Part 7 out of 18
was good enough for her: I have heard her mother say as much.
That is not a Christian spirit, I think. But now, from all I hear,
she has found a man as proud as herself."
"You don't mean that there is anything between Rosamond and Mr. Lydgate?"
said Mrs. Bulstrode, rather mortified at finding out her own
"Is it possible you don't know, Harriet?"
"Oh, I go about so little; and I am not fond of gossip; I really
never hear any. You see so many people that I don't see.
Your circle is rather different from ours."
"Well, but your own niece and Mr. Bulstrode's great favorite--
and yours too, I am sure, Harriet! I thought, at one time,
you meant him for Kate, when she is a little older."
"I don't believe there can be anything serious at present,"
said Mrs. Bulstrode. "My brother would certainly have told me."
"Well, people have different ways, but I understand that nobody
can see Miss Vincy and Mr. Lydgate together without taking them
to be engaged. However, it is not my business. Shall I put up
the pattern of mittens?"
After this Mrs. Bulstrode drove to her niece with a mind newly weighted.
She was herself handsomely dressed, but she noticed with a little
more regret than usual that Rosamond, who was just come in and
met her in walking-dress, was almost as expensively equipped.
Mrs. Bulstrode was a feminine smaller edition of her brother,
and had none of her husband's low-toned pallor. She had a good
honest glance and used no circumlocution.
"You are alone, I see, my dear," she said, as they entered the
drawing-room together, looking round gravely. Rosamond felt sure
that her aunt had something particular to say, and they sat down near
each other. Nevertheless, the quilling inside Rosamond's bonnet
was so charming that it was impossible not to desire the same kind
of thing for Kate, and Mrs. Bulstrode's eyes, which were rather fine,
rolled round that ample quilled circuit, while she spoke.
"I have just heard something about you that has surprised me
very much, Rosamond."
"What is that, aunt?" Rosamond's eyes also were roaming over her
aunt's large embroidered collar.
"I can hardly believe it--that you should be engaged without my
knowing it--without your father's telling me." Here Mrs. Bulstrode's
eyes finally rested on Rosamond's, who blushed deeply, and said--
"I am not engaged, aunt."
"How is it that every one says so, then--that it is the town's talk?"
"The town's talk is of very little consequence, I think,"
said Rosamond, inwardly gratified.
"Oh, my dear, be more thoughtful; don't despise your neighbors so.
Remember you are turned twenty-two now, and you will have no fortune:
your father, I am sure, will not be able to spare you anything.
Mr. Lydgate is very intellectual and clever; I know there is an
attraction in that. I like talking to such men myself; and your
uncle finds him very useful. But the profession is a poor one here.
To be sure, this life is not everything; but it is seldom a medical
man has true religious views--there is too much pride of intellect.
And you are not fit to marry a poor man.
"Mr. Lydgate is not a poor man, aunt. He has very high connections."
"He told me himself he was poor."
"That is because he is used to people who have a high style
"My dear Rosamond, _you_ must not think of living in high style."
Rosamond looked down and played with her reticule. She was not
a fiery young lady and had no sharp answers, but she meant to live
as she pleased.
"Then it is really true?" said Mrs. Bulstrode, looking very earnestly
at her niece. "You are thinking of Mr. Lydgate--there is some
understanding between you, though your father doesn't know. Be open,
my dear Rosamond: Mr. Lydgate has really made you an offer?"
Poor Rosamond's feelings were very unpleasant. She had been quite
easy as to Lydgate's feeling and intention, but now when her aunt
put this question she did not like being unable to say Yes.
Her pride was hurt, but her habitual control of manner helped her.
"Pray excuse me, aunt. I would rather not speak on the subject."
"You would not give your heart to a man without a decided prospect,
I trust, my dear. And think of the two excellent offers I know
of that you have refused!--and one still within your reach, if you
will not throw it away. I knew a very great beauty who married
badly at last, by doing so. Mr. Ned Plymdale is a nice young man--
some might think good-looking; and an only son; and a large business
of that kind is better than a profession. Not that marrying
is everything. I would have you seek first the kingdom of God.
But a girl should keep her heart within her own power."
"I should never give it to Mr. Ned Plymdale, if it were. I have already
refused him. If I loved, I should love at once and without change,"
said Rosamond, with a great sense of being a romantic heroine,
and playing the part prettily.
"I see how it is, my dear," said Mrs. Bulstrode, in a melancholy voice,
rising to go. "You have allowed your affections to be engaged
"No, indeed, aunt," said Rosamond, with emphasis.
"Then you are quite confident that Mr. Lydgate has a serious
attachment to you?"
Rosamond's cheeks by this time were persistently burning, and she
felt much mortification. She chose to be silent, and her aunt went
away all the more convinced.
Mr. Bulstrode in things worldly and indifferent was disposed to do
what his wife bade him, and she now, without telling her reasons,
desired him on the next opportunity to find out in conversation
with Mr. Lydgate whether he had any intention of marrying soon.
The result was a decided negative. Mr. Bulstrode, on being
cross-questioned, showed that Lydgate had spoken as no man
would who had any attachment that could issue in matrimony.
Mrs. Bulstrode now felt that she had a serious duty before her,
and she soon managed to arrange a tete-a-tete with Lydgate,
in which she passed from inquiries about Fred Vincy's health,
and expressions of her sincere anxiety for her brother's large family,
to general remarks on the dangers which lay before young people
with regard to their settlement in life. Young men were often wild
and disappointing, making little return for the money spent on them,
and a girl was exposed to many circumstances which might interfere
with her prospects.
"Especially when she has great attractions, and her parents see
much company," said Mrs. Bulstrode "Gentlemen pay her attention,
and engross her all to themselves, for the mere pleasure of the moment,
and that drives off others. I think it is a heavy responsibility,
Mr. Lydgate, to interfere with the prospects of any girl."
Here Mrs. Bulstrode fixed her eyes on him, with an unmistakable
purpose of warning, if not of rebuke.
"Clearly," said Lydgate, looking at her--perhaps even staring
a little in return. "On the other hand, a man must be a great
coxcomb to go about with a notion that he must not pay attention
to a young lady lest she should fall in love with him, or lest
others should think she must."
"Oh, Mr. Lydgate, you know well what your advantages are.
You know that our young men here cannot cope with you. Where you
frequent a house it may militate very much against a girl's making
a desirable settlement in life, and prevent her from accepting
offers even if they are made."
Lydgate was less flattered by his advantage over the Middlemarch Orlandos
than he was annoyed by the perception of Mrs. Bulstrode's meaning.
She felt that she had spoken as impressively as it was necessary to do,
and that in using the superior word "militate" she had thrown a noble
drapery over a mass of particulars which were still evident enough.
Lydgate was fuming a little, pushed his hair back with one hand,
felt curiously in his waistcoat-pocket with the other, and then stooped
to beckon the tiny black spaniel, which had the insight to decline
his hollow caresses. It would not have been decent to go away,
because he had been dining with other guests, and had just taken tea.
But Mrs. Bulstrode, having no doubt that she had been understood,
turned the conversation.
Solomon's Proverbs, I think, have omitted to say, that as the sore
palate findeth grit, so an uneasy consciousness heareth innuendoes.
The next day Mr. Farebrother, parting from Lydgate in the street,
supposed that they should meet at Vincy's in the evening.
Lydgate answered curtly, no--he had work to do--he must give up going
out in the evening.
"What! you are going to get lashed to the mast, eh, and are stopping
your ears?" said the Vicar. "Well, if you don't mean to be won
by the sirens, you are right to take precautions in time."
A few days before, Lydgate would have taken no notice of these words
as anything more than the Vicar's usual way of putting things.
They seemed now to convey an innuendo which confirmed the impression
that he had been making a fool of himself and behaving so as to
be misunderstood: not, he believed, by Rosamond herself; she, he
felt sure, took everything as lightly as he intended it. She had
an exquisite tact and insight in relation to all points of manners;
but the people she lived among were blunderers and busybodies.
However, the mistake should go no farther. He resolved--and kept
his resolution--that he would not go to Mr. Vincy's except on business.
Rosamond became very unhappy. The uneasiness first stirred
by her aunt's questions grew and grew till at the end of ten
days that she had not seen Lydgate, it grew into terror at the
blank that might possibly come--into foreboding of that ready,
fatal sponge which so cheaply wipes out the hopes of mortals.
The world would have a new dreariness for her, as a wilderness that
a magician's spells had turned for a little while into a garden.
She felt that she was beginning to know the pang of disappointed love,
and that no other man could be the occasion of such delightful
aerial building as she had been enjoying for the last six months.
Poor Rosamond lost her appetite and felt as forlorn as Ariadne--
as a charming stage Ariadne left behind with all her boxes full of
costumes and no hope of a coach.
There are many wonderful mixtures in the world which are all
alike called love, and claim the privileges of a sublime rage
which is an apology for everything (in literature and the drama).
Happily Rosamond did not think of committing any desperate act:
she plaited her fair hair as beautifully as usual, and kept herself
proudly calm. Her most cheerful supposition was that her aunt
Bulstrode had interfered in some way to hinder Lydgate's visits:
everything was better than a spontaneous indifference in him.
Any one who imagines ten days too short a time--not for falling
into leanness, lightness, or other measurable effects of passion, but--
for the whole spiritual circuit of alarmed conjecture and disappointment,
is ignorant of what can go on in the elegant leisure of a young
On the eleventh day, however, Lydgate when leaving Stone Court
was requested by Mrs. Vincy to let her husband know that there
was a marked change in Mr. Featherstone's health, and that she
wished him to come to Stone Court on that day. Now Lydgate
might have called at the warehouse, or might have written a
message on a leaf of his pocket-book and left it at the door.
Yet these simple devices apparently did not occur to him,
from which we may conclude that he had no strong objection to calling
at the house at an hour when Mr. Vincy was not at home, and leaving
the message with Miss Vincy. A man may, from various motives,
decline to give his company, but perhaps not even a sage would
be gratified that nobody missed him. It would be a graceful,
easy way of piecing on the new habits to the old, to have a few
playful words with Rosamond about his resistance to dissipation,
and his firm resolve to take long fasts even from sweet sounds.
It must be confessed, also, that momentary speculations as to all the
possible grounds for Mrs. Bulstrode's hints had managed to get woven
like slight clinging hairs into the more substantial web of his thoughts.
Miss Vincy was alone, and blushed so deeply when Lydgate came in that he
felt a corresponding embarrassment, and instead of any playfulness,
he began at once to speak of his reason for calling, and to beg her,
almost formally, to deliver the message to her father. Rosamond,
who at the first moment felt as if her happiness were returning,
was keenly hurt by Lydgate's manner; her blush had departed, and she
assented coldly, without adding an unnecessary word, some trivial
chain-work which she had in her hands enabling her to avoid looking
at Lydgate higher than his chin. In all failures, the beginning
is certainly the half of the whole. After sitting two long moments
while he moved his whip and could say nothing, Lydgate rose to go,
and Rosamond, made nervous by her struggle between mortification
and the wish not to betray it, dropped her chain as if startled,
and rose too, mechanically. Lydgate instantaneously stooped to pick
up the chain. When he rose he was very near to a lovely little
face set on a fair long neck which he had been used to see turning
about under the most perfect management of self-contented grace.
But as he raised his eyes now he saw a certain helpless quivering
which touched him quite newly, and made him look at Rosamond with a
questioning flash. At this moment she was as natural as she had ever
been when she was five years old: she felt that her tears had risen,
and it was no use to try to do anything else than let them stay
like water on a blue flower or let them fall over her cheeks,
even as they would.
That moment of naturalness was the crystallizing feather-touch:
it shook flirtation into love. Remember that the ambitious man
who was looking at those Forget-me-nots under the water was very
warm-hearted and rash. He did not know where the chain went;
an idea had thrilled through the recesses within him which had
a miraculous effect in raising the power of passionate love lying
buried there in no sealed sepulchre, but under the lightest,
easily pierced mould. His words were quite abrupt and awkward;
but the tone made them sound like an ardent, appealing avowal.
"What is the matter? you are distressed. Tell me, pray."
Rosamond had never been spoken to in such tones before. I am not sure
that she knew what the words were: but she looked at Lydgate and the
tears fell over her cheeks. There could have been no more complete
answer than that silence, and Lydgate, forgetting everything else,
completely mastered by the outrush of tenderness at the sudden
belief that this sweet young creature depended on him for her joy,
actually put his arms round her, folding her gently and protectingly--
he was used to being gentle with the weak and suffering--and kissed
each of the two large tears. This was a strange way of arriving
at an understanding, but it was a short way. Rosamond was
not angry, but she moved backward a little in timid happiness,
and Lydgate could now sit near her and speak less incompletely.
Rosamond had to make her little confession, and he poured out words
of gratitude and tenderness with impulsive lavishment. In half
an hour he left the house an engaged man, whose soul was not his own,
but the woman's to whom he had bound himself.
He came again in the evening to speak with Mr. Vincy, who, just returned
from Stone Court, was feeling sure that it would not be long before he
heard of Mr. Featherstone's demise. The felicitous word "demise,"
which had seasonably occurred to him, had raised his spirits even
above their usual evening pitch. The right word is always a power,
and communicates its definiteness to our action. Considered as
a demise, old Featherstone's death assumed a merely legal aspect,
so that Mr. Vincy could tap his snuff-box over it and be jovial,
without even an intermittent affectation of solemnity; and Mr. Vincy
hated both solemnity and affectation. Who was ever awe struck
about a testator, or sang a hymn on the title to real property?
Mr. Vincy was inclined to take a jovial view of all things that evening:
he even observed to Lydgate that Fred had got the family constitution
after all, and would soon be as fine a fellow as ever again;
and when his approbation of Rosamond's engagement was asked for,
he gave it with astonishing facility, passing at once to general
remarks on the desirableness of matrimony for young men and maidens,
and apparently deducing from the whole the appropriateness of a little
"They'll take suggestion as a cat laps milk."
The triumphant confidence of the Mayor founded on Mr. Featherstone's
insistent demand that Fred and his mother should not leave him,
was a feeble emotion compared with all that was agitating the breasts
of the old man's blood-relations, who naturally manifested more
their sense of the family tie and were more visibly numerous now
that he had become bedridden. Naturally: for when "poor Peter"
had occupied his arm-chair in the wainscoted parlor, no assiduous
beetles for whom the cook prepares boiling water could have been
less welcome on a hearth which they had reasons for preferring,
than those persons whose Featherstone blood was ill-nourished, not
from penuriousness on their part, but from poverty. Brother Solomon
and Sister Jane were rich, and the family candor and total abstinence
from false politeness with which they were always received
seemed to them no argument that their brother in the solemn act
of making his will would overlook the superior claims of wealth.
Themselves at least he had never been unnatural enough to banish from
his house, and it seemed hardly eccentric that he should have kept
away Brother Jonah, Sister Martha, and the rest, who had no shadow
of such claims. They knew Peter's maxim, that money was a good egg,
and should be laid in a warm nest.
But Brother Jonah, Sister Martha, and all the needy exiles, held a
different point of view. Probabilities are as various as the faces
to be seen at will in fretwork or paper-hangings: every form is there,
from Jupiter to Judy, if you only look with creative inclination.
To the poorer and least favored it seemed likely that since Peter
had done nothing for them in his life, he would remember them
at the last. Jonah argued that men liked to make a surprise of
their wills, while Martha said that nobody need be surprised if he
left the best part of his money to those who least expected it.
Also it was not to be thought but that an own brother "lying there"
with dropsy in his legs must come to feel that blood was thicker
than water, and if he didn't alter his will, he might have money
by him. At any rate some blood-relations should be on the premises
and on the watch against those who were hardly relations at all.
Such things had been known as forged wills and disputed wills,
which seemed to have the golden-hazy advantage of somehow enabling
non-legatees to live out of them. Again, those who were no
blood-relations might be caught making away with things--and poor
Peter "lying there" helpless! Somebody should be on the watch.
But in this conclusion they were at one with Solomon and Jane;
also, some nephews, nieces, and cousins, arguing with still greater
subtilty as to what might be done by a man able to "will away"
his property and give himself large treats of oddity, felt in a handsome
sort of way that there was a family interest to be attended to,
and thought of Stone Court as a place which it would be nothing
but right for them to visit. Sister Martha, otherwise Mrs. Cranch,
living with some wheeziness in the Chalky Flats, could not undertake
the journey; but her son, as being poor Peter's own nephew,
could represent her advantageously, and watch lest his uncle Jonah
should make an unfair use of the improbable things which seemed
likely to happen. In fact there was a general sense running in
the Featherstone blood that everybody must watch everybody else,
and that it would be well for everybody else to reflect that the
Almighty was watching him.
Thus Stone Court continually saw one or other blood-relation
alighting or departing, and Mary Garth had the unpleasant task
of carrying their messages to Mr. Featherstone, who would see
none of them, and sent her down with the still more unpleasant
task of telling them so. As manager of the household she felt
bound to ask them in good provincial fashion to stay and eat;
but she chose to consult Mrs. Vincy on the point of extra
down-stairs consumption now that Mr. Featherstone was laid up.
"Oh, my dear, you must do things handsomely where there's last
illness and a property. God knows, I don't grudge them every ham
in the house--only, save the best for the funeral. Have some stuffed
veal always, and a fine cheese in cut. You must expect to keep
open house in these last illnesses," said liberal Mrs. Vincy,
once more of cheerful note and bright plumage.
But some of the visitors alighted and did not depart after the handsome
treating to veal and ham. Brother Jonah, for example (there are
such unpleasant people in most families; perhaps even in the highest
aristocracy there are Brobdingnag specimens, gigantically in debt
and bloated at greater expense)--Brother Jonah, I say, having come
down in the world, was mainly supported by a calling which he was
modest enough not to boast of, though it was much better than swindling
either on exchange or turf, but which did not require his presence
at Brassing so long as he had a good corner to sit in and a supply
of food. He chose the kitchen-corner, partly because he liked
it best, and partly because he did not want to sit with Solomon,
concerning whom he had a strong brotherly opinion. Seated in a famous
arm-chair and in his best suit, constantly within sight of good cheer,
he had a comfortable consciousness of being on the premises,
mingled with fleeting suggestions of Sunday and the bar at the Green Man;
and he informed Mary Garth that he should not go out of reach of his
brother Peter while that poor fellow was above ground. The troublesome
ones in a family are usually either the wits or the idiots.
Jonah was the wit among the Featherstones, and joked with the maid-
servants when they came about the hearth, but seemed to consider
Miss Garth a suspicious character, and followed her with cold eyes.
Mary would have borne this one pair of eyes with comparative ease,
but unfortunately there was young Cranch, who, having come all
the way from the Chalky Flats to represent his mother and watch
his uncle Jonah, also felt it his duty to stay and to sit chiefly
in the kitchen to give his uncle company. Young Cranch was not
exactly the balancing point between the wit and the idiot,--
verging slightly towards the latter type, and squinting so as to
leave everything in doubt about his sentiments except that they
were not of a forcible character. When Mary Garth entered the
kitchen and Mr. Jonah Featherstone began to follow her with his cold
detective eyes, young Cranch turning his head in the same direction
seemed to insist on it that she should remark how he was squinting,
as if he did it with design, like the gypsies when Borrow read
the New Testament to them. This was rather too much for poor Mary;
sometimes it made her bilious, sometimes it upset her gravity.
One day that she had an opportunity she could not resist describing
the kitchen scene to Fred, who would not be hindered from
immediately going to see it, affecting simply to pass through.
But no sooner did he face the four eyes than he had to rush through
the nearest door which happened to lead to the dairy, and there
under the high roof and among the pans he gave way to laughter
which made a hollow resonance perfectly audible in the kitchen.
He fled by another doorway, but Mr. Jonah, who had not before seen
Fred's white complexion, long legs, and pinched delicacy of face,
prepared many sarcasms in which these points of appearance were
wittily combined with the lowest moral attributes.
"Why, Tom, _you_ don't wear such gentlemanly trousers--
you haven't got half such fine long legs," said Jonah to his nephew,
winking at the same time, to imply that there was something more in
these statements than their undeniableness. Tom looked at his legs,
but left it uncertain whether he preferred his moral advantages
to a more vicious length of limb and reprehensible gentility of trouser.
In the large wainscoted parlor too there were constantly pairs
of eyes on the watch, and own relatives eager to be "sitters-up."
Many came, lunched, and departed, but Brother Solomon and the lady
who had been Jane Featherstone for twenty-five years before she
was Mrs. Waule found it good to be there every day for hours,
without other calculable occupation than that of observing the
cunning Mary Garth (who was so deep that she could be found out
in nothing) and giving occasional dry wrinkly indications of crying--
as if capable of torrents in a wetter season--at the thought
that they were not allowed to go into Mr. Featherstone's room.
For the old man's dislike of his own family seemed to get stronger
as he got less able to amuse himself by saying biting things to them.
Too languid to sting, he had the more venom refluent in his blood.
Not fully believing the message sent through Mary Garth, they had
presented themselves together within the door of the bedroom,
both in black--Mrs. Waule having a white handkerchief partially unfolded
in her hand--and both with faces in a sort of half-mourning purple;
while Mrs. Vincy with her pink cheeks and pink ribbons flying
was actually administering a cordial to their own brother,
and the light-complexioned Fred, his short hair curling as might
be expected in a gambler's, was lolling at his ease in a large chair.
Old Featherstone no sooner caught sight of these funereal figures
appearing in spite of his orders than rage came to strengthen
him more successfully than the cordial. He was propped up on
a bed-rest, and always had his gold-headed stick lying by him.
He seized it now and swept it backwards and forwards in as large
an area as he could, apparently to ban these ugly spectres,
crying in a hoarse sort of screech--
"Back, back, Mrs. Waule! Back, Solomon!"
"Oh, Brother. Peter," Mrs. Waule began--but Solomon put his hand
before her repressingly. He was a large-cheeked man, nearly seventy,
with small furtive eyes, and was not only of much blander temper but
thought himself much deeper than his brother Peter; indeed not likely
to be deceived in any of his fellow-men, inasmuch as they could not
well be more greedy and deceitful than he suspected them of being.
Even the invisible powers, he thought, were likely to be soothed
by a bland parenthesis here and there--coming from a man of property,
who might have been as impious as others.
"Brother Peter," he said, in a wheedling yet gravely official tone,
"It's nothing but right I should speak to you about the Three Crofts
and the Manganese. The Almighty knows what I've got on my mind--"
"Then he knows more than I want to know," said Peter, laying down
his stick with a show of truce which had a threat in it too,
for he reversed the stick so as to make the gold handle a club
in case of closer fighting, and looked hard at Solomon's bald head.
"There's things you might repent of, Brother, for want of speaking
to me," said Solomon, not advancing, however. "I could sit up
with you to-night, and Jane with me, willingly, and you might take
your own time to speak, or let me speak."
"Yes, I shall take my own time--you needn't offer me yours,"
"But you can't take your own time to die in, Brother," began Mrs. Waule,
with her usual woolly tone. "And when you lie speechless you may
be tired of having strangers about you, and you may think of me
and my children"--but here her voice broke under the touching
thought which she was attributing to her speechless brother;
the mention of ourselves being naturally affecting.
"No, I shan't," said old Featherstone, contradictiously.
"I shan't think of any of you. I've made my will, I tell you,
I've made my will." Here he turned his head towards Mrs. Vincy,
and swallowed some more of his cordial.
"Some people would be ashamed to fill up a place belonging by rights to
others," said Mrs. Waule, turning her narrow eyes in the same direction.
"Oh, sister," said Solomon, with ironical softness, "you and me
are not fine, and handsome, and clever enough: we must be humble
and let smart people push themselves before us."
Fred's spirit could not bear this: rising and looking
at Mr. Featherstone, he said, "Shall my mother
and I leave the room, sir, that you may be alone with your friends?"
"Sit down, I tell you," said old Featherstone, snappishly.
"Stop where you are. Good-by, Solomon," he added, trying to wield
his stick again, but failing now that he had reversed the handle.
"Good-by, Mrs. Waule. Don't you come again."
"I shall be down-stairs, Brother, whether or no," said Solomon.
"I shall do my duty, and it remains to be seen what the Almighty
"Yes, in property going out of families," said Mrs. Waule,
in continuation,--"and where there's steady young men to carry on.
But I pity them who are not such, and I pity their mothers.
Good-by, Brother Peter."
"Remember, I'm the eldest after you, Brother, and prospered from
the first, just as you did, and have got land already by the name
of Featherstone," said Solomon, relying much on that reflection,
as one which might be suggested in the watches of the night.
"But I bid you good-by for the present."
Their exit was hastened by their seeing old Mr. Featherstone pull his
wig on each side and shut his eyes with his mouth-widening grimace,
as if he were determined to be deaf and blind.
None the less they came to Stone Court daily and sat below at the post
of duty, sometimes carrying on a slow dialogue in an undertone in which
the observation and response were so far apart, that any one hearing
them might have imagined himself listening to speaking automata,
in some doubt whether the ingenious mechanism would really work,
or wind itself up for a long time in order to stick and be silent.
Solomon and Jane would have been sorry to be quick: what that led
to might be seen on the other side of the wall in the person
of Brother Jonah.
But their watch in the wainscoted parlor was sometimes varied
by the presence of other guests from far or near. Now that Peter
Featherstone was up-stairs, his property could be discussed with
all that local enlightenment to be found on the spot: some rural
and Middlemarch neighbors expressed much agreement with the family
and sympathy with their interest against the Vincys, and feminine
visitors were even moved to tears, in conversation with Mrs. Waule,
when they recalled the fact that they themselves had been disappointed
in times past by codicils and marriages for spite on the part
of ungrateful elderly gentlemen, who, it might have been supposed,
had been spared for something better. Such conversation paused suddenly,
like an organ when the bellows are let drop, if Mary Garth came into
the room; and all eyes were turned on her as a possible legatee,
or one who might get access to iron chests.
But the younger men who were relatives or connections of the family,
were disposed to admire her in this problematic light, as a girl
who showed much conduct, and who among all the chances that were
flying might turn out to be at least a moderate prize. Hence she
had her share of compliments and polite attentions.
Especially from Mr. Borthrop Trumbull, a distinguished bachelor
and auctioneer of those parts, much concerned in the sale of land
and cattle: a public character, indeed, whose name was seen on widely
distributed placards, and who might reasonably be sorry for those who
did not know of him. He was second cousin to Peter Featherstone,
and had been treated by him with more amenity than any other relative,
being useful in matters of business; and in that programme of his
funeral which the old man had himself dictated, he had been named
as a Bearer. There was no odious cupidity in Mr. Borthrop Trumbull--
nothing more than a sincere sense of his own merit, which, he was aware,
in case of rivalry might tell against competitors; so that if Peter
Featherstone, who so far as he, Trumbull, was concerned, had behaved
like as good a soul as ever breathed, should have done anything handsome
by him, all he could say was, that he had never fished and fawned,
but had advised him to the best of his experience, which now extended
over twenty years from the time of his apprenticeship at fifteen,
and was likely to yield a knowledge of no surreptitious kind.
His admiration was far from being confined to himself, but was
accustomed professionally as well as privately to delight in estimating
things at a high rate. He was an amateur of superior phrases,
and never used poor language without immediately correcting himself--
which was fortunate, as he was rather loud, and given to predominate,
standing or walking about frequently, pulling down his waistcoat
with the air of a man who is very much of his own opinion,
trimming himself rapidly with his fore-finger, and marking each new
series in these movements by a busy play with his large seals.
There was occasionally a little fierceness in his demeanor,
but it was directed chiefly against false opinion, of which there
is so much to correct in the world that a man of some reading
and experience necessarily has his patience tried. He felt that
the Featherstone family generally was of limited understanding,
but being a man of the world and a public character, took everything
as a matter of course, and even went to converse with Mr. Jonah
and young Cranch in the kitchen, not doubting that he had impressed
the latter greatly by his leading questions concerning the
Chalky Flats. If anybody had observed that Mr. Borthrop Trumbull,
being an auctioneer, was bound to know the nature of everything,
he would have smiled and trimmed himself silently with the sense
that he came pretty near that. On the whole, in an auctioneering way,
he was an honorable man, not ashamed of his business, and feeling
that "the celebrated Peel, now Sir Robert," if introduced to him,
would not fail to recognize his importance.
"I don't mind if I have a slice of that ham, and a glass of that ale,
Miss Garth, if you will allow me," he said, coming into the parlor
at half-past eleven, after having had the exceptional privilege
of seeing old Featherstone, and standing with his back to the fire
between Mrs. Waule and Solomon.
"It's not necessary for you to go out;--let me ring the bell."
"Thank you," said Mary, "I have an errand."
"Well, Mr. Trumbull, you're highly favored," said Mrs. Waule.
"What! seeing the old man?" said the auctioneer, playing with his seals
dispassionately. "Ah, you see he has relied on me considerably."
Here he pressed his lips together, and frowned meditatively.
"Might anybody ask what their brother has been saying?" said Solomon,
in a soft tone of humility, in which he had a sense of luxurious cunning,
he being a rich man and not in need of it.
"Oh yes, anybody may ask," said Mr. Trumbull, with loud and
good-humored though cutting sarcasm. "Anybody may interrogate.
Any one may give their remarks an interrogative turn," he continued,
his sonorousness rising with his style. "This is constantly done
by good speakers, even when they anticipate no answer. It is what we
call a figure of speech--speech at a high figure, as one may say."
The eloquent auctioneer smiled at his own ingenuity.
"I shouldn't be sorry to hear he'd remembered you, Mr. Trumbull,"
said Solomon. "I never was against the deserving. It's the
undeserving I'm against."
"Ah, there it is, you see, there it is," said Mr. Trumbull,
significantly. "It can't be denied that undeserving people have
been legatees, and even residuary legatees. It is so, with testamentary
dispositions." Again he pursed up his lips and frowned a little.
"Do you mean to say for certain, Mr. Trumbull, that my brother has
left his land away from our family?" said Mrs. Waule, on whom,
as an unhopeful woman, those long words had a depressing effect.
"A man might as well turn his land into charity land at once as
leave it to some people," observed Solomon, his sister's question
having drawn no answer.
"What, Blue-Coat land?" said Mrs. Waule, again. "Oh, Mr. Trumbull,
you never can mean to say that. It would be flying in the face
of the Almighty that's prospered him."
While Mrs. Waule was speaking, Mr. Borthrop Trumbull walked
away from the fireplace towards the window, patrolling with
his fore-finger round the inside of his stock, then along his
whiskers and the curves of his hair. He now walked to Miss
Garth's work-table, opened a book which lay there and read
the title aloud with pompous emphasis as if he were offering it for sale:
"`Anne of Geierstein' (pronounced Jeersteen) or the `Maiden
of the Mist, by the author of Waverley.'" Then turning the page,
he began sonorously--"The course of four centuries has well-nigh
elapsed since the series of events which are related in the
following chapters took place on the Continent." He pronounced
the last truly admirable word with the accent on the last syllable,
not as unaware of vulgar usage, but feeling that this novel delivery
enhanced the sonorous beauty which his reading had given to the whole.
And now the servant came in with the tray, so that the moments
for answering Mrs. Waule's question had gone by safely, while she
and Solomon, watching Mr. Trumbull's movements, were thinking that
high learning interfered sadly with serious affairs. Mr. Borthrop
Trumbull really knew nothing about old Featherstone's will;
but he could hardly have been brought to declare any ignorance
unless he had been arrested for misprision of treason.
"I shall take a mere mouthful of ham and a glass of ale,"
he said, reassuringly. "As a man with public business, I take a snack
when I can. I will back this ham," he added, after swallowing some
morsels with alarming haste, "against any ham in the three kingdoms.
In my opinion it is better than the hams at Freshitt Hall--
and I think I am a tolerable judge."
"Some don't like so much sugar in their hams," said Mrs. Waule.
"But my poor brother would always have sugar."
"If any person demands better, he is at liberty to do so;
but, God bless me, what an aroma! I should be glad to buy in
that quality, I know. There is some gratification to a gentleman"--
here Mr. Trumbull's voice conveyed an emotional remonstrance--
"in having this kind of ham set on his table."
He pushed aside his plate, poured out his glass of ale and drew
his chair a little forward, profiting by the occasion to look
at the inner side of his legs, which he stroked approvingly--
Mr. Trumbull having all those less frivolous airs and gestures
which distinguish the predominant races of the north.
"You have an interesting work there, I see, Miss Garth," he observed,
when Mary re-entered. "It is by the author of `Waverley': that
is Sir Walter Scott. I have bought one of his works myself--
a very nice thing, a very superior publication, entitled `Ivanhoe.'
You will not get any writer to beat him in a hurry, I think--
he will not, in my opinion, be speedily surpassed. I have just been
reading a portion at the commencement of `Anne of Jeersteen.'
It commences well." (Things never began with Mr. Borthrop Trumbull:
they always commenced, both in private life and on his handbills.)
"You are a reader, I see. Do you subscribe to our Middlemarch library?"
"No," said Mary. "Mr. Fred Vincy brought this book."
"I am a great bookman myself," returned Mr. Trumbull.
"I have no less than two hundred volumes in calf, and I
flatter myself they are well selected. Also pictures
by Murillo, Rubens, Teniers, Titian, Vandyck, and others.
I shall be happy to lend you any work you like to mention, Miss Garth."
"I am much obliged," said Mary, hastening away again, "but I have
little time for reading."
"I should say my brother has done something for _her_ in his will,"
said Mr. Solomon, in a very low undertone, when she had shut the door
behind her, pointing with his head towards the absent Mary.
"His first wife was a poor match for him, though," said Mrs. Waule.
"She brought him nothing: and this young woman is only her niece,--
and very proud. And my brother has always paid her wage."
"A sensible girl though, in my opinion," said Mr. Trumbull, finishing his
ale and starting up with an emphatic adjustment of his waistcoat.
"I have observed her when she has been mixing medicine in drops.
She minds what she is doing, sir. That is a great point in a woman,
and a great point for our friend up-stairs, poor dear old soul.
A man whose life is of any value should think of his wife as a nurse:
that is what I should do, if I married; and I believe I have lived
single long enough not to make a mistake in that line. Some men
must marry to elevate themselves a little, but when I am in need
of that, I hope some one will tell me so--I hope some individual
will apprise me of the fact. I wish you good morning, Mrs. Waule.
Good morning, Mr. Solomon. I trust we shall meet under less
When Mr. Trumbull had departed with a fine bow, Solomon,
leaning forward, observed to his sister, "You may depend,
Jane, my brother has left that girl a lumping sum."
"Anybody would think so, from the way Mr. Trumbull talks,"
said Jane. Then, after a pause, "He talks as if my daughters
wasn't to be trusted to give drops."
"Auctioneers talk wild," said Solomon. "Not but what Trumbull has
"Close up his eyes and draw the curtain close;
And let us all to meditation."
--2 Henry VI.
That night after twelve o'clock Mary Garth relieved the watch in
Mr. Featherstone's room, and sat there alone through the small hours.
She often chose this task, in which she found some pleasure,
notwithstanding the old man's testiness whenever he demanded
her attentions. There were intervals in which she could sit
perfectly still, enjoying the outer stillness and the subdued light.
The red fire with its gently audible movement seemed like a solemn
existence calmly independent of the petty passions, the imbecile desires,
the straining after worthless uncertainties, which were daily moving
her contempt. Mary was fond of her own thoughts, and could amuse
herself well sitting in twilight with her hands in her lap; for,
having early had strong reason to believe that things were not likely
to be arranged for her peculiar satisfaction, she wasted no time
in astonishment and annoyance at that fact. And she had already
come to take life very much as a comedy in which she had a proud,
nay, a generous resolution not to act the mean or treacherous part.
Mary might have become cynical if she had not had parents whom
she honored, and a well of affectionate gratitude within her, which
was all the fuller because she had learned to make no unreasonable claims.
She sat to-night revolving, as she was wont, the scenes of the day,
her lips often curling with amusement at the oddities to which her fancy
added fresh drollery: people were so ridiculous with their illusions,
carrying their fool's caps unawares, thinking their own lies
opaque while everybody else's were transparent, making themselves
exceptions to everything, as if when all the world looked yellow
under a lamp they alone were rosy. Yet there were some illusions
under Mary's eyes which were not quite comic to her. She was
secretly convinced, though she had no other grounds than her close
observation of old Featherstone's nature, that in spite of his
fondness for having the Vincys about him, they were as likely to be
disappointed as any of the relations whom he kept at a distance.
She had a good deal of disdain for Mrs. Vincy's evident alarm lest
she and Fred should be alone together, but it did not hinder her
from thinking anxiously of the way in which Fred would be affected,
if it should turn out that his uncle had left him as poor as ever.
She could make a butt of Fred when he was present, but she did
not enjoy his follies when he was absent.
Yet she liked her thoughts: a vigorous young mind not overbalanced
by passion, finds a good in making acquaintance with life, and watches
its own powers with interest. Mary had plenty of merriment within.
Her thought was not veined by any solemnity or pathos about
the old man on the bed: such sentiments are easier to affect
than to feel about an aged creature whose life is not visibly
anything but a remnant of vices. She had always seen the most
disagreeable side of Mr. Featherstone: he was not proud of her,
and she was only useful to him. To be anxious about a soul that is
always snapping at you must be left to the saints of the earth;
and Mary was not one of them. She had never returned him a
harsh word, and had waited on him faithfully: that was her utmost.
Old Featherstone himself was not in the least anxious about his soul,
and had declined to see Mr. Tucker on the subject.
To-night he had not snapped, and for the first hour or two he lay
remarkably still, until at last Mary heard him rattling his bunch of
keys against the tin box which he always kept in the bed beside him.
About three o'clock he said, with remarkable distinctness,
"Missy, come here!"
Mary obeyed, and found that he had already drawn the tin box
from under the clothes, though he usually asked to have this done
for him; and he had selected the key. He now unlocked the box,
and, drawing from it another key, looked straight at her with eyes
that seemed to have recovered all their sharpness and said,
"How many of 'em are in the house?"
"You mean of your own relations, sir," said Mary, well used
to the old man's way of speech. He nodded slightly and she went on.
"Mr. Jonah Featherstone and young Cranch are sleeping here."
"Oh ay, they stick, do they? and the rest--they come every day,
I'll warrant--Solomon and Jane, and all the young uns?
They come peeping, and counting and casting up?"
"Not all of them every day. Mr. Solomon and Mrs. Waule are here
every day, and the others come often."
The old man listened with a grimace while she spoke, and then said,
relaxing his face, "The more fools they. You hearken, missy.
It's three o'clock in the morning, and I've got all my faculties
as well as ever I had in my life. I know all my property,
and where the money's put out, and everything. And I've made
everything ready to change my mind, and do as I like at the last.
Do you hear, missy? I've got my faculties."
"Well, sir?" said Mary, quietly.
He now lowered his tone with an air of deeper cunning. "I've made
two wills, and I'm going to burn one. Now you do as I tell you.
This is the key of my iron chest, in the closet there. You push well
at the side of the brass plate at the top, till it goes like a bolt:
then you can put the key in the front lock and turn it. See and
do that; and take out the topmost paper--Last Will and Testament--
"No, sir," said Mary, in a firm voice, "I cannot do that."
"Not do it? I tell you, you must," said the old man, his voice
beginning to shake under the shock of this resistance.
"I cannot touch your iron chest or your will. I must refuse to do
anything that might lay me open to suspicion."
"I tell you, I'm in my right mind. Shan't I do as I like at the last?
I made two wills on purpose. Take the key, I say."
"No, sir, I will not," said Mary, more resolutely still.
Her repulsion was getting stronger.
"I tell you, there's no time to lose."
"I cannot help that, sir. I will not let the close of your life
soil the beginning of mine. I will not touch your iron chest
or your will." She moved to a little distance from the bedside.
The old man paused with a blank stare for a little while, holding the
one key erect on the ring; then with an agitated jerk he began
to work with his bony left hand at emptying the tin box before him.
"Missy," he began to say, hurriedly, "look here! take the money--
the notes and gold--look here--take it--you shall have it all--
do as I tell you."
He made an effort to stretch out the key towards her as far
as possible, and Mary again retreated.
"I will not touch your key or your money, sir. Pray don't ask me
to do it again. If you do, I must go and call your brother."
He let his hand fall, and for the first time in her life Mary
saw old Peter Featherstone begin to cry childishly. She said,
in as gentle a tone as she could command, "Pray put up your money,
sir;" and then went away to her seat by the fire, hoping this
would help to convince him that it was useless to say more.
Presently he rallied and said eagerly--
"Look here, then. Call the young chap. Call Fred Vincy."
Mary's heart began to beat more quickly. Various ideas rushed
through her mind as to what the burning of a second will might imply.
She had to make a difficult decision in a hurry.
"I will call him, if you will let me call Mr. Jonah and others
"Nobody else, I say. The young chap. I shall do as I like."
"Wait till broad daylight, sir, when every one is stirring.
Or let me call Simmons now, to go and fetch the lawyer? He can be
here in less than two hours."
"Lawyer? What do I want with the lawyer? Nobody shall know--I say,
nobody shall know. I shall do as I like."
"Let me call some one else, sir," said Mary, persuasively. She did
not like her position--alone with the old man, who seemed to show
a strange flaring of nervous energy which enabled him to speak again
and again without falling into his usual cough; yet she desired
not to push unnecessarily the contradiction which agitated him.
"Let me, pray, call some one else."
"You let me alone, I say. Look here, missy. Take the money.
You'll never have the chance again. It's pretty nigh two hundred--
there's more in the box, and nobody knows how much there was.
Take it and do as I tell you."
Mary, standing by the fire, saw its red light falling on the old man,
propped up on his pillows and bed-rest, with his bony hand holding
out the key, and the money lying on the quilt before him. She never
forgot that vision of a man wanting to do as he liked at the last.
But the way in which he had put the offer of the money urged her to
speak with harder resolution than ever.
"It is of no use, sir. I will not do it. Put up your money.
I will not touch your money. I will do anything else I can to
comfort you; but I will not touch your keys or your money."
"Anything else anything else!" said old Featherstone, with hoarse
rage, which, as if in a nightmare, tried to be loud, and yet was
only just audible. "I want nothing else. You come here--you come here."
Mary approached him cautiously, knowing him too well. She saw him
dropping his keys and trying to grasp his stick, while he looked
at her like an aged hyena, the muscles of his face getting distorted
with the effort of his hand. She paused at a safe distance.
"Let me give you some cordial," she said, quietly, "and try to
compose yourself. You will perhaps go to sleep. And to-morrow
by daylight you can do as you like."
He lifted the stick, in spite of her being beyond his reach,
and threw it with a hard effort which was but impotence.
It fell, slipping over the foot of the bed. Mary let it lie,
and retreated to her chair by the fire. By-and-by she would
go to him with the cordial. Fatigue would make him passive.
It was getting towards the chillest moment of the morning,
the fire had got low, and she could see through the chink between
the moreen window-curtains the light whitened by the blind.
Having put some wood on the fire and thrown a shawl over her,
she sat down, hoping that Mr. Featherstone might now fall asleep.
If she went near him the irritation might be kept up. He had said
nothing after throwing the stick, but she had seen him taking
his keys again and laying his right hand on the money. He did
not put it up, however, and she thought that he was dropping off
But Mary herself began to be more agitated by the remembrance
of what she had gone through, than she had been by the reality--
questioning those acts of hers which had come imperatively and
excluded all question in the critical moment.
Presently the dry wood sent out a flame which illuminated every crevice,
and Mary saw that the old man was lying quietly with his head turned
a little on one side. She went towards him with inaudible steps,
and thought that his face looked strangely motionless; but the next
moment the movement of the flame communicating itself to all objects
made her uncertain. The violent beating of her heart rendered
her perceptions so doubtful that even when she touched him and
listened for his breathing, she could not trust her conclusions.
She went to the window and gently propped aside the curtain and blind,
so that the still light of the sky fell on the bed.
The next moment she ran to the bell and rang it energetically.
In a very little while there was no longer any doubt that Peter
Featherstone was dead, with his right hand clasping the keys,
and his left hand lying on the heap of notes and gold.
THREE LOVE PROBLEMS.
1st Gent. Such men as this are feathers, chips, and straws.
Carry no weight, no force.
2d Gent. But levity
Is causal too, and makes the sum of weight.
For power finds its place in lack of power;
Advance is cession, and the driven ship
May run aground because the helmsman's thought
Lacked force to balance opposites."
It was on a morning of May that Peter Featherstone was buried.
In the prosaic neighborhood of Middlemarch, May was not always warm
and sunny, and on this particular morning a chill wind was blowing
the blossoms from the surrounding gardens on to the green mounds
of Lowick churchyard. Swiftly moving clouds only now and then
allowed a gleam to light up any object, whether ugly or beautiful,
that happened to stand within its golden shower. In the churchyard
the objects were remarkably various, for there was a little country
crowd waiting to see the funeral. The news had spread that it
was to be a "big burying;" the old gentleman had left written
directions about everything and meant to have a funeral "beyond
his betters." This was true; for old Featherstone had not been
a Harpagon whose passions had all been devoured by the ever-lean
and ever-hungry passion of saving, and who would drive a bargain
with his undertaker beforehand. He loved money, but he also
loved to spend it in gratifying his peculiar tastes, and perhaps
he loved it best of all as a means of making others feel his
power more or less uncomfortably. If any one will here contend
that there must have been traits of goodness in old Featherstone,
I will not presume to deny this; but I must observe that goodness
is of a modest nature, easily discouraged, and when much privacy,
elbowed in early life by unabashed vices, is apt to retire into
extreme privacy, so that it is more easily believed in by those who
construct a selfish old gentleman theoretically, than by those who
form the narrower judgments based on his personal acquaintance.
In any case, he had been bent on having a handsome funeral, and on
having persons "bid" to it who would rather have stayed at home.
He had even desired that female relatives should follow him to
the grave, and poor sister Martha had taken a difficult journey
for this purpose from the Chalky Flats. She and Jane would have
been altogether cheered (in a tearful manner) by this sign that
a brother who disliked seeing them while he was living had been
prospectively fond of their presence when he should have become
a testator, if the sign had not been made equivocal by being extended
to Mrs. Vincy, whose expense in handsome crape seemed to imply
the most presumptuous hopes, aggravated by a bloom of complexion
which told pretty plainly that she was not a blood-relation,
but of that generally objectionable class called wife's kin.
We are all of us imaginative in some form or other, for images
are the brood of desire; and poor old Featherstone, who laughed
much at the way in which others cajoled themselves, did not escape
the fellowship of illusion. In writing the programme for his burial
he certainly did not make clear to himself that his pleasure in the
little drama of which it formed a part was confined to anticipation.
In chuckling over the vexations he could inflict by the rigid clutch
of his dead hand, he inevitably mingled his consciousness with that
livid stagnant presence, and so far as he was preoccupied with a
future life, it was with one of gratification inside his coffin.
Thus old Featherstone was imaginative, after his fashion.
However, the three mourning-coaches were filled according to the
written orders of the deceased. There were pall-bearers on horseback,
with the richest scarfs and hatbands, and even the under-bearers
had trappings of woe which were of a good well-priced quality.
The black procession, when dismounted, looked the larger for
the smallness of the churchyard; the heavy human faces and the
black draperies shivering in the wind seemed to tell of a world
strangely incongruous with the lightly dropping blossoms and
the gleams of sunshine on the daisies. The clergyman who met
the procession was Mr. Cadwallader--also according to the request
of Peter Featherstone, prompted as usual by peculiar reasons.
Having a contempt for curates, whom he always called understrappers,
he was resolved to be buried by a beneficed clergyman. Mr. Casaubon
was out of the question, not merely because he declined duty
of this sort, but because Featherstone had an especial dislike
to him as the rector of his own parish, who had a lien on the land
in the shape of tithe, also as the deliverer of morning sermons,
which the old man, being in his pew and not at all sleepy,
had been obliged to sit through with an inward snarl. He had an
objection to a parson stuck up above his head preaching to him.
But his relations with Mr. Cadwallader had been of a different kind:
the trout-stream which ran through Mr. Casaubon's land took its course
through Featherstone's also, so that Mr. Cadwallader was a parson
who had had to ask a favor instead of preaching. Moreover, he was
one of the high gentry living four miles away from Lowick, and was
thus exalted to an equal sky with the sheriff of the county and other
dignities vaguely regarded as necessary to the system of things.
There would be a satisfaction in being buried by Mr. Cadwallader,
whose very name offered a fine opportunity for pronouncing wrongly
if you liked.
This distinction conferred on the Rector of Tipton and Freshitt was
the reason why Mrs. Cadwallader made one of the group that watched
old Featherstone's funeral from an upper window of the manor.
She was not fond of visiting that house, but she liked, as she said,
to see collections of strange animals such as there would be at
this funeral; and she had persuaded Sir James and the young Lady
Chettam to drive the Rector and herself to Lowick in order that the
visit might be altogether pleasant.
"I will go anywhere with you, Mrs. Cadwallader," Celia had said;
"but I don't like funerals."
"Oh, my dear, when you have a clergyman in your family you must
accommodate your tastes: I did that very early. When I married
Humphrey I made up my mind to like sermons, and I set out by liking
the end very much. That soon spread to the middle and the beginning,
because I couldn't have the end without them."
"No, to be sure not," said the Dowager Lady Chettam,
with stately emphasis.
The upper window from which the funeral could be well seen was in the
room occupied by Mr. Casaubon when he had been forbidden to work;
but he had resumed nearly his habitual style of life now in spite
of warnings and prescriptions, and after politely welcoming
Mrs. Cadwallader had slipped again into the library to chew a cud
of erudite mistake about Cush and Mizraim.
But for her visitors Dorothea too might have been shut up in the library,
and would not have witnessed this scene of old Featherstone's
funeral, which, aloof as it seemed to be from the tenor of her life,
always afterwards came back to her at the touch of certain sensitive
points in memory, just as the vision of St. Peter's at Rome
was inwoven with moods of despondency. Scenes which make vital
changes in our neighbors' lot are but the background of our own,
yet, like a particular aspect of the fields and trees, they become
associated for us with the epochs of our own history, and make a part
of that unity which lies in the selection of our keenest consciousness.
The dream-like association of something alien and ill-understood
with the deepest secrets of her experience seemed to mirror that sense
of loneliness which was due to the very ardor of Dorothea's nature.
The country gentry of old time lived in a rarefied social air:
dotted apart on their stations up the mountain they looked down
with imperfect discrimination on the belts of thicker life below.
And Dorothea was not at ease in the perspective and chilliness of
"I shall not look any more," said Celia, after the train had entered
the church, placing herself a little behind her husband's elbow
so that she could slyly touch his coat with her cheek. "I dare say
Dodo likes it: she is fond of melancholy things and ugly people."
"I am fond of knowing something about the people I live among,"
said Dorothea, who had been watching everything with the
interest of a monk on his holiday tour. "It seems to me
we know nothing of our neighbors, unless they are cottagers.
One is constantly wondering what sort of lives other people lead,
and how they take things. I am quite obliged to Mrs. Cadwallader
for coming and calling me out of the library."
"Quite right to feel obliged to me," said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"Your rich Lowick farmers are as curious as any buffaloes or bisons,
and I dare say you don't half see them at church. They are quite
different from your uncle's tenants or Sir James's--monsters--
farmers without landlords--one can't tell how to class them."
"Most of these followers are not Lowick people," said Sir James;
"I suppose they are legatees from a distance, or from Middlemarch.
Lovegood tells me the old fellow has left a good deal of money as well
"Think of that now! when so many younger sons can't dine at
their own expense," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "Ah," turning round
at the sound of the opening door, "here is Mr. Brooke. I felt
that we were incomplete before, and here is the explanation.
You are come to see this odd funeral, of course?"
"No, I came to look after Casaubon--to see how he goes on,
you know. And to bring a little news--a little news, my dear,"
said Mr. Brooke, nodding at Dorothea as she came towards him.
"I looked into the library, and I saw Casaubon over his books.
I told him it wouldn't do: I said, `This will never do, you know:
think of your wife, Casaubon.' And he promised me to come up. I didn't
tell him my news: I said, he must come up."
"Ah, now they are coming out of church," Mrs. Cadwallader exclaimed.
"Dear me, what a wonderfully mixed set! Mr. Lydgate as doctor,
I suppose. But that is really a good looking woman, and the fair
young man must be her son. Who are they, Sir James, do you know?"
"I see Vincy, the Mayor of Middlemarch; they are probably his wife
and son," said Sir James, looking interrogatively at Mr. Brooke,
who nodded and said--
"Yes, a very decent family--a very good fellow is Vincy; a credit
to the manufacturing interest. You have seen him at my house,
"Ah, yes: one of your secret committee," said Mrs. Cadwallader,
"A coursing fellow, though," said Sir James, with a fox-hunter's disgust.
"And one of those who suck the life out of the wretched handloom
weavers in Tipton and Freshitt. That is how his family look so fair
and sleek," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "Those dark, purple-faced people
are an excellent foil. Dear me, they are like a set of jugs!
Do look at Humphrey: one might fancy him an ugly archangel towering
above them in his white surplice."
"It's a solemn thing, though, a funeral," said Mr. Brooke, "if you
take it in that light, you know."
"But I am not taking it in that light. I can't wear my solemnity
too often, else it will go to rags. It was time the old man died,
and none of these people are sorry."
"How piteous!" said Dorothea. "This funeral seems to me the most
dismal thing I ever saw. It is a blot on the morning I cannot
bear to think that any one should die and leave no love behind."
She was going to say more, but she saw her husband enter and seat
himself a little in the background. The difference his presence
made to her was not always a happy one: she felt that he often
inwardly objected to her speech.
"Positively," exclaimed Mrs. Cadwallader, "there is a new face
come out from behind that broad man queerer than any of them:
a little round head with bulging eyes--a sort of frog-face--do look.
He must be of another blood, I think."
"Let me see!" said Celia, with awakened curiosity, standing behind Mrs.
Cadwallader and leaning forward over her head. "Oh, what an odd face!"
Then with a quick change to another sort of surprised expression, she
added, "Why, Dodo, you never told me that Mr. Ladislaw was come again!"
Dorothea felt a shock of alarm: every one noticed her sudden paleness
as she looked up immediately at her uncle, while Mr. Casaubon
looked at her.
"He came with me, you know; he is my guest--puts up with me at
the Grange," said Mr. Brooke, in his easiest tone, nodding at Dorothea,
as if the announcement were just what she might have expected.
"And we have brought the picture at the top of the carriage.
I knew you would be pleased with the surprise, Casaubon. There you
are to the very life--as Aquinas, you know. Quite the right sort
of thing. And you will hear young Ladislaw talk about it.
He talks uncommonly well--points out this, that, and the other--
knows art and everything of that kind--companionable, you know--is up
with you in any track--what I've been wanting a long while."
Mr. Casaubon bowed with cold politeness, mastering his irritation,
but only so far as to be silent. He remembered Will's letter
quite as well as Dorothea did; he had noticed that it was not
among the letters which had been reserved for him on his recovery,
and secretly concluding that Dorothea had sent word to Will not
to come to Lowick, he had shrunk with proud sensitiveness from ever
recurring to the subject. He now inferred that she had asked
her uncle to invite Will to the Grange; and she felt it impossible
at that moment to enter into any explanation.
Mrs. Cadwallader's eyes, diverted from the churchyard, saw a good
deal of dumb show which was not so intelligible to her as she could
have desired, and could not repress the question, "Who is Mr. Ladislaw?"
"A young relative of Mr. Casaubon's," said Sir James, promptly.
His good-nature often made him quick and clear-seeing
in personal matters, and he had divined from Dorothea's
glance at her husband that there was some alarm in her mind.
"A very nice young fellow--Casaubon has done everything for him,"
explained Mr. Brooke. "He repays your expense in him, Casaubon,"
he went on, nodding encouragingly. "I hope he will stay with me
a long while and we shall make something of my documents. I have
plenty of ideas and facts, you know, and I can see he is just the man
to put them into shape--remembers what the right quotations are,
omne tulit punctum, and that sort of thing--gives subjects a kind
of turn. I invited him some time ago when you were ill, Casaubon;
Dorothea said you couldn't have anybody in the house, you know,
and she asked me to write."
Poor Dorothea felt that every word of her uncle's was about as
pleasant as a grain of sand in the eye to Mr. Casaubon. It would
be altogether unfitting now to explain that she had not wished her
uncle to invite Will Ladislaw. She could not in the least make clear
to herself the reasons for her husband's dislike to his presence--
a dislike painfully impressed on her by the scene in the library;
but she felt the unbecomingness of saying anything that might convey
a notion of it to others. Mr. Casaubon, indeed, had not thoroughly
represented those mixed reasons to himself; irritated feeling
with him, as with all of us, seeking rather for justification
than for self-knowledge. But he wished to repress outward signs,
and only Dorothea could discern the changes in her husband's face
before he observed with more of dignified bending and sing-song
"You are exceedingly hospitable, my dear sir; and I owe you
acknowledgments for exercising your hospitality towards a relative
The funeral was ended now, and the churchyard was being cleared.
"Now you can see him, Mrs. Cadwallader," said Celia. "He is just like
a miniature of Mr. Casaubon's aunt that hangs in Dorothea's boudoir--
"A very pretty sprig," said Mrs. Cadwallader, dryly. "What
is your nephew to be, Mr. Casaubon?"
"Pardon me, he is not my nephew. He is my cousin."
"Well, you know," interposed Mr. Brooke, "he is trying his wings.
He is just the sort of young fellow to rise. I should be glad
to give him an opportunity. He would make a good secretary, now,
like Hobbes, Milton, Swift--that sort of man."
"I understand," said Mrs. Cadwallader. "One who can write speeches."
"I'll fetch him in now, eh, Casaubon?" said Mr. Brooke.
"He wouldn't come in till I had announced him, you know. And we'll
go down and look at the picture. There you are to the life:
a deep subtle sort of thinker with his fore-finger on the page,
while Saint Bonaventure or somebody else, rather fat and florid,
is looking up at the Trinity. Everything is symbolical, you know--
the higher style of art: I like that up to a certain point,
but not too far--it's rather straining to keep up with, you know.
But you are at home in that, Casaubon. And your painter's flesh
is good--solidity, transparency, everything of that sort.
I went into that a great deal at one time. However, I'll go and
"Non, je ne comprends pas de plus charmant plaisir
Que de voir d'heritiers une troupe affligee
Le maintien interdit, et la mine allongee,
Lire un long testament ou pales, etonnes
On leur laisse un bonsoir avec un pied de nez.
Pour voir au naturel leur tristesse profonde
Je reviendrais, je crois, expres de l'autre monde."
--REGNARD: Le Legataire Universel.
When the animals entered the Ark in pairs, one may imagine that allied
species made much private remark on each other, and were tempted
to think that so many forms feeding on the same store of fodder
were eminently superfluous, as tending to diminish the rations.
(I fear the part played by the vultures on that occasion would be too
painful for art to represent, those birds being disadvantageously
naked about the gullet, and apparently without rites and ceremonies.)
The same sort of temptation befell the Christian Carnivora who formed
Peter Featherstone's funeral procession; most of them having their minds
bent on a limited store which each would have liked to get the most of.
The long-recognized blood-relations and connections by marriage
made already a goodly number, which, multiplied by possibilities,
presented a fine range for jealous conjecture and pathetic hopefulness.
Jealousy of the Vincys had created a fellowship in hostility among
all persons of the Featherstone blood, so that in the absence of any
decided indication that one of themselves was to have more than
the rest, the dread lest that long-legged Fred Vincy should have
the land was necessarily dominant, though it left abundant feeling
and leisure for vaguer jealousies, such as were entertained towards
Mary Garth. Solomon found time to reflect that Jonah was undeserving,
and Jonah to abuse Solomon as greedy; Jane, the elder sister,
held that Martha's children ought not to expect so much as the
young Waules; and Martha, more lax on the subject of primogeniture,
was sorry to think that Jane was so "having." These nearest of kin
were naturally impressed with the unreasonableness of expectations
in cousins and second cousins, and used their arithmetic in reckoning
the large sums that small legacies might mount to, if there were
too many of them. Two cousins were present to hear the will,
and a second cousin besides Mr. Trumbull. This second cousin was
a Middlemarch mercer of polite manners and superfluous aspirates.
The two cousins were elderly men from Brassing, one of them
conscious of claims on the score of inconvenient expense sustained
by him in presents of oysters and other eatables to his rich
cousin Peter; the other entirely saturnine, leaning his hands
and chin on a stick, and conscious of claims based on no narrow
performance but on merit generally: both blameless citizens
of Brassing, who wished that Jonah Featherstone did not live there.
The wit of a family is usually best received among strangers.
"Why, Trumbull himself is pretty sure of five hundred--_that_
you may depend,--I shouldn't wonder if my brother promised him,"
said Solomon, musing aloud with his sisters, the evening before
"Dear, dear!" said poor sister Martha, whose imagination of hundreds
had been habitually narrowed to the amount of her unpaid rent.
But in the morning all the ordinary currents of conjecture were
disturbed by the presence of a strange mourner who had plashed
among them as if from the moon. This was the stranger described
by Mrs. Cadwallader as frog-faced: a man perhaps about two or three
and thirty, whose prominent eyes, thin-lipped, downward-curved mouth,
and hair sleekly brushed away from a forehead that sank suddenly
above the ridge of the eyebrows, certainly gave his face a batrachian
unchangeableness of expression. Here, clearly, was a new legatee;
else why was he bidden as a mourner? Here were new possibilities,
raising a new uncertainty, which almost checked remark in the
mourning-coaches. We are all humiliated by the sudden discovery
of a fact which has existed very comfortably and perhaps been staring
at us in private while we have been making up our world entirely
without it. No one had seen this questionable stranger before
except Mary Garth, and she knew nothing more of him than that he
had twice been to Stone Court when Mr. Featherstone was down-stairs,
and had sat alone with him for several hours. She had found an
opportunity of mentioning this to her father, and perhaps Caleb's
were the only eyes, except the lawyer's, which examined the stranger
with more of inquiry than of disgust or suspicion. Caleb Garth,
having little expectation and less cupidity, was interested in the
verification of his own guesses, and the calmness with which he
half smilingly rubbed his chin and shot intelligent glances much
as if he were valuing a tree, made a fine contrast with the alarm
or scorn visible in other faces when the unknown mourner, whose name
was understood to be Rigg, entered the wainscoted parlor and took
his seat near the door to make part of the audience when the will
should be read. Just then Mr. Solomon and Mr. Jonah were gone
up-stairs with the lawyer to search for the will; and Mrs. Waule,
seeing two vacant seats between herself and Mr. Borthrop Trumbull,
had the spirit to move next to that great authority, who was handling
his watch-seals and trimming his outlines with a determination not to
show anything so compromising to a man of ability as wonder or surprise.
"I suppose you know everything about what my poor brother's done,
Mr. Trumbull," said Mrs. Waule, in the lowest of her woolly tones,
while she turned her crape-shadowed bonnet towards Mr. Trumbull's ear.
"My good lady, whatever was told me was told in confidence,"
said the auctioneer, putting his hand up to screen that secret.
"Them who've made sure of their good-luck may be disappointed yet,"
Mrs. Waule continued, finding some relief in this communication.
"Hopes are often delusive," said Mr. Trumbull, still in confidence.
"Ah!" said Mrs. Waule, looking across at the Vincys, and then
moving back to the side of her sister Martha.
"It's wonderful how close poor Peter was," she said, in the same
undertones. "We none of us know what he might have had on his mind.
I only hope and trust he wasn't a worse liver than we think of, Martha."
Poor Mrs. Cranch was bulky, and, breathing asthmatically,
had the additional motive for making her remarks unexceptionable
and giving them a general bearing, that even her whispers were loud
and liable to sudden bursts like those of a deranged barrel-organ.
"I never _was_ covetous, Jane," she replied; "but I have six
children and have buried three, and I didn't marry into money.
The eldest, that sits there, is but nineteen--so I leave you to guess.
And stock always short, and land most awkward. But if ever I've
begged and prayed; it's been to God above; though where there's
one brother a bachelor and the other childless after twice marrying--
anybody might think!"
Meanwhile, Mr. Vincy had glanced at the passive face of Mr. Rigg,
and had taken out his snuff-box and tapped it, but had put it again
unopened as an indulgence which, however clarifying to the judgment,
was unsuited to the occasion. "I shouldn't wonder if Featherstone
had better feelings than any of us gave him credit for," he observed,
in the ear of his wife. "This funeral shows a thought about everybody:
it looks well when a man wants to be followed by his friends,
and if they are humble, not to be ashamed of them. I should be
all the better pleased if he'd left lots of small legacies.
They may be uncommonly useful to fellows in a small way."
"Everything is as handsome as could be, crape and silk and everything,"
said Mrs. Vincy, contentedly.
But I am sorry to say that Fred was under some difficulty in repressing
a laugh, which would have been more unsuitable than his father's
snuff-box. Fred had overheard Mr. Jonah suggesting something about a
"love-child," and with this thought in his mind, the stranger's face,
which happened to be opposite him, affected him too ludicrously.
Mary Garth, discerning his distress in the twitchings of his mouth,
and his recourse to a cough, came cleverly to his rescue by asking
him to change seats with her, so that he got into a shadowy corner.
Fred was feeling as good-naturedly as possible towards everybody,
including Rigg; and having some relenting towards all these people
who were less lucky than he was aware of being himself, he would
not for the world have behaved amiss; still, it was particularly easy
But the entrance of the lawyer and the two brothers drew every
one's attention. The lawyer was Mr. Standish, and he had come
to Stone Court this morning believing that he knew thoroughly well
who would be pleased and who disappointed before the day was over.
The will he expected to read was the last of three which he
had drawn up for Mr. Featherstone. Mr. Standish was not a man
who varied his manners: he behaved with the same deep-voiced,
off-hand civility to everybody, as if he saw no difference in them,
and talked chiefly of the hay-crop, which would be "very fine,
by God!" of the last bulletins concerning the King, and of the Duke
of Clarence, who was a sailor every inch of him, and just the man
to rule over an island like Britain.
Old Featherstone had often reflected as he sat looking at the fire
that Standish would be surprised some day: it is true that if he
had done as he liked at the last, and burnt the will drawn up
by another lawyer, he would not have secured that minor end;
still he had had his pleasure in ruminating on it. And certainly
Mr. Standish was surprised, but not at all sorry; on the contrary,
he rather enjoyed the zest of a little curiosity in his own mind,
which the discovery of a second will added to the prospective amazement
on the part of the Featherstone family.
As to the sentiments of Solomon and Jonah, they were held in
utter suspense: it seemed to them that the old will would have
a certain validity, and that there might be such an interlacement
of poor Peter's former and latter intentions as to create endless
"lawing" before anybody came by their own--an inconvenience which
would have at least the advantage of going all round. Hence the
brothers showed a thoroughly neutral gravity as they re-entered
with Mr. Standish; but Solomon took out his white handkerchief again
with a sense that in any case there would be affecting passages,
and crying at funerals, however dry, was customarily served up in lawn.
Perhaps the person who felt the most throbbing excitement at this
moment was Mary Garth, in the consciousness that it was she
who had virtually determined the production of this second will,
which might have momentous effects on the lot of some persons present.
No soul except herself knew what had passed on that final night.
"The will I hold in my hand," said Mr. Standish, who, seated at
the table in the middle of the room, took his time about everything,
including the coughs with which he showed a disposition to clear
his voice, "was drawn up by myself and executed by our deceased
friend on the 9th of August, 1825. But I find that there is
a subsequent instrument hitherto unknown to me, bearing date the
20th of July, 1826, hardly a year later than the previous one.
And there is farther, I see"--Mr. Standish was cautiously travelling
over the document with his spectacles--"a codicil to this latter will,
bearing date March 1, 1828."
"Dear, dear!" said sister Martha, not meaning to be audible,
but driven to some articulation under this pressure of dates.
"I shall begin by reading the earlier will," continued Mr. Standish,
"since such, as appears by his not having destroyed the document,
was the intention of deceased."
The preamble was felt to be rather long, and several besides
Solomon shook their heads pathetically, looking on the ground:
all eyes avoided meeting other eyes, and were chiefly fixed either
on the spots in the table-cloth or on Mr. Standish's bald head;
excepting Mary Garth's. When all the rest were trying to look
nowhere in particular, it was safe for her to look at them.
And at the sound of the first "give and bequeath" she could see all
complexions changing subtly, as if some faint vibration were passing
through them, save that of Mr. Rigg. He sat in unaltered calm, and,
in fact, the company, preoccupied with more important problems,
and with the complication of listening to bequests which might or
might not be revoked, had ceased to think of him. Fred blushed,
and Mr. Vincy found it impossible to do without his snuff-box in
his hand, though he kept it closed.
The small bequests came first, and even the recollection that there
was another will and that poor Peter might have thought better of it,
could not quell the rising disgust and indignation. One likes
to be done well by in every tense, past, present, and future.
And here was Peter capable five years ago of leaving only two hundred
apiece to his own brothers and sisters, and only a hundred apiece
to his own nephews and nieces: the Garths were not mentioned,
but Mrs. Vincy and Rosamond were each to have a hundred.
Mr. Trumbull was to have the gold-headed cane and fifty pounds;
the other second cousins and the cousins present were each to have
the like handsome sum, which, as the saturnine cousin observed,
was a sort of legacy that left a man nowhere; and there was much
more of such offensive dribbling in favor of persons not present--
problematical, and, it was to be feared, low connections.
Altogether, reckoning hastily, here were about three thousand
disposed of. Where then had Peter meant the rest of the money to go--
and where the land? and what was revoked and what not revoked--
and was the revocation for better or for worse? All emotion
must be conditional, and might turn out to be the wrong thing.
The men were strong enough to bear up and keep quiet under this
confused suspense; some letting their lower lip fall, others pursing
it up, according to the habit of their muscles. But Jane and Martha
sank under the rush of questions, and began to cry; poor Mrs. Cranch
being half moved with the consolation of getting any hundreds at all
without working for them, and half aware that her share was scanty;
whereas Mrs. Waule's mind was entirely flooded with the sense
of being an own sister and getting little, while somebody else
was to have much. The general expectation now was that the "much"
would fall to Fred Vincy, but the Vincys themselves were surprised
when ten thousand pounds in specified investments were declared to be
bequeathed to him:--was the land coming too? Fred bit his lips:
it was difficult to help smiling, and Mrs. Vincy felt herself
the happiest of women--possible revocation shrinking out of sight
in this dazzling vision.
There was still a residue of personal property as well as the land,
but the whole was left to one person, and that person was--
O possibilities! O expectations founded on the favor of "close"
old gentlemen! O endless vocatives that would still leave
expression slipping helpless from the measurement of mortal folly!--
that residuary legatee was Joshua Rigg, who was also sole executor,
and who was to take thenceforth the name of Featherstone.
There was a rustling which seemed like a shudder running round
the room. Every one stared afresh at Mr. Rigg, who apparently
experienced no surprise.
"A most singular testamentary disposition!" exclaimed Mr. Trumbull,
preferring for once that he should be considered ignorant in the past.
"But there is a second will--there is a further document. We have
not yet heard the final wishes of the deceased."
Mary Garth was feeling that what they had yet to hear were not the
final wishes. The second will revoked everything except the legacies
to the low persons before mentioned (some alterations in these being
the occasion of the codicil), and the bequest of all the land
lying in Lowick parish with all the stock and household furniture,
to Joshua Rigg. The residue of the property was to be devoted to
the erection and endowment of almshouses for old men, to be called
Featherstone's Alms-Houses, and to be built on a piece of land
near Middlemarch already bought for the purpose by the testator,
he wishing--so the document declared--to please God Almighty.
Nobody present had a farthing; but Mr. Trumbull had the gold-headed cane.
It took some time for the company to recover the power of expression.
Mary dared not look at Fred.
Mr. Vincy was the first to speak--after using his snuff-
box energetically--and he spoke with loud indignation.
"The most unaccountable will I ever heard! I should say
he was not in his right mind when he made it. I should
say this last will was void," added Mr. Vincy, feeling
that this expression put the thing in the true light. "Eh Standish?"
"Our deceased friend always knew what he was about, I think,"
said Mr. Standish. "Everything is quite regular. Here is a letter
from Clemmens of Brassing tied with the will. He drew it up.
A very respectable solicitor."
"I never noticed any alienation of mind--any aberration of intellect
in the late Mr. Featherstone," said Borthrop Trumbull, "but I call this
will eccentric. I was always willingly of service to the old soul;
and he intimated pretty plainly a sense of obligation which would show
itself in his will. The gold-headed cane is farcical considered as
an acknowledgment to me; but happily I am above mercenary considerations."
"There's nothing very surprising in the matter that I can see,"
said Caleb Garth. "Anybody might have had more reason for wondering
if the will had been what you might expect from an open-minded
straightforward man. For my part, I wish there was no such thing
as a will."
"That's a strange sentiment to come from a Christian man, by God!"
said the lawyer. "I should like to know how you will back
that up, Garth!"
"Oh," said Caleb, leaning forward, adjusting his finger-tips
with nicety and looking meditatively on the ground. It always
seemed to him that words were the hardest part of "business."
But here Mr. Jonah Featherstone made himself heard. "Well,
he always was a fine hypocrite, was my brother Peter. But this
will cuts out everything. If I'd known, a wagon and six horses
shouldn't have drawn me from Brassing. I'll put a white hat
and drab coat on to-morrow."
"Dear, dear," wept Mrs. Cranch, "and we've been at the expense
of travelling, and that poor lad sitting idle here so long!
It's the first time I ever heard my brother Peter was so wishful
to please God Almighty; but if I was to be struck helpless I must
say it's hard--I can think no other."
"It'll do him no good where he's gone, that's my belief,"
said Solomon, with a bitterness which was remarkably genuine,
though his tone could not help being sly. "Peter was a bad liver,
and almshouses won't cover it, when he's had the impudence to show
it at the last."
"And all the while had got his own lawful family--brothers and sisters
and nephews and nieces--and has sat in church with 'em whenever
he thought well to come," said Mrs. Waule. "And might have left
his property so respectable, to them that's never been used to
extravagance or unsteadiness in no manner of way--and not so poor
but what they could have saved every penny and made more of it.
And me--the trouble I've been at, times and times, to come here
and be sisterly--and him with things on his mind all the while that
might make anybody's flesh creep. But if the Almighty's allowed it,
he means to punish him for it. Brother Solomon, I shall be going,
if you'll drive me."
"I've no desire to put my foot on the premises again," said Solomon.
"I've got land of my own and property of my own to will away."
"It's a poor tale how luck goes in the world," said Jonah.
"It never answers to have a bit of spirit in you. You'd better be
a dog in the manger. But those above ground might learn a lesson.
One fool's will is enough in a family."
"There's more ways than one of being a fool," said Solomon.
"I shan't leave my money to be poured down the sink, and I shan't
leave it to foundlings from Africay. I like Feather, stones that
were brewed such, and not turned Featherstones with sticking
the name on 'em."
Solomon addressed these remarks in a loud aside to Mrs. Waule
as he rose to accompany her. Brother Jonah felt himself capable
of much more stinging wit than this, but he reflected that there
was no use in offending the new proprietor of Stone Court, until you
were certain that he was quite without intentions of hospitality
towards witty men whose name he was about to bear.
Mr. Joshua Rigg, in fact, appeared to trouble himself little
about any innuendoes, but showed a notable change of manner,
walking coolly up to Mr. Standish and putting business questions
with much coolness. He had a high chirping voice and a vile accent.
Fred, whom he no longer moved to laughter, thought him the lowest
monster he had ever seen. But Fred was feeling rather sick.
The Middlemarch mercer waited for an opportunity of engaging
Mr. Rigg in conversation: there was no knowing how many pairs
of legs the new proprietor might require hose for, and profits
were more to be relied on than legacies. Also, the mercer,
as a second cousin, was dispassionate enough to feel curiosity.
Mr. Vincy, after his one outburst, had remained proudly silent,
though too much preoccupied with unpleasant feelings to think
of moving, till he observed that his wife had gone to Fred's
side and was crying silently while she held her darling's hand.
He rose immediately, and turning his back on the company while he
said to her in an undertone,--"Don't give way, Lucy; don't make
a fool of yourself, my dear, before these people," he added in his
usual loud voice--"Go and order the phaeton, Fred; I have no time
Mary Garth had before this been getting ready to go home with her father.
She met Fred in the hall, and now for the first time had the courage
to look at him. He had that withered sort of paleness which will
sometimes come on young faces, and his hand was very cold when she
shook it. Mary too was agitated; she was conscious that fatally,
without will of her own, she had perhaps made a great difference
to Fred's lot.
"Good-by," she said, with affectionate sadness. "Be brave, Fred.
I do believe you are better without the money. What was the good
of it to Mr. Featherstone?"
"That's all very fine," said Fred, pettishly. "What is a fellow
to do? I must go into the Church now." (He knew that this would
vex Mary: very well; then she must tell him what else he could do.)
"And I thought I should be able to pay your father at once and make
everything right. And you have not even a hundred pounds left you.
What shall you do now, Mary?"
"Take another situation, of course, as soon as I can get one.
My father has enough to do to keep the rest, without me. Good-by."
In a very short time Stone Court was cleared of well-brewed Featherstones
and other long-accustomed visitors. Another stranger had been
brought to settle in the neighborhood of Middlemarch, but in the case
of Mr. Rigg Featherstone there was more discontent with immediate
visible consequences than speculation as to the effect which his
presence might have in the future. No soul was prophetic enough to
have any foreboding as to what might appear on the trial of Joshua Rigg.
And here I am naturally led to reflect on the means of elevating
a low subject. Historical parallels are remarkably efficient in
this way. The chief objection to them is, that the diligent narrator
may lack space, or (what is often the same thing) may not be able
to think of them with any degree of particularity, though he may have
a philosophical confidence that if known they would be illustrative.
It seems an easier and shorter way to dignity, to observe that--
since there never was a true story which could not be told in parables,
where you might put a monkey for a margrave, and vice versa--
whatever has been or is to be narrated by me about low people,
may be ennobled by being considered a parable; so that if any bad
habits and ugly consequences are brought into view, the reader may have
the relief of regarding them as not more than figuratively ungenteel,
and may feel himself virtually in company with persons of some style.
Thus while I tell the truth about loobies, my reader's imagination
need not be entirely excluded from an occupation with lords;
and the petty sums which any bankrupt of high standing would be
sorry to retire upon, may be lifted to the level of high commercial
transactions by the inexpensive addition of proportional ciphers.
As to any provincial history in which the agents are all of high
moral rank, that must be of a date long posterior to the first
Reform Bill, and Peter Featherstone, you perceive, was dead
and buried some months before Lord Grey came into office.
"'Tis strange to see the humors of these men,
These great aspiring spirits, that should be wise:
. . . . . . . .
For being the nature of great spirits to love
To be where they may be most eminent;
They, rating of themselves so farre above
Us in conceit, with whom they do frequent,
Imagine how we wonder and esteeme
All that they do or say; which makes them strive
To make our admiration more extreme,
Which they suppose they cannot, 'less they give
Notice of their extreme and highest thoughts.
--DANIEL: Tragedy of Philotas.
Mr. Vincy went home from the reading of the will with his point
of view considerably changed in relation to many subjects. He was an
open-minded man, but given to indirect modes of expressing himself:
when he was disappointed in a market for his silk braids, he swore
at the groom; when his brother-in-law Bulstrode had vexed him,
he made cutting remarks on Methodism; and it was now apparent that
he regarded Fred's idleness with a sudden increase of severity,
by his throwing an embroidered cap out of the smoking-room on to
"Well, sir," he observed, when that young gentleman was moving off
to bed, "I hope you've made up your mind now to go up next term
and pass your examination. I've taken my resolution, so I advise
you to lose no time in taking yours."
Fred made no answer: he was too utterly depressed. Twenty-four hours
ago he had thought that instead of needing to know what he should do,
he should by this time know that he needed to do nothing: that he
should hunt in pink, have a first-rate hunter, ride to cover on a
fine hack, and be generally respected for doing so; moreover, that he
should be able at once to pay Mr. Garth, and that Mary could no longer
have any reason for not marrying him. And all this was to have come
without study or other inconvenience, purely by the favor of providence
in the shape of an old gentleman's caprice. But now, at the end
of the twenty-four hours, all those firm expectations were upset.
It was "rather hard lines" that while he was smarting under this
disappointment he should be treated as if he could have helped it.
But he went away silently and his mother pleaded for him.
"Don't be hard on the poor boy, Vincy. He'll turn out well yet,
though that wicked man has deceived him. I feel as sure as I
sit here, Fred will turn out well--else why was he brought back
from the brink of the grave? And I call it a robbery: it was
like giving him the land, to promise it; and what is promising,
if making everybody believe is not promising? And you see he did
leave him ten thousand pounds, and then took it away again."
"Took it away again!" said Mr. Vincy, pettishly. "I tell you
the lad's an unlucky lad, Lucy. And you've always spoiled him."
"Well, Vincy, he was my first, and you made a fine fuss with him
when he came. You were as proud as proud," said Mrs. Vincy,
easily recovering her cheerful smile.
"Who knows what babies will turn to? I was fool enough, I dare say,"
said the husband--more mildly, however.
"But who has handsomer, better children than ours? Fred is far
beyond other people's sons: you may hear it in his speech, that he
has kept college company. And Rosamond--where is there a girl
like her? She might stand beside any lady in the land, and only
look the better for it. You see--Mr. Lydgate has kept the highest
company and been everywhere, and he fell in love with her at once.
Not but what I could have wished Rosamond had not engaged herself.
She might have met somebody on a visit who would have been a far
better match; I mean at her schoolfellow Miss Willoughby's. There are
relations in that family quite as high as Mr. Lydgate's."
"Damn relations!" said Mr. Vincy; "I've had enough of them.
I don't want a son-in-law who has got nothing but his relations
to recommend him."
"Why, my dear," said Mrs. Vincy, "you seemed as pleased as could
be about it. It's true, I wasn't at home; but Rosamond told me you
hadn't a word to say against the engagement. And she has begun
to buy in the best linen and cambric for her underclothing."
"Not by my will," said Mr. Vincy. "I shall have enough to do this year,
with an idle scamp of a son, without paying for wedding-clothes.
The times are as tight as can be; everybody is being ruined;
and I don't believe Lydgate has got a farthing. I shan't give
my consent to their marrying. Let 'em wait, as their elders
have done before 'em."
"Rosamond will take it hard, Vincy, and you know you never could
bear to cross her."
"Yes, I could. The sooner the engagement's off, the better.
I don't believe he'll ever make an income, the way he goes on.
He makes enemies; that's all I hear of his making."
"But he stands very high with Mr. Bulstrode, my dear. The marriage
would please _him_, I should think."
"Please the deuce!" said Mr. Vincy. "Bulstrode won't pay for
their keep. And if Lydgate thinks I'm going to give money for them
to set up housekeeping, he's mistaken, that's all. I expect I shall
have to put down my horses soon. You'd better tell Rosy what I say."
This was a not infrequent procedure with Mr. Vincy--to be rash
in jovial assent, and on becoming subsequently conscious that he had
been rash, to employ others in making the offensive retractation.
However, Mrs. Vincy, who never willingly opposed her husband,
lost no time the next morning in letting Rosamond know what he
had said. Rosamond, examining some muslin-work, listened in silence,
and at the end gave a certain turn of her graceful neck, of which
only long experience could teach you that it meant perfect obstinacy.
"What do you say, my dear?" said her mother, with affectionate deference.
"Papa does not mean anything of the kind," said Rosamond, quite calmly.
"He has always said that he wished me to marry the man I loved.
And I shall marry Mr. Lydgate. It is seven weeks now since papa gave
his consent. And I hope we shall have Mrs. Bretton's house."
"Well, my dear, I shall leave you to manage your papa. You always
do manage everybody. But if we ever do go and get damask,
Sadler's is the place--far better than Hopkins's. Mrs. Bretton's
is very large, though: I should love you to have such a house;
but it will take a great deal of furniture--carpeting and everything,
besides plate and glass. And you hear, your papa says he will give
no money. Do you think Mr. Lydgate expects it?"
"You cannot imagine that I should ask him, mamma. Of course he
understands his own affairs."
"But he may have been looking for money, my dear, and we all thought
of your having a pretty legacy as well as Fred;--and now everything
is so dreadful--there's no pleasure in thinking of anything,
with that poor boy disappointed as he is."
"That has nothing to do with my marriage, mamma. Fred must leave off
being idle. I am going up-stairs to take this work to Miss Morgan:
she does the open hemming very well. Mary Garth might do some work
for me now, I should think. Her sewing is exquisite; it is the nicest
thing I know about Mary. I should so like to have all my cambric
frilling double-hemmed. And it takes a long time."
Mrs. Vincy's belief that Rosamond could manage her papa was
well founded. Apart from his dinners and his coursing, Mr. Vincy,
blustering as he was, had as little of his own way as if he had
been a prime minister: the force of circumstances was easily
too much for him, as it is for most pleasure-loving florid men;
and the circumstance called Rosamond was particularly forcible
by means of that mild persistence which, as we know, enables a white
soft living substance to make its way in spite of opposing rock.
Papa was not a rock: he had no other fixity than that fixity of
alternating impulses sometimes called habit, and this was altogether
unfavorable to his taking the only decisive line of conduct in relation
to his daughter's engagement--namely, to inquire thoroughly into
Lydgate's circumstances, declare his own inability to furnish money,
and forbid alike either a speedy marriage or an engagement which must
be too lengthy. That seems very simple and easy in the statement;
but a disagreeable resolve formed in the chill hours of the morning
had as many conditions against it as the early frost, and rarely
persisted under the warming influences of the day. The indirect
though emphatic expression of opinion to which Mr. Vincy was prone
suffered much restraint in this case: Lydgate was a proud man
towards whom innuendoes were obviously unsafe, and throwing his hat
on the floor was out of the question. Mr. Vincy was a little in awe
of him, a little vain that he wanted to marry Rosamond, a little
indisposed to raise a question of money in which his own position
was not advantageous, a little afraid of being worsted in dialogue
with a man better educated and more highly bred than himself,
and a little afraid of doing what his daughter would not like.
The part Mr. Vincy preferred playing was that of the generous host
whom nobody criticises. In the earlier half of the day there was
business to hinder any formal communication of an adverse resolve;
in the later there was dinner, wine, whist, and general satisfaction.
And in the mean while the hours were each leaving their little
deposit and gradually forming the final reason for inaction, namely,
that action was too late. The accepted lover spent most of his
evenings in Lowick Gate, and a love-making not at all dependent
on money-advances from fathers-in-law, or prospective income from
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