Part 9 out of 18
what a _hypocrite_ he is.' And upon my word, I thought
Flavell looked very little like `the highest style of man'--
as somebody calls the Christian--Young, the poet Young, I think--
you know Young? Well, now, Flavell in his shabby black gaiters,
pleading that he thought the Lord had sent him and his wife a good dinner,
and he had a right to knock it down, though not a mighty hunter
before the Lord, as Nimrod was--I assure you it was rather comic:
Fielding would have made something of it--or Scott, now--Scott might
have worked it up. But really, when I came to think of it,
I couldn't help liking that the fellow should have a bit of hare
to say grace over. It's all a matter of prejudice--prejudice with
the law on its side, you know--about the stick and the gaiters,
and so on. However, it doesn't do to reason about things; and law
is law. But I got Johnson to be quiet, and I hushed the matter up.
I doubt whether Chettam would not have been more severe, and yet
he comes down on me as if I were the hardest man in the county.
But here we are at Dagley's."
Mr. Brooke got down at a farmyard-gate, and Dorothea drove on.
It is wonderful how much uglier things will look when we only suspect
that we are blamed for them. Even our own persons in the glass
are apt to change their aspect for us after we have heard some frank
remark on their less admirable points; and on the other hand it
is astonishing how pleasantly conscience takes our encroachments
on those who never complain or have nobody to complain for them.
Dagley's homestead never before looked so dismal to Mr. Brooke as it
did today, with his mind thus sore about the fault-finding of the
"Trumpet," echoed by Sir James.
It is true that an observer, under that softening influence of
the fine arts which makes other people's hardships picturesque,
might have been delighted with this homestead called Freeman's End:
the old house had dormer-windows in the dark red roof, two of
the chimneys were choked with ivy, the large porch was blocked
up with bundles of sticks, and half the windows were closed
with gray worm-eaten shutters about which the jasmine-boughs grew
in wild luxuriance; the mouldering garden wall with hollyhocks
peeping over it was a perfect study of highly mingled subdued color,
and there was an aged goat (kept doubtless on interesting
superstitious grounds) lying against the open back-kitchen door.
The mossy thatch of the cow-shed, the broken gray barn-doors,
the pauper laborers in ragged breeches who had nearly finished
unloading a wagon of corn into the barn ready for early thrashing;
the scanty dairy of cows being tethered for milking and leaving
one half of the shed in brown emptiness; the very pigs and white
ducks seeming to wander about the uneven neglected yard as if in
low spirits from feeding on a too meagre quality of rinsings,--
all these objects under the quiet light of a sky marbled with high
clouds would have made a sort of picture which we have all paused
over as a "charming bit," touching other sensibilities than those
which are stirred by the depression of the agricultural interest,
with the sad lack of farming capital, as seen constantly in the
newspapers of that time. But these troublesome associations were
just now strongly present to Mr. Brooke, and spoiled the scene
for him. Mr. Dagley himself made a figure in the landscape,
carrying a pitchfork and wearing his milking-hat--a very old beaver
flattened in front. His coat and breeches were the best he had,
and he would not have been wearing them on this weekday occasion
if he had not been to market and returned later than usual,
having given himself the rare treat of dining at the public table
of the Blue Bull. How he came to fall into this extravagance
would perhaps be matter of wonderment to himself on the morrow;
but before dinner something in the state of the country, a slight
pause in the harvest before the Far Dips were cut, the stories about
the new King and the numerous handbills on the walls, had seemed
to warrant a little recklessness. It was a maxim about Middlemarch,
and regarded as self-evident, that good meat should have good drink,
which last Dagley interpreted as plenty of table ale well followed
up by rum-and-water. These liquors have so far truth in them
that they were not false enough to make poor Dagley seem merry:
they only made his discontent less tongue-tied than usual.
He had also taken too much in the shape of muddy political talk,
a stimulant dangerously disturbing to his farming conservatism,
which consisted in holding that whatever is, is bad, and any change
is likely to be worse. He was flushed, and his eyes had a decidedly
quarrelsome stare as he stood still grasping his pitchfork,
while the landlord approached with his easy shuffling walk,
one hand in his trouser-pocket and the other swinging round a thin
"Dagley, my good fellow," began Mr. Brooke, conscious that he
was going to be very friendly about the boy.
"Oh, ay, I'm a good feller, am I? Thank ye, sir, thank ye,"
said Dagley, with a loud snarling irony which made Fag the sheep-dog
stir from his seat and prick his ears; but seeing Monk enter
the yard after some outside loitering, Fag seated himself again
in an attitude of observation. "I'm glad to hear I'm a good feller."
Mr. Brooke reflected that it was market-day, and that his worthy
tenant had probably been dining, but saw no reason why he should
not go on, since he could take the precaution of repeating what he
had to say to Mrs. Dagley.
"Your little lad Jacob has been caught killing a leveret, Dagley:
I have told Johnson to lock him up in the empty stable an hour
or two, just to frighten him, you know. But he will be brought
home by-and-by, before night: and you'll just look after him,
will you, and give him a reprimand, you know?"
"No, I woon't: I'll be dee'd if I'll leather my boy to please
you or anybody else, not if you was twenty landlords istid o'
one, and that a bad un."
Dagley's words were loud enough to summon his wife to the
back-kitchen door--the only entrance ever used, and one always
open except in bad weather--and Mr. Brooke, saying soothingly,
"Well, well, I'll speak to your wife--I didn't mean beating, you know,"
turned to walk to the house. But Dagley, only the more inclined
to "have his say" with a gentleman who walked away from him,
followed at once, with Fag slouching at his heels and sullenly
evading some small and probably charitable advances on the part of Monk.
"How do you do, Mrs. Dagley?" said Mr. Brooke, making some haste.
"I came to tell you about your boy: I don't want you to give
him the stick, you know." He was careful to speak quite plainly
Overworked Mrs. Dagley--a thin, worn woman, from whose life
pleasure had so entirely vanished that she had not even any Sunday
clothes which could give her satisfaction in preparing for church--
had already had a misunderstanding with her husband since he
had come home, and was in low spirits, expecting the worst.
But her husband was beforehand in answering.
"No, nor he woon't hev the stick, whether you want it or no,"
pursued Dagley, throwing out his voice, as if he wanted it to hit hard.
"You've got no call to come an' talk about sticks o' these primises,
as you woon't give a stick tow'rt mending. Go to Middlemarch to ax
for _your_ charrickter."
"You'd far better hold your tongue, Dagley," said the wife,
"and not kick your own trough over. When a man as is father
of a family has been an' spent money at market and made himself
the worse for liquor, he's done enough mischief for one day.
But I should like to know what my boy's done, sir."
"Niver do you mind what he's done," said Dagley, more fiercely,
"it's my business to speak, an' not yourn. An' I wull speak, too.
I'll hev my say--supper or no. An' what I say is, as I've lived upo'
your ground from my father and grandfather afore me, an' hev dropped
our money into't, an' me an' my children might lie an' rot on
the ground for top-dressin' as we can't find the money to buy,
if the King wasn't to put a stop."
"My good fellow, you're drunk, you know," said Mr. Brooke,
confidentially but not judiciously. "Another day, another day,"
he added, turning as if to go.
But Dagley immediately fronted him, and Fag at his heels growled low,
as his master's voice grew louder and more insulting, while Monk
also drew close in silent dignified watch. The laborers on the wagon
were pausing to listen, and it seemed wiser to be quite passive
than to attempt a ridiculous flight pursued by a bawling man.
"I'm no more drunk nor you are, nor so much," said Dagley.
"I can carry my liquor, an' I know what I meean. An' I meean
as the King 'ull put a stop to 't, for them say it as knows it,
as there's to be a Rinform, and them landlords as never done
the right thing by their tenants 'ull be treated i' that way as
they'll hev to scuttle off. An' there's them i' Middlemarch knows
what the Rinform is--an' as knows who'll hev to scuttle. Says they,
`I know who _your_ landlord is.' An' says I, `I hope you're
the better for knowin' him, I arn't.' Says they, `He's a close-fisted un.'
`Ay ay,' says I. `He's a man for the Rinform,' says they.
That's what they says. An' I made out what the Rinform were--
an' it were to send you an' your likes a-scuttlin' an' wi'
pretty strong-smellin' things too. An' you may do as you
like now, for I'm none afeard on you. An' you'd better let
my boy aloan, an' look to yoursen, afore the Rinform has got upo'
your back. That's what I'n got to say," concluded Mr. Dagley,
striking his fork into the ground with a firmness which proved
inconvenient as he tried to draw it up again.
At this last action Monk began to bark loudly, and it was a moment
for Mr. Brooke to escape. He walked out of the yard as quickly
as he could, in some amazement at the novelty of his situation.
He had never been insulted on his own land before, and had been inclined
to regard himself as a general favorite (we are all apt to do so,
when we think of our own amiability more than of what other people
are likely to want of us). When he had quarrelled with Caleb Garth
twelve years before he had thought that the tenants would be pleased
at the landlord's taking everything into his own hands.
Some who follow the narrative of his experience may wonder at the
midnight darkness of Mr. Dagley; but nothing was easier in those
times than for an hereditary farmer of his grade to be ignorant,
in spite somehow of having a rector in the twin parish who was a
gentleman to the backbone, a curate nearer at hand who preached more
learnedly than the rector, a landlord who had gone into everything,
especially fine art and social improvement, and all the lights
of Middlemarch only three miles off. As to the facility with
which mortals escape knowledge, try an average acquaintance in
the intellectual blaze of London, and consider what that eligible
person for a dinner-party would have been if he had learned scant
skill in "summing" from the parish-clerk of Tipton, and read
a chapter in the Bible with immense difficulty, because such names
as Isaiah or Apollos remained unmanageable after twice spelling.
Poor Dagley read a few verses sometimes on a Sunday evening,
and the world was at least not darker to him than it had been before.
Some things he knew thoroughly, namely, the slovenly habits of farming,
and the awkwardness of weather, stock and crops, at Freeman's End--
so called apparently by way of sarcasm, to imply that a man was free
to quit it if he chose, but that there was no earthly "beyond"
open to him.
Wise in his daily work was he:
To fruits of diligence,
And not to faiths or polity,
He plied his utmost sense.
These perfect in their little parts,
Whose work is all their prize--
Without them how could laws, or arts,
Or towered cities rise?
In watching effects, if only of an electric battery, it is often
necessary to change our place and examine a particular mixture
or group at some distance from the point where the movement we
are interested in was set up. The group I am moving towards is
at Caleb Garth's breakfast-table in the large parlor where the
maps and desk were: father, mother, and five of the children.
Mary was just now at home waiting for a situation, while Christy,
the boy next to her, was getting cheap learning and cheap fare
in Scotland, having to his father's disappointment taken to books
instead of that sacred calling "business."
The letters had come--nine costly letters, for which the postman had
been paid three and twopence, and Mr. Garth was forgetting his tea
and toast while he read his letters and laid them open one above
the other, sometimes swaying his head slowly, sometimes screwing up
his mouth in inward debate, but not forgetting to cut off a large
red seal unbroken, which Letty snatched up like an eager terrier.
The talk among the rest went on unrestrainedly, for nothing disturbed
Caleb's absorption except shaking the table when he was writing.
Two letters of the nine had been for Mary. After reading them,
she had passed them to her mother, and sat playing with her
tea-spoon absently, till with a sudden recollection she returned
to her sewing, which she had kept on her lap during breakfast.
"Oh, don't sew, Mary!" said Ben, pulling her arm down. "Make me
a peacock with this bread-crumb." He had been kneading a small mass
for the purpose.
"No, no, Mischief!" said Mary, good-humoredly, while she pricked
his hand lightly with her needle. "Try and mould it yourself:
you have seen me do it often enough. I must get this sewing done.
It is for Rosamond Vincy: she is to be married next week, and she
can't be married without this handkerchief." Mary ended merrily,
amused with the last notion.
"Why can't she, Mary?" said Letty, seriously interested in this mystery,
and pushing her head so close to her sister that Mary now turned
the threatening needle towards Letty's nose.
"Because this is one of a dozen, and without it there would
only be eleven," said Mary, with a grave air of explanation,
so that Letty sank back with a sense of knowledge.
"Have you made up your mind, my dear?" said Mrs. Garth, laying the
"I shall go to the school at York," said Mary. "I am less unfit
to teach in a school than in a family. I like to teach classes best.
And, you see, I must teach: there is nothing else to be done."
"Teaching seems to me the most delightful work in the world,"
said Mrs. Garth, with a touch of rebuke in her tone. "I could
understand your objection to it if you had not knowledge enough,
Mary, or if you disliked children."
"I suppose we never quite understand why another dislikes
what we like, mother," said Mary, rather curtly. "I am
not fond of a schoolroom: I like the outside world better.
It is a very inconvenient fault of mine."
"It must be very stupid to be always in a girls' school," said Alfred.
"Such a set of nincompoops, like Mrs. Ballard's pupils walking two
"And they have no games worth playing at," said Jim. "They can
neither throw nor leap. I don't wonder at Mary's not liking it."
"What is that Mary doesn't like, eh?" said the father, looking over
his spectacles and pausing before he opened his next letter.
"Being among a lot of nincompoop girls," said Alfred.
"Is it the situation you had heard of, Mary?" said Caleb, gently,
looking at his daughter.
"Yes, father: the school at York. I have determined to take it.
It is quite the best. Thirty-five pounds a-year, and extra pay for
teaching the smallest strummers at the piano."
"Poor child! I wish she could stay at home with us, Susan," said Caleb,
looking plaintively at his wife.
"Mary would not be happy without doing her duty," said Mrs. Garth,
magisterially, conscious of having done her own.
"It wouldn't make me happy to do such a nasty duty as that,"
said Alfred--at which Mary and her father laughed silently,
but Mrs. Garth said, gravely--
"Do find a fitter word than nasty, my dear Alfred, for everything
that you think disagreeable. And suppose that Mary could help you
to go to Mr. Hanmer's with the money she gets?"
"That seems to me a great shame. But she's an old brick," said Alfred,
rising from his chair, and pulling Mary's head backward to kiss her.
Mary colored and laughed, but could not conceal that the tears
were coming. Caleb, looking on over his spectacles, with the
angles of his eyebrows falling, had an expression of mingled
delight and sorrow as he returned to the opening of his letter;
and even Mrs. Garth, her lips curling with a calm contentment,
allowed that inappropriate language to pass without correction,
although Ben immediately took it up, and sang, "She's an old brick,
old brick, old brick!" to a cantering measure, which he beat out
with his fist on Mary's arm.
But Mrs. Garth's eyes were now drawn towards her husband,
who was already deep in the letter he was reading. His face
had an expression of grave surprise, which alarmed her a little,
but he did not like to be questioned while he was reading, and she
remained anxiously watching till she saw him suddenly shaken by a
little joyous laugh as he turned back to the beginning of the letter,
and looking at her above his spectacles, said, in a low tone,
"What do you think, Susan?"
She went and stood behind him, putting her hand on his shoulder,
while they read the letter together. It was from Sir James Chettam,
offering to Mr. Garth the management of the family estates at Freshitt
and elsewhere, and adding that Sir James had been requested by
Mr. Brooke of Tipton to ascertain whether Mr. Garth would be disposed
at the same time to resume the agency of the Tipton property.
The Baronet added in very obliging words that he himself was
particularly desirous of seeing the Freshitt and Tipton estates under
the same management, and he hoped to be able to show that the double
agency might be held on terms agreeable to Mr. Garth, whom he would
be glad to see at the Hall at twelve o'clock on the following day.
"He writes handsomely, doesn't he, Susan?" said Caleb, turning his
eyes upward to his wife, who raised her hand from his shoulder
to his ear, while she rested her chin on his head. "Brooke didn't
like to ask me himself, I can see," he continued, laughing silently.
"Here is an honor to your father, children," said Mrs. Garth,
looking round at the five pair of eyes, all fixed on the parents.
"He is asked to take a post again by those who dismissed him long ago.
That shows that he did his work well, so that they feel the want
"Like Cincinnatus--hooray!" said Ben, riding on his chair,
with a pleasant confidence that discipline was relaxed.
"Will they come to fetch him, mother?" said Letty, thinking of
the Mayor and Corporation in their robes.
Mrs. Garth patted Letty's head and smiled, but seeing that her
husband was gathering up his letters and likely soon to be out
of reach in that sanctuary "business," she pressed his shoulder
and said emphatically--
"Now, mind you ask fair pay, Caleb."
"Oh yes," said Caleb, in a deep voice of assent, as if it would be
unreasonable to suppose anything else of him. "It'll come to between
four and five hundred, the two together." Then with a little start
of remembrance he said, "Mary, write and give up that school.
Stay and help your mother. I'm as pleased as Punch, now I've
thought of that."
No manner could have been less like that of Punch triumphant
than Caleb's, but his talents did not lie in finding phrases,
though he was very particular about his letter-writing, and regarded
his wife as a treasury of correct language.
There was almost an uproar among the children now, and Mary held
up the cambric embroidery towards her mother entreatingly, that it
might be put out of reach while the boys dragged her into a dance.
Mrs. Garth, in placid joy, began to put the cups and plates together,
while Caleb pushing his chair from the table, as if he were going
to move to the desk, still sat holding his letters in his hand
and looking on the ground meditatively, stretching out the fingers
of his left hand, according to a mute language of his own. At last
"It's a thousand pities Christy didn't take to business, Susan.
I shall want help by-and-by. And Alfred must go off to the engineering--
I've made up my mind to that." He fell into meditation and
finger-rhetoric again for a little while, and then continued:
"I shall make Brooke have new agreements with the tenants, and I shall
draw up a rotation of crops. And I'll lay a wager we can get fine
bricks out of the clay at Bott's corner. I must look into that:
it would cheapen the repairs. It's a fine bit of work, Susan!
A man without a family would be glad to do it for nothing."
"Mind you don't, though," said his wife, lifting up her finger.
"No, no; but it's a fine thing to come to a man when he's seen
into the nature of business: to have the chance of getting a bit
of the country into good fettle, as they say, and putting men into
the right way with their farming, and getting a bit of good contriving
and solid building done--that those who are living and those who come
after will be the better for. I'd sooner have it than a fortune.
I hold it the most honorable work that is." Here Caleb laid down
his letters, thrust his fingers between the buttons of his waistcoat,
and sat upright, but presently proceeded with some awe in his voice
and moving his head slowly aside--"It's a great gift of God, Susan."
"That it is, Caleb," said his wife, with answering fervor.
"And it will be a blessing to your children to have had a father
who did such work: a father whose good work remains though his name
may be forgotten." She could not say any more to him then about
In the evening, when Caleb, rather tired with his day's work,
was seated in silence with his pocket-book open on his knee,
while Mrs. Garth and Mary were at their sewing, and Letty in a corner
was whispering a dialogue with her doll, Mr. Farebrother came up
the orchard walk, dividing the bright August lights and shadows
with the tufted grass and the apple-tree boughs. We know that he
was fond of his parishioners the Garths, and had thought Mary worth
mentioning to Lydgate. He used to the full the clergyman's privilege
of disregarding the Middlemarch discrimination of ranks, and always
told his mother that Mrs. Garth was more of a lady than any matron
in the town. Still, you see, he spent his evenings at the Vincys',
where the matron, though less of a lady, presided over a well-lit
drawing-room and whist. In those days human intercourse was not
determined solely by respect. But the Vicar did heartily respect
the Garths, and a visit from him was no surprise to that family.
Nevertheless he accounted for it even while he was shaking hands,
by saying, "I come as an envoy, Mrs. Garth: I have something
to say to you and Garth on behalf of Fred Vincy. The fact is,
poor fellow," he continued, as he seated himself and looked round
with his bright glance at the three who were listening to him,
"he has taken me into his confidence."
Mary's heart beat rather quickly: she wondered how far Fred's
confidence had gone.
"We haven't seen the lad for months," said Caleb. "I couldn't
think what was become of him."
"He has been away on a visit," said the Vicar, "because home was
a little too hot for him, and Lydgate told his mother that the poor
fellow must not begin to study yet. But yesterday he came and poured
himself out to me. I am very glad he did, because I have seen him
grow up from a youngster of fourteen, and I am so much at home
in the house that the children are like nephews and nieces to me.
But it is a difficult case to advise upon. However, he has
asked me to come and tell you that he is going away, and that he
is so miserable about his debt to you, and his inability to pay,
that he can't bear to come himself even to bid you good by."
"Tell him it doesn't signify a farthing," said Caleb, waving his hand.
"We've had the pinch and have got over it. And now I'm going to be
as rich as a Jew."
"Which means," said Mrs. Garth, smiling at the Vicar, "that we
are going to have enough to bring up the boys well and to keep
Mary at home."
"What is the treasure-trove?" said Mr. Farebrother.
"I'm going to be agent for two estates, Freshitt and Tipton;
and perhaps for a pretty little bit of land in Lowick besides:
it's all the same family connection, and employment spreads like water
if it's once set going. It makes me very happy, Mr. Farebrother"--
here Caleb threw back his head a little, and spread his arms on the elbows
of his chair--"that I've got an opportunity again with the letting
of the land, and carrying out a notion or two with improvements.
It's a most uncommonly cramping thing, as I've often told Susan,
to sit on horseback and look over the hedges at the wrong thing,
and not be able to put your hand to it to make it right. What people
do who go into politics I can't think: it drives me almost mad
to see mismanagement over only a few hundred acres."
It was seldom that Caleb volunteered so long a speech, but his
happiness had the effect of mountain air: his eyes were bright,
and the words came without effort.
"I congratulate you heartily, Garth," said the Vicar. "This is
the best sort of news I could have had to carry to Fred Vincy,
for he dwelt a good deal on the injury he had done you in causing
you to part with money--robbing you of it, he said--which you wanted
for other purposes. I wish Fred were not such an idle dog; he has
some very good points, and his father is a little hard upon him."
"Where is he going?" said Mrs. Garth, rather coldly.
"He means to try again for his degree, and he is going up to study
before term. I have advised him to do that. I don't urge him to
enter the Church--on the contrary. But if he will go and work so as
to pass, that will be some guarantee that he has energy and a will;
and he is quite at sea; he doesn't know what else to do. So far he
will please his father, and I have promised in the mean time to try
and reconcile Vincy to his son's adopting some other line of life.
Fred says frankly he is not fit for a clergyman, and I would do
anything I could to hinder a man from the fatal step of choosing
the wrong profession. He quoted to me what you said, Miss Garth--
do you remember it?" (Mr. Farebrother used to say "Mary" instead
of "Miss Garth," but it was part of his delicacy to treat her
with the more deference because, according to Mrs. Vincy's phrase,
she worked for her bread.)
Mary felt uncomfortable, but, determined to take the matter lightly,
answered at once, "I have said so many impertinent things to Fred--
we are such old playfellows."
"You said, according to him, that he would be one of those
ridiculous clergymen who help to make the whole clergy ridiculous.
Really, that was so cutting that I felt a little cut myself."
Caleb laughed. "She gets her tongue from you, Susan," he said,
with some enjoyment.
"Not its flippancy, father," said Mary, quickly, fearing that her
mother would be displeased. "It is rather too bad of Fred to repeat
my flippant speeches to Mr. Farebrother."
"It was certainly a hasty speech, my dear," said Mrs. Garth,
with whom speaking evil of dignities was a high misdemeanor.
"We should not value our Vicar the less because there was a ridiculous
curate in the next parish."
"There's something in what she says, though," said Caleb, not disposed
to have Mary's sharpness undervalued. "A bad workman of any sort
makes his fellows mistrusted. Things hang together," he added,
looking on the floor and moving his feet uneasily with a sense
that words were scantier than thoughts.
"Clearly," said the Vicar, amused. "By being contemptible we set
men's minds, to the tune of contempt. I certainly agree with Miss
Garth's view of the matter, whether I am condemned by it or not.
But as to Fred Vincy, it is only fair he should be excused a little:
old Featherstone's delusive behavior did help to spoil him.
There was something quite diabolical in not leaving him a farthing
after all. But Fred has the good taste not to dwell on that.
And what he cares most about is having offended you, Mrs. Garth;
he supposes you will never think well of him again."
"I have been disappointed in Fred," said Mrs. Garth, with decision.
"But I shall be ready to think well of him again when he gives me
good reason to do so."
At this point Mary went out of the room, taking Letty with her.
"Oh, we must forgive young people when they're sorry," said Caleb,
watching Mary close the door. "And as you say, Mr. Farebrother,
there was the very devil in that old man."
Now Mary's gone out, I must tell you a thing--it's only known
to Susan and me, and you'll not tell it again. The old scoundrel
wanted Mary to burn one of the wills the very night he died,
when she was sitting up with him by herself, and he offered her
a sum of money that he had in the box by him if she would do it.
But Mary, you understand, could do no such thing--would not be handling
his iron chest, and so on. Now, you see, the will he wanted burnt
was this last, so that if Mary had done what he wanted, Fred Vincy
would have had ten thousand pounds. The old man did turn to him
at the last. That touches poor Mary close; she couldn't help it--
she was in the right to do what she did, but she feels, as she says,
much as if she had knocked down somebody's property and broken it
against her will, when she was rightfully defending herself. I feel
with her, somehow, and if I could make any amends to the poor lad,
instead of bearing him a grudge for the harm he did us, I should
be glad to do it. Now, what is your opinion, sir? Susan doesn't
agree with me. She says--tell what you say, Susan."
"Mary could not have acted otherwise, even if she had known what would
be the effect on Fred," said Mrs. Garth, pausing from her work,
and looking at Mr. Farebrother.
"And she was quite ignorant of it. It seems to me, a loss which falls
on another because we have done right is not to lie upon our conscience."
The Vicar did not answer immediately, and Caleb said, "It's the feeling.
The child feels in that way, and I feel with her. You don't mean
your horse to tread on a dog when you're backing out of the way;
but it goes through you, when it's done."
"I am sure Mrs. Garth would agree with you there," said Mr. Farebrother,
who for some reason seemed more inclined to ruminate than to speak.
"One could hardly say that the feeling you mention about Fred
is wrong--or rather, mistaken--though no man ought to make a claim
on such feeling."
"Well, well," said Caleb, "it's a secret. You will not tell Fred."
"Certainly not. But I shall carry the other good news--that you
can afford the loss he caused you."
Mr. Farebrother left the house soon after, and seeing Mary in the
orchard with Letty, went to say good-by to her. They made a pretty
picture in the western light which brought out the brightness of the
apples on the old scant-leaved boughs--Mary in her lavender gingham
and black ribbons holding a basket, while Letty in her well-worn
nankin picked up the fallen apples. If you want to know more
particularly how Mary looked, ten to one you will see a face like hers
in the crowded street to-morrow, if you are there on the watch:
she will not be among those daughters of Zion who are haughty,
and walk with stretched-out necks and wanton eyes, mincing as they go:
let all those pass, and fix your eyes on some small plump brownish
person of firm but quiet carriage, who looks about her, but does
not suppose that anybody is looking at her. If she has a broad
face and square brow, well-marked eyebrows and curly dark hair,
a certain expression of amusement in her glance which her mouth keeps
the secret of, and for the rest features entirely insignificant--
take that ordinary but not disagreeable person for a portrait
of Mary Garth. If you made her smile, she would show you perfect
little teeth; if you made her angry, she would not raise her voice,
but would probably say one of the bitterest things you have ever tasted
the flavor of; if you did her a kindness, she would never forget it.
Mary admired the keen-faced handsome little Vicar in his well-brushed
threadbare clothes more than any man she had had the opportunity
of knowing. She had never heard him say a foolish thing, though she
knew that he did unwise ones; and perhaps foolish sayings were more
objectionable to her than any of Mr. Farebrother's unwise doings.
At least, it was remarkable that the actual imperfections of the
Vicar's clerical character never seemed to call forth the same
scorn and dislike which she showed beforehand for the predicted
imperfections of the clerical character sustained by Fred Vincy.
These irregularities of judgment, I imagine, are found even in riper
minds than Mary Garth's: our impartiality is kept for abstract
merit and demerit, which none of us ever saw. Will any one guess
towards which of those widely different men Mary had the peculiar
woman's tenderness?--the one she was most inclined to be severe on,
or the contrary?
"Have you any message for your old playfellow, Miss Garth?"
said the Vicar, as he took a fragrant apple from the basket which she
held towards him, and put it in his pocket. "Something to soften
down that harsh judgment? I am going straight to see him."
"No," said Mary, shaking her head, and smiling. "If I were to say
that he would not be ridiculous as a clergyman, I must say that he
would be something worse than ridiculous. But I am very glad
to hear that he is going away to work."
"On the other hand, I am very glad to hear that _you_ are not
going away to work. My mother, I am sure, will be all the happier
if you will come to see her at the vicarage: you know she is fond
of having young people to talk to, and she has a great deal to tell
about old times. You will really be doing a kindness."
"I should like it very much, if I may," said Mary. "Everything
seems too happy for me all at once. I thought it would always
be part of my life to long for home, and losing that grievance
makes me feel rather empty: I suppose it served instead of sense
to fill up my mind?"
"May I go with you, Mary?" whispered Letty--a most inconvenient child,
who listened to everything. But she was made exultant by having
her chin pinched and her cheek kissed by Mr. Farebrother--
an incident which she narrated to her mother and father.
As the Vicar walked to Lowick, any one watching him closely might
have seen him twice shrug his shoulders. I think that the rare
Englishmen who have this gesture are never of the heavy type--
for fear of any lumbering instance to the contrary, I will say,
hardly ever; they have usually a fine temperament and much tolerance
towards the smaller errors of men (themselves inclusive). The Vicar
was holding an inward dialogue in which he told himself that there
was probably something more between Fred and Mary Garth than the
regard of old playfellows, and replied with a question whether
that bit of womanhood were not a great deal too choice for that
crude young gentleman. The rejoinder to this was the first shrug.
Then he laughed at himself for being likely to have felt jealous,
as if he had been a man able to marry, which, added he, it is
as clear as any balance-sheet that I am not. Whereupon followed
the second shrug.
What could two men, so different from each other, see in this
"brown patch," as Mary called herself? It was certainly not her
plainness that attracted them (and let all plain young ladies be
warned against the dangerous encouragement given them by Society
to confide in their want of beauty). A human being in this aged
nation of ours is a very wonderful whole, the slow creation of long
interchanging influences: and charm is a result of two such wholes,
the one loving and the one loved.
When Mr. and Mrs. Garth were sitting alone, Caleb said, "Susan, guess
what I'm thinking of."
"The rotation of crops," said Mrs. Garth, smiling at him,
above her knitting, "or else the back-doors of the Tipton cottages."
"No," said Caleb, gravely; "I am thinking that I could do a great
turn for Fred Vincy. Christy's gone, Alfred will be gone soon,
and it will be five years before Jim is ready to take to business.
I shall want help, and Fred might come in and learn the nature
of things and act under me, and it might be the making of him into
a useful man, if he gives up being a parson. What do you think?"
"I think, there is hardly anything honest that his family would
object to more," said Mrs. Garth, decidedly.
"What care I about their objecting?" said Caleb, with a sturdiness
which he was apt to show when he had an opinion. "The lad is of age
and must get his bread. He has sense enough and quickness enough;
he likes being on the land, and it's my belief that he could learn
business well if he gave his mind to it."
"But would he? His father and mother wanted him to be a fine
gentleman, and I think he has the same sort of feeling himself.
They all think us beneath them. And if the proposal came from you,
I am sure Mrs. Vincy would say that we wanted Fred for Mary."
"Life is a poor tale, if it is to be settled by nonsense of that sort,"
said Caleb, with disgust.
"Yes, but there is a certain pride which is proper, Caleb."
"I call it improper pride to let fools' notions hinder you from doing
a good action. There's no sort of work," said Caleb, with fervor,
putting out his hand and moving it up and down to mark his emphasis,
"that could ever be done well, if you minded what fools say.
You must have it inside you that your plan is right, and that plan you
"I will not oppose any plan you have set your mind on, Caleb,"
said Mrs. Garth, who was a firm woman, but knew that there
were some points on which her mild husband was yet firmer.
"Still, it seems to be fixed that Fred is to go back to college:
will it not be better to wait and see what he will choose to do
after that? It is not easy to keep people against their will.
And you are not yet quite sure enough of your own position,
or what you will want."
"Well, it may be better to wait a bit. But as to my getting
plenty of work for two, I'm pretty sure of that. I've always had
my hands full with scattered things, and there's always something
fresh turning up. Why, only yesterday--bless me, I don't think I
told you!--it was rather odd that two men should have been at me
on different sides to do the same bit of valuing. And who do you
think they were?" said Caleb, taking a pinch of snuff and holding
it up between his fingers, as if it were a part of his exposition.
He was fond of a pinch when it occurred to him, but he usually
forgot that this indulgence was at his command.
His wife held down her knitting and looked attentive.
"Why, that Rigg, or Rigg Featherstone, was one. But Bulstrode
was before him, so I'm going to do it for Bulstrode. Whether it's
mortgage or purchase they're going for, I can't tell yet."
"Can that man be going to sell the land just left him--which he
has taken the name for?" said Mrs. Garth.
"Deuce knows," said Caleb, who never referred the knowledge
of discreditable doings to any higher power than the deuce.
"But Bulstrode has long been wanting to get a handsome bit of land
under his fingers--that I know. And it's a difficult matter to get,
in this part of the country."
Caleb scattered his snuff carefully instead of taking it,
and then added, "The ins and outs of things are curious.
Here is the land they've been all along expecting for Fred,
which it seems the old man never meant to leave him a foot of,
but left it to this side-slip of a son that he kept in the dark,
and thought of his sticking there and vexing everybody as well as he
could have vexed 'em himself if he could have kept alive. I say,
it would be curious if it got into Bulstrode's hands after all.
The old man hated him, and never would bank with him."
"What reason could the miserable creature have for hating a man
whom he had nothing to do with?" said Mrs. Garth.
"Pooh! where's the use of asking for such fellows' reasons? The soul
of man," said Caleb, with the deep tone and grave shake of the head
which always came when he used this phrase--"The soul of man,
when it gets fairly rotten, will bear you all sorts of poisonous
toad-stools, and no eye can see whence came the seed thereof."
It was one of Caleb's quaintnesses, that in his difficulty of finding
speech for his thought, he caught, as it were, snatches of diction
which he associated with various points of view or states of mind;
and whenever he had a feeling of awe, he was haunted by a sense
of Biblical phraseology, though he could hardly have given
a strict quotation.
"By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.
The transactions referred to by Caleb Garth as having gone forward
between Mr. Bulstrode and Mr. Joshua Rigg Featherstone concerning
the land attached to Stone Court, had occasioned the interchange
of a letter or two between these personages.
Who shall tell what may be the effect of writing? If it happens
to have been cut in stone, though it lie face down-most for ages
on a forsaken beach, or "rest quietly under the drums and tramplings
of many conquests," it may end by letting us into the secret of
usurpations and other scandals gossiped about long empires ago:--
this world being apparently a huge whispering-gallery. Such conditions
are often minutely represented in our petty lifetimes. As the stone
which has been kicked by generations of clowns may come by curious
little links of effect under the eyes of a scholar, through whose
labors it may at last fix the date of invasions and unlock religions,
so a bit of ink and paper which has long been an innocent wrapping
or stop-gap may at last be laid open under the one pair of eyes which
have knowledge enough to turn it into the opening of a catastrophe.
To Uriel watching the progress of planetary history from the sun,
the one result would be just as much of a coincidence as the other.
Having made this rather lofty comparison I am less uneasy in calling
attention to the existence of low people by whose interference,
however little we may like it, the course of the world is very
much determined. It would be well, certainly, if we could help
to reduce their number, and something might perhaps be done by not
lightly giving occasion to their existence. Socially speaking,
Joshua Rigg would have been generally pronounced a superfluity.
But those who like Peter Featherstone never had a copy of
themselves demanded, are the very last to wait for such a request
either in prose or verse. The copy in this case bore more of
outside resemblance to the mother, in whose sex frog-features,
accompanied with fresh-colored cheeks and a well-rounded figure,
are compatible with much charm for a certain order of admirers.
The result is sometimes a frog-faced male, desirable, surely,
to no order of intelligent beings. Especially when he is suddenly
brought into evidence to frustrate other people's expectations--
the very lowest aspect in which a social superfluity can present himself.
But Mr. Rigg Featherstone's low characteristics were all of the sober,
water-drinking kind. From the earliest to the latest hour of the day
he was always as sleek, neat, and cool as the frog he resembled,
and old Peter had secretly chuckled over an offshoot almost more
calculating, and far more imperturbable, than himself. I will add
that his finger-nails were scrupulously attended to, and that he
meant to marry a well-educated young lady (as yet unspecified)
whose person was good, and whose connections, in a solid middle-class
way, were undeniable. Thus his nails and modesty were comparable
to those of most gentlemen; though his ambition had been educated
only by the opportunities of a clerk and accountant in the smaller
commercial houses of a seaport. He thought the rural Featherstones
very simple absurd people, and they in their turn regarded his
"bringing up" in a seaport town as an exaggeration of the monstrosity
that their brother Peter, and still more Peter's property, should
have had such belongings.
The garden and gravel approach, as seen from the two windows of the
wainscoted parlor at Stone Court, were never in better trim than now,
when Mr. Rigg Featherstone stood, with his hands behind him,
looking out on these grounds as their master. But it seemed doubtful
whether he looked out for the sake of contemplation or of turning his
back to a person who stood in the middle of the room, with his legs
considerably apart and his hands in his trouser-pockets: a person
in all respects a contrast to the sleek and cool Rigg. He was a man
obviously on the way towards sixty, very florid and hairy, with much
gray in his bushy whiskers and thick curly hair, a stoutish body
which showed to disadvantage the somewhat worn joinings of his clothes,
and the air of a swaggerer, who would aim at being noticeable even at
a show of fireworks, regarding his own remarks on any other person's
performance as likely to be more interesting than the performance itself.
His name was John Raffles, and he sometimes wrote jocosely W.A.G.
after his signature, observing when he did so, that he was once
taught by Leonard Lamb of Finsbury who wrote B.A. after his name,
and that he, Raffles, originated the witticism of calling that
celebrated principal Ba-Lamb. Such were the appearance and mental
flavor of Mr. Raffles, both of which seemed to have a stale odor
of travellers' rooms in the commercial hotels of that period.
"Come, now, Josh," he was saying, in a full rumbling tone, "look at it
in this light: here is your poor mother going into the vale of years,
and you could afford something handsome now to make her comfortable."
"Not while you live. Nothing would make her comfortable while
you live," returned Rigg, in his cool high voice. "What I give her,
"You bear me a grudge, Josh, that I know. But come, now--as between
man and man--without humbug--a little capital might enable me to make
a first-rate thing of the shop. The tobacco trade is growing.
I should cut my own nose off in not doing the best I could at it.
I should stick to it like a flea to a fleece for my own sake.
I should always be on the spot. And nothing would make your
poor mother so happy. I've pretty well done with my wild oats--
turned fifty-five. I want to settle down in my chimney-corner. And
if I once buckled to the tobacco trade, I could bring an amount
of brains and experience to bear on it that would not be found
elsewhere in a hurry. I don't want to be bothering you one time
after another, but to get things once for all into the right channel.
Consider that, Josh--as between man and man--and with your poor mother
to be made easy for her life. I was always fond of the old woman,
"Have you done?" said Mr. Rigg, quietly, without looking away
from the window.
"Yes, I've done," said Raffles, taking hold of his hat which stood
before him on the table, and giving it a sort of oratorical push.
"Then just listen to me. The more you say anything, the less I shall
believe it. The more you want me to do a thing, the more reason I
shall have for never doing it. Do you think I mean to forget your
kicking me when I was a lad, and eating all the best victual away
from me and my mother? Do you think I forget your always coming
home to sell and pocket everything, and going off again leaving us
in the lurch? I should be glad to see you whipped at the cart-tail.
My mother was a fool to you: she'd no right to give me a father-in-law,
and she's been punished for it. She shall have her weekly allowance
paid and no more: and that shall be stopped if you dare to come
on to these premises again, or to come into this country after
me again. The next time you show yourself inside the gates here,
you shall be driven off with the dogs and the wagoner's whip."
As Rigg pronounced the last words he turned round and looked
at Raffles with his prominent frozen eyes. The contrast
was as striking as it could have been eighteen years before,
when Rigg was a most unengaging kickable boy, and Raffles was
the rather thick-set Adonis of bar-rooms and back-parlors. But
the advantage now was on the side of Rigg, and auditors of this
conversation might probably have expected that Raffles would retire
with the air of a defeated dog. Not at all. He made a grimace
which was habitual with him whenever he was "out" in a game;
then subsided into a laugh, and drew a brandy-flask from his pocket.
"Come, Josh," he said, in a cajoling tone, "give us a spoonful of brandy,
and a sovereign to pay the way back, and I'll go. Honor bright!
I'll go like a bullet, _by_ Jove!"
"Mind," said Rigg, drawing out a bunch of keys, "if I ever see you again,
I shan't speak to you. I don't own you any more than if I saw a crow;
and if you want to own me you'll get nothing by it but a character
for being what you are--a spiteful, brassy, bullying rogue."
"That's a pity, now, Josh," said Raffles, affecting to scratch
his head and wrinkle his brows upward as if he were nonplussed.
"I'm very fond of you; _by_ Jove, I am! There's nothing I like
better than plaguing you--you're so like your mother, and I must
do without it. But the brandy and the sovereign's a bargain."
He jerked forward the flask and Rigg went to a fine old oaken
bureau with his keys. But Raffles had reminded himself by his
movement with the flask that it had become dangerously loose
from its leather covering, and catching sight of a folded paper
which had fallen within the fender, he took it up and shoved
it under the leather so as to make the glass firm.
By that time Rigg came forward with a brandy-bottle, filled
the flask, and handed Raffles a sovereign, neither looking at him
nor speaking to him. After locking up the bureau again, he walked
to the window and gazed out as impassibly as he had done at the
beginning of the interview, while Raffles took a small allowance
from the flask, screwed it up, and deposited it in his side-pocket,
with provoking slowness, making a grimace at his stepson's back.
"Farewell, Josh--and if forever!" said Raffles, turning back his
head as he opened the door.
Rigg saw him leave the grounds and enter the lane. The gray day
had turned to a light drizzling rain, which freshened the hedgerows
and the grassy borders of the by-roads, and hastened the laborers
who were loading the last shocks of corn. Raffles, walking with
the uneasy gait of a town loiterer obliged to do a bit of country
journeying on foot, looked as incongruous amid this moist rural quiet
and industry as if he had been a baboon escaped from a menagerie.
But there were none to stare at him except the long-weaned calves,
and none to show dislike of his appearance except the little
water-rats which rustled away at his approach.
He was fortunate enough when he got on to the highroad to be overtaken
by the stage-coach, which carried him to Brassing; and there he took
the new-made railway, observing to his fellow-passengers that he
considered it pretty well seasoned now it had done for Huskisson.
Mr. Raffles on most occasions kept up the sense of having been
educated at an academy, and being able, if he chose, to pass
well everywhere; indeed, there was not one of his fellow-men whom
he did not feel himself in a position to ridicule and torment,
confident of the entertainment which he thus gave to all the rest
of the company.
He played this part now with as much spirit as if his journey had been
entirely successful, resorting at frequent intervals to his flask.
The paper with which he had wedged it was a letter signed
Nicholas Bulstrode, but Raffles was not likely to disturb it
from its present useful position.
"How much, methinks, I could despise this man
Were I not bound in charity against it!
--SHAKESPEARE: Henry VIII.
One of the professional calls made by Lydgate soon after his return
from his wedding-journey was to Lowick Manor, in consequence
of a letter which had requested him to fix a time for his visit.
Mr. Casaubon had never put any question concerning the nature
of his illness to Lydgate, nor had he even to Dorothea betrayed
any anxiety as to how far it might be likely to cut short his
labors or his life. On this point, as on all others, he shrank
from pity; and if the suspicion of being pitied for anything
in his lot surmised or known in spite of himself was embittering,
the idea of calling forth a show of compassion by frankly admitting
an alarm or a sorrow was necessarily intolerable to him.
Every proud mind knows something of this experience, and perhaps
it is only to be overcome by a sense of fellowship deep enough
to make all efforts at isolation seem mean and petty instead of exalting.
But Mr. Casaubon was now brooding over something through which the
question of his health and life haunted his silence with a more
harassing importunity even than through the autumnal unripeness
of his authorship. It is true that this last might be called his
central ambition; but there are some kinds of authorship in which
by far the largest result is the uneasy susceptibility accumulated
in the consciousness of the author--one knows of the river by a
few streaks amid a long-gathered deposit of uncomfortable mud.
That was the way with Mr. Casaubon's hard intellectual labors.
Their most characteristic result was not the "Key to all Mythologies,"
but a morbid consciousness that others did not give him the place
which he had not demonstrably merited--a perpetual suspicious
conjecture that the views entertained of him were not to his advantage--
a melancholy absence of passion in his efforts at achievement, and a
passionate resistance to the confession that he had achieved nothing.
Thus his intellectual ambition which seemed to others to have
absorbed and dried him, was really no security against wounds,
least of all against those which came from Dorothea. And he had
begun now to frame possibilities for the future which were somehow
more embittering to him than anything his mind had dwelt on before.
Against certain facts he was helpless: against Will Ladislaw's
existence, his defiant stay in the neighborhood of Lowick, and his
flippant state of mind with regard to the possessors of authentic,
well-stamped erudition: against Dorothea's nature, always taking on
some new shape of ardent activity, and even in submission and silence
covering fervid reasons which it was an irritation to think of:
against certain notions and likings which had taken possession of
her mind in relation to subjects that he could not possibly discuss
with her. "There was no denying that Dorothea was as virtuous
and lovely a young lady as he could have obtained for a wife;
but a young lady turned out to be something more troublesome than he
had conceived. She nursed him, she read to him, she anticipated
his wants, and was solicitous about his feelings; but there had
entered into the husband's mind the certainty that she judged him,
and that her wifely devotedness was like a penitential expiation
of unbelieving thoughts--was accompanied with a power of comparison
by which himself and his doings were seen too luminously as a part
of things in general. His discontent passed vapor-like through all
her gentle loving manifestations, and clung to that inappreciative
world which she had only brought nearer to him.
Poor Mr. Casaubon! This suffering was the harder to bear because it
seemed like a betrayal: the young creature who had worshipped
him with perfect trust had quickly turned into the critical wife;
and early instances of criticism and resentment had made an impression
which no tenderness and submission afterwards could remove.
To his suspicious interpretation Dorothea's silence now was
a suppressed rebellion; a remark from her which he had not in
any way anticipated was an assertion of conscious superiority;
her gentle answers had an irritating cautiousness in them;
and when she acquiesced it was a self-approved effort of forbearance.
The tenacity with which he strove to hide this inward drama made it
the more vivid for him; as we hear with the more keenness what we
wish others not to hear.
Instead of wondering at this result of misery in Mr. Casaubon,
I think it quite ordinary. Will not a tiny speck very close to our
vision blot out the glory of the world, and leave only a margin
by which we see the blot? I know no speck so troublesome as self.
And who, if Mr. Casaubon had chosen to expound his discontents--
his suspicions that he was not any longer adored without criticism--
could have denied that they were founded on good reasons?
On the contrary, there was a strong reason to be added, which he
had not himself taken explicitly into account--namely, that he was
not unmixedly adorable. He suspected this, however, as he suspected
other things, without confessing it, and like the rest of us,
felt how soothing it would have been to have a companion who would
never find it out.
This sore susceptibility in relation to Dorothea was thoroughly
prepared before Will Ladislaw had returned to Lowick, and what had
occurred since then had brought Mr. Casaubon's power of suspicious
construction into exasperated activity. To all the facts which he knew,
he added imaginary facts both present and future which became more
real to him than those because they called up a stronger dislike,
a more predominating bitterness. Suspicion and jealousy of Will
Ladislaw's intentions, suspicion and jealousy of Dorothea's impressions,
were constantly at their weaving work. It would be quite unjust
to him to suppose that he could have entered into any coarse
misinterpretation of Dorothea: his own habits of mind and conduct,
quite as much as the open elevation of her nature, saved him
from any such mistake. What he was jealous of was her opinion,
the sway that might be given to her ardent mind in its judgments,
and the future possibilities to which these might lead her.
As to Will, though until his last defiant letter he had nothing definite
which he would choose formally to allege against him, he felt himself
warranted in believing that he was capable of any design which could
fascinate a rebellious temper and an undisciplined impulsiveness.
He was quite sure that Dorothea was the cause of Will's return
from Rome, and his determination to settle in the neighborhood;
and he was penetrating enough to imagine that Dorothea had innocently
encouraged this course. It was as clear as possible that she was
ready to be attached to Will and to be pliant to his suggestions:
they had never had a tete-a-tete without her bringing away from
it some new troublesome impression, and the last interview that
Mr. Casaubon was aware of (Dorothea, on returning from Freshitt Hall,
had for the first time been silent about having seen Will) had led
to a scene which roused an angrier feeling against them both than
he had ever known before. Dorothea's outpouring of her notions
about money, in the darkness of the night, had done nothing but bring
a mixture of more odious foreboding into her husband's mind.
And there was the shock lately given to his health always sadly
present with him. He was certainly much revived; he had recovered
all his usual power of work: the illness might have been mere fatigue,
and there might still be twenty years of achievement before him,
which would justify the thirty years of preparation. That prospect
was made the sweeter by a flavor of vengeance against the hasty
sneers of Carp & Company; for even when Mr. Casaubon was carrying
his taper among the tombs of the past, those modern figures came
athwart the dim light, and interrupted his diligent exploration.
To convince Carp of his mistake, so that he would have to eat his
own words with a good deal of indigestion, would be an agreeable
accident of triumphant authorship, which the prospect of living to
future ages on earth and to all eternity in heaven could not exclude
from contemplation. Since, thus, the prevision of his own unending
bliss could not nullify the bitter savors of irritated jealousy
and vindictiveness, it is the less surprising that the probability
of a transient earthly bliss for other persons, when he himself
should have entered into glory, had not a potently sweetening effect.
If the truth should be that some undermining disease was at work
within him, there might be large opportunity for some people to be
the happier when he was gone; and if one of those people should be
Will Ladislaw, Mr. Casaubon objected so strongly that it seemed
as if the annoyance would make part of his disembodied existence.
This is a very bare and therefore a very incomplete way of putting
the case. The human soul moves in many channels, and Mr. Casaubon,
we know, had a sense of rectitude and an honorable pride in satisfying
the requirements of honor, which compelled him to find other
reasons for his conduct than those of jealousy and vindictiveness.
The way in which Mr. Casaubon put the case was this:--"In marrying
Dorothea Brooke I had to care for her well-being in case of my death.
But well-being is not to be secured by ample, independent possession
of property; on the contrary, occasions might arise in which such
possession might expose her to the more danger. She is ready prey
to any man who knows how to play adroitly either on her affectionate
ardor or her Quixotic enthusiasm; and a man stands by with that
very intention in his mind--a man with no other principle than
transient caprice, and who has a personal animosity towards me--
I am sure of it--an animosity which is fed by the consciousness
of his ingratitude, and which he has constantly vented in ridicule
of which I am as well assured as if I had heard it. Even if I
live I shall not be without uneasiness as to what he may attempt
through indirect influence. This man has gained Dorothea's ear:
he has fascinated her attention; he has evidently tried to impress
her mind with the notion that he has claims beyond anything I have done
for him. If I die--and he is waiting here on the watch for that--
he will persuade her to marry him. That would be calamity for
her and success for him. _She_ would not think it calamity:
he would make her believe anything; she has a tendency to
immoderate attachment which she inwardly reproaches me for not
responding to, and already her mind is occupied with his fortunes.
He thinks of an easy conquest and of entering into my nest.
That I will hinder! Such a marriage would be fatal to Dorothea.
Has he ever persisted in anything except from contradiction?
In knowledge he has always tried to be showy at small cost.
In religion he could be, as long as it suited him, the facile echo of
Dorothea's vagaries. When was sciolism ever dissociated from laxity?
I utterly distrust his morals, and it is my duty to hinder to the
utmost the fulfilment of his designs."
The arrangements made by Mr. Casaubon on his marriage left strong
measures open to him, but in ruminating on them his mind inevitably
dwelt so much on the probabilities of his own life that the longing
to get the nearest possible calculation had at last overcome his
proud reticence, and had determined him to ask Lydgate's opinion
as to the nature of his illness.
He had mentioned to Dorothea that Lydgate was coming by appointment
at half-past three, and in answer to her anxious question, whether he
had felt ill, replied,--"No, I merely wish to have his opinion
concerning some habitual symptoms. You need not see him, my dear.
I shall give orders that he may be sent to me in the Yew-tree Walk,
where I shall be taking my usual exercise."
When Lydgate entered the Yew-tree Walk he saw Mr. Casaubon slowly
receding with his hands behind him according to his habit,
and his head bent forward. It was a lovely afternoon; the leaves
from the lofty limes were falling silently across the sombre
evergreens, while the lights and shadows slept side by side:
there was no sound but the cawing of the rooks, which to the
accustomed ear is a lullaby, or that last solemn lullaby, a dirge.
Lydgate, conscious of an energetic frame in its prime, felt some
compassion when the figure which he was likely soon to overtake
turned round, and in advancing towards him showed more markedly
than ever the signs of premature age--the student's bent shoulders,
the emaciated limbs, and the melancholy lines of the mouth.
"Poor fellow," he thought, "some men with his years are like lions;
one can tell nothing of their age except that they are full grown."
"Mr. Lydgate," said Mr. Casaubon, with his invariably polite air,
"I am exceedingly obliged to you for your punctuality. We will,
if you please, carry on our conversation in walking to and fro."
"I hope your wish to see me is not due to the return
of unpleasant symptoms," said Lydgate, filling up a pause.
"Not immediately--no. In order to account for that wish I must mention--
what it were otherwise needless to refer to--that my life,
on all collateral accounts insignificant, derives a possible
importance from the incompleteness of labors which have extended
through all its best years. In short, I have long had on hand
a work which I would fain leave behind me in such a state, at least,
that it might be committed to the press by--others. Were I assured
that this is the utmost I can reasonably expect, that assurance
would be a useful circumscription of my attempts, and a guide
in both the positive and negative determination of my course."
Here Mr. Casaubon paused, removed one hand from his back and thrust
it between the buttons of his single-breasted coat. To a mind
largely instructed in the human destiny hardly anything could be
more interesting than the inward conflict implied in his formal
measured address, delivered with the usual sing-song and motion
of the head. Nay, are there many situations more sublimely tragic
than the struggle of the soul with the demand to renounce a work
which has been all the significance of its life--a significance
which is to vanish as the waters which come and go where no man has
need of them? But there was nothing to strike others as sublime
about Mr. Casaubon, and Lydgate, who had some contempt at hand for
futile scholarship, felt a little amusement mingling with his pity.
He was at present too ill acquainted with disaster to enter into
the pathos of a lot where everything is below the level of tragedy
except the passionate egoism of the sufferer.
"You refer to the possible hindrances from want of health?" he said,
wishing to help forward Mr. Casaubon's purpose, which seemed to be
clogged by some hesitation.
"I do. You have not implied to me that the symptoms which--
I am bound to testify--you watched with scrupulous care,
were those of a fatal disease. But were it so, Mr. Lydgate,
I should desire to know the truth without reservation, and I
appeal to you for an exact statement of your conclusions:
I request it as a friendly service. If you can tell me that my
life is not threatened by anything else than ordinary casualties,
I shall rejoice, on grounds which I have already indicated.
If not, knowledge of the truth is even more important to me."
"Then I can no longer hesitate as to my course," said Lydgate;
"but the first thing I must impress on you is that my conclusions
are doubly uncertain--uncertain not only because of my fallibility,
but because diseases of the heart are eminently difficult to found
predictions on. In any ease, one can hardly increase appreciably
the tremendous uncertainty of life."
Mr. Casaubon winced perceptibly, but bowed.
"I believe that you are suffering from what is called fatty
degeneration of the heart, a disease which was first divined
and explored by Laennec, the man who gave us the stethoscope,
not so very many years ago. A good deal of experience--a more
lengthened observation--is wanting on the subject. But after
what you have said, it is my duty to tell you that death from this
disease is often sudden. At the same time, no such result can
be predicted. Your condition may be consistent with a tolerably
comfortable life for another fifteen years, or even more. I could
add no information to this beyond anatomical or medical details,
which would leave expectation at precisely the same point."
Lydgate's instinct was fine enough to tell him that plain speech,
quite free from ostentatious caution, would be felt by Mr. Casaubon
as a tribute of respect.
"I thank you, Mr. Lydgate," said Mr. Casaubon, after a moment's pause.
"One thing more I have still to ask: did you communicate what you
have now told me to Mrs. Casaubon?"
"Partly--I mean, as to the possible issues." Lydgate was going
to explain why he had told Dorothea, but Mr. Casaubon, with an
unmistakable desire to end the conversation, waved his hand slightly,
and said again, "I thank you," proceeding to remark on the rare
beauty of the day.
Lydgate, certain that his patient wished to be alone, soon left him;
and the black figure with hands behind and head bent forward
continued to pace the walk where the dark yew-trees gave him
a mute companionship in melancholy, and the little shadows of bird
or leaf that fleeted across the isles of sunlight, stole along
in silence as in the presence of a sorrow. Here was a man who now
for the first time found himself looking into the eyes of death--
who was passing through one of those rare moments of experience
when we feel the truth of a commonplace, which is as different from
what we call knowing it, as the vision of waters upon the earth is
different from the delirious vision of the water which cannot be had
to cool the burning tongue. When the commonplace "We must all die"
transforms itself suddenly into the acute consciousness "I must die--
and soon," then death grapples us, and his fingers are cruel;
afterwards, he may come to fold us in his arms as our mother did,
and our last moment of dim earthly discerning may be like the first.
To Mr. Casaubon now, it was as if he suddenly found himself on
the dark river-brink and heard the plash of the oncoming oar,
not discerning the forms, but expecting the summons. In such an
hour the mind does not change its lifelong bias, but carries it
onward in imagination to the other side of death, gazing backward--
perhaps with the divine calm of beneficence, perhaps with the petty
anxieties of self-assertion. What was Mr. Casaubon's bias his acts
will give us a clew to. He held himself to be, with some private
scholarly reservations, a believing Christian, as to estimates of
the present and hopes of the future. But what we strive to gratify,
though we may call it a distant hope, is an immediate desire:
the future estate for which men drudge up city alleys exists already
in their imagination and love. And Mr. Casaubon's immediate desire
was not for divine communion and light divested of earthly conditions;
his passionate longings, poor man, clung low and mist-like in very
Dorothea had been aware when Lydgate had ridden away, and she had
stepped into the garden, with the impulse to go at once to her husband.
But she hesitated, fearing to offend him by obtruding herself;
for her ardor, continually repulsed, served, with her intense memory,
to heighten her dread, as thwarted energy subsides into a shudder;
and she wandered slowly round the nearer clumps of trees until
she saw him advancing. Then she went towards him, and might have
represented a heaven-sent angel coming with a promise that the
short hours remaining should yet be filled with that faithful
love which clings the closer to a comprehended grief. His glance
in reply to hers was so chill that she felt her timidity increased;
yet she turned and passed her hand through his arm.
Mr. Casaubon kept his hands behind him and allowed her pliant arm
to cling with difficulty against his rigid arm.
There was something horrible to Dorothea in the sensation which this
unresponsive hardness inflicted on her. That is a strong word,
but not too strong: it is in these acts called trivialities that
the seeds of joy are forever wasted, until men and women look round
with haggard faces at the devastation their own waste has made,
and say, the earth bears no harvest of sweetness--calling their
denial knowledge. You may ask why, in the name of manliness,
Mr. Casaubon should have behaved in that way. Consider that his
was a mind which shrank from pity: have you ever watched in such
a mind the effect of a suspicion that what is pressing it as a grief
may be really a source of contentment, either actual or future,
to the being who already offends by pitying? Besides, he knew
little of Dorothea's sensations, and had not reflected that on
such an occasion as the present they were comparable in strength
to his own sensibilities about Carp's criticisms.
Dorothea did not withdraw her arm, but she could not venture to speak.
Mr. Casaubon did not say, "I wish to be alone," but he directed his
steps in silence towards the house, and as they entered by the glass
door on this eastern side, Dorothea withdrew her arm and lingered
on the matting, that she might leave her husband quite free.
He entered the library and shut himself in, alone with his sorrow.
She went up to her boudoir. The open bow-window let in the serene
glory of the afternoon lying in the avenue, where the lime-trees
cast long shadows. But Dorothea knew nothing of the scene.
She threw herself on a chair, not heeding that she was in the
dazzling sun-rays: if there were discomfort in that, how could
she tell that it was not part of her inward misery?
She was in the reaction of a rebellious anger stronger than any she
had felt since her marriage. Instead of tears there came words:--
"What have I done--what am I--that he should treat me so?
He never knows what is in my mind--he never cares. What is the use
of anything I do? He wishes he had never married me."
She began to hear herself, and was checked into stillness. Like one
who has lost his way and is weary, she sat and saw as in one glance
all the paths of her young hope which she should never find again.
And just as clearly in the miserable light she saw her own and her
husband's solitude--how they walked apart so that she was obliged
to survey him. If he had drawn her towards him, she would never have
surveyed him--never have said, "Is he worth living for?" but would
have felt him simply a part of her own life. Now she said bitterly,
"It is his fault, not mine." In the jar of her whole being,
Pity was overthrown. Was it her fault that she had believed in him--
had believed in his worthiness?--And what, exactly, was he?--
She was able enough to estimate him--she who waited on his glances
with trembling, and shut her best soul in prison, paying it only
hidden visits, that she might be petty enough to please him.
In such a crisis as this, some women begin to hate.
The sun was low when Dorothea was thinking that she would not go
down again, but would send a message to her husband saying that she
was not well and preferred remaining up-stairs. She had never
deliberately allowed her resentment to govern her in this way before,
but she believed now that she could not see him again without
telling him the truth about her feeling, and she must wait till
she could do it without interruption. He might wonder and be hurt
at her message. It was good that he should wonder and be hurt.
Her anger said, as anger is apt to say, that God was with her--
that all heaven, though it were crowded with spirits watching them,
must be on her side. She had determined to ring her bell, when there
came a rap at the door.
Mr. Casaubon had sent to say that he would have his dinner
in the library. He wished to be quite alone this evening,
being much occupied.
"I shall not dine, then, Tantripp."
"Oh, madam, let me bring you a little something?"
"No; I am not well. Get everything ready in my dressing room,
but pray do not disturb me again."
Dorothea sat almost motionless in her meditative struggle,
while the evening slowly deepened into night. But the struggle
changed continually, as that of a man who begins with a movement
towards striking and ends with conquering his desire to strike.
The energy that would animate a crime is not more than is wanted
to inspire a resolved submission, when the noble habit of the soul
reasserts itself. That thought with which Dorothea had gone
out to meet her husband--her conviction that he had been asking
about the possible arrest of all his work, and that the answer
must have wrung his heart, could not be long without rising beside
the image of him, like a shadowy monitor looking at her anger
with sad remonstrance. It cost her a litany of pictured sorrows
and of silent cries that she might be the mercy for those sorrows--
but the resolved submission did come; and when the house was still,
and she knew that it was near the time when Mr. Casaubon habitually
went to rest, she opened her door gently and stood outside in the
darkness waiting for his coming up-stairs with a light in his hand.
If he did not come soon she thought that she would go down and even risk
incurring another pang. She would never again expect anything else.
But she did hear the library door open, and slowly the light advanced
up the staircase without noise from the footsteps on the carpet.
When her husband stood opposite to her, she saw that his face was
more haggard. He started slightly on seeing her, and she looked up
at him beseechingly, without speaking.
"Dorothea!" he said, with a gentle surprise in his tone. "Were you
waiting for me?"
"Yes, I did not like to disturb you."
"Come, my dear, come. You are young, and need not to extend your
life by watching."
When the kind quiet melancholy of that speech fell on Dorothea's ears,
she felt something like the thankfulness that might well up
in us if we had narrowly escaped hurting a lamed creature.
She put her hand into her husband's, and they went along the broad
THE DEAD HAND.
This figure hath high price: 't was wrought with love
Ages ago in finest ivory;
Nought modish in it, pure and noble lines
Of generous womanhood that fits all time
That too is costly ware; majolica
Of deft design, to please a lordly eye:
The smile, you see, is perfect--wonderful
As mere Faience! a table ornament
To suit the richest mounting."
Dorothea seldom left home without her husband, but she did occasionally
drive into Middlemarch alone, on little errands of shopping or charity
such as occur to every lady of any wealth when she lives within three
miles of a town. Two days after that scene in the Yew-tree Walk,
she determined to use such an opportunity in order if possible to
see Lydgate, and learn from him whether her husband had really felt
any depressing change of symptoms which he was concealing from her,
and whether he had insisted on knowing the utmost about himself.
She felt almost guilty in asking for knowledge about him from another,
but the dread of being without it--the dread of that ignorance
which would make her unjust or hard--overcame every scruple.
That there had been some crisis in her husband's mind she was certain:
he had the very next day begun a new method of arranging his notes,
and had associated her quite newly in carrying out his plan.
Poor Dorothea needed to lay up stores of patience.
It was about four o'clock when she drove to Lydgate's house in
Lowick Gate, wishing, in her immediate doubt of finding him at home,
that she had written beforehand. And he was not at home.
"Is Mrs. Lydgate at home?" said Dorothea, who had never, that she
knew of, seen Rosamond, but now remembered the fact of the marriage.
Yes, Mrs. Lydgate was at home.
"I will go in and speak to her, if she will allow me. Will you
ask her if she can see me--see Mrs. Casaubon, for a few minutes?"
When the servant had gone to deliver that message, Dorothea could
hear sounds of music through an open window--a few notes
from a man's voice and then a piano bursting into roulades.
But the roulades broke off suddenly, and then the servant came
back saying that Mrs. Lydgate would be happy to see Mrs. Casaubon.
When the drawing-room door opened and Dorothea entered, there was
a sort of contrast not infrequent in country life when the habits
of the different ranks were less blent than now. Let those who know,
tell us exactly what stuff it was that Dorothea wore in those days
of mild autumn--that thin white woollen stuff soft to the touch
and soft to the eye. It always seemed to have been lately washed,
and to smell of the sweet hedges--was always in the shape of a
pelisse with sleeves hanging all out of the fashion. Yet if she
had entered before a still audience as Imogene or Cato's daughter,
the dress might have seemed right enough: the grace and dignity were
in her limbs and neck; and about her simply parted hair and candid
eyes the large round poke which was then in the fate of women,
seemed no more odd as a head-dress than the gold trencher we call
a halo. By the present audience of two persons, no dramatic heroine
could have been expected with more interest than Mrs. Casaubon.
To Rosamond she was one of those county divinities not mixing with
Middlemarch mortality, whose slightest marks of manner or appearance
were worthy of her study; moreover, Rosamond was not without satisfaction
that Mrs. Casaubon should have an opportunity of studying _her._
What is the use of being exquisite if you are not seen by the best
judges? and since Rosamond had received the highest compliments
at Sir Godwin Lydgate's, she felt quite confident of the impression
she must make on people of good birth. Dorothea put out her hand
with her usual simple kindness, and looked admiringly at Lydgate's
lovely bride--aware that there was a gentleman standing at a distance,
but seeing him merely as a coated figure at a wide angle.
The gentleman was too much occupied with the presence of the one woman
to reflect on the contrast between the two--a contrast that would
certainly have been striking to a calm observer. They were both tall,
and their eyes were on a level; but imagine Rosamond's infantine
blondness and wondrous crown of hair-plaits, with her pale-blue
dress of a fit and fashion so perfect that no dressmaker could look
at it without emotion, a large embroidered collar which it was
to be hoped all beholders would know the price of, her small hands
duly set off with rings, and that controlled self-consciousness
of manner which is the expensive substitute for simplicity.
"Thank you very much for allowing me to interrupt you,"
said Dorothea, immediately. "I am anxious to see Mr. Lydgate,
if possible, before I go home, and I hoped that you might possibly
tell me where I could find him, or even allow me to wait for him,
if you expect him soon."
"He is at the New Hospital," said Rosamond; "I am not sure how soon
he will come home. But I can send for him,"
"Will you let me go and fetch him?" said Will Ladislaw, coming forward.
He had already taken up his hat before Dorothea entered.
She colored with surprise, but put out her hand with a smile
of unmistakable pleasure, saying--
"I did not know it was you: I had no thought of seeing you here."
"May I go to the Hospital and tell Mr. Lydgate that you wish
to see him?" said Will.
"It would be quicker to send the carriage for him," said Dorothea,
"if you will be kind enough to give the message to the coachman."
Will was moving to the door when Dorothea, whose mind had flashed
in an instant over many connected memories, turned quickly and said,
"I will go myself, thank you. I wish to lose no time before getting
home again. I will drive to the Hospital and see Mr. Lydgate there.
Pray excuse me, Mrs. Lydgate. I am very much obliged to you."
Her mind was evidently arrested by some sudden thought, and she
left the room hardly conscious of what was immediately around her--
hardly conscious that Will opened the door for her and offered her his
arm to lead her to the carriage. She took the arm but said nothing.
Will was feeling rather vexed and miserable, and found nothing
to say on his side. He handed her into the carriage in silence,
they said good-by, and Dorothea drove away.
In the five minutes' drive to the Hospital she had time for some
reflections that were quite new to her. Her decision to go, and her
preoccupation in leaving the room, had come from the sudden sense
that there would be a sort of deception in her voluntarily allowing
any further intercourse between herself and Will which she was unable
to mention to her husband, and already her errand in seeking Lydgate
was a matter of concealment. That was all that had been explicitly
in her mind; but she had been urged also by a vague discomfort.
Now that she was alone in her drive, she heard the notes of the man's
voice and the accompanying piano, which she had not noted much
at the time, returning on her inward sense; and she found herself
thinking with some wonder that Will Ladislaw was passing his time
with Mrs. Lydgate in her husband's absence. And then she could
not help remembering that he had passed some time with her under
like circumstances, so why should there be any unfitness in the fact?
But Will was Mr. Casaubon's relative, and one towards whom she was
bound to show kindness. Still there had been signs which perhaps
she ought to have understood as implying that Mr. Casaubon did
not like his cousin's visits during his own absence. "Perhaps I
have been mistaken in many things," said poor Dorothea to herself,
while the tears came rolling and she had to dry them quickly.
She felt confusedly unhappy, and the image of Will which had been
so clear to her before was mysteriously spoiled. But the carriage
stopped at the gate of the Hospital. She was soon walking round
the grass plots with Lydgate, and her feelings recovered the strong
bent which had made her seek for this interview.
Will Ladislaw, meanwhile, was mortified, and knew the reason
of it clearly enough. His chances of meeting Dorothea were rare;
and here for the first time there had come a chance which had set
him at a disadvantage. It was not only, as it had been hitherto,
that she was not supremely occupied with him, but that she had seen
him under circumstances in which he might appear not to be supremely
occupied with her. He felt thrust to a new distance from her,
amongst the circles of Middlemarchers who made no part of her life.
But that was not his fault: of course, since he had taken his lodgings
in the town, he had been making as many acquaintances as he could,
his position requiring that he should know everybody and everything.
Lydgate was really better worth knowing than any one else in
the neighborhood, and he happened to have a wife who was musical
and altogether worth calling upon. Here was the whole history
of the situation in which Diana had descended too unexpectedly on
her worshipper. It was mortifying. Will was conscious that he should
not have been at Middlemarch but for Dorothea; and yet his position
there was threatening to divide him from her with those barriers
of habitual sentiment which are more fatal to the persistence
of mutual interest than all the distance between Rome and Britain.
Prejudices about rank and status were easy enough to defy in the
form of a tyrannical letter from Mr. Casaubon; but prejudices,
like odorous bodies, have a double existence both solid and subtle--
solid as the pyramids, subtle as the twentieth echo of an echo,
or as the memory of hyacinths which once scented the darkness.
And Will was of a temperament to feel keenly the presence
of subtleties: a man of clumsier perceptions would not have felt,
as he did, that for the first time some sense of unfitness
in perfect freedom with him had sprung up in Dorothea's mind,
and that their silence, as he conducted her to the carriage,
had had a chill in it. Perhaps Casaubon, in his hatred and jealousy,
had been insisting to Dorothea that Will had slid below her socially.
Will re-entered the drawing-room, took up his hat, and looking
irritated as he advanced towards Mrs. Lydgate, who had seated
herself at her work-table, said--
"It is always fatal to have music or poetry interrupted. May I
come another day and just finish about the rendering of `Lungi dal
"I shall be happy to be taught," said Rosamond. "But I am sure
you admit that the interruption was a very beautiful one. I quite
envy your acquaintance with Mrs. Casaubon. Is she very clever?
She looks as if she were."
"Really, I never thought about it," said Will, sulkily.
"That is just the answer Tertius gave me, when I first asked him
if she were handsome. What is it that you gentlemen are thinking
of when you are with Mrs. Casaubon?"
"Herself," said Will, not indisposed to provoke the charming
Mrs. Lydgate. "When one sees a perfect woman, one never thinks
of her attributes--one is conscious of her presence."
"I shall be jealous when Tertius goes to Lowick," said Rosamond,
dimpling, and speaking with aery lightness. "He will come back
and think nothing of me."
"That does not seem to have been the effect on Lydgate hitherto.
Mrs. Casaubon is too unlike other women for them to be compared
"You are a devout worshipper, I perceive. You often see her,
"No," said Will, almost pettishly. "Worship is usually a matter
of theory rather than of practice. But I am practising it to excess
just at this moment--I must really tear myself away.
"Pray come again some evening: Mr. Lydgate will like to hear
the music, and I cannot enjoy it so well without him."
When her husband was at home again, Rosamond said, standing in
front of him and holding his coat-collar with both her hands,
"Mr. Ladislaw was here singing with me when Mrs. Casaubon came in.
He seemed vexed. Do you think he disliked her seeing him at our house?
Surely your position is more than equal to his--whatever may be his
relation to the Casaubons."
"No, no; it must be something else if he were really vexed,
Ladislaw is a sort of gypsy; he thinks nothing of leather and prunella."
"Music apart, he is not always very agreeable. Do you like him?"
"Yes: I think he is a good fellow: rather miscellaneous and
bric-a-brac, but likable."
"Do you know, I think he adores Mrs. Casaubon."
"Poor devil!" said Lydgate, smiling and pinching his wife's ears.
Rosamond felt herself beginning to know a great deal of the world,
especially in discovering what when she was in her unmarried girlhood
had been inconceivable to her except as a dim tragedy in by-gone costumes--
that women, even after marriage, might make conquests and enslave men.
At that time young ladies in the country, even when educated at
Mrs. Lemon's, read little French literature later than Racine,
and public prints had not cast their present magnificent illumination
over the scandals of life. Still, vanity, with a woman's whole
mind and day to work in, can construct abundantly on slight hints,
especially on such a hint as the possibility of indefinite conquests.
How delightful to make captives from the throne of marriage with a
husband as crown-prince by your side--himself in fact a subject--
while the captives look up forever hopeless, losing their rest probably,
and if their appetite too, so much the better! But Rosamond's romance
turned at present chiefly on her crown-prince, and it was enough
to enjoy his assured subjection. When he said, "Poor devil!"
she asked, with playful curiosity--
"Why, what can a man do when he takes to adoring one of you mermaids?
He only neglects his work and runs up bills."
"I am sure you do not neglect your work. You are always at the Hospital,
or seeing poor patients, or thinking about some doctor's quarrel;
and then at home you always want to pore over your microscope
and phials. Confess you like those things better than me."
"Haven't you ambition enough to wish that your husband should
be something better than a Middlemarch doctor?" said Lydgate,
letting his hands fall on to his wife's shoulders, and looking
at her with affectionate gravity. "I shall make you learn
my favorite bit from an old poet--
`Why should our pride make such a stir to be
And be forgot? What good is like to this,
To do worthy the writing, and to write
Worthy the reading and the worlds delight?'
What I want, Rosy, is to do worthy the writing,--and to write out
myself what I have done. A man must work, to do that, my pet."
"Of course, I wish you to make discoveries: no one could more wish
you to attain a high position in some better place than Middlemarch.
You cannot say that I have ever tried to hinder you from working.
But we cannot live like hermits. You are not discontented
with me, Tertius?"
"No, dear, no. I am too entirely contented."
"But what did Mrs. Casaubon want to say to you?"
"Merely to ask about her husband's health. But I think she is
going to be splendid to our New Hospital: I think she will give
us two hundred a-year."
I would not creep along the coast but steer
Out in mid-sea, by guidance of the stars.
When Dorothea, walking round the laurel-planted plots of the New
Hospital with Lydgate, had learned from him that there were no signs
of change in Mr. Casaubon's bodily condition beyond the mental
sign of anxiety to know the truth about his illness, she was
silent for a few moments, wondering whether she had said or done
anything to rouse this new anxiety. Lydgate, not willing to let
slip an opportunity of furthering a favorite purpose, ventured to say--
"I don't know whether your or Mr.--Casaubon's attention has been drawn
to the needs of our New Hospital. Circumstances have made it seem
rather egotistic in me to urge the subject; but that is not my fault:
it is because there is a fight being made against it by the other
medical men. I think you are generally interested in such things,
for I remember that when I first had the pleasure of seeing you
at Tipton Grange before your marriage, you were asking me some
questions about the way in which the health of the poor was affected
by their miserable housing."
"Yes, indeed," said Dorothea, brightening. "I shall be quite
grateful to you if you will tell me how I can help to make things
a little better. Everything of that sort has slipped away from me
since I have been married. I mean," she said, after a moment's
hesitation, "that the people in our village are tolerably comfortable,
and my mind has been too much taken up for me to inquire further.
But here--in such a place as Middlemarch--there must be a great
deal to be done."
"There is everything to be done," said Lydgate, with abrupt energy.
"And this Hospital is a capital piece of work, due entirely to
Mr. Bulstrode's exertions, and in a great degree to his money.
But one man can't do everything in a scheme of this sort. Of course
he looked forward to help. And now there's a mean, petty feud
set up against the thing in the town, by certain persons who want
to make it a failure."
"What can be their reasons?" said Dorothea, with naive surprise.
"Chiefly Mr. Bulstrode's unpopularity, to begin with. Half the
town would almost take trouble for the sake of thwarting him.
In this stupid world most people never consider that a thing is good
to be done unless it is done by their own set. I had no connection
with Bulstrode before I came here. I look at him quite impartially,
and I see that he has some notions--that he has set things on foot--
which I can turn to good public purpose. If a fair number of the better
educated men went to work with the belief that their observations
might contribute to the reform of medical doctrine and practice,
we should soon see a change for the better. That's my point of view.
I hold that by refusing to work with Mr. Bulstrode I should be
turning my back on an opportunity of making my profession more
"I quite agree with you," said Dorothea, at once fascinated by
the situation sketched in Lydgate's words. "But what is there
against Mr. Bulstrode? I know that my uncle is friendly with him."
"People don't like his religious tone," said Lydgate, breaking off there.
"That is all the stronger reason for despising such an opposition,"
said Dorothea, looking at the affairs of Middlemarch by the light
of the great persecutions.
"To put the matter quite fairly, they have other objections to him:--
he is masterful and rather unsociable, and he is concerned with trade,
which has complaints of its own that I know nothing about.
But what has that to do with the question whether it would not be
a fine thing to establish here a more valuable hospital than any
they have in the county? The immediate motive to the opposition,
however, is the fact that Bulstrode has put the medical direction
into my hands. Of course I am glad of that. It gives me an
opportunity of doing some good work,--and I am aware that I have
to justify his choice of me. But the consequence is, that the
whole profession in Middlemarch have set themselves tooth and nail
against the Hospital, and not only refuse to cooperate themselves,
but try to blacken the whole affair and hinder subscriptions."
"How very petty!" exclaimed Dorothea, indignantly.
"I suppose one must expect to fight one's way: there is hardly
anything to be done without it. And the ignorance of people about
here is stupendous. I don't lay claim to anything else than having
used some opportunities which have not come within everybody's reach;
but there is no stifling the offence of being young, and a new-comer,
and happening to know something more than the old inhabitants.
Still, if I believe that I can set going a better method of treatment--
if I believe that I can pursue certain observations and inquiries
which may be a lasting benefit to medical practice, I should be
a base truckler if I allowed any consideration of personal comfort
to hinder me. And the course is all the clearer from there being
no salary in question to put my persistence in an equivocal light."
"I am glad you have told me this, Mr. Lydgate," said Dorothea, cordially.
"I feel sure I can help a little. I have some money, and don't know
what to do with it--that is often an uncomfortable thought to me.
I am sure I can spare two hundred a-year for a grand purpose like this.
How happy you must be, to know things that you feel sure will do
great good! I wish I could awake with that knowledge every morning.
There seems to be so much trouble taken that one can hardly see
the good of!"
There was a melancholy cadence in Dorothea's voice as she spoke
these last words. But she presently added, more cheerfully,
"Pray come to Lowick and tell us more of this. I will mention
the subject to Mr. Casaubon. I must hasten home now."
She did mention it that evening, and said that she should like to
subscribe two hundred a-year--she had seven hundred a-year as the
equivalent of her own fortune, settled on her at her marriage.
Mr. Casaubon made no objection beyond a passing remark that the
sum might be disproportionate in relation to other good objects,
but when Dorothea in her ignorance resisted that suggestion,
he acquiesced. He did not care himself about spending money,
and was not reluctant to give it. If he ever felt keenly any question
of money it was through the medium of another passion than the love
of material property.
Dorothea told him that she had seen Lydgate, and recited the gist
of her conversation with him about the Hospital. Mr. Casaubon did
not question her further, but he felt sure that she had wished to know
what had passed between Lydgate and himself "She knows that I know,"
said the ever-restless voice within; but that increase of tacit
knowledge only thrust further off any confidence between them.
He distrusted her affection; and what loneliness is more lonely
It is the humor of many heads to extol the days of their
forefathers, and declaim against the wickedness of times
present. Which notwithstanding they cannot handsomely do,
without the borrowed help and satire of times past;
condemning the vices of their own times, by the expressions
of vices in times which they commend, which cannot but argue
the community of vice in both. Horace, therefore, Juvenal,
and Persius, were no prophets, although their lines did seem
to indigitate and point at our times.--SIR THOMAS BROWNE:
That opposition to the New Fever Hospital which Lydgate had sketched
to Dorothea was, like other oppositions, to be viewed in many
different lights. He regarded it as a mixture of jealousy and
dunderheaded prejudice. Mr. Bulstrode saw in it not only medical
jealousy but a determination to thwart himself, prompted mainly
by a hatred of that vital religion of which he had striven to be
an effectual lay representative--a hatred which certainly found
pretexts apart from religion such as were only too easy to find
in the entanglements of human action. These might be called the
ministerial views. But oppositions have the illimitable range of
objections at command, which need never stop short at the boundary
of knowledge, but can draw forever on the vasts of ignorance.
What the opposition in Middlemarch said about the New Hospital
and its administration had certainly a great deal of echo in it,
for heaven has taken care that everybody shall not be an originator;
but there were differences which represented every social shade
between the polished moderation of Dr. Minchin and the trenchant
assertion of Mrs. Dollop, the landlady of the Tankard in Slaughter Lane.
Mrs. Dollop became more and more convinced by her own asseveration,
that Dr. Lydgate meant to let the people die in the Hospital,
if not to poison them, for the sake of cutting them up without
saying by your leave or with your leave; for it was a known "fac"
that he had wanted to cut up Mrs. Goby, as respectable a woman
as any in Parley Street, who had money in trust before her marriage--
a poor tale for a doctor, who if he was good for anything should know
what was the matter with you before you died, and not want to pry
into your inside after you were gone. If that was not reason,
Mrs. Dollop wished to know what was; but there was a prevalent feeling
in her audience that her opinion was a bulwark, and that if it were
overthrown there would be no limits to the cutting-up of bodies,
as had been well seen in Burke and Hare with their pitch-plaisters--
such a hanging business as that was not wanted in Middlemarch!
And let it not be supposed that opinion at the Tankard in Slaughter
Lane was unimportant to the medical profession: that old authentic
public-house--the original Tankard, known by the name of Dollop's--
was the resort of a great Benefit Club, which had some months before put
to the vote whether its long-standing medical man, "Doctor Gambit,"
should not be cashiered in favor of "this Doctor Lydgate," who was
capable of performing the most astonishing cures, and rescuing people
altogether given up by other practitioners. But the balance had been
turned against Lydgate by two members, who for some private reasons
held that this power of resuscitating persons as good as dead was an
equivocal recommendation, and might interfere with providential favors.
In the course of the year, however, there had been a change
in the public sentiment, of which the unanimity at Dollop's was an
A good deal more than a year ago, before anything was known of
Lydgate's skill, the judgments on it had naturally been divided,
depending on a sense of likelihood, situated perhaps in the pit
of the stomach or in the pineal gland, and differing in its verdicts,
but not the less valuable as a guide in the total deficit of evidence.
Patients who had chronic diseases or whose lives had long been
worn threadbare, like old Featherstone's, had been at once inclined
to try him; also, many who did not like paying their doctor's bills,
thought agreeably of opening an account with a new doctor and
sending for him without stint if the children's temper wanted
a dose, occasions when the old practitioners were often crusty;
and all persons thus inclined to employ Lydgate held it likely
that he was clever. Some considered that he might do more than
others "where there was liver;"--at least there would be no harm
in getting a few bottles of "stuff" from him, since if these proved
useless it would still be possible to return to the Purifying Pills,
which kept you alive if they did not remove the yellowness.
But these were people of minor importance. Good Middlemarch families
were of course not going to change their doctor without reason shown;
and everybody who had employed Mr. Peacock did not feel obliged
to accept a new man merely in the character of his successor,
objecting that he was "not likely to be equal to Peacock."
But Lydgate had not been long in the town before there were
particulars enough reported of him to breed much more specific
expectations and to intensify differences into partisanship;
some of the particulars being of that impressive order of which the
significance is entirely hidden, like a statistical amount without
a standard of comparison, but with a note of exclamation at the end.
The cubic feet of oxygen yearly swallowed by a full-grown man--
what a shudder they might have created in some Middlemarch circles!
"Oxygen! nobody knows what that may be--is it any wonder the cholera
has got to Dantzic? And yet there are people who say quarantine is
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