The World's Greatest Books, Vol IV.
Editors: Arthur Mee and J.A. Hammerton
Part 1 out of 6
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Editor and Founder of the Book of Knowledge
J. A. HAMMERTON
Editor of Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia
Table of Contents
An Egyptian Princess
The Mill on the Floss
Romance of a Poor Young Man
FOUQUE, DE LA MOTTE
File No. 113
Annals of the Parish
Sorrows of Young Werther
Vicar of Wakefield
GONCOURT, EDMOND AND JULES DE
A Complete Index of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will be found at the end
of Volume XX.
* * * * *
An Egyptian Princess
Georg Moritz Ebers, a great Orientalist and Egyptologist, was
born in Berlin on March 1, 1837, received his first
instruction at Keilhau in Thuringen, then attended a college
at Quedlinburg, and finally took up the study of law at
Goettingen University. In 1858, when his feet became lame, he
abandoned this study, and took up philology and archaeology.
After 1859 he devoted himself almost exclusively to
Egyptology. Having recovered from his long illness, he visited
the most important European museums, and in 1869 he travelled
to Egypt, Nubia, and Arabia. On his return he took the chair
of Egyptology at Leipzig University. He went back to Egypt in
1872, and discovered, besides many other important
inscriptions, the famous papyrus which bears his name. "An
Egyptian Princess" is his first important novel, written
during his illness, and published in 1864. It has gone through
numerous editions, and has been translated into most European
languages. It was followed by several other similar works of
fiction, of which "Serapis" achieved wide popularity. Ebers
died on August 7, 1898.
_I.--The Royal Bride_
A cavalcade of dazzling splendour was moving along the high road towards
Babylon. The embassy sent by Cambyses, the mighty King of the East, had
accomplished its mission, and now Nitetis, the daughter of Amasis, King
of Egypt, was on the way to meet her future spouse. At the head of the
sumptuous escort were Bartja, Cambyses' handsome golden-haired younger
brother; his kinsman Darius; Croesus, the dethroned King of Lydia, and
his son Gyges; Prexaspes, the king's ambassador, and Zopyrus, the son of
Megabyzus, a Persian noble.
A few miles before the gates of Babylon they perceived a troop of
horsemen galloping towards them. Cambyses himself came to honour his
bride. His pale face, framed by an immense black beard, expressed great
power and unbounded pride. Deep pallor and bright colour flitted by
turns across the face of Nitetis, as his fiery eyes fixed her with a
piercing gaze. Then he waved a welcome, sprang from his horse, shook
Croesus by the hand, and asked him to act as interpreter. "She is
beautiful and pleases me well," said the king. And Nitetis, who had
begun to learn the language of her new home on the long journey, blushed
deeply and began softly in broken Persian, "Blessed be the gods, who
have caused me to find favour in thine eyes."
Cambyses was delighted with her desire to win his approbation and with
her industry and intellect, so different from the indolence and idleness
of the Persian women in his harem. His wonder and satisfaction increased
when, after recommending her to obey the orders of Boges, the eunuch,
who was head over the house of women, she reminded him that she was a
king's daughter, bound to obey the commands of her lord, but unable to
bow to a venal servant.
Her pride found an echo in his own haughty disposition. "You have spoken
well. A separate dwelling shall be appointed you. I, and no one else,
will prescribe your rules of life and conduct. Tell me now, how my
messengers pleased you and your countrymen?"
"Who could know the noble Croesus without loving him? Who could fail to
admire the beauty of the young heroes, your friends, and especially of
your handsome brother Bartja? The Egyptians have no love for strangers,
but he won all hearts."
At these words the king's brows darkened, he struck his horse so that
the creature reared, and then, turning it quickly round, he galloped
towards Babylon. He decided in his mind to give Bartja the command of an
expedition against the Tapuri, and to make him marry Rosana, the
daughter of a Persian noble. He also determined to make Nitetis his real
queen and adviser. She was to be to him what his mother Kassandane had
been to Cyrus, his great father. Not even Phaedime, his favourite wife,
had occupied such a position. And as for Bartja, "he had better take
care," he murmured, "or he shall know the fate that awaits the man who
dares to cross my path."
According to Persian custom a year had to pass before Nitetis could
become Cambyses' lawful wife, but, conscious of his despotic power, he
had decided to reduce this term to a few months. Meanwhile, he only saw
the fair Egyptian in the presence of his blind mother or of his sister
Atossa, both of whom became Nitetis' devoted friends. Meanwhile, Boges,
the eunuch, sank in public estimation, since it was known that Cambyses
had ceased to visit the harem, and he began to conspire with Phaedime as
to the best way of ruining Nitetis, who had come to love Cambyses with
ever growing passion.
The Egyptian princess's happiness was seriously disturbed by the arrival
of a letter from her mother, which brought her naught but sad news. Her
father, Amasis, had been struck with blindness on the very day she had
reached Babylon; and her frail twin-sister Tachot, after falling into a
violent fever, was wasting away for love of Bartja, whose beauty had
captured her heart at the time of his mission in Sais. His name had been
even on her lips in her delirium, and the only hope for her was to see
Nitetis' whole happiness was destroyed in one moment. She wept and
sighed, until she fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. When her maid
Mandane came to put a last touch to her dress for the banquet, she found
her sleeping, and as there was ample time she went out into the garden,
where she met the eunuch Boges. He was the bearer of good news. Mandane
had been brought up with the children of a Magian, one of whom was now
the high-priest Oropastes. Love had sprung up between her and his
handsome brother Gaumata; and Oropastes, who had ambitious schemes, had
sent his brother to Rhagae and procured her a situation at court, so that
they might forget one another. And now Gaumata had come and begged her
to meet him next evening in the hanging gardens. Mandane consented after
a hard struggle.
Boges hurried away with malicious pleasure in the near success of his
scheme. He met one of the gardeners, whom he promised to bring some of
the nobles to inspect a special kind of blue lily, in which the gardener
took great pride. He then hurried to the harem, to make sure that the
king's wives should look their best, and insisted upon Phaedime painting
her face white, and putting on a simple, dark dress without ornament,
except the chain given her by Cambyses on her marriage, to arouse the
pity of the Achaemenidae, to which family she herself belonged.
The eunuch's cunning scheme succeeded but too well. At the end of the
great banquet Bartja, to whom Cambyses had promised to grant a favour on
his victorious return from the war, confessed to him his love for
Sappho, a charming and cultured Greek maiden of noble descent, whom he
wished to make his wife. Cambyses was delighted at this proof of the
injustice of his jealous suspicions, and announced aloud that Bartja
would in a few days depart to bring home a bride. At these words
Nitetis, thinking of her poor sister's misery, fainted.
Cambyses sprang up pale as death; his lips trembled and his fist was
clenched. Nitetis looked at him imploringly, but he commanded Boges to
take the women back to their apartments. "Sleep well, Egyptian, and pray
to the gods to give you the power of dissembling your feelings. Here,
give me wine; but taste it well, for to-day, for the first time, I fear
poison. Do you hear, Egyptian? Yes, all the poison, as well as the
medicine, comes from Egypt."
Boges gave strict orders that nobody--not even the queen-mother or
Croesus--was to have access to the hanging gardens, whither he had
conducted Nitetis. Cambyses, meanwhile, continued the drinking bout,
thinking the while of punishment for the false woman. Bartja could have
had no share in her perfidy, or he would have killed him on the spot;
but he would send him away. And Nitetis should be handed to Boges, to be
made the servant of his concubines and thus to atone for her crimes.
When the king left the hall, Boges, who had slipped out before him,
intercepted one of the gardener's boys with a letter for Prince Bartja.
The boy refused to hand it over, as Nitetis had instructed him to hand
it only to the prince; and on Cambyses' approach the boy fell on his
knees, touching the ground with his forehead. Cambyses snatched the
papyrus roll from his hand, and stamped furiously on the ground at
seeing that the letter was written in Greek, which he could not read. He
went to his own apartments, followed by Boges, whom he instructed to
keep a strict watch over the Egyptian and the hanging gardens. "If a
single human being or a message reach her without my knowledge, your
life will be the forfeit."
Boges, pleading a burning fever, begged that Kandaules, the Lydian
captain of eunuchs, who was true as gold and inflexibly severe, should
relieve him on the morrow. On the king's consent, he begged furthermore
that Oropastes, Croesus, and three other nobles should be allowed to
witness the opening of the blue lily in the hanging gardens. Kandaules
would see that they enter into no communication with the Egyptian.
"Kandaules must keep his eyes open, if he values his own life--go!"
The hunt was over, and Bartja, who had invited his bosom friends,
Darius, Gyges, Zopyrus, and Croesus, to drink a parting-cup with him,
sat with the first three in the bower of the royal gardens. They talked
long of love, of their ambitions, of the influence of stars on human
destinies, when Croesus rapidly approached the arbour. When he beheld
Bartja, he stood transfixed, then whispered to him, "Unhappy boy, you
are still here? Fly for your life! The whip-bearers are close on my
"What do you mean?"
"Fly, I tell you, even if your visit to the hanging gardens was
innocently meant. You know Cambyses' violent temper. You know his
jealousy of you; and your visit to the Egyptian to-night...."
"My visit? I have never left this garden!"
"Don't add a lie to your offense. Save yourself, quickly."
"I speak the truth, and I shall remain."
"You are infatuated. We saw you in the hanging-gardens not an hour ago."
Bartja appealed to his friends, who confirmed on oath the truth of his
assertion; and before Croesus could arrive at a solution of the mystery,
the soldiers had arrived, led by an officer who had served under Bartja.
He had orders to arrest everybody found in the suspect's company, but at
the risk of his life urged Bartja to escape the king's fury. His men
would blindly follow his command. But Bartja steadfastly refused. He was
innocent, and knew that Cambyses, though hasty, was not unjust.
Two hours later Bartja and his friends stood before the king who had
just recovered from an epileptic fit. A few hours earlier he would have
killed Bartja with his own hands. Now he was ready to lend an ear to
both sides. Boges first related that he was with the Achaemenidae, looking
at the blue lily, and called Kandaules to inquire if everything was in
order. On being told that Nitetis had not tasted food or drink all day,
he sent Kandaules to fetch a physician. It was then that he saw Bartja
by the princess's window. She herself came out of the sleep-room.
Croesus called to Bartja, and the two figures disappeared behind a
cypress. He went to search the house and found Nitetis lying unconscious
on a couch. Hystaspes and the other nobles confirmed the eunuch's words,
and even Croesus had to admit their substantial truth, but added that
they must have been deceived by some remarkable likeness--at which Boges
Bartja's friends were equally definite in their evidence for the
accused. Cambyses looked first on the one, then on the other party of
these strange witnesses. Then Bartja begged permission to speak.
"A son of Cyrus," he said, "would rather die than lie. I confess no
judge was ever placed in so perplexing a position. But were the entire
Persian nation to rise up against you, and swear that Cambyses had
committed an evil deed, and you were to say, 'I did not commit it,' I,
Bartja, would give all Persia the lie and exclaim, 'Ye are all false
witnesses! A son of Cyrus cannot allow his mouth to deal in lies.' I
swear to you that I am innocent. I have not once set foot in the hanging
gardens since my return."
Cambyses' looks grew milder on hearing these words, and when Oropastes
suggested that an evil spirit must have taken Bartja's form to ruin him,
he nodded assent and stretched out his hand towards Bartja. At this
moment a staff-bearer came in and gave the king a dagger found by a
eunuch under Nitetis' window. Cambyses examined it, dashed the dagger
violently to the ground, and shrieked, "This is your dagger! At last you
are convicted, you liar! Ah, you are feeling in your girdle! You may
well turn pale, your dagger is gone! Seize him, put on his fetters! He
shall be strangled to-morrow! Away with you, you perjured villains! They
shall all die to-morrow! And the Egyptian--at noon she shall be flogged
through the streets. Then I'll----"
But here he was stopped by another fit of epilepsy, and sank down in
The fate of the unfortunates was sealed when, afterwards, Cambyses made
Croesus read to him Nitetis' Greek letter to Bartja.
"Nitetis, daughter of Amasis of Egypt, to Bartja, son of the great
"I have something important to tell you; I can tell it to no one but
yourself. To-morrow I hope to meet you in your mother's rooms. It lies
in your power to comfort a sad and loving heart, and to give it one
happy moment before death. I repeat that I must see you soon."
Croesus, who tried to intercede on behalf of the condemned, was
sentenced to share their fate. In his heart even he was now convinced of
Bartja's guilt, and of the perjury of his own son and of Darius.
_IV.--The Unexpected Witness_
Nitetis had passed many a wretched hour since the great banquet. All day
long she was kept in strict seclusion, and in the twilight Boges came to
her to tell her jeeringly that her letter had fallen into the king's
hand, and that its bearer had been executed. The princess swooned away,
and Boges carried her to her sleeping-room, the door of which he barred
carefully. When, later, Mandane left her lover Gaumata, the maid hurried
into her mistress's room, found her in a faint, and used every remedy to
restore her to consciousness.
Then Boges came with two eunuchs, loaded the princess's arms with
fetters, and gave vent to his long-nourished spite, telling her of the
awful fate that was in store for her. Nitetis resolved to swallow a
poisonous ointment for the complexion directly the executioner should
draw near her. Then, in spite of her fetters, she managed to write to
Cambyses, to assure him once more of her love and to explain her
innocence. "I commit this crime against myself, Cambyses, to save you
from doing a disgraceful deed."
Meanwhile, Boges, after exciting Phaedime's curiosity by many vague
hints, divulged to her the nature of his infamous scheme. When Gaumata
had come to Babylon for the New Year's festival, Boges had discovered
his remarkable likeness to Bartja. He knew of his love for Mandane,
gained his confidence, and arranged the nocturnal meeting under Nitetis'
bedroom window. In return he exacted the promise of the lover's
immediate departure after the meeting. He helped him to escape through a
trap-door. To get Bartja out of the way, he had induced a Greek merchant
to dispatch a letter to the prince, asking him, in the name of her he
loved best, to come alone in the evening to the first station outside
the Euphrates gate. Unfortunately, the messenger managed the matter
clumsily, and apparently gave the letter to Gaumata. But to counteract
Bartja's proof of innocence, Boges had managed to get hold of his
dagger, which was conclusive evidence. And now Nitetis was sentenced to
be set astride upon an ass and led through the streets of Babylon. As
for Gaumata, three men were lying in wait for him to throw him into the
Euphrates before he could get back to Rhagae. Phaedime joined in Boges'
laughter, and hung a heavy jewel-studded chain round his neck.
* * * * *
A few hours only were wanted for the time fixed for Nitetis' disgrace,
and the streets of Babylon were thronged with a dense crowd of
sightseers, when a small caravan approached the Bel gate. In the first
carriage was a fine, handsome man of about fifty, of commanding aspect,
and dressed as a Persian courtier. With difficulty the driver cleared a
passage through the crowd. "Make way for us! The royal post has no time
to lose, and I am driving some one who will make you repent every
minute's delay." They arrived at the palace, and the stranger's
insistence succeeded in gaining admission to the king. The Greek--for
such the stranger had declared himself--affirmed that he could prove the
condemned men's innocence.
"Call him in!" exclaimed Cambyses. "But if he wants to deceive me, let
him remember that where the head of a son of Cyrus is about to fall, a
Greek head has but very little chance." The Greek's calm and noble
manner impressed Cambyses favourably, and his hostility was entirely
overcome when the stranger revealed to him that he was Phanes, the
famous commander of the Greek mercenaries in Egypt, and that he had come
to offer his service to Cambyses.
Phanes now related how, on approaching Babylon by the royal post, just
before midnight, they heard some cries of distress, and found three
fierce-looking fellows dragging a youth towards the river; how with his
Greek war-cry he had rushed on the murderers, slain one of them, and put
the others to flight; and how he discovered--so he thought--the youth to
be none other but Bartja, whom he had met at the Egyptian court.
They took him to the nearest station, bled him, and bound up his wounds.
When he regained consciousness, he told them his name was Gaumata. Then
he was seized by fever, during which he constantly spoke of the hanging
gardens and of his Mandane.
"Set the prisoners free, my king. I will answer for it with my own head,
that Bartja was not in the hanging gardens."
The king was surprised at this speech, but not angry. Phanes then
advised him to send for Oropastes and Mandane, whose examination
elicited the full truth. Boges, who was also sent for, had disappeared.
Cambyses had all the prisoners set free, gave Phanes his hand to kiss--a
rare honour--and, greater honour still, invited him to eat at the king's
table. Then he went to the rooms of his mother, who had sent for him.
Nitetis had been carried insensible to the queen-mother's apartments.
When she opened her eyes, her head was resting on the blind queen's lap,
she felt Atossa's warm kisses on her forehead, and Cambyses was standing
by her side. She gazed around, and smiled as she recognised them one by
one. She raised herself with difficulty. "How could you believe such a
thing of me, my king?" she asked. There was no reproach in her tone, but
deep sadness; Cambyses replied, "Forgive me."
Nitetis then gave them the letter she had received from her mother,
which would explain all, and begged them not to scorn her poor sister.
"When an Egyptian girl once loves, she cannot forget. But I feel so
frightened. The end must be near. That horrible man, Boges, read me the
fearful sentence, and it was that which forced the poison into my hand."
The physician rushed forward. "I thought so! She has taken a poison
which results in certain death. She is lost!"
On hearing this, the king exclaimed in anguish, "She _shall_ live; it is
my will! Summon all the physicians in Babylon. Assemble the priests. She
is not to die! She must live! I am the king, and I command it!"
Nitetis opened her eyes as if endeavouring to obey her lord. She looked
upon her lover, who was pressing his burning lips to her right hand. She
murmured, with a smile, "Oh, this great happiness!" Then she closed her
eyes and was seized with fever.
* * * * *
All efforts to save Nitetis' life were fruitless. Cambyses fell into the
deepest gloom, and wanted action, war, to dispel his sad thoughts.
Phanes gave him the pretext. As commander of the Greek mercenaries in
Egypt, he had enjoyed Amasis' confidence. He alone, with the
high-priest, shared Amasis' secret about the birth of Nitetus, who was
not the daughter of Amasis, but of Hophra, his predecessor, whose throne
Amasis had usurped. When, owing to the intrigues of Psamtik, Amasis'
son, Phanes fell into disgrace and had to fly for his life, his little
son was seized and cruelly murdered by his persecutors. Phanes had sworn
revenge. He now persuaded Cambyses to wage war upon Egypt, and to claim
Amasis' throne as the husband of Hophra's daughter.
The rest is known to all students of history--how Cambyses, with the
help of Phanes, defeated Psamtik's host at Pelusium and took possession
of the whole Egyptian Empire; how, given more and more to drink and
fearful excesses, he set up a rule of untold terror, had his brother
Bartja murdered in another fit of jealousy, and finally suffered defeat
at the hands of the Ethiopians. They will also know how, on his death,
Gaumata, the "pseudo-Smerdis" of the Greeks, was urged by his ambitious
brother, Oropastes, to seize the throne by impersonating the dead
Bartja; how, finally, the pretender was defeated and had to pay for his
attempt with his life; and how Persia rose again to unity and greatness
under the rule of the noble Darius, Bartja's faithful kinsman and
* * * * *
Maria Edgeworth was born at Black Bourton, Oxfordshire,
England, Jan. 1, 1767, and eleven years later her father
removed to Ireland and settled on his own estate at
Edgeworthstown. "Belinda," published in 1801, is Maria
Edgeworth's one early example of a novel not placed in Irish
surroundings, but dealing with fashionable life. Issued just a
year after the appearance of her first Irish tale, "Castle
Rackrent," it betrays entirely the influence of the novelist's
autocratic and eccentric father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth,
with whom the daughter had been previously collaborating. No
one could be less suited than he to advise about fiction, yet
to his daughter his advice was almost the equivalent of a
command. The story is interesting as an example of literary
workmanship outside of the scenes in which special success had
been achieved. Miss Edgeworth died at Edgeworthstown on May
_I.--A Match-Maker's Handicap_
Mrs. Stanhope, a well-bred woman, accomplished in the art of rising in
the world, had, with but a small fortune, contrived to live in the
highest company. She prided herself upon having established half a dozen
nieces most happily--that is to say, upon having married them to men of
fortunes far superior to their own. One niece still remained unmarried,
Belinda Portman, of whom she determined to get rid with all convenient
expedition; but finding that, owing to declining health, she could not
go out with her as much as she wished, she succeeded in fastening her
upon the fashionable Lady Delacour for a winter in London.
"Nothing, to my mind, can be more miserable than the situation of a poor
girl who fails in her matrimonial expectations (as many do merely from
not beginning to speculate in time)," she wrote from Bath. "She finds
herself at five or six-and-thirty a burden to her friends, destitute of
the means of rendering herself independent--for the girls I speak of
never think of _learning_ to play cards--_de trop_ in society, yet
obliged to hang upon all her acquaintances, who wish her in heaven,
because she is unqualified to make the _expected_ return for civilities,
having no home--I mean no establishment, no house, etc.--fit for the
reception of company of certain rank. My dearest Belinda, may this never
be your case. I have sent your bracelet to you by Mr. Clarence Hervey,
an acquaintance of Lady Delacour, an uncommonly pleasant young man,
highly connected, a wit and a gallant, and having a fine independent
fortune; so, my dear Belinda, I make it a point--look well when he is
introduced to you, and remember that nobody _can_ look well without
taking some pains to please."
Belinda had been charmed by Lady Delacour, who was the most agreeable,
the most fascinating person she had ever beheld; and to be a visitor at
her house was a delightful privilege. But, a short time after her
arrival, she began to see through the thin veil with which politeness
covers domestic misery. Abroad, Lady Delacour appeared all spirit, life,
and good humour; at home, listless, fretful, and melancholy, a prey to
thoughts, seemingly, of the most painful nature.
The first time Belinda saw his lordship he was dead drunk in the arms of
two footmen; his lady, who had just returned from Ranelagh, passed him
on the stairs with the utmost contempt.
"Don't look so shocked and amazed, Belinda. Don't look so _new_, child.
This funeral of my lord's intellects is to me a nightly ceremony; or,"
said her ladyship, looking at her watch and yawning, "I believe I should
say a daily ceremony--six o'clock, I protest!"
The next morning Clarence Hervey called, and Belinda found him a most
uncommonly pleasant young man. Lord Delacour was jealous of him; but
although he would have started with horror at the idea of disturbing the
peace of a family, in that family, he said, there was no peace to
disturb. Consequently, he visited her ladyship every day, and every day
viewed Belinda with increasing admiration, and with increasing dread of
being taken in to marry a niece of that "catch-matchmaker," as Mrs.
Stanhope was known amongst the men of his acquaintance.
Under the guise of a tragic muse--in which character Lady Delacour had
pretended she was going to a masquerade--Belinda heard his true
sentiments with regard to her.
"You don't believe I go to Lady Delacour's to look for a wife? Do you
think I'm an idiot? Do you think I could be taken in by one of the
Stanhope school?" he said to the facetious friends who rallied him on
his attachment. "Do you think I don't see as plainly as any of you that
Belinda Portman is a composition of art and affectation?"
"Melpomene, hast thou forgot thyself to warble?" asked Lady Delacour,
tripping towards them as the comic muse.
"I am not very well," whispered Miss Portman. "Could we get away?"
"Do see if you can find any of my people!" cried Lady Delacour to
Clarence Hervey, who had followed them downstairs.
"Lady Delacour, the comic muse!" exclaimed he. "I had thought----"
"No matter what you thought!" interrupted her ladyship. "Let my carriage
draw up, and put this lady into it!" And he obeyed without uttering a
"Dry up your tears, _keep on your mask_, and elbow your way through the
crowd," she said, when she had heard Belinda's story. "If you stop to be
civil and 'hope I don't hurt ye,' you will be trod underfoot."
She insisted on driving to the Pantheon instead of going home, but to
Belinda the night seemed long and dull. The masquerade had no charm to
keep her thoughts from the conversation that had given her so much pain.
_II.--Fashion and Fortitude_
"How happy you are, Lady Delacour!" she said, when they got into the
carriage to go home. "How happy to have such an amazing flow of
And then she learnt the reason of her ladyship's strange unevenness of
temper. She was dying of an incurable complaint, which she kept hidden
from all the world except her maid, Marriott, who attended on her in a
mysterious cabinet full of medicines and linen rags, the door of which
she had hitherto kept locked.
"You are shocked, Belinda," said she, "but as yet you have seen nothing.
Look here!" And baring one half of her bosom, she revealed a hideous
"Am I humbled? Am I wretched enough?" she asked. "No matter. I will die
as I have lived, the envy and admiration of the world. Promise--swear to
me that you will never reveal what you have seen to-night!" And Belinda
promised not only that, but to remain with her as long as ever she
Belinda's quiet avoidance of Clarence Hervey made him begin to believe
that she might not be "a compound of art and affectation," and he was
mortified to find that, though she joined with ease and dignity in the
general conversation with the others, her manner to him was grave and
reserved. To divert her, he declared he was convinced he was as well
able to manage a hoop as any woman in England, except Lady Delacour;
accordingly he was dressed by Marriott, and made his _entree_ with very
composed assurance and grace, being introduced as the Countess de
Pomenars to the purblind dowager, Lady Boucher, who had come to call. He
managed his part well, speaking French and broken English, until Lady
Delacour dexterously let down Belinda's beautiful tresses, and, calling
the French lady to admire _la belle chevelure,_ artfully let fall her
Totally forgetting his hoop and his character, he stooped to pick it up,
and lost his wager by knocking over a music-stand. He would have liked a
lock of her hair, but she refused with a modest, graceful dignity; she
was glad she had done so later when a tress of hair dropped from his
pocket-book, and his confusion showed her he was extremely interested
about the person to whom it belonged.
During her absence from the room Clarence entreated Lady Delacour to
make his peace with her. She consented on condition that he found her a
pair of horses from Tattersall's, on which Belinda, she said, had
secretly set her heart. He was vexed to find Belinda had so little
delicacy, and relapsed into his former opinion of Mrs. Stanhope's niece,
addressing her with the air of a man of gallantry, who thought his peace
had been cheaply made.
The horses ran away with Lady Delacour, injuring her ankle, and on her
being brought home by Clarence, Lord Delacour wished to enter the locked
cabinet for _arque-busade._ On being denied entrance, he seized the key,
believing a lover of hers was concealed there, until Belinda sprang
forward and took it from him, leaving them to believe what they would.
This circumstance was afterwards explained by Dr. X----, a mutual
friend, and Hervey was so much charmed with Belinda that he would have
gone to her at once--only that he had undertaken the reformation of Lady
_III.--An Unexpected Suitor_
In the meantime, after spending a morning in tasting wines, and thinking
that, although he had never learned to swim, some recollection he had of
an essay on swimming would ensure his safety, he betted his friends a
hundred guineas that he would swim to a certain point, and flinging
himself into the Serpentine, would have drowned before their eyes but
for the help of Mr. Percival. The breach caused by this affair induced
Sir Philip Baddely, a gentleman who always supplied "each vacuity of
sense" with an oath, to endeavour to cut him out by proposing to
"Damme, you're ten times handsomer than the finest woman I ever saw,
for, damme, I didn't know what it was to be in love then," he said,
heaving an audible sigh. "I'll trouble you for Mrs. Stanhope's
direction, Miss Portman; I believe, to do the thing in style, I ought to
write to her before I speak to you."
Belinda looked at him in astonishment, and then, finding he was in
earnest, assured him it was not in her power to encourage his addresses,
although she was fully sensible of the honour he had done her.
"Confusion seize me!" cried he, starting up, "if it isn't the most
extraordinary thing I ever heard! Is it to Sir Philip Baddely's
fortune--L15,000 a year--you object, or to his family, or to his person?
Oh, curse it!" said he, changing his tone, "you're only quizzing me to
see how I should look--you do it too well, you little coquette!"
Belinda again assured him she was entirely in earnest, and that she was
incapable of the sort of coquetry which he ascribed to her. To punish
her for this rejection he spread the report of Hervey's entanglement
with a beautiful girl named Virginia, whose picture he had sent to an
exhibition. He also roused Lady Delacour's jealousy into the belief that
Belinda meant to marry her husband, the viscount, after her death.
In her efforts to bring husband and wife together, Belinda had forgotten
that jealousy could exist without love, and a letter from Mrs. Stanhope,
exaggerating the scandalous reports in the hope of forcing her niece to
marry Sir Philip Baddely, shocked her so much that when Lady Delacour
quarrelled with her, she accepted an invitation from Lady Anne Percival,
and went there at once.
There she became acquainted with Mr. Percival's ward, Augustus Vincent,
a Creole, about two-and-twenty, tall and remarkably handsome, with
striking manners and an engaging person, who fixed his favourable
attention on her. The Percivals would have wished her to marry him, but
she still thought too much of Clarence Hervey to consent, although she
believed he had some engagement with the lovely Virginia.
_IV.--Explanation and Reconciliation_
Quite unexpectedly a summons came from Lady Delacour, and Belinda
returned to her at once, to find her so seriously ill that she persuaded
her at last to consent to an operation, and inform her husband of the
dangerous disease from which she was suffering. He believed from her
preamble that she was about to confess her love for another man; he
tried to stop her with an emotion and energy he had never shown until
"I am not sufficiently master of myself. I once loved you too well to
hear such a stroke. Say no more--trust me with no such secret! you have
said enough--too much. I forgive you, that is all I can do; but we must
part, Lady Delacour!" said he, breaking from her with agony expressed in
"The man has a heart, a soul, I protest! You knew him better that I did,
Miss Portman. Nay, you are not gone yet, my lord! You really love me, I
"No, no, no!" cried he vehemently. "Weak as you take me to be, Lady
Delacour, I am incapable of loving a woman who has disgraced me,
disgraced herself, her--" His utterance failed.
"Oh, Lady Delacour," cried Belinda, "how can you trifle in this manner?"
"I meant not," said her ladyship, "to trifle; I am satisfied. My lord, I
can give you the most irrefragable proof that whatever may have been the
apparent levity of my conduct, you have had no serious cause for
jealousy. But the proof will shock, disgust you. Have you courage to
know more? Then follow me."
He followed her. Belinda heard the boudoir door unlocked. In a few
minutes they returned. Grief and horror and pity were painted on Lord
Delacour's countenance as he passed hastily out of the room.
"My dearest friend, I have taken your advice; would to heaven I had
taken it sooner!" said Lady Delacour. "I have revealed to Lord Delacour
my real situation. Poor man, he was shocked beyond expression. The
moment his foolish jealousy was extinguished, his love for me revived in
Lady Delacour awaited the operation with the utmost fortitude; but, to
everyone's joy, it was found there was no necessity for it; she had been
deceived by a villainous quack, who knew too well how to make a wound
hideous and painful, and had continued her delusion for his own
Meanwhile, Belinda having permitted Mr. Vincent to address her, he was
being given a fair trial whether he could win her love. They had heard
reports of Clarence Hervey's speedy marriage with an heiress, Miss
Hartley, and found them confirmed by a letter Lady Delacour received
from him. Some years ago he had formed the romantic idea of educating a
wife for himself, and having found a beautiful, artless girl in the New
Forest, he had taken her under his care on the death of her grandmother.
She felt herself bound in honour and gratitude to him when her fortune
changed, and she was acknowledged by her father, Mr. Hartley, who had
long been searching for her, and who had traced her at last by the
picture Clarence Hervey had caused to be exhibited.
With the utmost magnanimity, Hervey, although he saw a successful rival
for Belinda's hand in Augustus Vincent, rescued him from ruin at the
gaming-table, and induced him to promise never to gamble again.
"I was determined Belinda's husband should be my friend. I have
succeeded beyond my hopes," he said.
But Vincent's love of play had decided Belinda at last. She refused him
finally in a letter which she confessed she found difficult to write,
but which she sent because she had promised she would not hold him in
suspense once she had made her decision.
After this Virginia Hartley confessed to her attachment for one Captain
Sunderland, and Clarence was free to avow his passion for Belinda.
"And what is Miss Portman to believe," cried one of Belinda's friends,
"when she has seen you on the very eve of marriage with another lady?"
"The strongest merit I can plead with such a woman as Miss Portman," he
replied, "is that I was ready to sacrifice my own happiness to a sense
* * * * *
"Castle Rackrent" was published anonymously in 1800. It was
not only the first of Miss Edgeworth's novels,--it is in many
respects her best work. Later came "The Absentee," "Belinda,"
"Helen," the "Tales of Fashionable Life," and the "Moral
Tales." Sir Walter Scott wrote that reading these stories of
Irish peasant life made him feel "that something might be
tempted for my own country of the same kind as that which Miss
Edgeworth so fortunately achieved for Ireland," something that
would procure for his own countrymen "sympathy for their
virtues and indulgence for their foibles." As a study of Irish
fidelity in the person of Old Thady, the steward who tells the
story of "Castle Rackrent," the book is a masterpiece.
_I.--Sir Patrick and Sir Murtagh_
Having, out of friendship for the family, undertaken to publish the
memoirs of the Rackrent family, I think it my duty to say a few words
concerning myself first. My real name is Thady Quirk, though in the
family I've always been known as "Honest Thady"; afterwards, I remember
to hear them calling me "Old Thady," and now I've come to "Poor Thady."
To look at me you would hardly think poor Thady was the father of
Attorney Quirk; he is a high gentleman, and having better than fifteen
hundred a year, landed estate, looks down upon honest Thady. But I wash
my hands of his doings, and as I lived so will I die, true and loyal to
I ought to bless that day when Sir Tallyhoo Rackrent lost a fine hunter
and his life, all in one day's hunt, for the estate came straight into
_the_ family, upon one condition, that Sir Patrick O'Shaughlin (whose
driver my grandfather was) should, by Act of Parliament, take the
surname and arms of Rackrent.
Now it was the world could see what was in Sir Patrick. He gave the
finest entertainments ever was heard of in the country; not a man could
stand after supper but Sir Patrick himself. He had his house, from one
year's end to another, as full of company as it would hold; and this
went on, I can't tell you how long.
But one year, on his birthday, just as the company rose to drink his
health, he fell down in a sort of fit, and in the morning it was all
over with poor Sir Patrick.
Never did any gentleman die more beloved by rich and poor. All the
gentlemen in the three counties came to his funeral; and happy the man
who could get but a sight of the hearse!
Just as they were passing through his own town the body was seized for
debt! Little gain had the creditors!
First and foremost, they had the curses of the country, and Sir Murtagh,
the new heir, refused to pay a shilling on account of the insult to his
father's body; in which he was countenanced by all the gentlemen of
property of his acquaintance. He did not take at all after the old
gentleman. The cellars were never filled, and no open house; even the
tenants were sent away without their whiskey. I was ashamed myself, but
put it all down to my lady; she was of the family of the Skinflints. I
must say, she made the best of wives, being a notable, stirring woman,
and looking close to everything. 'Tis surprising how cheap my lady got
things done! What with fear of driving for rent, and Sir Murtagh's
lawsuits, the tenants were kept in such good order they never came near
Castle Rackrent without a present of something or other--nothing too
much or too little for my lady. And Sir Murtagh taught 'em all, as he
said, the law of landlord and tenant. No man ever loved the law as he
Out of the forty-nine suits he had, he never lost one, but seventeen.
Though he and my lady were much of a mind in most things, there was a
deal of sparring and jarring between them. In a dispute about an
abatement one day, my lady would have the last word, and Sir Murtagh
grew mad. I was within hearing--he spoke so loud, all the kitchen was
out on the stairs. All on a sudden he stopped, and my lady, too. Sir
Murtagh, in his passion, had broken a blood-vessel. My lady sent for
five physicians; but Sir Murtagh died. She had a fine jointure settled
upon her, and took herself away, to the great joy of the tenantry.
_II.--Sir Kit and his Wife_
Then the house was all hurry-scurry, preparing for my new master, Sir
Murtagh's younger brother, a dashing young officer. He came before I
knew where I was, with another spark with him, and horses and dogs, and
servants, and harum-scarum called for everything, as if he were in a
public-house. I walk slow, and hate a bustle, and if it had not been for
my pipe and tobacco, should, I verily believe, have broke my heart for
poor Sir Murtagh.
But one morning my new master caught sight of me. "And is that Old
Thady?" says he. I loved him from that day to this, his voice was so
like the family, and I never saw a finer figure of a man.
A fine life we should have led had he stayed among us, God bless him!
But, the sporting season over, he grew tired of the place, and was off
in a whirlwind to town. A circular letter came next post from the new
agent to say he must remit L500 to the master at Bath within a
fortnight--bad news for the poor tenants. Sir Kit Rackrent, my new
master, left it all to the agent, and now not a week without a call for
money. Rents must be paid to the day, and afore--old tenants turned out,
anything for the ready penny.
The agent was always very civil to me, and took a deal of notice of my
son Jason, who, though he be my son, was a good scholar from his birth,
and a very cute lad. Seeing he was a good clerk, the agent gave him the
rent accounts to copy, which he did for nothing at first, being always
proud to serve the family.
By-and-by, a good farm fell vacant, and my son put in a proposal for it.
Why not? The master, knowing no more of the land than a child unborn,
wrote over, leaving it to the agent, and he must send over L200 by
return post. So my son's proposal was just the thing, and he a good
tenant, and he got a promise of abatement after the first year for
advancing the half-year's rent to make up the L200, and my master was
satisfied. The agent told us then, as a great secret, that Sir Kit was a
little too fond of play.
At last, at Christmas, the agent wrote he could raise no more money,
anyhow, and desired to resign the agency. My son, Jason, who had
corresponded privately with Sir Kit, was requested to take over the
accounts forthwith. His honour also condescended to tell us he was going
to be married in a fortnight to the grandest heiress in England, and had
immediate occasion for L200 for travelling expenses home to Castle
Rackrent, where he intended to be early next month. We soon saw his
marriage in the paper, and news came of him and his bride being in
Dublin on their way home. We had bonfires all over the country,
expecting them all day, and were just thinking of giving them up for the
night, when the carriage came thundering up. I got the first sight of
the bride, and greatly shocked I was, for she was little better than a
blackamoor. "You're kindly welcome, my lady," I says; but neither spoke
a word, nor did he so much as hand her up the steps.
I concluded she could not speak English, and was from foreign parts, so
I left her to herself, and went down to the servants' hall to learn
something about her. Sir Kit's own man told us, at last, that she might
well be a great fortune, for she was a Jewess, by all accounts. I had
never seen any of that tribe before, and could only gather that she
could not abide pork nor sausages, and went neither to church nor mass.
"Mercy upon his honour's poor soul," thought I. But when, after this,
strange gentleman's servants came and began to talk about the bride, I
took care to put the best foot foremost, and passed her for a nabob.
I saw plain enough, next morning, how things were between Sir Kit and
his lady, though they went arm-in-arm to look at the building.
"Old Thady, how do you do?" says my master, just as he used to do, but I
could see he was not well pleased, and my heart was in my mouth as I
walked after them.
There were no balls, no dinners, no doings. Sir Kit's gentleman told me
it was all my lady's fault, because she was so obstinate about the
"What cross?" says I. "Is it about her being a heretic?"
"Oh, no such matter," says he. "My master does not mind about her
heresies, but her diamond cross. She's thousands of English pounds
concealed in her diamonds, which she as good as promised to give to my
master before they married; but now she won't part with any of them, and
must take the consequences."
One morning, his honour says to me, "Thady, buy me a pig," and that was
the first breaking out of my lady's troubles when the sausages were
ordered. My lady went down to the kitchen herself, and desired never
more to see them on her table. The cook took her part, but the master
made it a principle to have the sausages; so, for fear of her place, she
gave in, and from that day forward, always sausages or pig-meat in one
form or other went up to table; upon which my lady shut herself up in
her own room, and my master turned the key in the door, and kept it ever
after in his pocket. We none of us saw her, or heard her speak for seven
years after; he carried her dinner in himself.
Then his honour had a deal of company, and was as gay and gallant as
before he was married. The country, to be sure, talked and wondered, but
nobody cared to ask impertinent questions, my master being a famous
shot. His character was so well known that he lived in peace and quiet
ever after, and was a great favourite with the ladies; so that, when he
gave out that my lady was now skin and bone, and could not live through
the winter, there were no less than three ladies at daggers drawn, as
his gentleman swore, at the balls, for Sir Kit for their partner. I
could not but think them bewitched, but it was not known how my lady's
fortune was settled, nor how the estate was all mortgaged, and bonds out
against him, for he was never cured of his gaming tricks; but that was
the only fault he had, God bless him!
Then it was given out, by mistake, that my lady was dead, and the three
ladies showed their brothers Sir Kit's letters, and claimed his
promises. His honour said he was willing to meet any man who questioned
his conduct, and the ladies must settle among themselves who was to be
his second, while his first was alive, to his mortification and theirs.
He met the first lady's brother, and shot him; next day called out the
second, whose wooden leg stuck fast in the ploughed land, so Sir Kit,
with great candour, fired over his head, whereupon they shook hands
cordially, and went home together to dinner.
To establish his sister's reputation this gentleman went out as Sir
Kit's second next day, when he met the last of his adversaries. He had
just hit the toothpick out of his enemy's hand, when he received a ball
in a vital part, and was brought home speechless in a hand-barrow. We
got the key out of his pocket at once, and my son Jason ran to release
her ladyship. She would not believe but that it was some new trick till
she saw the men bringing Sir Kit up the avenue. There was no life in
him, and he was "waked" the same night.
The country was all in an uproar about him, and his murderer would have
been hanged surely, but he prudently withdrew to the Continent.
My lady got surprisingly well, and no sooner was it known that Sir Kit
was dead than all the country came round in a body, as it were, to set
her free. But she had taken an unaccountable prejudice against the
country, and was not easy, but when she was packing up to leave us, I
considered her quite as a foreigner, and no longer part of the family.
Her diamond cross was at the bottom of it all; and it was a shame for
her, being his wife, not to have given it up to him when he condescended
to ask for it so often, especially when he made it no secret he had
married her for her money.
The new heir, Sir Conolly, commonly called Sir Condy, was the most
universally beloved man I ever saw or heard of. He was ever my white-
headed boy, when he used to live in a small but slated house at the end
of the avenue, before he went to college. He had little fortune of his
own, and a deal of money was spent on his education. Many of the tenants
secretly advanced him cash upon his promising bargains of leases, and
lawful interest should he ever come into the estate. So that when he did
succeed, he could not command a penny of his first year's income. My son
Jason, who was now agent, explained matters to Sir Condy, who, not
willing to take his affairs in his own hands, or even to look them in
the face, gave my son a bargain of some acres at a reasonable rent to
pay him for his many years' service in the family gratis.
There was a hunting-lodge convenient to my son's land that he had his
eye upon, but Sir Condy talked of letting it to his friend Captain
Moneygawl, with whom he had become very friendly, and whose sister, Miss
Isabella, fell over head and ears in love with my master the first time
he went there to dinner.
But Sir Condy was at a terrible nonplus, for he had no liking for Miss
Isabella. To his mind, little Judy McQuirk, daughter to a sister's son
of mine, was worth twenty of her. But her father had locked her in her
room and forbidden her to think of him, which raised his spirit; and I
could see him growing more and more in the mind to carry Miss Isabella
off to Scotland, as she desired. And I had wished her joy, a week after,
on her return with my poor master. Lucky for her she had a few thousands
of her own, for her father would not give her a farthing. My master and
my lady set out in great style, and it was reported that her father had
undertaken to pay all Sir Condy's debts; and, of course, all the
tradesmen gave him fresh credit, and everything went on smack smooth. I
was proud to see Castle Rackrent again in all its glory. She went on as
if she had a mint of money; and all Sir Condy asked--God bless him!--was
to live in peace and quiet, and have his whiskey punch at night. But my
lady's few thousands could not last for ever. Things in a twelve-month
or so came to such a pass that there was no going on any longer.
Well, my son Jason put in a word about the lodge, and Sir Condy was fain
to take the purchase-money to settle matters, for there were two writs
come down against him to the sheriff, who was no friend of his. Then
there came a general election, and Sir Condy was called upon by all his
friends to stand candidate; they would do all the business, and it
should not cost him a penny.
There was open house then at Castle Rackrent, and grand dinners, and all
the gentlemen drinking success to Sir Condy till they were carried off.
The election day came, and a glorious day it was. I thought I should
have died with joy in the street when I saw my poor master chaired, and
the crowd following him up and down. But a stranger man in the crowd
gets me to introduce him to my son Jason, and little did I guess his
meaning. He gets a list of my master's debts from him, and goes round
and buys them up, and so got to be sole creditor over all, and must
needs have an execution against the master's goods and furniture.
After the election shoals of people came from all parts, claiming to
have obliged him with votes, and to remind him of promises he never
made. Worst of all, the gentlemen who had managed everything and
subscribed by hundreds very genteelly forgot to pay, and it was all left
at my master's door. All he could do to content 'em was to take himself
off to Dublin, where my lady had taken a house fitting for a member of
Soon my son Jason said, "Sir Condy must look out for another agent. If
my lady had the Bank of Ireland to spend, it would all go in one
I could scarcely believe my own old eyes when I saw my son's name joined
in the _custodian_, that the villain who got the list of debts brought
down in the spring; but he said it would make it easier for Sir Condy.
_IV.--The Last of the Rackrents_
When Sir Condy and his lady came down in June, he was pleased to take me
aside to complain of my son and other matters; not one unkind word of my
lady, but he wondered that her relations would do nothing for them in
their great distress. He did not take anything long to heart; let it be
as it might this night, it was all out of his head before he went to
bed. Next morning my lady had a letter from her relations, and asked to
be allowed to go back to them. He fell back as if he was shot, but after
a minute said she had his full consent, for what could she do at Castle
Rackrent with an execution coming down? Next morning she set off for
Then everything was seized by the gripers, my son Jason, to his shame be
it spoken, among them. On the evening Sir Condy had appointed to settle
all, when he sees the sight of bills and loads of papers on the table,
he says to Jason, "Can't you now just sit down here and give me a clear
view of the balance, you know, which is all I need be talking about?
Thady, do just step out, and see they are bringing the things for the
punch." When I came back Jason was pointing to the balance, a terrible
sight for my poor master.
"A--h! Hold your hand!" cries my master. "Where in the wide world am I
to find hundreds, let alone thousands?"
"There's but one way," says Jason. "Sure, can't you sell, though at a
loss? Sure, you can sell, and I've a purchaser ready for you."
"Have you so?" says Sir Condy. Then, colouring up a good deal, he tells
Jason of L500 a year he had settled upon my lady, at which Jason was
indeed mad; but, with much ado, agreed to a compromise. "And how much am
I going to sell? The lands of O'Shaughlin's town, and the lands
of"--just reading to himself--"oh, murder, Jason! Surely you won't put
this in--castle, stables, and appurtenances of Castle Rackrent?"
"Oh, murder!" says I. "This is too bad, Jason."
"Why so?" says Jason. "When it's all mine, and a great deal more, all
lawfully mine, was I to push for it?"
But I took no heed, for I was grieved and sick at heart for my poor
master, and couldn't but speak.
"Here's the punch," says Jason, for the door opened.
So my master starts up in his chair, and Jason uncorks the whiskey.
Well, I was in great hopes when I saw him making the punch, and my
master taking a glass; but Jason put it back when he saw him going to
fill again, saying, "No, Sir Condy; let us settle all before we go
deeper into the punch-bowl. You've only to sign," says Jason, putting
the pen to him.
"Take all, and be content," said my master. So he signed, and the man
who brought the punch witnessed, for I was crying like a child.
So I went out to the street door, and the neighbours' children left
their play to come to see what ailed me; and I told them all. When they
heard Sir Condy was going to leave Castle Rackrent for good and all,
they set up such a whillaluh as brought all their parents round the
doors in great anger against Jason. I was frightened, and went back to
warn my son. He grew quite pale and asked Sir Condy what he'd best do.
"I'll tell you," says Sir Condy, laughing to see his fright. "Finish
your glass first, then let's go to the window, and I'll tell them--or
you shall, if you please--that I'm going to the lodge for change of air
for my health, and by my own desire, for the rest of my days."
"Do so," says Jason, who never meant it to be so, but could not refuse
at such a time.
So the very next day he sets off to the lodge, and I along with him.
There was great bemoaning all through the town, which I stayed to
witness. He was in his bed, and very low, when I got there, and
complained of a great pain about his heart; but I, knowing the nature of
him from a boy, took my pipe and began telling him how he was beloved
and regretted in the country. And it did him a great deal of good to
There was a great horn at the lodge that used to belong to the
celebrated Sir Patrick, who was reported to have drunk the full of it
without stopping to draw breath, which no other man, afore or since,
One night Sir Condy was drinking with the excise-man and the gauger, and
wagered that he could do it. Says he, "Your hand is steadier than mine,
Old Thady; fill you the horn for me." And so, wishing his honour
success, I did. He swallowed it down and dropped like one shot. We put
him to bed, and for five days the fever came and went, and came and
went. On the sixth he says, knowing me very well, "I'm in a burning pain
all withinside of me, Thady." I could not speak. "Brought to this by
drink," says he. "Where are all the friends? Gone, hey? Ay, Sir Condy
has been a fool all his days," said he, and died. He had but a very poor
funeral, after all.
* * * * *
Mary Ann Evans ("George Eliot") was born Nov. 22, 1819, at
South Farm, Arbury, Warwickshire, England, where her father
was agent on the Newdigate estate. In her youth, she was adept
at butter-making and similar rural work, but she found time to
master Italian and German. Her first important literary work
was the translation of Strauss's "Life of Jesus" in 1844, and
shortly after her father's death in 1849 she was writing in
the "Westminster Review." It was not until 1856 that George
Eliot settled down to the writing of novels. "Scenes from
Clerical Life" first appeared serially in "Blackwood's
Magazine" during 1857 and 1858; "Adam Bede," the first and
most popular of her long stories, in 1859. In May, 1880,
eighteen months after the death of her friend George Henry
Lewes (see PHILOSOPHY, Vol. XIV), George Eliot married Mr. J.
W. Cross. She died on December 22 in the same year. With all
her sense of humour there is a note of sadness in George
Eliot's novels. She deals with ordinary, everyday people, and
describes their joys and sorrows. In "Adam Bede," as in most
of her work, the novelist drew from the ample stores of her
early life in the Midlands, while the plot is unfolded with
singular simplicity, purity, and power.
_I.--The Two Brothers_
In the roomy workshop of Mr. Jonathan Burge, carpenter and builder, in
the village of Hayslope, on the eighteenth of June, 1799, five workmen
were busy upon doors and window-frames.
The tallest of the five was a large-boned, muscular man, nearly six feet
high. The sleeve rolled up above the elbow showed an arm that was likely
to win the prize for feats of strength; yet the long, supple hand, with
its broad finger tips, looked ready for works of skill. In his tall
stalwartness Adam Bede was a Saxon, and justified his name. The face was
large and roughly hewn, and when in repose had no other beauty than such
as belongs to an expression of good-humoured, honest intelligence.
It is clear at a glance that the next workman is Adam's brother. He is
nearly as tall; he has the same type of features. But Seth's broad
shoulders have a slight stoop, and his glance, instead of being keen, is
confiding and benignant.
The idle tramps always felt sure they could get a copper from Seth; they
scarcely ever spoke to Adam.
At six o'clock the men stopped working, and went out. Seth lingered, and
looked wistfully at Adam, as if he expected him to say something.
"Shalt go home before thee go'st to the preaching?" Adam asked.
"Nay, I shan't be home before going for ten. I'll happen see Dinah
Morris safe home, if she's willing. There's nobody comes with her from
Poyser's, thee know'st."
Adam set off home, and at a quarter to seven Seth was on the village
green where the Methodists were preaching. The people drew nearer when
Dinah Morris mounted the cart which served as a pulpit. There was a
total absence of self-consciousness in her demeanour; she walked to the
cart as simply as if she were going to market. There was no keenness in
the eyes; they seemed rather to be shedding love than making
observations. When Dinah spoke it was with a clear but not loud voice,
and her sincere, unpremeditated eloquence held the attention of her
audience without interruption.
When the service was over, Seth Bede walked by Dinah's side along the
hedgerow path that skirted the pastures and corn-fields which lay
between the village and the Hall Farm.
Seth could see an expression of unconscious placid gravity on her
face--an expression that is most discouraging to a lover. He was timidly
revolving something he wanted to say, and it was only when they were
close to the yard-gates of the Hall Farm he had the courage to speak.
"It may happen you'll think me overbold to speak to you again after what
you told me o' your thoughts. But it seems to me there's more texts for
your marrying than ever you can find against it. St. Paul says, 'Two are
better than one,' and that holds good with marriage as well as with
other things. For we should be o' one heart and o' one mind, Dinah. I'd
never be the husband to make a claim on you as could interfere with your
doing the work God has fitted you for. I'd make a shift, and fend indoor
and out, to give you more liberty--more than you can have now; for
you've got to get your own living now, and I'm strong enough to work for
When Seth had once begun to urge his suit, he went on earnestly and
almost hurriedly. His voice trembled at the last sentence.
They had reached one of those narrow passes between two tall stones,
which performed the office of a stile in Loamshire. And Dinah paused,
and said, in her tender but calm notes, "Seth Bede, I thank you for your
love towards me, and if I could think of any man as more than a
Christian brother, I think it would be you. But my heart is not free to
marry, or to think of making a home for myself in this world. God has
called me to speak His word, and He has greatly owned my work."
They said farewell at the yard-gate, for Seth wouldn't enter the
farmhouse, choosing rather to turn back along the fields through which
he and Dinah had already passed. It was ten o'clock when he reached
home, and he heard the sound of tools as he lifted the latch.
"Why, mother," said Seth, "how is it as father's working so late?"
"It's none o' thy feyther as is a-workin'; it's thy brother as does
iverything, for there's niver nobody else i' th' way to do nothin'."
Lisbeth Bede was going on, for she was not at all afraid of Seth--who
had never in his life spoken a harsh word to his mother--and usually
poured into his ears all the querulousness which was repressed by the
awe which mingled itself with her idolatrous love of Adam.
But Seth, with an anxious look, had passed into the workshop, and said,
"Addy, how's this? What! Father's forgot the coffin?"
"Ay, lad, th' old tale; but I shall get it done," said Adam, looking up.
"Why, what's the matter with thee--thee'st in trouble?"
Seth's eyes were red, and there was a look of deep depression on his
"Yes, Addy, but it's what must be borne, and can't be helped. Let me
take my turn now, and do thee go to bed."
"No, lad; I'd rather go on, now I'm in harness. The coffin's promised to
be ready at Brox'on by seven o'clock to-morrow morning. I'll call thee
up at sunrise, to help me to carry it when it's done. Go and eat thy
supper and shut the door, so as I mayn't hear mother's talk."
Adam worked throughout the night, thinking of his childhood and its
happy days, and then of the days of sadness that came later when his
father began to loiter at public-houses, and Lisbeth began to cry at
home. He remembered well the night of shame and anguish when he first
saw his father quite wild and foolish.
The two brothers set off in the early sunlight, carrying the long coffin
on their shoulders. By six o'clock they had reached Broxton, and were on
their way home.
When they were coming across the valley, and had entered the pasture
through which the brook ran, Seth said suddenly, beginning to walk
faster, "Why, what's that sticking against the willow?"
They both ran forward, and dragged the tall, heavy body out of the
water; and then looked with mute awe at the glazed eyes--forgetting
everything but that their father lay dead before them.
Adam's mind rushed back over the past in a flood of relenting and pity.
Only a few hours ago, and the gray-haired father, of whom he had been
thinking with a sort of hardness as certain to live to be a thorn in his
side, was perhaps even then struggling with that watery death!
_II.--The Hall Farm_
It is a very fine old place of red brick, the Hall Farm--once the
residence of a country squire, and the Hall.
Plenty of life there, though this is the drowsiest time of the year,
just before hay-harvest; and it is the drowsiest time of the day, too,
for it is half-past three by Mrs. Poyser's handsome eight-day clock.
Mrs. Poyser, a good-looking woman, not more than eight-and-thirty, of
fair complexion and sandy hair, well shaped, light-footed, had just
taken up her knitting, and was seated with her niece, Dinah Morris.
Another motherless niece, Hetty Sorrel, a distractingly pretty girl of
seventeen, was busy in the adjoining dairy.
"You look the image o' your aunt Judith, Dinah, when you sit a-sewing,"
said Mrs. Poyser. "I allays said that o' Judith, as she'd bear a pound
weight any day to save anybody else carrying a ounce. And it made no
difference in her, as I could see, when she took to the Methodists; only
she talked a bit different, and wore a different sort o' cap. If you'd
only come and live i' this country you might get married to some decent
man, and there'd be plenty ready to have you, if you'd only leave off
that preaching, as is ten times worse than anything your Aunt Judith
ever did. And even if you'd marry Seth Bede, as is a poor,
wool-gathering Methodist, and's never like to have a penny beforehand, I
know your uncle 'ud help you with a pig, and very like a cow, for he's
allays been good-natur'd to my kin, for all they're poor, and made 'em
welcome to the house; and 'ud do for you, I'll be bound, as much as ever
he'd do for Hetty, though she's his own niece."
The arrival of Mr. Irwine, the rector of Hayslope, and Captain
Donnithorne, Squire Donnithorne's grandson and heir, interrupted Mrs.
Poyser's flow of talk.
"I'll lay my life they're come to speak about your preaching on the
Green, Dinah. It's you must answer 'em, for I'm dumb. I've said enough
a'ready about your bringing such disgrace upo' your uncle's family. I
wouldn't ha' minded if you'd been Mr. Poyser's own niece. Folks must put
up wi' their own kin as they put up wi' their own noses; it's their own
flesh and blood."
Mr. Irwine, however, was the last man to feel any annoyance at the
Methodist preaching, and young Arthur Donnithorne's visit was merely an
excuse for exchanging a few words with Hetty Sorrel.
The rector mentioned before he left that Thias Bede had been found
drowned in the Willow Brook; and Dinah Morris at once decided that she
might be of some comfort to the widow, and set out for the village.
As for Hetty Sorrel, she was thinking more of the looks Captain
Donnithorne had cast at her than of Adam and his troubles. Bright,
admiring glances from a handsome young gentleman--those were the warm
rays that set poor Hetty's heart vibrating.
Hetty was quite used to the thought that people liked to look at her.
She was aware that Mr. Craig, the gardener at Squire Donnithorne's, was
over head-and-ears in love with her. She knew still better that Adam
Bede--tall, upright, clever, brave Adam Bede--who carried such authority
with all the people round about, and whom her uncle was always delighted
to see of an evening, saying that "Adam knew a fine sight more o' the
natur o' things than those as thought themselves his betters"--she knew
that this Adam, who was often rather stern to other people, and not much
given to run after the lassies, could be made to turn pale or red any
day by a word or a look from her. Hetty's sphere of comparison was not
large, but she couldn't help perceiving that Adam was "something like" a
man; always knew what to say about things; knew, with only looking at
it, the value of a chestnut-tree that was blown down, and why the damp
came in the walls, and what they must do to stop the rats; and wrote a
beautiful hand that you could read, and could do figures in his head--a
degree of accomplishment totally unknown among the richest farmers of
Hetty was quite certain her uncle wanted her to encourage Adam, and
would be pleased for her to marry him. For the last three years--ever
since he had superintended the building of the new barn--Adam had always
been made welcome at the Hall Farm, and for the last two years at least
Hetty had been in the habit of hearing her uncle say, "Adam Bede may be
working for a wage now, but he'll be a master-man some day, as sure as I
sit in this chair. Master Burge is in the right on't to want him to go
partners and marry his daughter, if it's true what they say. The woman
as marries him 'ull have a good take, be't Lady Day or Michaelmas," a
remark which Mrs. Poyser always followed up with her cordial assent.
"Ah," she would say, "it's all very fine having a ready-made rich man,
but may happen he'll be a ready-made fool; and it's no use filling your
pocket full of money if you've got a hole in the corner. It'll do you no
good to sit in a spring-cart o' your own if you've got a soft to drive
you; he'll soon turn you over into the ditch."
But Hetty had never given Adam any steady encouragement. She liked to
feel that this strong, keen-eyed man was in her power; but as to
marrying Adam, that was a very different affair.
Hetty's dreams were all of luxuries. She thought if Adam had been rich,
and could have given the things of her dreams--large, beautiful earrings
and Nottingham lace and a carpeted parlour--she loved him well enough to
The last few weeks a new influence had come over Hetty; she had become
aware that Mr. Arthur Donnithorne would take a good deal of trouble for
the chance of seeing her. And Dinah Morris was away, preaching and
working in a manufacturing town.
_III.--Adam's First Love_
Adam Bede, like many other men, thought the signs of love for another
were signs of love towards himself. The time had come to him that
summer, as he helped Hetty pick currants in the orchard of the Hall
Farm, that a man can least forget in after-life--the time when he
believes that the first woman he has ever loved is, at least, beginning
to love him in return.
He was not wrong in thinking that a change had come over Hetty; the
anxieties and fears of a first passion with which she was trembling had
become stronger than vanity, and while Adam drew near to her she was
absorbed in thinking and wondering about Arthur Donnithorne's possible
For the first time Hetty felt that there was something soothing to her
in Adam's timid yet manly tenderness; she wanted to be treated lovingly.
And Arthur was away from home; and, oh, it was very hard to bear the
blank of absence. She was not afraid that Adam would tease her with
love-making and flattering speeches; he had always been so reserved to
her. She could enjoy without any fear the sense that this strong, brave
man loved her and was near her. It never entered into her mind that Adam
was pitiable, too, that Adam, too, must suffer one day.
It was from Adam that she found out that Captain Donnithorne would be
back in a day or two, and this knowledge made her the more kindly
disposed towards him. But for all the world Adam would not have spoken
of his love to Hetty yet, till this commencing kindness towards him
should have grown into unmistakable love. He did no more than pluck a
rose for her, and walk back to the farm with her arm in his.
When Adam, after stopping a while to chat with the Poysers, had said
good-night, Mr. Poyser remarked, "If you can catch Adam for a husband,
Hetty, you'll ride i' your own spring-cart some day, I'll be your
Her uncle did not see the little toss of the head with which Hetty
answered him. To ride in a spring-cart seemed a very miserable lot
indeed to her now.
It was on August 18, when Adam, going home from some work he had been
doing at one of the farms, passed through a grove of beeches, and saw,
at the end of the avenue, about twenty yards before him, two figures.
They were standing opposite to each other with clasped hands, and they
separated with a start at a sharp bark from Adam Bede's dog. One hurried
away through a gate out of the grove; the other, Arthur Donnithorne,
looking flushed and excited, sauntered towards Adam. The young squire
had been home for some weeks celebrating his twenty-first birthday, and
he was leaving on the morrow to rejoin his regiment.
Hitherto there had been a cordial and sincere liking and a mutual esteem
between the two young men; but now Adam stood as if petrified, and his
amazement turned quickly to fierceness.
Arthur tried to pass the matter off lightly, as if it had been a chance
meeting with Hetty; but Adam, who felt that he had been robbed
treacherously by the man in whom he had trusted, would not so easily let
him off. It came to blows, and Arthur sank under a well-planted blow of
Adam's, as a steel rod is broken by an iron bar.
Before they separated, Arthur promised that he would write and tell
Hetty there could be no further communication between them. And this
promise he kept. Adam rested content with the assurance that nothing but
an innocent flirtation had been stopped. As the days went by he found
that the calm patience with which he had waited for Hetty's love had
forsaken him since that night in the beech-grove. The agitations of
jealousy had given a new restlessness to his passion.
Hetty, for her part, after the first misery caused by Arthur's letter,
had turned into a mood of dull despair, and sought only for change. Why
should she not marry Adam? She did not care what she did so that it made
some change in her life.
So, in November, when Mr. Burge offered Adam a share in his business,
Adam not only accepted it, but decided that the time had come to ask
Hetty to marry him.
Hetty did not speak when Adam got out the question, but his face was
very close to hers, and she put up her round cheek against his, like a
kitten. She wanted to be caressed--she wanted to feel as if Arthur were
with her again.
Adam only said after that, "I may tell your uncle and aunt, mayn't I,
Hetty?" And she said "Yes."
The red firelight on the hearth at the Hall Farm shone on joyful faces
that evening when Adam took the opportunity of telling Mr. and Mrs.
Poyser that he saw his way to maintaining a wife now, and that Hetty had
consented to have him.
There was a great deal of discussion before Adam went away about the
possibility of his finding a house that would do for him to settle in.
"Well, well," said Mr. Poyser at last, "we needna fix everything
to-night. You canna think o' getting married afore Easter. I'm not for
long courtships, but there must be a bit o' time to make things
This was in November.
Then in February came the full tragedy of Hetty Sorrel's life. She left
home, and in a strange village, a child--Arthur Donnithorne's child--was
born. Hetty left the baby in a wood, and returned to find it dead.
Arrest and trial followed, and only at the last moment was the capital
sentence commuted to transportation.
She died a few years later on her way home.
_IV.--The Wife of Adam Bede_
It was the autumn of 1801, and Dinah Morris was once more at the Hall
Farm, only to leave it again for her work in the town. Mrs. Poyser
noticed that Dinah, who never used to change colour, flushed when Adam
said, "Why, I hoped Dinah was settled among us for life. I thought she'd
given up the notion o' going back to her old country."
"Thought! Yes," said Mrs. Poyser; "and so would anybody else ha' thought
as had got their right ends up'ards. But I suppose you must be a
Methodist to know what a Methodist 'ull do. It's all guessing what the
bats are flying after."
"Why, what have we done to you, Dinah, as you must go away from us?"
said Mr. Poyser. "It's like breaking your word; for your aunt never had
no thought but you'd make this your home."
"Nay, uncle," said Dinah, trying to be quite calm. "When I first came I
said it was only for a time, as long as I could be of any comfort to my
"Well, an' who said you'd ever left off being a comfort to me?" said
Mrs. Poyser. "If you didna mean to stay wi' me, you'd better never ha'
come. Them as ha' never had a cushion don't miss it."
Dinah set off with Adam, for Lisbeth was ailing and wanted Dinah to sit
with her a bit. On the way he reverted to her leaving the Hall Farm.
"You know best, Dinah, but if it had been ordered so that you could ha'
been my sister, and lived wi' us all our lives, I should ha' counted it
the greatest blessing as could happen to us now."
Dinah made no answer, and they walked on in silence, until presently,
crossing the stone stile, Adam saw her face, flushed, and with a look of
It struck him with surprise, and then he said, "I hope I've not hurt or
displeased you by what I've said, Dinah; perhaps I was making too free.
I've no wish different from what you see to be best; and I'm satisfied
for you to live thirty miles off if you think it right."
Poor Adam! Thus do men blunder.
Lisbeth opened his eyes on the Sunday morning when Adam sat at home and
read from his large pictured Bible.
For a long time his mother talked on about Dinah, and about how they
were losing her when they might keep her, and Adam at last told her she
must make up her mind that she would have to do without Dinah.
"Nay, but I canna ma' up my mind, when she's just cut out for thee; an'
nought shall ma' me believe as God didna make her and send her here o'
purpose for thee. What's it sinnify about her being a Methody? It 'ud
happen wear out on her wi' marryin'."
Adam threw himself back in his chair and looked at his mother. He
understood now what her talk had been aiming at, and tried to chase away
the notion from her mind.
He was amazed at the way in which this new thought of Dinah's love had
taken possession of him with an overmastering power that made all other
feelings give way before the impetuous desire to know that the thought
was true. He spoke to Seth, who said quite simply that he had long given
up all thoughts of Dinah ever being his wife, and would rejoice in his
brother's joy. But he could not tell whether Dinah was for marrying.
"Thee might'st ask her," Seth said presently. "She took no offence at
_me_ for asking, and thee'st more right than I had."
When Adam did ask, Dinah answered that her heart was strongly drawn
towards him, but that she must wait for divine guidance. So she left the
Hall Farm and went back to the town, and Adam waited,--and then went
after her to get his answer.
"Adam," she said when they had met and walked some distance together,
"it is the divine will. My soul is so knit to yours that it is but a
divided life I live without you. And this moment, now you are with me,
and I feel that our hearts are filled with the same love, I have a
fullness of strength to bear and do our Heavenly Father's will that I
had lost before."
Adam paused and looked into her sincere eyes.
"Then we'll never part any more, Dinah, till death parts us."
And they kissed each other with deep joy.
* * * * *
Felix Holt, the Radical
"Felix Holt, the Radical," was published in 1866. It has never
been one of George Eliot's very popular books. There is less
in it of her own life and experience than in most of her
novels, less of the homely wit of agricultural England. The
real value of the book is the picture it gives of the social
and political life, and for this reason, it will always be
read by those who want to know what English political methods
and customs were like at the time of the passing of the Reform
Bill of 1832. The character of Mr. Rufus Lyon, the independent
minister, is an admirable study of the non-conformist of that
period. Esther's renunciation of a brilliant fortune for a
humbler lot with the man she loved and admired, was quite in
accord with the teaching George Eliot inculcated all her life.
The scene of the story is laid in the Midlands, and the
action, covering about nine months, begins in 1832.
_I.--The Minister's Daughter_
The Rev. Rufus Lyon, Minister of the Independent Chapel, in the
old-fashioned market town of Treby Magna, in the County of Loumshire,
lived in a small house, adjoining the entry which led to the Chapel
He sat this morning, as usual, in a low upstairs room, called his study,
which served also as a sleeping-room, and from time to time got up to
walk about between the piles of old books which lay around him on the
floor. His face looked old and worn, yet the curtain of hair that fell
from his bald crown and hung about his neck retained much of its
original auburn tint, and his large, brown short-sighted eyes were still
clear and bright. At the first glance, everyone thought him a very
odd-looking, rusty old man, and the free-school boys often hooted after
him, and called him "Revelations." But he was too short-sighted and too
absent from the world of small facts and petty impulses to notice those
who tittered at him.
He was meditating on the text for his Sunday morning sermon, when old
Lyddy, the minister's servant, opened the door to tell him that Mrs.
Holt was wanting to see him. "She says she comes out of season, but
she's in trouble."
The minister bade her send Mistress Holt up, and a tall elderly woman
dressed in black entered.
Mrs. Holt, Mr. Lyon said to himself, is a woman who darkens counsel by
words without knowledge, and angers the reason of the natural man; and
he prayed for patience while his visitor rambled on concerning her late
husband and her son Felix.
The minister made out that Felix objected to the sale of his father's
quack medicines, Holt's Elixir and Cancer Cure, and wanted Mr. Lyon to
talk to him.
"For after we'd been to chapel, he spoke better of you than he does of
most: he said you was a fine old fellow, and an old-fashioned Puritan--
he uses dreadful language, Mr. Lyon; but I saw he didn't mean you ill,
for all that; he calls most folks' religion rottenness."
Mrs. Holt departed, and in the evening, when Mr. Lyon was in the
sitting-room, Felix Holt knocked at the door.
The minister, accustomed to the respectable air of provincial townsmen,
felt a slight shock, when his spectacles made clear to him the shaggy-
headed, large-eyed, strong-limbed person of this questionable young man,
without waistcoat or cravat.
Felix spoke loudly and brusquely when the minister mentioned the subject
of Mrs. Holt's visit.
"As to those absurd medicines and gulling advertisements that my mother
has been talking of to you, I've no more doubt about _them_ than I have
about pocket-picking. If I allowed the sale of those medicines to go on,
and my mother to live out of the proceeds when I can keep her by the
honest labour of hands, I've not the least doubt that I should be a
"I would fain inquire more particularly into your objection to these
medicines," said Mr. Lyon gravely.
"My father was ignorant," said Felix, bluntly. "I know something about
these things. I was 'prentice for five miserable years to a stupid brute
of a country apothecary--my poor father left money for that--he thought
nothing could be finer for me. No matter: I know that the Cathartic
Pills may be as bad as poison to half the people who swallow them, and
that the cancer cure might as well be bottled ditch-water. I can keep my
mother, as well, nay, better, than she keeps herself. With my watch and
clock cleaning, and teaching one or two little chaps that I've got to
come to me, I can earn enough."
Mr. Lyon's suggestion that some situation might be obtained as clerk or
assistant was brushed aside.
"Why should I want to get into the middle class because I have some
learning? The most of the middle class are as ignorant as the working
people about everything that doesn't belong to their own Brummagem
The entrance of Lyddy with the tea tray disturbed the conversation, but
the minister, interested in his visitor, asked Felix to stay for a dish
of tea, and Felix accepted.
"My daughter, who has been detained in giving a lesson in the French
tongue, has doubtless returned now," said the minister. On the entrance
of the young lady, Felix was conscious she was not the sort of person he
had expected the minister's daughter to be, and the incongruity repelled
him. There were things about her, her walk, the long neck and high crown
of shining brown hair, that suggested a fine lady to him. A fine lady
was always a sort of spun glass affair; but a fine lady as the daughter
of this rusty old Puritan was especially offensive.
The discovery that Miss Lyon read Byron set Felix off on a tirade
against the poet, and his works, and throughout the meal no agreement on
any topic seemed possible between Esther and the guest.
Felix noted that Mr. Lyon was devoted to his daughter and stood in some
fear of her.
"That is a singular young man, Esther," said the minister, when Felix
had gone. "I discern in him a love for whatever things are honest and
true, and I feel a great enlargement in his presence."
"I think he is very coarse and rude," said Esther, with a touch of
temper. "But he speaks better English than most of our visitors. What is
"Watch and clock making, my dear."
Esther was disappointed, she thought he was something higher than that.
Felix on his side wondered how the queer old minister had a daughter so
little in his own likeness. He decided that nothing should make him
_II.--The Election Riot_
The return of Mr. Harold Transome, to Transome Court, after fifteen
years' absence, and his adoption as Radical Candidate for the county
created no little stir and excitement in Treby. It also assisted the
growing intimacy between Mr. Lyon and Felix Holt, for though neither
possessed votes in that memorable year 1832, they shared the same
liberal sympathies. Perhaps the most delightful friendships are those in
which there is much agreement, much disputation, and yet more personal
liking; and the advent of the public-spirited, contradictory, yet
affectionate Felix, into Treby life had made a welcome epoch to the
Esther had not seen so much of their new acquaintance as her father had.
But she had begun to find him amusing, though he always opposed and
criticised her, and looked at her as if he never saw a single detail
about her person. It seemed to Esther that he thought slightly of her.
"But, rude and queer as he is, I cannot say there is anything vulgar
about him," she said to herself.
One Sunday afternoon Felix Holt rapped at the door of Mr. Lyon's house,
although he could hear the voice of the minister in the chapel.
Esther was in the kitchen alone, reading a French romance, and she
opened the door and invited him in.
He scoffed at her book, and as the talk went on, upbraided her for her
vanity. Finally he told her that he wanted her to change. "Of course, I
am a brute to say so," he added. "I ought to say you are perfect.
Another man would, perhaps; I can't bear to see you going the way of the
foolish women who spoil men's lives."
Mortification and anger filled Esther's mind, and when Felix got up to
say he was going, she returned his "good-bye" without even looking at
Only, when the door closed she burst into tears. She revolted against
his assumption of superiority.... Did he love her one little bit, and
was that the reason why he wanted her to change? But Esther was quite
sure she could never love anyone who was so much of a pedagogue and a
Yet, a few weeks later, and Esther accepted willingly when Felix
proposed a walk for the first time together. That same afternoon he told
her that she was very beautiful, and that he would never be rich: he
intended going away to some manufacturing town to lead the people to
better things and this meant a life of poverty.
Something Esther said made Felix ask suddenly, "Can you imagine yourself
choosing hardship as the better lot?"
"Yes, I can," she answered, flushing over neck and brow. They walked
home very silently after that. Felix struggling as a firm man struggles
with a temptation, Esther struggling as a woman struggles with the
yearning for some expression of love.
On the day of the election a mob of miners, primed with liquor by an
unscrupulous agent of Transome's, came into the town to hoot the Tory
voters; and as the disturbance increased, Felix knowing that Mr. Lyon
was away preaching went round to the minister's house to reassure
"I am so thankful to see you," she said eagerly. He mentioned that the
magistrates and constables were coming and that the town would be
quieter. His only fear was that drinking might inflame the mob again.
Again Felix told her of his renunciation of the ordinary hopes and
ambitions of men, and at the same time tried to prove that he thought
very highly of her. He wanted her to know that her love was dear to him,
and he felt that they must not marry--to do so would be to ruin each
When Felix went out into the streets in the afternoon, the crowd was
larger and more mischievous. The constables were quite unable to cope
with the mob, the polling booth was closed for the day, and the
magistrates had sent to the neighbouring town of Duffield for the
There were proofs that the predominant will of the crowd was in favour
of Transome for several shops were attacked and they were all of them
Felix was soon hotly occupied trying to save a wretched publican named
Spratt from the fury of the crowd. The man had been dragged out into the
streets, and Felix had got as near him as he could when a young
constable armed with a sabre rushed upon him. It was a choice of two
evils, and quick as lightning Felix frustrated him, the constable fell
undermost and Felix got his weapon. Tucker did not rise immediately, but
Felix did not imagine that he was much hurt, and bidding the crowd
follow him tried to lead them away from the town. He hoped that the
soldiers would soon arrive, and felt confident that there would be no
resistance to a military force.
Suddenly a cry was raised, "Let us go to Treby Manor," the residence of
Sir Maximus Debarry, whose son was the Tory candidate.
From that moment Felix was powerless, and was carried along with the
rush. All he could hope to do was to get to the front terrace of the
house, and assure the inmates that the soldiers would arrive quickly.
Just as he approached a large window he heard the horses of the
troopers, and then came the words, "Halt! Fire!" Before he had time to
move a bullet whizzed, and passed through Felix Holt's shoulder--the
shoulder of the arm that bore the sabre.
Felix fell. The rioters ran confusedly, like terrified sheep.
It was a weary night for Felix, and the next day his wound was declared
trivial, and he was lodged in Loumford Jail. There were three charges
against him; that he had assaulted a constable, that he had committed
manslaughter (Tucker was dead from spinal concussion), and that he had
led a riotous onslaught on a dwelling house.
Four other men were arrested, one for theft, and three others for riot
A great change took place in the fortunes of Esther in the interval
between the riot and the opening of the assizes. It was found that she,
and not Harold Transome, was the rightful owner of the Transome estates.
For Esther's real name was Bycliffe and not Lyon, and she was the
step-daughter only of the minister. Mr. Lyon had found Esther's mother,
a French woman of great beauty, in destitution--her husband, an
Englishman, lying in some unknown prison. This Englishman was a
Bycliffe--and heir to the Transome property, and on the proof of his
death Mr. Lyon, knowing nothing of Bycliffe's family, married his widow,
who, however, died while Esther was still a tiny child. Not till the
time of the election did Esther learn that her real father was dead.
Mr. Transome's lawyer--Jermyn--was fully aware of the claim of the
Bycliffes, but knew they were powerless without money to enforce the
claim, and that Esther and her step-father alike were ignorant of all
the facts. It was only when Harold Transome, on his return, quarrelled
with Jermyn on the management of the estates, and, after the Election
(which Transome lost) threatened him with a law-suit, that Jermyn turned
round and told Harold the truth. At the same time, another lawyer,
formerly in Jermyn's confidence, thought the more profitable course
could be found in throwing Jermyn over, and wrote to Esther informing
her of her inheritance.
Harold Transome decided to act openly. With his mother, he drove to the
minister's house and Mrs. Transome persuaded Esther to come and stay at
Transome Court. Both mother and son found Esther to their liking, and it
appeared to Harold that marriage with Esther would be a happy conclusion
to the divided claim to the property. He was rich, and the Transome (or
Bycliffe) property was heavily encumbered.
The Transomes, Esther and Mr. Lyon all agreed that no law-suit over the
property should take place.
But while Esther stayed at Transome Court she never forgot her friend in
prison. Mr. Lyon had visited Felix, and Esther herself obtained an
interview with him just before the assizes began.
She had grown conscious that Harold Transome was making love to her,
that Mrs. Transome really desired her for a daughter-in-law, and it
seemed to her as she waited with the minister in the cheerless prison
room, that she stood at the first and last parting of the ways.
Soon the door opened, and Felix Holt entered.
"Miss Lyon--Esther!" and her hand was in his grasp. He was just the
same--no, something inexpressibly better, because of the distance and
separation, which made him like the return of morning.
"Take no heed of me, children," said Mr. Lyon. "I have some notes to
make." And the old man sat down at a window with his back to them,
writing with his head bent close to the paper.
Felix had heard of Esther's change of fortune and felt sure she would
marry Harold Transome. It was only when the time for parting came that
he could bring himself to say:
"I had a horrible struggle, Esther. But you see I was right. There was a
fitting lot in reserve for you." Esther felt too miserable for tears to
come. She looked helplessly at Felix for a moment, then took her hands
from his, and turning away mutely, said, "Father, I am ready--there is
no more to say."
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