Part 6 out of 18
"Tell her to come home soon, and play at forfeits, and make fun."
"Enough, enough, Ben! run away," said Mrs. Garth, seeing that Fred
was teased. . .
"Are Letty and Ben your only pupils now, Mrs. Garth?" said Fred,
when the children were gone and it was needful to say something
that would pass the time. He was not yet sure whether he should
wait for Mr. Garth, or use any good opportunity in conversation
to confess to Mrs. Garth herself, give her the money and ride away.
"One--only one. Fanny Hackbutt comes at half past eleven.
I am not getting a great income now," said Mrs. Garth, smiling.
"I am at a low ebb with pupils. But I have saved my little
purse for Alfred's premium: I have ninety-two pounds.
He can go to Mr. Hanmer's now; he is just at the right age."
This did not lead well towards the news that Mr. Garth was on
the brink of losing ninety-two pounds and more. Fred was silent.
"Young gentlemen who go to college are rather more costly than that,"
Mrs. Garth innocently continued, pulling out the edging on a cap-border.
"And Caleb thinks that Alfred will turn out a distinguished engineer:
he wants to give the boy a good chance. There he is! I hear him
coming in. We will go to him in the parlor, shall we?"
When they entered the parlor Caleb had thrown down his hat and was
seated at his desk.
"What! Fred, my boy!" he said, in a tone of mild surprise, holding his
pen still undipped; "you are here betimes." But missing the usual
expression of cheerful greeting in Fred's face, he immediately added,
"Is there anything up at home?--anything the matter?"
"Yes, Mr. Garth, I am come to tell something that I am afraid will
give you a bad opinion of me. I am come to tell you and Mrs. Garth
that I can't keep my word. I can't find the money to meet the bill
after all. I have been unfortunate; I have only got these fifty
pounds towards the hundred and sixty."
While Fred was speaking, he had taken out the notes and laid them
on the desk before Mr. Garth. He had burst forth at once with the
plain fact, feeling boyishly miserable and without verbal resources.
Mrs. Garth was mutely astonished, and looked at her husband for
an explanation. Caleb blushed, and after a little pause said--
"Oh, I didn't tell you, Susan: I put my name to a bill for Fred;
it was for a hundred and sixty pounds. He made sure he could meet
There was an evident change in Mrs. Garth's face, but it was
like a change below the surface of water which remains smooth.
She fixed her eyes on Fred, saying--
"I suppose you have asked your father for the rest of the money
and he has refused you."
"No," said Fred, biting his lip, and speaking with more difficulty;
"but I know it will be of no use to ask him; and unless it were of use,
I should not like to mention Mr. Garth's name in the matter."
"It has come at an unfortunate time," said Caleb, in his hesitating way,
looking down at the notes and nervously fingering the paper,
"Christmas upon us--I'm rather hard up just now. You see, I have
to cut out everything like a tailor with short measure. What can
we do, Susan? I shall want every farthing we have in the bank.
It's a hundred and ten pounds, the deuce take it!"
"I must give you the ninety-two pounds that I have put by for
Alfred's premium," said Mrs. Garth, gravely and decisively,
though a nice ear might have discerned a slight tremor in some
of the words. "And I have no doubt that Mary has twenty pounds
saved from her salary by this time. She will advance it."
Mrs. Garth had not again looked at Fred, and was not in the least
calculating what words she should use to cut him the most effectively.
Like the eccentric woman she was, she was at present absorbed in
considering what was to be done, and did not fancy that the end could
be better achieved by bitter remarks or explosions. But she had made
Fred feel for the first time something like the tooth of remorse.
Curiously enough, his pain in the affair beforehand had consisted
almost entirely in the sense that he must seem dishonorable,
and sink in the opinion of the Garths: he had not occupied
himself with the inconvenience and possible injury that his breach
might occasion them, for this exercise of the imagination on
other people's needs is not common with hopeful young gentlemen.
Indeed we are most of us brought up in the notion that the highest
motive for not doing a wrong is something irrespective of the beings
who would suffer the wrong. But at this moment he suddenly saw
himself as a pitiful rascal who was robbing two women of their savings.
"I shall certainly pay it all, Mrs. Garth--ultimately," he stammered out.
"Yes, ultimately," said Mrs. Garth, who having a special dislike
to fine words on ugly occasions, could not now repress an epigram.
"But boys cannot well be apprenticed ultimately: they should be
apprenticed at fifteen." She had never been so little inclined
to make excuses for Fred.
"I was the most in the wrong, Susan," said Caleb. "Fred made sure
of finding the money. But I'd no business to be fingering bills.
I suppose you have looked all round and tried all honest means?"
he added, fixing his merciful gray eyes on Fred. Caleb was too delicate,
to specify Mr. Featherstone.
"Yes, I have tried everything--I really have. I should have had
a hundred and thirty pounds ready but for a misfortune with a horse
which I was about to sell. My uncle had given me eighty pounds,
and I paid away thirty with my old horse in order to get another which I
was going to sell for eighty or more--I meant to go without a horse--
but now it has turned out vicious and lamed itself. I wish I and the
horses too had been at the devil, before I had brought this on you.
There's no one else I care so much for: you and Mrs. Garth have
always been so kind to me. However, it's no use saying that.
You will always think me a rascal now."
Fred turned round and hurried out of the room, conscious that he
was getting rather womanish, and feeling confusedly that his being
sorry was not of much use to the Garths. They could see him mount,
and quickly pass through the gate.
"I am disappointed in Fred Vincy," said Mrs. Garth. "I would not have
believed beforehand that he would have drawn you into his debts.
I knew he was extravagant, but I did not think that he would
be so mean as to hang his risks on his oldest friend, who could
the least afford to lose."
"I was a fool, Susan:"
"That you were," said the wife, nodding and smiling. "But I
should not have gone to publish it in the market-place. Why should
you keep such things from me? It is just so with your buttons:
you let them burst off without telling me, and go out with your
wristband hanging. If I had only known I might have been ready
with some better plan."
"You are sadly cut up, I know, Susan," said Caleb, looking feelingly
at her. "I can't abide your losing the money you've scraped
together for Alfred."
"It is very well that I _had_ scraped it together; and it is you
who will have to suffer, for you must teach the boy yourself.
You must give up your bad habits. Some men take to drinking,
and you have taken to working without pay. You must indulge yourself
a little less in that. And you must ride over to Mary, and ask the
child what money she has."
Caleb had pushed his chair back, and was leaning forward, shaking his
head slowly, and fitting his finger-tips together with much nicety.
"Poor Mary!" he said. "Susan," he went on in a lowered tone,
"I'm afraid she may be fond of Fred."
"Oh no! She always laughs at him; and he is not likely to think
of her in any other than a brotherly way."
Caleb made no rejoinder, but presently lowered his spectacles,
drew up his chair to the desk, and said, "Deuce take the bill--
I wish it was at Hanover! These things are a sad interruption
The first part of this speech comprised his whole store of maledictory
expression, and was uttered with a slight snarl easy to imagine.
But it would be difficult to convey to those who never heard him
utter the word "business," the peculiar tone of fervid veneration,
of religious regard, in which he wrapped it, as a consecrated
symbol is wrapped in its gold-fringed linen.
Caleb Garth often shook his head in meditation on the value,
the indispensable might of that myriad-headed, myriad-handed labor
by which the social body is fed, clothed, and housed. It had laid
hold of his imagination in boyhood. The echoes of the great hammer
where roof or keel were a-making, the signal-shouts of the workmen,
the roar of the furnace, the thunder and plash of the engine,
were a sublime music to him; the felling and lading of timber,
and the huge trunk vibrating star-like in the distance along
the highway, the crane at work on the wharf, the piled-up produce
in warehouses, the precision and variety of muscular effort
wherever exact work had to be turned out,--all these sights of his
youth had acted on him as poetry without the aid of the poets.
had made a philosophy for him without the aid of philosophers,
a religion without the aid of theology. His early ambition had been
to have as effective a share as possible in this sublime labor,
which was peculiarly dignified by him with the name of "business;"
and though he had only been a short time under a surveyor, and had been
chiefly his own teacher, he knew more of land, building, and mining
than most of the special men in the county.
His classification of human employments was rather crude, and, like the
categories of more celebrated men, would not be acceptable in these
advanced times. He divided them into "business, politics, preaching,
learning, and amusement." He had nothing to say against the last four;
but he regarded them as a reverential pagan regarded other gods
than his own. In the same way, he thought very well of all ranks,
but he would not himself have liked to be of any rank in which he
had not such close contact with "business" as to get often honorably
decorated with marks of dust and mortar, the damp of the engine,
or the sweet soil of the woods and fields. Though he had never
regarded himself as other than an orthodox Christian, and would argue
on prevenient grace if the subject were proposed to him, I think
his virtual divinities were good practical schemes, accurate work,
and the faithful completion of undertakings: his prince of darkness
was a slack workman. But there was no spirit of denial in Caleb,
and the world seemed so wondrous to him that he was ready to accept
any number of systems, like any number of firmaments, if they did
not obviously interfere with the best land-drainage, solid building,
correct measuring, and judicious boring (for coal). In fact, he had
a reverential soul with a strong practical intelligence. But he could
not manage finance: he knew values well, but he had no keenness
of imagination for monetary results in the shape of profit and loss:
and having ascertained this to his cost, he determined to give up
all forms of his beloved "business" which required that talent.
He gave himself up entirely to the many kinds of work which he could
do without handling capital, and was one of those precious men within
his own district whom everybody would choose to work for them,
because he did his work well, charged very little, and often declined
to charge at all. It is no wonder, then, that the Garths were poor,
and "lived in a small way." However, they did not mind it.
"Love seeketh not itself to please,
Nor for itself hath any care
But for another gives its ease
And builds a heaven in hell's despair.
. . . . . . .
Love seeketh only self to please,
To bind another to its delight,
Joys in another's loss of ease,
And builds a hell in heaven's despite."
--W. BLAKE: Songs of Experience
Fred Vincy wanted to arrive at Stone Court when Mary could not
expect him, and when his uncle was not down-stairs in that case
she might be sitting alone in the wainscoted parlor. He left his
horse in the yard to avoid making a noise on the gravel in front,
and entered the parlor without other notice than the noise of the
door-handle. Mary was in her usual corner, laughing over Mrs. Piozzi's
recollections of Johnson, and looked up with the fun still in her face.
It gradually faded as she saw Fred approach her without speaking,
and stand before her with his elbow on the mantel-piece, looking ill.
She too was silent, only raising her eyes to him inquiringly.
"Mary," he began, "I am a good-for-nothing blackguard."
"I should think one of those epithets would do at a time," said Mary,
trying to smile, but feeling alarmed.
"I know you will never think well of me any more. You will think
me a liar. You will think me dishonest. You will think I didn't
care for you, or your father and mother. You always do make
the worst of me, I know."
"I cannot deny that I shall think all that of you, Fred, if you give
me good reasons. But please to tell me at once what you have done.
I would rather know the painful truth than imagine it."
"I owed money--a hundred and sixty pounds. I asked your father to put
his name to a bill. I thought it would not signify to him. I made
sure of paying the money myself, and I have tried as hard as I could.
And now, I have been so unlucky--a horse has turned out badly--
I can only pay fifty pounds. And I can't ask my father for the money:
he would not give me a farthing. And my uncle gave me a hundred a
little while ago. So what can I do? And now your father has no ready
money to spare, and your mother will have to pay away her ninety-two
pounds that she has saved, and she says your savings must go too.
You see what a--"
"Oh, poor mother, poor father!" said Mary, her eyes filling
with tears, and a little sob rising which she tried to repress.
She looked straight before her and took no notice of Fred,
all the consequences at home becoming present to her. He too
remained silent for some moments, feeling more miserable than ever.
"I wouldn't have hurt you for the world, Mary," he said at last.
"You can never forgive me."
"What does it matter whether I forgive you?" said Mary, passionately.
"Would that make it any better for my mother to lose the money
she has been earning by lessons for four years, that she might
send Alfred to Mr. Hanmer's? Should you think all that pleasant
enough if I forgave you?"
"Say what you like, Mary. I deserve it all."
"I don't want to say anything," said Mary, more quietly, "and my
anger is of no use." She dried her eyes, threw aside her book,
rose and fetched her sewing.
Fred followed her with his eyes, hoping that they would meet hers,
and in that way find access for his imploring penitence. But no!
Mary could easily avoid looking upward.
"I do care about your mother's money going," he said, when she
was seated again and sewing quickly. "I wanted to ask you, Mary--
don't you think that Mr. Featherstone--if you were to tell him--
tell him, I mean, about apprenticing Alfred--would advance the money?"
"My family is not fond of begging, Fred. We would rather work for
our money. Besides, you say that Mr. Featherstone has lately given
you a hundred pounds. He rarely makes presents; he has never made
presents to us. I am sure my father will not ask him for anything;
and even if I chose to beg of him, it would be of no use."
"I am so miserable, Mary--if you knew how miserable I am, you would
be sorry for me."
"There are other things to be more sorry for than that. But selfish
people always think their own discomfort of more importance than
anything else in the world. I see enough of that every day."
"It is hardly fair to call me selfish. If you knew what things
other young men do, you would think me a good way off the worst."
"I know that people who spend a great deal of money on
themselves without knowing how they shall pay, must be selfish.
They are always thinking of what they can get for themselves,
and not of what other people may lose."
"Any man may be unfortunate, Mary, and find himself unable to pay
when he meant it. There is not a better man in the world than
your father, and yet he got into trouble."
"How dare you make any comparison between my father and you, Fred?"
said Mary, in a deep tone of indignation. "He never got into
trouble by thinking of his own idle pleasures, but because he
was always thinking of the work he was doing for other people.
And he has fared hard, and worked hard to make good everybody's loss."
"And you think that I shall never try to make good anything, Mary.
It is not generous to believe the worst of a man. When you have
got any power over him, I think you might try and use it to make
him better; but that is what you never do. However, I'm going,"
Fred ended, languidly. "I shall never speak to you about anything again.
I'm very sorry for all the trouble I've caused--that's all."
Mary had dropped her work out of her hand and looked up.
There is often something maternal even in a girlish love, and Mary's
hard experience had wrought her nature to an impressibility very
different from that hard slight thing which we call girlishness.
At Fred's last words she felt an instantaneous pang, something like
what a mother feels at the imagined sobs or cries of her naughty
truant child, which may lose itself and get harm. And when,
looking up, her eyes met his dull despairing glance, her pity
for him surmounted her anger and all her other anxieties.
"Oh, Fred, how ill you look! Sit down a moment. Don't go yet.
Let me tell uncle that you are here. He has been wondering that
he has not seen you for a whole week." Mary spoke hurriedly,
saying the words that came first without knowing very well what
they were, but saying them in a half-soothing half-beseeching tone,
and rising as if to go away to Mr. Featherstone. Of course Fred
felt as if the clouds had parted and a gleam had come: he moved
and stood in her way.
"Say one word, Mary, and I will do anything. Say you will not think
the worst of me--will not give me up altogether."
"As if it were any pleasure to me to think ill of you," said Mary,
in a mournful tone. "As if it were not very painful to me to see you
an idle frivolous creature. How can you bear to be so contemptible,
when others are working and striving, and there are so many things
to be done--how can you bear to be fit for nothing in the world
that is useful? And with so much good in your disposition, Fred,--
you might be worth a great deal."
"I will try to be anything you like, Mary, if you will say that you
"I should be ashamed to say that I loved a man who must always be
hanging on others, and reckoning on what they would do for him.
What will you be when you are forty? Like Mr. Bowyer, I suppose--
just as idle, living in Mrs. Beck's front parlor--fat and shabby,
hoping somebody will invite you to dinner--spending your morning in
learning a comic song--oh no! learning a tune on the flute."
Mary's lips had begun to curl with a smile as soon as she had
asked that question about Fred's future (young souls are mobile),
and before she ended, her face had its full illumination of fun.
To him it was like the cessation of an ache that Mary could laugh
at him, and with a passive sort of smile he tried to reach her hand;
but she slipped away quickly towards the door and said, "I shall
tell uncle. You _must_ see him for a moment or two."
Fred secretly felt that his future was guaranteed against the
fulfilment of Mary's sarcastic prophecies, apart from that "anything"
which he was ready to do if she would define it He never dared
in Mary's presence to approach the subject of his expectations from
Mr. Featherstone, and she always ignored them, as if everything
depended on himself. But if ever he actually came into the property,
she must recognize the change in his position. All this passed through
his mind somewhat languidly, before he went up to see his uncle.
He stayed but a little while, excusing himself on the ground that he
had a cold; and Mary did not reappear before he left the house.
But as he rode home, he began to be more conscious of being ill,
than of being melancholy.
When Caleb Garth arrived at Stone Court soon after dusk, Mary was
not surprised, although he seldom had leisure for paying her a visit,
and was not at all fond of having to talk with Mr. Featherstone.
The old man, on the other hand, felt himself ill at ease with a
brother-in-law whom he could not annoy, who did not mind about
being considered poor, had nothing to ask of him, and understood
all kinds of farming and mining business better than he did.
But Mary had felt sure that her parents would want to see her,
and if her father had not come, she would have obtained leave to go
home for an hour or two the next day. After discussing prices during
tea with Mr. Featherstone Caleb rose to bid him good-by, and said,
"I want to speak to you, Mary."
She took a candle into another large parlor, where there was no fire,
and setting down the feeble light on the dark mahogany table,
turned round to her father, and putting her arms round his neck kissed
him with childish kisses which he delighted in,--the expression
of his large brows softening as the expression of a great beautiful
dog softens when it is caressed. Mary was his favorite child,
and whatever Susan might say, and right as she was on all other subjects,
Caleb thought it natural that Fred or any one else should think
Mary more lovable than other girls.
"I've got something to tell you, my dear," said Caleb in his
hesitating way. "No very good news; but then it might be worse."
"About money, father? I think I know what it is."
"Ay? how can that be? You see, I've been a bit of a fool again,
and put my name to a bill, and now it comes to paying; and your mother
has got to part with her savings, that's the worst of it, and even they
won't quite make things even. We wanted a hundred and ten pounds:
your mother has ninety-two, and I have none to spare in the bank;
and she thinks that you have some savings."
"Oh yes; I have more than four-and-twenty pounds. I thought you
would come, father, so I put it in my bag. See! beautiful white
notes and gold."
Mary took out the folded money from her reticule and put it into
her father's hand.
"Well, but how--we only want eighteen--here, put the rest back,
child,--but how did you know about it?" said Caleb, who, in his
unconquerable indifference to money, was beginning to be chiefly
concerned about the relation the affair might have to Mary's affections.
"Fred told me this morning."
"Ah! Did he come on purpose?"
"Yes, I think so. He was a good deal distressed."
"I'm afraid Fred is not to be trusted, Mary," said the father,
with hesitating tenderness. "He means better than he acts, perhaps.
But I should think it a pity for any body's happiness to be wrapped
up in him, and so would your mother."
"And so should I, father," said Mary, not looking up, but putting
the back of her father's hand against her cheek.
"I don't want to pry, my dear. But I was afraid there might be
something between you and Fred, and I wanted to caution you.
You see, Mary"--here Caleb's voice became more tender; he had been
pushing his hat about on the table and looking at it, but finally he
turned his eyes on his daughter--"a woman, let her be as good as
she may, has got to put up with the life her husband makes for her.
Your mother has had to put up with a good deal because of me."
Mary turned the back of her father's hand to her lips and smiled
"Well, well, nobody's perfect, but"--here Mr. Garth shook his head
to help out the inadequacy of words--"what I am thinking of is--
what it must be for a wife when she's never sure of her husband,
when he hasn't got a principle in him to make him more afraid of doing
the wrong thing by others than of getting his own toes pinched.
That's the long and the short of it, Mary. Young folks may get fond
of each other before they know what life is, and they may think
it all holiday if they can only get together; but it soon turns
into working day, my dear. However, you have more sense than most,
and you haven't been kept in cotton-wool: there may be no occasion
for me to say this, but a father trembles for his daughter, and you are
all by yourself here."
"Don't fear for me, father," said Mary, gravely meeting
her father's eyes; "Fred has always been very good to me;
he is kind-hearted and affectionate, and not false, I think,
with all his self-indulgence. But I will never engage myself
to one who has no manly independence, and who goes on loitering
away his time on the chance that others will provide for him.
You and my mother have taught me too much pride for that."
"That's right--that's right. Then I am easy," said Mr. Garth,
taking up his hat. But it's hard to run away with your earnings,
"Father!" said Mary, in her deepest tone of remonstrance.
"Take pocketfuls of love besides to them all at home," was her
last word before he closed the outer door on himself.
"I suppose your father wanted your earnings," said old Mr. Featherstone,
with his usual power of unpleasant surmise, when Mary returned
to him. "He makes but a tight fit, I reckon. You're of age now;
you ought to be saving for yourself."
"I consider my father and mother the best part of myself, sir,"
said Mary, coldly.
Mr. Featherstone grunted: he could not deny that an ordinary sort
of girl like her might be expected to be useful, so he thought
of another rejoinder, disagreeable enough to be always apropos.
"If Fred Vincy comes to-morrow, now, don't you keep him chattering:
let him come up to me."
"He beats me and I rail at him: O worthy satisfaction!
would it were otherwise--that I could beat him while
he railed at me.--"
--Troilus and Cressida.
But Fred did not go to Stone Court the next day, for reasons that
were quite peremptory. From those visits to unsanitary Houndsley
streets in search of Diamond, he had brought back not only a bad
bargain in horse-flesh, but the further misfortune of some ailment
which for a day or two had deemed mere depression and headache,
but which got so much worse when he returned from his visit to Stone
Court that, going into the dining-room, he threw himself on the sofa,
and in answer to his mother's anxious question, said, "I feel very ill:
I think you must send for Wrench."
Wrench came, but did not apprehend anything serious, spoke of a
"slight derangement," and did not speak of coming again on the morrow.
He had a due value for the Vincys' house, but the wariest men are apt
to be dulled by routine, and on worried mornings will sometimes go
through their business with the zest of the daily bell-ringer.
Mr. Wrench was a small, neat, bilious man, with a well-dressed wig:
he had a laborious practice, an irascible temper, a lymphatic wife
and seven children; and he was already rather late before setting out
on a four-miles drive to meet Dr. Minchin on the other side of Tipton,
the decease of Hicks, a rural practitioner, having increased Middlemarch
practice in that direction. Great statesmen err, and why not small
medical men? Mr. Wrench did not neglect sending the usual white parcels,
which this time had black and drastic contents. Their effect was
not alleviating to poor Fred, who, however, unwilling as he said
to believe that he was "in for an illness," rose at his usual easy
hour the next morning and went down-stairs meaning to breakfast,
but succeeded in nothing but in sitting and shivering by the fire.
Mr. Wrench was again sent for, but was gone on his rounds,
and Mrs. Vincy seeing her darling's changed looks and general misery,
began to cry and said she would send for Dr. Sprague.
"Oh, nonsense, mother! It's nothing," said Fred, putting out his
hot dry hand to her, "I shall soon be all right. I must have taken
cold in that nasty damp ride."
"Mamma!" said Rosamond, who was seated near the window (the
dining-room windows looked on that highly respectable street called
Lowick Gate), "there is Mr. Lydgate, stopping to speak to some one.
If I were you I would call him in. He has cured Ellen Bulstrode.
They say he cures every one."
Mrs. Vincy sprang to the window and opened it in an instant,
thinking only of Fred and not of medical etiquette. Lydgate was
only two yards off on the other side of some iron palisading,
and turned round at the sudden sound of the sash, before she called
to him. In two minutes he was in the room, and Rosamond went out,
after waiting just long enough to show a pretty anxiety conflicting
with her sense of what was becoming.
Lydgate had to hear a narrative in which Mrs. Vincy's mind insisted
with remarkable instinct on every point of minor importance,
especially on what Mr. Wrench had said and had not said about
coming again. That there might be an awkward affair with Wrench,
Lydgate saw at once; but the ease was serious enough to make him
dismiss that consideration: he was convinced that Fred was in the
pink-skinned stage of typhoid fever, and that he had taken just
the wrong medicines. He must go to bed immediately, must have a
regular nurse, and various appliances and precautions must be used,
about which Lydgate was particular. Poor Mrs. Vincy's terror at these
indications of danger found vent in such words as came most easily.
She thought it "very ill usage on the part of Mr. Wrench, who had
attended their house so many years in preference to Mr. Peacock,
though Mr. Peacock was equally a friend. Why Mr. Wrench should
neglect her children more than others, she could not for the life
of her understand. He had not neglected Mrs. Larcher's when they had
the measles, nor indeed would Mrs. Vincy have wished that he should.
And if anything should happen--"
Here poor Mrs. Vincy's spirit quite broke down, and her Niobe throat
and good-humored face were sadly convulsed. This was in the hall
out of Fred's hearing, but Rosamond had opened the drawing-room door,
and now came forward anxiously. Lydgate apologized for Mr. Wrench,
said that the symptoms yesterday might have been disguising,
and that this form of fever was very equivocal in its beginnings:
he would go immediately to the druggist's and have a prescription
made up in order to lose no time, but he would write to Mr. Wrench
and tell him what had been done.
"But you must come again--you must go on attending Fred. I can't
have my boy left to anybody who may come or not. I bear nobody
ill-will, thank God, and Mr. Wrench saved me in the pleurisy,
but he'd better have let me die--if--if--"
"I will meet Mr. Wrench here, then, shall I?" said Lydgate,
really believing that Wrench was not well prepared to deal wisely
with a case of this kind.
"Pray make that arrangement, Mr. Lydgate," said Rosamond, coming to
her mother's aid, and supporting her arm to lead her away.
When Mr. Vincy came home he was very angry with Wrench, and did
not care if he never came into his house again. Lydgate should go
on now, whether Wrench liked it or not. It was no joke to have
fever in the house. Everybody must be sent to now, not to come
to dinner on Thursday. And Pritchard needn't get up any wine:
brandy was the best thing against infection. "I shall drink brandy,"
added Mr. Vincy, emphatically--as much as to say, this was not
an occasion for firing with blank-cartridges. "He's an uncommonly
unfortunate lad, is Fred. He'd need have--some luck by-and-by to make
up for all this--else I don't know who'd have an eldest son."
"Don't say so, Vincy," said the mother, with a quivering lip,
"if you don't want him to be taken from me."
"It will worret you to death, Lucy; _that_ I can see," said Mr. Vincy,
more mildly. "However, Wrench shall know what I think of the matter."
(What Mr. Vincy thought confusedly was, that the fever might somehow
have been hindered if Wrench had shown the proper solicitude about his--
the Mayor's--family.) "I'm the last man to give in to the cry about
new doctors, or new parsons either--whether they're Bulstrode's
men or not. But Wrench shall know what I think, take it as he will."
Wrench did not take it at all well. Lydgate was as polite as he
could be in his offhand way, but politeness in a man who has
placed you at a disadvantage is only an additional exasperation,
especially if he happens to have been an object of dislike beforehand.
Country practitioners used to be an irritable species, susceptible on
the point of honor; and Mr. Wrench was one of the most irritable
among them. He did not refuse to meet Lydgate in the evening,
but his temper was somewhat tried on the occasion. He had to hear
Mrs. Vincy say--
"Oh, Mr. Wrench, what have I ever done that you should use me so?--
To go away, and never to come again! And my boy might have been
stretched a corpse!"
Mr. Vincy, who had been keeping up a sharp fire on the enemy Infection,
and was a good deal heated in consequence, started up when he heard
Wrench come in, and went into the hall to let him know what he thought.
"I'll tell you what, Wrench, this is beyond a joke," said the Mayor,
who of late had had to rebuke offenders with an official air,
and how broadened himself by putting his thumbs in his armholes.--
"To let fever get unawares into a house like this. There are
some things that ought to be actionable, and are not so--
that's my opinion."
But irrational reproaches were easier to bear than the sense of
being instructed, or rather the sense that a younger man, like Lydgate,
inwardly considered him in need of instruction, for "in point of fact,"
Mr. Wrench afterwards said, Lydgate paraded flighty, foreign notions,
which would not wear. He swallowed his ire for the moment,
but he afterwards wrote to decline further attendance in the case.
The house might be a good one, but Mr. Wrench was not going to truckle
to anybody on a professional matter. He reflected, with much probability
on his side, that Lydgate would by-and-by be caught tripping too,
and that his ungentlemanly attempts to discredit the sale of drugs
by his professional brethren, would by-and-by recoil on himself.
He threw out biting remarks on Lydgate's tricks, worthy only of a quack,
to get himself a factitious reputation with credulous people.
That cant about cures was never got up by sound practitioners.
This was a point on which Lydgate smarted as much as Wrench could desire.
To be puffed by ignorance was not only humiliating, but perilous,
and not more enviable than the reputation of the weather-prophet.
He was impatient of the foolish expectations amidst which all work
must be carried on, and likely enough to damage himself as much
as Mr. Wrench could wish, by an unprofessional openness.
However, Lydgate was installed as medical attendant on the Vincys,
and the event was a subject of general conversation in Middlemarch.
Some said, that the Vincys had behaved scandalously, that Mr. Vincy
had threatened Wrench, and that Mrs. Vincy had accused him of
poisoning her son. Others were of opinion that Mr. Lydgate's passing
by was providential, that he was wonderfully clever in fevers,
and that Bulstrode was in the right to bring him forward.
Many people believed that Lydgate's coming to the town at all was
really due to Bulstrode; and Mrs. Taft, who was always counting
stitches and gathered her information in misleading fragments
caught between the rows of her knitting, had got it into her head
that Mr. Lydgate was a natural son of Bulstrode's, a fact which
seemed to justify her suspicions of evangelical laymen.
She one day communicated this piece of knowledge to Mrs. Farebrother,
who did not fail to tell her son of it, observing--
"I should not be surprised at anything in Bulstrode, but I should
be sorry to think it of Mr. Lydgate."
"Why, mother," said Mr. Farebrother, after an explosive laugh,
"you know very well that Lydgate is of a good family in the North.
He never heard of Bulstrode before he came here."
"That is satisfactory so far as Mr. Lydgate is concerned, Camden,"
said the old lady, with an air of precision.--"But as to Bulstrode--
the report may be true of some other son."
Let the high Muse chant loves Olympian:
We are but mortals, and must sing of man.
An eminent philosopher among my friends, who can dignify even your
ugly furniture by lifting it into the serene light of science,
has shown me this pregnant little fact. Your pier-glass or extensive
surface of polished steel made to be rubbed by a housemaid,
will be minutely and multitudinously scratched in all directions;
but place now against it a lighted candle as a centre of illumination,
and lo! the scratches will seem to arrange themselves in a fine
series of concentric circles round that little sun. It is
demonstrable that the scratches are going everywhere impartially
and it is only your candle which produces the flattering illusion
of a concentric arrangement, its light falling with an exclusive
optical selection. These things are a parable. The scratches
are events, and the candle is the egoism of any person now absent--
of Miss Vincy, for example. Rosamond had a Providence of her own
who had kindly made her more charming than other girls, and who
seemed to have arranged Fred's illness and Mr. Wrench's mistake
in order to bring her and Lydgate within effective proximity.
It would have been to contravene these arrangements if Rosamond
had consented to go away to Stone Court or elsewhere, as her
parents wished her to do, especially since Mr. Lydgate thought
the precaution needless. Therefore, while Miss Morgan and the
children were sent away to a farmhouse the morning after Fred's
illness had declared itself, Rosamond refused to leave papa and mamma.
Poor mamma indeed was an object to touch any creature born of woman;
and Mr. Vincy, who doted on his wife, was more alarmed on her
account than on Fred's. But for his insistence she would have
taken no rest: her brightness was all bedimmed; unconscious of
her costume which had always been so fresh and gay, she was like
a sick bird with languid eye and plumage ruffled, her senses
dulled to the sights and sounds that used most to interest her.
Fred's delirium, in which he seemed to be wandering out of her reach,
tore her heart. After her first outburst against-Mr. Wrench
she went about very quietly: her one low cry was to Lydgate.
She would follow him out of the room and put her hand on his arm
moaning out, "Save my boy." Once she pleaded, "He has always been
good to me, Mr. Lydgate: he never had a hard word for his mother,"--
as if poor Fred's suffering were an accusation against him.
All the deepest fibres of the mother's memory were stirred, and the
young man whose voice took a gentler tone when he spoke to her,
was one with the babe whom she had loved, with a love new to her,
before he was born.
"I have good hope, Mrs. Vincy," Lydgate would say. "Come down with
me and let us talk about the food." In that way he led her to the
parlor where Rosamond was, and made a change for her, surprising her
into taking some tea or broth which had been prepared for her.
There was a constant understanding between him and Rosamond on
these matters. He almost always saw her before going to the sickroom,
and she appealed to him as to what she could do for mamma.
Her presence of mind and adroitness in carrying out his hints
were admirable, and it is not wonderful that the idea of seeing
Rosamond began to mingle itself with his interest in the case.
Especially when the critical stage was passed, and he began to feel
confident of Fred's recovery. In the more doubtful time, he had
advised calling in Dr. Sprague (who, if he could, would rather have
remained neutral on Wrench's account); but after two consultations,
the conduct of the case was left to Lydgate, and there was every reason
to make him assiduous. Morning and evening he was at Mr. Vincy's,
and gradually the visits became cheerful as Fred became simply feeble,
and lay not only in need of the utmost petting but conscious of it,
so that Mrs. Vincy felt as if, after all, the illness had made
a festival for her tenderness.
Both father and mother held it an added reason for good spirits,
when old Mr. Featherstone sent messages by Lydgate, saying that
Fred-must make haste and get well, as he, Peter Featherstone,
could not do without him, and missed his visits sadly. The old
man himself was getting bedridden. Mrs. Vincy told these messages
to Fred when he could listen, and he turned towards her his delicate,
pinched face, from which all the thick blond hair had been cut away,
and in which the eyes seemed to have got larger, yearning for some
word about Mary--wondering what she felt about his illness.
No word passed his lips; but "to hear with eyes belongs to love's
rare wit," and the mother in the fulness of her heart not only
divined Fred's longing, but felt ready for any sacrifice in order
to satisfy him.
"If I can only see my boy strong again," she said, in her loving folly;
"and who knows?--perhaps master of Stone Court! and he can marry
anybody he likes then."
"Not if they won't have me, mother," said Fred. The illness had
made him childish, and tears came as he spoke.
"Oh, take a bit of jelly, my dear," said Mrs. Vincy,
secretly incredulous of any such refusal.
She never left Fred's side when her husband was not in the house,
and thus Rosamond was in the unusual position of being much alone.
Lydgate, naturally, never thought of staying long with her, yet it
seemed that the brief impersonal conversations they had together
were creating that peculiar intimacy which consists in shyness.
They were obliged to look at each other in speaking, and somehow the
looking could not be carried through as the matter of course which it
really was. Lydgate began to feel this sort of consciousness unpleasant
and one day looked down, or anywhere, like an ill-worked puppet.
But this turned out badly: the next day, Rosamond looked down,
and the consequence was that when their eyes met again, both were
more conscious than before. There was no help for this in science,
and as Lydgate did not want to flirt, there seemed to be no help
for it in folly. It was therefore a relief when neighbors no longer
considered the house in quarantine, and when the chances of seeing
Rosamond alone were very much reduced.
But that intimacy of mutual embarrassment, in which each feels
that the other is feeling something, having once existed,
its effect is not to be done away with. Talk about the weather
and other well-bred topics is apt to seem a hollow device,
and behavior can hardly become easy unless it frankly recognizes
a mutual fascination--which of course need not mean anything deep
or serious. This was the way in which Rosamond and Lydgate slid
gracefully into ease, and made their intercourse lively again.
Visitors came and went as usual, there was once more music in
the drawing-room, and all the extra hospitality of Mr. Vincy's
mayoralty returned. Lydgate, whenever he could, took his seat
by Rosamond's side, and lingered to hear her music, calling himself
her captive--meaning, all the while, not to be her captive.
The preposterousness of the notion that he could at once set up a
satisfactory establishment as a married man was a sufficient guarantee
against danger. This play at being a little in love was agreeable,
and did not interfere with graver pursuits. Flirtation, after all,
was not necessarily a singeing process. Rosamond, for her part,
had never enjoyed the days so much in her life before: she was sure
of being admired by some one worth captivating, and she did not
distinguish flirtation from love, either in herself or in another.
She seemed to be sailing with a fair wind just whither she would go,
and her thoughts were much occupied with a handsome house in
Lowick Gate which she hoped would by-and-by be vacant. She was
quite determined, when she was married, to rid herself adroitly
of all the visitors who were not agreeable to her at her father's;
and she imagined the drawing-room in her favorite house with various
styles of furniture.
Certainly her thoughts were much occupied with Lydgate himself;
he seemed to her almost perfect: if he had known his notes so that his
enchantment under her music had been less like an emotional elephant's,
and if he had been able to discriminate better the refinements of her
taste in dress, she could hardly have mentioned a deficiency in him.
How different he was from young Plymdale or Mr. Caius Larcher!
Those young men had not a notion of French, and could speak on
no subject with striking knowledge, except perhaps the dyeing
and carrying trades, which of course they were ashamed to mention;
they were Middlemarch gentry, elated with their silver-headed whips
and satin stocks, but embarrassed in their manners, and timidly jocose:
even Fred was above them, having at least the accent and manner
of a university man. Whereas Lydgate was always listened to,
bore himself with the careless politeness of conscious superiority,
and seemed to have the right clothes on by a certain natural affinity,
without ever having to think about them. Rosamond was proud when he
entered the room, and when he approached her with a distinguishing smile,
she had a delicious sense that she was the object of enviable homage.
If Lydgate had been aware of all the pride he excited in that
delicate bosom, he might have been just as well pleased as any
other man, even the most densely ignorant of humoral pathology
or fibrous tissue: he held it one of the prettiest attitudes of
the feminine mind to adore a man's pre-eminence without too precise
a knowledge of what it consisted in. But Rosamond was not one
of those helpless girls who betray themselves unawares, and whose
behavior is awkwardly driven by their impulses, instead of being
steered by wary grace and propriety. Do you imagine that her rapid
forecast and rumination concerning house-furniture and society
were ever discernible in her conversation, even with her mamma?
On the contrary, she would have expressed the prettiest surprise
and disapprobation if she had heard that another young lady had been
detected in that immodest prematureness--indeed, would probably
have disbelieved in its possibility. For Rosamond never showed
any unbecoming knowledge, and was always that combination of
correct sentiments, music, dancing, drawing, elegant note-writing,
private album for extracted verse, and perfect blond loveliness,
which made the irresistible woman for the doomed man of that date.
Think no unfair evil of her, pray: she had no wicked plots,
nothing sordid or mercenary; in fact, she never thought of money except
as something necessary which other people would always provide.
She was not in the habit of devising falsehoods, and if her statements
were no direct clew to fact, why, they were not intended in that light--
they were among her elegant accomplishments, intended to please.
Nature had inspired many arts in finishing Mrs. Lemon's favorite pupil,
who by general consent (Fred's excepted) was a rare compound
of beauty, cleverness, and amiability.
Lydgate found it more and more agreeable to be with her, and there
was no constraint now, there was a delightful interchange of influence
in their eyes, and what they said had that superfluity of meaning
for them, which is observable with some sense of flatness by a
third person; still they had no interviews or asides from which
a third person need have been excluded. In fact, they flirted;
and Lydgate was secure in the belief that they did nothing else.
If a man could not love and be wise, surely he could flirt
and be wise at the same time? Really, the men in Middlemarch,
except Mr. Farebrother, were great bores, and Lydgate did not care
about commercial politics or cards: what was he to do for relaxation?
He was often invited to the Bulstrodes'; but the girls there were
hardly out of the schoolroom; and Mrs. Bulstrode's _naive_ way
of conciliating piety and worldliness, the nothingness of this
life and the desirability of cut glass, the consciousness at once
of filthy rags and the best damask, was not a sufficient relief from
the weight of her husband's invariable seriousness. The Vincys'
house, with all its faults, was the pleasanter by contrast; besides,
it nourished Rosamond--sweet to look at as a half-opened blush-rose,
and adorned with accomplishments for the refined amusement of man.
But he made some enemies, other than medical, by his success with
Miss Vincy. One evening he came into the drawing-room rather late,
when several other visitors were there. The card-table had drawn
off the elders, and Mr. Ned Plymdale (one of the good matches
in Middlemarch, though not one of its leading minds) was in
tete-a-tete with Rosamond. He had brought the last "Keepsake,"
the gorgeous watered-silk publication which marked modern progress
at that time; and he considered himself very fortunate that he could
be the first to look over it with her, dwelling on the ladies and
gentlemen with shiny copper-plate cheeks and copper-plate smiles,
and pointing to comic verses as capital and sentimental stories
as interesting. Rosamond was gracious, and Mr. Ned was satisfied
that he had the very best thing in art and literature as a medium
for "paying addresses"--the very thing to please a nice girl.
He had also reasons, deep rather than ostensible, for being satisfied
with his own appearance. To superficial observers his chin had too
vanishing an aspect, looking as if it were being gradually reabsorbed.
And it did indeed cause him some difficulty about the fit of his
satin stocks, for which chins were at that time useful.
"I think the Honorable Mrs. S. is something like you," said Mr. Ned.
He kept the book open at the bewitching portrait, and looked at it
"Her back is very large; she seems to have sat for that,"
said Rosamond, not meaning any satire, but thinking how red young
Plymdale's hands were, and wondering why Lydgate did not come.
She went on with her tatting all the while.
"I did not say she was as beautiful as you are," said Mr. Ned,
venturing to look from the portrait to its rival.
"I suspect you of being an adroit flatterer," said Rosamond,
feeling sure that she should have to reject this young gentleman
a second time.
But now Lydgate came in; the book was closed before he reached
Rosamond's corner, and as he took his seat with easy confidence on
the other side of her, young Plymdale's jaw fell like a barometer
towards the cheerless side of change. Rosamond enjoyed not only
Lydgate's presence but its effect: she liked to excite jealousy.
"What a late comer you are!" she said, as they shook hands.
"Mamma had given you up a little while ago. How do you find Fred?"
"As usual; going on well, but slowly. I want him to go away--
to Stone Court, for example. But your mamma seems to have
"Poor fellow!" said Rosamond, prettily. "You will see Fred
so changed," she added, turning to the other suitor; "we have
looked to Mr. Lydgate as our guardian angel during this illness."
Mr. Ned smiled nervously, while Lydgate, drawing the "Keepsake"
towards him and opening it, gave a short scornful laugh and tossed
up his chill, as if in wonderment at human folly.
"What are you laughing at so profanely?" said Rosamond,
with bland neutrality.
"I wonder which would turn out to be the silliest--the engravings
or the writing here," said Lydgate, in his most convinced tone,
while he turned over the pages quickly, seeming to see all through the
book in no time, and showing his large white hands to much advantage,
as Rosamond thought. "Do look at this bridegroom coming out of church:
did you ever see such a `sugared invention'--as the Elizabethans
used to say? Did any haberdasher ever look so smirking? Yet I
will answer for it the story makes him one of the first gentlemen
in the land."
"You are so severe, I am frightened at you," said Rosamond,
keeping her amusement duly moderate. Poor young Plymdale had lingered
with admiration over this very engraving, and his spirit was stirred.
"There are a great many celebrated people writing in the `Keepsake,'
at all events," he said, in a tone at once piqued and timid.
"This is the first time I have heard it called silly."
"I think I shall turn round on you and accuse you of being a Goth,"
said Rosamond, looking at Lydgate with a smile. "I suspect you
know nothing about Lady Blessington and L. E. L." Rosamond herself
was not without relish for these writers, but she did not readily
commit herself by admiration, and was alive to the slightest hint
that anything was not, according to Lydgate, in the very highest taste.
"But Sir Walter Scott--I suppose Mr. Lydgate knows him,"
said young Plymdale, a little cheered by this advantage.
"Oh, I read no literature now," said Lydgate, shutting the book,
and pushing it away. "I read so much when I was a lad, that I
suppose it will last me all my life. I used to know Scott's poems
"I should like to know when you left off," said Rosamond, "because
then I might be sure that I knew something which you did not know."
"Mr. Lydgate would say that was not worth knowing," said Mr. Ned,
"On the contrary," said Lydgate, showing no smart; but smiling
with exasperating confidence at Rosamond. "It would be worth
knowing by the fact that Miss Vincy could tell it me."
Young Plymdale soon went to look at the whist-playing, thinking
that Lydgate was one of the most conceited, unpleasant fellows it
had ever been his ill-fortune to meet.
"How rash you are!" said Rosamond, inwardly delighted. "Do you
see that you have given offence?"
"What! is it Mr. Plymdale's book? I am sorry. I didn't think
"I shall begin to admit what you said of yourself when you first
came here--that you are a bear, and want teaching by the birds."
"Well, there is a bird who can teach me what she will. Don't I
listen to her willingly?"
To Rosamond it seemed as if she and Lydgate were as good as engaged.
That they were some time to be engaged had long been an idea in her mind;
and ideas, we know, tend to a more solid kind of existence, the necessary
materials being at hand. It is true, Lydgate had the counter-idea
of remaining unengaged; but this was a mere negative, a shadow east
by other resolves which themselves were capable of shrinking.
Circumstance was almost sure to be on the side of Rosamond's idea,
which had a shaping activity and looked through watchful blue eyes,
whereas Lydgate's lay blind and unconcerned as a jelly-fish which gets
melted without knowing it.
That evening when he went home, he looked at his phials to see
how a process of maceration was going on, with undisturbed interest;
and he wrote out his daily notes with as much precision as usual.
The reveries from which it was difficult for him to detach himself
were ideal constructions of something else than Rosamond's virtues,
and the primitive tissue was still his fair unknown. Moreover, he was
beginning to feel some zest for the growing though half-suppressed
feud between him and the other medical men, which was likely to become
more manifest, now that Bulstrode's method of managing the new
hospital was about to be declared; and there were various inspiriting
signs that his non-acceptance by some of Peacock's patients might be
counterbalanced by the impression he had produced in other quarters.
Only a few days later, when he had happened to overtake Rosamond
on the Lowick road and had got down from his horse to walk by her
side until he had quite protected her from a passing drove, he had
been stopped by a servant on horseback with a message calling him
in to a house of some importance where Peacock had never attended;
and it was the second instance of this kind. The servant was Sir
James Chettam's, and the house was Lowick Manor.
1st Gent. All times are good to seek your wedded home
Bringing a mutual delight.
2d Gent. Why, true.
The calendar hath not an evil day
For souls made one by love, and even death
Were sweetness, if it came like rolling waves
While they two clasped each other, and foresaw
No life apart.
Mr. and Mrs. Casaubon, returning from their wedding journey,
arrived at Lowick Manor in the middle of January. A light snow
was falling as they descended at the door, and in the morning,
when Dorothea passed from her dressing-room avenue the blue-green
boudoir that we know of, she saw the long avenue of limes lifting
their trunks from a white earth, and spreading white branches
against the dun and motionless sky. The distant flat shrank
in uniform whiteness and low-hanging uniformity of cloud.
The very furniture in the room seemed to have shrunk since she
saw it before: the slag in the tapestry looked more like a ghost
in his ghostly blue-green world; the volumes of polite literature
in the bookcase looked more like immovable imitations of books.
The bright fire of dry oak-boughs burning on the dogs seemed an
incongruous renewal of life and glow--like the figure of Dorothea
herself as she entered carrying the red-leather cases containing
the cameos for Celia.
She was glowing from her morning toilet as only healthful youth
can glow: there was gem-like brightness on her coiled hair
and in her hazel eyes; there was warm red life in her lips;
her throat had a breathing whiteness above the differing white
of the fur which itself seemed to wind about her neck and cling
down her blue-gray pelisse with a tenderness gathered from her own,
a sentient commingled innocence which kept its loveliness against
the crystalline purity of the outdoor snow. As she laid the cameo-
cases on the table in the bow-window, she unconsciously kept her
hands on them, immediately absorbed in looking out on the still,
white enclosure which made her visible world.
Mr. Casaubon, who had risen early complaining of palpitation,
was in the library giving audience to his curate Mr. Tucker.
By-and-by Celia would come in her quality of bridesmaid as well
as sister, and through the next weeks there would be wedding visits
received and given; all in continuance of that transitional life
understood to correspond with the excitement of bridal felicity,
and keeping up the sense of busy ineffectiveness, as of a dream
which the dreamer begins to suspect. The duties of her married life,
contemplated as so great beforehand, seemed to be shrinking with the
furniture and the white vapor-walled landscape. The clear heights
where she expected to walk in full communion had become difficult
to see even in her imagination; the delicious repose of the soul on
a complete superior had been shaken into uneasy effort and alarmed
with dim presentiment. When would the days begin of that active
wifely devotion which was to strengthen her husband's life and exalt
her own? Never perhaps, as she had preconceived them; but somehow--
still somehow. In this solemnly pledged union of her life,
duty would present itself in some new form of inspiration and give
a new meaning to wifely love.
Meanwhile there was the snow and the low arch of dun vapor--
there was the stifling oppression of that gentlewoman's world,
where everything was done for her and none asked for her aid--
where the sense of connection with a manifold pregnant existence
had to be kept up painfully as an inward vision, instead of coming
from without in claims that would have shaped her energies.--
"What shall I do?" "Whatever you please, my dear:" that had been
her brief history since she had left off learning morning lessons
and practising silly rhythms on the hated piano. Marriage, which was
to bring guidance into worthy and imperative occupation, had not yet
freed her from the gentlewoman's oppressive liberty: it had not even
filled her leisure with the ruminant joy of unchecked tenderness.
Her blooming full-pulsed youth stood there in a moral imprisonment
which made itself one with the chill, colorless, narrowed landscape,
with the shrunken furniture, the never-read books, and the ghostly
stag in a pale fantastic world that seemed to be vanishing from
In the first minutes when Dorothea looked out she felt nothing
but the dreary oppression; then came a keen remembrance, and turning
away from the window she walked round the room. The ideas and
hopes which were living in her mind when she first saw this room
nearly three months before were present now only as memories:
she judged them as we judge transient and departed things.
All existence seemed to beat with a lower pulse than her own,
and her religious faith was a solitary cry, the struggle out of a
nightmare in which every object was withering and shrinking away
from her. Each remembered thing in the room was disenchanted,
was deadened as an unlit transparency, till her wandering gaze came
to the group of miniatures, and there at last she saw something
which had gathered new breath and meaning: it was the miniature
of Mr. Casaubon's aunt Julia, who had made the unfortunate marriage--
of Will Ladislaw's grandmother. Dorothea could fancy that it was
alive now--the delicate woman's face which yet had a headstrong look,
a peculiarity difficult to interpret. Was it only her friends
who thought her marriage unfortunate? or did she herself find it
out to be a mistake, and taste the salt bitterness of her tears
in the merciful silence of the night? What breadths of experience
Dorothea seemed to have passed over since she first looked at
this miniature! She felt a new companionship with it, as if it
had an ear for her and could see how she was looking at it.
Here was a woman who had known some difficulty about marriage.
Nay, the colors deepened, the lips and chin seemed to get larger,
the hair and eyes seemed to be sending out light, the face was
masculine and beamed on her with that full gaze which tells her
on whom it falls that she is too interesting for the slightest
movement of her eyelid to pass unnoticed and uninterpreted.
The vivid presentation came like a pleasant glow to Dorothea:
she felt herself smiling, and turning from the miniature sat down and
looked up as if she were again talking to a figure in front of her.
But the smile disappeared as she went on meditating, and at last she
"Oh, it was cruel to speak so! How sad--how dreadful!"
She rose quickly and went out of the room, hurrying along the corridor,
with the irresistible impulse to go and see her husband and inquire
if she could do anything for him. Perhaps Mr. Tucker was gone
and Mr. Casaubon was alone in the library. She felt as if all
her morning's gloom would vanish if she could see her husband
glad because of her presence.
But when she reached the head of the dark oak there was Celia
coming up, and below there was Mr. Brooke, exchanging welcomes
and congratulations with Mr. Casaubon.
"Dodo!" said Celia, in her quiet staccato; then kissed her sister,
whose arms encircled her, and said no more. I think they both
cried a little in a furtive manner, while Dorothea ran down-stairs
to greet her uncle.
"I need not ask how you are, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, after kissing
her forehead. "Rome has agreed with you, I see--happiness, frescos,
the antique--that sort of thing. Well, it's very pleasant to
have you back again, and you understand all about art now, eh?
But Casaubon is a little pale, I tell him--a little pale, you know.
Studying hard in his holidays is carrying it rather too far.
I overdid it at one time"--Mr. Brooke still held Dorothea's hand,
but had turned his face to Mr. Casaubon--"about topography,
ruins, temples--I thought I had a clew, but I saw it would carry
me too far, and nothing might come of it. You may go any length
in that sort of thing, and nothing may come of it, you know."
Dorothea's eyes also were turned up to her husband's face with some
anxiety at the idea that those who saw him afresh after absence
might be aware of signs which she had not noticed.
"Nothing to alarm you, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, observing
her expression. "A little English beef and mutton will soon make
a difference. It was all very well to look pale, sitting for the
portrait of Aquinas, you know--we got your letter just in time.
But Aquinas, now--he was a little too subtle, wasn't he?
Does anybody read Aquinas?"
"He is not indeed an author adapted to superficial minds,"
said Mr. Casaubon, meeting these timely questions with dignified patience.
"You would like coffee in your own room, uncle?" said Dorothea,
coming to the rescue.
"Yes; and you must go to Celia: she has great news to tell you,
you know. I leave it all to her."
The blue-green boudoir looked much more cheerful when Celia was
seated there in a pelisse exactly like her sister's, surveying
the cameos with a placid satisfaction, while the conversation
passed on to other topics.
"Do you think it nice to go to Rome on a wedding journey?"
said Celia, with her ready delicate blush which Dorothea was used
to on the smallest occasions.
"It would not suit all--not you, dear,
for example," said Dorothea, quietly.
No one would ever know what she thought of a wedding journey to Rome.
"Mrs. Cadwallader says it is nonsense, people going a long journey
when they are married. She says they get tired to death of
each other, and can't quarrel comfortably, as they would at home.
And Lady Chettam says she went to Bath." Celia's color changed
again and again--seemed
"To come and go with tidings from the heart,
As it a running messenger had been."
It must mean more than Celia's blushing usually did.
"Celia! has something happened?" said Dorothea, in a tone full
of sisterly feeling. "Have you really any great news to tell me?"
"It was because you went away, Dodo. Then there was nobody but me
for Sir James to talk to," said Celia, with a certain roguishness
in her eyes.
"I understand. It is as I used to hope and believe," said Dorothea,
taking her sister's face between her hands, and looking at her
half anxiously. Celia's marriage seemed more serious than it used
"It was only three days ago," said Celia. "And Lady Chettam
is very kind."
"And you are very happy?"
"Yes. We are not going to be married yet. Because every thing
is to be got ready. And I don't want to be married so very soon,
because I think it is nice to be engaged. And we shall be married
all our lives after."
"I do believe you could not marry better, Kitty. Sir James is a good,
honorable man," said Dorothea, warmly.
"He has gone on with the cottages, Dodo. He will tell you about
them when he comes. Shall you be glad to see him?"
"Of course I shall. How can you ask me?"
"Only I was afraid you would be getting so learned," said Celia,
regarding Mr. Casaubon's learning as a kind of damp which might
in due time saturate a neighboring body.
"I found that no genius in another could please me. My
unfortunate paradoxes had entirely dried up that source of
One morning, some weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea--
but why always Dorothea? Was her point of view the only possible
one with regard to this marriage? I protest against all our interest,
all our effort at understanding being given to the young skins that
look blooming in spite of trouble; for these too will get faded,
and will know the older and more eating griefs which we are helping
to neglect. In spite of the blinking eyes and white moles objectionable
to Celia, and the want of muscular curve which was morally painful
to Sir James, Mr. Casaubon had an intense consciousness within him,
and was spiritually a-hungered like the rest of us. He had done
nothing exceptional in marrying--nothing but what society sanctions,
and considers an occasion for wreaths and bouquets. It had occurred
to him that he must not any longer defer his intention of matrimony,
and he had reflected that in taking a wife, a man of good position
should expect and carefully choose a blooming young lady--the younger
the better, because more educable and submissive--of a rank
equal to his own, of religious principles, virtuous disposition,
and good understanding. On such a young lady he would make handsome
settlements, and he would neglect no arrangement for her happiness:
in return, he should receive family pleasures and leave behind him
that copy of himself which seemed so urgently required of a man--
to the sonneteers of the sixteenth century. Times had altered
since then, and no sonneteer had insisted on Mr. Casaubon's leaving
a copy of himself; moreover, he had not yet succeeded in issuing
copies of his mythological key; but he had always intended to acquit
himself by marriage, and the sense that he was fast leaving the
years behind him, that the world was getting dimmer and that he
felt lonely, was a reason to him for losing no more time in overtaking
domestic delights before they too were left behind by the years.
And when he had seen Dorothea he believed that he had found even
more than he demanded: she might really be such a helpmate to him
as would enable him to dispense with a hired secretary, an aid
which Mr. Casaubon had never yet employed and had a suspicious
dread of. (Mr. Casaubon was nervously conscious that he was
expected to manifest a powerful mind.) Providence, in its kindness,
had supplied him with the wife he needed. A wife, a modest
young lady, with the purely appreciative, unambitious abilities
of her sex, is sure to think her husband's mind powerful.
Whether Providence had taken equal care of Miss Brooke in presenting
her with Mr. Casaubon was an idea which could hardly occur to him.
Society never made the preposterous demand that a man should think
as much about his own qualifications for making a charming girl
happy as he thinks of hers for making himself happy. As if a man
could choose not only his wife hut his wife's husband! Or as if he
were bound to provide charms for his posterity in his own person!--
When Dorothea accepted him with effusion, that was only natural;
and Mr. Casaubon believed that his happiness was going to begin.
He had not had much foretaste of happiness in his previous life.
To know intense joy without a strong bodily frame, one must have an
enthusiastic soul. Mr. Casaubon had never had a strong bodily frame,
and his soul was sensitive without being enthusiastic: it was too
languid to thrill out of self-consciousness into passionate delight;
it went on fluttering in the swampy ground where it was hatched,
thinking of its wings and never flying. His experience was of
that pitiable kind which shrinks from pity, and fears most of all
that it should be known: it was that proud narrow sensitiveness
which has not mass enough to spare for transformation into sympathy,
and quivers thread-like in small currents of self-preoccupation
or at best of an egoistic scrupulosity. And Mr. Casaubon
had many scruples: he was capable of a severe self-restraint;
he was resolute in being a man of honor according to the code;
he would be unimpeachable by any recognized opinion. In conduct
these ends had been attained; but the difficulty of making his Key
to all Mythologies unimpeachable weighed like lead upon his mind;
and the pamphlets--or "Parerga" as he called them--by which he tested
his public and deposited small monumental records of his march,
were far from having been seen in all their significance.
He suspected the Archdeacon of not having read them; he was
in painful doubt as to what was really thought of them by the
leading minds of Brasenose, and bitterly convinced that his old
acquaintance Carp had been the writer of that depreciatory recension
which was kept locked in a small drawer of Mr. Casaubon's desk,
and also in a dark closet of his verbal memory. These were heavy
impressions to struggle against, and brought that melancholy
embitterment which is the consequence of all excessive claim:
even his religious faith wavered with his wavering trust in his
own authorship, and the consolations of the Christian hope in
immortality seemed to lean on the immortality of the still unwritten
Key to all Mythologies. For my part I am very sorry for him.
It is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly taught and
yet not to enjoy: to be present at this great spectacle of life
and never to be liberated from a small hungry shivering self--
never to be fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to have
our consciousness rapturously transformed into the vividness
of a thought, the ardor of a passion, the energy of an action,
but always to be scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid,
scrupulous and dim-sighted. Becoming a dean or even a bishop would
make little difference, I fear, to Mr. Casaubon's uneasiness.
Doubtless some ancient Greek has observed that behind the big mask
and the speaking-trumpet, there must always be our poor little
eyes peeping as usual and our timorous lips more or less under
To this mental estate mapped out a quarter of a century before,
to sensibilities thus fenced in, Mr. Casaubon had thought of annexing
happiness with a lovely young bride; but even before marriage,
as we have seen, he found himself under a new depression in
the consciousness that the new bliss was not blissful to him.
Inclination yearned back to its old, easier custom. And the deeper
he went in domesticity the more did the sense of acquitting himself
and acting with propriety predominate over any other satisfaction.
Marriage, like religion and erudition, nay, like authorship itself,
was fated to become an outward requirement, and Edward Casaubon
was bent on fulfilling unimpeachably all requirements. Even drawing
Dorothea into use in his study, according to his own intention
before marriage, was an effort which he was always tempted to defer,
and but for her pleading insistence it might never have begun.
But she had succeeded in making it a matter of course that she should
take her place at an early hour in the library and have work either
of reading aloud or copying assigned her. The work had been easier
to define because Mr. Casaubon had adopted an immediate intention:
there was to be a new Parergon, a small monograph on some
lately traced indications concerning the Egyptian mysteries
whereby certain assertions of Warburton's could be corrected.
References were extensive even here, but not altogether shoreless;
and sentences were actually to be written in the shape wherein they
would be scanned by Brasenose and a less formidable posterity.
These minor monumental productions were always exciting to Mr. Casaubon;
digestion was made difficult by the interference of citations,
or by the rivalry of dialectical phrases ringing against each other
in his brain. And from the first there was to be a Latin dedication
about which everything was uncertain except that it was not to be
addressed to Carp: it was a poisonous regret to Mr. Casaubon that he
had once addressed a dedication to Carp in which he had numbered
that member of the animal kingdom among the viros nullo aevo
perituros, a mistake which would infallibly lay the dedicator open
to ridicule in the next age, and might even be chuckled over by Pike
and Tench in the present.
Thus Mr. Casaubon was in one of his busiest epochs, and as I
began to say a little while ago, Dorothea joined him early in the
library where he had breakfasted alone. Celia at this time was on
a second visit to Lowick, probably the last before her marriage,
and was in the drawing-room expecting Sir James.
Dorothea had learned to read the signs of her husband's mood, and she
saw that the morning had become more foggy there during the last hour.
She was going silently to her desk when he said, in that distant
tone which implied that he was discharging a disagreeable duty--
"Dorothea, here is a letter for you, which was enclosed in one
addressed to me."
It was a letter of two pages, and she immediately looked at the signature.
"Mr. Ladislaw! What can he have to say to me?" she exclaimed,
in a tone of pleased surprise. "But," she added, looking at
Mr. Casaubon, "I can imagine what he has written to you about."
"You can, if you please, read the letter," said Mr. Casaubon,
severely pointing to it with his pen, and not looking at her.
"But I may as well say beforehand, that I must decline the proposal it
contains to pay a visit here. I trust I may be excused for desiring
an interval of complete freedom from such distractions as have been
hitherto inevitable, and especially from guests whose desultory
vivacity makes their presence a fatigue."
There had been no clashing of temper between Dorothea and her
husband since that little explosion in Rome, which had left such
strong traces in her mind that it had been easier ever since
to quell emotion than to incur the consequence of venting it.
But this ill-tempered anticipation that she could desire visits
which might be disagreeable to her husband, this gratuitous defence
of himself against selfish complaint on her part, was too sharp
a sting to be meditated on until after it had been resented.
Dorothea had thought that she could have been patient with John Milton,
but she had never imagined him behaving in this way; and for a moment
Mr. Casaubon seemed to be stupidly undiscerning and odiously unjust.
Pity, that "new-born babe" which was by-and-by to rule many a
storm within her, did not "stride the blast" on this occasion.
With her first words, uttered in a tone that shook him, she startled
Mr. Casaubon into looking at her, and meeting the flash of her eyes.
"Why do you attribute to me a wish for anything that would annoy you?
You speak to me as if I were something you had to contend against.
Wait at least till I appear to consult my own pleasure apart
"Dorothea, you are hasty," answered Mr. Casaubon, nervously.
Decidedly, this woman was too young to be on the formidable level
of wifehood--unless she had been pale and feature less and taken
everything for granted.
"I think it was you who were first hasty in your false suppositions
about my feeling," said Dorothea, in the same tone. The fire was
not dissipated yet, and she thought it was ignoble in her husband
not to apologize to her.
"We will, if you please, say no more on this subject, Dorothea.
I have neither leisure nor energy for this kind of debate."
Here Mr. Casaubon dipped his pen and made as if he would return to
his writing, though his hand trembled so much that the words seemed
to be written in an unknown character. There are answers which,
in turning away wrath, only send it to the other end of the room,
and to have a discussion coolly waived when you feel that justice
is all on your own side is even more exasperating in marriage than
Dorothea left Ladislaw's two letters unread on her husband's
writing-table and went to her own place, the scorn and indignation
within her rejecting the reading of these letters, just as we
hurl away any trash towards which we seem to have been suspected
of mean cupidity. She did not in the least divine the subtle
sources of her husband's bad temper about these letters:
she only knew that they had caused him to offend her. She began
to work at once, and her hand did not tremble; on the contrary,
in writing out the quotations which had been given to her the
day before, she felt that she was forming her letters beautifully,
and it seemed to her that she saw the construction of the Latin she
was copying, and which she was beginning to understand, more clearly
than usual. In her indignation there was a sense of superiority,
but it went out for the present in firmness of stroke, and did
not compress itself into an inward articulate voice pronouncing
the once "affable archangel" a poor creature.
There had been this apparent quiet for half an hour, and Dorothea
had not looked away from her own table, when she heard the loud bang
of a book on the floor, and turning quickly saw Mr. Casaubon on the
library steps clinging forward as if he were in some bodily distress.
She started up and bounded towards him in an instant: he was evidently
in great straits for breath. Jumping on a stool she got close
to his elbow and said with her whole soul melted into tender alarm--
"Can you lean on me, dear?"
He was still for two or three minutes, which seemed endless to her,
unable to speak or move, gasping for breath. When at last he
descended the three steps and fell backward in the large chair
which Dorothea had drawn close to the foot of the ladder,
he no longer gasped but seemed helpless and about to faint.
Dorothea rang the bell violently, and presently Mr. Casaubon was
helped to the couch: he did not faint, and was gradually reviving,
when Sir James Chettam came in, having been met in the hall with
the news that Mr. Casaubon had "had a fit in the library."
"Good God! this is just what might have been expected," was his
immediate thought. If his prophetic soul had been urged to particularize,
it seemed to him that "fits" would have been the definite expression
alighted upon. He asked his informant, the butler, whether the
doctor had been sent for. The butler never knew his master want
the doctor before; but would it not be right to send for a physician?
When Sir James entered the library, however, Mr. Casaubon could make
some signs of his usual politeness, and Dorothea, who in the reaction
from her first terror had been kneeling and sobbing by his side now
rose and herself proposed that some one should ride off for a medical man.
"I recommend you to send for Lydgate," said Sir James. "My mother
has called him in, and she has found him uncommonly clever.
She has had a poor opinion of the physicians since my father's death."
Dorothea appealed to her husband, and he made a silent sign of approval.
So Mr. Lydgate was sent for and he came wonderfully soon, for the
messenger, who was Sir James Chettam's man and knew Mr. Lydgate, met him
leading his horse along the Lowick road and giving his arm to Miss Vincy.
Celia, in the drawing-room, had known nothing of the trouble till
Sir James told her of it. After Dorothea's account, he no longer
considered the illness a fit, but still something "of that nature."
"Poor dear Dodo--how dreadful!" said Celia, feeling as much grieved
as her own perfect happiness would allow. Her little hands were clasped,
and enclosed by Sir James's as a bud is enfolded by a liberal calyx.
"It is very shocking that Mr. Casaubon should be ill; but I never
did like him. And I think he is not half fond enough of Dorothea;
and he ought to be, for I am sure no one else would have had him--
do you think they would?"
"I always thought it a horrible sacrifice of your sister,"
said Sir James.
"Yes. But poor Dodo never did do what other people do, and I think
she never will."
"She is a noble creature," said the loyal-hearted Sir James.
He had just had a fresh impression of this kind, as he had seen
Dorothea stretching her tender arm under her husband's neck and
looking at him with unspeakable sorrow. He did not know how much
penitence there was in the sorrow.
"Yes," said Celia, thinking it was very well for Sir James to say so,
but _he_ would not have been comfortable with Dodo. "Shall I go
to her? Could I help her, do you think?"
"I think it would be well for you just to go and see her before
Lydgate comes," said Sir James, magnanimously. "Only don't stay long."
While Celia was gone he walked up and down remembering what he had
originally felt about Dorothea's engagement, and feeling a revival
of his disgust at Mr. Brooke's indifference. If Cadwallader--
if every one else had regarded the affair as he, Sir James, had done,
the marriage might have been hindered. It was wicked to let a
young girl blindly decide her fate in that way, without any effort
to save her. Sir James had long ceased to have any regrets on his
own account: his heart was satisfied with his engagement to Celia.
But he had a chivalrous nature (was not the disinterested service
of woman among the ideal glories of old chivalry?): his disregarded
love had not turned to bitterness; its death had made sweet odors--
floating memories that clung with a consecrating effect to Dorothea.
He could remain her brotherly friend, interpreting her actions with
"Qui veut delasser hors de propos, lasse."--PASCAL.
Mr. Casaubon had no second attack of equal severity with the first,
and in a few days began to recover his usual condition.
But Lydgate seemed to think the case worth a great deal of attention.
He not only used his stethoscope (which had not become a matter
of course in practice at that time), but sat quietly by his patient
and watched him. To Mr. Casaubon's questions about himself,
he replied that the source of the illness was the common error
of intellectual men--a too eager and monotonous application:
the remedy was, to be satisfied with moderate work, and to seek
variety of relaxation. Mr. Brooke, who sat by on one occasion,
suggested that Mr. Casaubon should go fishing, as Cadwallader did,
and have a turning-room, make toys, table-legs, and that kind
"In short, you recommend me to anticipate the arrival of my
second childhood," said poor Mr. Casaubon, with some bitterness.
"These things," he added, looking at Lydgate, "would be to me such
relaxation as tow-picking is to prisoners in a house of correction."
"I confess," said Lydgate, smiling, "amusement is rather
an unsatisfactory prescription. It is something like telling
people to keep up their spirits. Perhaps I had better say,
that you must submit to be mildly bored rather than to go on working."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. Brooke. "Get Dorothea to play backgammon with
you in the evenings. And shuttlecock, now--I don't know a finer game
than shuttlecock for the daytime. I remember it all the fashion.
To be sure, your eyes might not stand that, Casaubon. But you
must unbend, you know. Why, you might take to some light study:
conchology, now: it always think that must be a light study.
Or get Dorothea to read you light things, Smollett--`Roderick Random,'
`Humphrey Clinker:' they are a little broad, but she may read
anything now she's married, you know. I remember they made me
laugh uncommonly--there's a droll bit about a postilion's breeches.
We have no such humor now. I have gone through all these things,
but they might be rather new to you."
"As new as eating thistles," would have been an answer to represent
Mr. Casaubon's feelings. But he only bowed resignedly, with due
respect to his wife's uncle, and observed that doubtless the works
he mentioned had "served as a resource to a certain order of minds."
"You see," said the able magistrate to Lydgate, when they were
outside the door, "Casaubon has been a little narrow: it leaves him
rather at a loss when you forbid him his particular work, which I
believe is something very deep indeed--in the line of research,
you know. I would never give way to that; I was always versatile.
But a clergyman is tied a little tight. If they would make him
a bishop, now!--he did a very good pamphlet for Peel. He would
have more movement then, more show; he might get a little flesh.
But I recommend you to talk to Mrs. Casaubon. She is clever enough
for anything, is my niece. Tell her, her husband wants liveliness,
diversion: put her on amusing tactics."
Without Mr. Brooke's advice, Lydgate had determined on speaking
to Dorothea. She had not been present while her uncle was throwing
out his pleasant suggestions as to the mode in which life at Lowick
might be enlivened, but she was usually by her husband's side, and the
unaffected signs of intense anxiety in her face and voice about whatever
touched his mind or health, made a drama which Lydgate was inclined
to watch. He said to himself that he was only doing right in telling
her the truth about her husband's probable future, but he certainly
thought also that it would be interesting to talk confidentially
with her. A medical man likes to make psychological observations,
and sometimes in the pursuit of such studies is too easily tempted
into momentous prophecy which life and death easily set at nought.
Lydgate had often been satirical on this gratuitous prediction,
and he meant now to be guarded.
He asked for Mrs. Casaubon, but being told that she was out walking,
he was going away, when Dorothea and Celia appeared, both glowing
from their struggle with the March wind. When Lydgate begged to speak
with her alone, Dorothea opened the library door which happened
to be the nearest, thinking of nothing at the moment but what he
might have to say about Mr. Casaubon. It was the first time
she had entered this room since her husband had been taken ill,
and the servant had chosen not to open the shutters. But there was
light enough to read by from the narrow upper panes of the windows.
"You will not mind this sombre light," said Dorothea, standing in
the middle of the room. "Since you forbade books, the library has
been out of the question. But Mr. Casaubon will soon be here again,
I hope. Is he not making progress?"
"Yes, much more rapid progress than I at first expected.
Indeed, he is already nearly in his usual state of health."
"You do not fear that the illness will return?" said Dorothea,
whose quick ear had detected some significance in Lydgate's tone.
"Such cases are peculiarly difficult to pronounce upon," said Lydgate.
"The only point on which I can be confident is that it will be
desirable to be very watchful on Mr. Casaubon's account, lest he
should in any way strain his nervous power."
"I beseech you to speak quite plainly," said Dorothea, in an
imploring tone. "I cannot bear to think that there might be
something which I did not know, and which, if I had known it,
would have made me act differently." The words came out like a cry:
it was evident that they were the voice of some mental experience
which lay not very far off.
"Sit down," she added, placing herself on the nearest chair,
and throwing off her bonnet and gloves, with an instinctive discarding
of formality where a great question of destiny was concerned.
"What you say now justifies my own view," said Lydgate. "I think it
is one's function as a medical man to hinder regrets of that sort
as far as possible. But I beg you to observe that Mr. Casaubon's
case is precisely of the kind in which the issue is most difficult
to pronounce upon. He may possibly live for fifteen years or more,
without much worse health than he has had hitherto."
Dorothea had turned very pale, and when Lydgate paused she said
in a low voice, "You mean if we are very careful."
"Yes--careful against mental agitation of all kinds, and against
"He would be miserable, if he had to give up his work," said Dorothea,
with a quick prevision of that wretchedness.
"I am aware of that. The only course is to try by all means,
direct and indirect, to moderate and vary his occupations.
With a happy concurrence of circumstances, there is, as I said,
no immediate danger from that affection of the heart, which I believe
to have been the cause of his late attack. On the other hand,
it is possible that the disease may develop itself more rapidly:
it is one of those eases in which death is sometimes sudden.
Nothing should be neglected which might be affected by such
There was silence for a few moments, while Dorothea sat as if she
had been turned to marble, though the life within her was so intense
that her mind had never before swept in brief time over an equal
range of scenes and motives.
"Help me, pray," she said, at last, in the same low voice as before.
"Tell me what I can do."
"What do you think of foreign travel? You have been lately in Rome,
The memories which made this resource utterly hopeless were a new
current that shook Dorothea out of her pallid immobility.
"Oh, that would not do--that would be worse than anything," she said
with a more childlike despondency, while the tears rolled down.
"Nothing will be of any use that he does not enjoy."
"I wish that I could have spared you this pain," said Lydgate,
deeply touched, yet wondering about her marriage. Women just like
Dorothea had not entered into his traditions.
"It was right of you to tell me. I thank you for telling me
"I wish you to understand that I shall not say anything to enlighten
Mr. Casaubon himself. I think it desirable for him to know nothing
more than that he must not overwork himself, and must observe
certain rules. Anxiety of any kind would be precisely the most
unfavorable condition for him."
Lydgate rose, and Dorothea mechanically rose at the same time?
unclasping her cloak and throwing it off as if it stifled her.
He was bowing and quitting her, when an impulse which if she had
been alone would have turned into a prayer, made her say with a sob
in her voice--
"Oh, you are a wise man, are you not? You know all about life
and death. Advise me. Think what I can do. He has been laboring
all his life and looking forward. He minds about nothing else.--
And I mind about nothing else--"
For years after Lydgate remembered the impression produced in him
by this involuntary appeal--this cry from soul to soul, without other
consciousness than their moving with kindred natures in the same
embroiled medium, the same troublous fitfully illuminated life.
But what could he say now except that he should see Mr. Casaubon
When he was gone, Dorothea's tears gushed forth, and relieved
her stifling oppression. Then she dried her eyes, reminded that
her distress must not be betrayed to her husband; and looked
round the room thinking that she must order the servant to attend
to it as usual, since Mr. Casaubon might now at any moment wish
to enter. On his writing-table there were letters which had lain
untouched since the morning when he was taken ill, and among them,
as Dorothea well remembered, there were young Ladislaw's letters,
the one addressed to her still unopened. The associations of
these letters had been made the more painful by that sudden attack
of illness which she felt that the agitation caused by her anger
might have helped to bring on: it would be time enough to read
them when they were again thrust upon her, and she had had no
inclination to fetch them from the library. But now it occurred
to her that they should be put out of her husband's sight:
whatever might have been the sources of his annoyance about them,
he must, if possible, not be annoyed again; and she ran her eyes
first over the letter addressed to him to assure herself whether or
not it would be necessary to write in order to hinder the offensive visit.
Will wrote from Rome, and began by saying that his obligations to
Mr. Casaubon were too deep for all thanks not to seem impertinent.
It was plain that if he were not grateful, he must be the
poorest-spirited rascal who had ever found a generous friend.
To expand in wordy thanks would be like saying, "I am honest."
But Will had come to perceive that his defects--defects which
Mr. Casaubon had himself often pointed to--needed for their correction
that more strenuous position which his relative's generosity
had hitherto prevented from being inevitable. He trusted that he
should make the best return, if return were possible, by showing
the effectiveness of the education for which he was indebted,
and by ceasing in future to need any diversion towards himself of funds
on which others might have a better claim. He was coming to England,
to try his fortune, as many other young men were obliged to do whose
only capital was in their brains. His friend Naumann had desired him
to take charge of the "Dispute"--the picture painted for Mr. Casaubon,
with whose permission, and Mrs. Casaubon's, Will would convey it to
Lowick in person. A letter addressed to the Poste Restante in Paris
within the fortnight would hinder him, if necessary, from arriving
at an inconvenient moment. He enclosed a letter to Mrs. Casaubon
in which he continued a discussion about art, begun with her in Rome.
Opening her own letter Dorothea saw that it was a lively continuation
of his remonstrance with her fanatical sympathy and her want of
sturdy neutral delight in things as they were--an outpouring of his
young vivacity which it was impossible to read just now. She had
immediately to consider what was to be done about the other letter:
there was still time perhaps to prevent Will from coming to Lowick.
Dorothea ended by giving the letter to her uncle, who was still
in the house, and begging him to let Will know that Mr. Casaubon
had been ill, and that his health would not allow the reception
of any visitors.
No one more ready than Mr. Brooke to write a letter: his only
difficulty was to write a short one, and his ideas in this case
expanded over the three large pages and the inward foldings.
He had simply said to Dorothea--
"To be sure, I will write, my dear. He's a very clever young fellow--
this young Ladislaw--I dare say will be a rising young man.
It's a good letter--marks his sense of things, you know.
However, I will tell him about Casaubon."
But the end of Mr. Brooke's pen was a thinking organ, evolving sentences,
especially of a benevolent kind, before the rest of his mind could
well overtake them. It expressed regrets and proposed remedies,
which, when Mr. Brooke read them, seemed felicitously worded--
surprisingly the right thing, and determined a sequel which he
had never before thought of. In this case, his pen found it such
a pity young Ladislaw should not have come into the neighborhood.
just at that time, in order that Mr. Brooke might make his acquaintance
more fully, and that they might go over the long-neglected Italian
drawings together--it also felt such an interest in a young man
who was starting in life with a stock of ideas--that by the end of
the second page it had persuaded Mr. Brooke to invite young Ladislaw,
since he could not be received at Lowick, to come to Tipton Grange.
Why not? They could find a great many things to do together,
and this was a period of peculiar growth--the political horizon
was expanding, and--in short, Mr. Brooke's pen went off into a little
speech which it had lately reported for that imperfectly edited organ
the "Middlemarch Pioneer." While Mr. Brooke was sealing this letter,
he felt elated with an influx of dim projects:--a young man capable
of putting ideas into form, the "Pioneer" purchased to clear
the pathway for a new candidate, documents utilized--who knew what
might come of it all? Since Celia was going to marry immediately,
it would be very pleasant to have a young fellow at table with him,
at least for a time.
But he went away without telling Dorothea what he had put into
the letter, for she was engaged with her husband, and--in fact,
these things were of no importance to her.
How will you know the pitch of that great bell
Too large for you to stir? Let but a flute
Play 'neath the fine-mixed metal listen close
Till the right note flows forth, a silvery rill.
Then shall the huge bell tremble--then the mass
With myriad waves concurrent shall respond
In low soft unison.
Lydgate that evening spoke to Miss Vincy of Mrs. Casaubon,
and laid some emphasis on the strong feeling she appeared to have
for that formal studious man thirty years older than herself.
"Of course she is devoted to her husband," said Rosamond,
implying a notion of necessary sequence which the scientific
man regarded as the prettiest possible for a woman; but she
was thinking at the same time that it was not so very melancholy
to be mistress of Lowick Manor with a husband likely to die soon.
"Do you think her very handsome?"
"She certainly is handsome, but I have not thought about it,"
"I suppose it would be unprofessional," said Rosamond, dimpling.
"But how your practice is spreading! You were called in before
to the Chettams, I think; and now, the Casaubons."
"Yes," said Lydgate, in a tone of compulsory admission. "But I
don't really like attending such people so well as the poor.
The cases are more monotonous, and one has to go through more fuss
and listen more deferentially to nonsense."
"Not more than in Middlemarch," said Rosamond. "And at least you go
through wide corridors and have the scent of rose-leaves everywhere."
"That is true, Mademoiselle de Montmorenci," said Lydgate,
just bending his head to the table and lifting with his fourth finger
her delicate handkerchief which lay at the mouth of her reticule,
as if to enjoy its scent, while he looked at her with a smile.
But this agreeable holiday freedom with which Lydgate hovered
about the flower of Middlemarch, could not continue indefinitely.
It was not more possible to find social isolation in that town
than elsewhere, and two people persistently flirting could
by no means escape from "the various entanglements, weights,
blows, clashings, motions, by which things severally go on."
Whatever Miss Vincy did must be remarked, and she was perhaps the more
conspicuous to admirers and critics because just now Mrs. Vincy,
after some struggle, had gone with Fred to stay a little while at
Stone Court, there being no other way of at once gratifying old
Featherstone and keeping watch against Mary Garth, who appeared a less
tolerable daughter-in-law in proportion as Fred's illness disappeared.
Aunt Bulstrode, for example, came a little oftener into Lowick
Gate to see Rosamond, now she was alone. For Mrs. Bulstrode had
a true sisterly feeling for her brother; always thinking that he
might have married better, but wishing well to the children.
Now Mrs. Bulstrode had a long-standing intimacy with Mrs. Plymdale.
They had nearly the same preferences in silks, patterns for underclothing,
china-ware, and clergymen; they confided their little troubles
of health and household management to each other, and various little
points of superiority on Mrs. Bulstrode's side, namely, more decided
seriousness, more admiration for mind, and a house outside the town,
sometimes served to give color to their conversation without dividing
them--well-meaning women both, knowing very little of their own motives.
Mrs. Bulstrode, paying a morning visit to Mrs. Plymdale, happened to
say that she could not stay longer, because she was going to see
"Why do you say `poor Rosamond'?" said Mrs. Plymdale, a round-eyed
sharp little woman, like a tamed falcon.
"She is so pretty, and has been brought up in such thoughtlessness.
The mother, you know, had always that levity about her, which makes
me anxious for the children."
"Well, Harriet, if I am to speak my mind," said Mrs. Plymdale,
with emphasis, "I must say, anybody would suppose you and
Mr. Bulstrode would be delighted with what has happened,
for you have done everything to put Mr. Lydgate forward."
"Selina, what do you mean?" said Mrs. Bulstrode, in genuine surprise.
"Not but what I am truly thankful for Ned's sake," said Mrs. Plymdale.
"He could certainly better afford to keep such a wife than
some people can; but I should wish him to look elsewhere.
Still a mother has anxieties, and some young men would take to
a bad life in consequence. Besides, if I was obliged to speak,
I should say I was not fond of strangers coming into a town."
"I don't know, Selina," said Mrs. Bulstrode, with a little emphasis
in her turn. "Mr. Bulstrode was a stranger here at one time.
Abraham and Moses were strangers in the land, and we are told to
entertain strangers. And especially," she added, after a slight pause,
"when they are unexceptionable."
"I was not speaking in a religious sense, Harriet. I spoke
as a mother."
"Selina, I am sure you have never heard me say anything against
a niece of mine marrying your son."
"Oh, it is pride in Miss Vincy--I am sure it is nothing else,"
said Mrs. Plymdale, who had never before given all her confidence
to "Harriet" on this subject. "No young man in Middlemarch
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