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Middlemarch

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CHAPTER LIV.

“Negli occhi porta la mia donna Amore;
Per che si fa gentil ciò ch’ella mira:
Ov’ella passa, ogni uom ver lei si gira,
E cui saluta fa tremar lo core.

Sicchè, bassando il viso, tutto smore,
E d’ogni suo difetto allor sospira:
Fuggon dinanzi a lei Superbia ed Ira:
Aiutatemi, donne, a farle onore.

Ogni dolcezza, ogni pensiero umile
Nasce nel core a chi parlar la sente;
Ond’è beato chi prima la vide.
Quel ch’ella par quand’ un poco sorride,
Non si può dicer, nè tener a mente,
Si è nuovo miracolo gentile.”
—DANTE: La Vita Nuova.

By that delightful morning when the hay-ricks at Stone Court were scenting the air quite impartially, as if Mr. Raffles had been a guest worthy of finest incense, Dorothea had again taken up her abode at Lowick Manor. After three months Freshitt had become rather oppressive: to sit like a model for Saint Catherine looking rapturously at Celia’s baby would not do for many hours in the day, and to remain in that momentous babe’s presence with persistent disregard was a course that could not have been tolerated in a childless sister. Dorothea would have been capable of carrying baby joyfully for a mile if there had been need, and of loving it the more tenderly for that labor; but to an aunt who does not recognize her infant nephew as Bouddha, and has nothing to do for him but to admire, his behavior is apt to appear monotonous, and the interest of watching him exhaustible. This possibility was quite hidden from Celia, who felt that Dorothea’s childless widowhood fell in quite prettily with the birth of little Arthur (baby was named after Mr. Brooke).

“Dodo is just the creature not to mind about having anything of her own—children or anything!” said Celia to her husband. “And if she had had a baby, it never could have been such a dear as Arthur. Could it, James?

“Not if it had been like Casaubon,” said Sir James, conscious of some indirectness in his answer, and of holding a strictly private opinion as to the perfections of his first-born.

“No! just imagine! Really it was a mercy,” said Celia; “and I think it is very nice for Dodo to be a widow. She can be just as fond of our baby as if it were her own, and she can have as many notions of her own as she likes.”

“It is a pity she was not a queen,” said the devout Sir James.

“But what should we have been then? We must have been something else,” said Celia, objecting to so laborious a flight of imagination. “I like her better as she is.”

Hence, when she found that Dorothea was making arrangements for her final departure to Lowick, Celia raised her eyebrows with disappointment, and in her quiet unemphatic way shot a needle-arrow of sarcasm.

“What will you do at Lowick, Dodo? You say yourself there is nothing to be done there: everybody is so clean and well off, it makes you quite melancholy. And here you have been so happy going all about Tipton with Mr. Garth into the worst backyards. And now uncle is abroad, you and Mr. Garth can have it all your own way; and I am sure James does everything you tell him.”

“I shall often come here, and I shall see how baby grows all the better,” said Dorothea.

“But you will never see him washed,” said Celia; “and that is quite the best part of the day.” She was almost pouting: it did seem to her very hard in Dodo to go away from the baby when she might stay.

“Dear Kitty, I will come and stay all night on purpose,” said Dorothea; “but I want to be alone now, and in my own home. I wish to know the Farebrothers better, and to talk to Mr. Farebrother about what there is to be done in Middlemarch.”

Dorothea’s native strength of will was no longer all converted into resolute submission. She had a great yearning to be at Lowick, and was simply determined to go, not feeling bound to tell all her reasons. But every one around her disapproved. Sir James was much pained, and offered that they should all migrate to Cheltenham for a few months with the sacred ark, otherwise called a cradle: at that period a man could hardly know what to propose if Cheltenham were rejected.

The Dowager Lady Chettam, just returned from a visit to her daughter in town, wished, at least, that Mrs. Vigo should be written to, and invited to accept the office of companion to Mrs. Casaubon: it was not credible that Dorothea as a young widow would think of living alone in the house at Lowick. Mrs. Vigo had been reader and secretary to royal personages, and in point of knowledge and sentiments even Dorothea could have nothing to object to her.

Mrs. Cadwallader said, privately, “You will certainly go mad in that house alone, my dear. You will see visions. We have all got to exert ourselves a little to keep sane, and call things by the same names as other people call them by. To be sure, for younger sons and women who have no money, it is a sort of provision to go mad: they are taken care of then. But you must not run into that. I dare say you are a little bored here with our good dowager; but think what a bore you might become yourself to your fellow-creatures if you were always playing tragedy queen and taking things sublimely. Sitting alone in that library at Lowick you may fancy yourself ruling the weather; you must get a few people round you who wouldn’t believe you if you told them. That is a good lowering medicine.”

“I never called everything by the same name that all the people about me did,” said Dorothea, stoutly.

“But I suppose you have found out your mistake, my dear,” said Mrs. Cadwallader, “and that is a proof of sanity.”

Dorothea was aware of the sting, but it did not hurt her. “No,” she said, “I still think that the greater part of the world is mistaken about many things. Surely one may be sane and yet think so, since the greater part of the world has often had to come round from its opinion.”

Mrs. Cadwallader said no more on that point to Dorothea, but to her husband she remarked, “It will be well for her to marry again as soon as it is proper, if one could get her among the right people. Of course the Chettams would not wish it. But I see clearly a husband is the best thing to keep her in order. If we were not so poor I would invite Lord Triton. He will be marquis some day, and there is no denying that she would make a good marchioness: she looks handsomer than ever in her mourning.”

“My dear Elinor, do let the poor woman alone. Such contrivances are of no use,” said the easy Rector.

“No use? How are matches made, except by bringing men and women together? And it is a shame that her uncle should have run away and shut up the Grange just now. There ought to be plenty of eligible matches invited to Freshitt and the Grange. Lord Triton is precisely the man: full of plans for making the people happy in a soft-headed sort of way. That would just suit Mrs. Casaubon.”

“Let Mrs. Casaubon choose for herself, Elinor.”

“That is the nonsense you wise men talk! How can she choose if she has no variety to choose from? A woman’s choice usually means taking the only man she can get. Mark my words, Humphrey. If her friends don’t exert themselves, there will be a worse business than the Casaubon business yet.”

“For heaven’s sake don’t touch on that topic, Elinor! It is a very sore point with Sir James. He would be deeply offended if you entered on it to him unnecessarily.”

“I have never entered on it,” said Mrs Cadwallader, opening her hands. “Celia told me all about the will at the beginning, without any asking of mine.”

“Yes, yes; but they want the thing hushed up, and I understand that the young fellow is going out of the neighborhood.”

Mrs. Cadwallader said nothing, but gave her husband three significant nods, with a very sarcastic expression in her dark eyes.

Dorothea quietly persisted in spite of remonstrance and persuasion. So by the end of June the shutters were all opened at Lowick Manor, and the morning gazed calmly into the library, shining on the rows of note-books as it shines on the weary waste planted with huge stones, the mute memorial of a forgotten faith; and the evening laden with roses entered silently into the blue-green boudoir where Dorothea chose oftenest to sit. At first she walked into every room, questioning the eighteen months of her married life, and carrying on her thoughts as if they were a speech to be heard by her husband. Then, she lingered in the library and could not be at rest till she had carefully ranged all the note-books as she imagined that he would wish to see them, in orderly sequence. The pity which had been the restraining compelling motive in her life with him still clung about his image, even while she remonstrated with him in indignant thought and told him that he was unjust. One little act of hers may perhaps be smiled at as superstitious. The Synoptical Tabulation for the use of Mrs. Casaubon, she carefully enclosed and sealed, writing within the envelope, “I could not use it. Do you not see now that I could not submit my soul to yours, by working hopelessly at what I have no belief in—Dorothea?” Then she deposited the paper in her own desk.

That silent colloquy was perhaps only the more earnest because underneath and through it all there was always the deep longing which had really determined her to come to Lowick. The longing was to see Will Ladislaw. She did not know any good that could come of their meeting: she was helpless; her hands had been tied from making up to him for any unfairness in his lot. But her soul thirsted to see him. How could it be otherwise? If a princess in the days of enchantment had seen a four-footed creature from among those which live in herds come to her once and again with a human gaze which rested upon her with choice and beseeching, what would she think of in her journeying, what would she look for when the herds passed her? Surely for the gaze which had found her, and which she would know again. Life would be no better than candle-light tinsel and daylight rubbish if our spirits were not touched by what has been, to issues of longing and constancy. It was true that Dorothea wanted to know the Farebrothers better, and especially to talk to the new rector, but also true that remembering what Lydgate had told her about Will Ladislaw and little Miss Noble, she counted on Will’s coming to Lowick to see the Farebrother family. The very first Sunday, before she entered the church, she saw him as she had seen him the last time she was there, alone in the clergyman’s pew; but when she entered his figure was gone.

In the week-days when she went to see the ladies at the Rectory, she listened in vain for some word that they might let fall about Will; but it seemed to her that Mrs. Farebrother talked of every one else in the neighborhood and out of it.

“Probably some of Mr. Farebrother’s Middlemarch hearers may follow him to Lowick sometimes. Do you not think so?” said Dorothea, rather despising herself for having a secret motive in asking the question.

“If they are wise they will, Mrs. Casaubon,” said the old lady. “I see that you set a right value on my son’s preaching. His grandfather on my side was an excellent clergyman, but his father was in the law:—most exemplary and honest nevertheless, which is a reason for our never being rich. They say Fortune is a woman and capricious. But sometimes she is a good woman and gives to those who merit, which has been the case with you, Mrs. Casaubon, who have given a living to my son.”

Mrs. Farebrother recurred to her knitting with a dignified satisfaction in her neat little effort at oratory, but this was not what Dorothea wanted to hear. Poor thing! she did not even know whether Will Ladislaw was still at Middlemarch, and there was no one whom she dared to ask, unless it were Lydgate. But just now she could not see Lydgate without sending for him or going to seek him. Perhaps Will Ladislaw, having heard of that strange ban against him left by Mr. Casaubon, had felt it better that he and she should not meet again, and perhaps she was wrong to wish for a meeting that others might find many good reasons against. Still “I do wish it” came at the end of those wise reflections as naturally as a sob after holding the breath. And the meeting did happen, but in a formal way quite unexpected by her.

One morning, about eleven, Dorothea was seated in her boudoir with a map of the land attached to the manor and other papers before her, which were to help her in making an exact statement for herself of her income and affairs. She had not yet applied herself to her work, but was seated with her hands folded on her lap, looking out along the avenue of limes to the distant fields. Every leaf was at rest in the sunshine, the familiar scene was changeless, and seemed to represent the prospect of her life, full of motiveless ease—motiveless, if her own energy could not seek out reasons for ardent action. The widow’s cap of those times made an oval frame for the face, and had a crown standing up; the dress was an experiment in the utmost laying on of crape; but this heavy solemnity of clothing made her face look all the younger, with its recovered bloom, and the sweet, inquiring candor of her eyes.

Her reverie was broken by Tantripp, who came to say that Mr. Ladislaw was below, and begged permission to see Madam if it were not too early.

“I will see him,” said Dorothea, rising immediately. “Let him be shown into the drawing-room.”

The drawing-room was the most neutral room in the house to her—the one least associated with the trials of her married life: the damask matched the wood-work, which was all white and gold; there were two tall mirrors and tables with nothing on them—in brief, it was a room where you had no reason for sitting in one place rather than in another. It was below the boudoir, and had also a bow-window looking out on the avenue. But when Pratt showed Will Ladislaw into it the window was open; and a winged visitor, buzzing in and out now and then without minding the furniture, made the room look less formal and uninhabited.

“Glad to see you here again, sir,” said Pratt, lingering to adjust a blind.

“I am only come to say good-by, Pratt,” said Will, who wished even the butler to know that he was too proud to hang about Mrs. Casaubon now she was a rich widow.

“Very sorry to hear it, sir,” said Pratt, retiring. Of course, as a servant who was to be told nothing, he knew the fact of which Ladislaw was still ignorant, and had drawn his inferences; indeed, had not differed from his betrothed Tantripp when she said, “Your master was as jealous as a fiend—and no reason. Madam would look higher than Mr. Ladislaw, else I don’t know her. Mrs. Cadwallader’s maid says there’s a lord coming who is to marry her when the mourning’s over.”

There were not many moments for Will to walk about with his hat in his hand before Dorothea entered. The meeting was very different from that first meeting in Rome when Will had been embarrassed and Dorothea calm. This time he felt miserable but determined, while she was in a state of agitation which could not be hidden. Just outside the door she had felt that this longed-for meeting was after all too difficult, and when she saw Will advancing towards her, the deep blush which was rare in her came with painful suddenness. Neither of them knew how it was, but neither of them spoke. She gave her hand for a moment, and then they went to sit down near the window, she on one settee and he on another opposite. Will was peculiarly uneasy: it seemed to him not like Dorothea that the mere fact of her being a widow should cause such a change in her manner of receiving him; and he knew of no other condition which could have affected their previous relation to each other—except that, as his imagination at once told him, her friends might have been poisoning her mind with their suspicions of him.

“I hope I have not presumed too much in calling,” said Will; “I could not bear to leave the neighborhood and begin a new life without seeing you to say good-by.”

“Presumed? Surely not. I should have thought it unkind if you had not wished to see me,” said Dorothea, her habit of speaking with perfect genuineness asserting itself through all her uncertainty and agitation. “Are you going away immediately?”

“Very soon, I think. I intend to go to town and eat my dinners as a barrister, since, they say, that is the preparation for all public business. There will be a great deal of political work to be done by-and-by, and I mean to try and do some of it. Other men have managed to win an honorable position for themselves without family or money.”

“And that will make it all the more honorable,” said Dorothea, ardently. “Besides, you have so many talents. I have heard from my uncle how well you speak in public, so that every one is sorry when you leave off, and how clearly you can explain things. And you care that justice should be done to every one. I am so glad. When we were in Rome, I thought you only cared for poetry and art, and the things that adorn life for us who are well off. But now I know you think about the rest of the world.”

While she was speaking Dorothea had lost her personal embarrassment, and had become like her former self. She looked at Will with a direct glance, full of delighted confidence.

“You approve of my going away for years, then, and never coming here again till I have made myself of some mark in the world?” said Will, trying hard to reconcile the utmost pride with the utmost effort to get an expression of strong feeling from Dorothea.

She was not aware how long it was before she answered. She had turned her head and was looking out of the window on the rose-bushes, which seemed to have in them the summers of all the years when Will would be away. This was not judicious behavior. But Dorothea never thought of studying her manners: she thought only of bowing to a sad necessity which divided her from Will. Those first words of his about his intentions had seemed to make everything clear to her: he knew, she supposed, all about Mr. Casaubon’s final conduct in relation to him, and it had come to him with the same sort of shock as to herself. He had never felt more than friendship for her—had never had anything in his mind to justify what she felt to be her husband’s outrage on the feelings of both: and that friendship he still felt. Something which may be called an inward silent sob had gone on in Dorothea before she said with a pure voice, just trembling in the last words as if only from its liquid flexibility—

“Yes, it must be right for you to do as you say. I shall be very happy when I hear that you have made your value felt. But you must have patience. It will perhaps be a long while.”

Will never quite knew how it was that he saved himself from falling down at her feet, when the “long while” came forth with its gentle tremor. He used to say that the horrible hue and surface of her crape dress was most likely the sufficient controlling force. He sat still, however, and only said—

“I shall never hear from you. And you will forget all about me.”

“No,” said Dorothea, “I shall never forget you. I have never forgotten any one whom I once knew. My life has never been crowded, and seems not likely to be so. And I have a great deal of space for memory at Lowick, haven’t I?” She smiled.

“Good God!” Will burst out passionately, rising, with his hat still in his hand, and walking away to a marble table, where he suddenly turned and leaned his back against it. The blood had mounted to his face and neck, and he looked almost angry. It had seemed to him as if they were like two creatures slowly turning to marble in each other’s presence, while their hearts were conscious and their eyes were yearning. But there was no help for it. It should never be true of him that in this meeting to which he had come with bitter resolution he had ended by a confession which might be interpreted into asking for her fortune. Moreover, it was actually true that he was fearful of the effect which such confessions might have on Dorothea herself.

She looked at him from that distance in some trouble, imagining that there might have been an offence in her words. But all the while there was a current of thought in her about his probable want of money, and the impossibility of her helping him. If her uncle had been at home, something might have been done through him! It was this preoccupation with the hardship of Will’s wanting money, while she had what ought to have been his share, which led her to say, seeing that he remained silent and looked away from her—

“I wonder whether you would like to have that miniature which hangs up-stairs—I mean that beautiful miniature of your grandmother. I think it is not right for me to keep it, if you would wish to have it. It is wonderfully like you.”

“You are very good,” said Will, irritably. “No; I don’t mind about it. It is not very consoling to have one’s own likeness. It would be more consoling if others wanted to have it.”

“I thought you would like to cherish her memory—I thought—” Dorothea broke off an instant, her imagination suddenly warning her away from Aunt Julia’s history—“you would surely like to have the miniature as a family memorial.”

“Why should I have that, when I have nothing else! A man with only a portmanteau for his stowage must keep his memorials in his head.”

Will spoke at random: he was merely venting his petulance; it was a little too exasperating to have his grandmother’s portrait offered him at that moment. But to Dorothea’s feeling his words had a peculiar sting. She rose and said with a touch of indignation as well as hauteur—

“You are much the happier of us two, Mr. Ladislaw, to have nothing.”

Will was startled. Whatever the words might be, the tone seemed like a dismissal; and quitting his leaning posture, he walked a little way towards her. Their eyes met, but with a strange questioning gravity. Something was keeping their minds aloof, and each was left to conjecture what was in the other. Will had really never thought of himself as having a claim of inheritance on the property which was held by Dorothea, and would have required a narrative to make him understand her present feeling.

“I never felt it a misfortune to have nothing till now,” he said. “But poverty may be as bad as leprosy, if it divides us from what we most care for.”

The words cut Dorothea to the heart, and made her relent. She answered in a tone of sad fellowship.

“Sorrow comes in so many ways. Two years ago I had no notion of that—I mean of the unexpected way in which trouble comes, and ties our hands, and makes us silent when we long to speak. I used to despise women a little for not shaping their lives more, and doing better things. I was very fond of doing as I liked, but I have almost given it up,” she ended, smiling playfully.

“I have not given up doing as I like, but I can very seldom do it,” said Will. He was standing two yards from her with his mind full of contradictory desires and resolves—desiring some unmistakable proof that she loved him, and yet dreading the position into which such a proof might bring him. “The thing one most longs for may be surrounded with conditions that would be intolerable.”

At this moment Pratt entered and said, “Sir James Chettam is in the library, madam.”

“Ask Sir James to come in here,” said Dorothea, immediately. It was as if the same electric shock had passed through her and Will. Each of them felt proudly resistant, and neither looked at the other, while they awaited Sir James’s entrance.

After shaking hands with Dorothea, he bowed as slightly as possible to Ladislaw, who repaid the slightness exactly, and then going towards Dorothea, said—

“I must say good-by, Mrs. Casaubon; and probably for a long while.”

Dorothea put out her hand and said her good-by cordially. The sense that Sir James was depreciating Will, and behaving rudely to him, roused her resolution and dignity: there was no touch of confusion in her manner. And when Will had left the room, she looked with such calm self-possession at Sir James, saying, “How is Celia?” that he was obliged to behave as if nothing had annoyed him. And what would be the use of behaving otherwise? Indeed, Sir James shrank with so much dislike from the association even in thought of Dorothea with Ladislaw as her possible lover, that he would himself have wished to avoid an outward show of displeasure which would have recognized the disagreeable possibility. If any one had asked him why he shrank in that way, I am not sure that he would at first have said anything fuller or more precise than “That Ladislaw!”—though on reflection he might have urged that Mr. Casaubon’s codicil, barring Dorothea’s marriage with Will, except under a penalty, was enough to cast unfitness over any relation at all between them. His aversion was all the stronger because he felt himself unable to interfere.

But Sir James was a power in a way unguessed by himself. Entering at that moment, he was an incorporation of the strongest reasons through which Will’s pride became a repellent force, keeping him asunder from Dorothea.



CHAPTER LV.

Hath she her faults? I would you had them too.
They are the fruity must of soundest wine;
Or say, they are regenerating fire
Such as hath turned the dense black element
Into a crystal pathway for the sun.

If youth is the season of hope, it is often so only in the sense that our elders are hopeful about us; for no age is so apt as youth to think its emotions, partings, and resolves are the last of their kind. Each crisis seems final, simply because it is new. We are told that the oldest inhabitants in Peru do not cease to be agitated by the earthquakes, but they probably see beyond each shock, and reflect that there are plenty more to come.

To Dorothea, still in that time of youth when the eyes with their long full lashes look out after their rain of tears unsoiled and unwearied as a freshly opened passion-flower, that morning’s parting with Will Ladislaw seemed to be the close of their personal relations. He was going away into the distance of unknown years, and if ever he came back he would be another man. The actual state of his mind—his proud resolve to give the lie beforehand to any suspicion that he would play the needy adventurer seeking a rich woman—lay quite out of her imagination, and she had interpreted all his behavior easily enough by her supposition that Mr. Casaubon’s codicil seemed to him, as it did to her, a gross and cruel interdict on any active friendship between them. Their young delight in speaking to each other, and saying what no one else would care to hear, was forever ended, and become a treasure of the past. For this very reason she dwelt on it without inward check. That unique happiness too was dead, and in its shadowed silent chamber she might vent the passionate grief which she herself wondered at. For the first time she took down the miniature from the wall and kept it before her, liking to blend the woman who had been too hardly judged with the grandson whom her own heart and judgment defended. Can any one who has rejoiced in woman’s tenderness think it a reproach to her that she took the little oval picture in her palm and made a bed for it there, and leaned her cheek upon it, as if that would soothe the creatures who had suffered unjust condemnation? She did not know then that it was Love who had come to her briefly, as in a dream before awaking, with the hues of morning on his wings—that it was Love to whom she was sobbing her farewell as his image was banished by the blameless rigor of irresistible day. She only felt that there was something irrevocably amiss and lost in her lot, and her thoughts about the future were the more readily shapen into resolve. Ardent souls, ready to construct their coming lives, are apt to commit themselves to the fulfilment of their own visions.

One day that she went to Freshitt to fulfil her promise of staying all night and seeing baby washed, Mrs. Cadwallader came to dine, the Rector being gone on a fishing excursion. It was a warm evening, and even in the delightful drawing-room, where the fine old turf sloped from the open window towards a lilied pool and well-planted mounds, the heat was enough to make Celia in her white muslin and light curls reflect with pity on what Dodo must feel in her black dress and close cap. But this was not until some episodes with baby were over, and had left her mind at leisure. She had seated herself and taken up a fan for some time before she said, in her quiet guttural—

“Dear Dodo, do throw off that cap. I am sure your dress must make you feel ill.”

“I am so used to the cap—it has become a sort of shell,” said Dorothea, smiling. “I feel rather bare and exposed when it is off.”

“I must see you without it; it makes us all warm,” said Celia, throwing down her fan, and going to Dorothea. It was a pretty picture to see this little lady in white muslin unfastening the widow’s cap from her more majestic sister, and tossing it on to a chair. Just as the coils and braids of dark-brown hair had been set free, Sir James entered the room. He looked at the released head, and said, “Ah!” in a tone of satisfaction.

“It was I who did it, James,” said Celia. “Dodo need not make such a slavery of her mourning; she need not wear that cap any more among her friends.”

“My dear Celia,” said Lady Chettam, “a widow must wear her mourning at least a year.”

“Not if she marries again before the end of it,” said Mrs. Cadwallader, who had some pleasure in startling her good friend the Dowager. Sir James was annoyed, and leaned forward to play with Celia’s Maltese dog.

“That is very rare, I hope,” said Lady Chettam, in a tone intended to guard against such events. “No friend of ours ever committed herself in that way except Mrs. Beevor, and it was very painful to Lord Grinsell when she did so. Her first husband was objectionable, which made it the greater wonder. And severely she was punished for it. They said Captain Beevor dragged her about by the hair, and held up loaded pistols at her.”

“Oh, if she took the wrong man!” said Mrs. Cadwallader, who was in a decidedly wicked mood. “Marriage is always bad then, first or second. Priority is a poor recommendation in a husband if he has got no other. I would rather have a good second husband than an indifferent first.”

“My dear, your clever tongue runs away with you,” said Lady Chettam. “I am sure you would be the last woman to marry again prematurely, if our dear Rector were taken away.”

“Oh, I make no vows; it might be a necessary economy. It is lawful to marry again, I suppose; else we might as well be Hindoos instead of Christians. Of course if a woman accepts the wrong man, she must take the consequences, and one who does it twice over deserves her fate. But if she can marry blood, beauty, and bravery—the sooner the better.”

“I think the subject of our conversation is very ill-chosen,” said Sir James, with a look of disgust. “Suppose we change it.”

“Not on my account, Sir James,” said Dorothea, determined not to lose the opportunity of freeing herself from certain oblique references to excellent matches. “If you are speaking on my behalf, I can assure you that no question can be more indifferent and impersonal to me than second marriage. It is no more to me than if you talked of women going fox-hunting: whether it is admirable in them or not, I shall not follow them. Pray let Mrs. Cadwallader amuse herself on that subject as much as on any other.”

“My dear Mrs. Casaubon,” said Lady Chettam, in her stateliest way, “you do not, I hope, think there was any allusion to you in my mentioning Mrs. Beevor. It was only an instance that occurred to me. She was step-daughter to Lord Grinsell: he married Mrs. Teveroy for his second wife. There could be no possible allusion to you.”

“Oh no,” said Celia. “Nobody chose the subject; it all came out of Dodo’s cap. Mrs. Cadwallader only said what was quite true. A woman could not be married in a widow’s cap, James.”

“Hush, my dear!” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “I will not offend again. I will not even refer to Dido or Zenobia. Only what are we to talk about? I, for my part, object to the discussion of Human Nature, because that is the nature of rectors’ wives.”

Later in the evening, after Mrs. Cadwallader was gone, Celia said privately to Dorothea, “Really, Dodo, taking your cap off made you like yourself again in more ways than one. You spoke up just as you used to do, when anything was said to displease you. But I could hardly make out whether it was James that you thought wrong, or Mrs. Cadwallader.”

“Neither,” said Dorothea. “James spoke out of delicacy to me, but he was mistaken in supposing that I minded what Mrs. Cadwallader said. I should only mind if there were a law obliging me to take any piece of blood and beauty that she or anybody else recommended.”

“But you know, Dodo, if you ever did marry, it would be all the better to have blood and beauty,” said Celia, reflecting that Mr. Casaubon had not been richly endowed with those gifts, and that it would be well to caution Dorothea in time.

“Don’t be anxious, Kitty; I have quite other thoughts about my life. I shall never marry again,” said Dorothea, touching her sister’s chin, and looking at her with indulgent affection. Celia was nursing her baby, and Dorothea had come to say good-night to her.

“Really—quite?” said Celia. “Not anybody at all—if he were very wonderful indeed?”

Dorothea shook her head slowly. “Not anybody at all. I have delightful plans. I should like to take a great deal of land, and drain it, and make a little colony, where everybody should work, and all the work should be done well. I should know every one of the people and be their friend. I am going to have great consultations with Mr. Garth: he can tell me almost everything I want to know.”

“Then you will be happy, if you have a plan, Dodo?” said Celia. “Perhaps little Arthur will like plans when he grows up, and then he can help you.”

Sir James was informed that same night that Dorothea was really quite set against marrying anybody at all, and was going to take to “all sorts of plans,” just like what she used to have. Sir James made no remark. To his secret feeling there was something repulsive in a woman’s second marriage, and no match would prevent him from feeling it a sort of desecration for Dorothea. He was aware that the world would regard such a sentiment as preposterous, especially in relation to a woman of one-and-twenty; the practice of “the world” being to treat of a young widow’s second marriage as certain and probably near, and to smile with meaning if the widow acts accordingly. But if Dorothea did choose to espouse her solitude, he felt that the resolution would well become her.



CHAPTER LVI.

“How happy is he born and taught
That serveth not another’s will;
Whose armor is his honest thought,
And simple truth his only skill!
. . . . . . .
This man is freed from servile bands
Of hope to rise or fear to fall;
Lord of himself though not of lands;
And having nothing yet hath all.”
—SIR HENRY WOTTON.

Dorothea’s confidence in Caleb Garth’s knowledge, which had begun on her hearing that he approved of her cottages, had grown fast during her stay at Freshitt, Sir James having induced her to take rides over the two estates in company with himself and Caleb, who quite returned her admiration, and told his wife that Mrs. Casaubon had a head for business most uncommon in a woman. It must be remembered that by “business” Caleb never meant money transactions, but the skilful application of labor.

“Most uncommon!” repeated Caleb. “She said a thing I often used to think myself when I was a lad:—‘Mr. Garth, I should like to feel, if I lived to be old, that I had improved a great piece of land and built a great many good cottages, because the work is of a healthy kind while it is being done, and after it is done, men are the better for it.’ Those were the very words: she sees into things in that way.”

“But womanly, I hope,” said Mrs. Garth, half suspecting that Mrs. Casaubon might not hold the true principle of subordination.

“Oh, you can’t think!” said Caleb, shaking his head. “You would like to hear her speak, Susan. She speaks in such plain words, and a voice like music. Bless me! it reminds me of bits in the ‘Messiah’—‘and straightway there appeared a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying;’ it has a tone with it that satisfies your ear.”

Caleb was very fond of music, and when he could afford it went to hear an oratorio that came within his reach, returning from it with a profound reverence for this mighty structure of tones, which made him sit meditatively, looking on the floor and throwing much unutterable language into his outstretched hands.

With this good understanding between them, it was natural that Dorothea asked Mr. Garth to undertake any business connected with the three farms and the numerous tenements attached to Lowick Manor; indeed, his expectation of getting work for two was being fast fulfilled. As he said, “Business breeds.” And one form of business which was beginning to breed just then was the construction of railways. A projected line was to run through Lowick parish where the cattle had hitherto grazed in a peace unbroken by astonishment; and thus it happened that the infant struggles of the railway system entered into the affairs of Caleb Garth, and determined the course of this history with regard to two persons who were dear to him. The submarine railway may have its difficulties; but the bed of the sea is not divided among various landed proprietors with claims for damages not only measurable but sentimental. In the hundred to which Middlemarch belonged railways were as exciting a topic as the Reform Bill or the imminent horrors of Cholera, and those who held the most decided views on the subject were women and landholders. Women both old and young regarded travelling by steam as presumptuous and dangerous, and argued against it by saying that nothing should induce them to get into a railway carriage; while proprietors, differing from each other in their arguments as much as Mr. Solomon Featherstone differed from Lord Medlicote, were yet unanimous in the opinion that in selling land, whether to the Enemy of mankind or to a company obliged to purchase, these pernicious agencies must be made to pay a very high price to landowners for permission to injure mankind.

But the slower wits, such as Mr. Solomon and Mrs. Waule, who both occupied land of their own, took a long time to arrive at this conclusion, their minds halting at the vivid conception of what it would be to cut the Big Pasture in two, and turn it into three-cornered bits, which would be “nohow;” while accommodation-bridges and high payments were remote and incredible.

“The cows will all cast their calves, brother,” said Mrs. Waule, in a tone of deep melancholy, “if the railway comes across the Near Close; and I shouldn’t wonder at the mare too, if she was in foal. It’s a poor tale if a widow’s property is to be spaded away, and the law say nothing to it. What’s to hinder ’em from cutting right and left if they begin? It’s well known, I can’t fight.”

“The best way would be to say nothing, and set somebody on to send ’em away with a flea in their ear, when they came spying and measuring,” said Solomon. “Folks did that about Brassing, by what I can understand. It’s all a pretence, if the truth was known, about their being forced to take one way. Let ’em go cutting in another parish. And I don’t believe in any pay to make amends for bringing a lot of ruffians to trample your crops. Where’s a company’s pocket?”

“Brother Peter, God forgive him, got money out of a company,” said Mrs. Waule. “But that was for the manganese. That wasn’t for railways to blow you to pieces right and left.”

“Well, there’s this to be said, Jane,” Mr. Solomon concluded, lowering his voice in a cautious manner—“the more spokes we put in their wheel, the more they’ll pay us to let ’em go on, if they must come whether or not.”

This reasoning of Mr. Solomon’s was perhaps less thorough than he imagined, his cunning bearing about the same relation to the course of railways as the cunning of a diplomatist bears to the general chill or catarrh of the solar system. But he set about acting on his views in a thoroughly diplomatic manner, by stimulating suspicion. His side of Lowick was the most remote from the village, and the houses of the laboring people were either lone cottages or were collected in a hamlet called Frick, where a water-mill and some stone-pits made a little centre of slow, heavy-shouldered industry.

In the absence of any precise idea as to what railways were, public opinion in Frick was against them; for the human mind in that grassy corner had not the proverbial tendency to admire the unknown, holding rather that it was likely to be against the poor man, and that suspicion was the only wise attitude with regard to it. Even the rumor of Reform had not yet excited any millennial expectations in Frick, there being no definite promise in it, as of gratuitous grains to fatten Hiram Ford’s pig, or of a publican at the “Weights and Scales” who would brew beer for nothing, or of an offer on the part of the three neighboring farmers to raise wages during winter. And without distinct good of this kind in its promises, Reform seemed on a footing with the bragging of pedlers, which was a hint for distrust to every knowing person. The men of Frick were not ill-fed, and were less given to fanaticism than to a strong muscular suspicion; less inclined to believe that they were peculiarly cared for by heaven, than to regard heaven itself as rather disposed to take them in—a disposition observable in the weather.

Thus the mind of Frick was exactly of the sort for Mr. Solomon Featherstone to work upon, he having more plenteous ideas of the same order, with a suspicion of heaven and earth which was better fed and more entirely at leisure. Solomon was overseer of the roads at that time, and on his slow-paced cob often took his rounds by Frick to look at the workmen getting the stones there, pausing with a mysterious deliberation, which might have misled you into supposing that he had some other reason for staying than the mere want of impulse to move. After looking for a long while at any work that was going on, he would raise his eyes a little and look at the horizon; finally he would shake his bridle, touch his horse with the whip, and get it to move slowly onward. The hour-hand of a clock was quick by comparison with Mr. Solomon, who had an agreeable sense that he could afford to be slow. He was in the habit of pausing for a cautious, vaguely designing chat with every hedger or ditcher on his way, and was especially willing to listen even to news which he had heard before, feeling himself at an advantage over all narrators in partially disbelieving them. One day, however, he got into a dialogue with Hiram Ford, a wagoner, in which he himself contributed information. He wished to know whether Hiram had seen fellows with staves and instruments spying about: they called themselves railroad people, but there was no telling what they were or what they meant to do. The least they pretended was that they were going to cut Lowick Parish into sixes and sevens.

“Why, there’ll be no stirrin’ from one pla-ace to another,” said Hiram, thinking of his wagon and horses.

“Not a bit,” said Mr. Solomon. “And cutting up fine land such as this parish! Let ’em go into Tipton, say I. But there’s no knowing what there is at the bottom of it. Traffic is what they put for’ard; but it’s to do harm to the land and the poor man in the long-run.”

“Why, they’re Lunnon chaps, I reckon,” said Hiram, who had a dim notion of London as a centre of hostility to the country.

“Ay, to be sure. And in some parts against Brassing, by what I’ve heard say, the folks fell on ’em when they were spying, and broke their peep-holes as they carry, and drove ’em away, so as they knew better than come again.”

“It war good foon, I’d be bound,” said Hiram, whose fun was much restricted by circumstances.

“Well, I wouldn’t meddle with ’em myself,” said Solomon. “But some say this country’s seen its best days, and the sign is, as it’s being overrun with these fellows trampling right and left, and wanting to cut it up into railways; and all for the big traffic to swallow up the little, so as there shan’t be a team left on the land, nor a whip to crack.”

“I’ll crack my whip about their ear’n, afore they bring it to that, though,” said Hiram, while Mr. Solomon, shaking his bridle, moved onward.

Nettle-seed needs no digging. The ruin of this countryside by railroads was discussed, not only at the “Weights and Scales,” but in the hay-field, where the muster of working hands gave opportunities for talk such as were rarely had through the rural year.

One morning, not long after that interview between Mr. Farebrother and Mary Garth, in which she confessed to him her feeling for Fred Vincy, it happened that her father had some business which took him to Yoddrell’s farm in the direction of Frick: it was to measure and value an outlying piece of land belonging to Lowick Manor, which Caleb expected to dispose of advantageously for Dorothea (it must be confessed that his bias was towards getting the best possible terms from railroad companies). He put up his gig at Yoddrell’s, and in walking with his assistant and measuring-chain to the scene of his work, he encountered the party of the company’s agents, who were adjusting their spirit-level. After a little chat he left them, observing that by-and-by they would reach him again where he was going to measure. It was one of those gray mornings after light rains, which become delicious about twelve o’clock, when the clouds part a little, and the scent of the earth is sweet along the lanes and by the hedgerows.

The scent would have been sweeter to Fred Vincy, who was coming along the lanes on horseback, if his mind had not been worried by unsuccessful efforts to imagine what he was to do, with his father on one side expecting him straightway to enter the Church, with Mary on the other threatening to forsake him if he did enter it, and with the working-day world showing no eager need whatever of a young gentleman without capital and generally unskilled. It was the harder to Fred’s disposition because his father, satisfied that he was no longer rebellious, was in good humor with him, and had sent him on this pleasant ride to see after some greyhounds. Even when he had fixed on what he should do, there would be the task of telling his father. But it must be admitted that the fixing, which had to come first, was the more difficult task:—what secular avocation on earth was there for a young man (whose friends could not get him an “appointment”) which was at once gentlemanly, lucrative, and to be followed without special knowledge? Riding along the lanes by Frick in this mood, and slackening his pace while he reflected whether he should venture to go round by Lowick Parsonage to call on Mary, he could see over the hedges from one field to another. Suddenly a noise roused his attention, and on the far side of a field on his left hand he could see six or seven men in smock-frocks with hay-forks in their hands making an offensive approach towards the four railway agents who were facing them, while Caleb Garth and his assistant were hastening across the field to join the threatened group. Fred, delayed a few moments by having to find the gate, could not gallop up to the spot before the party in smock-frocks, whose work of turning the hay had not been too pressing after swallowing their mid-day beer, were driving the men in coats before them with their hay-forks; while Caleb Garth’s assistant, a lad of seventeen, who had snatched up the spirit-level at Caleb’s order, had been knocked down and seemed to be lying helpless. The coated men had the advantage as runners, and Fred covered their retreat by getting in front of the smock-frocks and charging them suddenly enough to throw their chase into confusion. “What do you confounded fools mean?” shouted Fred, pursuing the divided group in a zigzag, and cutting right and left with his whip. “I’ll swear to every one of you before the magistrate. You’ve knocked the lad down and killed him, for what I know. You’ll every one of you be hanged at the next assizes, if you don’t mind,” said Fred, who afterwards laughed heartily as he remembered his own phrases.

The laborers had been driven through the gate-way into their hay-field, and Fred had checked his horse, when Hiram Ford, observing himself at a safe challenging distance, turned back and shouted a defiance which he did not know to be Homeric.

“Yo’re a coward, yo are. Yo git off your horse, young measter, and I’ll have a round wi’ ye, I wull. Yo daredn’t come on wi’out your hoss an’ whip. I’d soon knock the breath out on ye, I would.”

“Wait a minute, and I’ll come back presently, and have a round with you all in turn, if you like,” said Fred, who felt confidence in his power of boxing with his dearly beloved brethren. But just now he wanted to hasten back to Caleb and the prostrate youth.

The lad’s ankle was strained, and he was in much pain from it, but he was no further hurt, and Fred placed him on the horse that he might ride to Yoddrell’s and be taken care of there.

“Let them put the horse in the stable, and tell the surveyors they can come back for their traps,” said Fred. “The ground is clear now.”

“No, no,” said Caleb, “here’s a breakage. They’ll have to give up for to-day, and it will be as well. Here, take the things before you on the horse, Tom. They’ll see you coming, and they’ll turn back.”

“I’m glad I happened to be here at the right moment, Mr. Garth,” said Fred, as Tom rode away. “No knowing what might have happened if the cavalry had not come up in time.”

“Ay, ay, it was lucky,” said Caleb, speaking rather absently, and looking towards the spot where he had been at work at the moment of interruption. “But—deuce take it—this is what comes of men being fools—I’m hindered of my day’s work. I can’t get along without somebody to help me with the measuring-chain. However!” He was beginning to move towards the spot with a look of vexation, as if he had forgotten Fred’s presence, but suddenly he turned round and said quickly, “What have you got to do to-day, young fellow?”

“Nothing, Mr. Garth. I’ll help you with pleasure—can I?” said Fred, with a sense that he should be courting Mary when he was helping her father.

“Well, you mustn’t mind stooping and getting hot.”

“I don’t mind anything. Only I want to go first and have a round with that hulky fellow who turned to challenge me. It would be a good lesson for him. I shall not be five minutes.”

“Nonsense!” said Caleb, with his most peremptory intonation. “I shall go and speak to the men myself. It’s all ignorance. Somebody has been telling them lies. The poor fools don’t know any better.”

“I shall go with you, then,” said Fred.

“No, no; stay where you are. I don’t want your young blood. I can take care of myself.”

Caleb was a powerful man and knew little of any fear except the fear of hurting others and the fear of having to speechify. But he felt it his duty at this moment to try and give a little harangue. There was a striking mixture in him—which came from his having always been a hard-working man himself—of rigorous notions about workmen and practical indulgence towards them. To do a good day’s work and to do it well, he held to be part of their welfare, as it was the chief part of his own happiness; but he had a strong sense of fellowship with them. When he advanced towards the laborers they had not gone to work again, but were standing in that form of rural grouping which consists in each turning a shoulder towards the other, at a distance of two or three yards. They looked rather sulkily at Caleb, who walked quickly with one hand in his pocket and the other thrust between the buttons of his waistcoat, and had his every-day mild air when he paused among them.

“Why, my lads, how’s this?” he began, taking as usual to brief phrases, which seemed pregnant to himself, because he had many thoughts lying under them, like the abundant roots of a plant that just manages to peep above the water. “How came you to make such a mistake as this? Somebody has been telling you lies. You thought those men up there wanted to do mischief.”

“Aw!” was the answer, dropped at intervals by each according to his degree of unreadiness.

“Nonsense! No such thing! They’re looking out to see which way the railroad is to take. Now, my lads, you can’t hinder the railroad: it will be made whether you like it or not. And if you go fighting against it, you’ll get yourselves into trouble. The law gives those men leave to come here on the land. The owner has nothing to say against it, and if you meddle with them you’ll have to do with the constable and Justice Blakesley, and with the handcuffs and Middlemarch jail. And you might be in for it now, if anybody informed against you.”

Caleb paused here, and perhaps the greatest orator could not have chosen either his pause or his images better for the occasion.

“But come, you didn’t mean any harm. Somebody told you the railroad was a bad thing. That was a lie. It may do a bit of harm here and there, to this and to that; and so does the sun in heaven. But the railway’s a good thing.”

“Aw! good for the big folks to make money out on,” said old Timothy Cooper, who had stayed behind turning his hay while the others had been gone on their spree;—“I’n seen lots o’ things turn up sin’ I war a young un—the war an’ the peace, and the canells, an’ the oald King George, an’ the Regen’, an’ the new King George, an’ the new un as has got a new ne-ame—an’ it’s been all aloike to the poor mon. What’s the canells been t’ him? They’n brought him neyther me-at nor be-acon, nor wage to lay by, if he didn’t save it wi’ clemmin’ his own inside. Times ha’ got wusser for him sin’ I war a young un. An’ so it’ll be wi’ the railroads. They’ll on’y leave the poor mon furder behind. But them are fools as meddle, and so I told the chaps here. This is the big folks’s world, this is. But yo’re for the big folks, Muster Garth, yo are.”

Timothy was a wiry old laborer, of a type lingering in those times—who had his savings in a stocking-foot, lived in a lone cottage, and was not to be wrought on by any oratory, having as little of the feudal spirit, and believing as little, as if he had not been totally unacquainted with the Age of Reason and the Rights of Man. Caleb was in a difficulty known to any person attempting in dark times and unassisted by miracle to reason with rustics who are in possession of an undeniable truth which they know through a hard process of feeling, and can let it fall like a giant’s club on your neatly carved argument for a social benefit which they do not feel. Caleb had no cant at command, even if he could have chosen to use it; and he had been accustomed to meet all such difficulties in no other way than by doing his “business” faithfully. He answered—

“If you don’t think well of me, Tim, never mind; that’s neither here nor there now. Things may be bad for the poor man—bad they are; but I want the lads here not to do what will make things worse for themselves. The cattle may have a heavy load, but it won’t help ’em to throw it over into the roadside pit, when it’s partly their own fodder.”

“We war on’y for a bit o’ foon,” said Hiram, who was beginning to see consequences. “That war all we war arter.”

“Well, promise me not to meddle again, and I’ll see that nobody informs against you.”

“I’n ne’er meddled, an’ I’n no call to promise,” said Timothy.

“No, but the rest. Come, I’m as hard at work as any of you to-day, and I can’t spare much time. Say you’ll be quiet without the constable.”

“Aw, we wooant meddle—they may do as they loike for oos”—were the forms in which Caleb got his pledges; and then he hastened back to Fred, who had followed him, and watched him in the gateway.

They went to work, and Fred helped vigorously. His spirits had risen, and he heartily enjoyed a good slip in the moist earth under the hedgerow, which soiled his perfect summer trousers. Was it his successful onset which had elated him, or the satisfaction of helping Mary’s father? Something more. The accidents of the morning had helped his frustrated imagination to shape an employment for himself which had several attractions. I am not sure that certain fibres in Mr. Garth’s mind had not resumed their old vibration towards the very end which now revealed itself to Fred. For the effective accident is but the touch of fire where there is oil and tow; and it always appeared to Fred that the railway brought the needed touch. But they went on in silence except when their business demanded speech. At last, when they had finished and were walking away, Mr. Garth said—

“A young fellow needn’t be a B. A. to do this sort of work, eh, Fred?”

“I wish I had taken to it before I had thought of being a B. A.,” said Fred. He paused a moment, and then added, more hesitatingly, “Do you think I am too old to learn your business, Mr. Garth?”

“My business is of many sorts, my boy,” said Mr. Garth, smiling. “A good deal of what I know can only come from experience: you can’t learn it off as you learn things out of a book. But you are young enough to lay a foundation yet.” Caleb pronounced the last sentence emphatically, but paused in some uncertainty. He had been under the impression lately that Fred had made up his mind to enter the Church.

“You do think I could do some good at it, if I were to try?” said Fred, more eagerly.

“That depends,” said Caleb, turning his head on one side and lowering his voice, with the air of a man who felt himself to be saying something deeply religious. “You must be sure of two things: you must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge of it, wanting your play to begin. And the other is, you must not be ashamed of your work, and think it would be more honorable to you to be doing something else. You must have a pride in your own work and in learning to do it well, and not be always saying, There’s this and there’s that—if I had this or that to do, I might make something of it. No matter what a man is—I wouldn’t give twopence for him”—here Caleb’s mouth looked bitter, and he snapped his fingers—“whether he was the prime minister or the rick-thatcher, if he didn’t do well what he undertook to do.”

“I can never feel that I should do that in being a clergyman,” said Fred, meaning to take a step in argument.

“Then let it alone, my boy,” said Caleb, abruptly, “else you’ll never be easy. Or, if you are easy, you’ll be a poor stick.”

“That is very nearly what Mary thinks about it,” said Fred, coloring. “I think you must know what I feel for Mary, Mr. Garth: I hope it does not displease you that I have always loved her better than any one else, and that I shall never love any one as I love her.”

The expression of Caleb’s face was visibly softening while Fred spoke. But he swung his head with a solemn slowness, and said—

“That makes things more serious, Fred, if you want to take Mary’s happiness into your keeping.”

“I know that, Mr. Garth,” said Fred, eagerly, “and I would do anything for her. She says she will never have me if I go into the Church; and I shall be the most miserable devil in the world if I lose all hope of Mary. Really, if I could get some other profession, business—anything that I am at all fit for, I would work hard, I would deserve your good opinion. I should like to have to do with outdoor things. I know a good deal about land and cattle already. I used to believe, you know—though you will think me rather foolish for it—that I should have land of my own. I am sure knowledge of that sort would come easily to me, especially if I could be under you in any way.”

“Softly, my boy,” said Caleb, having the image of “Susan” before his eyes. “What have you said to your father about all this?”

“Nothing, yet; but I must tell him. I am only waiting to know what I can do instead of entering the Church. I am very sorry to disappoint him, but a man ought to be allowed to judge for himself when he is four-and-twenty. How could I know when I was fifteen, what it would be right for me to do now? My education was a mistake.”

“But hearken to this, Fred,” said Caleb. “Are you sure Mary is fond of you, or would ever have you?”

“I asked Mr. Farebrother to talk to her, because she had forbidden me—I didn’t know what else to do,” said Fred, apologetically. “And he says that I have every reason to hope, if I can put myself in an honorable position—I mean, out of the Church. I dare say you think it unwarrantable in me, Mr. Garth, to be troubling you and obtruding my own wishes about Mary, before I have done anything at all for myself. Of course I have not the least claim—indeed, I have already a debt to you which will never be discharged, even when I have been able to pay it in the shape of money.”

“Yes, my boy, you have a claim,” said Caleb, with much feeling in his voice. “The young ones have always a claim on the old to help them forward. I was young myself once and had to do without much help; but help would have been welcome to me, if it had been only for the fellow-feeling’s sake. But I must consider. Come to me to-morrow at the office, at nine o’clock. At the office, mind.”

Mr. Garth would take no important step without consulting Susan, but it must be confessed that before he reached home he had taken his resolution. With regard to a large number of matters about which other men are decided or obstinate, he was the most easily manageable man in the world. He never knew what meat he would choose, and if Susan had said that they ought to live in a four-roomed cottage, in order to save, he would have said, “Let us go,” without inquiring into details. But where Caleb’s feeling and judgment strongly pronounced, he was a ruler; and in spite of his mildness and timidity in reproving, every one about him knew that on the exceptional occasions when he chose, he was absolute. He never, indeed, chose to be absolute except on some one else’s behalf. On ninety-nine points Mrs. Garth decided, but on the hundredth she was often aware that she would have to perform the singularly difficult task of carrying out her own principle, and to make herself subordinate.

“It is come round as I thought, Susan,” said Caleb, when they were seated alone in the evening. He had already narrated the adventure which had brought about Fred’s sharing in his work, but had kept back the further result. “The children are fond of each other—I mean, Fred and Mary.”

Mrs. Garth laid her work on her knee, and fixed her penetrating eyes anxiously on her husband.

“After we’d done our work, Fred poured it all out to me. He can’t bear to be a clergyman, and Mary says she won’t have him if he is one; and the lad would like to be under me and give his mind to business. And I’ve determined to take him and make a man of him.”

“Caleb!” said Mrs. Garth, in a deep contralto, expressive of resigned astonishment.

“It’s a fine thing to do,” said Mr. Garth, settling himself firmly against the back of his chair, and grasping the elbows. “I shall have trouble with him, but I think I shall carry it through. The lad loves Mary, and a true love for a good woman is a great thing, Susan. It shapes many a rough fellow.”

“Has Mary spoken to you on the subject?” said Mrs Garth, secretly a little hurt that she had to be informed on it herself.

“Not a word. I asked her about Fred once; I gave her a bit of a warning. But she assured me she would never marry an idle self-indulgent man—nothing since. But it seems Fred set on Mr. Farebrother to talk to her, because she had forbidden him to speak himself, and Mr. Farebrother has found out that she is fond of Fred, but says he must not be a clergyman. Fred’s heart is fixed on Mary, that I can see: it gives me a good opinion of the lad—and we always liked him, Susan.”

“It is a pity for Mary, I think,” said Mrs. Garth.

“Why—a pity?”

“Because, Caleb, she might have had a man who is worth twenty Fred Vincy’s.”

“Ah?” said Caleb, with surprise.

“I firmly believe that Mr. Farebrother is attached to her, and meant to make her an offer; but of course, now that Fred has used him as an envoy, there is an end to that better prospect.” There was a severe precision in Mrs. Garth’s utterance. She was vexed and disappointed, but she was bent on abstaining from useless words.

Caleb was silent a few moments under a conflict of feelings. He looked at the floor and moved his head and hands in accompaniment to some inward argumentation. At last he said—

“That would have made me very proud and happy, Susan, and I should have been glad for your sake. I’ve always felt that your belongings have never been on a level with you. But you took me, though I was a plain man.”

“I took the best and cleverest man I had ever known,” said Mrs. Garth, convinced that she would never have loved any one who came short of that mark.

“Well, perhaps others thought you might have done better. But it would have been worse for me. And that is what touches me close about Fred. The lad is good at bottom, and clever enough to do, if he’s put in the right way; and he loves and honors my daughter beyond anything, and she has given him a sort of promise according to what he turns out. I say, that young man’s soul is in my hand; and I’ll do the best I can for him, so help me God! It’s my duty, Susan.”

Mrs. Garth was not given to tears, but there was a large one rolling down her face before her husband had finished. It came from the pressure of various feelings, in which there was much affection and some vexation. She wiped it away quickly, saying—

“Few men besides you would think it a duty to add to their anxieties in that way, Caleb.”

“That signifies nothing—what other men would think. I’ve got a clear feeling inside me, and that I shall follow; and I hope your heart will go with me, Susan, in making everything as light as can be to Mary, poor child.”

Caleb, leaning back in his chair, looked with anxious appeal towards his wife. She rose and kissed him, saying, “God bless you, Caleb! Our children have a good father.”

But she went out and had a hearty cry to make up for the suppression of her words. She felt sure that her husband’s conduct would be misunderstood, and about Fred she was rational and unhopeful. Which would turn out to have the more foresight in it—her rationality or Caleb’s ardent generosity?

When Fred went to the office the next morning, there was a test to be gone through which he was not prepared for.

“Now Fred,” said Caleb, “you will have some desk-work. I have always done a good deal of writing myself, but I can’t do without help, and as I want you to understand the accounts and get the values into your head, I mean to do without another clerk. So you must buckle to. How are you at writing and arithmetic?”

Fred felt an awkward movement of the heart; he had not thought of desk-work; but he was in a resolute mood, and not going to shrink. “I’m not afraid of arithmetic, Mr. Garth: it always came easily to me. I think you know my writing.”

“Let us see,” said Caleb, taking up a pen, examining it carefully and handing it, well dipped, to Fred with a sheet of ruled paper. “Copy me a line or two of that valuation, with the figures at the end.”

At that time the opinion existed that it was beneath a gentleman to write legibly, or with a hand in the least suitable to a clerk. Fred wrote the lines demanded in a hand as gentlemanly as that of any viscount or bishop of the day: the vowels were all alike and the consonants only distinguishable as turning up or down, the strokes had a blotted solidity and the letters disdained to keep the line—in short, it was a manuscript of that venerable kind easy to interpret when you know beforehand what the writer means.

As Caleb looked on, his visage showed a growing depression, but when Fred handed him the paper he gave something like a snarl, and rapped the paper passionately with the back of his hand. Bad work like this dispelled all Caleb’s mildness.

“The deuce!” he exclaimed, snarlingly. “To think that this is a country where a man’s education may cost hundreds and hundreds, and it turns you out this!” Then in a more pathetic tone, pushing up his spectacles and looking at the unfortunate scribe, “The Lord have mercy on us, Fred, I can’t put up with this!”

“What can I do, Mr. Garth?” said Fred, whose spirits had sunk very low, not only at the estimate of his handwriting, but at the vision of himself as liable to be ranked with office clerks.

“Do? Why, you must learn to form your letters and keep the line. What’s the use of writing at all if nobody can understand it?” asked Caleb, energetically, quite preoccupied with the bad quality of the work. “Is there so little business in the world that you must be sending puzzles over the country? But that’s the way people are brought up. I should lose no end of time with the letters some people send me, if Susan did not make them out for me. It’s disgusting.” Here Caleb tossed the paper from him.

Any stranger peeping into the office at that moment might have wondered what was the drama between the indignant man of business, and the fine-looking young fellow whose blond complexion was getting rather patchy as he bit his lip with mortification. Fred was struggling with many thoughts. Mr. Garth had been so kind and encouraging at the beginning of their interview, that gratitude and hopefulness had been at a high pitch, and the downfall was proportionate. He had not thought of desk-work—in fact, like the majority of young gentlemen, he wanted an occupation which should be free from disagreeables. I cannot tell what might have been the consequences if he had not distinctly promised himself that he would go to Lowick to see Mary and tell her that he was engaged to work under her father. He did not like to disappoint himself there.

“I am very sorry,” were all the words that he could muster. But Mr. Garth was already relenting.

“We must make the best of it, Fred,” he began, with a return to his usual quiet tone. “Every man can learn to write. I taught myself. Go at it with a will, and sit up at night if the day-time isn’t enough. We’ll be patient, my boy. Callum shall go on with the books for a bit, while you are learning. But now I must be off,” said Caleb, rising. “You must let your father know our agreement. You’ll save me Callum’s salary, you know, when you can write; and I can afford to give you eighty pounds for the first year, and more after.”

When Fred made the necessary disclosure to his parents, the relative effect on the two was a surprise which entered very deeply into his memory. He went straight from Mr. Garth’s office to the warehouse, rightly feeling that the most respectful way in which he could behave to his father was to make the painful communication as gravely and formally as possible. Moreover, the decision would be more certainly understood to be final, if the interview took place in his father’s gravest hours, which were always those spent in his private room at the warehouse.

Fred entered on the subject directly, and declared briefly what he had done and was resolved to do, expressing at the end his regret that he should be the cause of disappointment to his father, and taking the blame on his own deficiencies. The regret was genuine, and inspired Fred with strong, simple words.

Mr. Vincy listened in profound surprise without uttering even an exclamation, a silence which in his impatient temperament was a sign of unusual emotion. He had not been in good spirits about trade that morning, and the slight bitterness in his lips grew intense as he listened. When Fred had ended, there was a pause of nearly a minute, during which Mr. Vincy replaced a book in his desk and turned the key emphatically. Then he looked at his son steadily, and said—

“So you’ve made up your mind at last, sir?”

“Yes, father.”

“Very well; stick to it. I’ve no more to say. You’ve thrown away your education, and gone down a step in life, when I had given you the means of rising, that’s all.”

“I am very sorry that we differ, father. I think I can be quite as much of a gentleman at the work I have undertaken, as if I had been a curate. But I am grateful to you for wishing to do the best for me.”

“Very well; I have no more to say. I wash my hands of you. I only hope, when you have a son of your own he will make a better return for the pains you spend on him.”

This was very cutting to Fred. His father was using that unfair advantage possessed by us all when we are in a pathetic situation and see our own past as if it were simply part of the pathos. In reality, Mr. Vincy’s wishes about his son had had a great deal of pride, inconsiderateness, and egoistic folly in them. But still the disappointed father held a strong lever; and Fred felt as if he were being banished with a malediction.

“I hope you will not object to my remaining at home, sir?” he said, after rising to go; “I shall have a sufficient salary to pay for my board, as of course I should wish to do.”

“Board be hanged!” said Mr. Vincy, recovering himself in his disgust at the notion that Fred’s keep would be missed at his table. “Of course your mother will want you to stay. But I shall keep no horse for you, you understand; and you will pay your own tailor. You will do with a suit or two less, I fancy, when you have to pay for ’em.”

Fred lingered; there was still something to be said. At last it came.

“I hope you will shake hands with me, father, and forgive me the vexation I have caused you.”

Mr. Vincy from his chair threw a quick glance upward at his son, who had advanced near to him, and then gave his hand, saying hurriedly, “Yes, yes, let us say no more.”

Fred went through much more narrative and explanation with his mother, but she was inconsolable, having before her eyes what perhaps her husband had never thought of, the certainty that Fred would marry Mary Garth, that her life would henceforth be spoiled by a perpetual infusion of Garths and their ways, and that her darling boy, with his beautiful face and stylish air “beyond anybody else’s son in Middlemarch,” would be sure to get like that family in plainness of appearance and carelessness about his clothes. To her it seemed that there was a Garth conspiracy to get possession of the desirable Fred, but she dared not enlarge on this opinion, because a slight hint of it had made him “fly out” at her as he had never done before. Her temper was too sweet for her to show any anger, but she felt that her happiness had received a bruise, and for several days merely to look at Fred made her cry a little as if he were the subject of some baleful prophecy. Perhaps she was the slower to recover her usual cheerfulness because Fred had warned her that she must not reopen the sore question with his father, who had accepted his decision and forgiven him. If her husband had been vehement against Fred, she would have been urged into defence of her darling. It was the end of the fourth day when Mr. Vincy said to her—

“Come, Lucy, my dear, don’t be so down-hearted. You always have spoiled the boy, and you must go on spoiling him.”

“Nothing ever did cut me so before, Vincy,” said the wife, her fair throat and chin beginning to tremble again, “only his illness.”

“Pooh, pooh, never mind! We must expect to have trouble with our children. Don’t make it worse by letting me see you out of spirits.”

“Well, I won’t,” said Mrs. Vincy, roused by this appeal and adjusting herself with a little shake as of a bird which lays down its ruffled plumage.

“It won’t do to begin making a fuss about one,” said Mr. Vincy, wishing to combine a little grumbling with domestic cheerfulness. “There’s Rosamond as well as Fred.”

“Yes, poor thing. I’m sure I felt for her being disappointed of her baby; but she got over it nicely.”

“Baby, pooh! I can see Lydgate is making a mess of his practice, and getting into debt too, by what I hear. I shall have Rosamond coming to me with a pretty tale one of these days. But they’ll get no money from me, I know. Let his family help him. I never did like that marriage. But it’s no use talking. Ring the bell for lemons, and don’t look dull any more, Lucy. I’ll drive you and Louisa to Riverston to-morrow.”

CHAPTER LVII.

They numbered scarce eight summers when a name
    Rose on their souls and stirred such motions there
As thrill the buds and shape their hidden frame
    At penetration of the quickening air:
His name who told of loyal Evan Dhu,
    Of quaint Bradwardine, and Vich Ian Vor,
Making the little world their childhood knew
    Large with a land of mountain lake and scaur,
And larger yet with wonder, love, belief
    Toward Walter Scott who living far away
Sent them this wealth of joy and noble grief.
    The book and they must part, but day by day,
In lines that thwart like portly spiders ran
     They wrote the tale, from Tully Veolan.

The evening that Fred Vincy walked to Lowick parsonage (he had begun to see that this was a world in which even a spirited young man must sometimes walk for want of a horse to carry him) he set out at five o’clock and called on Mrs. Garth by the way, wishing to assure himself that she accepted their new relations willingly.

He found the family group, dogs and cats included, under the great apple-tree in the orchard. It was a festival with Mrs. Garth, for her eldest son, Christy, her peculiar joy and pride, had come home for a short holiday—Christy, who held it the most desirable thing in the world to be a tutor, to study all literatures and be a regenerate Porson, and who was an incorporate criticism on poor Fred, a sort of object-lesson given to him by the educational mother. Christy himself, a square-browed, broad-shouldered masculine edition of his mother not much higher than Fred’s shoulder—which made it the harder that he should be held superior—was always as simple as possible, and thought no more of Fred’s disinclination to scholarship than of a giraffe’s, wishing that he himself were more of the same height. He was lying on the ground now by his mother’s chair, with his straw hat laid flat over his eyes, while Jim on the other side was reading aloud from that beloved writer who has made a chief part in the happiness of many young lives. The volume was “Ivanhoe,” and Jim was in the great archery scene at the tournament, but suffered much interruption from Ben, who had fetched his own old bow and arrows, and was making himself dreadfully disagreeable, Letty thought, by begging all present to observe his random shots, which no one wished to do except Brownie, the active-minded but probably shallow mongrel, while the grizzled Newfoundland lying in the sun looked on with the dull-eyed neutrality of extreme old age. Letty herself, showing as to her mouth and pinafore some slight signs that she had been assisting at the gathering of the cherries which stood in a coral-heap on the tea-table, was now seated on the grass, listening open-eyed to the reading.

But the centre of interest was changed for all by the arrival of Fred Vincy. When, seating himself on a garden-stool, he said that he was on his way to Lowick Parsonage, Ben, who had thrown down his bow, and snatched up a reluctant half-grown kitten instead, strode across Fred’s outstretched leg, and said “Take me!”

“Oh, and me too,” said Letty.

“You can’t keep up with Fred and me,” said Ben.

“Yes, I can. Mother, please say that I am to go,” urged Letty, whose life was much checkered by resistance to her depreciation as a girl.

“I shall stay with Christy,” observed Jim; as much as to say that he had the advantage of those simpletons; whereupon Letty put her hand up to her head and looked with jealous indecision from the one to the other.

“Let us all go and see Mary,” said Christy, opening his arms.

“No, my dear child, we must not go in a swarm to the parsonage. And that old Glasgow suit of yours would never do. Besides, your father will come home. We must let Fred go alone. He can tell Mary that you are here, and she will come back to-morrow.”

Christy glanced at his own threadbare knees, and then at Fred’s beautiful white trousers. Certainly Fred’s tailoring suggested the advantages of an English university, and he had a graceful way even of looking warm and of pushing his hair back with his handkerchief.

“Children, run away,” said Mrs. Garth; “it is too warm to hang about your friends. Take your brother and show him the rabbits.”

The eldest understood, and led off the children immediately. Fred felt that Mrs. Garth wished to give him an opportunity of saying anything he had to say, but he could only begin by observing—

“How glad you must be to have Christy here!”

“Yes; he has come sooner than I expected. He got down from the coach at nine o’clock, just after his father went out. I am longing for Caleb to come and hear what wonderful progress Christy is making. He has paid his expenses for the last year by giving lessons, carrying on hard study at the same time. He hopes soon to get a private tutorship and go abroad.”

“He is a great fellow,” said Fred, to whom these cheerful truths had a medicinal taste, “and no trouble to anybody.” After a slight pause, he added, “But I fear you will think that I am going to be a great deal of trouble to Mr. Garth.”

“Caleb likes taking trouble: he is one of those men who always do more than any one would have thought of asking them to do,” answered Mrs. Garth. She was knitting, and could either look at Fred or not, as she chose—always an advantage when one is bent on loading speech with salutary meaning; and though Mrs. Garth intended to be duly reserved, she did wish to say something that Fred might be the better for.

“I know you think me very undeserving, Mrs. Garth, and with good reason,” said Fred, his spirit rising a little at the perception of something like a disposition to lecture him. “I happen to have behaved just the worst to the people I can’t help wishing for the most from. But while two men like Mr. Garth and Mr. Farebrother have not given me up, I don’t see why I should give myself up.” Fred thought it might be well to suggest these masculine examples to Mrs. Garth.

“Assuredly,” said she, with gathering emphasis. “A young man for whom two such elders had devoted themselves would indeed be culpable if he threw himself away and made their sacrifices vain.”

Fred wondered a little at this strong language, but only said, “I hope it will not be so with me, Mrs. Garth, since I have some encouragement to believe that I may win Mary. Mr. Garth has told you about that? You were not surprised, I dare say?” Fred ended, innocently referring only to his own love as probably evident enough.

“Not surprised that Mary has given you encouragement?” returned Mrs. Garth, who thought it would be well for Fred to be more alive to the fact that Mary’s friends could not possibly have wished this beforehand, whatever the Vincys might suppose. “Yes, I confess I was surprised.”

“She never did give me any—not the least in the world, when I talked to her myself,” said Fred, eager to vindicate Mary. “But when I asked Mr. Farebrother to speak for me, she allowed him to tell me there was a hope.”

The power of admonition which had begun to stir in Mrs. Garth had not yet discharged itself. It was a little too provoking even for her self-control that this blooming youngster should flourish on the disappointments of sadder and wiser people—making a meal of a nightingale and never knowing it—and that all the while his family should suppose that hers was in eager need of this sprig; and her vexation had fermented the more actively because of its total repression towards her husband. Exemplary wives will sometimes find scapegoats in this way. She now said with energetic decision, “You made a great mistake, Fred, in asking Mr. Farebrother to speak for you.”

“Did I?” said Fred, reddening instantaneously. He was alarmed, but at a loss to know what Mrs. Garth meant, and added, in an apologetic tone, “Mr. Farebrother has always been such a friend of ours; and Mary, I knew, would listen to him gravely; and he took it on himself quite readily.”

“Yes, young people are usually blind to everything but their own wishes, and seldom imagine how much those wishes cost others,” said Mrs. Garth. She did not mean to go beyond this salutary general doctrine, and threw her indignation into a needless unwinding of her worsted, knitting her brow at it with a grand air.

“I cannot conceive how it could be any pain to Mr. Farebrother,” said Fred, who nevertheless felt that surprising conceptions were beginning to form themselves.

“Precisely; you cannot conceive,” said Mrs. Garth, cutting her words as neatly as possible.

For a moment Fred looked at the horizon with a dismayed anxiety, and then turning with a quick movement said almost sharply—

“Do you mean to say, Mrs. Garth, that Mr. Farebrother is in love with Mary?”

“And if it were so, Fred, I think you are the last person who ought to be surprised,” returned Mrs. Garth, laying her knitting down beside her and folding her arms. It was an unwonted sign of emotion in her that she should put her work out of her hands. In fact her feelings were divided between the satisfaction of giving Fred his discipline and the sense of having gone a little too far. Fred took his hat and stick and rose quickly.

“Then you think I am standing in his way, and in Mary’s too?” he said, in a tone which seemed to demand an answer.

Mrs. Garth could not speak immediately. She had brought herself into the unpleasant position of being called on to say what she really felt, yet what she knew there were strong reasons for concealing. And to her the consciousness of having exceeded in words was peculiarly mortifying. Besides, Fred had given out unexpected electricity, and he now added, “Mr. Garth seemed pleased that Mary should be attached to me. He could not have known anything of this.”

Mrs. Garth felt a severe twinge at this mention of her husband, the fear that Caleb might think her in the wrong not being easily endurable. She answered, wanting to check unintended consequences—

“I spoke from inference only. I am not aware that Mary knows anything of the matter.”

But she hesitated to beg that he would keep entire silence on a subject which she had herself unnecessarily mentioned, not being used to stoop in that way; and while she was hesitating there was already a rush of unintended consequences under the apple-tree where the tea-things stood. Ben, bouncing across the grass with Brownie at his heels, and seeing the kitten dragging the knitting by a lengthening line of wool, shouted and clapped his hands; Brownie barked, the kitten, desperate, jumped on the tea-table and upset the milk, then jumped down again and swept half the cherries with it; and Ben, snatching up the half-knitted sock-top, fitted it over the kitten’s head as a new source of madness, while Letty arriving cried out to her mother against this cruelty—it was a history as full of sensation as “This is the house that Jack built.” Mrs. Garth was obliged to interfere, the other young ones came up and the tête-à-tête with Fred was ended. He got away as soon as he could, and Mrs. Garth could only imply some retractation of her severity by saying “God bless you” when she shook hands with him.

She was unpleasantly conscious that she had been on the verge of speaking as “one of the foolish women speaketh”—telling first and entreating silence after. But she had not entreated silence, and to prevent Caleb’s blame she determined to blame herself and confess all to him that very night. It was curious what an awful tribunal the mild Caleb’s was to her, whenever he set it up. But she meant to point out to him that the revelation might do Fred Vincy a great deal of good.

No doubt it was having a strong effect on him as he walked to Lowick. Fred’s light hopeful nature had perhaps never had so much of a bruise as from this suggestion that if he had been out of the way Mary might have made a thoroughly good match. Also he was piqued that he had been what he called such a stupid lout as to ask that intervention from Mr. Farebrother. But it was not in a lover’s nature—it was not in Fred’s, that the new anxiety raised about Mary’s feeling should not surmount every other. Notwithstanding his trust in Mr. Farebrother’s generosity, notwithstanding what Mary had said to him, Fred could not help feeling that he had a rival: it was a new consciousness, and he objected to it extremely, not being in the least ready to give up Mary for her good, being ready rather to fight for her with any man whatsoever. But the fighting with Mr. Farebrother must be of a metaphorical kind, which was much more difficult to Fred than the muscular. Certainly this experience was a discipline for Fred hardly less sharp than his disappointment about his uncle’s will. The iron had not entered into his soul, but he had begun to imagine what the sharp edge would be. It did not once occur to Fred that Mrs. Garth might be mistaken about Mr. Farebrother, but he suspected that she might be wrong about Mary. Mary had been staying at the parsonage lately, and her mother might know very little of what had been passing in her mind.

He did not feel easier when he found her looking cheerful with the three ladies in the drawing-room. They were in animated discussion on some subject which was dropped when he entered, and Mary was copying the labels from a heap of shallow cabinet drawers, in a minute handwriting which she was skilled in. Mr. Farebrother was somewhere in the village, and the three ladies knew nothing of Fred’s peculiar relation to Mary: it was impossible for either of them to propose that they should walk round the garden, and Fred predicted to himself that he should have to go away without saying a word to her in private. He told her first of Christy’s arrival and then of his own engagement with her father; and he was comforted by seeing that this latter news touched her keenly. She said hurriedly, “I am so glad,” and then bent over her writing to hinder any one from noticing her face. But here was a subject which Mrs. Farebrother could not let pass.

“You don’t mean, my dear Miss Garth, that you are glad to hear of a young man giving up the Church for which he was educated: you only mean that things being so, you are glad that he should be under an excellent man like your father.”

“No, really, Mrs. Farebrother, I am glad of both, I fear,” said Mary, cleverly getting rid of one rebellious tear. “I have a dreadfully secular mind. I never liked any clergyman except the Vicar of Wakefield and Mr. Farebrother.”

“Now why, my dear?” said Mrs. Farebrother, pausing on her large wooden knitting-needles and looking at Mary. “You have always a good reason for your opinions, but this astonishes me. Of course I put out of the question those who preach new doctrine. But why should you dislike clergymen?”

“Oh dear,” said Mary, her face breaking into merriment as she seemed to consider a moment, “I don’t like their neckcloths.”

“Why, you don’t like Camden’s, then,” said Miss Winifred, in some anxiety.

“Yes, I do,” said Mary. “I don’t like the other clergymen’s neckcloths, because it is they who wear them.”

“How very puzzling!” said Miss Noble, feeling that her own intellect was probably deficient.

“My dear, you are joking. You would have better reasons than these for slighting so respectable a class of men,” said Mrs. Farebrother, majestically.

“Miss Garth has such severe notions of what people should be that it is difficult to satisfy her,” said Fred.

“Well, I am glad at least that she makes an exception in favor of my son,” said the old lady.

Mary was wondering at Fred’s piqued tone, when Mr. Farebrother came in and had to hear the news about the engagement under Mr. Garth. At the end he said with quiet satisfaction, “That is right;” and then bent to look at Mary’s labels and praise her handwriting. Fred felt horribly jealous—was glad, of course, that Mr. Farebrother was so estimable, but wished that he had been ugly and fat as men at forty sometimes are. It was clear what the end would be, since Mary openly placed Farebrother above everybody, and these women were all evidently encouraging the affair. He was feeling sure that he should have no chance of speaking to Mary, when Mr. Farebrother said—

“Fred, help me to carry these drawers back into my study—you have never seen my fine new study. Pray come too, Miss Garth. I want you to see a stupendous spider I found this morning.”

Mary at once saw the Vicar’s intention. He had never since the memorable evening deviated from his old pastoral kindness towards her, and her momentary wonder and doubt had quite gone to sleep. Mary was accustomed to think rather rigorously of what was probable, and if a belief flattered her vanity she felt warned to dismiss it as ridiculous, having early had much exercise in such dismissals. It was as she had foreseen: when Fred had been asked to admire the fittings of the study, and she had been asked to admire the spider, Mr. Farebrother said—

“Wait here a minute or two. I am going to look out an engraving which Fred is tall enough to hang for me. I shall be back in a few minutes.” And then he went out. Nevertheless, the first word Fred said to Mary was—

“It is of no use, whatever I do, Mary. You are sure to marry Farebrother at last.” There was some rage in his tone.

“What do you mean, Fred?” Mary exclaimed indignantly, blushing deeply, and surprised out of all her readiness in reply.

“It is impossible that you should not see it all clearly enough—you who see everything.”

“I only see that you are behaving very ill, Fred, in speaking so of Mr. Farebrother after he has pleaded your cause in every way. How can you have taken up such an idea?”

Fred was rather deep, in spite of his irritation. If Mary had really been unsuspicious, there was no good in telling her what Mrs. Garth had said.

“It follows as a matter of course,” he replied. “When you are continually seeing a man who beats me in everything, and whom you set up above everybody, I can have no fair chance.”

“You are very ungrateful, Fred,” said Mary. “I wish I had never told Mr. Farebrother that I cared for you in the least.”

“No, I am not ungrateful; I should be the happiest fellow in the world if it were not for this. I told your father everything, and he was very kind; he treated me as if I were his son. I could go at the work with a will, writing and everything, if it were not for this.”

“For this? for what?” said Mary, imagining now that something specific must have been said or done.

“This dreadful certainty that I shall be bowled out by Farebrother.” Mary was appeased by her inclination to laugh.

“Fred,” she said, peeping round to catch his eyes, which were sulkily turned away from her, “you are too delightfully ridiculous. If you were not such a charming simpleton, what a temptation this would be to play the wicked coquette, and let you suppose that somebody besides you has made love to me.”

“Do you really like me best, Mary?” said Fred, turning eyes full of affection on her, and trying to take her hand.

“I don’t like you at all at this moment,” said Mary, retreating, and putting her hands behind her. “I only said that no mortal ever made love to me besides you. And that is no argument that a very wise man ever will,” she ended, merrily.

“I wish you would tell me that you could not possibly ever think of him,” said Fred.

“Never dare to mention this any more to me, Fred,” said Mary, getting serious again. “I don’t know whether it is more stupid or ungenerous in you not to see that Mr. Farebrother has left us together on purpose that we might speak freely. I am disappointed that you should be so blind to his delicate feeling.”

There was no time to say any more before Mr. Farebrother came back with the engraving; and Fred had to return to the drawing-room still with a jealous dread in his heart, but yet with comforting arguments from Mary’s words and manner. The result of the conversation was on the whole more painful to Mary: inevitably her attention had taken a new attitude, and she saw the possibility of new interpretations. She was in a position in which she seemed to herself to be slighting Mr. Farebrother, and this, in relation to a man who is much honored, is always dangerous to the firmness of a grateful woman. To have a reason for going home the next day was a relief, for Mary earnestly desired to be always clear that she loved Fred best. When a tender affection has been storing itself in us through many of our years, the idea that we could accept any exchange for it seems to be a cheapening of our lives. And we can set a watch over our affections and our constancy as we can over other treasures.

“Fred has lost all his other expectations; he must keep this,” Mary said to herself, with a smile curling her lips. It was impossible to help fleeting visions of another kind—new dignities and an acknowledged value of which she had often felt the absence. But these things with Fred outside them, Fred forsaken and looking sad for the want of her, could never tempt her deliberate thought.



CHAPTER LVIII.

“For there can live no hatred in thine eye,
Therefore in that I cannot know thy change:
In many’s looks the false heart’s history
Is writ in moods and frowns and wrinkles strange:
But Heaven in thy creation did decree
That in thy face sweet love should ever dwell:
Whate’er thy thoughts or thy heart’s workings be
Thy looks should nothing thence but sweetness tell.”
—SHAKESPEARE: Sonnets.

At the time when Mr. Vincy uttered that presentiment about Rosamond, she herself had never had the idea that she should be driven to make the sort of appeal which he foresaw. She had not yet had any anxiety about ways and means, although her domestic life had been expensive as well as eventful. Her baby had been born prematurely, and all the embroidered robes and caps had to be laid by in darkness. This misfortune was attributed entirely to her having persisted in going out on horseback one day when her husband had desired her not to do so; but it must not be supposed that she had shown temper on the occasion, or rudely told him that she would do as she liked.

What led her particularly to desire horse-exercise was a visit from Captain Lydgate, the baronet’s third son, who, I am sorry to say, was detested by our Tertius of that name as a vapid fop “parting his hair from brow to nape in a despicable fashion” (not followed by Tertius himself), and showing an ignorant security that he knew the proper thing to say on every topic. Lydgate inwardly cursed his own folly that he had drawn down this visit by consenting to go to his uncle’s on the wedding-tour, and he made himself rather disagreeable to Rosamond by saying so in private. For to Rosamond this visit was a source of unprecedented but gracefully concealed exultation. She was so intensely conscious of having a cousin who was a baronet’s son staying in the house, that she imagined the knowledge of what was implied by his presence to be diffused through all other minds; and when she introduced Captain Lydgate to her guests, she had a placid sense that his rank penetrated them as if it had been an odor. The satisfaction was enough for the time to melt away some disappointment in the conditions of marriage with a medical man even of good birth: it seemed now that her marriage was visibly as well as ideally floating her above the Middlemarch level, and the future looked bright with letters and visits to and from Quallingham, and vague advancement in consequence for Tertius. Especially as, probably at the Captain’s suggestion, his married sister, Mrs. Mengan, had come with her maid, and stayed two nights on her way from town. Hence it was clearly worth while for Rosamond to take pains with her music and the careful selection of her lace.

As to Captain Lydgate himself, his low brow, his aquiline nose bent on one side, and his rather heavy utterance, might have been disadvantageous in any young gentleman who had not a military bearing and mustache to give him what is doted on by some flower-like blond heads as “style.” He had, moreover, that sort of high-breeding which consists in being free from the petty solicitudes of middle-class gentility, and he was a great critic of feminine charms. Rosamond delighted in his admiration now even more than she had done at Quallingham, and he found it easy to spend several hours of the day in flirting with her. The visit altogether was one of the pleasantest larks he had ever had, not the less so perhaps because he suspected that his queer cousin Tertius wished him away: though Lydgate, who would rather (hyperbolically speaking) have died than have failed in polite hospitality, suppressed his dislike, and only pretended generally not to hear what the gallant officer said, consigning the task of answering him to Rosamond. For he was not at all a jealous husband, and preferred leaving a feather-headed young gentleman alone with his wife to bearing him company.

“I wish you would talk more to the Captain at dinner, Tertius,” said Rosamond, one evening when the important guest was gone to Loamford to see some brother officers stationed there. “You really look so absent sometimes—you seem to be seeing through his head into something behind it, instead of looking at him.”

“My dear Rosy, you don’t expect me to talk much to such a conceited ass as that, I hope,” said Lydgate, brusquely. “If he got his head broken, I might look at it with interest, not before.”

“I cannot conceive why you should speak of your cousin so contemptuously,” said Rosamond, her fingers moving at her work while she spoke with a mild gravity which had a touch of disdain in it.

“Ask Ladislaw if he doesn’t think your Captain the greatest bore he ever met with. Ladislaw has almost forsaken the house since he came.”

Rosamond thought she knew perfectly well why Mr. Ladislaw disliked the Captain: he was jealous, and she liked his being jealous.

“It is impossible to say what will suit eccentric persons,” she answered, “but in my opinion Captain Lydgate is a thorough gentleman, and I think you ought not, out of respect to Sir Godwin, to treat him with neglect.”

“No, dear; but we have had dinners for him. And he comes in and goes out as he likes. He doesn’t want me.”

“Still, when he is in the room, you might show him more attention. He may not be a phoenix of cleverness in your sense; his profession is different; but it would be all the better for you to talk a little on his subjects. I think his conversation is quite agreeable. And he is anything but an unprincipled man.”

“The fact is, you would wish me to be a little more like him, Rosy,” said Lydgate, in a sort of resigned murmur, with a smile which was not exactly tender, and certainly not merry. Rosamond was silent and did not smile again; but the lovely curves of her face looked good-tempered enough without smiling.

Those words of Lydgate’s were like a sad milestone marking how far he had travelled from his old dreamland, in which Rosamond Vincy appeared to be that perfect piece of womanhood who would reverence her husband’s mind after the fashion of an accomplished mermaid, using her comb and looking-glass and singing her song for the relaxation of his adored wisdom alone. He had begun to distinguish between that imagined adoration and the attraction towards a man’s talent because it gives him prestige, and is like an order in his button-hole or an Honorable before his name.

It might have been supposed that Rosamond had travelled too, since she had found the pointless conversation of Mr. Ned Plymdale perfectly wearisome; but to most mortals there is a stupidity which is unendurable and a stupidity which is altogether acceptable—else, indeed, what would become of social bonds? Captain Lydgate’s stupidity was delicately scented, carried itself with “style,” talked with a good accent, and was closely related to Sir Godwin. Rosamond found it quite agreeable and caught many of its phrases.

Therefore since Rosamond, as we know, was fond of horseback, there were plenty of reasons why she should be tempted to resume her riding when Captain Lydgate, who had ordered his man with two horses to follow him and put up at the “Green Dragon,” begged her to go out on the gray which he warranted to be gentle and trained to carry a lady—indeed, he had bought it for his sister, and was taking it to Quallingham. Rosamond went out the first time without telling her husband, and came back before his return; but the ride had been so thorough a success, and she declared herself so much the better in consequence, that he was informed of it with full reliance on his consent that she should go riding again.

On the contrary Lydgate was more than hurt—he was utterly confounded that she had risked herself on a strange horse without referring the matter to his wish. After the first almost thundering exclamations of astonishment, which sufficiently warned Rosamond of what was coming, he was silent for some moments.

“However, you have come back safely,” he said, at last, in a decisive tone. “You will not go again, Rosy; that is understood. If it were the quietest, most familiar horse in the world, there would always be the chance of accident. And you know very well that I wished you to give up riding the roan on that account.”

“But there is the chance of accident indoors, Tertius.”

“My darling, don’t talk nonsense,” said Lydgate, in an imploring tone; “surely I am the person to judge for you. I think it is enough that I say you are not to go again.”

Rosamond was arranging her hair before dinner, and the reflection of her head in the glass showed no change in its loveliness except a little turning aside of the long neck. Lydgate had been moving about with his hands in his pockets, and now paused near her, as if he awaited some assurance.

“I wish you would fasten up my plaits, dear,” said Rosamond, letting her arms fall with a little sigh, so as to make a husband ashamed of standing there like a brute. Lydgate had often fastened the plaits before, being among the deftest of men with his large finely formed fingers. He swept up the soft festoons of plaits and fastened in the tall comb (to such uses do men come!); and what could he do then but kiss the exquisite nape which was shown in all its delicate curves? But when we do what we have done before, it is often with a difference. Lydgate was still angry, and had not forgotten his point.

“I shall tell the Captain that he ought to have known better than offer you his horse,” he said, as he moved away.

“I beg you will not do anything of the kind, Tertius,” said Rosamond, looking at him with something more marked than usual in her speech. “It will be treating me as if I were a child. Promise that you will leave the subject to me.”

There did seem to be some truth in her objection. Lydgate said, “Very well,” with a surly obedience, and thus the discussion ended with his promising Rosamond, and not with her promising him.

In fact, she had been determined not to promise. Rosamond had that victorious obstinacy which never wastes its energy in impetuous resistance. What she liked to do was to her the right thing, and all her cleverness was directed to getting the means of doing it. She meant to go out riding again on the gray, and she did go on the next opportunity of her husband’s absence, not intending that he should know until it was late enough not to signify to her. The temptation was certainly great: she was very fond of the exercise, and the gratification of riding on a fine horse, with Captain Lydgate, Sir Godwin’s son, on another fine horse by her side, and of being met in this position by any one but her husband, was something as good as her dreams before marriage: moreover she was riveting the connection with the family at Quallingham, which must be a wise thing to do.

But the gentle gray, unprepared for the crash of a tree that was being felled on the edge of Halsell wood, took fright, and caused a worse fright to Rosamond, leading finally to the loss of her baby. Lydgate could not show his anger towards her, but he was rather bearish to the Captain, whose visit naturally soon came to an end.

In all future conversations on the subject, Rosamond was mildly certain that the ride had made no difference, and that if she had stayed at home the same symptoms would have come on and would have ended in the same way, because she had felt something like them before.

Lydgate could only say, “Poor, poor darling!”—but he secretly wondered over the terrible tenacity of this mild creature. There was gathering within him an amazed sense of his powerlessness over Rosamond. His superior knowledge and mental force, instead of being, as he had imagined, a shrine to consult on all occasions, was simply set aside on every practical question. He had regarded Rosamond’s cleverness as precisely of the receptive kind which became a woman. He was now beginning to find out what that cleverness was—what was the shape into which it had run as into a close network aloof and independent. No one quicker than Rosamond to see causes and effects which lay within the track of her own tastes and interests: she had seen clearly Lydgate’s preeminence in Middlemarch society, and could go on imaginatively tracing still more agreeable social effects when his talent should have advanced him; but for her, his professional and scientific ambition had no other relation to these desirable effects than if they had been the fortunate discovery of an ill-smelling oil. And that oil apart, with which she had nothing to do, of course she believed in her own opinion more than she did in his. Lydgate was astounded to find in numberless trifling matters, as well as in this last serious case of the riding, that affection did not make her compliant. He had no doubt that the affection was there, and had no presentiment that he had done anything to repel it. For his own part he said to himself that he loved her as tenderly as ever, and could make up his mind to her negations; but—well! Lydgate was much worried, and conscious of new elements in his life as noxious to him as an inlet of mud to a creature that has been used to breathe and bathe and dart after its illuminated prey in the clearest of waters.

Rosamond was soon looking lovelier than ever at her worktable, enjoying drives in her father’s phaeton and thinking it likely that she might be invited to Quallingham. She knew that she was a much more exquisite ornament to the drawing-room there than any daughter of the family, and in reflecting that the gentlemen were aware of that, did not perhaps sufficiently consider whether the ladies would be eager to see themselves surpassed.

Lydgate, relieved from anxiety about her, relapsed into what she inwardly called his moodiness—a name which to her covered his thoughtful preoccupation with other subjects than herself, as well as that uneasy look of the brow and distaste for all ordinary things as if they were mixed with bitter herbs, which really made a sort of weather-glass to his vexation and foreboding. These latter states of mind had one cause amongst others, which he had generously but mistakenly avoided mentioning to Rosamond, lest it should affect her health and spirits. Between him and her indeed there was that total missing of each other’s mental track, which is too evidently possible even between persons who are continually thinking of each other. To Lydgate it seemed that he had been spending month after month in sacrificing more than half of his best intent and best power to his tenderness for Rosamond; bearing her little claims and interruptions without impatience, and, above all, bearing without betrayal of bitterness to look through less and less of interfering illusion at the blank unreflecting surface her mind presented to his ardor for the more impersonal ends of his profession and his scientific study, an ardor which he had fancied that the ideal wife must somehow worship as sublime, though not in the least knowing why. But his endurance was mingled with a self-discontent which, if we know how to be candid, we shall confess to make more than half our bitterness under grievances, wife or husband included. It always remains true that if we had been greater, circumstance would have been less strong against us. Lydgate was aware that his concessions to Rosamond were often little more than the lapse of slackening resolution, the creeping paralysis apt to seize an enthusiasm which is out of adjustment to a constant portion of our lives. And on Lydgate’s enthusiasm there was constantly pressing not a simple weight of sorrow, but the biting presence of a petty degrading care, such as casts the blight of irony over all higher effort.

This was the care which he had hitherto abstained from mentioning to Rosamond; and he believed, with some wonder, that it had never entered her mind, though certainly no difficulty could be less mysterious. It was an inference with a conspicuous handle to it, and had been easily drawn by indifferent observers, that Lydgate was in debt; and he could not succeed in keeping out of his mind for long together that he was every day getting deeper into that swamp, which tempts men towards it with such a pretty covering of flowers and verdure. It is wonderful how soon a man gets up to his chin there—in a condition in which, in spite of himself, he is forced to think chiefly of release, though he had a scheme of the universe in his soul.

Eighteen months ago Lydgate was poor, but had never known the eager want of small sums, and felt rather a burning contempt for any one who descended a step in order to gain them. He was now experiencing something worse than a simple deficit: he was assailed by the vulgar hateful trials of a man who has bought and used a great many things which might have been done without, and which he is unable to pay for, though the demand for payment has become pressing.

How this came about may be easily seen without much arithmetic or knowledge of prices. When a man in setting up a house and preparing for marriage finds that his furniture and other initial expenses come to between four and five hundred pounds more than he has capital to pay for; when at the end of a year it appears that his household expenses, horses and et caeteras, amount to nearly a thousand, while the proceeds of the practice reckoned from the old books to be worth eight hundred per annum have sunk like a summer pond and make hardly five hundred, chiefly in unpaid entries, the plain inference is that, whether he minds it or not, he is in debt. Those were less expensive times than our own, and provincial life was comparatively modest; but the ease with which a medical man who had lately bought a practice, who thought that he was obliged to keep two horses, whose table was supplied without stint, and who paid an insurance on his life and a high rent for house and garden, might find his expenses doubling his receipts, can be conceived by any one who does not think these details beneath his consideration. Rosamond, accustomed from her childhood to an extravagant household, thought that good housekeeping consisted simply in ordering the best of everything—nothing else “answered;” and Lydgate supposed that “if things were done at all, they must be done properly”—he did not see how they were to live otherwise. If each head of household expenditure had been mentioned to him beforehand, he would have probably observed that “it could hardly come to much,” and if any one had suggested a saving on a particular article—for example, the substitution of cheap fish for dear—it would have appeared to him simply a penny-wise, mean notion. Rosamond, even without such an occasion as Captain Lydgate’s visit, was fond of giving invitations, and Lydgate, though he often thought the guests tiresome, did not interfere. This sociability seemed a necessary part of professional prudence, and the entertainment must be suitable. It is true Lydgate was constantly visiting the homes of the poor and adjusting his prescriptions of diet to their small means; but, dear me! has it not by this time ceased to be remarkable—is it not rather that we expect in men, that they should have numerous strands of experience lying side by side and never compare them with each other? Expenditure—like ugliness and errors—becomes a totally new thing when we attach our own personality to it, and measure it by that wide difference which is manifest (in our own sensations) between ourselves and others. Lydgate believed himself to be careless about his dress, and he despised a man who calculated the effects of his costume; it seemed to him only a matter of course that he had abundance of fresh garments—such things were naturally ordered in sheaves. It must be remembered that he had never hitherto felt the check of importunate debt, and he walked by habit, not by self-criticism. But the check had come.

Its novelty made it the more irritating. He was amazed, disgusted that conditions so foreign to all his purposes, so hatefully disconnected with the objects he cared to occupy himself with, should have lain in ambush and clutched him when he was unaware. And there was not only the actual debt; there was the certainty that in his present position he must go on deepening it. Two furnishing tradesmen at Brassing, whose bills had been incurred before his marriage, and whom uncalculated current expenses had ever since prevented him from paying, had repeatedly sent him unpleasant letters which had forced themselves on his attention. This could hardly have been more galling to any disposition than to Lydgate’s, with his intense pride—his dislike of asking a favor or being under an obligation to any one. He had scorned even to form conjectures about Mr. Vincy’s intentions on money matters, and nothing but extremity could have induced him to apply to his father-in-law, even if he had not been made aware in various indirect ways since his marriage that Mr. Vincy’s own affairs were not flourishing, and that the expectation of help from him would be resented. Some men easily trust in the readiness of friends; it had never in the former part of his life occurred to Lydgate that he should need to do so: he had never thought what borrowing would be to him; but now that the idea had entered his mind, he felt that he would rather incur any other hardship. In the mean time he had no money or prospects of money; and his practice was not getting more lucrative.

No wonder that Lydgate had been unable to suppress all signs of inward trouble during the last few months, and now that Rosamond was regaining brilliant health, he meditated taking her entirely into confidence on his difficulties. New conversance with tradesmen’s bills had forced his reasoning into a new channel of comparison: he had begun to consider from a new point of view what was necessary and unnecessary in goods ordered, and to see that there must be some change of habits. How could such a change be made without Rosamond’s concurrence? The immediate occasion of opening the disagreeable fact to her was forced upon him.

Having no money, and having privately sought advice as to what security could possibly be given by a man in his position, Lydgate had offered the one good security in his power to the less peremptory creditor, who was a silversmith and jeweller, and who consented to take on himself the upholsterer’s credit also, accepting interest for a given term. The security necessary was a bill of sale on the furniture of his house, which might make a creditor easy for a reasonable time about a debt amounting to less than four hundred pounds; and the silversmith, Mr. Dover, was willing to reduce it by taking back a portion of the plate and any other article which was as good as new. “Any other article” was a phrase delicately implying jewellery, and more particularly some purple amethysts costing thirty pounds, which Lydgate had bought as a bridal present.

Opinions may be divided as to his wisdom in making this present: some may think that it was a graceful attention to be expected from a man like Lydgate, and that the fault of any troublesome consequences lay in the pinched narrowness of provincial life at that time, which offered no conveniences for professional people whose fortune was not proportioned to their tastes; also, in Lydgate’s ridiculous fastidiousness about asking his friends for money.

However, it had seemed a question of no moment to him on that fine morning when he went to give a final order for plate: in the presence of other jewels enormously expensive, and as an addition to orders of which the amount had not been exactly calculated, thirty pounds for ornaments so exquisitely suited to Rosamond’s neck and arms could hardly appear excessive when there was no ready cash for it to exceed. But at this crisis Lydgate’s imagination could not help dwelling on the possibility of letting the amethysts take their place again among Mr. Dover’s stock, though he shrank from the idea of proposing this to Rosamond. Having been roused to discern consequences which he had never been in the habit of tracing, he was preparing to act on this discernment with some of the rigor (by no means all) that he would have applied in pursuing experiment. He was nerving himself to this rigor as he rode from Brassing, and meditated on the representations he must make to Rosamond.

It was evening when he got home. He was intensely miserable, this strong man of nine-and-twenty and of many gifts. He was not saying angrily within himself that he had made a profound mistake; but the mistake was at work in him like a recognized chronic disease, mingling its uneasy importunities with every prospect, and enfeebling every thought. As he went along the passage to the drawing-room, he heard the piano and singing. Of course, Ladislaw was there. It was some weeks since Will had parted from Dorothea, yet he was still at the old post in Middlemarch. Lydgate had no objection in general to Ladislaw’s coming, but just now he was annoyed that he could not find his hearth free. When he opened the door the two singers went on towards the key-note, raising their eyes and looking at him indeed, but not regarding his entrance as an interruption. To a man galled with his harness as poor Lydgate was, it is not soothing to see two people warbling at him, as he comes in with the sense that the painful day has still pains in store. His face, already paler than usual, took on a scowl as he walked across the room and flung himself into a chair.

The singers feeling themselves excused by the fact that they had only three bars to sing, now turned round.

“How are you, Lydgate?” said Will, coming forward to shake hands.

Lydgate took his hand, but did not think it necessary to speak.

“Have you dined, Tertius? I expected you much earlier,” said Rosamond, who had already seen that her husband was in a “horrible humor.” She seated herself in her usual place as she spoke.

“I have dined. I should like some tea, please,” said Lydgate, curtly, still scowling and looking markedly at his legs stretched out before him.

Will was too quick to need more. “I shall be off,” he said, reaching his hat.

“Tea is coming,” said Rosamond; “pray don’t go.”

“Yes, Lydgate is bored,” said Will, who had more comprehension of Lydgate than Rosamond had, and was not offended by his manner, easily imagining outdoor causes of annoyance.

“There is the more need for you to stay,” said Rosamond, playfully, and in her lightest accent; “he will not speak to me all the evening.”

“Yes, Rosamond, I shall,” said Lydgate, in his strong baritone. “I have some serious business to speak to you about.”

No introduction of the business could have been less like that which Lydgate had intended; but her indifferent manner had been too provoking.

“There! you see,” said Will. “I’m going to the meeting about the Mechanics’ Institute. Good-by;” and he went quickly out of the room.

Rosamond did not look at her husband, but presently rose and took her place before the tea-tray. She was thinking that she had never seen him so disagreeable. Lydgate turned his dark eyes on her and watched her as she delicately handled the tea-service with her taper fingers, and looked at the objects immediately before her with no curve in her face disturbed, and yet with an ineffable protest in her air against all people with unpleasant manners. For the moment he lost the sense of his wound in a sudden speculation about this new form of feminine impassibility revealing itself in the sylph-like frame which he had once interpreted as the sign of a ready intelligent sensitiveness. His mind glancing back to Laure while he looked at Rosamond, he said inwardly, “Would she kill me because I wearied her?” and then, “It is the way with all women.” But this power of generalizing which gives men so much the superiority in mistake over the dumb animals, was immediately thwarted by Lydgate’s memory of wondering impressions from the behavior of another woman—from Dorothea’s looks and tones of emotion about her husband when Lydgate began to attend him—from her passionate cry to be taught what would best comfort that man for whose sake it seemed as if she must quell every impulse in her except the yearnings of faithfulness and compassion. These revived impressions succeeded each other quickly and dreamily in Lydgate’s mind while the tea was being brewed. He had shut his eyes in the last instant of reverie while he heard Dorothea saying, “Advise me—think what I can do—he has been all his life laboring and looking forward. He minds about nothing else—and I mind about nothing else.”

That voice of deep-souled womanhood had remained within him as the enkindling conceptions of dead and sceptred genius had remained within him (is there not a genius for feeling nobly which also reigns over human spirits and their conclusions?); the tones were a music from which he was falling away—he had really fallen into a momentary doze, when Rosamond said in her silvery neutral way, “Here is your tea, Tertius,” setting it on the small table by his side, and then moved back to her place without looking at him. Lydgate was too hasty in attributing insensibility to her; after her own fashion, she was sensitive enough, and took lasting impressions. Her impression now was one of offence and repulsion. But then, Rosamond had no scowls and had never raised her voice: she was quite sure that no one could justly find fault with her.

Perhaps Lydgate and she had never felt so far off each other before; but there were strong reasons for not deferring his revelation, even if he had not already begun it by that abrupt announcement; indeed some of the angry desire to rouse her into more sensibility on his account which had prompted him to speak prematurely, still mingled with his pain in the prospect of her pain. But he waited till the tray was gone, the candles were lit, and the evening quiet might be counted on: the interval had left time for repelled tenderness to return into the old course. He spoke kindly.

“Dear Rosy, lay down your work and come to sit by me,” he said, gently, pushing away the table, and stretching out his arm to draw a chair near his own.

Rosamond obeyed. As she came towards him in her drapery of transparent faintly tinted muslin, her slim yet round figure never looked more graceful; as she sat down by him and laid one hand on the elbow of his chair, at last looking at him and meeting his eyes, her delicate neck and cheek and purely cut lips never had more of that untarnished beauty which touches as in spring-time and infancy and all sweet freshness. It touched Lydgate now, and mingled the early moments of his love for her with all the other memories which were stirred in this crisis of deep trouble. He laid his ample hand softly on hers, saying—

“Dear!” with the lingering utterance which affection gives to the word. Rosamond too was still under the power of that same past, and her husband was still in part the Lydgate whose approval had stirred delight. She put his hair lightly away from his forehead, then laid her other hand on his, and was conscious of forgiving him.

“I am obliged to tell you what will hurt you, Rosy. But there are things which husband and wife must think of together. I dare say it has occurred to you already that I am short of money.”

Lydgate paused; but Rosamond turned her neck and looked at a vase on the mantel-piece.

“I was not able to pay for all the things we had to get before we were married, and there have been expenses since which I have been obliged to meet. The consequence is, there is a large debt at Brassing—three hundred and eighty pounds—which has been pressing on me a good while, and in fact we are getting deeper every day, for people don’t pay me the faster because others want the money. I took pains to keep it from you while you were not well; but now we must think together about it, and you must help me.”

“What can I do, Tertius?” said Rosamond, turning her eyes on him again. That little speech of four words, like so many others in all languages, is capable by varied vocal inflections of expressing all states of mind from helpless dimness to exhaustive argumentative perception, from the completest self-devoting fellowship to the most neutral aloofness. Rosamond’s thin utterance threw into the words “What can—I—do!” as much neutrality as they could hold. They fell like a mortal chill on Lydgate’s roused tenderness. He did not storm in indignation—he felt too sad a sinking of the heart. And when he spoke again it was more in the tone of a man who forces himself to fulfil a task.

“It is necessary for you to know, because I have to give security for a time, and a man must come to make an inventory of the furniture.”

Rosamond colored deeply. “Have you not asked papa for money?” she said, as soon as she could speak.

“No.”

“Then I must ask him!” she said, releasing her hands from Lydgate’s, and rising to stand at two yards’ distance from him.

“No, Rosy,” said Lydgate, decisively. “It is too late to do that. The inventory will be begun to-morrow. Remember it is a mere security: it will make no difference: it is a temporary affair. I insist upon it that your father shall not know, unless I choose to tell him,” added Lydgate, with a more peremptory emphasis.

This certainly was unkind, but Rosamond had thrown him back on evil expectation as to what she would do in the way of quiet steady disobedience. The unkindness seemed unpardonable to her: she was not given to weeping and disliked it, but now her chin and lips began to tremble and the tears welled up. Perhaps it was not possible for Lydgate, under the double stress of outward material difficulty and of his own proud resistance to humiliating consequences, to imagine fully what this sudden trial was to a young creature who had known nothing but indulgence, and whose dreams had all been of new indulgence, more exactly to her taste. But he did wish to spare her as much as he could, and her tears cut him to the heart. He could not speak again immediately; but Rosamond did not go on sobbing: she tried to conquer her agitation and wiped away her tears, continuing to look before her at the mantel-piece.

“Try not to grieve, darling,” said Lydgate, turning his eyes up towards her. That she had chosen to move away from him in this moment of her trouble made everything harder to say, but he must absolutely go on. “We must brace ourselves to do what is necessary. It is I who have been in fault: I ought to have seen that I could not afford to live in this way. But many things have told against me in my practice, and it really just now has ebbed to a low point. I may recover it, but in the mean time we must pull up—we must change our way of living. We shall weather it. When I have given this security I shall have time to look about me; and you are so clever that if you turn your mind to managing you will school me into carefulness. I have been a thoughtless rascal about squaring prices—but come, dear, sit down and forgive me.”

Lydgate was bowing his neck under the yoke like a creature who had talons, but who had Reason too, which often reduces us to meekness. When he had spoken the last words in an imploring tone, Rosamond returned to the chair by his side. His self-blame gave her some hope that he would attend to her opinion, and she said—

“Why can you not put off having the inventory made? You can send the men away to-morrow when they come.”

“I shall not send them away,” said Lydgate, the peremptoriness rising again. Was it of any use to explain?

“If we left Middlemarch? there would of course be a sale, and that would do as well.”

“But we are not going to leave Middlemarch.”

“I am sure, Tertius, it would be much better to do so. Why can we not go to London? Or near Durham, where your family is known?”

“We can go nowhere without money, Rosamond.”

“Your friends would not wish you to be without money. And surely these odious tradesmen might be made to understand that, and to wait, if you would make proper representations to them.”

“This is idle Rosamond,” said Lydgate, angrily. “You must learn to take my judgment on questions you don’t understand. I have made necessary arrangements, and they must be carried out. As to friends, I have no expectations whatever from them, and shall not ask them for anything.”

Rosamond sat perfectly still. The thought in her mind was that if she had known how Lydgate would behave, she would never have married him.

“We have no time to waste now on unnecessary words, dear,” said Lydgate, trying to be gentle again. “There are some details that I want to consider with you. Dover says he will take a good deal of the plate back again, and any of the jewellery we like. He really behaves very well.”

“Are we to go without spoons and forks then?” said Rosamond, whose very lips seemed to get thinner with the thinness of her utterance. She was determined to make no further resistance or suggestions.

“Oh no, dear!” said Lydgate. “But look here,” he continued, drawing a paper from his pocket and opening it; “here is Dover’s account. See, I have marked a number of articles, which if we returned them would reduce the amount by thirty pounds and more. I have not marked any of the jewellery.” Lydgate had really felt this point of the jewellery very bitter to himself; but he had overcome the feeling by severe argument. He could not propose to Rosamond that she should return any particular present of his, but he had told himself that he was bound to put Dover’s offer before her, and her inward prompting might make the affair easy.

“It is useless for me to look, Tertius,” said Rosamond, calmly; “you will return what you please.” She would not turn her eyes on the paper, and Lydgate, flushing up to the roots of his hair, drew it back and let it fall on his knee. Meanwhile Rosamond quietly went out of the room, leaving Lydgate helpless and wondering. Was she not coming back? It seemed that she had no more identified herself with him than if they had been creatures of different species and opposing interests. He tossed his head and thrust his hands deep into his pockets with a sort of vengeance. There was still science—there were still good objects to work for. He must give a tug still—all the stronger because other satisfactions were going.

But the door opened and Rosamond re-entered. She carried the leather box containing the amethysts, and a tiny ornamental basket which contained other boxes, and laying them on the chair where she had been sitting, she said, with perfect propriety in her air—

“This is all the jewellery you ever gave me. You can return what you like of it, and of the plate also. You will not, of course, expect me to stay at home to-morrow. I shall go to papa’s.”

To many women the look Lydgate cast at her would have been more terrible than one of anger: it had in it a despairing acceptance of the distance she was placing between them.

“And when shall you come back again?” he said, with a bitter edge on his accent.

“Oh, in the evening. Of course I shall not mention the subject to mamma.” Rosamond was convinced that no woman could behave more irreproachably than she was behaving; and she went to sit down at her work-table. Lydgate sat meditating a minute or two, and the result was that he said, with some of the old emotion in his tone—

“Now we have been united, Rosy, you should not leave me to myself in the first trouble that has come.”

“Certainly not,” said Rosamond; “I shall do everything it becomes me to do.”

“It is not right that the thing should be left to servants, or that I should have to speak to them about it. And I shall be obliged to go out—I don’t know how early. I understand your shrinking from the humiliation of these money affairs. But, my dear Rosamond, as a question of pride, which I feel just as much as you can, it is surely better to manage the thing ourselves, and let the servants see as little of it as possible; and since you are my wife, there is no hindering your share in my disgraces—if there were disgraces.”

Rosamond did not answer immediately, but at last she said, “Very well, I will stay at home.”

“I shall not touch these jewels, Rosy. Take them away again. But I will write out a list of plate that we may return, and that can be packed up and sent at once.”

“The servants will know that,” said Rosamond, with the slightest touch of sarcasm.

“Well, we must meet some disagreeables as necessities. Where is the ink, I wonder?” said Lydgate, rising, and throwing the account on the larger table where he meant to write.

Rosamond went to reach the inkstand, and after setting it on the table was going to turn away, when Lydgate, who was standing close by, put his arm round her and drew her towards him, saying—

“Come, darling, let us make the best of things. It will only be for a time, I hope, that we shall have to be stingy and particular. Kiss me.”

His native warm-heartedness took a great deal of quenching, and it is a part of manliness for a husband to feel keenly the fact that an inexperienced girl has got into trouble by marrying him. She received his kiss and returned it faintly, and in this way an appearance of accord was recovered for the time. But Lydgate could not help looking forward with dread to the inevitable future discussions about expenditure and the necessity for a complete change in their way of living.