone Court, in order to look more thoroughly into the
state of the land and stock, and take a preliminary estimate. He was
certainly more eager in these visits than the probable speed of events
required him to be; but he was stimulated by a fatherly delight in
occupying his mind with this bit of probable happiness which he held in
store like a hidden birthday gift for Fred and Mary.
"But suppose the whole scheme should turn out to be a castle in the
air?" said Mrs. Garth.
"Well, well," replied Caleb; "the castle will tumble about nobody's
"If thou hast heard a word, let it die with thee."
Mr. Bulstrode was still seated in his manager's room at the Bank, about
three o'clock of the same day on which he had received Lydgate there,
when the clerk entered to say that his horse was waiting, and also that
Mr. Garth was outside and begged to speak with him.
"By all means," said Bulstrode; and Caleb entered. "Pray sit down, Mr.
Garth," continued the banker, in his suavest tone.
"I am glad that you arrived just in time to find me here. I know you
count your minutes."
"Oh," said Caleb, gently, with a slow swing of his head on one side, as
he seated himself and laid his hat on the floor.
He looked at the ground, leaning forward and letting his long fingers
droop between his legs, while each finger moved in succession, as if it
were sharing some thought which filled his large quiet brow.
Mr. Bulstrode, like every one else who knew Caleb, was used to his
slowness in beginning to speak on any topic which he felt to be
important, and rather expected that he was about to recur to the buying
of some houses in Blindman's Court, for the sake of pulling them down,
as a sacrifice of property which would be well repaid by the influx of
air and light on that spot. It was by propositions of this kind that
Caleb was sometimes troublesome to his employers; but he had usually
found Bulstrode ready to meet him in projects of improvement, and they
had got on well together. When he spoke again, however, it was to say,
in rather a subdued voice—
"I have just come away from Stone Court, Mr. Bulstrode."
"You found nothing wrong there, I hope," said the banker; "I was there
myself yesterday. Abel has done well with the lambs this year."
"Why, yes," said Caleb, looking up gravely, "there is something wrong—a
stranger, who is very ill, I think. He wants a doctor, and I came to
tell you of that. His name is Raffles."
He saw the shock of his words passing through Bulstrode's frame. On
this subject the banker had thought that his fears were too constantly
on the watch to be taken by surprise; but he had been mistaken.
"Poor wretch!" he said in a compassionate tone, though his lips
trembled a little. "Do you know how he came there?"
"I took him myself," said Caleb, quietly—"took him up in my gig. He
had got down from the coach, and was walking a little beyond the
turning from the toll-house, and I overtook him. He remembered seeing
me with you once before, at Stone Court, and he asked me to take him
on. I saw he was ill: it seemed to me the right thing to do, to carry
him under shelter. And now I think you should lose no time in getting
advice for him." Caleb took up his hat from the floor as he ended, and
rose slowly from his seat.
"Certainly," said Bulstrode, whose mind was very active at this moment.
"Perhaps you will yourself oblige me, Mr. Garth, by calling at Mr.
Lydgate's as you pass—or stay! he may at this hour probably be at the
Hospital. I will first send my man on the horse there with a note this
instant, and then I will myself ride to Stone Court."
Bulstrode quickly wrote a note, and went out himself to give the
commission to his man. When he returned, Caleb was standing as before
with one hand on the back of the chair, holding his hat with the other.
In Bulstrode's mind the dominant thought was, "Perhaps Raffles only
spoke to Garth of his illness. Garth may wonder, as he must have done
before, at this disreputable fellow's claiming intimacy with me; but he
will know nothing. And he is friendly to me—I can be of use to him."
He longed for some confirmation of this hopeful conjecture, but to have
asked any question as to what Raffles had said or done would have been
to betray fear.
"I am exceedingly obliged to you, Mr. Garth," he said, in his usual
tone of politeness. "My servant will be back in a few minutes, and I
shall then go myself to see what can be done for this unfortunate man.
Perhaps you had some other business with me? If so, pray be seated."
"Thank you," said Caleb, making a slight gesture with his right hand to
waive the invitation. "I wish to say, Mr. Bulstrode, that I must
request you to put your business into some other hands than mine. I am
obliged to you for your handsome way of meeting me—about the letting
of Stone Court, and all other business. But I must give it up." A
sharp certainty entered like a stab into Bulstrode's soul.
"This is sudden, Mr. Garth," was all he could say at first.
"It is," said Caleb; "but it is quite fixed. I must give it up."
He spoke with a firmness which was very gentle, and yet he could see
that Bulstrode seemed to cower under that gentleness, his face looking
dried and his eyes swerving away from the glance which rested on him.
Caleb felt a deep pity for him, but he could have used no pretexts to
account for his resolve, even if they would have been of any use.
"You have been led to this, I apprehend, by some slanders concerning me
uttered by that unhappy creature," said Bulstrode, anxious now to know
"That is true. I can't deny that I act upon what I heard from him."
"You are a conscientious man, Mr. Garth—a man, I trust, who feels
himself accountable to God. You would not wish to injure me by being
too ready to believe a slander," said Bulstrode, casting about for
pleas that might be adapted to his hearer's mind. "That is a poor
reason for giving up a connection which I think I may say will be
"I would injure no man if I could help it," said Caleb; "even if I
thought God winked at it. I hope I should have a feeling for my
fellow-creature. But, sir—I am obliged to believe that this Raffles
has told me the truth. And I can't be happy in working with you, or
profiting by you. It hurts my mind. I must beg you to seek another
"Very well, Mr. Garth. But I must at least claim to know the worst
that he has told you. I must know what is the foul speech that I am
liable to be the victim of," said Bulstrode, a certain amount of anger
beginning to mingle with his humiliation before this quiet man who
renounced his benefits.
"That's needless," said Caleb, waving his hand, bowing his head
slightly, and not swerving from the tone which had in it the merciful
intention to spare this pitiable man. "What he has said to me will
never pass from my lips, unless something now unknown forces it from
me. If you led a harmful life for gain, and kept others out of their
rights by deceit, to get the more for yourself, I dare say you
repent—you would like to go back, and can't: that must be a bitter
thing"—Caleb paused a moment and shook his head—"it is not for me to
make your life harder to you."
"But you do—you do make it harder to me," said Bulstrode constrained
into a genuine, pleading cry. "You make it harder to me by turning
your back on me."
"That I'm forced to do," said Caleb, still more gently, lifting up his
hand. "I am sorry. I don't judge you and say, he is wicked, and I am
righteous. God forbid. I don't know everything. A man may do wrong,
and his will may rise clear out of it, though he can't get his life
clear. That's a bad punishment. If it is so with you,—well, I'm
very sorry for you. But I have that feeling inside me, that I can't go
on working with you. That's all, Mr. Bulstrode. Everything else is
buried, so far as my will goes. And I wish you good-day."
"One moment, Mr. Garth!" said Bulstrode, hurriedly. "I may trust then
to your solemn assurance that you will not repeat either to man or
woman what—even if it have any degree of truth in it—is yet a
malicious representation?" Caleb's wrath was stirred, and he said,
"Why should I have said it if I didn't mean it? I am in no fear of
you. Such tales as that will never tempt my tongue."
"Excuse me—I am agitated—I am the victim of this abandoned man."
"Stop a bit! you have got to consider whether you didn't help to make
him worse, when you profited by his vices."
"You are wronging me by too readily believing him," said Bulstrode,
oppressed, as by a nightmare, with the inability to deny flatly what
Raffles might have said; and yet feeling it an escape that Caleb had
not so stated it to him as to ask for that flat denial.
"No," said Caleb, lifting his hand deprecatingly; "I am ready to
believe better, when better is proved. I rob you of no good chance.
As to speaking, I hold it a crime to expose a man's sin unless I'm
clear it must be done to save the innocent. That is my way of
thinking, Mr. Bulstrode, and what I say, I've no need to swear. I wish
Some hours later, when he was at home, Caleb said to his wife,
incidentally, that he had had some little differences with Bulstrode,
and that in consequence, he had given up all notion of taking Stone
Court, and indeed had resigned doing further business for him.
"He was disposed to interfere too much, was he?" said Mrs. Garth,
imagining that her husband had been touched on his sensitive point, and
not been allowed to do what he thought right as to materials and modes
"Oh," said Caleb, bowing his head and waving his hand gravely. And
Mrs. Garth knew that this was a sign of his not intending to speak
further on the subject.
As for Bulstrode, he had almost immediately mounted his horse and set
off for Stone Court, being anxious to arrive there before Lydgate.
His mind was crowded with images and conjectures, which were a language
to his hopes and fears, just as we hear tones from the vibrations which
shake our whole system. The deep humiliation with which he had winced
under Caleb Garth's knowledge of his past and rejection of his
patronage, alternated with and almost gave way to the sense of safety
in the fact that Garth, and no other, had been the man to whom Raffles
had spoken. It seemed to him a sort of earnest that Providence
intended his rescue from worse consequences; the way being thus left
open for the hope of secrecy. That Raffles should be afflicted with
illness, that he should have been led to Stone Court rather than
elsewhere—Bulstrode's heart fluttered at the vision of probabilities
which these events conjured up. If it should turn out that he was
freed from all danger of disgrace—if he could breathe in perfect
liberty—his life should be more consecrated than it had ever been
before. He mentally lifted up this vow as if it would urge the result
he longed for—he tried to believe in the potency of that prayerful
resolution—its potency to determine death. He knew that he ought to
say, "Thy will be done;" and he said it often. But the intense desire
remained that the will of God might be the death of that hated man.
Yet when he arrived at Stone Court he could not see the change in
Raffles without a shock. But for his pallor and feebleness, Bulstrode
would have called the change in him entirely mental. Instead of his
loud tormenting mood, he showed an intense, vague terror, and seemed to
deprecate Bulstrode's anger, because the money was all gone—he had
been robbed—it had half of it been taken from him. He had only come
here because he was ill and somebody was hunting him—somebody was
after him, he had told nobody anything, he had kept his mouth shut.
Bulstrode, not knowing the significance of these symptoms, interpreted
this new nervous susceptibility into a means of alarming Raffles into
true confessions, and taxed him with falsehood in saying that he had
not told anything, since he had just told the man who took him up in
his gig and brought him to Stone Court. Raffles denied this with
solemn adjurations; the fact being that the links of consciousness were
interrupted in him, and that his minute terror-stricken narrative to
Caleb Garth had been delivered under a set of visionary impulses which
had dropped back into darkness.
Bulstrode's heart sank again at this sign that he could get no grasp
over the wretched man's mind, and that no word of Raffles could be
trusted as to the fact which he most wanted to know, namely, whether or
not he had really kept silence to every one in the neighborhood except
Caleb Garth. The housekeeper had told him without the least constraint
of manner that since Mr. Garth left, Raffles had asked her for beer,
and after that had not spoken, seeming very ill. On that side it might
be concluded that there had been no betrayal. Mrs. Abel thought, like
the servants at The Shrubs, that the strange man belonged to the
unpleasant "kin" who are among the troubles of the rich; she had at
first referred the kinship to Mr. Rigg, and where there was property
left, the buzzing presence of such large blue-bottles seemed natural
enough. How he could be "kin" to Bulstrode as well was not so clear,
but Mrs. Abel agreed with her husband that there was "no knowing," a
proposition which had a great deal of mental food for her, so that she
shook her head over it without further speculation.
In less than an hour Lydgate arrived. Bulstrode met him outside the
wainscoted parlor, where Raffles was, and said—
"I have called you in, Mr. Lydgate, to an unfortunate man who was once
in my employment, many years ago. Afterwards he went to America, and
returned I fear to an idle dissolute life. Being destitute, he has a
claim on me. He was slightly connected with Rigg, the former owner of
this place, and in consequence found his way here. I believe he is
seriously ill: apparently his mind is affected. I feel bound to do the
utmost for him."
Lydgate, who had the remembrance of his last conversation with
Bulstrode strongly upon him, was not disposed to say an unnecessary
word to him, and bowed slightly in answer to this account; but just
before entering the room he turned automatically and said, "What is his
name?"—to know names being as much a part of the medical man's
accomplishment as of the practical politician's.
"Raffles, John Raffles," said Bulstrode, who hoped that whatever became
of Raffles, Lydgate would never know any more of him.
When he had thoroughly examined and considered the patient, Lydgate
ordered that he should go to bed, and be kept there in as complete
quiet as possible, and then went with Bulstrode into another room.
"It is a serious case, I apprehend," said the banker, before Lydgate
began to speak.
"No—and yes," said Lydgate, half dubiously. "It is difficult to
decide as to the possible effect of long-standing complications; but
the man had a robust constitution to begin with. I should not expect
this attack to be fatal, though of course the system is in a ticklish
state. He should be well watched and attended to."
"I will remain here myself," said Bulstrode. "Mrs. Abel and her
husband are inexperienced. I can easily remain here for the night, if
you will oblige me by taking a note for Mrs. Bulstrode."
"I should think that is hardly necessary," said Lydgate. "He seems
tame and terrified enough. He might become more unmanageable. But
there is a man here—is there not?"
"I have more than once stayed here a few nights for the sake of
seclusion," said Bulstrode, indifferently; "I am quite disposed to do
so now. Mrs. Abel and her husband can relieve or aid me, if necessary."
"Very well. Then I need give my directions only to you," said Lydgate,
not feeling surprised at a little peculiarity in Bulstrode.
"You think, then, that the case is hopeful?" said Bulstrode, when
Lydgate had ended giving his orders.
"Unless there turn out to be further complications, such as I have not
at present detected—yes," said Lydgate. "He may pass on to a worse
stage; but I should not wonder if he got better in a few days, by
adhering to the treatment I have prescribed. There must be firmness.
Remember, if he calls for liquors of any sort, not to give them to him.
In my opinion, men in his condition are oftener killed by treatment
than by the disease. Still, new symptoms may arise. I shall come
again to-morrow morning."
After waiting for the note to be carried to Mrs. Bulstrode, Lydgate
rode away, forming no conjectures, in the first instance, about the
history of Raffles, but rehearsing the whole argument, which had lately
been much stirred by the publication of Dr. Ware's abundant experience
in America, as to the right way of treating cases of alcoholic
poisoning such as this. Lydgate, when abroad, had already been
interested in this question: he was strongly convinced against the
prevalent practice of allowing alcohol and persistently administering
large doses of opium; and he had repeatedly acted on this conviction
with a favorable result.
"The man is in a diseased state," he thought, "but there's a good deal
of wear in him still. I suppose he is an object of charity to
Bulstrode. It is curious what patches of hardness and tenderness lie
side by side in men's dispositions. Bulstrode seems the most
unsympathetic fellow I ever saw about some people, and yet he has taken
no end of trouble, and spent a great deal of money, on benevolent
objects. I suppose he has some test by which he finds out whom Heaven
cares for—he has made up his mind that it doesn't care for me."
This streak of bitterness came from a plenteous source, and kept
widening in the current of his thought as he neared Lowick Gate. He
had not been there since his first interview with Bulstrode in the
morning, having been found at the Hospital by the banker's messenger;
and for the first time he was returning to his home without the vision
of any expedient in the background which left him a hope of raising
money enough to deliver him from the coming destitution of everything
which made his married life tolerable—everything which saved him and
Rosamond from that bare isolation in which they would be forced to
recognize how little of a comfort they could be to each other. It was
more bearable to do without tenderness for himself than to see that his
own tenderness could make no amends for the lack of other things to
her. The sufferings of his own pride from humiliations past and to
come were keen enough, yet they were hardly distinguishable to himself
from that more acute pain which dominated them—the pain of foreseeing
that Rosamond would come to regard him chiefly as the cause of
disappointment and unhappiness to her. He had never liked the
makeshifts of poverty, and they had never before entered into his
prospects for himself; but he was beginning now to imagine how two
creatures who loved each other, and had a stock of thoughts in common,
might laugh over their shabby furniture, and their calculations how far
they could afford butter and eggs. But the glimpse of that poetry
seemed as far off from him as the carelessness of the golden age; in
poor Rosamond's mind there was not room enough for luxuries to look
small in. He got down from his horse in a very sad mood, and went into
the house, not expecting to be cheered except by his dinner, and
reflecting that before the evening closed it would be wise to tell
Rosamond of his application to Bulstrode and its failure. It would be
well not to lose time in preparing her for the worst.
But his dinner waited long for him before he was able to eat it. For
on entering he found that Dover's agent had already put a man in the
house, and when he asked where Mrs. Lydgate was, he was told that she
was in her bedroom. He went up and found her stretched on the bed pale
and silent, without an answer even in her face to any word or look of
his. He sat down by the bed and leaning over her said with almost a
cry of prayer—
"Forgive me for this misery, my poor Rosamond! Let us only love one
She looked at him silently, still with the blank despair on her face;
but then the tears began to fill her blue eyes, and her lip trembled.
The strong man had had too much to bear that day. He let his head fall
beside hers and sobbed.
He did not hinder her from going to her father early in the morning—it
seemed now that he ought not to hinder her from doing as she
pleased. In half an hour she came back, and said that papa and mamma
wished her to go and stay with them while things were in this miserable
state. Papa said he could do nothing about the debt—if he paid this,
there would be half-a-dozen more. She had better come back home again
till Lydgate had got a comfortable home for her. "Do you object,
"Do as you like," said Lydgate. "But things are not coming to a crisis
immediately. There is no hurry."
"I should not go till to-morrow," said Rosamond; "I shall want to pack
"Oh, I would wait a little longer than to-morrow—there is no knowing
what may happen," said Lydgate, with bitter irony. "I may get my neck
broken, and that may make things easier to you."
It was Lydgate's misfortune and Rosamond's too, that his tenderness
towards her, which was both an emotional prompting and a
well-considered resolve, was inevitably interrupted by these outbursts
of indignation either ironical or remonstrant. She thought them
totally unwarranted, and the repulsion which this exceptional severity
excited in her was in danger of making the more persistent tenderness
"I see you do not wish me to go," she said, with chill mildness; "why
can you not say so, without that kind of violence? I shall stay until
you request me to do otherwise."
Lydgate said no more, but went out on his rounds. He felt bruised and
shattered, and there was a dark line under his eyes which Rosamond had
not seen before. She could not bear to look at him. Tertius had a way
of taking things which made them a great deal worse for her.
Our deeds still travel with us from afar,
And what we have been makes us what we are."
Bulstrode's first object after Lydgate had left Stone Court was to
examine Raffles's pockets, which he imagined were sure to carry signs
in the shape of hotel-bills of the places he had stopped in, if he had
not told the truth in saying that he had come straight from Liverpool
because he was ill and had no money. There were various bills crammed
into his pocketbook, but none of a later date than Christmas at any
other place, except one, which bore date that morning. This was
crumpled up with a hand-bill about a horse-fair in one of his
tail-pockets, and represented the cost of three days' stay at an inn at
Bilkley, where the fair was held—a town at least forty miles from
Middlemarch. The bill was heavy, and since Raffles had no luggage with
him, it seemed probable that he had left his portmanteau behind in
payment, in order to save money for his travelling fare; for his purse
was empty, and he had only a couple of sixpences and some loose pence
in his pockets.
Bulstrode gathered a sense of safety from these indications that
Raffles had really kept at a distance from Middlemarch since his
memorable visit at Christmas. At a distance and among people who were
strangers to Bulstrode, what satisfaction could there be to Raffles's
tormenting, self-magnifying vein in telling old scandalous stories
about a Middlemarch banker? And what harm if he did talk? The chief
point now was to keep watch over him as long as there was any danger of
that intelligible raving, that unaccountable impulse to tell, which
seemed to have acted towards Caleb Garth; and Bulstrode felt much
anxiety lest some such impulse should come over him at the sight of
Lydgate. He sat up alone with him through the night, only ordering the
housekeeper to lie down in her clothes, so as to be ready when he
called her, alleging his own indisposition to sleep, and his anxiety to
carry out the doctor's orders. He did carry them out faithfully,
although Raffles was incessantly asking for brandy, and declaring that
he was sinking away—that the earth was sinking away from under him.
He was restless and sleepless, but still quailing and manageable. On
the offer of the food ordered by Lydgate, which he refused, and the
denial of other things which he demanded, he seemed to concentrate all
his terror on Bulstrode, imploringly deprecating his anger, his revenge
on him by starvation, and declaring with strong oaths that he had never
told any mortal a word against him. Even this Bulstrode felt that he
would not have liked Lydgate to hear; but a more alarming sign of
fitful alternation in his delirium was, that in-the morning twilight
Raffles suddenly seemed to imagine a doctor present, addressing him and
declaring that Bulstrode wanted to starve him to death out of revenge
for telling, when he never had told.
Bulstrode's native imperiousness and strength of determination served
him well. This delicate-looking man, himself nervously perturbed,
found the needed stimulus in his strenuous circumstances, and through
that difficult night and morning, while he had the air of an animated
corpse returned to movement without warmth, holding the mastery by its
chill impassibility his mind was intensely at work thinking of what he
had to guard against and what would win him security. Whatever prayers
he might lift up, whatever statements he might inwardly make of this
man's wretched spiritual condition, and the duty he himself was under
to submit to the punishment divinely appointed for him rather than to
wish for evil to another—through all this effort to condense words
into a solid mental state, there pierced and spread with irresistible
vividness the images of the events he desired. And in the train of
those images came their apology. He could not but see the death of
Raffles, and see in it his own deliverance. What was the removal of
this wretched creature? He was impenitent—but were not public
criminals impenitent?—yet the law decided on their fate. Should
Providence in this case award death, there was no sin in contemplating
death as the desirable issue—if he kept his hands from hastening
it—if he scrupulously did what was prescribed. Even here there might
be a mistake: human prescriptions were fallible things: Lydgate had
said that treatment had hastened death,—why not his own method of
treatment? But of course intention was everything in the question of
right and wrong.
And Bulstrode set himself to keep his intention separate from his
desire. He inwardly declared that he intended to obey orders. Why
should he have got into any argument about the validity of these
orders? It was only the common trick of desire—which avails itself of
any irrelevant scepticism, finding larger room for itself in all
uncertainty about effects, in every obscurity that looks like the
absence of law. Still, he did obey the orders.
His anxieties continually glanced towards Lydgate, and his remembrance
of what had taken place between them the morning before was accompanied
with sensibilities which had not been roused at all during the actual
scene. He had then cared but little about Lydgate's painful
impressions with regard to the suggested change in the Hospital, or
about the disposition towards himself which what he held to be his
justifiable refusal of a rather exorbitant request might call forth.
He recurred to the scene now with a perception that he had probably
made Lydgate his enemy, and with an awakened desire to propitiate him,
or rather to create in him a strong sense of personal obligation. He
regretted that he had not at once made even an unreasonable
money-sacrifice. For in case of unpleasant suspicions, or even
knowledge gathered from the raving of Raffles, Bulstrode would have
felt that he had a defence in Lydgate's mind by having conferred a
momentous benefit on him. But the regret had perhaps come too late.
Strange, piteous conflict in the soul of this unhappy man, who had
longed for years to be better than he was—who had taken his selfish
passions into discipline and clad them in severe robes, so that he had
walked with them as a devout choir, till now that a terror had risen
among them, and they could chant no longer, but threw out their common
cries for safety.
It was nearly the middle of the day before Lydgate arrived: he had
meant to come earlier, but had been detained, he said; and his
shattered looks were noticed by Balstrode. But he immediately threw
himself into the consideration of the patient, and inquired strictly
into all that had occurred. Raffles was worse, would take hardly any
food, was persistently wakeful and restlessly raving; but still not
violent. Contrary to Bulstrode's alarmed expectation, he took little
notice of Lydgate's presence, and continued to talk or murmur
"What do you think of him?" said Bulstrode, in private.
"The symptoms are worse."
"You are less hopeful?"
"No; I still think he may come round. Are you going to stay here
yourself?" said Lydgate, looking at Bulstrode with an abrupt question,
which made him uneasy, though in reality it was not due to any
"Yes, I think so," said Bulstrode, governing himself and speaking with
deliberation. "Mrs. Bulstrode is advised of the reasons which detain
me. Mrs. Abel and her husband are not experienced enough to be left
quite alone, and this kind of responsibility is scarcely included in
their service of me. You have some fresh instructions, I presume."
The chief new instruction that Lydgate had to give was on the
administration of extremely moderate doses of opium, in case of the
sleeplessness continuing after several hours. He had taken the
precaution of bringing opium in his pocket, and he gave minute
directions to Bulstrode as to the doses, and the point at which they
should cease. He insisted on the risk of not ceasing; and repeated his
order that no alcohol should be given.
"From what I see of the case," he ended, "narcotism is the only thing I
should be much afraid of. He may wear through even without much food.
There's a good deal of strength in him."
"You look ill yourself, Mr. Lydgate—a most unusual, I may say
unprecedented thing in my knowledge of you," said Bulstrode, showing a
solicitude as unlike his indifference the day before, as his present
recklessness about his own fatigue was unlike his habitual
self-cherishing anxiety. "I fear you are harassed."
"Yes, I am," said Lydgate, brusquely, holding his hat, and ready to go.
"Something new, I fear," said Bulstrode, inquiringly. "Pray be seated."
"No, thank you," said Lydgate, with some hauteur. "I mentioned to you
yesterday what was the state of my affairs. There is nothing to add,
except that the execution has since then been actually put into my
house. One can tell a good deal of trouble in a short sentence. I
will say good morning."
"Stay, Mr. Lydgate, stay," said Bulstrode; "I have been reconsidering
this subject. I was yesterday taken by surprise, and saw it
superficially. Mrs. Bulstrode is anxious for her niece, and I myself
should grieve at a calamitous change in your position. Claims on me
are numerous, but on reconsideration, I esteem it right that I should
incur a small sacrifice rather than leave you unaided. You said, I
think, that a thousand pounds would suffice entirely to free you from
your burthens, and enable you to recover a firm stand?"
"Yes," said Lydgate, a great leap of joy within him surmounting every
other feeling; "that would pay all my debts, and leave me a little on
hand. I could set about economizing in our way of living. And
by-and-by my practice might look up."
"If you will wait a moment, Mr. Lydgate, I will draw a check to that
amount. I am aware that help, to be effectual in these cases, should
While Bulstrode wrote, Lydgate turned to the window thinking of his
home—thinking of his life with its good start saved from frustration,
its good purposes still unbroken.
"You can give me a note of hand for this, Mr. Lydgate," said the
banker, advancing towards him with the check. "And by-and-by, I hope,
you may be in circumstances gradually to repay me. Meanwhile, I have
pleasure in thinking that you will be released from further difficulty."
"I am deeply obliged to you," said Lydgate. "You have restored to me
the prospect of working with some happiness and some chance of good."
It appeared to him a very natural movement in Bulstrode that he should
have reconsidered his refusal: it corresponded with the more munificent
side of his character. But as he put his hack into a canter, that he
might get the sooner home, and tell the good news to Rosamond, and get
cash at the bank to pay over to Dover's agent, there crossed his mind,
with an unpleasant impression, as from a dark-winged flight of evil
augury across his vision, the thought of that contrast in himself which
a few months had brought—that he should be overjoyed at being under a
strong personal obligation—that he should be overjoyed at getting
money for himself from Bulstrode.
The banker felt that he had done something to nullify one cause of
uneasiness, and yet he was scarcely the easier. He did not measure the
quantity of diseased motive which had made him wish for Lydgate's
good-will, but the quantity was none the less actively there, like an
irritating agent in his blood. A man vows, and yet will not cast away
the means of breaking his vow. Is it that he distinctly means to break
it? Not at all; but the desires which tend to break it are at work in
him dimly, and make their way into his imagination, and relax his
muscles in the very moments when he is telling himself over again the
reasons for his vow. Raffles, recovering quickly, returning to the
free use of his odious powers—how could Bulstrode wish for that?
Raffles dead was the image that brought release, and indirectly he
prayed for that way of release, beseeching that, if it were possible,
the rest of his days here below might be freed from the threat of an
ignominy which would break him utterly as an instrument of God's
service. Lydgate's opinion was not on the side of promise that this
prayer would be fulfilled; and as the day advanced, Bulstrode felt
himself getting irritated at the persistent life in this man, whom he
would fain have seen sinking into the silence of death: imperious will
stirred murderous impulses towards this brute life, over which will, by
itself, had no power. He said inwardly that he was getting too much
worn; he would not sit up with the patient to-night, but leave him to
Mrs. Abel, who, if necessary, could call her husband.
At six o'clock, Raffles, having had only fitful perturbed snatches of
sleep, from which he waked with fresh restlessness and perpetual cries
that he was sinking away, Bulstrode began to administer the opium
according to Lydgate's directions. At the end of half an hour or more
he called Mrs. Abel and told her that he found himself unfit for
further watching. He must now consign the patient to her care; and he
proceeded to repeat to her Lydgate's directions as to the quantity of
each dose. Mrs. Abel had not before known anything of Lydgate's
prescriptions; she had simply prepared and brought whatever Bulstrode
ordered, and had done what he pointed out to her. She began now to ask
what else she should do besides administering the opium.
"Nothing at present, except the offer of the soup or the soda-water:
you can come to me for further directions. Unless there is any
important change, I shall not come into the room again to-night. You
will ask your husband for help if necessary. I must go to bed early."
"You've much need, sir, I'm sure," said Mrs. Abel, "and to take
something more strengthening than what you've done."
Bulstrode went away now without anxiety as to what Raffles might say in
his raving, which had taken on a muttering incoherence not likely to
create any dangerous belief. At any rate he must risk this. He went
down into the wainscoted parlor first, and began to consider whether he
would not have his horse saddled and go home by the moonlight, and give
up caring for earthly consequences. Then, he wished that he had begged
Lydgate to come again that evening. Perhaps he might deliver a
different opinion, and think that Raffles was getting into a less
hopeful state. Should he send for Lydgate? If Raffles were really
getting worse, and slowly dying, Bulstrode felt that he could go to bed
and sleep in gratitude to Providence. But was he worse? Lydgate might
come and simply say that he was going on as he expected, and predict
that he would by-and-by fall into a good sleep, and get well. What was
the use of sending for him? Bulstrode shrank from that result. No
ideas or opinions could hinder him from seeing the one probability to
be, that Raffles recovered would be just the same man as before, with
his strength as a tormentor renewed, obliging him to drag away his wife
to spend her years apart from her friends and native place, carrying an
alienating suspicion against him in her heart.
He had sat an hour and a half in this conflict by the firelight only,
when a sudden thought made him rise and light the bed-candle, which he
had brought down with him. The thought was, that he had not told Mrs.
Abel when the doses of opium must cease.
He took hold of the candlestick, but stood motionless for a long while.
She might already have given him more than Lydgate had prescribed. But
it was excusable in him, that he should forget part of an order, in his
present wearied condition. He walked up-stairs, candle in hand, not
knowing whether he should straightway enter his own room and go to bed,
or turn to the patient's room and rectify his omission. He paused in
the passage, with his face turned towards Raffles's room, and he could
hear him moaning and murmuring. He was not asleep, then. Who could
know that Lydgate's prescription would not be better disobeyed than
followed, since there was still no sleep?
He turned into his own room. Before he had quite undressed, Mrs. Abel
rapped at the door; he opened it an inch, so that he could hear her
"If you please, sir, should I have no brandy nor nothing to give the
poor creetur? He feels sinking away, and nothing else will he
swaller—and but little strength in it, if he did—only the opium. And
he says more and more he's sinking down through the earth."
To her surprise, Mr. Bulstrode did not answer. A struggle was going on
"I think he must die for want o' support, if he goes on in that way.
When I nursed my poor master, Mr. Robisson, I had to give him port-wine
and brandy constant, and a big glass at a time," added Mrs. Abel, with
a touch of remonstrance in her tone.
But again Mr. Bulstrode did not answer immediately, and she continued,
"It's not a time to spare when people are at death's door, nor would
you wish it, sir, I'm sure. Else I should give him our own bottle o'
rum as we keep by us. But a sitter-up so as you've been, and doing
everything as laid in your power—"
Here a key was thrust through the inch of doorway, and Mr. Bulstrode
said huskily, "That is the key of the wine-cooler. You will find plenty
of brandy there."
Early in the morning—about six—Mr. Bulstrode rose and spent some time
in prayer. Does any one suppose that private prayer is necessarily
candid—necessarily goes to the roots of action? Private prayer is
inaudible speech, and speech is representative: who can represent
himself just as he is, even in his own reflections? Bulstrode had not
yet unravelled in his thought the confused promptings of the last
He listened in the passage, and could hear hard stertorous breathing.
Then he walked out in the garden, and looked at the early rime on the
grass and fresh spring leaves. When he re-entered the house, he felt
startled at the sight of Mrs. Abel.
"How is your patient—asleep, I think?" he said, with an attempt at
cheerfulness in his tone.
"He's gone very deep, sir," said Mrs. Abel. "He went off gradual
between three and four o'clock. Would you please to go and look at
him? I thought it no harm to leave him. My man's gone afield, and the
little girl's seeing to the kettles."
Bulstrode went up. At a glance he knew that Raffles was not in the
sleep which brings revival, but in the sleep which streams deeper and
deeper into the gulf of death.
He looked round the room and saw a bottle with some brandy in it, and
the almost empty opium phial. He put the phial out of sight, and
carried the brandy-bottle down-stairs with him, locking it again in the
While breakfasting he considered whether he should ride to Middlemarch
at once, or wait for Lydgate's arrival. He decided to wait, and told
Mrs. Abel that she might go about her work—he could watch in the
As he sat there and beheld the enemy of his peace going irrevocably
into silence, he felt more at rest than he had done for many months.
His conscience was soothed by the enfolding wing of secrecy, which
seemed just then like an angel sent down for his relief. He drew out
his pocket-book to review various memoranda there as to the
arrangements he had projected and partly carried out in the prospect of
quitting Middlemarch, and considered how far he would let them stand or
recall them, now that his absence would be brief. Some economies which
he felt desirable might still find a suitable occasion in his temporary
withdrawal from management, and he hoped still that Mrs. Casaubon would
take a large share in the expenses of the Hospital. In that way the
moments passed, until a change in the stertorous breathing was marked
enough to draw his attention wholly to the bed, and forced him to think
of the departing life, which had once been subservient to his
own—which he had once been glad to find base enough for him to act on
as he would. It was his gladness then which impelled him now to be
glad that the life was at an end.
And who could say that the death of Raffles had been hastened? Who
knew what would have saved him?
Lydgate arrived at half-past ten, in time to witness the final pause of
the breath. When he entered the room Bulstrode observed a sudden
expression in his face, which was not so much surprise as a recognition
that he had not judged correctly. He stood by the bed in silence for
some time, with his eyes turned on the dying man, but with that subdued
activity of expression which showed that he was carrying on an inward
"When did this change begin?" said he, looking at Bulstrode.
"I did not watch by him last night," said Bulstrode. "I was over-worn,
and left him under Mrs. Abel's care. She said that he sank into sleep
between three and four o'clock. When I came in before eight he was
nearly in this condition."
Lydgate did not ask another question, but watched in silence until he
said, "It's all over."
This morning Lydgate was in a state of recovered hope and freedom. He
had set out on his work with all his old animation, and felt himself
strong enough to bear all the deficiencies of his married life. And he
was conscious that Bulstrode had been a benefactor to him. But he was
uneasy about this case. He had not expected it to terminate as it had
done. Yet he hardly knew how to put a question on the subject to
Bulstrode without appearing to insult him; and if he examined the
housekeeper—why, the man was dead. There seemed to be no use in
implying that somebody's ignorance or imprudence had killed him. And
after all, he himself might be wrong.
He and Bulstrode rode back to Middlemarch together, talking of many
things—chiefly cholera and the chances of the Reform Bill in the House
of Lords, and the firm resolve of the political Unions. Nothing was
said about Raffles, except that Bulstrode mentioned the necessity of
having a grave for him in Lowick churchyard, and observed that, so far
as he knew, the poor man had no connections, except Rigg, whom he had
stated to be unfriendly towards him.
On returning home Lydgate had a visit from Mr. Farebrother. The Vicar
had not been in the town the day before, but the news that there was an
execution in Lydgate's house had got to Lowick by the evening, having
been carried by Mr. Spicer, shoemaker and parish-clerk, who had it from
his brother, the respectable bell-hanger in Lowick Gate. Since that
evening when Lydgate had come down from the billiard room with Fred
Vincy, Mr. Farebrother's thoughts about him had been rather gloomy.
Playing at the Green Dragon once or oftener might have been a trifle in
another man; but in Lydgate it was one of several signs that he was
getting unlike his former self. He was beginning to do things for
which he had formerly even an excessive scorn. Whatever certain
dissatisfactions in marriage, which some silly tinklings of gossip had
given him hints of, might have to do with this change, Mr. Farebrother
felt sure that it was chiefly connected with the debts which were being
more and more distinctly reported, and he began to fear that any notion
of Lydgate's having resources or friends in the background must be
quite illusory. The rebuff he had met with in his first attempt to win
Lydgate's confidence, disinclined him to a second; but this news of the
execution being actually in the house, determined the Vicar to overcome
Lydgate had just dismissed a poor patient, in whom he was much
interested, and he came forward to put out his hand—with an open
cheerfulness which surprised Mr. Farebrother. Could this too be a
proud rejection of sympathy and help? Never mind; the sympathy and
help should be offered.
"How are you, Lydgate? I came to see you because I had heard something
which made me anxious about you," said the Vicar, in the tone of a good
brother, only that there was no reproach in it. They were both seated
by this time, and Lydgate answered immediately—
"I think I know what you mean. You had heard that there was an
execution in the house?"
"Yes; is it true?"
"It was true," said Lydgate, with an air of freedom, as if he did not
mind talking about the affair now. "But the danger is over; the debt
is paid. I am out of my difficulties now: I shall be freed from debts,
and able, I hope, to start afresh on a better plan."
"I am very thankful to hear it," said the Vicar, falling back in his
chair, and speaking with that low-toned quickness which often follows
the removal of a load. "I like that better than all the news in the
'Times.' I confess I came to you with a heavy heart."
"Thank you for coming," said Lydgate, cordially. "I can enjoy the
kindness all the more because I am happier. I have certainly been a
good deal crushed. I'm afraid I shall find the bruises still painful
by-and by," he added, smiling rather sadly; "but just now I can only
feel that the torture-screw is off."
Mr. Farebrother was silent for a moment, and then said earnestly, "My
dear fellow, let me ask you one question. Forgive me if I take a
"I don't believe you will ask anything that ought to offend me."
"Then—this is necessary to set my heart quite at rest—you have
not—have you?—in order to pay your debts, incurred another debt which
may harass you worse hereafter?"
"No," said Lydgate, coloring slightly. "There is no reason why I
should not tell you—since the fact is so—that the person to whom I am
indebted is Bulstrode. He has made me a very handsome advance—a
thousand pounds—and he can afford to wait for repayment."
"Well, that is generous," said Mr. Farebrother, compelling himself to
approve of the man whom he disliked. His delicate feeling shrank from
dwelling even in his thought on the fact that he had always urged
Lydgate to avoid any personal entanglement with Bulstrode. He added
immediately, "And Bulstrode must naturally feel an interest in your
welfare, after you have worked with him in a way which has probably
reduced your income instead of adding to it. I am glad to think that
he has acted accordingly."
Lydgate felt uncomfortable under these kindly suppositions. They made
more distinct within him the uneasy consciousness which had shown its
first dim stirrings only a few hours before, that Bulstrode's motives
for his sudden beneficence following close upon the chillest
indifference might be merely selfish. He let the kindly suppositions
pass. He could not tell the history of the loan, but it was more
vividly present with him than ever, as well as the fact which the Vicar
delicately ignored—that this relation of personal indebtedness to
Bulstrode was what he had once been most resolved to avoid.
He began, instead of answering, to speak of his projected economies,
and of his having come to look at his life from a different point of
"I shall set up a surgery," he said. "I really think I made a mistaken
effort in that respect. And if Rosamond will not mind, I shall take an
apprentice. I don't like these things, but if one carries them out
faithfully they are not really lowering. I have had a severe galling
to begin with: that will make the small rubs seem easy."
Poor Lydgate! the "if Rosamond will not mind," which had fallen from
him involuntarily as part of his thought, was a significant mark of the
yoke he bore. But Mr. Farebrother, whose hopes entered strongly into
the same current with Lydgate's, and who knew nothing about him that
could now raise a melancholy presentiment, left him with affectionate
Clown. . . . 'Twas in the Bunch of Grapes, where, indeed,
you have a delight to sit, have you not?
Froth. I have so: because it is an open room, and good for winter.
Clo. Why, very well then: I hope here be truths.
—Measure for Measure.
Five days after the death of Raffles, Mr. Bambridge was standing at his
leisure under the large archway leading into the yard of the Green
Dragon. He was not fond of solitary contemplation, but he had only
just come out of the house, and any human figure standing at ease under
the archway in the early afternoon was as certain to attract
companionship as a pigeon which has found something worth pecking at.
In this case there was no material object to feed upon, but the eye of
reason saw a probability of mental sustenance in the shape of gossip.
Mr. Hopkins, the meek-mannered draper opposite, was the first to act on
this inward vision, being the more ambitious of a little masculine talk
because his customers were chiefly women. Mr. Bambridge was rather
curt to the draper, feeling that Hopkins was of course glad to talk to
him, but that he was not going to waste much of his talk on Hopkins.
Soon, however, there was a small cluster of more important listeners,
who were either deposited from the passers-by, or had sauntered to the
spot expressly to see if there were anything going on at the Green
Dragon; and Mr. Bambridge was finding it worth his while to say many
impressive things about the fine studs he had been seeing and the
purchases he had made on a journey in the north from which he had just
returned. Gentlemen present were assured that when they could show him
anything to cut out a blood mare, a bay, rising four, which was to be
seen at Doncaster if they chose to go and look at it, Mr. Bambridge
would gratify them by being shot "from here to Hereford." Also, a pair
of blacks which he was going to put into the break recalled vividly to
his mind a pair which he had sold to Faulkner in '19, for a hundred
guineas, and which Faulkner had sold for a hundred and sixty two months
later—any gent who could disprove this statement being offered the
privilege of calling Mr. Bambridge by a very ugly name until the
exercise made his throat dry.
When the discourse was at this point of animation, came up Mr. Frank
Hawley. He was not a man to compromise his dignity by lounging at the
Green Dragon, but happening to pass along the High Street and seeing
Bambridge on the other side, he took some of his long strides across to
ask the horsedealer whether he had found the first-rate gig-horse which
he had engaged to look for. Mr. Hawley was requested to wait until he
had seen a gray selected at Bilkley: if that did not meet his wishes to
a hair, Bambridge did not know a horse when he saw it, which seemed to
be the highest conceivable unlikelihood. Mr. Hawley, standing with his
back to the street, was fixing a time for looking at the gray and
seeing it tried, when a horseman passed slowly by.
"Bulstrode!" said two or three voices at once in a low tone, one of
them, which was the draper's, respectfully prefixing the "Mr.;" but
nobody having more intention in this interjectural naming than if they
had said "the Riverston coach" when that vehicle appeared in the
distance. Mr. Hawley gave a careless glance round at Bulstrode's back,
but as Bambridge's eyes followed it he made a sarcastic grimace.
"By jingo! that reminds me," he began, lowering his voice a little, "I
picked up something else at Bilkley besides your gig-horse, Mr. Hawley.
I picked up a fine story about Bulstrode. Do you know how he came by
his fortune? Any gentleman wanting a bit of curious information, I can
give it him free of expense. If everybody got their deserts, Bulstrode
might have had to say his prayers at Botany Bay."
"What do you mean?" said Mr. Hawley, thrusting his hands into his
pockets, and pushing a little forward under the archway. If Bulstrode
should turn out to be a rascal, Frank Hawley had a prophetic soul.
"I had it from a party who was an old chum of Bulstrode's. I'll tell
you where I first picked him up," said Bambridge, with a sudden gesture
of his fore-finger. "He was at Larcher's sale, but I knew nothing of
him then—he slipped through my fingers—was after Bulstrode, no
doubt. He tells me he can tap Bulstrode to any amount, knows all his
secrets. However, he blabbed to me at Bilkley: he takes a stiff glass.
Damme if I think he meant to turn king's evidence; but he's that sort
of bragging fellow, the bragging runs over hedge and ditch with him,
till he'd brag of a spavin as if it 'ud fetch money. A man should know
when to pull up." Mr. Bambridge made this remark with an air of
disgust, satisfied that his own bragging showed a fine sense of the
"What's the man's name? Where can he be found?" said Mr. Hawley.
"As to where he is to be found, I left him to it at the Saracen's Head;
but his name is Raffles."
"Raffles!" exclaimed Mr. Hopkins. "I furnished his funeral yesterday.
He was buried at Lowick. Mr. Bulstrode followed him. A very decent
funeral." There was a strong sensation among the listeners. Mr.
Bambridge gave an ejaculation in which "brimstone" was the mildest
word, and Mr. Hawley, knitting his brows and bending his head forward,
exclaimed, "What?—where did the man die?"
"At Stone Court," said the draper. "The housekeeper said he was a
relation of the master's. He came there ill on Friday."
"Why, it was on Wednesday I took a glass with him," interposed
"Did any doctor attend him?" said Mr. Hawley
"Yes. Mr. Lydgate. Mr. Bulstrode sat up with him one night. He died
the third morning."
"Go on, Bambridge," said Mr. Hawley, insistently. "What did this
fellow say about Bulstrode?"
The group had already become larger, the town-clerk's presence being a
guarantee that something worth listening to was going on there; and Mr.
Bambridge delivered his narrative in the hearing of seven. It was
mainly what we know, including the fact about Will Ladislaw, with some
local color and circumstance added: it was what Bulstrode had dreaded
the betrayal of—and hoped to have buried forever with the corpse of
Raffles—it was that haunting ghost of his earlier life which as he
rode past the archway of the Green Dragon he was trusting that
Providence had delivered him from. Yes, Providence. He had not
confessed to himself yet that he had done anything in the way of
contrivance to this end; he had accepted what seemed to have been
offered. It was impossible to prove that he had done anything which
hastened the departure of that man's soul.
But this gossip about Bulstrode spread through Middlemarch like the
smell of fire. Mr. Frank Hawley followed up his information by sending
a clerk whom he could trust to Stone Court on a pretext of inquiring
about hay, but really to gather all that could be learned about Raffles
and his illness from Mrs. Abel. In this way it came to his knowledge
that Mr. Garth had carried the man to Stone Court in his gig; and Mr.
Hawley in consequence took an opportunity of seeing Caleb, calling at
his office to ask whether he had time to undertake an arbitration if it
were required, and then asking him incidentally about Raffles. Caleb
was betrayed into no word injurious to Bulstrode beyond the fact which
he was forced to admit, that he had given up acting for him within the
last week. Mr Hawley drew his inferences, and feeling convinced that
Raffles had told his story to Garth, and that Garth had given up
Bulstrode's affairs in consequence, said so a few hours later to Mr.
Toller. The statement was passed on until it had quite lost the stamp
of an inference, and was taken as information coming straight from
Garth, so that even a diligent historian might have concluded Caleb to
be the chief publisher of Bulstrode's misdemeanors.
Mr. Hawley was not slow to perceive that there was no handle for the
law either in the revelations made by Raffles or in the circumstances
of his death. He had himself ridden to Lowick village that he might
look at the register and talk over the whole matter with Mr.
Farebrother, who was not more surprised than the lawyer that an ugly
secret should have come to light about Bulstrode, though he had always
had justice enough in him to hinder his antipathy from turning into
conclusions. But while they were talking another combination was
silently going forward in Mr. Farebrother's mind, which foreshadowed
what was soon to be loudly spoken of in Middlemarch as a necessary
"putting of two and two together." With the reasons which kept
Bulstrode in dread of Raffles there flashed the thought that the dread
might have something to do with his munificence towards his medical
man; and though he resisted the suggestion that it had been consciously
accepted in any way as a bribe, he had a foreboding that this
complication of things might be of malignant effect on Lydgate's
reputation. He perceived that Mr. Hawley knew nothing at present of
the sudden relief from debt, and he himself was careful to glide away
from all approaches towards the subject.
"Well," he said, with a deep breath, wanting to wind up the illimitable
discussion of what might have been, though nothing could be legally
proven, "it is a strange story. So our mercurial Ladislaw has a queer
genealogy! A high-spirited young lady and a musical Polish patriot
made a likely enough stock for him to spring from, but I should never
have suspected a grafting of the Jew pawnbroker. However, there's no
knowing what a mixture will turn out beforehand. Some sorts of dirt
serve to clarify."
"It's just what I should have expected," said Mr. Hawley, mounting his
horse. "Any cursed alien blood, Jew, Corsican, or Gypsy."
"I know he's one of your black sheep, Hawley. But he is really a
disinterested, unworldly fellow," said Mr. Farebrother, smiling.
"Ay, ay, that is your Whiggish twist," said Mr. Hawley, who had been in
the habit of saying apologetically that Farebrother was such a damned
pleasant good-hearted fellow you would mistake him for a Tory.
Mr. Hawley rode home without thinking of Lydgate's attendance on
Raffles in any other light than as a piece of evidence on the side of
Bulstrode. But the news that Lydgate had all at once become able not
only to get rid of the execution in his house but to pay all his debts
in Middlemarch was spreading fast, gathering round it conjectures and
comments which gave it new body and impetus, and soon filling the ears
of other persons besides Mr. Hawley, who were not slow to see a
significant relation between this sudden command of money and
Bulstrode's desire to stifle the scandal of Raffles. That the money
came from Bulstrode would infallibly have been guessed even if there
had been no direct evidence of it; for it had beforehand entered into
the gossip about Lydgate's affairs, that neither his father-in-law nor
his own family would do anything for him, and direct evidence was
furnished not only by a clerk at the Bank, but by innocent Mrs.
Bulstrode herself, who mentioned the loan to Mrs. Plymdale, who
mentioned it to her daughter-in-law of the house of Toller, who
mentioned it generally. The business was felt to be so public and
important that it required dinners to feed it, and many invitations
were just then issued and accepted on the strength of this scandal
concerning Bulstrode and Lydgate; wives, widows, and single ladies took
their work and went out to tea oftener than usual; and all public
conviviality, from the Green Dragon to Dollop's, gathered a zest which
could not be won from the question whether the Lords would throw out
the Reform Bill.
For hardly anybody doubted that some scandalous reason or other was at
the bottom of Bulstrode's liberality to Lydgate. Mr. Hawley indeed, in
the first instance, invited a select party, including the two
physicians, with Mr Toller and Mr. Wrench, expressly to hold a close
discussion as to the probabilities of Raffles's illness, reciting to
them all the particulars which had been gathered from Mrs. Abel in
connection with Lydgate's certificate, that the death was due to
delirium tremens; and the medical gentlemen, who all stood
undisturbedly on the old paths in relation to this disease, declared
that they could see nothing in these particulars which could be
transformed into a positive ground of suspicion. But the moral grounds
of suspicion remained: the strong motives Bulstrode clearly had for
wishing to be rid of Raffles, and the fact that at this critical moment
he had given Lydgate the help which he must for some time have known
the need for; the disposition, moreover, to believe that Bulstrode
would be unscrupulous, and the absence of any indisposition to believe
that Lydgate might be as easily bribed as other haughty-minded men when
they have found themselves in want of money. Even if the money had
been given merely to make him hold his tongue about the scandal of
Bulstrode's earlier life, the fact threw an odious light on Lydgate,
who had long been sneered at as making himself subservient to the
banker for the sake of working himself into predominance, and
discrediting the elder members of his profession. Hence, in spite of
the negative as to any direct sign of guilt in relation to the death at
Stone Court, Mr. Hawley's select party broke up with the sense that the
affair had "an ugly look."
But this vague conviction of indeterminable guilt, which was enough to
keep up much head-shaking and biting innuendo even among substantial
professional seniors, had for the general mind all the superior power
of mystery over fact. Everybody liked better to conjecture how the
thing was, than simply to know it; for conjecture soon became more
confident than knowledge, and had a more liberal allowance for the
incompatible. Even the more definite scandal concerning Bulstrode's
earlier life was, for some minds, melted into the mass of mystery, as
so much lively metal to be poured out in dialogue, and to take such
fantastic shapes as heaven pleased.
This was the tone of thought chiefly sanctioned by Mrs. Dollop, the
spirited landlady of the Tankard in Slaughter Lane, who had often to
resist the shallow pragmatism of customers disposed to think that their
reports from the outer world were of equal force with what had "come
up" in her mind. How it had been brought to her she didn't know, but
it was there before her as if it had been "scored with the chalk on the
chimney-board—" as Bulstrode should say, "his inside was that black
as if the hairs of his head knowed the thoughts of his heart, he'd tear
'em up by the roots."
"That's odd," said Mr. Limp, a meditative shoemaker, with weak eyes and
a piping voice. "Why, I read in the 'Trumpet' that was what the Duke
of Wellington said when he turned his coat and went over to the Romans."
"Very like," said Mrs. Dollop. "If one raskill said it, it's more
reason why another should. But hypocrite as he's been, and holding
things with that high hand, as there was no parson i' the country good
enough for him, he was forced to take Old Harry into his counsel, and
Old Harry's been too many for him."
"Ay, ay, he's a 'complice you can't send out o' the country," said Mr.
Crabbe, the glazier, who gathered much news and groped among it dimly.
"But by what I can make out, there's them says Bulstrode was for
running away, for fear o' being found out, before now."
"He'll be drove away, whether or no," said Mr. Dill, the barber, who
had just dropped in. "I shaved Fletcher, Hawley's clerk, this
morning—he's got a bad finger—and he says they're all of one mind to
get rid of Bulstrode. Mr. Thesiger is turned against him, and wants
him out o' the parish. And there's gentlemen in this town says they'd
as soon dine with a fellow from the hulks. 'And a deal sooner I
would,' says Fletcher; 'for what's more against one's stomach than a
man coming and making himself bad company with his religion, and giving
out as the Ten Commandments are not enough for him, and all the while
he's worse than half the men at the tread-mill?' Fletcher said so
"It'll be a bad thing for the town though, if Bulstrode's money goes
out of it," said Mr. Limp, quaveringly.
"Ah, there's better folks spend their money worse," said a firm-voiced
dyer, whose crimson hands looked out of keeping with his good-natured
"But he won't keep his money, by what I can make out," said the
glazier. "Don't they say as there's somebody can strip it off him? By
what I can understan', they could take every penny off him, if they
went to lawing."
"No such thing!" said the barber, who felt himself a little above his
company at Dollop's, but liked it none the worse. "Fletcher says it's
no such thing. He says they might prove over and over again whose
child this young Ladislaw was, and they'd do no more than if they
proved I came out of the Fens—he couldn't touch a penny."
"Look you there now!" said Mrs. Dollop, indignantly. "I thank the Lord
he took my children to Himself, if that's all the law can do for the
motherless. Then by that, it's o' no use who your father and mother
is. But as to listening to what one lawyer says without asking
another—I wonder at a man o' your cleverness, Mr. Dill. It's well
known there's always two sides, if no more; else who'd go to law, I
should like to know? It's a poor tale, with all the law as there is up
and down, if it's no use proving whose child you are. Fletcher may say
that if he likes, but I say, don't Fletcher me!"
Mr. Dill affected to laugh in a complimentary way at Mrs. Dollop, as a
woman who was more than a match for the lawyers; being disposed to
submit to much twitting from a landlady who had a long score against
"If they come to lawing, and it's all true as folks say, there's more
to be looked to nor money," said the glazier. "There's this poor
creetur as is dead and gone; by what I can make out, he'd seen the day
when he was a deal finer gentleman nor Bulstrode."
"Finer gentleman! I'll warrant him," said Mrs. Dollop; "and a far
personabler man, by what I can hear. As I said when Mr. Baldwin, the
tax-gatherer, comes in, a-standing where you sit, and says, 'Bulstrode
got all his money as he brought into this town by thieving and
swindling,'—I said, 'You don't make me no wiser, Mr. Baldwin: it's set
my blood a-creeping to look at him ever sin' here he came into
Slaughter Lane a-wanting to buy the house over my head: folks don't
look the color o' the dough-tub and stare at you as if they wanted to
see into your backbone for nothingk.' That was what I said, and Mr.
Baldwin can bear me witness."
"And in the rights of it too," said Mr. Crabbe. "For by what I can
make out, this Raffles, as they call him, was a lusty, fresh-colored
man as you'd wish to see, and the best o' company—though dead he lies
in Lowick churchyard sure enough; and by what I can understan', there's
them knows more than they should know about how he got there."
"I'll believe you!" said Mrs. Dallop, with a touch of scorn at Mr.
Crabbe's apparent dimness. "When a man's been 'ticed to a lone house,
and there's them can pay for hospitals and nurses for half the
country-side choose to be sitters-up night and day, and nobody to come
near but a doctor as is known to stick at nothingk, and as poor as he
can hang together, and after that so flush o' money as he can pay off
Mr. Byles the butcher as his bill has been running on for the best o'
joints since last Michaelmas was a twelvemonth—I don't want anybody to
come and tell me as there's been more going on nor the Prayer-book's
got a service for—I don't want to stand winking and blinking and
Mrs. Dollop looked round with the air of a landlady accustomed to
dominate her company. There was a chorus of adhesion from the more
courageous; but Mr. Limp, after taking a draught, placed his flat hands
together and pressed them hard between his knees, looking down at them
with blear-eyed contemplation, as if the scorching power of Mrs.
Dollop's speech had quite dried up and nullified his wits until they
could be brought round again by further moisture.
"Why shouldn't they dig the man up and have the Crowner?" said the
dyer. "It's been done many and many's the time. If there's been foul
play they might find it out."
"Not they, Mr. Jonas!" said Mrs Dollop, emphatically. "I know what
doctors are. They're a deal too cunning to be found out. And this
Doctor Lydgate that's been for cutting up everybody before the breath
was well out o' their body—it's plain enough what use he wanted to
make o' looking into respectable people's insides. He knows drugs, you
may be sure, as you can neither smell nor see, neither before they're
swallowed nor after. Why, I've seen drops myself ordered by Doctor
Gambit, as is our club doctor and a good charikter, and has brought
more live children into the world nor ever another i' Middlemarch—I
say I've seen drops myself as made no difference whether they was in
the glass or out, and yet have griped you the next day. So I'll leave
your own sense to judge. Don't tell me! All I say is, it's a mercy
they didn't take this Doctor Lydgate on to our club. There's many a
mother's child might ha' rued it."
The heads of this discussion at "Dollop's" had been the common theme
among all classes in the town, had been carried to Lowick Parsonage on
one side and to Tipton Grange on the other, had come fully to the ears
of the Vincy family, and had been discussed with sad reference to "poor
Harriet" by all Mrs. Bulstrode's friends, before Lydgate knew
distinctly why people were looking strangely at him, and before
Bulstrode himself suspected the betrayal of his secrets. He had not
been accustomed to very cordial relations with his neighbors, and hence
he could not miss the signs of cordiality; moreover, he had been taking
journeys on business of various kinds, having now made up his mind that
he need not quit Middlemarch, and feeling able consequently to
determine on matters which he had before left in suspense.
"We will make a journey to Cheltenham in the course of a month or two,"
he had said to his wife. "There are great spiritual advantages to be
had in that town along with the air and the waters, and six weeks there
will be eminently refreshing to us."
He really believed in the spiritual advantages, and meant that his life
henceforth should be the more devoted because of those later sins which
he represented to himself as hypothetic, praying hypothetically for
their pardon:—"if I have herein transgressed."
As to the Hospital, he avoided saying anything further to Lydgate,
fearing to manifest a too sudden change of plans immediately on the
death of Raffles. In his secret soul he believed that Lydgate
suspected his orders to have been intentionally disobeyed, and
suspecting this he must also suspect a motive. But nothing had been
betrayed to him as to the history of Raffles, and Bulstrode was anxious
not to do anything which would give emphasis to his undefined
suspicions. As to any certainty that a particular method of treatment
would either save or kill, Lydgate himself was constantly arguing
against such dogmatism; he had no right to speak, and he had every
motive for being silent. Hence Bulstrode felt himself providentially
secured. The only incident he had strongly winced under had been an
occasional encounter with Caleb Garth, who, however, had raised his hat
with mild gravity.
Meanwhile, on the part of the principal townsmen a strong determination
was growing against him.
A meeting was to be held in the Town-Hall on a sanitary question which
had risen into pressing importance by the occurrence of a cholera case
in the town. Since the Act of Parliament, which had been hurriedly
passed, authorizing assessments for sanitary measures, there had been a
Board for the superintendence of such measures appointed in
Middlemarch, and much cleansing and preparation had been concurred in
by Whigs and Tories. The question now was, whether a piece of ground
outside the town should be secured as a burial-ground by means of
assessment or by private subscription. The meeting was to be open, and
almost everybody of importance in the town was expected to be there.
Mr. Bulstrode was a member of the Board, and just before twelve o'clock
he started from the Bank with the intention of urging the plan of
private subscription. Under the hesitation of his projects, he had for
some time kept himself in the background, and he felt that he should
this morning resume his old position as a man of action and influence
in the public affairs of the town where he expected to end his days.
Among the various persons going in the same direction, he saw Lydgate;
they joined, talked over the object of the meeting, and entered it
It seemed that everybody of mark had been earlier than they. But there
were still spaces left near the head of the large central table, and
they made their way thither. Mr. Farebrother sat opposite, not far
from Mr. Hawley; all the medical men were there; Mr. Thesiger was in
the chair, and Mr. Brooke of Tipton was on his right hand.
Lydgate noticed a peculiar interchange of glances when he and Bulstrode
took their seats.
After the business had been fully opened by the chairman, who pointed
out the advantages of purchasing by subscription a piece of ground
large enough to be ultimately used as a general cemetery, Mr.
Bulstrode, whose rather high-pitched but subdued and fluent voice the
town was used to at meetings of this sort, rose and asked leave to
deliver his opinion. Lydgate could see again the peculiar interchange
of glances before Mr. Hawley started up, and said in his firm resonant
voice, "Mr. Chairman, I request that before any one delivers his
opinion on this point I may be permitted to speak on a question of
public feeling, which not only by myself, but by many gentlemen
present, is regarded as preliminary."
Mr. Hawley's mode of speech, even when public decorum repressed his
"awful language," was formidable in its curtness and self-possession.
Mr. Thesiger sanctioned the request, Mr. Bulstrode sat down, and Mr.
"In what I have to say, Mr. Chairman, I am not speaking simply on my
own behalf: I am speaking with the concurrence and at the express
request of no fewer than eight of my fellow-townsmen, who are
immediately around us. It is our united sentiment that Mr. Bulstrode
should be called upon—and I do now call upon him—to resign public
positions which he holds not simply as a tax-payer, but as a gentleman
among gentlemen. There are practices and there are acts which, owing
to circumstances, the law cannot visit, though they may be worse than
many things which are legally punishable. Honest men and gentlemen, if
they don't want the company of people who perpetrate such acts, have
got to defend themselves as they best can, and that is what I and the
friends whom I may call my clients in this affair are determined to do.
I don't say that Mr. Bulstrode has been guilty of shameful acts, but I
call upon him either publicly to deny and confute the scandalous
statements made against him by a man now dead, and who died in his
house—the statement that he was for many years engaged in nefarious
practices, and that he won his fortune by dishonest procedures—or else
to withdraw from positions which could only have been allowed him as a
gentleman among gentlemen."
All eyes in the room were turned on Mr. Bulstrode, who, since the first
mention of his name, had been going through a crisis of feeling almost
too violent for his delicate frame to support. Lydgate, who himself
was undergoing a shock as from the terrible practical interpretation of
some faint augury, felt, nevertheless, that his own movement of
resentful hatred was checked by that instinct of the Healer which
thinks first of bringing rescue or relief to the sufferer, when he
looked at the shrunken misery of Bulstrode's livid face.
The quick vision that his life was after all a failure, that he was a
dishonored man, and must quail before the glance of those towards whom
he had habitually assumed the attitude of a reprover—that God had
disowned him before men and left him unscreened to the triumphant scorn
of those who were glad to have their hatred justified—the sense of
utter futility in that equivocation with his conscience in dealing with
the life of his accomplice, an equivocation which now turned venomously
upon him with the full-grown fang of a discovered lie:—all this
rushed through him like the agony of terror which fails to kill, and
leaves the ears still open to the returning wave of execration. The
sudden sense of exposure after the re-established sense of safety
came—not to the coarse organization of a criminal but to—the
susceptible nerve of a man whose intensest being lay in such mastery
and predominance as the conditions of his life had shaped for him.
But in that intense being lay the strength of reaction. Through all
his bodily infirmity there ran a tenacious nerve of ambitious
self-preserving will, which had continually leaped out like a flame,
scattering all doctrinal fears, and which, even while he sat an object
of compassion for the merciful, was beginning to stir and glow under
his ashy paleness. Before the last words were out of Mr. Hawley's
mouth, Bulstrode felt that he should answer, and that his answer would
be a retort. He dared not get up and say, "I am not guilty, the whole
story is false"—even if he had dared this, it would have seemed to
him, under his present keen sense of betrayal, as vain as to pull, for
covering to his nakedness, a frail rag which would rend at every little
For a few moments there was total silence, while every man in the room
was looking at Bulstrode. He sat perfectly still, leaning hard against
the back of his chair; he could not venture to rise, and when he began
to speak he pressed his hands upon the seat on each side of him. But
his voice was perfectly audible, though hoarser than usual, and his
words were distinctly pronounced, though he paused between sentence as
if short of breath. He said, turning first toward Mr. Thesiger, and
then looking at Mr. Hawley—
"I protest before you, sir, as a Christian minister, against the
sanction of proceedings towards me which are dictated by virulent
hatred. Those who are hostile to me are glad to believe any libel
uttered by a loose tongue against me. And their consciences become
strict against me. Say that the evil-speaking of which I am to be made
the victim accuses me of malpractices—" here Bulstrode's voice rose
and took on a more biting accent, till it seemed a low cry—"who shall
be my accuser? Not men whose own lives are unchristian, nay,
scandalous—not men who themselves use low instruments to carry out
their ends—whose profession is a tissue of chicanery—who have been
spending their income on their own sensual enjoyments, while I have
been devoting mine to advance the best objects with regard to this life
and the next."
After the word chicanery there was a growing noise, half of murmurs and
half of hisses, while four persons started up at once—Mr. Hawley, Mr.
Toller, Mr. Chichely, and Mr. Hackbutt; but Mr. Hawley's outburst was
instantaneous, and left the others behind in silence.
"If you mean me, sir, I call you and every one else to the inspection
of my professional life. As to Christian or unchristian, I repudiate
your canting palavering Christianity; and as to the way in which I
spend my income, it is not my principle to maintain thieves and cheat
offspring of their due inheritance in order to support religion and set
myself up as a saintly Killjoy. I affect no niceness of conscience—I
have not found any nice standards necessary yet to measure your actions
by, sir. And I again call upon you to enter into satisfactory
explanations concerning the scandals against you, or else to withdraw
from posts in which we at any rate decline you as a colleague. I say,
sir, we decline to co-operate with a man whose character is not cleared
from infamous lights cast upon it, not only by reports but by recent
"Allow me, Mr. Hawley," said the chairman; and Mr. Hawley, still
fuming, bowed half impatiently, and sat down with his hands thrust deep
in his pockets.
"Mr. Bulstrode, it is not desirable, I think, to prolong the present
discussion," said Mr. Thesiger, turning to the pallid trembling man; "I
must so far concur with what has fallen from Mr. Hawley in expression
of a general feeling, as to think it due to your Christian profession
that you should clear yourself, if possible, from unhappy aspersions.
I for my part should be willing to give you full opportunity and
hearing. But I must say that your present attitude is painfully
inconsistent with those principles which you have sought to identify
yourself with, and for the honor of which I am bound to care. I
recommend you at present, as your clergyman, and one who hopes for your
reinstatement in respect, to quit the room, and avoid further hindrance
Bulstrode, after a moment's hesitation, took his hat from the floor and
slowly rose, but he grasped the corner of the chair so totteringly that
Lydgate felt sure there was not strength enough in him to walk away
without support. What could he do? He could not see a man sink close
to him for want of help. He rose and gave his arm to Bulstrode, and in
that way led him out of the room; yet this act, which might have been
one of gentle duty and pure compassion, was at this moment unspeakably
bitter to him. It seemed as if he were putting his sign-manual to that
association of himself with Bulstrode, of which he now saw the full
meaning as it must have presented itself to other minds. He now felt
the conviction that this man who was leaning tremblingly on his arm,
had given him the thousand pounds as a bribe, and that somehow the
treatment of Raffles had been tampered with from an evil motive. The
inferences were closely linked enough; the town knew of the loan,
believed it to be a bribe, and believed that he took it as a bribe.
Poor Lydgate, his mind struggling under the terrible clutch of this
revelation, was all the while morally forced to take Mr. Bulstrode to
the Bank, send a man off for his carriage, and wait to accompany him
Meanwhile the business of the meeting was despatched, and fringed off
into eager discussion among various groups concerning this affair of
Mr. Brooke, who had before heard only imperfect hints of it, and was
very uneasy that he had "gone a little too far" in countenancing
Bulstrode, now got himself fully informed, and felt some benevolent
sadness in talking to Mr. Farebrother about the ugly light in which
Lydgate had come to be regarded. Mr. Farebrother was going to walk
back to Lowick.
"Step into my carriage," said Mr. Brooke. "I am going round to see
Mrs. Casaubon. She was to come back from Yorkshire last night. She
will like to see me, you know."
So they drove along, Mr. Brooke chatting with good-natured hope that
there had not really been anything black in Lydgate's behavior—a
young fellow whom he had seen to be quite above the common mark, when
he brought a letter from his uncle Sir Godwin. Mr. Farebrother said
little: he was deeply mournful: with a keen perception of human
weakness, he could not be confident that under the pressure of
humiliating needs Lydgate had not fallen below himself.
When the carriage drove up to the gate of the Manor, Dorothea was out
on the gravel, and came to greet them.
"Well, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, "we have just come from a meeting—a
sanitary meeting, you know."
"Was Mr. Lydgate there?" said Dorothea, who looked full of health and
animation, and stood with her head bare under the gleaming April
lights. "I want to see him and have a great consultation with him
about the Hospital. I have engaged with Mr. Bulstrode to do so."
"Oh, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, "we have been hearing bad news—bad
news, you know."
They walked through the garden towards the churchyard gate, Mr.
Farebrother wanting to go on to the parsonage; and Dorothea heard the
whole sad story.
She listened with deep interest, and begged to hear twice over the
facts and impressions concerning Lydgate. After a short silence,
pausing at the churchyard gate, and addressing Mr. Farebrother, she
"You don't believe that Mr. Lydgate is guilty of anything base? I will
not believe it. Let us find out the truth and clear him!"
SUNSET AND SUNRISE.
Full souls are double mirrors, making still
An endless vista of fair things before,
Repeating things behind.
Dorothea's impetuous generosity, which would have leaped at once to the
vindication of Lydgate from the suspicion of having accepted money as a
bribe, underwent a melancholy check when she came to consider all the
circumstances of the case by the light of Mr. Farebrother's experience.
"It is a delicate matter to touch," he said. "How can we begin to
inquire into it? It must be either publicly by setting the magistrate
and coroner to work, or privately by questioning Lydgate. As to the
first proceeding there is no solid ground to go upon, else Hawley would
have adopted it; and as to opening the subject with Lydgate, I confess
I should shrink from it. He would probably take it as a deadly insult.
I have more than once experienced the difficulty of speaking to him on
personal matters. And—one should know the truth about his conduct
beforehand, to feel very confident of a good result."
"I feel convinced that his conduct has not been guilty: I believe that
people are almost always better than their neighbors think they are,"
said Dorothea. Some of her intensest experience in the last two years
had set her mind strongly in opposition to any unfavorable construction
of others; and for the first time she felt rather discontented with Mr.
Farebrother. She disliked this cautious weighing of consequences,
instead of an ardent faith in efforts of justice and mercy, which would
conquer by their emotional force. Two days afterwards, he was dining
at the Manor with her uncle and the Chettams, and when the dessert was
standing uneaten, the servants were out of the room, and Mr. Brooke was
nodding in a nap, she returned to the subject with renewed vivacity.
"Mr. Lydgate would understand that if his friends hear a calumny about
him their first wish must be to justify him. What do we live for, if
it is not to make life less difficult to each other? I cannot be
indifferent to the troubles of a man who advised me in my trouble,
and attended me in my illness."
Dorothea's tone and manner were not more energetic than they had been
when she was at the head of her uncle's table nearly three years
before, and her experience since had given her more right to express a
decided opinion. But Sir James Chettam was no longer the diffident and
acquiescent suitor: he was the anxious brother-in-law, with a devout
admiration for his sister, but with a constant alarm lest she should
fall under some new illusion almost as bad as marrying Casaubon. He
smiled much less; when he said "Exactly" it was more often an
introduction to a dissentient opinion than in those submissive bachelor
days; and Dorothea found to her surprise that she had to resolve not to
be afraid of him—all the more because he was really her best friend.
He disagreed with her now.
"But, Dorothea," he said, remonstrantly, "you can't undertake to manage
a man's life for him in that way. Lydgate must know—at least he will
soon come to know how he stands. If he can clear himself, he will. He
must act for himself."
"I think his friends must wait till they find an opportunity," added
Mr. Farebrother. "It is possible—I have often felt so much weakness
in myself that I can conceive even a man of honorable disposition, such
as I have always believed Lydgate to be, succumbing to such a
temptation as that of accepting money which was offered more or less
indirectly as a bribe to insure his silence about scandalous facts long
gone by. I say, I can conceive this, if he were under the pressure of
hard circumstances—if he had been harassed as I feel sure Lydgate has
been. I would not believe anything worse of him except under stringent
proof. But there is the terrible Nemesis following on some errors,
that it is always possible for those who like it to interpret them into
a crime: there is no proof in favor of the man outside his own
consciousness and assertion."
"Oh, how cruel!" said Dorothea, clasping her hands. "And would you not
like to be the one person who believed in that man's innocence, if the
rest of the world belied him? Besides, there is a man's character
beforehand to speak for him."
"But, my dear Mrs. Casaubon," said Mr. Farebrother, smiling gently at
her ardor, "character is not cut in marble—it is not something solid
and unalterable. It is something living and changing, and may become
diseased as our bodies do."
"Then it may be rescued and healed," said Dorothea "I should not be
afraid of asking Mr. Lydgate to tell me the truth, that I might help
him. Why should I be afraid? Now that I am not to have the land,
James, I might do as Mr. Bulstrode proposed, and take his place in
providing for the Hospital; and I have to consult Mr. Lydgate, to know
thoroughly what are the prospects of doing good by keeping up the
present plans. There is the best opportunity in the world for me to
ask for his confidence; and he would be able to tell me things which
might make all the circumstances clear. Then we would all stand by him
and bring him out of his trouble. People glorify all sorts of bravery
except the bravery they might show on behalf of their nearest
neighbors." Dorothea's eyes had a moist brightness in them, and the
changed tones of her voice roused her uncle, who began to listen.
"It is true that a woman may venture on some efforts of sympathy which
would hardly succeed if we men undertook them," said Mr. Farebrother,
almost converted by Dorothea's ardor.
"Surely, a woman is bound to be cautious and listen to those who know
the world better than she does." said Sir James, with his little
frown. "Whatever you do in the end, Dorothea, you should really keep
back at present, and not volunteer any meddling with this Bulstrode
business. We don't know yet what may turn up. You must agree with
me?" he ended, looking at Mr. Farebrother.
"I do think it would be better to wait," said the latter.
"Yes, yes, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, not quite knowing at what point
the discussion had arrived, but coming up to it with a contribution
which was generally appropriate. "It is easy to go too far, you know.
You must not let your ideas run away with you. And as to being in a
hurry to put money into schemes—it won't do, you know. Garth has
drawn me in uncommonly with repairs, draining, that sort of thing: I'm
uncommonly out of pocket with one thing or another. I must pull up.
As for you, Chettam, you are spending a fortune on those oak fences
round your demesne."
Dorothea, submitting uneasily to this discouragement, went with Celia
into the library, which was her usual drawing-room.
"Now, Dodo, do listen to what James says," said Celia, "else you will
be getting into a scrape. You always did, and you always will, when
you set about doing as you please. And I think it is a mercy now after
all that you have got James to think for you. He lets you have your
plans, only he hinders you from being taken in. And that is the good
of having a brother instead of a husband. A husband would not let you
have your plans."
"As if I wanted a husband!" said Dorothea. "I only want not to have my
feelings checked at every turn." Mrs. Casaubon was still undisciplined
enough to burst into angry tears.
"Now, really, Dodo," said Celia, with rather a deeper guttural than
usual, "you are contradictory: first one thing and then another. You
used to submit to Mr. Casaubon quite shamefully: I think you would have
given up ever coming to see me if he had asked you."
"Of course I submitted to him, because it was my duty; it was my
feeling for him," said Dorothea, looking through the prism of her tears.
"Then why can't you think it your duty to submit a little to what James
wishes?" said Celia, with a sense of stringency in her argument.
"Because he only wishes what is for your own good. And, of course, men
know best about everything, except what women know better." Dorothea
laughed and forgot her tears.
"Well, I mean about babies and those things," explained Celia. "I
should not give up to James when I knew he was wrong, as you used to do
to Mr. Casaubon."
Pity the laden one; this wandering woe
May visit you and me.
When Lydgate had allayed Mrs. Bulstrode's anxiety by telling her that
her husband had been seized with faintness at the meeting, but that he
trusted soon to see him better and would call again the next day,
unless she-sent for him earlier, he went directly home, got on his
horse, and rode three miles out of the town for the sake of being out
He felt himself becoming violent and unreasonable as if raging under
the pain of stings: he was ready to curse the day on which he had come
to Middlemarch. Everything that bad happened to him there seemed a
mere preparation for this hateful fatality, which had come as a blight
on his honorable ambition, and must make even people who had only
vulgar standards regard his reputation as irrevocably damaged. In such
moments a man can hardly escape being unloving. Lydgate thought of
himself as the sufferer, and of others as the agents who had injured
his lot. He had meant everything to turn out differently; and others
had thrust themselves into his life and thwarted his purposes. His
marriage seemed an unmitigated calamity; and he was afraid of going to
Rosamond before he had vented himself in this solitary rage, lest the
mere sight of her should exasperate him and make him behave
unwarrantably. There are episodes in most men's lives in which their
highest qualities can only cast a deterring shadow over the objects
that fill their inward vision: Lydgate's tenderheartedness was present
just then only as a dread lest he should offend against it, not as an
emotion that swayed him to tenderness. For he was very miserable.
Only those who know the supremacy of the intellectual life—the life
which has a seed of ennobling thought and purpose within it—can
understand the grief of one who falls from that serene activity into
the absorbing soul-wasting struggle with worldly annoyances.
How was he to live on without vindicating himself among people who
suspected him of baseness? How could he go silently away from
Middlemarch as if he were retreating before a just condemnation? And
yet how was he to set about vindicating himself?
For that scene at the meeting, which he had just witnessed, although it
had told him no particulars, had been enough to make his own situation
thoroughly clear to him. Bulstrode had been in dread of scandalous
disclosures on the part of Raffles. Lydgate could now construct all
the probabilities of the case. "He was afraid of some betrayal in my
hearing: all he wanted was to bind me to him by a strong obligation:
that was why he passed on a sudden from hardness to liberality. And he
may have tampered with the patient—he may have disobeyed my orders. I
fear he did. But whether he did or not, the world believes that he
somehow or other poisoned the man and that I winked at the crime, if I
didn't help in it. And yet—and yet he may not be guilty of the last
offence; and it is just possible that the change towards me may have
been a genuine relenting—the effect of second thoughts such as he
alleged. What we call the 'just possible' is sometimes true and the
thing we find it easier to believe is grossly false. In his last
dealings with this man Bulstrode may have kept his hands pure, in spite
of my suspicion to the contrary."
There was a benumbing cruelty in his position. Even if he renounced
every other consideration than that of justifying himself—if he met
shrugs, cold glances, and avoidance as an accusation, and made a public
statement of all the facts as he knew them, who would be convinced? It
would be playing the part of a fool to offer his own testimony on
behalf of himself, and say, "I did not take the money as a bribe." The
circumstances would always be stronger than his assertion. And
besides, to come forward and tell everything about himself must include
declarations about Bulstrode which would darken the suspicions of
others against him. He must tell that he had not known of Raffles's
existence when he first mentioned his pressing need of money to
Bulstrode, and that he took the money innocently as a result of that
communication, not knowing that a new motive for the loan might have
arisen on his being called in to this man. And after all, the
suspicion of Bulstrode's motives might be unjust.
But then came the question whether he should have acted in precisely
the same way if he had not taken the money? Certainly, if Raffles had
continued alive and susceptible of further treatment when he arrived,
and he had then imagined any disobedience to his orders on the part of
Bulstrode, he would have made a strict inquiry, and if his conjecture
had been verified he would have thrown up the case, in spite of his
recent heavy obligation. But if he had not received any money—if
Bulstrode had never revoked his cold recommendation of bankruptcy—would
he, Lydgate, have abstained from all inquiry even on finding the
man dead?—would the shrinking from an insult to Bulstrode—would the
dubiousness of all medical treatment and the argument that his own
treatment would pass for the wrong with most members of his
profession—have had just the same force or significance with him?
That was the uneasy corner of Lydgate's consciousness while he was
reviewing the facts and resisting all reproach. If he had been
independent, this matter of a patient's treatment and the distinct rule
that he must do or see done that which he believed best for the life
committed to him, would have been the point on which he would have been
the sturdiest. As it was, he had rested in the consideration that
disobedience to his orders, however it might have arisen, could not be
considered a crime, that in the dominant opinion obedience to his
orders was just as likely to be fatal, and that the affair was simply
one of etiquette. Whereas, again and again, in his time of freedom, he
had denounced the perversion of pathological doubt into moral doubt and
had said—"the purest experiment in treatment may still be
conscientious: my business is to take care of life, and to do the best
I can think of for it. Science is properly more scrupulous than dogma.
Dogma gives a charter to mistake, but the very breath of science is a
contest with mistake, and must keep the conscience alive." Alas! the
scientific conscience had got into the debasing company of money
obligation and selfish respects.
"Is there a medical man of them all in Middlemarch who would question
himself as I do?" said poor Lydgate, with a renewed outburst of
rebellion against the oppression of his lot. "And yet they will all
feel warranted in making a wide space between me and them, as if I were
a leper! My practice and my reputation are utterly damned—I can see
that. Even if I could be cleared by valid evidence, it would make
little difference to the blessed world here. I have been set down as
tainted and should be cheapened to them all the same."
Already there had been abundant signs which had hitherto puzzled him,
that just when he had been paying off his debts and getting cheerfully
on his feet, the townsmen were avoiding him or looking strangely at
him, and in two instances it came to his knowledge that patients of his
had called in another practitioner. The reasons were too plain now.
The general black-balling had begun.
No wonder that in Lydgate's energetic nature the sense of a hopeless
misconstruction easily turned into a dogged resistance. The scowl
which occasionally showed itself on his square brow was not a
meaningless accident. Already when he was re-entering the town after
that ride taken in the first hours of stinging pain, he was setting his
mind on remaining in Middlemarch in spite of the worst that could be
done against him. He would not retreat before calumny, as if he
submitted to it. He would face it to the utmost, and no act of his
should show that he was afraid. It belonged to the generosity as well
as defiant force of his nature that he resolved not to shrink from
showing to the full his sense of obligation to Bulstrode. It was true
that the association with this man had been fatal to him—true that if
he had had the thousand pounds still in his hands with all his debts
unpaid he would have returned the money to Bulstrode, and taken beggary
rather than the rescue which had been sullied with the suspicion of a
bribe (for, remember, he was one of the proudest among the sons of
men)—nevertheless, he would not turn away from this crushed
fellow-mortal whose aid he had used, and make a pitiful effort to get
acquittal for himself by howling against another. "I shall do as I
think right, and explain to nobody. They will try to starve me out,
but—" he was going on with an obstinate resolve, but he was getting
near home, and the thought of Rosamond urged itself again into that
chief place from which it had been thrust by the agonized struggles of
wounded honor and pride.
How would Rosamond take it all? Here was another weight of chain to
drag, and poor Lydgate was in a bad mood for bearing her dumb mastery.
He had no impulse to tell her the trouble which must soon be common to
them both. He preferred waiting for the incidental disclosure which
events must soon bring about.
"Mercifully grant that we may grow aged together."
—BOOK OF TOBIT: Marriage Prayer.
In Middlemarch a wife could not long remain ignorant that the town held
a bad opinion of her husband. No feminine intimate might carry her
friendship so far as to make a plain statement to the wife of the
unpleasant fact known or believed about her husband; but when a woman
with her thoughts much at leisure got them suddenly employed on
something grievously disadvantageous to her neighbors, various moral
impulses were called into play which tended to stimulate utterance.
Candor was one. To be candid, in Middlemarch phraseology, meant, to
use an early opportunity of letting your friends know that you did not
take a cheerful view of their capacity, their conduct, or their
position; and a robust candor never waited to be asked for its opinion.
Then, again, there was the love of truth—a wide phrase, but meaning in
this relation, a lively objection to seeing a wife look happier than
her husband's character warranted, or manifest too much satisfaction in
her lot—the poor thing should have some hint given her that if she
knew the truth she would have less complacency in her bonnet, and in
light dishes for a supper-party. Stronger than all, there was the
regard for a friend's moral improvement, sometimes called her soul,
which was likely to be benefited by remarks tending to gloom, uttered
with the accompaniment of pensive staring at the furniture and a manner
implying that the speaker would not tell what was on her mind, from
regard to the feelings of her hearer. On the whole, one might say that
an ardent charity was at work setting the virtuous mind to make a
neighbor unhappy for her good.
There were hardly any wives in Middlemarch whose matrimonial
misfortunes would in different ways be likely to call forth more of
this moral activity than Rosamond and her aunt Bulstrode. Mrs.
Bulstrode was not an object of dislike, and had never consciously
injured any human being. Men had always thought her a handsome
comfortable woman, and had reckoned it among the signs of Bulstrode's
hypocrisy that he had chosen a red-blooded Vincy, instead of a ghastly
and melancholy person suited to his low esteem for earthly pleasure.
When the scandal about her husband was disclosed they remarked of
her—"Ah, poor woman! She's as honest as the day—she never
suspected anything wrong in him, you may depend on it." Women, who
were intimate with her, talked together much of "poor Harriet,"
imagined what her feelings must be when she came to know everything,
and conjectured how much she had already come to know. There was no
spiteful disposition towards her; rather, there was a busy benevolence
anxious to ascertain what it would be well for her to feel and do under
the circumstances, which of course kept the imagination occupied with
her character and history from the times when she was Harriet Vincy
till now. With the review of Mrs. Bulstrode and her position it was
inevitable to associate Rosamond, whose prospects were under the same
blight with her aunt's. Rosamond was more severely criticised and less
pitied, though she too, as one of the good old Vincy family who had
always been known in Middlemarch, was regarded as a victim to marriage
with an interloper. The Vincys had their weaknesses, but then they lay
on the surface: there was never anything bad to be "found out"
concerning them. Mrs. Bulstrode was vindicated from any resemblance to
her husband. Harriet's faults were her own.
"She has always been showy," said Mrs. Hackbutt, making tea for a small
party, "though she has got into the way of putting her religion
forward, to conform to her husband; she has tried to hold her head up
above Middlemarch by making it known that she invites clergymen and
heaven-knows-who from Riverston and those places."
"We can hardly blame her for that," said Mrs. Sprague; "because few of
the best people in the town cared to associate with Bulstrode, and she
must have somebody to sit down at her table."
"Mr. Thesiger has always countenanced him," said Mrs. Hackbutt. "I
think he must be sorry now."
"But he was never fond of him in his heart—that every one knows," said
Mrs. Tom Toller. "Mr. Thesiger never goes into extremes. He keeps to
the truth in what is evangelical. It is only clergymen like Mr. Tyke,
who want to use Dissenting hymn-books and that low kind of religion,
who ever found Bulstrode to their taste."
"I understand, Mr. Tyke is in great distress about him," said Mrs.
Hackbutt. "And well he may be: they say the Bulstrodes have half kept
the Tyke family."
"And of course it is a discredit to his doctrines," said Mrs. Sprague,
who was elderly, and old-fashioned in her opinions.
"People will not make a boast of being methodistical in Middlemarch for
a good while to come."
"I think we must not set down people's bad actions to their religion,"
said falcon-faced Mrs. Plymdale, who had been listening hitherto.
"Oh, my dear, we are forgetting," said Mrs. Sprague. "We ought not to
be talking of this before you."
"I am sure I have no reason to be partial," said Mrs. Plymdale,
coloring. "It's true Mr. Plymdale has always been on good terms with
Mr. Bulstrode, and Harriet Vincy was my friend long before she married
him. But I have always kept my own opinions and told her where she was
wrong, poor thing. Still, in point of religion, I must say, Mr.
Bulstrode might have done what he has, and worse, and yet have been a
man of no religion. I don't say that there has not been a little too
much of that—I like moderation myself. But truth is truth. The men
tried at the assizes are not all over-religious, I suppose."
"Well," said Mrs. Hackbutt, wheeling adroitly, "all I can say is, that
I think she ought to separate from him."
"I can't say that," said Mrs. Sprague. "She took him for better or
worse, you know."
"But 'worse' can never mean finding out that your husband is fit for
Newgate," said Mrs. Hackbutt. "Fancy living with such a man! I should
expect to be poisoned."
"Yes, I think myself it is an encouragement to crime if such men are to
be taken care of and waited on by good wives," said Mrs. Tom Toller.
"And a good wife poor Harriet has been," said Mrs. Plymdale. "She
thinks her husband the first of men. It's true he has never denied her
"Well, we shall see what she will do," said Mrs. Hackbutt. "I suppose
she knows nothing yet, poor creature. I do hope and trust I shall not
see her, for I should be frightened to death lest I should say anything
about her husband. Do you think any hint has reached her?"
"I should hardly think so," said Mrs. Tom Toller. "We hear that he is
ill, and has never stirred out of the house since the meeting on
Thursday; but she was with her girls at church yesterday, and they had
new Tuscan bonnets. Her own had a feather in it. I have never seen
that her religion made any difference in her dress."
"She wears very neat patterns always," said Mrs. Plymdale, a little
stung. "And that feather I know she got dyed a pale lavender on
purpose to be consistent. I must say it of Harriet that she wishes to
"As to her knowing what has happened, it can't be kept from her long,"
said Mrs. Hackbutt. "The Vincys know, for Mr. Vincy was at the
meeting. It will be a great blow to him. There is his daughter as
well as his sister."
"Yes, indeed," said Mrs. Sprague. "Nobody supposes that Mr. Lydgate
can go on holding up his head in Middlemarch, things look so black
about the thousand pounds he took just at that man's death. It really
makes one shudder."
"Pride must have a fall," said Mrs. Hackbutt.
"I am not so sorry for Rosamond Vincy that was as I am for her aunt,"
said Mrs. Plymdale. "She needed a lesson."
"I suppose the Bulstrodes will go and live abroad somewhere," said Mrs.
Sprague. "That is what is generally done when there is anything
disgraceful in a family."
"And a most deadly blow it will be to Harriet," said Mrs. Plymdale.
"If ever a woman was crushed, she will be. I pity her from my heart.
And with all her faults, few women are better. From a girl she had the
neatest ways, and was always good-hearted, and as open as the day. You
might look into her drawers when you would—always the same. And so
she has brought up Kate and Ellen. You may think how hard it will be
for her to go among foreigners."
"The doctor says that is what he should recommend the Lydgates to do,"
said Mrs. Sprague. "He says Lydgate ought to have kept among the
"That would suit her well enough, I dare say," said Mrs. Plymdale;
"there is that kind of lightness about her. But she got that from her
mother; she never got it from her aunt Bulstrode, who always gave her
good advice, and to my knowledge would rather have had her marry
Mrs. Plymdale was in a situation which caused her some complication of
feeling. There had been not only her intimacy with Mrs. Bulstrode, but
also a profitable business relation of the great Plymdale dyeing house
with Mr. Bulstrode, which on the one hand would have inclined her to
desire that the mildest view of his character should be the true one,
but on the other, made her the more afraid of seeming to palliate his
culpability. Again, the late alliance of her family with the Tollers
had brought her in connection with the best circle, which gratified her
in every direction except in the inclination to those serious views
which she believed to be the best in another sense. The sharp little
woman's conscience was somewhat troubled in the adjustment of these
opposing "bests," and of her griefs and satisfactions under late
events, which were likely to humble those who needed humbling, but also
to fall heavily on her old friend whose faults she would have preferred
seeing on a background of prosperity.
Poor Mrs. Bulstrode, meanwhile, had been no further shaken by the
oncoming tread of calamity than in the busier stirring of that secret
uneasiness which had always been present in her since the last visit of
Raffles to The Shrubs. That the hateful man had come ill to Stone
Court, and that her husband had chosen to remain there and watch over
him, she allowed to be explained by the fact that Raffles had been
employed and aided in earlier-days, and that this made a tie of
benevolence towards him in his degraded helplessness; and she had been
since then innocently cheered by her husband's more hopeful speech
about his own health and ability to continue his attention to business.
The calm was disturbed when Lydgate had brought him home ill from the
meeting, and in spite of comforting assurances during the next few
days, she cried in private from the conviction that her husband was not
suffering from bodily illness merely, but from something that afflicted
his mind. He would not allow her to read to him, and scarcely to sit
with him, alleging nervous susceptibility to sounds and movements; yet
she suspected that in shutting himself up in his private room he wanted
to be busy with his papers. Something, she felt sure, had happened.
Perhaps it was some great loss of money; and she was kept in the dark.
Not daring to question her husband, she said to Lydgate, on the fifth
day after the meeting, when she had not left home except to go to
"Mr. Lydgate, pray be open with me: I like to know the truth. Has
anything happened to Mr. Bulstrode?"
"Some little nervous shock," said Lydgate, evasively. He felt that it
was not for him to make the painful revelation.
"But what brought it on?" said Mrs. Bulstrode, looking directly at him
with her large dark eyes.
"There is often something poisonous in the air of public rooms," said
Lydgate. "Strong men can stand it, but it tells on people in
proportion to the delicacy of their systems. It is often impossible to
account for the precise moment of an attack—or rather, to say why the
strength gives way at a particular moment."
Mrs. Bulstrode was not satisfied with this answer. There remained in
her the belief that some calamity had befallen her husband, of which
she was to be kept in ignorance; and it was in her nature strongly to
object to such concealment. She begged leave for her daughters to sit
with their father, and drove into the town to pay some visits,
conjecturing that if anything were known to have gone wrong in Mr.
Bulstrode's affairs, she should see or hear some sign of it.
She called on Mrs. Thesiger, who was not at home, and then drove to
Mrs. Hackbutt's on the other side of the churchyard. Mrs. Hackbutt saw
her coming from an up-stairs window, and remembering her former alarm
lest she should meet Mrs. Bulstrode, felt almost bound in consistency
to send word that she was not at home; but against that, there was a
sudden strong desire within her for the excitement of an interview in
which she was quite determined not to make the slightest allusion to
what was in her mind.
Hence Mrs. Bulstrode was shown into the drawing-room, and Mrs. Hackbutt
went to her, with more tightness of lip and rubbing of her hands than
was usually observable in her, these being precautions adopted against
freedom of speech. She was resolved not to ask how Mr. Bulstrode was.
"I have not been anywhere except to church for nearly a week," said
Mrs. Bulstrode, after a few introductory remarks. "But Mr. Bulstrode
was taken so ill at the meeting on Thursday that I have not liked to
leave the house."
Mrs. Hackbutt rubbed the back of one hand with the palm of the other
held against her chest, and let her eyes ramble over the pattern on the
"Was Mr. Hackbutt at the meeting?" persevered Mrs. Bulstrode.
"Yes, he was," said Mrs. Hackbutt, with the same attitude. "The land
is to be bought by subscription, I believe."
"Let us hope that there will be no more cases of cholera to be buried
in it," said Mrs. Bulstrode. "It is an awful visitation. But I always
think Middlemarch a very healthy spot. I suppose it is being used to
it from a child; but I never saw the town I should like to live at
better, and especially our end."
"I am sure I should be glad that you always should live at Middlemarch,
Mrs. Bulstrode," said Mrs. Hackbutt, with a slight sigh. "Still, we
must learn to resign ourselves, wherever our lot may be cast. Though I
am sure there will always be people in this town who will wish you
Mrs. Hackbutt longed to say, "if you take my advice you will part from
your husband," but it seemed clear to her that the poor woman knew
nothing of the thunder ready to bolt on her head, and she herself could
do no more than prepare her a little. Mrs. Bulstrode felt suddenly
rather chill and trembling: there was evidently something unusual
behind this speech of Mrs. Hackbutt's; but though she had set out with
the desire to be fully informed, she found herself unable now to pursue
her brave purpose, and turning the conversation by an inquiry about the
young Hackbutts, she soon took her leave saying that she was going to
see Mrs. Plymdale. On her way thither she tried to imagine that there
might have been some unusually warm sparring at the meeting between Mr.
Bulstrode and some of his frequent opponents—perhaps Mr. Hackbutt
might have been one of them. That would account for everything.
But when she was in conversation with Mrs. Plymdale that comforting
explanation seemed no longer tenable. "Selina" received her with a
pathetic affectionateness and a disposition to give edifying answers on
the commonest topics, which could hardly have reference to an ordinary
quarrel of which the most important consequence was a perturbation of
Mr. Bulstrode's health. Beforehand Mrs. Bulstrode had thought that she
would sooner question Mrs. Plymdale than any one else; but she found to
her surprise that an old friend is not always the person whom it is
easiest to make a confidant of: there was the barrier of remembered
communication under other circumstances—there was the dislike of
being pitied and informed by one who had been long wont to allow her
the superiority. For certain words of mysterious appropriateness that
Mrs. Plymdale let fall about her resolution never to turn her back on
her friends, convinced Mrs. Bulstrode that what had happened must be
some kind of misfortune, and instead of being able to say with her
native directness, "What is it that you have in your mind?" she found
herself anxious to get away before she had heard anything more
explicit. She began to have an agitating certainty that the misfortune
was something more than the mere loss of money, being keenly sensitive
to the fact that Selina now, just as Mrs. Hackbutt had done before,
avoided noticing what she said about her husband, as they would have
avoided noticing a personal blemish.
She said good-by with nervous haste, and told the coachman to drive to
Mr. Vincy's warehouse. In that short drive her dread gathered so much
force from the sense of darkness, that when she entered the private
counting-house where her brother sat at his desk, her knees trembled
and her usually florid face was deathly pale. Something of the same
effect was produced in him by the sight of her: he rose from his seat
to meet her, took her by the hand, and said, with his impulsive
"God help you, Harriet! you know all."
That moment was perhaps worse than any which came after. It contained
that concentrated experience which in great crises of emotion reveals
the bias of a nature, and is prophetic of the ultimate act which will
end an intermediate struggle. Without that memory of Raffles she might
still have thought only of monetary ruin, but now along with her
brother's look and words there darted into her mind the idea of some
guilt in her husband—then, under the working of terror came the image
of her husband exposed to disgrace—and then, after an instant of
scorching shame in which she felt only the eyes of the world, with one
leap of her heart she was at his side in mournful but unreproaching
fellowship with shame and isolation. All this went on within her in a
mere flash of time—while she sank into the chair, and raised her eyes
to her brother, who stood over her. "I know nothing, Walter. What is
it?" she said, faintly.
He told her everything, very inartificially, in slow fragments, making
her aware that the scandal went much beyond proof, especially as to the
end of Raffles.
"People will talk," he said. "Even if a man has been acquitted by a
jury, they'll talk, and nod and wink—and as far as the world goes, a
man might often as well be guilty as not. It's a breakdown blow, and
it damages Lydgate as much as Bulstrode. I don't pretend to say what
is the truth. I only wish we had never heard the name of either
Bulstrode or Lydgate. You'd better have been a Vincy all your life,
and so had Rosamond." Mrs. Bulstrode made no reply.
"But you must bear up as well as you can, Harriet. People don't blame
you. And I'll stand by you whatever you make up your mind to do,"
said the brother, with rough but well-meaning affectionateness.
"Give me your arm to the carriage, Walter," said Mrs. Bulstrode. "I
feel very weak."
And when she got home she was obliged to say to her daughter, "I am not
well, my dear; I must go and lie down. Attend to your papa. Leave me
in quiet. I shall take no dinner."
She locked herself in her room. She needed time to get used to her
maimed consciousness, her poor lopped life, before she could walk
steadily to the place allotted her. A new searching light had fallen
on her husband's character, and she could not judge him leniently: the
twenty years in which she had believed in him and venerated him by
virtue of his concealments came back with particulars that made them
seem an odious deceit. He had married her with that bad past life
hidden behind him, and she had no faith left to protest his innocence
of the worst that was imputed to him. Her honest ostentatious nature
made the sharing of a merited dishonor as bitter as it could be to any
But this imperfectly taught woman, whose phrases and habits were an odd
patchwork, had a loyal spirit within her. The man whose prosperity she
had shared through nearly half a life, and who had unvaryingly
cherished her—now that punishment had befallen him it was not possible
to her in any sense to forsake him. There is a forsaking which still
sits at the same board and lies on the same couch with the forsaken
soul, withering it the more by unloving proximity. She knew, when she
locked her door, that she should unlock it ready to go down to her
unhappy husband and espouse his sorrow, and say of his guilt, I will
mourn and not reproach. But she needed time to gather up her strength;
she needed to sob out her farewell to all the gladness and pride of her
life. When she had resolved to go down, she prepared herself by some
little acts which might seem mere folly to a hard onlooker; they were
her way of expressing to all spectators visible or invisible that she
had begun a new life in which she embraced humiliation. She took off
all her ornaments and put on a plain black gown, and instead of wearing
her much-adorned cap and large bows of hair, she brushed her hair down
and put on a plain bonnet-cap, which made her look suddenly like an
Bulstrode, who knew that his wife had been out and had come in saying
that she was not well, had spent the time in an agitation equal to
hers. He had looked forward to her learning the truth from others, and
had acquiesced in that probability, as something easier to him than any
confession. But now that he imagined the moment of her knowledge come,
he awaited the result in anguish. His daughters had been obliged to
consent to leave him, and though he had allowed some food to be brought
to him, he had not touched it. He felt himself perishing slowly in
unpitied misery. Perhaps he should never see his wife's face with
affection in it again. And if he turned to God there seemed to be no
answer but the pressure of retribution.
It was eight o'clock in the evening before the door opened and his wife
entered. He dared not look up at her. He sat with his eyes bent down,
and as she went towards him she thought he looked smaller—he seemed
so withered and shrunken. A movement of new compassion and old
tenderness went through her like a great wave, and putting one hand on
his which rested on the arm of the chair, and the other on his
shoulder, she said, solemnly but kindly—
"Look up, Nicholas."
He raised his eyes with a little start and looked at her half amazed
for a moment: her pale face, her changed, mourning dress, the trembling
about her mouth, all said, "I know;" and her hands and eyes rested
gently on him. He burst out crying and they cried together, she
sitting at his side. They could not yet speak to each other of the
shame which she was bearing with him, or of the acts which had brought
it down on them. His confession was silent, and her promise of
faithfulness was silent. Open-minded as she was, she nevertheless
shrank from the words which would have expressed their mutual
consciousness, as she would have shrunk from flakes of fire. She could
not say, "How much is only slander and false suspicion?" and he did not
say, "I am innocent."
"Le sentiment de la fausseté des plaisirs présents, et
l'ignorance de la vanité des plaisirs absents causent
Rosamond had a gleam of returning cheerfulness when the house was freed
from the threatening figure, and when all the disagreeable creditors
were paid. But she was not joyous: her married life had fulfilled none
of her hopes, and had been quite spoiled for her imagination. In this
brief interval of calm, Lydgate, remembering that he had often been
stormy in his hours of perturbation, and mindful of the pain Rosamond
had had to bear, was carefully gentle towards her; but he, too, had
lost some of his old spirit, and he still felt it necessary to refer to
an economical change in their way of living as a matter of course,
trying to reconcile her to it gradually, and repressing his anger when
she answered by wishing that he would go to live in London. When she
did not make this answer, she listened languidly, and wondered what she
had that was worth living for. The hard and contemptuous words which
had fallen from her husband in his anger had deeply offended that
vanity which he had at first called into active enjoyment; and what she
regarded as his perverse way of looking at things, kept up a secret
repulsion, which made her receive all his tenderness as a poor
substitute for the happiness he had failed to give her. They were at a
disadvantage with their neighbors, and there was no longer any outlook
towards Quallingham—there was no outlook anywhere except in an
occasional letter from Will Ladislaw. She had felt stung and
disappointed by Will's resolution to quit Middlemarch, for in spite of
what she knew and guessed about his admiration for Dorothea, she
secretly cherished the belief that he had, or would necessarily come to
have, much more admiration for herself; Rosamond being one of those
women who live much in the idea that each man they meet would have
preferred them if the preference had not been hopeless. Mrs. Casaubon
was all very well; but Will's interest in her dated before he knew Mrs.
Lydgate. Rosamond took his way of talking to herself, which was a
mixture of playful fault-finding and hyperbolical gallantry, as the
disguise of a deeper feeling; and in his presence she felt that
agreeable titillation of vanity and sense of romantic drama which
Lydgate's presence had no longer the magic to create. She even
fancied—what will not men and women fancy in these matters?—that
Will exaggerated his admiration for Mrs. Casaubon in order to pique
herself. In this way poor Rosamond's brain had been busy before Will's
departure. He would have made, she thought, a much more suitable
husband for her than she had found in Lydgate. No notion could have
been falser than this, for Rosamond's discontent in her marriage was
due to the conditions of marriage itself, to its demand for
self-suppression and tolerance, and not to the nature of her husband;
but the easy conception of an unreal Better had a sentimental charm
which diverted her ennui. She constructed a little romance which was
to vary the flatness of her life: Will Ladislaw was always to be a
bachelor and live near her, always to be at her command, and have an
understood though never fully expressed passion for her, which would be
sending out lambent flames every now and then in interesting scenes.
His departure had been a proportionate disappointment, and had sadly
increased her weariness of Middlemarch; but at first she had the
alternative dream of pleasures in store from her intercourse with the
family at Quallingham. Since then the troubles of her married life had
deepened, and the absence of other relief encouraged her regretful
rumination over that thin romance which she had once fed on. Men and
women make sad mistakes about their own symptoms, taking their vague
uneasy longings, sometimes for genius, sometimes for religion, and
oftener still for a mighty love. Will Ladislaw had written chatty
letters, half to her and half to Lydgate, and she had replied: their
separation, she felt, was not likely to be final, and the change she
now most longed for was that Lydgate should go to live in London;
everything would be agreeable in London; and she had set to work with
quiet determination to win this result, when there came a sudden,
delightful promise which inspirited her.
It came shortly before the memorable meeting at the town-hall, and was
nothing less than a letter from Will Ladislaw to Lydgate, which turned
indeed chiefly on his new interest in plans of colonization, but
mentioned incidentally, that he might find it necessary to pay a visit
to Middlemarch within the next few weeks—a very pleasant necessity, he
said, almost as good as holidays to a schoolboy. He hoped there was
his old place on the rug, and a great deal of music in store for him.
But he was quite uncertain as to the time. While Lydgate was reading
the letter to Rosamond, her face looked like a reviving flower—it grew
prettier and more blooming. There was nothing unendurable now: the
debts were paid, Mr. Ladislaw was coming, and Lydgate would be
persuaded to leave Middlemarch and settle in London, which was "so
different from a provincial town."
That was a bright bit of morning. But soon the sky became black over
poor Rosamond. The presence of a new gloom in her husband, about which
he was entirely reserved towards her—for he dreaded to expose his
lacerated feeling to her neutrality and misconception—soon received a
painfully strange explanation, alien to all her previous notions of
what could affect her happiness. In the new gayety of her spirits,
thinking that Lydgate had merely a worse fit of moodiness than usual,
causing him to leave her remarks unanswered, and evidently to keep out
of her way as much as possible, she chose, a few days after the
meeting, and without speaking to him on the subject, to send out notes
of invitation for a small evening party, feeling convinced that this
was a judicious step, since people seemed to have been keeping aloof
from them, and wanted restoring to the old habit of intercourse. When
the invitations had been accepted, she would tell Lydgate, and give him
a wise admonition as to how a medical man should behave to his
neighbors; for Rosamond had the gravest little airs possible about
other people's duties. But all the invitations were declined, and the
last answer came into Lydgate's hands.
"This is Chichely's scratch. What is he writing to you about?" said
Lydgate, wonderingly, as he handed the note to her. She was obliged to
let him see it, and, looking at her severely, he said—
"Why on earth have you been sending out invitations without telling me,
Rosamond? I beg, I insist that you will not invite any one to this
house. I suppose you have been inviting others, and they have refused
too." She said nothing.
"Do you hear me?" thundered Lydgate.
"Yes, certainly I hear you," said Rosamond, turning her head aside with
the movement of a graceful long-necked bird.
Lydgate tossed his head without any grace and walked out of the room,
feeling himself dangerous. Rosamond's thought was, that he was getting
more and more unbearable—not that there was any new special reason for
this peremptoriness. His indisposition to tell her anything in which
he was sure beforehand that she would not be interested was growing
into an unreflecting habit, and she was in ignorance of everything
connected with the thousand pounds except that the loan had come from
her uncle Bulstrode. Lydgate's odious humors and their neighbors'
apparent avoidance of them had an unaccountable date for her in their
relief from money difficulties. If the invitations had been accepted
she would have gone to invite her mamma and the rest, whom she had seen
nothing of for several days; and she now put on her bonnet to go and
inquire what had become of them all, suddenly feeling as if there were
a conspiracy to leave her in isolation with a husband disposed to
offend everybody. It was after the dinner hour, and she found her
father and mother seated together alone in the drawing-room. They
greeted her with sad looks, saying "Well, my dear!" and no more. She
had never seen her father look so downcast; and seating herself near
him she said—
"Is there anything the matter, papa?"
He did not answer, but Mrs. Vincy said, "Oh, my dear, have you heard
nothing? It won't be long before it reaches you."
"Is it anything about Tertius?" said Rosamond, turning pale. The idea
of trouble immediately connected itself with what had been
unaccountable to her in him.
"Oh, my dear, yes. To think of your marrying into this trouble. Debt
was bad enough, but this will be worse."
"Stay, stay, Lucy," said Mr. Vincy. "Have you heard nothing about your
uncle Bulstrode, Rosamond?"
"No, papa," said the poor thing, feeling as if trouble were not
anything she had before experienced, but some invisible power with an
iron grasp that made her soul faint within her.
Her father told her everything, saying at the end, "It's better for you
to know, my dear. I think Lydgate must leave the town. Things have
gone against him. I dare say he couldn't help it. I don't accuse him
of any harm," said Mr. Vincy. He had always before been disposed to
find the utmost fault with Lydgate.
The shock to Rosamond was terrible. It seemed to her that no lot could
be so cruelly hard as hers to have married a man who had become the
centre of infamous suspicions. In many cases it is inevitable that the
shame is felt to be the worst part of crime; and it would have required
a great deal of disentangling reflection, such as had never entered
into Rosamond's life, for her in these moments to feel that her trouble
was less than if her husband had been certainly known to have done
something criminal. All the shame seemed to be there. And she had
innocently married this man with the belief that he and his family were
a glory to her! She showed her usual reticence to her parents, and
only said, that if Lydgate had done as she wished he would have left
Middlemarch long ago.
"She bears it beyond anything," said her mother when she was gone.
"Ah, thank God!" said Mr. Vincy, who was much broken down.
But Rosamond went home with a sense of justified repugnance towards her
husband. What had he really done—how had he really acted? She did
not know. Why had he not told her everything? He did not speak to her
on the subject, and of course she could not speak to him. It came into
her mind once that she would ask her father to let her go home again;
but dwelling on that prospect made it seem utter dreariness to her: a
married woman gone back to live with her parents—life seemed to have
no meaning for her in such a position: she could not contemplate
herself in it.
The next two days Lydgate observed a change in her, and believed that
she had heard the bad news. Would she speak to him about it, or would
she go on forever in the silence which seemed to imply that she
believed him guilty? We must remember that he was in a morbid state of
mind, in which almost all contact was pain. Certainly Rosamond in this
case had equal reason to complain of reserve and want of confidence on
his part; but in the bitterness of his soul he excused himself;—was
he not justified in shrinking from the task of telling her, since now
she knew the truth she had no impulse to speak to him? But a
deeper-lying consciousness that he was in fault made him restless, and
the silence between them became intolerable to him; it was as if they
were both adrift on one piece of wreck and looked away from each other.
He thought, "I am a fool. Haven't I given up expecting anything? I
have married care, not help." And that evening he said—
"Rosamond, have you heard anything that distresses you?"
"Yes," she answered, laying down her work, which she had been carrying
on with a languid semi-consciousness, most unlike her usual self.
"What have you heard?"
"Everything, I suppose. Papa told me."
"That people think me disgraced?"
"Yes," said Rosamond, faintly, beginning to sew again automatically.
There was silence. Lydgate thought, "If she has any trust in me—any
notion of what I am, she ought to speak now and say that she does not
believe I have deserved disgrace."
But Rosamond on her side went on moving her fingers languidly.
Whatever was to be said on the subject she expected to come from
Tertius. What did she know? And if he were innocent of any wrong, why
did he not do something to clear himself?
This silence of hers brought a new rush of gall to that bitter mood in
which Lydgate had been saying to himself that nobody believed in
him—even Farebrother had not come forward. He had begun to question
her with the intent that their conversation should disperse the chill
fog which had gathered between them, but he felt his resolution checked
by despairing resentment. Even this trouble, like the rest, she seemed
to regard as if it were hers alone. He was always to her a being
apart, doing what she objected to. He started from his chair with an
angry impulse, and thrusting his hands in his pockets, walked up and
down the room. There was an underlying consciousness all the while
that he should have to master this anger, and tell her everything, and
convince her of the facts. For he had almost learned the lesson that
he must bend himself to her nature, and that because she came short in
her sympathy, he must give the more. Soon he recurred to his intention
of opening himself: the occasion must not be lost. If he could bring
her to feel with some solemnity that here was a slander which must be
met and not run away from, and that the whole trouble had come out of
his desperate want of money, it would be a moment for urging powerfully
on her that they should be one in the resolve to do with as little
money as possible, so that they might weather the bad time and keep
themselves independent. He would mention the definite measures which
he desired to take, and win her to a willing spirit. He was bound to
try this—and what else was there for him to do?
He did not know how long he had been walking uneasily backwards and
forwards, but Rosamond felt that it was long, and wished that he would
sit down. She too had begun to think this an opportunity for urging on
Tertius what he ought to do. Whatever might be the truth about all
this misery, there was one dread which asserted itself.
Lydgate at last seated himself, not in his usual chair, but in one
nearer to Rosamond, leaning aside in it towards her, and looking at her
gravely before he reopened the sad subject. He had conquered himself
so far, and was about to speak with a sense of solemnity, as on an
occasion which was not to be repeated. He had even opened his lips,
when Rosamond, letting her hands fall, looked at him and said—
"Surely now at last you have given up the idea of staying in
Middlemarch. I cannot go on living here. Let us go to London. Papa,
and every one else, says you had better go. Whatever misery I have to
put up with, it will be easier away from here."
Lydgate felt miserably jarred. Instead of that critical outpouring for
which he had prepared himself with effort, here was the old round to be
gone through again. He could not bear it. With a quick change of
countenance he rose and went out of the room.
Perhaps if he had been strong enough to persist in his determination to
be the more because she was less, that evening might have had a better
issue. If his energy could have borne down that check, he might still
have wrought on Rosamond's vision and will. We cannot be sure that any
natures, however inflexible or peculiar, will resist this effect from a
more massive being than their own. They may be taken by storm and for
the moment converted, becoming part of the soul which enwraps them in
the ardor of its movement. But poor Lydgate had a throbbing pain
within him, and his energy had fallen short of its task.
The beginning of mutual understanding and resolve seemed as far off as
ever; nay, it seemed blocked out by the sense of unsuccessful effort.
They lived on from day to day with their thoughts still apart, Lydgate
going about what work he had in a mood of despair, and Rosamond
feeling, with some justification, that he was behaving cruelly. It was
of no use to say anything to Tertius; but when Will Ladislaw came, she
was determined to tell him everything. In spite of her general
reticence, she needed some one who would recognize her wrongs.
"To mercy, pity, peace, and love
All pray in their distress,
And to these virtues of delight,
Return their thankfulness.
. . . . . .
For Mercy has a human heart,
Pity a human face;
And Love, the human form divine;
And Peace, the human dress.
—WILLIAM BLAKE: Songs of Innocence.
Some days later, Lydgate was riding to Lowick Manor, in consequence of
a summons from Dorothea. The summons had not been unexpected, since it
had followed a letter from Mr. Bulstrode, in which he stated that he
had resumed his arrangements for quitting Middlemarch, and must remind
Lydgate of his previous communications about the Hospital, to the
purport of which he still adhered. It had been his duty, before taking
further steps, to reopen the subject with Mrs. Casaubon, who now
wished, as before, to discuss the question with Lydgate. "Your views
may possibly have undergone some change," wrote Mr. Bulstrode; "but, in
that case also, it is desirable that you should lay them before her."
Dorothea awaited his arrival with eager interest. Though, in deference
to her masculine advisers, she had refrained from what Sir James had
called "interfering in this Bulstrode business," the hardship of
Lydgate's position was continually in her mind, and when Bulstrode
applied to her again about the hospital, she felt that the opportunity
was come to her which she had been hindered from hastening. In her
luxurious home, wandering under the boughs of her own great trees, her
thought was going out over the lot of others, and her emotions were
imprisoned. The idea of some active good within her reach, "haunted
her like a passion," and another's need having once come to her as a
distinct image, preoccupied her desire with the yearning to give
relief, and made her own ease tasteless. She was full of confident
hope about this interview with Lydgate, never heeding what was said of
his personal reserve; never heeding that she was a very young woman.
Nothing could have seemed more irrelevant to Dorothea than insistence
on her youth and sex when she was moved to show her human fellowship.
As she sat waiting in the library, she could do nothing but live
through again all the past scenes which had brought Lydgate into her
memories. They all owed their significance to her marriage and its
troubles—but no; there were two occasions in which the image of
Lydgate had come painfully in connection with his wife and some one
else. The pain had been allayed for Dorothea, but it had left in her
an awakened conjecture as to what Lydgate's marriage might be to him, a
susceptibility to the slightest hint about Mrs. Lydgate. These
thoughts were like a drama to her, and made her eyes bright, and gave
an attitude of suspense to her whole frame, though she was only looking
out from the brown library on to the turf and the bright green buds
which stood in relief against the dark evergreens.
When Lydgate came in, she was almost shocked at the change in his face,
which was strikingly perceptible to her who had not seen him for two
months. It was not the change of emaciation, but that effect which
even young faces will very soon show from the persistent presence of
resentment and despondency. Her cordial look, when she put out her
hand to him, softened his expression, but only with melancholy.
"I have wished very much to see you for a long while, Mr. Lydgate,"
said Dorothea when they were seated opposite each other; "but I put off
asking you to come until Mr. Bulstrode applied to me again about the
Hospital. I know that the advantage of keeping the management of it
separate from that of the Infirmary depends on you, or, at least, on
the good which you are encouraged to hope for from having it under your
control. And I am sure you will not refuse to tell me exactly what you
"You want to decide whether you should give a generous support to the
Hospital," said Lydgate. "I cannot conscientiously advise you to do it
in dependence on any activity of mine. I may be obliged to leave the
He spoke curtly, feeling the ache of despair as to his being able to
carry out any purpose that Rosamond had set her mind against.
"Not because there is no one to believe in you?" said Dorothea, pouring
out her words in clearness from a full heart. "I know the unhappy
mistakes about you. I knew them from the first moment to be mistakes.
You have never done anything vile. You would not do anything
It was the first assurance of belief in him that had fallen on
Lydgate's ears. He drew a deep breath, and said, "Thank you." He could
say no more: it was something very new and strange in his life that
these few words of trust from a woman should be so much to him.
"I beseech you to tell me how everything was," said Dorothea,
fearlessly. "I am sure that the truth would clear you."
Lydgate started up from his chair and went towards the window,
forgetting where he was. He had so often gone over in his mind the
possibility of explaining everything without aggravating appearances
that would tell, perhaps unfairly, against Bulstrode, and had so often
decided against it—he had so often said to himself that his assertions
would not change people's impressions—that Dorothea's words sounded
like a temptation to do something which in his soberness he had
pronounced to be unreasonable.
"Tell me, pray," said Dorothea, with simple earnestness; "then we can
consult together. It is wicked to let people think evil of any one
falsely, when it can be hindered."
Lydgate turned, remembering where he was, and saw Dorothea's face
looking up at him with a sweet trustful gravity. The presence of a
noble nature, generous in its wishes, ardent in its charity, changes
the lights for us: we begin to see things again in their larger,
quieter masses, and to believe that we too can be seen and judged in
the wholeness of our character. That influence was beginning to act on
Lydgate, who had for many days been seeing all life as one who is
dragged and struggling amid the throng. He sat down again, and felt
that he was recovering his old self in the consciousness that he was
with one who believed in it.
"I don't want," he said, "to bear hard on Bulstrode, who has lent me
money of which I was in need—though I would rather have gone without
it now. He is hunted down and miserable, and has only a poor thread of
life in him. But I should like to tell you everything. It will be a
comfort to me to speak where belief has gone beforehand, and where I
shall not seem to be offering assertions of my own honesty. You will
feel what is fair to another, as you feel what is fair to me."
"Do trust me," said Dorothea; "I will not repeat anything without your
leave. But at the very least, I could say that you have made all the
circumstances clear to me, and that I know you are not in any way
guilty. Mr. Farebrother would believe me, and my uncle, and Sir James
Chettam. Nay, there are persons in Middlemarch to whom I could go;
although they don't know much of me, they would believe me. They would
know that I could have no other motive than truth and justice. I would
take any pains to clear you. I have very little to do. There is
nothing better that I can do in the world."
Dorothea's voice, as she made this childlike picture of what she would
do, might have been almost taken as a proof that she could do it
effectively. The searching tenderness of her woman's tones seemed made
for a defence against ready accusers. Lydgate did not stay to think
that she was Quixotic: he gave himself up, for the first time in his
life, to the exquisite sense of leaning entirely on a generous
sympathy, without any check of proud reserve. And he told her
everything, from the time when, under the pressure of his difficulties,
he unwillingly made his first application to Bulstrode; gradually, in
the relief of speaking, getting into a more thorough utterance of what
had gone on in his mind—entering fully into the fact that his
treatment of the patient was opposed to the dominant practice, into his
doubts at the last, his ideal of medical duty, and his uneasy
consciousness that the acceptance of the money had made some difference
in his private inclination and professional behavior, though not in his
fulfilment of any publicly recognized obligation.
"It has come to my knowledge since," he added, "that Hawley sent some
one to examine the housekeeper at Stone Court, and she said that she
gave the patient all the opium in the phial I left, as well as a good
deal of brandy. But that would not have been opposed to ordinary
prescriptions, even of first-rate men. The suspicions against me had
no hold there: they are grounded on the knowledge that I took money,
that Bulstrode had strong motives for wishing the man to die, and that
he gave me the money as a bribe to concur in some malpractices or other
against the patient—that in any case I accepted a bribe to hold my
tongue. They are just the suspicions that cling the most obstinately,
because they lie in people's inclination and can never be disproved.
How my orders came to be disobeyed is a question to which I don't know
the answer. It is still possible that Bulstrode was innocent of any
criminal intention—even possible that he had nothing to do with the
disobedience, and merely abstained from mentioning it. But all that
has nothing to do with the public belief. It is one of those cases on
which a man is condemned on the ground of his character—it is
believed that he has committed a crime in some undefined way, because
he had the motive for doing it; and Bulstrode's character has enveloped
me, because I took his money. I am simply blighted—like a damaged
ear of corn—the business is done and can't be undone."
"Oh, it is hard!" said Dorothea. "I understand the difficulty there is
in your vindicating yourself. And that all this should have come to
you who had meant to lead a higher life than the common, and to find
out better ways—I cannot bear to rest in this as unchangeable. I know
you meant that. I remember what you said to me when you first spoke to
me about the hospital. There is no sorrow I have thought more about
than that—to love what is great, and try to reach it, and yet to fail."
"Yes," said Lydgate, feeling that here he had found room for the full
meaning of his grief. "I had some ambition. I meant everything to be
different with me. I thought I had more strength and mastery. But the
most terrible obstacles are such as nobody can see except oneself."
"Suppose," said Dorothea, meditatively,—"suppose we kept on the
Hospital according to the present plan, and you stayed here though only
with the friendship and support of a few, the evil feeling towards you
would gradually die out; there would come opportunities in which people
would be forced to acknowledge that they had been unjust to you,
because they would see that your purposes were pure. You may still win
a great fame like the Louis and Laennec I have heard you speak of, and
we shall all be proud of you," she ended, with a smile.
"That might do if I had my old trust in myself," said Lydgate,
mournfully. "Nothing galls me more than the notion of turning round
and running away before this slander, leaving it unchecked behind me.
Still, I can't ask any one to put a great deal of money into a plan
which depends on me."
"It would be quite worth my while," said Dorothea, simply. "Only
think. I am very uncomfortable with my money, because they tell me I
have too little for any great scheme of the sort I like best, and yet I
have too much. I don't know what to do. I have seven hundred a-year
of my own fortune, and nineteen hundred a-year that Mr. Casaubon left
me, and between three and four thousand of ready money in the bank. I
wished to raise money and pay it off gradually out of my income which I
don't want, to buy land with and found a village which should be a
school of industry; but Sir James and my uncle have convinced me that
the risk would be too great. So you see that what I should most
rejoice at would be to have something good to do with my money: I
should like it to make other people's lives better to them. It makes
me very uneasy—coming all to me who don't want it."
A smile broke through the gloom of Lydgate's face. The childlike
grave-eyed earnestness with which Dorothea said all this was
irresistible—blent into an adorable whole with her ready understanding
of high experience. (Of lower experience such as plays a great part in
the world, poor Mrs. Casaubon had a very blurred shortsighted
knowledge, little helped by her imagination.) But she took the smile as
encouragement of her plan.
"I think you see now that you spoke too scrupulously," she said, in a
tone of persuasion. "The hospital would be one good; and making your
life quite whole and well again would be another."
Lydgate's smile had died away. "You have the goodness as well as the
money to do all that; if it could be done," he said. "But—"
He hesitated a little while, looking vaguely towards the window; and
she sat in silent expectation. At last he turned towards her and said
"Why should I not tell you?—you know what sort of bond marriage is.
You will understand everything."
Dorothea felt her heart beginning to beat faster. Had he that sorrow
too? But she feared to say any word, and he went on immediately.
"It is impossible for me now to do anything—to take any step without
considering my wife's happiness. The thing that I might like to do if
I were alone, is become impossible to me. I can't see her miserable.
She married me without knowing what she was going into, and it might
have been better for her if she had not married me."
"I know, I know—you could not give her pain, if you were not obliged
to do it," said Dorothea, with keen memory of her own life.
"And she has set her mind against staying. She wishes to go. The
troubles she has had here have wearied her," said Lydgate, breaking off
again, lest he should say too much.
"But when she saw the good that might come of staying—" said Dorothea,
remonstrantly, looking at Lydgate as if he had forgotten the reasons
which had just been considered. He did not speak immediately.
"She would not see it," he said at last, curtly, feeling at first that
this statement must do without explanation. "And, indeed, I have lost
all spirit about carrying on my life here." He paused a moment and
then, following the impulse to let Dorothea see deeper into the
difficulty of his life, he said, "The fact is, this trouble has come
upon her confusedly. We have not been able to speak to each other
about it. I am not sure what is in her mind about it: she may fear
that I have really done something base. It is my fault; I ought to be
more open. But I have been suffering cruelly."
"May I go and see her?" said Dorothea, eagerly. "Would she accept my
sympathy? I would tell her that you have not been blamable before any
one's judgment but your own. I would tell her that you shall be
cleared in every fair mind. I would cheer her heart. Will you ask her
if I may go to see her? I did see her once."
"I am sure you may," said Lydgate, seizing the proposition with some
hope. "She would feel honored—cheered, I think, by the proof that you
at least have some respect for me. I will not speak to her about your
coming—that she may not connect it with my wishes at all. I know very
well that I ought not to have left anything to be told her by others,
He broke off, and there was a moment's silence. Dorothea refrained
from saying what was in her mind—how well she knew that there might be
invisible barriers to speech between husband and wife. This was a
point on which even sympathy might make a wound. She returned to the
more outward aspect of Lydgate's position, saying cheerfully—
"And if Mrs. Lydgate knew that there were friends who would believe in
you and support you, she might then be glad that you should stay in
your place and recover your hopes—and do what you meant to do.
Perhaps then you would see that it was right to agree with what I
proposed about your continuing at the Hospital. Surely you would, if
you still have faith in it as a means of making your knowledge useful?"
Lydgate did not answer, and she saw that he was debating with himself.
"You need not decide immediately," she said, gently. "A few days hence
it will be early enough for me to send my answer to Mr. Bulstrode."
Lydgate still waited, but at last turned to speak in his most decisive
"No; I prefer that there should be no interval left for wavering. I am
no longer sure enough of myself—I mean of what it would be possible
for me to do under the changed circumstances of my life. It would be
dishonorable to let others engage themselves to anything serious in
dependence on me. I might be obliged to go away after all; I see
little chance of anything else. The whole thing is too problematic; I
cannot consent to be the cause of your goodness being wasted. No—let
the new Hospital be joined with the old Infirmary, and everything go on
as it might have done if I had never come. I have kept a valuable
register since I have been there; I shall send it to a man who will
make use of it," he ended bitterly. "I can think of nothing for a long
while but getting an income."
"It hurts me very much to hear you speak so hopelessly," said Dorothea.
"It would be a happiness to your friends, who believe in your future,
in your power to do great things, if you would let them save you from
that. Think how much money I have; it would be like taking a burthen
from me if you took some of it every year till you got free from this
fettering want of income. Why should not people do these things? It
is so difficult to make shares at all even. This is one way."
"God bless you, Mrs. Casaubon!" said Lydgate, rising as if with the
same impulse that made his words energetic, and resting his arm on the
back of the great leather chair he had been sitting in. "It is good
that you should have such feelings. But I am not the man who ought to
allow himself to benefit by them. I have not given guarantees enough.
I must not at least sink into the degradation of being pensioned for
work that I never achieved. It is very clear to me that I must not
count on anything else than getting away from Middlemarch as soon as I
can manage it. I should not be able for a long while, at the very
best, to get an income here, and—and it is easier to make necessary
changes in a new place. I must do as other men do, and think what will
please the world and bring in money; look for a little opening in the
London crowd, and push myself; set up in a watering-place, or go to
some southern town where there are plenty of idle English, and get
myself puffed,—that is the sort of shell I must creep into and try to
keep my soul alive in."
"Now that is not brave," said Dorothea,—"to give up the fight."
"No, it is not brave," said Lydgate, "but if a man is afraid of
creeping paralysis?" Then, in another tone, "Yet you have made a great
difference in my courage by believing in me. Everything seems more
bearable since I have talked to you; and if you can clear me in a few
other minds, especially in Farebrother's, I shall be deeply grateful.
The point I wish you not to mention is the fact of disobedience to my
orders. That would soon get distorted. After all, there is no
evidence for me but people's opinion of me beforehand. You can only
repeat my own report of myself."
"Mr. Farebrother will believe—others will believe," said Dorothea. "I
can say of you what will make it stupidity to suppose that you would be
bribed to do a wickedness."
"I don't know," said Lydgate, with something like a groan in his voice.
"I have not taken a bribe yet. But there is a pale shade of bribery
which is sometimes called prosperity. You will do me another great
kindness, then, and come to see my wife?"
"Yes, I will. I remember how pretty she is," said Dorothea, into whose
mind every impression about Rosamond had cut deep. "I hope she will
As Lydgate rode away, he thought, "This young creature has a heart
large enough for the Virgin Mary. She evidently thinks nothing of her
own future, and would pledge away half her income at once, as if she
wanted nothing for herself but a chair to sit in from which she can
look down with those clear eyes at the poor mortals who pray to her.
She seems to have what I never saw in any woman before—a fountain of
friendship towards men—a man can make a friend of her. Casaubon must
have raised some heroic hallucination in her. I wonder if she could
have any other sort of passion for a man? Ladislaw?—there was
certainly an unusual feeling between them. And Casaubon must have had
a notion of it. Well—her love might help a man more than her money."
Dorothea on her side had immediately formed a plan of relieving Lydgate
from his obligation to Bulstrode, which she felt sure was a part,
though small, of the galling pressure he had to bear. She sat down at
once under the inspiration of their interview, and wrote a brief note,
in which she pleaded that she had more claim than Mr. Bulstrode had to
the satisfaction of providing the money which had been serviceable to
Lydgate—that it would be unkind in Lydgate not to grant her the
position of being his helper in this small matter, the favor being
entirely to her who had so little that was plainly marked out for her
to do with her superfluous money. He might call her a creditor or by
any other name if it did but imply that he granted her request. She
enclosed a check for a thousand pounds, and determined to take the
letter with her the next day when she went to see Rosamond.
"And thus thy fall hath left a kind of blot,
To mark the full-fraught man and best indued
With some suspicion."
The next day Lydgate had to go to Brassing, and told Rosamond that he
should be away until the evening. Of late she had never gone beyond
her own house and garden, except to church, and once to see her papa,
to whom she said, "If Tertius goes away, you will help us to move, will
you not, papa? I suppose we shall have very little money. I am sure I
hope some one will help us." And Mr. Vincy had said, "Yes, child, I
don't mind a hundred or two. I can see the end of that." With these
exceptions she had sat at home in languid melancholy and suspense,
fixing her mind on Will Ladislaw's coming as the one point of hope and
interest, and associating this with some new urgency on Lydgate to make
immediate arrangements for leaving Middlemarch and going to London,
till she felt assured that the coming would be a potent cause of the
going, without at all seeing how. This way of establishing sequences
is too common to be fairly regarded as a peculiar folly in Rosamond.
And it is precisely this sort of sequence which causes the greatest
shock when it is sundered: for to see how an effect may be produced is
often to see possible missings and checks; but to see nothing except
the desirable cause, and close upon it the desirable effect, rids us of
doubt and makes our minds strongly intuitive. That was the process
going on in poor Rosamond, while she arranged all objects around her
with the same nicety as ever, only with more slowness—or sat down to
the piano, meaning to play, and then desisting, yet lingering on the
music stool with her white fingers suspended on the wooden front, and
looking before her in dreamy ennui. Her melancholy had become so
marked that Lydgate felt a strange timidity before it, as a perpetual
silent reproach, and the strong man, mastered by his keen sensibilities
towards this fair fragile creature whose life he seemed somehow to have
bruised, shrank from her look, and sometimes started at her approach,
fear of her and fear for her rushing in only the more forcibly after it
had been momentarily expelled by exasperation.
But this morning Rosamond descended from her room upstairs—where she
sometimes sat the whole day when Lydgate was out—equipped for a walk
in the town. She had a letter to post—a letter addressed to Mr.
Ladislaw and written with charming discretion, but intended to hasten
his arrival by a hint of trouble. The servant-maid, their sole
house-servant now, noticed her coming down-stairs in her walking dress,
and thought "there never did anybody look so pretty in a bonnet poor
Meanwhile Dorothea's mind was filled with her project of going to
Rosamond, and with the many thoughts, both of the past and the probable
future, which gathered round the idea of that visit. Until yesterday
when Lydgate had opened to her a glimpse of some trouble in his married
life, the image of Mrs. Lydgate had always been associated for her with
that of Will Ladislaw. Even in her most uneasy moments—even when she
had been agitated by Mrs. Cadwallader's painfully graphic report of
gossip—her effort, nay, her strongest impulsive prompting, had been
towards the vindication of Will from any sullying surmises; and when,
in her meeting with him afterwards, she had at first interpreted his
words as a probable allusion to a feeling towards Mrs. Lydgate which he
was determined to cut himself off from indulging, she had had a quick,
sad, excusing vision of the charm there might be in his constant
opportunities of companionship with that fair creature, who most likely
shared his other tastes as she evidently did his delight in music. But
there had followed his parting words—the few passionate words in
which he had implied that she herself was the object of whom his love
held him in dread, that it was his love for her only which he was
resolved not to declare but to carry away into banishment. From the
time of that parting, Dorothea, believing in Will's love for her,
believing with a proud delight in his delicate sense of honor and his
determination that no one should impeach him justly, felt her heart
quite at rest as to the regard he might have for Mrs. Lydgate. She was
sure that the regard was blameless.
There are natures in which, if they love us, we are conscious of having
a sort of baptism and consecration: they bind us over to rectitude and
purity by their pure belief about us; and our sins become that worst
kind of sacrilege which tears down the invisible altar of trust. "If
you are not good, none is good"—those little words may give a
terrific meaning to responsibility, may hold a vitriolic intensity for
Dorothea's nature was of that kind: her own passionate faults lay along
the easily counted open channels of her ardent character; and while she
was full of pity for the visible mistakes of others, she had not yet
any material within her experience for subtle constructions and
suspicions of hidden wrong. But that simplicity of hers, holding up an
ideal for others in her believing conception of them, was one of the
great powers of her womanhood. And it had from the first acted
strongly on Will Ladislaw. He felt, when he parted from her, that the
brief words by which he had tried to convey to her his feeling about
herself and the division which her fortune made between them, would
only profit by their brevity when Dorothea had to interpret them: he
felt that in her mind he had found his highest estimate.
And he was right there. In the months since their parting Dorothea had
felt a delicious though sad repose in their relation to each other, as
one which was inwardly whole and without blemish. She had an active
force of antagonism within her, when the antagonism turned on the
defence either of plans or persons that she believed in; and the wrongs
which she felt that Will had received from her husband, and the
external conditions which to others were grounds for slighting him,
only gave the more tenacity to her affection and admiring judgment.
And now with the disclosures about Bulstrode had come another fact
affecting Will's social position, which roused afresh Dorothea's inward
resistance to what was said about him in that part of her world which
lay within park palings.
"Young Ladislaw the grandson of a thieving Jew pawnbroker" was a phrase
which had entered emphatically into the dialogues about the Bulstrode
business, at Lowick, Tipton, and Freshitt, and was a worse kind of
placard on poor Will's back than the "Italian with white mice."
Upright Sir James Chettam was convinced that his own satisfaction was
righteous when he thought with some complacency that here was an added
league to that mountainous distance between Ladislaw and Dorothea,
which enabled him to dismiss any anxiety in that direction as too
absurd. And perhaps there had been some pleasure in pointing Mr.
Brooke's attention to this ugly bit of Ladislaw's genealogy, as a fresh
candle for him to see his own folly by. Dorothea had observed the
animus with which Will's part in the painful story had been recalled
more than once; but she had uttered no word, being checked now, as she
had not been formerly in speaking of Will, by the consciousness of a
deeper relation between them which must always remain in consecrated
secrecy. But her silence shrouded her resistant emotion into a more
thorough glow; and this misfortune in Will's lot which, it seemed,
others were wishing to fling at his back as an opprobrium, only gave
something more of enthusiasm to her clinging thought.
She entertained no visions of their ever coming into nearer union, and
yet she had taken no posture of renunciation. She had accepted her
whole relation to Will very simply as part of her marriage sorrows, and
would have thought it very sinful in her to keep up an inward wail
because she was not completely happy, being rather disposed to dwell on
the superfluities of her lot. She could bear that the chief pleasures
of her tenderness should lie in memory, and the idea of marriage came
to her solely as a repulsive proposition from some suitor of whom she
at present knew nothing, but whose merits, as seen by her friends,
would be a source of torment to her:—"somebody who will manage your
property for you, my dear," was Mr. Brooke's attractive suggestion of
suitable characteristics. "I should like to manage it myself, if I
knew what to do with it," said Dorothea. No—she adhered to her
declaration that she would never be married again, and in the long
valley of her life which looked so flat and empty of waymarks, guidance
would come as she walked along the road, and saw her fellow-passengers
by the way.
This habitual state of feeling about Will Ladislaw had been strong in
all her waking hours since she had proposed to pay a visit to Mrs.
Lydgate, making a sort of background against which she saw Rosamond's
figure presented to her without hindrances to her interest and
compassion. There was evidently some mental separation, some barrier
to complete confidence which had arisen between this wife and the
husband who had yet made her happiness a law to him. That was a
trouble which no third person must directly touch. But Dorothea
thought with deep pity of the loneliness which must have come upon
Rosamond from the suspicions cast on her husband; and there would
surely be help in the manifestation of respect for Lydgate and sympathy
"I shall talk to her about her husband," thought Dorothea, as she was
being driven towards the town. The clear spring morning, the scent of
the moist earth, the fresh leaves just showing their creased-up wealth
of greenery from out their half-opened sheaths, seemed part of the
cheerfulness she was feeling from a long conversation with Mr.
Farebrother, who had joyfully accepted the justifying explanation of
Lydgate's conduct. "I shall take Mrs. Lydgate good news, and perhaps
she will like to talk to me and make a friend of me."
Dorothea had another errand in Lowick Gate: it was about a new
fine-toned bell for the school-house, and as she had to get out of her
carriage very near to Lydgate's, she walked thither across the street,
having told the coachman to wait for some packages. The street door
was open, and the servant was taking the opportunity of looking out at
the carriage which was pausing within sight when it became apparent to
her that the lady who "belonged to it" was coming towards her.
"Is Mrs. Lydgate at home?" said Dorothea.
"I'm not sure, my lady; I'll see, if you'll please to walk in," said
Martha, a little confused on the score of her kitchen apron, but
collected enough to be sure that "mum" was not the right title for this
queenly young widow with a carriage and pair. "Will you please to walk
in, and I'll go and see."
"Say that I am Mrs. Casaubon," said Dorothea, as Martha moved forward
intending to show her into the drawing-room and then to go up-stairs to
see if Rosamond had returned from her walk.
They crossed the broader part of the entrance-hall, and turned up the
passage which led to the garden. The drawing-room door was unlatched,
and Martha, pushing it without looking into the room, waited for Mrs.
Casaubon to enter and then turned away, the door having swung open and
swung back again without noise.
Dorothea had less of outward vision than usual this morning, being
filled with images of things as they had been and were going to be.
She found herself on the other side of the door without seeing anything
remarkable, but immediately she heard a voice speaking in low tones
which startled her as with a sense of dreaming in daylight, and
advancing unconsciously a step or two beyond the projecting slab of a
bookcase, she saw, in the terrible illumination of a certainty which
filled up all outlines, something which made her pause, motionless,
without self-possession enough to speak.
Seated with his back towards her on a sofa which stood against the wall
on a line with the door by which she had entered, she saw Will
Ladislaw: close by him and turned towards him with a flushed
tearfulness which gave a new brilliancy to her face sat Rosamond, her
bonnet hanging back, while Will leaning towards her clasped both her
upraised hands in his and spoke with low-toned fervor.
Rosamond in her agitated absorption had not noticed the silently
advancing figure; but when Dorothea, after the first immeasurable
instant of this vision, moved confusedly backward and found herself
impeded by some piece of furniture, Rosamond was suddenly aware of her
presence, and with a spasmodic movement snatched away her hands and
rose, looking at Dorothea who was necessarily arrested. Will Ladislaw,
starting up, looked round also, and meeting Dorothea's eyes with a new
lightning in them, seemed changing to marble: But she immediately
turned them away from him to Rosamond and said in a firm voice—
"Excuse me, Mrs. Lydgate, the servant did not know that you were here.
I called to deliver an important letter for Mr. Lydgate, which I wished
to put into your own hands."
She laid down the letter on the small table which had checked her
retreat, and then including Rosamond and Will in one distant glance and
bow, she went quickly out of the room, meeting in the passage the
surprised Martha, who said she was sorry the mistress was not at home,
and then showed the strange lady out with an inward reflection that
grand people were probably more impatient than others.
Dorothea walked across the street with her most elastic step and was
quickly in her carriage again.
"Drive on to Freshitt Hall," she said to the coachman, and any one
looking at her might have thought that though she was paler than usual
she was never animated by a more self-possessed energy. And that was
really her experience. It was as if she had drunk a great draught of
scorn that stimulated her beyond the susceptibility to other feelings.
She had seen something so far below her belief, that her emotions
rushed back from it and made an excited throng without an object. She
needed something active to turn her excitement out upon. She felt
power to walk and work for a day, without meat or drink. And she would
carry out the purpose with which she had started in the morning, of
going to Freshitt and Tipton to tell Sir James and her uncle all that
she wished them to know about Lydgate, whose married loneliness under
his trial now presented itself to her with new significance, and made
her more ardent in readiness to be his champion. She had never felt
anything like this triumphant power of indignation in the struggle of
her married life, in which there had always been a quickly subduing
pang; and she took it as a sign of new strength.
"Dodo, how very bright your eyes are!" said Celia, when Sir James was
gone out of the room. "And you don't see anything you look at, Arthur
or anything. You are going to do something uncomfortable, I know. Is
it all about Mr. Lydgate, or has something else happened?" Celia had
been used to watch her sister with expectation.
"Yes, dear, a great many things have happened," said Dodo, in her full
"I wonder what," said Celia, folding her arms cozily and leaning
forward upon them.
"Oh, all the troubles of all people on the face of the earth," said
Dorothea, lifting her arms to the back of her head.
"Dear me, Dodo, are you going to have a scheme for them?" said Celia, a
little uneasy at this Hamlet-like raving.
But Sir James came in again, ready to accompany Dorothea to the Grange,
and she finished her expedition well, not swerving in her resolution
until she descended at her own door.
"Would it were yesterday and I i' the grave,
With her sweet faith above for monument"
Rosamond and Will stood motionless—they did not know how long—he
looking towards the spot where Dorothea had stood, and she looking
towards him with doubt. It seemed an endless time to Rosamond, in
whose inmost soul there was hardly so much annoyance as gratification
from what had just happened. Shallow natures dream of an easy sway
over the emotions of others, trusting implicitly in their own petty
magic to turn the deepest streams, and confident, by pretty gestures
and remarks, of making the thing that is not as though it were. She
knew that Will had received a severe blow, but she had been little used
to imagining other people's states of mind except as a material cut
into shape by her own wishes; and she believed in her own power to
soothe or subdue. Even Tertius, that most perverse of men, was always
subdued in the long-run: events had been obstinate, but still Rosamond
would have said now, as she did before her marriage, that she never
gave up what she had set her mind on.
She put out her arm and laid the tips of her fingers on Will's
"Don't touch me!" he said, with an utterance like the cut of a lash,
darting from her, and changing from pink to white and back again, as if
his whole frame were tingling with the pain of the sting. He wheeled
round to the other side of the room and stood opposite to her, with the
tips of his fingers in his pockets and his head thrown back, looking
fiercely not at Rosamond but at a point a few inches away from her.
She was keenly offended, but the Signs she made of this were such as
only Lydgate was used to interpret. She became suddenly quiet and
seated herself, untying her hanging bonnet and laying it down with her
shawl. Her little hands which she folded before her were very cold.
It would have been safer for Will in the first instance to have taken
up his hat and gone away; but he had felt no impulse to do this; on the
contrary, he had a horrible inclination to stay and shatter Rosamond
with his anger. It seemed as impossible to bear the fatality she had
drawn down on him without venting his fury as it would be to a panther
to bear the javelin-wound without springing and biting. And yet—how
could he tell a woman that he was ready to curse her? He was fuming
under a repressive law which he was forced to acknowledge: he was
dangerously poised, and Rosamond's voice now brought the decisive
vibration. In flute-like tones of sarcasm she said—
"You can easily go after Mrs. Casaubon and explain your preference."
"Go after her!" he burst out, with a sharp edge in his voice. "Do you
think she would turn to look at me, or value any word I ever uttered to
her again at more than a dirty feather?—Explain! How can a man
explain at the expense of a woman?"
"You can tell her what you please," said Rosamond with more tremor.
"Do you suppose she would like me better for sacrificing you? She is
not a woman to be flattered because I made myself despicable—to
believe that I must be true to her because I was a dastard to you."
He began to move about with the restlessness of a wild animal that sees
prey but cannot reach it. Presently he burst out again—
"I had no hope before—not much—of anything better to come. But I had
one certainty—that she believed in me. Whatever people had said or
done about me, she believed in me.—That's gone! She'll never again
think me anything but a paltry pretence—too nice to take heaven
except upon flattering conditions, and yet selling myself for any
devil's change by the sly. She'll think of me as an incarnate insult
to her, from the first moment we—"
Will stopped as if he had found himself grasping something that must
not be thrown and shattered. He found another vent for his rage by
snatching up Rosamond's words again, as if they were reptiles to be
throttled and flung off.
"Explain! Tell a man to explain how he dropped into hell! Explain my
preference! I never had a preference for her, any more than I have a
preference for breathing. No other woman exists by the side of her. I
would rather touch her hand if it were dead, than I would touch any
other woman's living."
Rosamond, while these poisoned weapons were being hurled at her, was
almost losing the sense of her identity, and seemed to be waking into
some new terrible existence. She had no sense of chill resolute
repulsion, of reticent self-justification such as she had known under
Lydgate's most stormy displeasure: all her sensibility was turned into
a bewildering novelty of pain; she felt a new terrified recoil under a
lash never experienced before. What another nature felt in opposition
to her own was being burnt and bitten into her consciousness. When
Will had ceased to speak she had become an image of sickened misery:
her lips were pale, and her eyes had a tearless dismay in them. If it
had been Tertius who stood opposite to her, that look of misery would
have been a pang to him, and he would have sunk by her side to comfort
her, with that strong-armed comfort which, she had often held very
Let it be forgiven to Will that he had no such movement of pity. He
had felt no bond beforehand to this woman who had spoiled the ideal
treasure of his life, and he held himself blameless. He knew that he
was cruel, but he had no relenting in him yet.
After he had done speaking, he still moved about, half in absence of
mind, and Rosamond sat perfectly still. At length Will, seeming to
bethink himself, took up his hat, yet stood some moments irresolute.
He had spoken to her in a way that made a phrase of common politeness
difficult to utter; and yet, now that he had come to the point of going
away from her without further speech, he shrank from it as a brutality;
he felt checked and stultified in his anger. He walked towards the
mantel-piece and leaned his arm on it, and waited in silence for—he
hardly knew what. The vindictive fire was still burning in him, and he
could utter no word of retractation; but it was nevertheless in his
mind that having come back to this hearth where he had enjoyed a
caressing friendship he had found calamity seated there—he had had
suddenly revealed to him a trouble that lay outside the home as well as
within it. And what seemed a foreboding was pressing upon him as with
slow pincers:—that his life might come to be enslaved by this helpless
woman who had thrown herself upon him in the dreary sadness of her
heart. But he was in gloomy rebellion against the fact that his quick
apprehensiveness foreshadowed to him, and when his eyes fell on
Rosamond's blighted face it seemed to him that he was the more pitiable
of the two; for pain must enter into its glorified life of memory
before it can turn into compassion.
And so they remained for many minutes, opposite each other, far apart,
in silence; Will's face still possessed by a mute rage, and Rosamond's
by a mute misery. The poor thing had no force to fling out any passion
in return; the terrible collapse of the illusion towards which all her
hope had been strained was a stroke which had too thoroughly shaken
her: her little world was in ruins, and she felt herself tottering in
the midst as a lonely bewildered consciousness.
Will wished that she would speak and bring some mitigating shadow
across his own cruel speech, which seemed to stand staring at them both
in mockery of any attempt at revived fellowship. But she said nothing,
and at last with a desperate effort over himself, he asked, "Shall I
come in and see Lydgate this evening?"
"If you like," Rosamond answered, just audibly.
And then Will went out of the house, Martha never knowing that he had
After he was gone, Rosamond tried to get up from her seat, but fell
back fainting. When she came to herself again, she felt too ill to
make the exertion of rising to ring the bell, and she remained helpless
until the girl, surprised at her long absence, thought for the first
time of looking for her in all the down-stairs rooms. Rosamond said
that she had felt suddenly sick and faint, and wanted to be helped
up-stairs. When there she threw herself on the bed with her clothes on,
and lay in apparent torpor, as she had done once before on a memorable
day of grief.
Lydgate came home earlier than he had expected, about half-past five,
and found her there. The perception that she was ill threw every other
thought into the background. When he felt her pulse, her eyes rested
on him with more persistence than they had done for a long while, as if
she felt some content that he was there. He perceived the difference
in a moment, and seating himself by her put his arm gently under her,
and bending over her said, "My poor Rosamond! has something agitated
you?" Clinging to him she fell into hysterical sobbings and cries, and
for the next hour he did nothing but soothe and tend her. He imagined
that Dorothea had been to see her, and that all this effect on her
nervous system, which evidently involved some new turning towards
himself, was due to the excitement of the new impressions which that
visit had raised.
"Now, I saw in my dream, that just as they had ended their
talk, they drew nigh to a very miry slough, that was in the
midst of the plain; and they, being heedless, did both fall
suddenly into the bog. The name of the slough was
When Rosamond was quiet, and Lydgate had left her, hoping that she
might soon sleep under the effect of an anodyne, he went into the
drawing-room to fetch a book which he had left there, meaning to spend
the evening in his work-room, and he saw on the table Dorothea's letter
addressed to him. He had not ventured to ask Rosamond if Mrs. Casaubon
had called, but the reading of this letter assured him of the fact, for
Dorothea mentioned that it was to be carried by herself.
When Will Ladislaw came in a little later Lydgate met him with a
surprise which made it clear that he had not been told of the earlier
visit, and Will could not say, "Did not Mrs. Lydgate tell you that I
came this morning?"
"Poor Rosamond is ill," Lydgate added immediately on his greeting.
"Not seriously, I hope," said Will.
"No—only a slight nervous shock—the effect of some agitation. She
has been overwrought lately. The truth is, Ladislaw, I am an unlucky
devil. We have gone through several rounds of purgatory since you
left, and I have lately got on to a worse ledge of it than ever. I
suppose you are only just come down—you look rather battered—you
have not been long enough in the town to hear anything?"
"I travelled all night and got to the White Hart at eight o'clock this
morning. I have been shutting myself up and resting," said Will,
feeling himself a sneak, but seeing no alternative to this evasion.
And then he heard Lydgate's account of the troubles which Rosamond had
already depicted to him in her way. She had not mentioned the fact of
Will's name being connected with the public story—this detail not
immediately affecting her—and he now heard it for the first time.
"I thought it better to tell you that your name is mixed up with the
disclosures," said Lydgate, who could understand better than most men
how Ladislaw might be stung by the revelation. "You will be sure to
hear it as soon as you turn out into the town. I suppose it is true
that Raffles spoke to you."
"Yes," said Will, sardonically. "I shall be fortunate if gossip does
not make me the most disreputable person in the whole affair. I should
think the latest version must be, that I plotted with Raffles to murder
Bulstrode, and ran away from Middlemarch for the purpose."
He was thinking "Here is a new ring in the sound of my name to
recommend it in her hearing; however—what does it signify now?"
But he said nothing of Bulstrode's offer to him. Will was very open
and careless about his personal affairs, but it was among the more
exquisite touches in nature's modelling of him that he had a delicate
generosity which warned him into reticence here. He shrank from saying
that he had rejected Bulstrode's money, in the moment when he was
learning that it was Lydgate's misfortune to have accepted it.
Lydgate too was reticent in the midst of his confidence. He made no
allusion to Rosamond's feeling under their trouble, and of Dorothea he
only said, "Mrs. Casaubon has been the one person to come forward and
say that she had no belief in any of the suspicions against me."
Observing a change in Will's face, he avoided any further mention of
her, feeling himself too ignorant of their relation to each other not
to fear that his words might have some hidden painful bearing on it.
And it occurred to him that Dorothea was the real cause of the present
visit to Middlemarch.
The two men were pitying each other, but it was only Will who guessed
the extent of his companion's trouble. When Lydgate spoke with
desperate resignation of going to settle in London, and said with a
faint smile, "We shall have you again, old fellow." Will felt
inexpressibly mournful, and said nothing. Rosamond had that morning
entreated him to urge this step on Lydgate; and it seemed to him as if
he were beholding in a magic panorama a future where he himself was
sliding into that pleasureless yielding to the small solicitations of
circumstance, which is a commoner history of perdition than any single
We are on a perilous margin when we begin to look passively at our
future selves, and see our own figures led with dull consent into
insipid misdoing and shabby achievement. Poor Lydgate was inwardly
groaning on that margin, and Will was arriving at it. It seemed to him
this evening as if the cruelty of his outburst to Rosamond had made an
obligation for him, and he dreaded the obligation: he dreaded Lydgate's
unsuspecting good-will: he dreaded his own distaste for his spoiled
life, which would leave him in motiveless levity.
"Stern lawgiver! yet thou dost wear
The Godhead's most benignant grace;
Nor know we anything so fair
As is the smile upon thy face;
Flowers laugh before thee on their beds,
And fragrance in thy footing treads;
Thou dost preserve the Stars from wrong;
And the most ancient Heavens, through thee, are fresh and strong.
—WORDSWORTH: Ode to Duty.
When Dorothea had seen Mr. Farebrother in the morning, she had promised
to go and dine at the parsonage on her return from Freshitt. There was
a frequent interchange of visits between her and the Farebrother
family, which enabled her to say that she was not at all lonely at the
Manor, and to resist for the present the severe prescription of a lady
companion. When she reached home and remembered her engagement, she
was glad of it; and finding that she had still an hour before she could
dress for dinner, she walked straight to the schoolhouse and entered
into a conversation with the master and mistress about the new bell,
giving eager attention to their small details and repetitions, and
getting up a dramatic sense that her life was very busy. She paused on
her way back to talk to old Master Bunney who was putting in some
garden-seeds, and discoursed wisely with that rural sage about the
crops that would make the most return on a perch of ground, and the
result of sixty years' experience as to soils—namely, that if your
soil was pretty mellow it would do, but if there came wet, wet, wet to
make it all of a mummy, why then—
Finding that the social spirit had beguiled her into being rather late,
she dressed hastily and went over to the parsonage rather earlier than
was necessary. That house was never dull, Mr. Farebrother, like
another White of Selborne, having continually something new to tell of
his inarticulate guests and proteges, whom he was teaching the boys not
to torment; and he had just set up a pair of beautiful goats to be pets
of the village in general, and to walk at large as sacred animals. The
evening went by cheerfully till after tea, Dorothea talking more than
usual and dilating with Mr. Farebrother on the possible histories of
creatures that converse compendiously with their antennae, and for
aught we know may hold reformed parliaments; when suddenly some
inarticulate little sounds were heard which called everybody's
"Henrietta Noble," said Mrs. Farebrother, seeing her small sister
moving about the furniture-legs distressfully, "what is the matter?"
"I have lost my tortoise-shell lozenge-box. I fear the kitten has
rolled it away," said the tiny old lady, involuntarily continuing her
"Is it a great treasure, aunt?" said Mr. Farebrother, putting up his
glasses and looking at the carpet.
"Mr. Ladislaw gave it me," said Miss Noble. "A German box—very
pretty, but if it falls it always spins away as far as it can."
"Oh, if it is Ladislaw's present," said Mr. Farebrother, in a deep tone
of comprehension, getting up and hunting. The box was found at last
under a chiffonier, and Miss Noble grasped it with delight, saying, "it
was under a fender the last time."
"That is an affair of the heart with my aunt," said Mr. Farebrother,
smiling at Dorothea, as he reseated himself.
"If Henrietta Noble forms an attachment to any one, Mrs. Casaubon,"
said his mother, emphatically,—"she is like a dog—she would take
their shoes for a pillow and sleep the better."
"Mr. Ladislaw's shoes, I would," said Henrietta Noble.
Dorothea made an attempt at smiling in return. She was surprised and
annoyed to find that her heart was palpitating violently, and that it
was quite useless to try after a recovery of her former animation.
Alarmed at herself—fearing some further betrayal of a change so marked
in its occasion, she rose and said in a low voice with undisguised
anxiety, "I must go; I have overtired myself."
Mr. Farebrother, quick in perception, rose and said, "It is true; you
must have half-exhausted yourself in talking about Lydgate. That sort
of work tells upon one after the excitement is over."
He gave her his arm back to the Manor, but Dorothea did not attempt to
speak, even when he said good-night.
The limit of resistance was reached, and she had sunk back helpless
within the clutch of inescapable anguish. Dismissing Tantripp with a
few faint words, she locked her door, and turning away from it towards
the vacant room she pressed her hands hard on the top of her head, and
"Oh, I did love him!"
Then came the hour in which the waves of suffering shook her too
thoroughly to leave any power of thought. She could only cry in loud
whispers, between her sobs, after her lost belief which she had planted
and kept alive from a very little seed since the days in Rome—after
her lost joy of clinging with silent love and faith to one who,
misprized by others, was worthy in her thought—after her lost woman's
pride of reigning in his memory—after her sweet dim perspective of
hope, that along some pathway they should meet with unchanged
recognition and take up the backward years as a yesterday.
In that hour she repeated what the merciful eyes of solitude have
looked on for ages in the spiritual struggles of man—she besought
hardness and coldness and aching weariness to bring her relief from the
mysterious incorporeal might of her anguish: she lay on the bare floor
and let the night grow cold around her; while her grand woman's frame
was shaken by sobs as if she had been a despairing child.
There were two images—two living forms that tore her heart in two, as
if it had been the heart of a mother who seems to see her child divided
by the sword, and presses one bleeding half to her breast while her
gaze goes forth in agony towards the half which is carried away by the
lying woman that has never known the mother's pang.
Here, with the nearness of an answering smile, here within the
vibrating bond of mutual speech, was the bright creature whom she had
trusted—who had come to her like the spirit of morning visiting the
dim vault where she sat as the bride of a worn-out life; and now, with
a full consciousness which had never awakened before, she stretched out
her arms towards him and cried with bitter cries that their nearness
was a parting vision: she discovered her passion to herself in the
unshrinking utterance of despair.
And there, aloof, yet persistently with her, moving wherever she moved,
was the Will Ladislaw who was a changed belief exhausted of hope, a
detected illusion—no, a living man towards whom there could not yet
struggle any wail of regretful pity, from the midst of scorn and
indignation and jealous offended pride. The fire of Dorothea's anger
was not easily spent, and it flamed out in fitful returns of spurning
reproach. Why had he come obtruding his life into hers, hers that
might have been whole enough without him? Why had he brought his cheap
regard and his lip-born words to her who had nothing paltry to give in
exchange? He knew that he was deluding her—wished, in the very moment
of farewell, to make her believe that he gave her the whole price of
her heart, and knew that he had spent it half before. Why had he not
stayed among the crowd of whom she asked nothing—but only prayed that
they might be less contemptible?
But she lost energy at last even for her loud-whispered cries and
moans: she subsided into helpless sobs, and on the cold floor she
sobbed herself to sleep.
In the chill hours of the morning twilight, when all was dim around
her, she awoke—not with any amazed wondering where she was or what had
happened, but with the clearest consciousness that she was looking into
the eyes of sorrow. She rose, and wrapped warm things around her, and
seated herself in a great chair where she had often watched before.
She was vigorous enough to have borne that hard night without feeling
ill in body, beyond some aching and fatigue; but she had waked to a new
condition: she felt as if her soul had been liberated from its terrible
conflict; she was no longer wrestling with her grief, but could sit
down with it as a lasting companion and make it a sharer in her
thoughts. For now the thoughts came thickly. It was not in Dorothea's
nature, for longer than the duration of a paroxysm, to sit in the
narrow cell of her calamity, in the besotted misery of a consciousness
that only sees another's lot as an accident of its own.
She began now to live through that yesterday morning deliberately
again, forcing herself to dwell on every detail and its possible
meaning. Was she alone in that scene? Was it her event only? She
forced herself to think of it as bound up with another woman's life—a
woman towards whom she had set out with a longing to carry some
clearness and comfort into her beclouded youth. In her first outleap
of jealous indignation and disgust, when quitting the hateful room, she
had flung away all the mercy with which she had undertaken that visit.
She had enveloped both Will and Rosamond in her burning scorn, and it
seemed to her as if Rosamond were burned out of her sight forever. But
that base prompting which makes a women more cruel to a rival than to a
faithless lover, could have no strength of recurrence in Dorothea when
the dominant spirit of justice within her had once overcome the tumult
and had once shown her the truer measure of things. All the active
thought with which she had before been representing to herself the
trials of Lydgate's lot, and this young marriage union which, like her
own, seemed to have its hidden as well as evident troubles—all this
vivid sympathetic experience returned to her now as a power: it
asserted itself as acquired knowledge asserts itself and will not let
us see as we saw in the day of our ignorance. She said to her own
irremediable grief, that it should make her more helpful, instead of
driving her back from effort.
And what sort of crisis might not this be in three lives whose contact
with hers laid an obligation on her as if they had been suppliants
bearing the sacred branch? The objects of her rescue were not to be
sought out by her fancy: they were chosen for her. She yearned towards
the perfect Right, that it might make a throne within her, and rule her
errant will. "What should I do—how should I act now, this very day,
if I could clutch my own pain, and compel it to silence, and think of
It had taken long for her to come to that question, and there was light
piercing into the room. She opened her curtains, and looked out
towards the bit of road that lay in view, with fields beyond outside
the entrance-gates. On the road there was a man with a bundle on his
back and a woman carrying her baby; in the field she could see figures
moving—perhaps the shepherd with his dog. Far off in the bending sky
was the pearly light; and she felt the largeness of the world and the
manifold wakings of men to labor and endurance. She was a part of that
involuntary, palpitating life, and could neither look out on it from
her luxurious shelter as a mere spectator, nor hide her eyes in selfish
What she would resolve to do that day did not yet seem quite clear, but
something that she could achieve stirred her as with an approaching
murmur which would soon gather distinctness. She took off the clothes
which seemed to have some of the weariness of a hard watching in them,
and began to make her toilet. Presently she rang for Tantripp, who
came in her dressing-gown.
"Why, madam, you've never been in bed this blessed night," burst out
Tantripp, looking first at the bed and then at Dorothea's face, which
in spite of bathing had the pale cheeks and pink eyelids of a mater
dolorosa. "You'll kill yourself, you will. Anybody might think now
you had a right to give yourself a little comfort."
"Don't be alarmed, Tantripp," said Dorothea, smiling. "I have slept; I
am not ill. I shall be glad of a cup of coffee as soon as possible.
And I want you to bring me my new dress; and most likely I shall want
my new bonnet to-day."
"They've lain there a month and more ready for you, madam, and most
thankful I shall be to see you with a couple o' pounds' worth less of
crape," said Tantripp, stooping to light the fire. "There's a reason
in mourning, as I've always said; and three folds at the bottom of your
skirt and a plain quilling in your bonnet—and if ever anybody looked
like an angel, it's you in a net quilling—is what's consistent for a
second year. At least, that's my thinking," ended Tantripp, looking
anxiously at the fire; "and if anybody was to marry me flattering
himself I should wear those hijeous weepers two years for him, he'd be
deceived by his own vanity, that's all."
"The fire will do, my good Tan," said Dorothea, speaking as she used to
do in the old Lausanne days, only with a very low voice; "get me the
She folded herself in the large chair, and leaned her head against it
in fatigued quiescence, while Tantripp went away wondering at this
strange contrariness in her young mistress—that just the morning when
she had more of a widow's face than ever, she should have asked for her
lighter mourning which she had waived before. Tantripp would never
have found the clew to this mystery. Dorothea wished to acknowledge
that she had not the less an active life before her because she had
buried a private joy; and the tradition that fresh garments belonged to
all initiation, haunting her mind, made her grasp after even that
slight outward help towards calm resolve. For the resolve was not easy.
Nevertheless at eleven o'clock she was walking towards Middlemarch,
having made up her mind that she would make as quietly and unnoticeably
as possible her second attempt to see and save Rosamond.
"Du Erde warst auch diese Nacht bestandig,
Und athmest neu erquickt zu meinen Fussen,
Beginnest schon mit Lust mich zu umgeben,
Zum regst und ruhrst ein kraftiges Reschliessen
Zum hochsten Dasein immerfort zu streben.
—Faust: 2r Theil.
When Dorothea was again at Lydgate's door speaking to Martha, he was in
the room close by with the door ajar, preparing to go out. He heard
her voice, and immediately came to her.
"Do you think that Mrs. Lydgate can receive me this morning?" she said,
having reflected that it would be better to leave out all allusion to
her previous visit.
"I have no doubt she will," said Lydgate, suppressing his thought about
Dorothea's looks, which were as much changed as Rosamond's, "if you
will be kind enough to come in and let me tell her that you are here.
She has not been very well since you were here yesterday, but she is
better this morning, and I think it is very likely that she will be
cheered by seeing you again."
It was plain that Lydgate, as Dorothea had expected, knew nothing about
the circumstances of her yesterday's visit; nay, he appeared to imagine
that she had carried it out according to her intention. She had
prepared a little note asking Rosamond to see her, which she would have
given to the servant if he had not been in the way, but now she was in
much anxiety as to the result of his announcement.
After leading her into the drawing-room, he paused to take a letter
from his pocket and put it into her hands, saying, "I wrote this last
night, and was going to carry it to Lowick in my ride. When one is
grateful for something too good for common thanks, writing is less
unsatisfactory than speech—one does not at least hear how inadequate
the words are."
Dorothea's face brightened. "It is I who have most to thank for, since
you have let me take that place. You have consented?" she said,
"Yes, the check is going to Bulstrode to-day."
He said no more, but went up-stairs to Rosamond, who had but lately
finished dressing herself, and sat languidly wondering what she should
do next, her habitual industry in small things, even in the days of her
sadness, prompting her to begin some kind of occupation, which she
dragged through slowly or paused in from lack of interest. She looked
ill, but had recovered her usual quietude of manner, and Lydgate had
feared to disturb her by any questions. He had told her of Dorothea's
letter containing the check, and afterwards he had said, "Ladislaw is
come, Rosy; he sat with me last night; I dare say he will be here again
to-day. I thought he looked rather battered and depressed." And
Rosamond had made no reply.
Now, when he came up, he said to her very gently, "Rosy, dear, Mrs.
Casaubon is come to see you again; you would like to see her, would you
not?" That she colored and gave rather a startled movement did not
surprise him after the agitation produced by the interview yesterday—a
beneficent agitation, he thought, since it seemed to have made her turn
to him again.
Rosamond dared not say no. She dared not with a tone of her voice
touch the facts of yesterday. Why had Mrs. Casaubon come again? The
answer was a blank which Rosamond could only fill up with dread, for
Will Ladislaw's lacerating words had made every thought of Dorothea a
fresh smart to her. Nevertheless, in her new humiliating uncertainty
she dared do nothing but comply. She did not say yes, but she rose and
let Lydgate put a light shawl over her shoulders, while he said, "I am
going out immediately." Then something crossed her mind which prompted
her to say, "Pray tell Martha not to bring any one else into the
drawing-room." And Lydgate assented, thinking that he fully understood
this wish. He led her down to the drawing-room door, and then turned
away, observing to himself that he was rather a blundering husband to
be dependent for his wife's trust in him on the influence of another
Rosamond, wrapping her soft shawl around her as she walked towards
Dorothea, was inwardly wrapping her soul in cold reserve. Had Mrs.
Casaubon come to say anything to her about Will? If so, it was a
liberty that Rosamond resented; and she prepared herself to meet every
word with polite impassibility. Will had bruised her pride too sorely
for her to feel any compunction towards him and Dorothea: her own
injury seemed much the greater. Dorothea was not only the "preferred"
woman, but had also a formidable advantage in being Lydgate's
benefactor; and to poor Rosamond's pained confused vision it seemed
that this Mrs. Casaubon—this woman who predominated in all things
concerning her—must have come now with the sense of having the
advantage, and with animosity prompting her to use it. Indeed, not
Rosamond only, but any one else, knowing the outer facts of the case,
and not the simple inspiration on which Dorothea acted, might well have
wondered why she came.
Looking like the lovely ghost of herself, her graceful slimness wrapped
in her soft white shawl, the rounded infantine mouth and cheek
inevitably suggesting mildness and innocence, Rosamond paused at three
yards' distance from her visitor and bowed. But Dorothea, who had
taken off her gloves, from an impulse which she could never resist when
she wanted a sense of freedom, came forward, and with her face full of
a sad yet sweet openness, put out her hand. Rosamond could not avoid
meeting her glance, could not avoid putting her small hand into
Dorothea's, which clasped it with gentle motherliness; and immediately
a doubt of her own prepossessions began to stir within her. Rosamond's
eye was quick for faces; she saw that Mrs. Casaubon's face looked pale
and changed since yesterday, yet gentle, and like the firm softness of
her hand. But Dorothea had counted a little too much on her own
strength: the clearness and intensity of her mental action this morning
were the continuance of a nervous exaltation which made her frame as
dangerously responsive as a bit of finest Venetian crystal; and in
looking at Rosamond, she suddenly found her heart swelling, and was
unable to speak—all her effort was required to keep back tears. She
succeeded in that, and the emotion only passed over her face like the
spirit of a sob; but it added to Rosamond's impression that Mrs.
Casaubon's state of mind must be something quite different from what
she had imagined.
So they sat down without a word of preface on the two chairs that
happened to be nearest, and happened also to be close together; though
Rosamond's notion when she first bowed was that she should stay a long
way off from Mrs. Casaubon. But she ceased thinking how anything would
turn out—merely wondering what would come. And Dorothea began to
speak quite simply, gathering firmness as she went on.
"I had an errand yesterday which I did not finish; that is why I am
here again so soon. You will not think me too troublesome when I tell
you that I came to talk to you about the injustice that has been shown
towards Mr. Lydgate. It will cheer you—will it not?—to know a great
deal about him, that he may not like to speak about himself just
because it is in his own vindication and to his own honor. You will
like to know that your husband has warm friends, who have not left off
believing in his high character? You will let me speak of this without
thinking that I take a liberty?"
The cordial, pleading tones which seemed to flow with generous
heedlessness above all the facts which had filled Rosamond's mind as
grounds of obstruction and hatred between her and this woman, came as
soothingly as a warm stream over her shrinking fears. Of course Mrs.
Casaubon had the facts in her mind, but she was not going to speak of
anything connected with them. That relief was too great for Rosamond
to feel much else at the moment. She answered prettily, in the new
ease of her soul—
"I know you have been very good. I shall like to hear anything you
will say to me about Tertius."
"The day before yesterday," said Dorothea, "when I had asked him to
come to Lowick to give me his opinion on the affairs of the Hospital,
he told me everything about his conduct and feelings in this sad event
which has made ignorant people cast suspicions on him. The reason he
told me was because I was very bold and asked him. I believed that he
had never acted dishonorably, and I begged him to tell me the history.
He confessed to me that he had never told it before, not even to you,
because he had a great dislike to say, 'I was not wrong,' as if that
were proof, when there are guilty people who will say so. The truth
is, he knew nothing of this man Raffles, or that there were any bad
secrets about him; and he thought that Mr. Bulstrode offered him the
money because he repented, out of kindness, of having refused it
before. All his anxiety about his patient was to treat him rightly,
and he was a little uncomfortable that the case did not end as he had
expected; but he thought then and still thinks that there may have been
no wrong in it on any one's part. And I have told Mr. Farebrother, and
Mr. Brooke, and Sir James Chettam: they all believe in your husband.
That will cheer you, will it not? That will give you courage?"
Dorothea's face had become animated, and as it beamed on Rosamond very
close to her, she felt something like bashful timidity before a
superior, in the presence of this self-forgetful ardor. She said, with
blushing embarrassment, "Thank you: you are very kind."
"And he felt that he had been so wrong not to pour out everything about
this to you. But you will forgive him. It was because he feels so
much more about your happiness than anything else—he feels his life
bound into one with yours, and it hurts him more than anything, that
his misfortunes must hurt you. He could speak to me because I am an
indifferent person. And then I asked him if I might come to see you;
because I felt so much for his trouble and yours. That is why I came
yesterday, and why I am come to-day. Trouble is so hard to bear, is it
not?— How can we live and think that any one has trouble—piercing
trouble—and we could help them, and never try?"
Dorothea, completely swayed by the feeling that she was uttering,
forgot everything but that she was speaking from out the heart of her
own trial to Rosamond's. The emotion had wrought itself more and more
into her utterance, till the tones might have gone to one's very
marrow, like a low cry from some suffering creature in the darkness.
And she had unconsciously laid her hand again on the little hand that
she had pressed before.
Rosamond, with an overmastering pang, as if a wound within her had been
probed, burst into hysterical crying as she had done the day before
when she clung to her husband. Poor Dorothea was feeling a great wave
of her own sorrow returning over her—her thought being drawn to the
possible share that Will Ladislaw might have in Rosamond's mental
tumult. She was beginning to fear that she should not be able to
suppress herself enough to the end of this meeting, and while her hand
was still resting on Rosamond's lap, though the hand underneath it was
withdrawn, she was struggling against her own rising sobs. She tried
to master herself with the thought that this might be a turning-point
in three lives—not in her own; no, there the irrevocable had
happened, but—in those three lives which were touching hers with the
solemn neighborhood of danger and distress. The fragile creature who
was crying close to her—there might still be time to rescue her from
the misery of false incompatible bonds; and this moment was unlike any
other: she and Rosamond could never be together again with the same
thrilling consciousness of yesterday within them both. She felt the
relation between them to be peculiar enough to give her a peculiar
influence, though she had no conception that the way in which her own
feelings were involved was fully known to Mrs. Lydgate.
It was a newer crisis in Rosamond's experience than even Dorothea could
imagine: she was under the first great shock that had shattered her
dream-world in which she had been easily confident of herself and
critical of others; and this strange unexpected manifestation of
feeling in a woman whom she had approached with a shrinking aversion
and dread, as one who must necessarily have a jealous hatred towards
her, made her soul totter all the more with a sense that she had been
walking in an unknown world which had just broken in upon her.
When Rosamond's convulsed throat was subsiding into calm, and she
withdrew the handkerchief with which she had been hiding her face, her
eyes met Dorothea's as helplessly as if they had been blue flowers.
What was the use of thinking about behavior after this crying? And
Dorothea looked almost as childish, with the neglected trace of a
silent tear. Pride was broken down between these two.
"We were talking about your husband," Dorothea said, with some
timidity. "I thought his looks were sadly changed with suffering the
other day. I had not seen him for many weeks before. He said he had
been feeling very lonely in his trial; but I think he would have borne
it all better if he had been able to be quite open with you."
"Tertius is so angry and impatient if I say anything," said Rosamond,
imagining that he had been complaining of her to Dorothea. "He ought
not to wonder that I object to speak to him on painful subjects."
"It was himself he blamed for not speaking," said Dorothea. "What he
said of you was, that he could not be happy in doing anything which
made you unhappy—that his marriage was of course a bond which must
affect his choice about everything; and for that reason he refused my
proposal that he should keep his position at the Hospital, because that
would bind him to stay in Middlemarch, and he would not undertake to do
anything which would be painful to you. He could say that to me,
because he knows that I had much trial in my marriage, from my
husband's illness, which hindered his plans and saddened him; and he
knows that I have felt how hard it is to walk always in fear of hurting
another who is tied to us."
Dorothea waited a little; she had discerned a faint pleasure stealing
over Rosamond's face. But there was no answer, and she went on, with a
gathering tremor, "Marriage is so unlike everything else. There is
something even awful in the nearness it brings. Even if we loved some
one else better than—than those we were married to, it would be no
use"—poor Dorothea, in her palpitating anxiety, could only seize her
language brokenly—"I mean, marriage drinks up all our power of giving
or getting any blessedness in that sort of love. I know it may be very
dear—but it murders our marriage—and then the marriage stays with us
like a murder—and everything else is gone. And then our husband—if
he loved and trusted us, and we have not helped him, but made a curse
in his life—"
Her voice had sunk very low: there was a dread upon her of presuming
too far, and of speaking as if she herself were perfection addressing
error. She was too much preoccupied with her own anxiety, to be aware
that Rosamond was trembling too; and filled with the need to express
pitying fellowship rather than rebuke, she put her hands on Rosamond's,
and said with more agitated rapidity,—"I know, I know that the feeling
may be very dear—it has taken hold of us unawares—it is so hard, it
may seem like death to part with it—and we are weak—I am weak—"
The waves of her own sorrow, from out of which she was struggling to
save another, rushed over Dorothea with conquering force. She stopped
in speechless agitation, not crying, but feeling as if she were being
inwardly grappled. Her face had become of a deathlier paleness, her
lips trembled, and she pressed her hands helplessly on the hands that
lay under them.
Rosamond, taken hold of by an emotion stronger than her own—hurried
along in a new movement which gave all things some new, awful,
undefined aspect—could find no words, but involuntarily she put her
lips to Dorothea's forehead which was very near her, and then for a
minute the two women clasped each other as if they had been in a
"You are thinking what is not true," said Rosamond, in an eager
half-whisper, while she was still feeling Dorothea's arms round
her—urged by a mysterious necessity to free herself from something
that oppressed her as if it were blood guiltiness.
They moved apart, looking at each other.
"When you came in yesterday—it was not as you thought," said Rosamond
in the same tone.
There was a movement of surprised attention in Dorothea. She expected
a vindication of Rosamond herself.
"He was telling me how he loved another woman, that I might know he
could never love me," said Rosamond, getting more and more hurried as
she went on. "And now I think he hates me because—because you
mistook him yesterday. He says it is through me that you will think
ill of him—think that he is a false person. But it shall not be
through me. He has never had any love for me—I know he has not—he
has always thought slightly of me. He said yesterday that no other
woman existed for him beside you. The blame of what happened is
entirely mine. He said he could never explain to you—because of me.
He said you could never think well of him again. But now I have told
you, and he cannot reproach me any more."
Rosamond had delivered her soul under impulses which she had not known
before. She had begun her confession under the subduing influence of
Dorothea's emotion; and as she went on she had gathered the sense that
she was repelling Will's reproaches, which were still like a
knife-wound within her.
The revulsion of feeling in Dorothea was too strong to be called joy.
It was a tumult in which the terrible strain of the night and morning
made a resistant pain:—she could only perceive that this would be joy
when she had recovered her power of feeling it. Her immediate
consciousness was one of immense sympathy without check; she cared for
Rosamond without struggle now, and responded earnestly to her last
"No, he cannot reproach you any more."
With her usual tendency to over-estimate the good in others, she felt a
great outgoing of her heart towards Rosamond, for the generous effort
which had redeemed her from suffering, not counting that the effort was
a reflex of her own energy. After they had been silent a little, she
"You are not sorry that I came this morning?"
"No, you have been very good to me," said Rosamond. "I did not think
that you would be so good. I was very unhappy. I am not happy now.
Everything is so sad."
"But better days will come. Your husband will be rightly valued. And
he depends on you for comfort. He loves you best. The worst loss
would be to lose that—and you have not lost it," said Dorothea.
She tried to thrust away the too overpowering thought of her own
relief, lest she should fail to win some sign that Rosamond's affection
was yearning back towards her husband.
"Tertius did not find fault with me, then?" said Rosamond,
understanding now that Lydgate might have said anything to Mrs.
Casaubon, and that she certainly was different from other women.
Perhaps there was a faint taste of jealousy in the question. A smile
began to play over Dorothea's face as she said—
"No, indeed! How could you imagine it?" But here the door opened, and
"I am come back in my quality of doctor," he said. "After I went away,
I was haunted by two pale faces: Mrs. Casaubon looked as much in need
of care as you, Rosy. And I thought that I had not done my duty in
leaving you together; so when I had been to Coleman's I came home
again. I noticed that you were walking, Mrs. Casaubon, and the sky has
changed—I think we may have rain. May I send some one to order your
carriage to come for you?"
"Oh, no! I am strong: I need the walk," said Dorothea, rising with
animation in her face. "Mrs. Lydgate and I have chatted a great deal,
and it is time for me to go. I have always been accused of being
immoderate and saying too much."
She put out her hand to Rosamond, and they said an earnest, quiet
good-by without kiss or other show of effusion: there had been between
them too much serious emotion for them to use the signs of it
As Lydgate took her to the door she said nothing of Rosamond, but told
him of Mr. Farebrother and the other friends who had listened with
belief to his story.
When he came back to Rosamond, she had already thrown herself on the
sofa, in resigned fatigue.
"Well, Rosy," he said, standing over her, and touching her hair, "what
do you think of Mrs. Casaubon now you have seen so much of her?"
"I think she must be better than any one," said Rosamond, "and she is
very beautiful. If you go to talk to her so often, you will be more
discontented with me than ever!"
Lydgate laughed at the "so often." "But has she made you any less
discontented with me?"
"I think she has," said Rosamond, looking up in his face. "How heavy
your eyes are, Tertius—and do push your hair back." He lifted up his
large white hand to obey her, and felt thankful for this little mark of
interest in him. Poor Rosamond's vagrant fancy had come back terribly
scourged—meek enough to nestle under the old despised shelter. And
the shelter was still there: Lydgate had accepted his narrowed lot with
sad resignation. He had chosen this fragile creature, and had taken
the burthen of her life upon his arms. He must walk as he could,
carrying that burthen pitifully.
"My grief lies onward and my joy behind."
Exiles notoriously feed much on hopes, and are unlikely to stay in
banishment unless they are obliged. When Will Ladislaw exiled himself
from Middlemarch he had placed no stronger obstacle to his return than
his own resolve, which was by no means an iron barrier, but simply a
state of mind liable to melt into a minuet with other states of mind,
and to find itself bowing, smiling, and giving place with polite
facility. As the months went on, it had seemed more and more difficult
to him to say why he should not run down to Middlemarch—merely for the
sake of hearing something about Dorothea; and if on such a flying visit
he should chance by some strange coincidence to meet with her, there
was no reason for him to be ashamed of having taken an innocent journey
which he had beforehand supposed that he should not take. Since he was
hopelessly divided from her, he might surely venture into her
neighborhood; and as to the suspicious friends who kept a dragon watch
over her—their opinions seemed less and less important with time and
change of air.
And there had come a reason quite irrespective of Dorothea, which
seemed to make a journey to Middlemarch a sort of philanthropic duty.
Will had given a disinterested attention to an intended settlement on a
new plan in the Far West, and the need for funds in order to carry out
a good design had set him on debating with himself whether it would not
be a laudable use to make of his claim on Bulstrode, to urge the
application of that money which had been offered to himself as a means
of carrying out a scheme likely to be largely beneficial. The question
seemed a very dubious one to Will, and his repugnance to again entering
into any relation with the banker might have made him dismiss it
quickly, if there had not arisen in his imagination the probability
that his judgment might be more safely determined by a visit to
That was the object which Will stated to himself as a reason for coming
down. He had meant to confide in Lydgate, and discuss the money
question with him, and he had meant to amuse himself for the few
evenings of his stay by having a great deal of music and badinage with
fair Rosamond, without neglecting his friends at Lowick Parsonage:—if
the Parsonage was close to the Manor, that was no fault of his. He had
neglected the Farebrothers before his departure, from a proud
resistance to the possible accusation of indirectly seeking interviews
with Dorothea; but hunger tames us, and Will had become very hungry for
the vision of a certain form and the sound of a certain voice.
Nothing, had done instead—not the opera, or the converse of zealous
politicians, or the flattering reception (in dim corners) of his new
hand in leading articles.
Thus he had come down, foreseeing with confidence how almost everything
would be in his familiar little world; fearing, indeed, that there
would be no surprises in his visit. But he had found that humdrum
world in a terribly dynamic condition, in which even badinage and
lyrism had turned explosive; and the first day of this visit had become
the most fatal epoch of his life. The next morning he felt so harassed
with the nightmare of consequences—he dreaded so much the immediate
issues before him—that seeing while he breakfasted the arrival of the
Riverston coach, he went out hurriedly and took his place on it, that
he might be relieved, at least for a day, from the necessity of doing
or saying anything in Middlemarch. Will Ladislaw was in one of those
tangled crises which are commoner in experience than one might imagine,
from the shallow absoluteness of men's judgments. He had found
Lydgate, for whom he had the sincerest respect, under circumstances
which claimed his thorough and frankly declared sympathy; and the
reason why, in spite of that claim, it would have been better for Will
to have avoided all further intimacy, or even contact, with Lydgate,
was precisely of the kind to make such a course appear impossible. To
a creature of Will's susceptible temperament—without any neutral
region of indifference in his nature, ready to turn everything that
befell him into the collisions of a passionate drama—the revelation
that Rosamond had made her happiness in any way dependent on him was a
difficulty which his outburst of rage towards her had immeasurably
increased for him. He hated his own cruelty, and yet he dreaded to
show the fulness of his relenting: he must go to her again; the
friendship could not be put to a sudden end; and her unhappiness was a
power which he dreaded. And all the while there was no more foretaste
of enjoyment in the life before him than if his limbs had been lopped
off and he was making his fresh start on crutches. In the night he had
debated whether he should not get on the coach, not for Riverston, but
for London, leaving a note to Lydgate which would give a makeshift
reason for his retreat. But there were strong cords pulling him back
from that abrupt departure: the blight on his happiness in thinking of
Dorothea, the crushing of that chief hope which had remained in spite
of the acknowledged necessity for renunciation, was too fresh a misery
for him to resign himself to it and go straightway into a distance
which was also despair.
Thus he did nothing more decided than taking the Riverston coach. He
came back again by it while it was still daylight, having made up his
mind that he must go to Lydgate's that evening. The Rubicon, we know,
was a very insignificant stream to look at; its significance lay
entirely in certain invisible conditions. Will felt as if he were
forced to cross his small boundary ditch, and what he saw beyond it was
not empire, but discontented subjection.
But it is given to us sometimes even in our every-day life to witness
the saving influence of a noble nature, the divine efficacy of rescue
that may lie in a self-subduing act of fellowship. If Dorothea, after
her night's anguish, had not taken that walk to Rosamond—why, she
perhaps would have been a woman who gained a higher character for
discretion, but it would certainly not have been as well for those
three who were on one hearth in Lydgate's house at half-past seven that
Rosamond had been prepared for Will's visit, and she received him with
a languid coldness which Lydgate accounted for by her nervous
exhaustion, of which he could not suppose that it had any relation to
Will. And when she sat in silence bending over a bit of work, he
innocently apologized for her in an indirect way by begging her to lean
backward and rest. Will was miserable in the necessity for playing the
part of a friend who was making his first appearance and greeting to
Rosamond, while his thoughts were busy about her feeling since that
scene of yesterday, which seemed still inexorably to enclose them both,
like the painful vision of a double madness. It happened that nothing
called Lydgate out of the room; but when Rosamond poured out the tea,
and Will came near to fetch it, she placed a tiny bit of folded paper
in his saucer. He saw it and secured it quickly, but as he went back
to his inn he had no eagerness to unfold the paper. What Rosamond had
written to him would probably deepen the painful impressions of the
evening. Still, he opened and read it by his bed-candle. There were
only these few words in her neatly flowing hand:—
"I have told Mrs. Casaubon. She is not under any mistake about you. I
told her because she came to see me and was very kind. You will have
nothing to reproach me with now. I shall not have made any difference
The effect of these words was not quite all gladness. As Will dwelt on
them with excited imagination, he felt his cheeks and ears burning at
the thought of what had occurred between Dorothea and Rosamond—at the
uncertainty how far Dorothea might still feel her dignity wounded in
having an explanation of his conduct offered to her. There might still
remain in her mind a changed association with him which made an
irremediable difference—a lasting flaw. With active fancy he wrought
himself into a state of doubt little more easy than that of the man who
has escaped from wreck by night and stands on unknown ground in the
darkness. Until that wretched yesterday—except the moment of
vexation long ago in the very same room and in the very same
presence—all their vision, all their thought of each other, had been
as in a world apart, where the sunshine fell on tall white lilies,
where no evil lurked, and no other soul entered. But now—would
Dorothea meet him in that world again?
"And now good-morrow to our waking souls
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room, an everywhere."
On the second morning after Dorothea's visit to Rosamond, she had had
two nights of sound sleep, and had not only lost all traces of fatigue,
but felt as if she had a great deal of superfluous strength—that is
to say, more strength than she could manage to concentrate on any
occupation. The day before, she had taken long walks outside the
grounds, and had paid two visits to the Parsonage; but she never in her
life told any one the reason why she spent her time in that fruitless
manner, and this morning she was rather angry with herself for her
childish restlessness. To-day was to be spent quite differently. What
was there to be done in the village? Oh dear! nothing. Everybody was
well and had flannel; nobody's pig had died; and it was Saturday
morning, when there was a general scrubbing of doors and door-stones,
and when it was useless to go into the school. But there were various
subjects that Dorothea was trying to get clear upon, and she resolved
to throw herself energetically into the gravest of all. She sat down
in the library before her particular little heap of books on political
economy and kindred matters, out of which she was trying to get light
as to the best way of spending money so as not to injure one's
neighbors, or—what comes to the same thing—so as to do them the most
good. Here was a weighty subject which, if she could but lay hold of
it, would certainly keep her mind steady. Unhappily her mind slipped
off it for a whole hour; and at the end she found herself reading
sentences twice over with an intense consciousness of many things, but
not of any one thing contained in the text. This was hopeless. Should
she order the carriage and drive to Tipton? No; for some reason or
other she preferred staying at Lowick. But her vagrant mind must be
reduced to order: there was an art in self-discipline; and she walked
round and round the brown library considering by what sort of manoeuvre
she could arrest her wandering thoughts. Perhaps a mere task was the
best means—something to which she must go doggedly. Was there not the
geography of Asia Minor, in which her slackness had often been rebuked
by Mr. Casaubon? She went to the cabinet of maps and unrolled one:
this morning she might make herself finally sure that Paphlagonia was
not on the Levantine coast, and fix her total darkness about the
Chalybes firmly on the shores of the Euxine. A map was a fine thing to
study when you were disposed to think of something else, being made up
of names that would turn into a chime if you went back upon them.
Dorothea set earnestly to work, bending close to her map, and uttering
the names in an audible, subdued tone, which often got into a chime.
She looked amusingly girlish after all her deep experience—nodding
her head and marking the names off on her fingers, with a little
pursing of her lip, and now and then breaking off to put her hands on
each side of her face and say, "Oh dear! oh dear!"
There was no reason why this should end any more than a merry-go-round;
but it was at last interrupted by the opening of the door and the
announcement of Miss Noble.
The little old lady, whose bonnet hardly reached Dorothea's shoulder,
was warmly welcomed, but while her hand was being pressed she made many
of her beaver-like noises, as if she had something difficult to say.
"Do sit down," said Dorothea, rolling a chair forward. "Am I wanted
for anything? I shall be so glad if I can do anything."
"I will not stay," said Miss Noble, putting her hand into her small
basket, and holding some article inside it nervously; "I have left a
friend in the churchyard." She lapsed into her inarticulate sounds,
and unconsciously drew forth the article which she was fingering. It
was the tortoise-shell lozenge-box, and Dorothea felt the color
mounting to her cheeks.
"Mr. Ladislaw," continued the timid little woman. "He fears he has
offended you, and has begged me to ask if you will see him for a few
Dorothea did not answer on the instant: it was crossing her mind that
she could not receive him in this library, where her husband's
prohibition seemed to dwell. She looked towards the window. Could she
go out and meet him in the grounds? The sky was heavy, and the trees
had begun to shiver as at a coming storm. Besides, she shrank from
going out to him.
"Do see him, Mrs. Casaubon," said Miss Noble, pathetically; "else I
must go back and say No, and that will hurt him."
"Yes, I will see him," said Dorothea. "Pray tell him to come."
What else was there to be done? There was nothing that she longed for
at that moment except to see Will: the possibility of seeing him had
thrust itself insistently between her and every other object; and yet
she had a throbbing excitement like an alarm upon her—a sense that
she was doing something daringly defiant for his sake.
When the little lady had trotted away on her mission, Dorothea stood in
the middle of the library with her hands falling clasped before her,
making no attempt to compose herself in an attitude of dignified
unconsciousness. What she was least conscious of just then was her own
body: she was thinking of what was likely to be in Will's mind, and of
the hard feelings that others had had about him. How could any duty
bind her to hardness? Resistance to unjust dispraise had mingled with
her feeling for him from the very first, and now in the rebound of her
heart after her anguish the resistance was stronger than ever. "If I
love him too much it is because he has been used so ill:"—there was a
voice within her saying this to some imagined audience in the library,
when the door was opened, and she saw Will before her.
She did not move, and he came towards her with more doubt and timidity
in his face than she had ever seen before. He was in a state of
uncertainty which made him afraid lest some look or word of his should
condemn him to a new distance from her; and Dorothea was afraid of her
own emotion. She looked as if there were a spell upon her, keeping
her motionless and hindering her from unclasping her hands, while some
intense, grave yearning was imprisoned within her eyes. Seeing that
she did not put out her hand as usual, Will paused a yard from her and
said with embarrassment, "I am so grateful to you for seeing me."
"I wanted to see you," said Dorothea, having no other words at command.
It did not occur to her to sit down, and Will did not give a cheerful
interpretation to this queenly way of receiving him; but he went on to
say what he had made up his mind to say.
"I fear you think me foolish and perhaps wrong for coming back so soon.
I have been punished for my impatience. You know—every one knows
now—a painful story about my parentage. I knew of it before I went
away, and I always meant to tell you of it if—if we ever met again."
There was a slight movement in Dorothea, and she unclasped her hands,
but immediately folded them over each other.
"But the affair is matter of gossip now," Will continued. "I wished
you to know that something connected with it—something which happened
before I went away, helped to bring me down here again. At least I
thought it excused my coming. It was the idea of getting Bulstrode to
apply some money to a public purpose—some money which he had thought
of giving me. Perhaps it is rather to Bulstrode's credit that he
privately offered me compensation for an old injury: he offered to give
me a good income to make amends; but I suppose you know the
Will looked doubtfully at Dorothea, but his manner was gathering some
of the defiant courage with which he always thought of this fact in his
destiny. He added, "You know that it must be altogether painful to me."
"Yes—yes—I know," said Dorothea, hastily.
"I did not choose to accept an income from such a source. I was sure
that you would not think well of me if I did so," said Will. Why
should he mind saying anything of that sort to her now? She knew that
he had avowed his love for her. "I felt that"—he broke off,
"You acted as I should have expected you to act," said Dorothea, her
face brightening and her head becoming a little more erect on its
"I did not believe that you would let any circumstance of my birth
create a prejudice in you against me, though it was sure to do so in
others," said Will, shaking his head backward in his old way, and
looking with a grave appeal into her eyes.
"If it were a new hardship it would be a new reason for me to cling to
you," said Dorothea, fervidly. "Nothing could have changed me but—"
her heart was swelling, and it was difficult to go on; she made a great
effort over herself to say in a low tremulous voice, "but thinking that
you were different—not so good as I had believed you to be."
"You are sure to believe me better than I am in everything but one,"
said Will, giving way to his own feeling in the evidence of hers. "I
mean, in my truth to you. When I thought you doubted of that, I didn't
care about anything that was left. I thought it was all over with me,
and there was nothing to try for—only things to endure."
"I don't doubt you any longer," said Dorothea, putting out her hand; a
vague fear for him impelling her unutterable affection.
He took her hand and raised it to his lips with something like a sob.
But he stood with his hat and gloves in the other hand, and might have
done for the portrait of a Royalist. Still it was difficult to loose
the hand, and Dorothea, withdrawing it in a confusion that distressed
her, looked and moved away.
"See how dark the clouds have become, and how the trees are tossed,"
she said, walking towards the window, yet speaking and moving with only
a dim sense of what she was doing.
Will followed her at a little distance, and leaned against the tall
back of a leather chair, on which he ventured now to lay his hat and
gloves, and free himself from the intolerable durance of formality to
which he had been for the first time condemned in Dorothea's presence.
It must be confessed that he felt very happy at that moment leaning on
the chair. He was not much afraid of anything that she might feel now.
They stood silent, not looking at each other, but looking at the
evergreens which were being tossed, and were showing the pale underside
of their leaves against the blackening sky. Will never enjoyed the
prospect of a storm so much: it delivered him from the necessity of
going away. Leaves and little branches were hurled about, and the
thunder was getting nearer. The light was more and more sombre, but
there came a flash of lightning which made them start and look at each
other, and then smile. Dorothea began to say what she had been
"That was a wrong thing for you to say, that you would have had nothing
to try for. If we had lost our own chief good, other people's good
would remain, and that is worth trying for. Some can be happy. I
seemed to see that more clearly than ever, when I was the most
wretched. I can hardly think how I could have borne the trouble, if
that feeling had not come to me to make strength."
"You have never felt the sort of misery I felt," said Will; "the misery
of knowing that you must despise me."
"But I have felt worse—it was worse to think ill—" Dorothea had begun
impetuously, but broke off.
Will colored. He had the sense that whatever she said was uttered in
the vision of a fatality that kept them apart. He was silent a moment,
and then said passionately—
"We may at least have the comfort of speaking to each other without
disguise. Since I must go away—since we must always be divided—you
may think of me as one on the brink of the grave."
While he was speaking there came a vivid flash of lightning which lit
each of them up for the other—and the light seemed to be the terror of
a hopeless love. Dorothea darted instantaneously from the window; Will
followed her, seizing her hand with a spasmodic movement; and so they
stood, with their hands clasped, like two children, looking out on the
storm, while the thunder gave a tremendous crack and roll above them,
and the rain began to pour down. Then they turned their faces towards
each other, with the memory of his last words in them, and they did not
loose each other's hands.
"There is no hope for me," said Will. "Even if you loved me as well as
I love you—even if I were everything to you—I shall most likely
always be very poor: on a sober calculation, one can count on nothing
but a creeping lot. It is impossible for us ever to belong to each
other. It is perhaps base of me to have asked for a word from you. I
meant to go away into silence, but I have not been able to do what I
"Don't be sorry," said Dorothea, in her clear tender tones. "I would
rather share all the trouble of our parting."
Her lips trembled, and so did his. It was never known which lips were
the first to move towards the other lips; but they kissed tremblingly,
and then they moved apart.
The rain was dashing against the window-panes as if an angry spirit
were within it, and behind it was the great swoop of the wind; it was
one of those moments in which both the busy and the idle pause with a
Dorothea sat down on the seat nearest to her, a long low ottoman in the
middle of the room, and with her hands folded over each other on her
lap, looked at the drear outer world. Will stood still an instant
looking at her, then seated himself beside her, and laid his hand on
hers, which turned itself upward to be clasped. They sat in that way
without looking at each other, until the rain abated and began to fall
in stillness. Each had been full of thoughts which neither of them
could begin to utter.
But when the rain was quiet, Dorothea turned to look at Will. With
passionate exclamation, as if some torture screw were threatening him,
he started up and said, "It is impossible!"
He went and leaned on the back of the chair again, and seemed to be
battling with his own anger, while she looked towards him sadly.
"It is as fatal as a murder or any other horror that divides people,"
he burst out again; "it is more intolerable—to have our life maimed by
"No—don't say that—your life need not be maimed," said Dorothea,
"Yes, it must," said Will, angrily. "It is cruel of you to speak in
that way—as if there were any comfort. You may see beyond the misery
of it, but I don't. It is unkind—it is throwing back my love for you
as if it were a trifle, to speak in that way in the face of the fact.
We can never be married."
"Some time—we might," said Dorothea, in a trembling voice.
"When?" said Will, bitterly. "What is the use of counting on any
success of mine? It is a mere toss up whether I shall ever do more
than keep myself decently, unless I choose to sell myself as a mere pen
and a mouthpiece. I can see that clearly enough. I could not offer
myself to any woman, even if she had no luxuries to renounce."
There was silence. Dorothea's heart was full of something that she
wanted to say, and yet the words were too difficult. She was wholly
possessed by them: at that moment debate was mute within her. And it
was very hard that she could not say what she wanted to say. Will was
looking out of the window angrily. If he would have looked at her and
not gone away from her side, she thought everything would have been
easier. At last he turned, still resting against the chair, and
stretching his hand automatically towards his hat, said with a sort of
"Oh, I cannot bear it—my heart will break," said Dorothea, starting
from her seat, the flood of her young passion bearing down all the
obstructions which had kept her silent—the great tears rising and
falling in an instant: "I don't mind about poverty—I hate my wealth."
In an instant Will was close to her and had his arms round her, but she
drew her head back and held his away gently that she might go on
speaking, her large tear-filled eyes looking at his very simply, while
she said in a sobbing childlike way, "We could live quite well on my
own fortune—it is too much—seven hundred a-year—I want so little—no
new clothes—and I will learn what everything costs."
"Though it be songe of old and yonge,
That I sholde be to blame,
Theyrs be the charge, that spoke so large
In hurtynge of my name."
—The Not-Browne Mayde.
It was just after the Lords had thrown out the Reform Bill: that
explains how Mr. Cadwallader came to be walking on the slope of the
lawn near the great conservatory at Freshitt Hall, holding the "Times"
in his hands behind him, while he talked with a trout-fisher's
dispassionateness about the prospects of the country to Sir James
Chettam. Mrs. Cadwallader, the Dowager Lady Chettam, and Celia were
sometimes seated on garden-chairs, sometimes walking to meet little
Arthur, who was being drawn in his chariot, and, as became the
infantine Bouddha, was sheltered by his sacred umbrella with handsome
The ladies also talked politics, though more fitfully. Mrs.
Cadwallader was strong on the intended creation of peers: she had it
for certain from her cousin that Truberry had gone over to the other
side entirely at the instigation of his wife, who had scented peerages
in the air from the very first introduction of the Reform question, and
would sign her soul away to take precedence of her younger sister, who
had married a baronet. Lady Chettam thought that such conduct was very
reprehensible, and remembered that Mrs. Truberry's mother was a Miss
Walsingham of Melspring. Celia confessed it was nicer to be "Lady"
than "Mrs.," and that Dodo never minded about precedence if she could
have her own way. Mrs. Cadwallader held that it was a poor
satisfaction to take precedence when everybody about you knew that you
had not a drop of good blood in your veins; and Celia again, stopping
to look at Arthur, said, "It would be very nice, though, if he were a
Viscount—and his lordship's little tooth coming through! He might
have been, if James had been an Earl."
"My dear Celia," said the Dowager, "James's title is worth far more
than any new earldom. I never wished his father to be anything else
than Sir James."
"Oh, I only meant about Arthur's little tooth," said Celia,
comfortably. "But see, here is my uncle coming."
She tripped off to meet her uncle, while Sir James and Mr. Cadwallader
came forward to make one group with the ladies. Celia had slipped her
arm through her uncle's, and he patted her hand with a rather
melancholy "Well, my dear!" As they approached, it was evident that
Mr. Brooke was looking dejected, but this was fully accounted for by
the state of politics; and as he was shaking hands all round without
more greeting than a "Well, you're all here, you know," the Rector
"Don't take the throwing out of the Bill so much to heart, Brooke;
you've got all the riff-raff of the country on your side."
"The Bill, eh? ah!" said Mr. Brooke, with a mild distractedness of
manner. "Thrown out, you know, eh? The Lords are going too far,
though. They'll have to pull up. Sad news, you know. I mean, here at
home—sad news. But you must not blame me, Chettam."
"What is the matter?" said Sir James. "Not another gamekeeper shot, I
hope? It's what I should expect, when a fellow like Trapping Bass is
let off so easily."
"Gamekeeper? No. Let us go in; I can tell you all in the house, you
know," said Mr. Brooke, nodding at the Cadwalladers, to show that he
included them in his confidence. "As to poachers like Trapping Bass,
you know, Chettam," he continued, as they were entering, "when you are
a magistrate, you'll not find it so easy to commit. Severity is all
very well, but it's a great deal easier when you've got somebody to do
it for you. You have a soft place in your heart yourself, you
know—you're not a Draco, a Jeffreys, that sort of thing."
Mr. Brooke was evidently in a state of nervous perturbation. When he
had something painful to tell, it was usually his way to introduce it
among a number of disjointed particulars, as if it were a medicine that
would get a milder flavor by mixing. He continued his chat with Sir
James about the poachers until they were all seated, and Mrs.
Cadwallader, impatient of this drivelling, said—
"I'm dying to know the sad news. The gamekeeper is not shot: that is
settled. What is it, then?"
"Well, it's a very trying thing, you know," said Mr. Brooke. "I'm glad
you and the Rector are here; it's a family matter—but you will help
us all to bear it, Cadwallader. I've got to break it to you, my dear."
Here Mr. Brooke looked at Celia—"You've no notion what it is, you
know. And, Chettam, it will annoy you uncommonly—but, you see, you
have not been able to hinder it, any more than I have. There's
something singular in things: they come round, you know."
"It must be about Dodo," said Celia, who had been used to think of her
sister as the dangerous part of the family machinery. She had seated
herself on a low stool against her husband's knee.
"For God's sake let us hear what it is!" said Sir James.
"Well, you know, Chettam, I couldn't help Casaubon's will: it was a
sort of will to make things worse."
"Exactly," said Sir James, hastily. "But what is worse?"
"Dorothea is going to be married again, you know," said Mr. Brooke,
nodding towards Celia, who immediately looked up at her husband with a
frightened glance, and put her hand on his knee. Sir James was almost
white with anger, but he did not speak.
"Merciful heaven!" said Mrs. Cadwallader. "Not to young Ladislaw?"
Mr. Brooke nodded, saying, "Yes; to Ladislaw," and then fell into a
"You see, Humphrey!" said Mrs. Cadwallader, waving her arm towards her
husband. "Another time you will admit that I have some foresight; or
rather you will contradict me and be just as blind as ever. You
supposed that the young gentleman was gone out of the country."
"So he might be, and yet come back," said the Rector, quietly
"When did you learn this?" said Sir James, not liking to hear any one
else speak, though finding it difficult to speak himself.
"Yesterday," said Mr. Brooke, meekly. "I went to Lowick. Dorothea
sent for me, you know. It had come about quite suddenly—neither of
them had any idea two days ago—not any idea, you know. There's
something singular in things. But Dorothea is quite determined—it is
no use opposing. I put it strongly to her. I did my duty, Chettam.
But she can act as she likes, you know."
"It would have been better if I had called him out and shot him a year
ago," said Sir James, not from bloody-mindedness, but because he needed
something strong to say.
"Really, James, that would have been very disagreeable," said Celia.
"Be reasonable, Chettam. Look at the affair more quietly," said Mr.
Cadwallader, sorry to see his good-natured friend so overmastered by
"That is not so very easy for a man of any dignity—with any sense of
right—when the affair happens to be in his own family," said Sir
James, still in his white indignation. "It is perfectly scandalous.
If Ladislaw had had a spark of honor he would have gone out of the
country at once, and never shown his face in it again. However, I am
not surprised. The day after Casaubon's funeral I said what ought to
be done. But I was not listened to."
"You wanted what was impossible, you know, Chettam," said Mr. Brooke.
"You wanted him shipped off. I told you Ladislaw was not to be done as
we liked with: he had his ideas. He was a remarkable fellow—I always
said he was a remarkable fellow."
"Yes," said Sir James, unable to repress a retort, "it is rather a pity
you formed that high opinion of him. We are indebted to that for his
being lodged in this neighborhood. We are indebted to that for seeing
a woman like Dorothea degrading herself by marrying him." Sir James
made little stoppages between his clauses, the words not coming easily.
"A man so marked out by her husband's will, that delicacy ought to have
forbidden her from seeing him again—who takes her out of her proper
rank—into poverty—has the meanness to accept such a sacrifice—has
always had an objectionable position—a bad origin—and, I believe,
is a man of little principle and light character. That is my opinion."
Sir James ended emphatically, turning aside and crossing his leg.
"I pointed everything out to her," said Mr. Brooke, apologetically—"I
mean the poverty, and abandoning her position. I said, 'My dear, you
don't know what it is to live on seven hundred a-year, and have no
carriage, and that kind of thing, and go amongst people who don't know
who you are.' I put it strongly to her. But I advise you to talk to
Dorothea herself. The fact is, she has a dislike to Casaubon's
property. You will hear what she says, you know."
"No—excuse me—I shall not," said Sir James, with more coolness. "I
cannot bear to see her again; it is too painful. It hurts me too much
that a woman like Dorothea should have done what is wrong."
"Be just, Chettam," said the easy, large-lipped Rector, who objected to
all this unnecessary discomfort. "Mrs. Casaubon may be acting
imprudently: she is giving up a fortune for the sake of a man, and we
men have so poor an opinion of each other that we can hardly call a
woman wise who does that. But I think you should not condemn it as a
wrong action, in the strict sense of the word."
"Yes, I do," answered Sir James. "I think that Dorothea commits a
wrong action in marrying Ladislaw."
"My dear fellow, we are rather apt to consider an act wrong because it
is unpleasant to us," said the Rector, quietly. Like many men who take
life easily, he had the knack of saying a home truth occasionally to
those who felt themselves virtuously out of temper. Sir James took out
his handkerchief and began to bite the corner.
"It is very dreadful of Dodo, though," said Celia, wishing to justify
her husband. "She said she never would marry again—not anybody at
"I heard her say the same thing myself," said Lady Chettam,
majestically, as if this were royal evidence.
"Oh, there is usually a silent exception in such cases," said Mrs.
Cadwallader. "The only wonder to me is, that any of you are surprised.
You did nothing to hinder it. If you would have had Lord Triton down
here to woo her with his philanthropy, he might have carried her off
before the year was over. There was no safety in anything else. Mr.
Casaubon had prepared all this as beautifully as possible. He made
himself disagreeable—or it pleased God to make him so—and then he
dared her to contradict him. It's the way to make any trumpery
tempting, to ticket it at a high price in that way."
"I don't know what you mean by wrong, Cadwallader," said Sir James,
still feeling a little stung, and turning round in his chair towards
the Rector. "He's not a man we can take into the family. At least, I
must speak for myself," he continued, carefully keeping his eyes off
Mr. Brooke. "I suppose others will find his society too pleasant to
care about the propriety of the thing."
"Well, you know, Chettam," said Mr. Brooke, good-humoredly, nursing his
leg, "I can't turn my back on Dorothea. I must be a father to her up
to a certain point. I said, 'My dear, I won't refuse to give you
away.' I had spoken strongly before. But I can cut off the entail,
you know. It will cost money and be troublesome; but I can do it, you
Mr. Brooke nodded at Sir James, and felt that he was both showing his
own force of resolution and propitiating what was just in the Baronet's
vexation. He had hit on a more ingenious mode of parrying than he was
aware of. He had touched a motive of which Sir James was ashamed. The
mass of his feeling about Dorothea's marriage to Ladislaw was due
partly to excusable prejudice, or even justifiable opinion, partly to a
jealous repugnance hardly less in Ladislaw's case than in Casaubon's.
He was convinced that the marriage was a fatal one for Dorothea. But
amid that mass ran a vein of which he was too good and honorable a man
to like the avowal even to himself: it was undeniable that the union of
the two estates—Tipton and Freshitt—lying charmingly within a
ring-fence, was a prospect that flattered him for his son and heir.
Hence when Mr. Brooke noddingly appealed to that motive, Sir James felt
a sudden embarrassment; there was a stoppage in his throat; he even
blushed. He had found more words than usual in the first jet of his
anger, but Mr. Brooke's propitiation was more clogging to his tongue
than Mr. Cadwallader's caustic hint.
But Celia was glad to have room for speech after her uncle's suggestion
of the marriage ceremony, and she said, though with as little eagerness
of manner as if the question had turned on an invitation to dinner, "Do
you mean that Dodo is going to be married directly, uncle?"
"In three weeks, you know," said Mr. Brooke, helplessly. "I can do
nothing to hinder it, Cadwallader," he added, turning for a little
countenance toward the Rector, who said—
"—I—should not make any fuss about it. If she likes to be poor, that
is her affair. Nobody would have said anything if she had married the
young fellow because he was rich. Plenty of beneficed clergy are
poorer than they will be. Here is Elinor," continued the provoking
husband; "she vexed her friends by me: I had hardly a thousand
a-year—I was a lout—nobody could see anything in me—my shoes were
not the right cut—all the men wondered how a woman could like me.
Upon my word, I must take Ladislaw's part until I hear more harm of
"Humphrey, that is all sophistry, and you know it," said his wife.
"Everything is all one—that is the beginning and end with you. As if
you had not been a Cadwallader! Does any one suppose that I would have
taken such a monster as you by any other name?"
"And a clergyman too," observed Lady Chettam with approbation. "Elinor
cannot be said to have descended below her rank. It is difficult to
say what Mr. Ladislaw is, eh, James?"
Sir James gave a small grunt, which was less respectful than his usual
mode of answering his mother. Celia looked up at him like a thoughtful
"It must be admitted that his blood is a frightful mixture!" said Mrs.
Cadwallader. "The Casaubon cuttle-fish fluid to begin with, and then a
rebellious Polish fiddler or dancing-master, was it?—and then an old
"Nonsense, Elinor," said the Rector, rising. "It is time for us to go."
"After all, he is a pretty sprig," said Mrs. Cadwallader, rising too,
and wishing to make amends. "He is like the fine old Crichley
portraits before the idiots came in."
"I'll go with you," said Mr. Brooke, starting up with alacrity. "You
must all come and dine with me to-morrow, you know—eh, Celia, my dear?"
"You will, James—won't you?" said Celia, taking her husband's hand.
"Oh, of course, if you like," said Sir James, pulling down his
waistcoat, but unable yet to adjust his face good-humoredly. "That is
to say, if it is not to meet anybody else.':
"No, no, no," said Mr. Brooke, understanding the condition. "Dorothea
would not come, you know, unless you had been to see her."
When Sir James and Celia were alone, she said, "Do you mind about my
having the carriage to go to, Lowick, James?"
"What, now, directly?" he answered, with some surprise.
"Yes, it is very important," said Celia.
"Remember, Celia, I cannot see her," said Sir James.
"Not if she gave up marrying?"
"What is the use of saying that?—however, I'm going to the stables.
I'll tell Briggs to bring the carriage round."
Celia thought it was of great use, if not to say that, at least to take
a journey to Lowick in order to influence Dorothea's mind. All through
their girlhood she had felt that she could act on her sister by a word
judiciously placed—by opening a little window for the daylight of her
own understanding to enter among the strange colored lamps by which
Dodo habitually saw. And Celia the matron naturally felt more able to
advise her childless sister. How could any one understand Dodo so well
as Celia did or love her so tenderly?
Dorothea, busy in her boudoir, felt a glow of pleasure at the sight of
her sister so soon after the revelation of her intended marriage. She
had prefigured to herself, even with exaggeration, the disgust of her
friends, and she had even feared that Celia might be kept aloof from
"O Kitty, I am delighted to see you!" said Dorothea, putting her hands
on Celia's shoulders, and beaming on her. "I almost thought you would
not come to me."
"I have not brought Arthur, because I was in a hurry," said Celia, and
they sat down on two small chairs opposite each other, with their knees
"You know, Dodo, it is very bad," said Celia, in her placid guttural,
looking as prettily free from humors as possible. "You have
disappointed us all so. And I can't think that it ever will be—you
never can go and live in that way. And then there are all your plans!
You never can have thought of that. James would have taken any trouble
for you, and you might have gone on all your life doing what you liked."
"On the contrary, dear," said Dorothea, "I never could do anything that
I liked. I have never carried out any plan yet."
"Because you always wanted things that wouldn't do. But other plans
would have come. And how can you marry Mr. Ladislaw, that we none of
us ever thought you could marry? It shocks James so dreadfully. And
then it is all so different from what you have always been. You would
have Mr. Casaubon because he had such a great soul, and was so and
dismal and learned; and now, to think of marrying Mr. Ladislaw, who has
got no estate or anything. I suppose it is because you must be making
yourself uncomfortable in some way or other."
"Well, it is very serious, Dodo," said Celia, becoming more impressive.
"How will you live? and you will go away among queer people. And I
shall never see you—and you won't mind about little Arthur—and I
thought you always would—"
Celia's rare tears had got into her eyes, and the corners of her mouth
"Dear Celia," said Dorothea, with tender gravity, "if you don't ever
see me, it will not be my fault."
"Yes, it will," said Celia, with the same touching distortion of her
small features. "How can I come to you or have you with me when James
can't bear it?—that is because he thinks it is not right—he thinks
you are so wrong, Dodo. But you always were wrong: only I can't help
loving you. And nobody can think where you will live: where can you
"I am going to London," said Dorothea.
"How can you always live in a street? And you will be so poor. I
could give you half my things, only how can I, when I never see you?"
"Bless you, Kitty," said Dorothea, with gentle warmth. "Take comfort:
perhaps James will forgive me some time."
"But it would be much better if you would not be married," said Celia,
drying her eyes, and returning to her argument; "then there would be
nothing uncomfortable. And you would not do what nobody thought you
could do. James always said you ought to be a queen; but this is not
at all being like a queen. You know what mistakes you have always been
making, Dodo, and this is another. Nobody thinks Mr. Ladislaw a proper
husband for you. And you said you would never be married again."
"It is quite true that I might be a wiser person, Celia," said
Dorothea, "and that I might have done something better, if I had been
better. But this is what I am going to do. I have promised to marry
Mr. Ladislaw; and I am going to marry him."
The tone in which Dorothea said this was a note that Celia had long
learned to recognize. She was silent a few moments, and then said, as
if she had dismissed all contest, "Is he very fond of you, Dodo?"
"I hope so. I am very fond of him."
"That is nice," said Celia, comfortably. "Only I rather you had such a
sort of husband as James is, with a place very near, that I could drive
Dorothea smiled, and Celia looked rather meditative. Presently she
said, "I cannot think how it all came about." Celia thought it would be
pleasant to hear the story.
"I dare say not," said-Dorothea, pinching her sister's chin. "If you
knew how it came about, it would not seem wonderful to you."
"Can't you tell me?" said Celia, settling her arms cozily.
"No, dear, you would have to feel with me, else you would never know."
"Then went the jury out whose names were Mr. Blindman, Mr.
No-good, Mr. Malice, Mr. Love-lust, Mr. Live-loose, Mr.
Heady, Mr. High-mind, Mr. Enmity, Mr. Liar, Mr. Cruelty, Mr.
Hate-light, Mr. Implacable, who every one gave in his
private verdict against him among themselves, and afterwards
unanimously concluded to bring him in guilty before the
judge. And first among themselves, Mr. Blindman, the
foreman, said, I see clearly that this man is a heretic.
Then said Mr. No-good, Away with such a fellow from the
earth! Ay, said Mr. Malice, for I hate the very look of him.
Then said Mr. Love-lust, I could never endure him. Nor I,
said Mr. Live-loose; for he would be always condemning my
way. Hang him, hang him, said Mr. Heady. A sorry scrub, said
Mr. High-mind. My heart riseth against him, said Mr. Enmity.
He is a rogue, said Mr. Liar. Hanging is too good for him,
said Mr. Cruelty. Let us despatch him out of the way said
Mr. Hate-light. Then said Mr. Implacable, Might I have all
the world given me, I could not be reconciled to him;
therefore let us forthwith bring him in guilty of
When immortal Bunyan makes his picture of the persecuting passions
bringing in their verdict of guilty, who pities Faithful? That is a
rare and blessed lot which some greatest men have not attained, to know
ourselves guiltless before a condemning crowd—to be sure that what we
are denounced for is solely the good in us. The pitiable lot is that
of the man who could not call himself a martyr even though he were to
persuade himself that the men who stoned him were but ugly passions
incarnate—who knows that he is stoned, not for professing the Right,
but for not being the man he professed to be.
This was the consciousness that Bulstrode was withering under while he
made his preparations for departing from Middlemarch, and going to end
his stricken life in that sad refuge, the indifference of new faces.
The duteous merciful constancy of his wife had delivered him from one
dread, but it could not hinder her presence from being still a tribunal
before which he shrank from confession and desired advocacy. His
equivocations with himself about the death of Raffles had sustained the
conception of an Omniscience whom he prayed to, yet he had a terror
upon him which would not let him expose them to judgment by a full
confession to his wife: the acts which he had washed and diluted with
inward argument and motive, and for which it seemed comparatively easy
to win invisible pardon—what name would she call them by? That she
should ever silently call his acts Murder was what he could not bear.
He felt shrouded by her doubt: he got strength to face her from the
sense that she could not yet feel warranted in pronouncing that worst
condemnation on him. Some time, perhaps—when he was dying—he would
tell her all: in the deep shadow of that time, when she held his hand
in the gathering darkness, she might listen without recoiling from his
touch. Perhaps: but concealment had been the habit of his life, and
the impulse to confession had no power against the dread of a deeper
He was full of timid care for his wife, not only because he deprecated
any harshness of judgment from her, but because he felt a deep distress
at the sight of her suffering. She had sent her daughters away to
board at a school on the coast, that this crisis might be hidden from
them as far as possible. Set free by their absence from the
intolerable necessity of accounting for her grief or of beholding their
frightened wonder, she could live unconstrainedly with the sorrow that
was every day streaking her hair with whiteness and making her eyelids
"Tell me anything that you would like to have me do, Harriet,"
Bulstrode had said to her; "I mean with regard to arrangements of
property. It is my intention not to sell the land I possess in this
neighborhood, but to leave it to you as a safe provision. If you have
any wish on such subjects, do not conceal it from me."
A few days afterwards, when she had returned from a visit to her
brother's, she began to speak to her husband on a subject which had for
some time been in her mind.
"I should like to do something for my brother's family, Nicholas; and
I think we are bound to make some amends to Rosamond and her husband.
Walter says Mr. Lydgate must leave the town, and his practice is almost
good for nothing, and they have very little left to settle anywhere
with. I would rather do without something for ourselves, to make some
amends to my poor brother's family."
Mrs. Bulstrode did not wish to go nearer to the facts than in the
phrase "make some amends;" knowing that her husband must understand
her. He had a particular reason, which she was not aware of, for
wincing under her suggestion. He hesitated before he said—
"It is not possible to carry out your wish in the way you propose, my
dear. Mr. Lydgate has virtually rejected any further service from me.
He has returned the thousand pounds which I lent him. Mrs. Casaubon
advanced him the sum for that purpose. Here is his letter."
The letter seemed to cut Mrs. Bulstrode severely. The mention of Mrs.
Casaubon's loan seemed a reflection of that public feeling which held
it a matter of course that every one would avoid a connection with her
husband. She was silent for some time; and the tears fell one after
the other, her chin trembling as she wiped them away. Bulstrode,
sitting opposite to her, ached at the sight of that grief-worn face,
which two months before had been bright and blooming. It had aged to
keep sad company with his own withered features. Urged into some
effort at comforting her, he said—
"There is another means, Harriet, by which I might do a service to your
brother's family, if you like to act in it. And it would, I think, be
beneficial to you: it would be an advantageous way of managing the land
which I mean to be yours."
She looked attentive.
"Garth once thought of undertaking the management of Stone Court in
order to place your nephew Fred there. The stock was to remain as it
is, and they were to pay a certain share of the profits instead of an
ordinary rent. That would be a desirable beginning for the young man,
in conjunction with his employment under Garth. Would it be a
satisfaction to you?"
"Yes, it would," said Mrs. Bulstrode, with some return of energy.
"Poor Walter is so cast down; I would try anything in my power to do
him some good before I go away. We have always been brother and
"You must make the proposal to Garth yourself, Harriet," said Mr.
Bulstrode, not liking what he had to say, but desiring the end he had
in view, for other reasons besides the consolation of his wife. "You
must state to him that the land is virtually yours, and that he need
have no transactions with me. Communications can be made through
Standish. I mention this, because Garth gave up being my agent. I can
put into your hands a paper which he himself drew up, stating
conditions; and you can propose his renewed acceptance of them. I
think it is not unlikely that he will accept when you propose the thing
for the sake of your nephew."
"Le coeur se sature d'amour comme d'un sel divin qui le
conserve; de la l'incorruptible adherence de ceux qui se
sont aimes des l'aube de la vie, et la fraicheur des vielles
amours prolonges. Il existe un embaumement d'amour. C'est de
Daphnis et Chloe que sont faits Philemon et Baucis. Cette
vieillesse la, ressemblance du soir avec
l'aurore."—VICTOR HUGO: L'homme qui rit.
Mrs. Garth, hearing Caleb enter the passage about tea-time, opened the
parlor-door and said, "There you are, Caleb. Have you had your
dinner?" (Mr. Garth's meals were much subordinated to "business.")
"Oh yes, a good dinner—cold mutton and I don't know what. Where is
"In the garden with Letty, I think."
"Fred is not come yet?"
"No. Are you going out again without taking tea, Caleb?" said Mrs.
Garth, seeing that her absent-minded husband was putting on again the
hat which he had just taken off.
"No, no; I'm only going to Mary a minute."
Mary was in a grassy corner of the garden, where there was a swing
loftily hung between two pear-trees. She had a pink kerchief tied over
her head, making a little poke to shade her eyes from the level
sunbeams, while she was giving a glorious swing to Letty, who laughed
and screamed wildly.
Seeing her father, Mary left the swing and went to meet him, pushing
back the pink kerchief and smiling afar off at him with the involuntary
smile of loving pleasure.
"I came to look for you, Mary," said Mr. Garth. "Let us walk about a
Mary knew quite well that her father had something particular to say:
his eyebrows made their pathetic angle, and there was a tender gravity
in his voice: these things had been signs to her when she was Letty's
age. She put her arm within his, and they turned by the row of
"It will be a sad while before you can be married, Mary," said her
father, not looking at her, but at the end of the stick which he held
in his other hand.
"Not a sad while, father—I mean to be merry," said Mary, laughingly.
"I have been single and merry for four-and-twenty years and more: I
suppose it will not be quite as long again as that." Then, after a
little pause, she said, more gravely, bending her face before her
father's, "If you are contented with Fred?"
Caleb screwed up his mouth and turned his head aside wisely.
"Now, father, you did praise him last Wednesday. You said he had an
uncommon notion of stock, and a good eye for things."
"Did I?" said Caleb, rather slyly.
"Yes, I put it all down, and the date, anno Domini, and everything,"
said Mary. "You like things to be neatly booked. And then his
behavior to you, father, is really good; he has a deep respect for you;
and it is impossible to have a better temper than Fred has."
"Ay, ay; you want to coax me into thinking him a fine match."
"No, indeed, father. I don't love him because he is a fine match."
"What for, then?"
"Oh, dear, because I have always loved him. I should never like
scolding any one else so well; and that is a point to be thought of in
"Your mind is quite settled, then, Mary?" said Caleb, returning to his
first tone. "There's no other wish come into it since things have been
going on as they have been of late?" (Caleb meant a great deal in that
vague phrase;) "because, better late than never. A woman must not
force her heart—she'll do a man no good by that."
"My feelings have not changed, father," said Mary, calmly. "I shall be
constant to Fred as long as he is constant to me. I don't think either
of us could spare the other, or like any one else better, however much
we might admire them. It would make too great a difference to us—like
seeing all the old places altered, and changing the name for
everything. We must wait for each other a long while; but Fred knows
Instead of speaking immediately, Caleb stood still and screwed his
stick on the grassy walk. Then he said, with emotion in his voice,
"Well, I've got a bit of news. What do you think of Fred going to live
at Stone Court, and managing the land there?"
"How can that ever be, father?" said Mary, wonderingly.
"He would manage it for his aunt Bulstrode. The poor woman has been to
me begging and praying. She wants to do the lad good, and it might be
a fine thing for him. With saving, he might gradually buy the stock,
and he has a turn for farming."
"Oh, Fred would be so happy! It is too good to believe."
"Ah, but mind you," said Caleb, turning his head warningly, "I must
take it on my shoulders, and be responsible, and see after
everything; and that will grieve your mother a bit, though she mayn't
say so. Fred had need be careful."
"Perhaps it is too much, father," said Mary, checked in her joy.
"There would be no happiness in bringing you any fresh trouble."
"Nay, nay; work is my delight, child, when it doesn't vex your mother.
And then, if you and Fred get married," here Caleb's voice shook just
perceptibly, "he'll be steady and saving; and you've got your mother's
cleverness, and mine too, in a woman's sort of way; and you'll keep him
in order. He'll be coming by-and-by, so I wanted to tell you first,
because I think you'd like to tell him by yourselves. After that, I
could talk it well over with him, and we could go into business and the
nature of things."
"Oh, you dear good father!" cried Mary, putting her hands round her
father's neck, while he bent his head placidly, willing to be caressed.
"I wonder if any other girl thinks her father the best man in the
"Nonsense, child; you'll think your husband better."
"Impossible," said Mary, relapsing into her usual tone; "husbands are
an inferior class of men, who require keeping in order."
When they were entering the house with Letty, who had run to join them,
Mary saw Fred at the orchard-gate, and went to meet him.
"What fine clothes you wear, you extravagant youth!" said Mary, as Fred
stood still and raised his hat to her with playful formality. "You are
not learning economy."
"Now that is too bad, Mary," said Fred. "Just look at the edges of
these coat-cuffs! It is only by dint of good brushing that I look
respectable. I am saving up three suits—one for a wedding-suit."
"How very droll you will look!—like a gentleman in an old
"Oh no, they will keep two years."
"Two years! be reasonable, Fred," said Mary, turning to walk. "Don't
encourage flattering expectations."
"Why not? One lives on them better than on unflattering ones. If we
can't be married in two years, the truth will be quite bad enough when
"I have heard a story of a young gentleman who once encouraged
flattering expectations, and they did him harm."
"Mary, if you've got something discouraging to tell me, I shall bolt; I
shall go into the house to Mr. Garth. I am out of spirits. My father
is so cut up—home is not like itself. I can't bear any more bad news."
"Should you call it bad news to be told that you were to live at Stone
Court, and manage the farm, and be remarkably prudent, and save money
every year till all the stock and furniture were your own, and you were
a distinguished agricultural character, as Mr. Borthrop Trumbull
says—rather stout, I fear, and with the Greek and Latin sadly
"You don't mean anything except nonsense, Mary?" said Fred, coloring
"That is what my father has just told me of as what may happen, and he
never talks nonsense," said Mary, looking up at Fred now, while he
grasped her hand as they walked, till it rather hurt her; but she would
"Oh, I could be a tremendously good fellow then, Mary, and we could be
"Not so fast, sir; how do you know that I would not rather defer our
marriage for some years? That would leave you time to misbehave, and
then if I liked some one else better, I should have an excuse for
"Pray don't joke, Mary," said Fred, with strong feeling. "Tell me
seriously that all this is true, and that you are happy because of
it—because you love me best."
"It is all true, Fred, and I am happy because of it—because I love you
best," said Mary, in a tone of obedient recitation.
They lingered on the door-step under the steep-roofed porch, and Fred
almost in a whisper said—
"When we were first engaged, with the umbrella-ring, Mary, you used
The spirit of joy began to laugh more decidedly in Mary's eyes, but the
fatal Ben came running to the door with Brownie yapping behind him,
and, bouncing against them, said—
"Fred and Mary! are you ever coming in?—or may I eat your cake?"
Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending. Who can quit young
lives after being long in company with them, and not desire to know
what befell them in their after-years? For the fragment of a life,
however typical, is not the sample of an even web: promises may not be
kept, and an ardent outset may be followed by declension; latent powers
may find their long-waited opportunity; a past error may urge a grand
Marriage, which has been the bourne of so many narratives, is still a
great beginning, as it was to Adam and Eve, who kept their honeymoon in
Eden, but had their first little one among the thorns and thistles of
the wilderness. It is still the beginning of the home epic—the
gradual conquest or irremediable loss of that complete union which
makes the advancing years a climax, and age the harvest of sweet
memories in common.
Some set out, like Crusaders of old, with a glorious equipment of hope
and enthusiasm and get broken by the way, wanting patience with each
other and the world.
All who have cared for Fred Vincy and Mary Garth will like to know that
these two made no such failure, but achieved a solid mutual happiness.
Fred surprised his neighbors in various ways. He became rather
distinguished in his side of the county as a theoretic and practical
farmer, and produced a work on the "Cultivation of Green Crops and the
Economy of Cattle-Feeding" which won him high congratulations at
agricultural meetings. In Middlemarch admiration was more reserved:
most persons there were inclined to believe that the merit of Fred's
authorship was due to his wife, since they had never expected Fred
Vincy to write on turnips and mangel-wurzel.
But when Mary wrote a little book for her boys, called "Stories of
Great Men, taken from Plutarch," and had it printed and published by
Gripp & Co., Middlemarch, every one in the town was willing to give the
credit of this work to Fred, observing that he had been to the
University, "where the ancients were studied," and might have been a
clergyman if he had chosen.
In this way it was made clear that Middlemarch had never been deceived,
and that there was no need to praise anybody for writing a book, since
it was always done by somebody else.
Moreover, Fred remained unswervingly steady. Some years after his
marriage he told Mary that his happiness was half owing to Farebrother,
who gave him a strong pull-up at the right moment. I cannot say that
he was never again misled by his hopefulness: the yield of crops or the
profits of a cattle sale usually fell below his estimate; and he was
always prone to believe that he could make money by the purchase of a
horse which turned out badly—though this, Mary observed, was of
course the fault of the horse, not of Fred's judgment. He kept his
love of horsemanship, but he rarely allowed himself a day's hunting;
and when he did so, it was remarkable that he submitted to be laughed
at for cowardliness at the fences, seeming to see Mary and the boys
sitting on the five-barred gate, or showing their curly heads between
hedge and ditch.
There were three boys: Mary was not discontented that she brought forth
men-children only; and when Fred wished to have a girl like her, she
said, laughingly, "that would be too great a trial to your mother."
Mrs. Vincy in her declining years, and in the diminished lustre of her
housekeeping, was much comforted by her perception that two at least of
Fred's boys were real Vincys, and did not "feature the Garths." But
Mary secretly rejoiced that the youngest of the three was very much
what her father must have been when he wore a round jacket, and showed
a marvellous nicety of aim in playing at marbles, or in throwing stones
to bring down the mellow pears.
Ben and Letty Garth, who were uncle and aunt before they were well in
their teens, disputed much as to whether nephews or nieces were more
desirable; Ben contending that it was clear girls were good for less
than boys, else they would not be always in petticoats, which showed
how little they were meant for; whereupon Letty, who argued much from
books, got angry in replying that God made coats of skins for both Adam
and Eve alike—also it occurred to her that in the East the men too
wore petticoats. But this latter argument, obscuring the majesty of
the former, was one too many, for Ben answered contemptuously, "The
more spooneys they!" and immediately appealed to his mother whether
boys were not better than girls. Mrs. Garth pronounced that both were
alike naughty, but that boys were undoubtedly stronger, could run
faster, and throw with more precision to a greater distance. With this
oracular sentence Ben was well satisfied, not minding the naughtiness;
but Letty took it ill, her feeling of superiority being stronger than
Fred never became rich—his hopefulness had not led him to expect that;
but he gradually saved enough to become owner of the stock and
furniture at Stone Court, and the work which Mr. Garth put into his
hands carried him in plenty through those "bad times" which are always
present with farmers. Mary, in her matronly days, became as solid in
figure as her mother; but, unlike her, gave the boys little formal
teaching, so that Mrs. Garth was alarmed lest they should never be well
grounded in grammar and geography. Nevertheless, they were found quite
forward enough when they went to school; perhaps, because they had
liked nothing so well as being with their mother. When Fred was riding
home on winter evenings he had a pleasant vision beforehand of the
bright hearth in the wainscoted parlor, and was sorry for other men who
could not have Mary for their wife; especially for Mr. Farebrother.
"He was ten times worthier of you than I was," Fred could now say to
her, magnanimously. "To be sure he was," Mary answered; "and for that
reason he could do better without me. But you—I shudder to think what
you would have been—a curate in debt for horse-hire and cambric
On inquiry it might possibly be found that Fred and Mary still inhabit
Stone Court—that the creeping plants still cast the foam of their
blossoms over the fine stone-wall into the field where the walnut-trees
stand in stately row—and that on sunny days the two lovers who were
first engaged with the umbrella-ring may be seen in white-haired
placidity at the open window from which Mary Garth, in the days of old
Peter Featherstone, had often been ordered to look out for Mr. Lydgate.
Lydgate's hair never became white. He died when he was only fifty,
leaving his wife and children provided for by a heavy insurance on his
life. He had gained an excellent practice, alternating, according to
the season, between London and a Continental bathing-place; having
written a treatise on Gout, a disease which has a good deal of wealth
on its side. His skill was relied on by many paying patients, but he
always regarded himself as a failure: he had not done what he once
meant to do. His acquaintances thought him enviable to have so
charming a wife, and nothing happened to shake their opinion. Rosamond
never committed a second compromising indiscretion. She simply
continued to be mild in her temper, inflexible in her judgment,
disposed to admonish her husband, and able to frustrate him by
stratagem. As the years went on he opposed her less and less, whence
Rosamond concluded that he had learned the value of her opinion; on the
other hand, she had a more thorough conviction of his talents now that
he gained a good income, and instead of the threatened cage in Bride
Street provided one all flowers and gilding, fit for the bird of
paradise that she resembled. In brief, Lydgate was what is called a
successful man. But he died prematurely of diphtheria, and Rosamond
afterwards married an elderly and wealthy physician, who took kindly to
her four children. She made a very pretty show with her daughters,
driving out in her carriage, and often spoke of her happiness as "a
reward"—she did not say for what, but probably she meant that it was a
reward for her patience with Tertius, whose temper never became
faultless, and to the last occasionally let slip a bitter speech which
was more memorable than the signs he made of his repentance. He once
called her his basil plant; and when she asked for an explanation, said
that basil was a plant which had flourished wonderfully on a murdered
man's brains. Rosamond had a placid but strong answer to such
speeches. Why then had he chosen her? It was a pity he had not had
Mrs. Ladislaw, whom he was always praising and placing above her. And
thus the conversation ended with the advantage on Rosamond's side. But
it would be unjust not to tell, that she never uttered a word in
depreciation of Dorothea, keeping in religious remembrance the
generosity which had come to her aid in the sharpest crisis of her life.
Dorothea herself had no dreams of being praised above other women,
feeling that there was always something better which she might have
done, if she had only been better and known better. Still, she never
repented that she had given up position and fortune to marry Will
Ladislaw, and he would have held it the greatest shame as well as
sorrow to him if she had repented. They were bound to each other by a
love stronger than any impulses which could have marred it. No life
would have been possible to Dorothea which was not filled with emotion,
and she had now a life filled also with a beneficent activity which she
had not the doubtful pains of discovering and marking out for herself.
Will became an ardent public man, working well in those times when
reforms were begun with a young hopefulness of immediate good which has
been much checked in our days, and getting at last returned to
Parliament by a constituency who paid his expenses. Dorothea could
have liked nothing better, since wrongs existed, than that her husband
should be in the thick of a struggle against them, and that she should
give him wifely help. Many who knew her, thought it a pity that so
substantive and rare a creature should have been absorbed into the life
of another, and be only known in a certain circle as a wife and mother.
But no one stated exactly what else that was in her power she ought
rather to have done—not even Sir James Chettam, who went no further
than the negative prescription that she ought not to have married Will
But this opinion of his did not cause a lasting alienation; and the way
in which the family was made whole again was characteristic of all
concerned. Mr. Brooke could not resist the pleasure of corresponding
with Will and Dorothea; and one morning when his pen had been
remarkably fluent on the prospects of Municipal Reform, it ran off into
an invitation to the Grange, which, once written, could not be done
away with at less cost than the sacrifice (hardly to be conceived) of
the whole valuable letter. During the months of this correspondence
Mr. Brooke had continually, in his talk with Sir James Chettam, been
presupposing or hinting that the intention of cutting off the entail
was still maintained; and the day on which his pen gave the daring
invitation, he went to Freshitt expressly to intimate that he had a
stronger sense than ever of the reasons for taking that energetic step
as a precaution against any mixture of low blood in the heir of the
But that morning something exciting had happened at the Hall. A letter
had come to Celia which made her cry silently as she read it; and when
Sir James, unused to see her in tears, asked anxiously what was the
matter, she burst out in a wail such as he had never heard from her
"Dorothea has a little boy. And you will not let me go and see her.
And I am sure she wants to see me. And she will not know what to do
with the baby—she will do wrong things with it. And they thought she
would die. It is very dreadful! Suppose it had been me and little
Arthur, and Dodo had been hindered from coming to see me! I wish you
would be less unkind, James!"
"Good heavens, Celia!" said Sir James, much wrought upon, "what do you
wish? I will do anything you like. I will take you to town to-morrow
if you wish it." And Celia did wish it.
It was after this that Mr. Brooke came, and meeting the Baronet in the
grounds, began to chat with him in ignorance of the news, which Sir
James for some reason did not care to tell him immediately. But when
the entail was touched on in the usual way, he said, "My dear sir, it
is not for me to dictate to you, but for my part I would let that
alone. I would let things remain as they are."
Mr. Brooke felt so much surprised that he did not at once find out how
much he was relieved by the sense that he was not expected to do
anything in particular.
Such being the bent of Celia's heart, it was inevitable that Sir James
should consent to a reconciliation with Dorothea and her husband.
Where women love each other, men learn to smother their mutual dislike.
Sir James never liked Ladislaw, and Will always preferred to have Sir
James's company mixed with another kind: they were on a footing of
reciprocal tolerance which was made quite easy only when Dorothea and
Celia were present.
It became an understood thing that Mr. and Mrs. Ladislaw should pay at
least two visits during the year to the Grange, and there came
gradually a small row of cousins at Freshitt who enjoyed playing with
the two cousins visiting Tipton as much as if the blood of these
cousins had been less dubiously mixed.
Mr. Brooke lived to a good old age, and his estate was inherited by
Dorothea's son, who might have represented Middlemarch, but declined,
thinking that his opinions had less chance of being stifled if he
remained out of doors.
Sir James never ceased to regard Dorothea's second marriage as a
mistake; and indeed this remained the tradition concerning it in
Middlemarch, where she was spoken of to a younger generation as a fine
girl who married a sickly clergyman, old enough to be her father, and
in little more than a year after his death gave up her estate to marry
his cousin—young enough to have been his son, with no property, and
not well-born. Those who had not seen anything of Dorothea usually
observed that she could not have been "a nice woman," else she would
not have married either the one or the other.
Certainly those determining acts of her life were not ideally
beautiful. They were the mixed result of young and noble impulse
struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which
great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the
aspect of illusion. For there is no creature whose inward being is so
strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it. A
new Theresa will hardly have the opportunity of reforming a conventual
life, any more than a new Antigone will spend her heroic piety in
daring all for the sake of a brother's burial: the medium in which
their ardent deeds took shape is forever gone. But we insignificant
people with our daily words and acts are preparing the lives of many
Dorotheas, some of which may present a far sadder sacrifice than that
of the Dorothea whose story we know.
Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were
not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus
broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on
the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was
incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly
dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you
and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived
faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.