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CHAPTER LXXXII.

“My grief lies onward and my joy behind.”
—SHAKESPEARE: Sonnets.

Exiles notoriously feed much on hopes, and are unlikely to stay in banishment unless they are obliged. When Will Ladislaw exiled himself from Middlemarch he had placed no stronger obstacle to his return than his own resolve, which was by no means an iron barrier, but simply a state of mind liable to melt into a minuet with other states of mind, and to find itself bowing, smiling, and giving place with polite facility. As the months went on, it had seemed more and more difficult to him to say why he should not run down to Middlemarch—merely for the sake of hearing something about Dorothea; and if on such a flying visit he should chance by some strange coincidence to meet with her, there was no reason for him to be ashamed of having taken an innocent journey which he had beforehand supposed that he should not take. Since he was hopelessly divided from her, he might surely venture into her neighborhood; and as to the suspicious friends who kept a dragon watch over her—their opinions seemed less and less important with time and change of air.

And there had come a reason quite irrespective of Dorothea, which seemed to make a journey to Middlemarch a sort of philanthropic duty. Will had given a disinterested attention to an intended settlement on a new plan in the Far West, and the need for funds in order to carry out a good design had set him on debating with himself whether it would not be a laudable use to make of his claim on Bulstrode, to urge the application of that money which had been offered to himself as a means of carrying out a scheme likely to be largely beneficial. The question seemed a very dubious one to Will, and his repugnance to again entering into any relation with the banker might have made him dismiss it quickly, if there had not arisen in his imagination the probability that his judgment might be more safely determined by a visit to Middlemarch.

That was the object which Will stated to himself as a reason for coming down. He had meant to confide in Lydgate, and discuss the money question with him, and he had meant to amuse himself for the few evenings of his stay by having a great deal of music and badinage with fair Rosamond, without neglecting his friends at Lowick Parsonage:—if the Parsonage was close to the Manor, that was no fault of his. He had neglected the Farebrothers before his departure, from a proud resistance to the possible accusation of indirectly seeking interviews with Dorothea; but hunger tames us, and Will had become very hungry for the vision of a certain form and the sound of a certain voice. Nothing had done instead—not the opera, or the converse of zealous politicians, or the flattering reception (in dim corners) of his new hand in leading articles.

Thus he had come down, foreseeing with confidence how almost everything would be in his familiar little world; fearing, indeed, that there would be no surprises in his visit. But he had found that humdrum world in a terribly dynamic condition, in which even badinage and lyrism had turned explosive; and the first day of this visit had become the most fatal epoch of his life. The next morning he felt so harassed with the nightmare of consequences—he dreaded so much the immediate issues before him—that seeing while he breakfasted the arrival of the Riverston coach, he went out hurriedly and took his place on it, that he might be relieved, at least for a day, from the necessity of doing or saying anything in Middlemarch. Will Ladislaw was in one of those tangled crises which are commoner in experience than one might imagine, from the shallow absoluteness of men’s judgments. He had found Lydgate, for whom he had the sincerest respect, under circumstances which claimed his thorough and frankly declared sympathy; and the reason why, in spite of that claim, it would have been better for Will to have avoided all further intimacy, or even contact, with Lydgate, was precisely of the kind to make such a course appear impossible. To a creature of Will’s susceptible temperament—without any neutral region of indifference in his nature, ready to turn everything that befell him into the collisions of a passionate drama—the revelation that Rosamond had made her happiness in any way dependent on him was a difficulty which his outburst of rage towards her had immeasurably increased for him. He hated his own cruelty, and yet he dreaded to show the fulness of his relenting: he must go to her again; the friendship could not be put to a sudden end; and her unhappiness was a power which he dreaded. And all the while there was no more foretaste of enjoyment in the life before him than if his limbs had been lopped off and he was making his fresh start on crutches. In the night he had debated whether he should not get on the coach, not for Riverston, but for London, leaving a note to Lydgate which would give a makeshift reason for his retreat. But there were strong cords pulling him back from that abrupt departure: the blight on his happiness in thinking of Dorothea, the crushing of that chief hope which had remained in spite of the acknowledged necessity for renunciation, was too fresh a misery for him to resign himself to it and go straightway into a distance which was also despair.

Thus he did nothing more decided than taking the Riverston coach. He came back again by it while it was still daylight, having made up his mind that he must go to Lydgate’s that evening. The Rubicon, we know, was a very insignificant stream to look at; its significance lay entirely in certain invisible conditions. Will felt as if he were forced to cross his small boundary ditch, and what he saw beyond it was not empire, but discontented subjection.

But it is given to us sometimes even in our every-day life to witness the saving influence of a noble nature, the divine efficacy of rescue that may lie in a self-subduing act of fellowship. If Dorothea, after her night’s anguish, had not taken that walk to Rosamond—why, she perhaps would have been a woman who gained a higher character for discretion, but it would certainly not have been as well for those three who were on one hearth in Lydgate’s house at half-past seven that evening.

Rosamond had been prepared for Will’s visit, and she received him with a languid coldness which Lydgate accounted for by her nervous exhaustion, of which he could not suppose that it had any relation to Will. And when she sat in silence bending over a bit of work, he innocently apologized for her in an indirect way by begging her to lean backward and rest. Will was miserable in the necessity for playing the part of a friend who was making his first appearance and greeting to Rosamond, while his thoughts were busy about her feeling since that scene of yesterday, which seemed still inexorably to enclose them both, like the painful vision of a double madness. It happened that nothing called Lydgate out of the room; but when Rosamond poured out the tea, and Will came near to fetch it, she placed a tiny bit of folded paper in his saucer. He saw it and secured it quickly, but as he went back to his inn he had no eagerness to unfold the paper. What Rosamond had written to him would probably deepen the painful impressions of the evening. Still, he opened and read it by his bed-candle. There were only these few words in her neatly flowing hand:—

“I have told Mrs. Casaubon. She is not under any mistake about you. I told her because she came to see me and was very kind. You will have nothing to reproach me with now. I shall not have made any difference to you.”

The effect of these words was not quite all gladness. As Will dwelt on them with excited imagination, he felt his cheeks and ears burning at the thought of what had occurred between Dorothea and Rosamond—at the uncertainty how far Dorothea might still feel her dignity wounded in having an explanation of his conduct offered to her. There might still remain in her mind a changed association with him which made an irremediable difference—a lasting flaw. With active fancy he wrought himself into a state of doubt little more easy than that of the man who has escaped from wreck by night and stands on unknown ground in the darkness. Until that wretched yesterday—except the moment of vexation long ago in the very same room and in the very same presence—all their vision, all their thought of each other, had been as in a world apart, where the sunshine fell on tall white lilies, where no evil lurked, and no other soul entered. But now—would Dorothea meet him in that world again?



CHAPTER LXXXIII.

“And now good-morrow to our waking souls
Which watch not one another out of fear;
For love all love of other sights controls,
And makes one little room, an everywhere.”
—DR. DONNE.

On the second morning after Dorothea’s visit to Rosamond, she had had two nights of sound sleep, and had not only lost all traces of fatigue, but felt as if she had a great deal of superfluous strength—that is to say, more strength than she could manage to concentrate on any occupation. The day before, she had taken long walks outside the grounds, and had paid two visits to the Parsonage; but she never in her life told any one the reason why she spent her time in that fruitless manner, and this morning she was rather angry with herself for her childish restlessness. To-day was to be spent quite differently. What was there to be done in the village? Oh dear! nothing. Everybody was well and had flannel; nobody’s pig had died; and it was Saturday morning, when there was a general scrubbing of doors and door-stones, and when it was useless to go into the school. But there were various subjects that Dorothea was trying to get clear upon, and she resolved to throw herself energetically into the gravest of all. She sat down in the library before her particular little heap of books on political economy and kindred matters, out of which she was trying to get light as to the best way of spending money so as not to injure one’s neighbors, or—what comes to the same thing—so as to do them the most good. Here was a weighty subject which, if she could but lay hold of it, would certainly keep her mind steady. Unhappily her mind slipped off it for a whole hour; and at the end she found herself reading sentences twice over with an intense consciousness of many things, but not of any one thing contained in the text. This was hopeless. Should she order the carriage and drive to Tipton? No; for some reason or other she preferred staying at Lowick. But her vagrant mind must be reduced to order: there was an art in self-discipline; and she walked round and round the brown library considering by what sort of manoeuvre she could arrest her wandering thoughts. Perhaps a mere task was the best means—something to which she must go doggedly. Was there not the geography of Asia Minor, in which her slackness had often been rebuked by Mr. Casaubon? She went to the cabinet of maps and unrolled one: this morning she might make herself finally sure that Paphlagonia was not on the Levantine coast, and fix her total darkness about the Chalybes firmly on the shores of the Euxine. A map was a fine thing to study when you were disposed to think of something else, being made up of names that would turn into a chime if you went back upon them. Dorothea set earnestly to work, bending close to her map, and uttering the names in an audible, subdued tone, which often got into a chime. She looked amusingly girlish after all her deep experience—nodding her head and marking the names off on her fingers, with a little pursing of her lip, and now and then breaking off to put her hands on each side of her face and say, “Oh dear! oh dear!”

There was no reason why this should end any more than a merry-go-round; but it was at last interrupted by the opening of the door and the announcement of Miss Noble.

The little old lady, whose bonnet hardly reached Dorothea’s shoulder, was warmly welcomed, but while her hand was being pressed she made many of her beaver-like noises, as if she had something difficult to say.

“Do sit down,” said Dorothea, rolling a chair forward. “Am I wanted for anything? I shall be so glad if I can do anything.”

“I will not stay,” said Miss Noble, putting her hand into her small basket, and holding some article inside it nervously; “I have left a friend in the churchyard.” She lapsed into her inarticulate sounds, and unconsciously drew forth the article which she was fingering. It was the tortoise-shell lozenge-box, and Dorothea felt the color mounting to her cheeks.

“Mr. Ladislaw,” continued the timid little woman. “He fears he has offended you, and has begged me to ask if you will see him for a few minutes.”

Dorothea did not answer on the instant: it was crossing her mind that she could not receive him in this library, where her husband’s prohibition seemed to dwell. She looked towards the window. Could she go out and meet him in the grounds? The sky was heavy, and the trees had begun to shiver as at a coming storm. Besides, she shrank from going out to him.

“Do see him, Mrs. Casaubon,” said Miss Noble, pathetically; “else I must go back and say No, and that will hurt him.”

“Yes, I will see him,” said Dorothea. “Pray tell him to come.”

What else was there to be done? There was nothing that she longed for at that moment except to see Will: the possibility of seeing him had thrust itself insistently between her and every other object; and yet she had a throbbing excitement like an alarm upon her—a sense that she was doing something daringly defiant for his sake.

When the little lady had trotted away on her mission, Dorothea stood in the middle of the library with her hands falling clasped before her, making no attempt to compose herself in an attitude of dignified unconsciousness. What she was least conscious of just then was her own body: she was thinking of what was likely to be in Will’s mind, and of the hard feelings that others had had about him. How could any duty bind her to hardness? Resistance to unjust dispraise had mingled with her feeling for him from the very first, and now in the rebound of her heart after her anguish the resistance was stronger than ever. “If I love him too much it is because he has been used so ill:”—there was a voice within her saying this to some imagined audience in the library, when the door was opened, and she saw Will before her.

She did not move, and he came towards her with more doubt and timidity in his face than she had ever seen before. He was in a state of uncertainty which made him afraid lest some look or word of his should condemn him to a new distance from her; and Dorothea was afraid of her own emotion. She looked as if there were a spell upon her, keeping her motionless and hindering her from unclasping her hands, while some intense, grave yearning was imprisoned within her eyes. Seeing that she did not put out her hand as usual, Will paused a yard from her and said with embarrassment, “I am so grateful to you for seeing me.”

“I wanted to see you,” said Dorothea, having no other words at command. It did not occur to her to sit down, and Will did not give a cheerful interpretation to this queenly way of receiving him; but he went on to say what he had made up his mind to say.

“I fear you think me foolish and perhaps wrong for coming back so soon. I have been punished for my impatience. You know—every one knows now—a painful story about my parentage. I knew of it before I went away, and I always meant to tell you of it if—if we ever met again.”

There was a slight movement in Dorothea, and she unclasped her hands, but immediately folded them over each other.

“But the affair is matter of gossip now,” Will continued. “I wished you to know that something connected with it—something which happened before I went away, helped to bring me down here again. At least I thought it excused my coming. It was the idea of getting Bulstrode to apply some money to a public purpose—some money which he had thought of giving me. Perhaps it is rather to Bulstrode’s credit that he privately offered me compensation for an old injury: he offered to give me a good income to make amends; but I suppose you know the disagreeable story?”

Will looked doubtfully at Dorothea, but his manner was gathering some of the defiant courage with which he always thought of this fact in his destiny. He added, “You know that it must be altogether painful to me.”

“Yes—yes—I know,” said Dorothea, hastily.

“I did not choose to accept an income from such a source. I was sure that you would not think well of me if I did so,” said Will. Why should he mind saying anything of that sort to her now? She knew that he had avowed his love for her. “I felt that”—he broke off, nevertheless.

“You acted as I should have expected you to act,” said Dorothea, her face brightening and her head becoming a little more erect on its beautiful stem.

“I did not believe that you would let any circumstance of my birth create a prejudice in you against me, though it was sure to do so in others,” said Will, shaking his head backward in his old way, and looking with a grave appeal into her eyes.

“If it were a new hardship it would be a new reason for me to cling to you,” said Dorothea, fervidly. “Nothing could have changed me but—” her heart was swelling, and it was difficult to go on; she made a great effort over herself to say in a low tremulous voice, “but thinking that you were different—not so good as I had believed you to be.”

“You are sure to believe me better than I am in everything but one,” said Will, giving way to his own feeling in the evidence of hers. “I mean, in my truth to you. When I thought you doubted of that, I didn’t care about anything that was left. I thought it was all over with me, and there was nothing to try for—only things to endure.”

“I don’t doubt you any longer,” said Dorothea, putting out her hand; a vague fear for him impelling her unutterable affection.

He took her hand and raised it to his lips with something like a sob. But he stood with his hat and gloves in the other hand, and might have done for the portrait of a Royalist. Still it was difficult to loose the hand, and Dorothea, withdrawing it in a confusion that distressed her, looked and moved away.

“See how dark the clouds have become, and how the trees are tossed,” she said, walking towards the window, yet speaking and moving with only a dim sense of what she was doing.

Will followed her at a little distance, and leaned against the tall back of a leather chair, on which he ventured now to lay his hat and gloves, and free himself from the intolerable durance of formality to which he had been for the first time condemned in Dorothea’s presence. It must be confessed that he felt very happy at that moment leaning on the chair. He was not much afraid of anything that she might feel now.

They stood silent, not looking at each other, but looking at the evergreens which were being tossed, and were showing the pale underside of their leaves against the blackening sky. Will never enjoyed the prospect of a storm so much: it delivered him from the necessity of going away. Leaves and little branches were hurled about, and the thunder was getting nearer. The light was more and more sombre, but there came a flash of lightning which made them start and look at each other, and then smile. Dorothea began to say what she had been thinking of.

“That was a wrong thing for you to say, that you would have had nothing to try for. If we had lost our own chief good, other people’s good would remain, and that is worth trying for. Some can be happy. I seemed to see that more clearly than ever, when I was the most wretched. I can hardly think how I could have borne the trouble, if that feeling had not come to me to make strength.”

“You have never felt the sort of misery I felt,” said Will; “the misery of knowing that you must despise me.”

“But I have felt worse—it was worse to think ill—” Dorothea had begun impetuously, but broke off.

Will colored. He had the sense that whatever she said was uttered in the vision of a fatality that kept them apart. He was silent a moment, and then said passionately—

“We may at least have the comfort of speaking to each other without disguise. Since I must go away—since we must always be divided—you may think of me as one on the brink of the grave.”

While he was speaking there came a vivid flash of lightning which lit each of them up for the other—and the light seemed to be the terror of a hopeless love. Dorothea darted instantaneously from the window; Will followed her, seizing her hand with a spasmodic movement; and so they stood, with their hands clasped, like two children, looking out on the storm, while the thunder gave a tremendous crack and roll above them, and the rain began to pour down. Then they turned their faces towards each other, with the memory of his last words in them, and they did not loose each other’s hands.

“There is no hope for me,” said Will. “Even if you loved me as well as I love you—even if I were everything to you—I shall most likely always be very poor: on a sober calculation, one can count on nothing but a creeping lot. It is impossible for us ever to belong to each other. It is perhaps base of me to have asked for a word from you. I meant to go away into silence, but I have not been able to do what I meant.”

“Don’t be sorry,” said Dorothea, in her clear tender tones. “I would rather share all the trouble of our parting.”

Her lips trembled, and so did his. It was never known which lips were the first to move towards the other lips; but they kissed tremblingly, and then they moved apart.

The rain was dashing against the window-panes as if an angry spirit were within it, and behind it was the great swoop of the wind; it was one of those moments in which both the busy and the idle pause with a certain awe.

Dorothea sat down on the seat nearest to her, a long low ottoman in the middle of the room, and with her hands folded over each other on her lap, looked at the drear outer world. Will stood still an instant looking at her, then seated himself beside her, and laid his hand on hers, which turned itself upward to be clasped. They sat in that way without looking at each other, until the rain abated and began to fall in stillness. Each had been full of thoughts which neither of them could begin to utter.

But when the rain was quiet, Dorothea turned to look at Will. With passionate exclamation, as if some torture screw were threatening him, he started up and said, “It is impossible!”

He went and leaned on the back of the chair again, and seemed to be battling with his own anger, while she looked towards him sadly.

“It is as fatal as a murder or any other horror that divides people,” he burst out again; “it is more intolerable—to have our life maimed by petty accidents.”

“No—don’t say that—your life need not be maimed,” said Dorothea, gently.

“Yes, it must,” said Will, angrily. “It is cruel of you to speak in that way—as if there were any comfort. You may see beyond the misery of it, but I don’t. It is unkind—it is throwing back my love for you as if it were a trifle, to speak in that way in the face of the fact. We can never be married.”

“Some time—we might,” said Dorothea, in a trembling voice.

“When?” said Will, bitterly. “What is the use of counting on any success of mine? It is a mere toss up whether I shall ever do more than keep myself decently, unless I choose to sell myself as a mere pen and a mouthpiece. I can see that clearly enough. I could not offer myself to any woman, even if she had no luxuries to renounce.”

There was silence. Dorothea’s heart was full of something that she wanted to say, and yet the words were too difficult. She was wholly possessed by them: at that moment debate was mute within her. And it was very hard that she could not say what she wanted to say. Will was looking out of the window angrily. If he would have looked at her and not gone away from her side, she thought everything would have been easier. At last he turned, still resting against the chair, and stretching his hand automatically towards his hat, said with a sort of exasperation, “Good-by.”

“Oh, I cannot bear it—my heart will break,” said Dorothea, starting from her seat, the flood of her young passion bearing down all the obstructions which had kept her silent—the great tears rising and falling in an instant: “I don’t mind about poverty—I hate my wealth.”

In an instant Will was close to her and had his arms round her, but she drew her head back and held his away gently that she might go on speaking, her large tear-filled eyes looking at his very simply, while she said in a sobbing childlike way, “We could live quite well on my own fortune—it is too much—seven hundred a-year—I want so little—no new clothes—and I will learn what everything costs.”



CHAPTER LXXXIV.

“Though it be songe of old and yonge,
    That I sholde be to blame,
Theyrs be the charge, that spoke so large
    In hurtynge of my name.”
—The Not-Browne Mayde.

It was just after the Lords had thrown out the Reform Bill: that explains how Mr. Cadwallader came to be walking on the slope of the lawn near the great conservatory at Freshitt Hall, holding the “Times” in his hands behind him, while he talked with a trout-fisher’s dispassionateness about the prospects of the country to Sir James Chettam. Mrs. Cadwallader, the Dowager Lady Chettam, and Celia were sometimes seated on garden-chairs, sometimes walking to meet little Arthur, who was being drawn in his chariot, and, as became the infantine Bouddha, was sheltered by his sacred umbrella with handsome silken fringe.

The ladies also talked politics, though more fitfully. Mrs. Cadwallader was strong on the intended creation of peers: she had it for certain from her cousin that Truberry had gone over to the other side entirely at the instigation of his wife, who had scented peerages in the air from the very first introduction of the Reform question, and would sign her soul away to take precedence of her younger sister, who had married a baronet. Lady Chettam thought that such conduct was very reprehensible, and remembered that Mrs. Truberry’s mother was a Miss Walsingham of Melspring. Celia confessed it was nicer to be “Lady” than “Mrs.,” and that Dodo never minded about precedence if she could have her own way. Mrs. Cadwallader held that it was a poor satisfaction to take precedence when everybody about you knew that you had not a drop of good blood in your veins; and Celia again, stopping to look at Arthur, said, “It would be very nice, though, if he were a Viscount—and his lordship’s little tooth coming through! He might have been, if James had been an Earl.”

“My dear Celia,” said the Dowager, “James’s title is worth far more than any new earldom. I never wished his father to be anything else than Sir James.”

“Oh, I only meant about Arthur’s little tooth,” said Celia, comfortably. “But see, here is my uncle coming.”

She tripped off to meet her uncle, while Sir James and Mr. Cadwallader came forward to make one group with the ladies. Celia had slipped her arm through her uncle’s, and he patted her hand with a rather melancholy “Well, my dear!” As they approached, it was evident that Mr. Brooke was looking dejected, but this was fully accounted for by the state of politics; and as he was shaking hands all round without more greeting than a “Well, you’re all here, you know,” the Rector said, laughingly—

“Don’t take the throwing out of the Bill so much to heart, Brooke; you’ve got all the riff-raff of the country on your side.”

“The Bill, eh? ah!” said Mr. Brooke, with a mild distractedness of manner. “Thrown out, you know, eh? The Lords are going too far, though. They’ll have to pull up. Sad news, you know. I mean, here at home—sad news. But you must not blame me, Chettam.”

“What is the matter?” said Sir James. “Not another gamekeeper shot, I hope? It’s what I should expect, when a fellow like Trapping Bass is let off so easily.”

“Gamekeeper? No. Let us go in; I can tell you all in the house, you know,” said Mr. Brooke, nodding at the Cadwalladers, to show that he included them in his confidence. “As to poachers like Trapping Bass, you know, Chettam,” he continued, as they were entering, “when you are a magistrate, you’ll not find it so easy to commit. Severity is all very well, but it’s a great deal easier when you’ve got somebody to do it for you. You have a soft place in your heart yourself, you know—you’re not a Draco, a Jeffreys, that sort of thing.”

Mr. Brooke was evidently in a state of nervous perturbation. When he had something painful to tell, it was usually his way to introduce it among a number of disjointed particulars, as if it were a medicine that would get a milder flavor by mixing. He continued his chat with Sir James about the poachers until they were all seated, and Mrs. Cadwallader, impatient of this drivelling, said—

“I’m dying to know the sad news. The gamekeeper is not shot: that is settled. What is it, then?”

“Well, it’s a very trying thing, you know,” said Mr. Brooke. “I’m glad you and the Rector are here; it’s a family matter—but you will help us all to bear it, Cadwallader. I’ve got to break it to you, my dear.” Here Mr. Brooke looked at Celia—“You’ve no notion what it is, you know. And, Chettam, it will annoy you uncommonly—but, you see, you have not been able to hinder it, any more than I have. There’s something singular in things: they come round, you know.”

“It must be about Dodo,” said Celia, who had been used to think of her sister as the dangerous part of the family machinery. She had seated herself on a low stool against her husband’s knee.

“For God’s sake let us hear what it is!” said Sir James.

“Well, you know, Chettam, I couldn’t help Casaubon’s will: it was a sort of will to make things worse.”

“Exactly,” said Sir James, hastily. “But what is worse?”

“Dorothea is going to be married again, you know,” said Mr. Brooke, nodding towards Celia, who immediately looked up at her husband with a frightened glance, and put her hand on his knee. Sir James was almost white with anger, but he did not speak.

“Merciful heaven!” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “Not to young Ladislaw?”

Mr. Brooke nodded, saying, “Yes; to Ladislaw,” and then fell into a prudential silence.

“You see, Humphrey!” said Mrs. Cadwallader, waving her arm towards her husband. “Another time you will admit that I have some foresight; or rather you will contradict me and be just as blind as ever. You supposed that the young gentleman was gone out of the country.”

“So he might be, and yet come back,” said the Rector, quietly.

“When did you learn this?” said Sir James, not liking to hear any one else speak, though finding it difficult to speak himself.

“Yesterday,” said Mr. Brooke, meekly. “I went to Lowick. Dorothea sent for me, you know. It had come about quite suddenly—neither of them had any idea two days ago—not any idea, you know. There’s something singular in things. But Dorothea is quite determined—it is no use opposing. I put it strongly to her. I did my duty, Chettam. But she can act as she likes, you know.”

“It would have been better if I had called him out and shot him a year ago,” said Sir James, not from bloody-mindedness, but because he needed something strong to say.

“Really, James, that would have been very disagreeable,” said Celia.

“Be reasonable, Chettam. Look at the affair more quietly,” said Mr. Cadwallader, sorry to see his good-natured friend so overmastered by anger.

“That is not so very easy for a man of any dignity—with any sense of right—when the affair happens to be in his own family,” said Sir James, still in his white indignation. “It is perfectly scandalous. If Ladislaw had had a spark of honor he would have gone out of the country at once, and never shown his face in it again. However, I am not surprised. The day after Casaubon’s funeral I said what ought to be done. But I was not listened to.”

“You wanted what was impossible, you know, Chettam,” said Mr. Brooke. “You wanted him shipped off. I told you Ladislaw was not to be done as we liked with: he had his ideas. He was a remarkable fellow—I always said he was a remarkable fellow.”

“Yes,” said Sir James, unable to repress a retort, “it is rather a pity you formed that high opinion of him. We are indebted to that for his being lodged in this neighborhood. We are indebted to that for seeing a woman like Dorothea degrading herself by marrying him.” Sir James made little stoppages between his clauses, the words not coming easily. “A man so marked out by her husband’s will, that delicacy ought to have forbidden her from seeing him again—who takes her out of her proper rank—into poverty—has the meanness to accept such a sacrifice—has always had an objectionable position—a bad origin—and, I believe, is a man of little principle and light character. That is my opinion.” Sir James ended emphatically, turning aside and crossing his leg.

“I pointed everything out to her,” said Mr. Brooke, apologetically—“I mean the poverty, and abandoning her position. I said, ‘My dear, you don’t know what it is to live on seven hundred a-year, and have no carriage, and that kind of thing, and go amongst people who don’t know who you are.’ I put it strongly to her. But I advise you to talk to Dorothea herself. The fact is, she has a dislike to Casaubon’s property. You will hear what she says, you know.”

“No—excuse me—I shall not,” said Sir James, with more coolness. “I cannot bear to see her again; it is too painful. It hurts me too much that a woman like Dorothea should have done what is wrong.”

“Be just, Chettam,” said the easy, large-lipped Rector, who objected to all this unnecessary discomfort. “Mrs. Casaubon may be acting imprudently: she is giving up a fortune for the sake of a man, and we men have so poor an opinion of each other that we can hardly call a woman wise who does that. But I think you should not condemn it as a wrong action, in the strict sense of the word.”

“Yes, I do,” answered Sir James. “I think that Dorothea commits a wrong action in marrying Ladislaw.”

“My dear fellow, we are rather apt to consider an act wrong because it is unpleasant to us,” said the Rector, quietly. Like many men who take life easily, he had the knack of saying a home truth occasionally to those who felt themselves virtuously out of temper. Sir James took out his handkerchief and began to bite the corner.

“It is very dreadful of Dodo, though,” said Celia, wishing to justify her husband. “She said she never would marry again—not anybody at all.”

“I heard her say the same thing myself,” said Lady Chettam, majestically, as if this were royal evidence.

“Oh, there is usually a silent exception in such cases,” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “The only wonder to me is, that any of you are surprised. You did nothing to hinder it. If you would have had Lord Triton down here to woo her with his philanthropy, he might have carried her off before the year was over. There was no safety in anything else. Mr. Casaubon had prepared all this as beautifully as possible. He made himself disagreeable—or it pleased God to make him so—and then he dared her to contradict him. It’s the way to make any trumpery tempting, to ticket it at a high price in that way.”

“I don’t know what you mean by wrong, Cadwallader,” said Sir James, still feeling a little stung, and turning round in his chair towards the Rector. “He’s not a man we can take into the family. At least, I must speak for myself,” he continued, carefully keeping his eyes off Mr. Brooke. “I suppose others will find his society too pleasant to care about the propriety of the thing.”

“Well, you know, Chettam,” said Mr. Brooke, good-humoredly, nursing his leg, “I can’t turn my back on Dorothea. I must be a father to her up to a certain point. I said, ‘My dear, I won’t refuse to give you away.’ I had spoken strongly before. But I can cut off the entail, you know. It will cost money and be troublesome; but I can do it, you know.”

Mr. Brooke nodded at Sir James, and felt that he was both showing his own force of resolution and propitiating what was just in the Baronet’s vexation. He had hit on a more ingenious mode of parrying than he was aware of. He had touched a motive of which Sir James was ashamed. The mass of his feeling about Dorothea’s marriage to Ladislaw was due partly to excusable prejudice, or even justifiable opinion, partly to a jealous repugnance hardly less in Ladislaw’s case than in Casaubon’s. He was convinced that the marriage was a fatal one for Dorothea. But amid that mass ran a vein of which he was too good and honorable a man to like the avowal even to himself: it was undeniable that the union of the two estates—Tipton and Freshitt—lying charmingly within a ring-fence, was a prospect that flattered him for his son and heir. Hence when Mr. Brooke noddingly appealed to that motive, Sir James felt a sudden embarrassment; there was a stoppage in his throat; he even blushed. He had found more words than usual in the first jet of his anger, but Mr. Brooke’s propitiation was more clogging to his tongue than Mr. Cadwallader’s caustic hint.

But Celia was glad to have room for speech after her uncle’s suggestion of the marriage ceremony, and she said, though with as little eagerness of manner as if the question had turned on an invitation to dinner, “Do you mean that Dodo is going to be married directly, uncle?”

“In three weeks, you know,” said Mr. Brooke, helplessly. “I can do nothing to hinder it, Cadwallader,” he added, turning for a little countenance toward the Rector, who said—

“I should not make any fuss about it. If she likes to be poor, that is her affair. Nobody would have said anything if she had married the young fellow because he was rich. Plenty of beneficed clergy are poorer than they will be. Here is Elinor,” continued the provoking husband; “she vexed her friends by me: I had hardly a thousand a-year—I was a lout—nobody could see anything in me—my shoes were not the right cut—all the men wondered how a woman could like me. Upon my word, I must take Ladislaw’s part until I hear more harm of him.”

“Humphrey, that is all sophistry, and you know it,” said his wife. “Everything is all one—that is the beginning and end with you. As if you had not been a Cadwallader! Does any one suppose that I would have taken such a monster as you by any other name?”

“And a clergyman too,” observed Lady Chettam with approbation. “Elinor cannot be said to have descended below her rank. It is difficult to say what Mr. Ladislaw is, eh, James?”

Sir James gave a small grunt, which was less respectful than his usual mode of answering his mother. Celia looked up at him like a thoughtful kitten.

“It must be admitted that his blood is a frightful mixture!” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “The Casaubon cuttle-fish fluid to begin with, and then a rebellious Polish fiddler or dancing-master, was it?—and then an old clo—”

“Nonsense, Elinor,” said the Rector, rising. “It is time for us to go.”

“After all, he is a pretty sprig,” said Mrs. Cadwallader, rising too, and wishing to make amends. “He is like the fine old Crichley portraits before the idiots came in.”

“I’ll go with you,” said Mr. Brooke, starting up with alacrity. “You must all come and dine with me to-morrow, you know—eh, Celia, my dear?”

“You will, James—won’t you?” said Celia, taking her husband’s hand.

“Oh, of course, if you like,” said Sir James, pulling down his waistcoat, but unable yet to adjust his face good-humoredly. “That is to say, if it is not to meet anybody else.”

“No, no, no,” said Mr. Brooke, understanding the condition. “Dorothea would not come, you know, unless you had been to see her.”

When Sir James and Celia were alone, she said, “Do you mind about my having the carriage to go to Lowick, James?”

“What, now, directly?” he answered, with some surprise.

“Yes, it is very important,” said Celia.

“Remember, Celia, I cannot see her,” said Sir James.

“Not if she gave up marrying?”

“What is the use of saying that?—however, I’m going to the stables. I’ll tell Briggs to bring the carriage round.”

Celia thought it was of great use, if not to say that, at least to take a journey to Lowick in order to influence Dorothea’s mind. All through their girlhood she had felt that she could act on her sister by a word judiciously placed—by opening a little window for the daylight of her own understanding to enter among the strange colored lamps by which Dodo habitually saw. And Celia the matron naturally felt more able to advise her childless sister. How could any one understand Dodo so well as Celia did or love her so tenderly?

Dorothea, busy in her boudoir, felt a glow of pleasure at the sight of her sister so soon after the revelation of her intended marriage. She had prefigured to herself, even with exaggeration, the disgust of her friends, and she had even feared that Celia might be kept aloof from her.

“O Kitty, I am delighted to see you!” said Dorothea, putting her hands on Celia’s shoulders, and beaming on her. “I almost thought you would not come to me.”

“I have not brought Arthur, because I was in a hurry,” said Celia, and they sat down on two small chairs opposite each other, with their knees touching.

“You know, Dodo, it is very bad,” said Celia, in her placid guttural, looking as prettily free from humors as possible. “You have disappointed us all so. And I can’t think that it ever will be—you never can go and live in that way. And then there are all your plans! You never can have thought of that. James would have taken any trouble for you, and you might have gone on all your life doing what you liked.”

“On the contrary, dear,” said Dorothea, “I never could do anything that I liked. I have never carried out any plan yet.”

“Because you always wanted things that wouldn’t do. But other plans would have come. And how can you marry Mr. Ladislaw, that we none of us ever thought you could marry? It shocks James so dreadfully. And then it is all so different from what you have always been. You would have Mr. Casaubon because he had such a great soul, and was so old and dismal and learned; and now, to think of marrying Mr. Ladislaw, who has got no estate or anything. I suppose it is because you must be making yourself uncomfortable in some way or other.”

Dorothea laughed.

“Well, it is very serious, Dodo,” said Celia, becoming more impressive. “How will you live? and you will go away among queer people. And I shall never see you—and you won’t mind about little Arthur—and I thought you always would—”

Celia’s rare tears had got into her eyes, and the corners of her mouth were agitated.

“Dear Celia,” said Dorothea, with tender gravity, “if you don’t ever see me, it will not be my fault.”

“Yes, it will,” said Celia, with the same touching distortion of her small features. “How can I come to you or have you with me when James can’t bear it?—that is because he thinks it is not right—he thinks you are so wrong, Dodo. But you always were wrong: only I can’t help loving you. And nobody can think where you will live: where can you go?”

“I am going to London,” said Dorothea.

“How can you always live in a street? And you will be so poor. I could give you half my things, only how can I, when I never see you?”

“Bless you, Kitty,” said Dorothea, with gentle warmth. “Take comfort: perhaps James will forgive me some time.”

“But it would be much better if you would not be married,” said Celia, drying her eyes, and returning to her argument; “then there would be nothing uncomfortable. And you would not do what nobody thought you could do. James always said you ought to be a queen; but this is not at all being like a queen. You know what mistakes you have always been making, Dodo, and this is another. Nobody thinks Mr. Ladislaw a proper husband for you. And you said you would never be married again.”

“It is quite true that I might be a wiser person, Celia,” said Dorothea, “and that I might have done something better, if I had been better. But this is what I am going to do. I have promised to marry Mr. Ladislaw; and I am going to marry him.”

The tone in which Dorothea said this was a note that Celia had long learned to recognize. She was silent a few moments, and then said, as if she had dismissed all contest, “Is he very fond of you, Dodo?”

“I hope so. I am very fond of him.”

“That is nice,” said Celia, comfortably. “Only I would rather you had such a sort of husband as James is, with a place very near, that I could drive to.”

Dorothea smiled, and Celia looked rather meditative. Presently she said, “I cannot think how it all came about.” Celia thought it would be pleasant to hear the story.

“I dare say not,” said Dorothea, pinching her sister’s chin. “If you knew how it came about, it would not seem wonderful to you.”

“Can’t you tell me?” said Celia, settling her arms cozily.

“No, dear, you would have to feel with me, else you would never know.”



CHAPTER LXXXV.

“Then went the jury out whose names were Mr. Blindman, Mr. No-good, Mr. Malice, Mr. Love-lust, Mr. Live-loose, Mr. Heady, Mr. High-mind, Mr. Enmity, Mr. Liar, Mr. Cruelty, Mr. Hate-light, Mr. Implacable, who every one gave in his private verdict against him among themselves, and afterwards unanimously concluded to bring him in guilty before the judge. And first among themselves, Mr. Blindman, the foreman, said, I see clearly that this man is a heretic. Then said Mr. No-good, Away with such a fellow from the earth! Ay, said Mr. Malice, for I hate the very look of him. Then said Mr. Love-lust, I could never endure him. Nor I, said Mr. Live-loose; for he would be always condemning my way. Hang him, hang him, said Mr. Heady. A sorry scrub, said Mr. High-mind. My heart riseth against him, said Mr. Enmity. He is a rogue, said Mr. Liar. Hanging is too good for him, said Mr. Cruelty. Let us despatch him out of the way said Mr. Hate-light. Then said Mr. Implacable, Might I have all the world given me, I could not be reconciled to him; therefore let us forthwith bring him in guilty of death.”
—Pilgrim’s Progress.

When immortal Bunyan makes his picture of the persecuting passions bringing in their verdict of guilty, who pities Faithful? That is a rare and blessed lot which some greatest men have not attained, to know ourselves guiltless before a condemning crowd—to be sure that what we are denounced for is solely the good in us. The pitiable lot is that of the man who could not call himself a martyr even though he were to persuade himself that the men who stoned him were but ugly passions incarnate—who knows that he is stoned, not for professing the Right, but for not being the man he professed to be.

This was the consciousness that Bulstrode was withering under while he made his preparations for departing from Middlemarch, and going to end his stricken life in that sad refuge, the indifference of new faces. The duteous merciful constancy of his wife had delivered him from one dread, but it could not hinder her presence from being still a tribunal before which he shrank from confession and desired advocacy. His equivocations with himself about the death of Raffles had sustained the conception of an Omniscience whom he prayed to, yet he had a terror upon him which would not let him expose them to judgment by a full confession to his wife: the acts which he had washed and diluted with inward argument and motive, and for which it seemed comparatively easy to win invisible pardon—what name would she call them by? That she should ever silently call his acts Murder was what he could not bear. He felt shrouded by her doubt: he got strength to face her from the sense that she could not yet feel warranted in pronouncing that worst condemnation on him. Some time, perhaps—when he was dying—he would tell her all: in the deep shadow of that time, when she held his hand in the gathering darkness, she might listen without recoiling from his touch. Perhaps: but concealment had been the habit of his life, and the impulse to confession had no power against the dread of a deeper humiliation.

He was full of timid care for his wife, not only because he deprecated any harshness of judgment from her, but because he felt a deep distress at the sight of her suffering. She had sent her daughters away to board at a school on the coast, that this crisis might be hidden from them as far as possible. Set free by their absence from the intolerable necessity of accounting for her grief or of beholding their frightened wonder, she could live unconstrainedly with the sorrow that was every day streaking her hair with whiteness and making her eyelids languid.

“Tell me anything that you would like to have me do, Harriet,” Bulstrode had said to her; “I mean with regard to arrangements of property. It is my intention not to sell the land I possess in this neighborhood, but to leave it to you as a safe provision. If you have any wish on such subjects, do not conceal it from me.”

A few days afterwards, when she had returned from a visit to her brother’s, she began to speak to her husband on a subject which had for some time been in her mind.

“I should like to do something for my brother’s family, Nicholas; and I think we are bound to make some amends to Rosamond and her husband. Walter says Mr. Lydgate must leave the town, and his practice is almost good for nothing, and they have very little left to settle anywhere with. I would rather do without something for ourselves, to make some amends to my poor brother’s family.”

Mrs. Bulstrode did not wish to go nearer to the facts than in the phrase “make some amends;” knowing that her husband must understand her. He had a particular reason, which she was not aware of, for wincing under her suggestion. He hesitated before he said—

“It is not possible to carry out your wish in the way you propose, my dear. Mr. Lydgate has virtually rejected any further service from me. He has returned the thousand pounds which I lent him. Mrs. Casaubon advanced him the sum for that purpose. Here is his letter.”

The letter seemed to cut Mrs. Bulstrode severely. The mention of Mrs. Casaubon’s loan seemed a reflection of that public feeling which held it a matter of course that every one would avoid a connection with her husband. She was silent for some time; and the tears fell one after the other, her chin trembling as she wiped them away. Bulstrode, sitting opposite to her, ached at the sight of that grief-worn face, which two months before had been bright and blooming. It had aged to keep sad company with his own withered features. Urged into some effort at comforting her, he said—

“There is another means, Harriet, by which I might do a service to your brother’s family, if you like to act in it. And it would, I think, be beneficial to you: it would be an advantageous way of managing the land which I mean to be yours.”

She looked attentive.

“Garth once thought of undertaking the management of Stone Court in order to place your nephew Fred there. The stock was to remain as it is, and they were to pay a certain share of the profits instead of an ordinary rent. That would be a desirable beginning for the young man, in conjunction with his employment under Garth. Would it be a satisfaction to you?”

“Yes, it would,” said Mrs. Bulstrode, with some return of energy. “Poor Walter is so cast down; I would try anything in my power to do him some good before I go away. We have always been brother and sister.”

“You must make the proposal to Garth yourself, Harriet,” said Mr. Bulstrode, not liking what he had to say, but desiring the end he had in view, for other reasons besides the consolation of his wife. “You must state to him that the land is virtually yours, and that he need have no transactions with me. Communications can be made through Standish. I mention this, because Garth gave up being my agent. I can put into your hands a paper which he himself drew up, stating conditions; and you can propose his renewed acceptance of them. I think it is not unlikely that he will accept when you propose the thing for the sake of your nephew.”


CHAPTER LXXXVI.

“Le cœur se sature d’amour comme d’un sel divin qui le conserve; de là l’incorruptible adhérence de ceux qui se sont aimés dès l’aube de la vie, et la fraîcheur des vielles amours prolongées. Il existe un embaumement d’amour. C’est de Daphnis et Chloé que sont faits Philémon et Baucis. Cette vieillesse-là, ressemblance du soir avec l’aurore.”
—VICTOR HUGO: L’homme qui rit.

Mrs. Garth, hearing Caleb enter the passage about tea-time, opened the parlor-door and said, “There you are, Caleb. Have you had your dinner?” (Mr. Garth’s meals were much subordinated to “business.”)

“Oh yes, a good dinner—cold mutton and I don’t know what. Where is Mary?”

“In the garden with Letty, I think.”

“Fred is not come yet?”

“No. Are you going out again without taking tea, Caleb?” said Mrs. Garth, seeing that her absent-minded husband was putting on again the hat which he had just taken off.

“No, no; I’m only going to Mary a minute.”

Mary was in a grassy corner of the garden, where there was a swing loftily hung between two pear-trees. She had a pink kerchief tied over her head, making a little poke to shade her eyes from the level sunbeams, while she was giving a glorious swing to Letty, who laughed and screamed wildly.

Seeing her father, Mary left the swing and went to meet him, pushing back the pink kerchief and smiling afar off at him with the involuntary smile of loving pleasure.

“I came to look for you, Mary,” said Mr. Garth. “Let us walk about a bit.”

Mary knew quite well that her father had something particular to say: his eyebrows made their pathetic angle, and there was a tender gravity in his voice: these things had been signs to her when she was Letty’s age. She put her arm within his, and they turned by the row of nut-trees.

“It will be a sad while before you can be married, Mary,” said her father, not looking at her, but at the end of the stick which he held in his other hand.

“Not a sad while, father—I mean to be merry,” said Mary, laughingly. “I have been single and merry for four-and-twenty years and more: I suppose it will not be quite as long again as that.” Then, after a little pause, she said, more gravely, bending her face before her father’s, “If you are contented with Fred?”

Caleb screwed up his mouth and turned his head aside wisely.

“Now, father, you did praise him last Wednesday. You said he had an uncommon notion of stock, and a good eye for things.”

“Did I?” said Caleb, rather slyly.

“Yes, I put it all down, and the date, anno Domini, and everything,” said Mary. “You like things to be neatly booked. And then his behavior to you, father, is really good; he has a deep respect for you; and it is impossible to have a better temper than Fred has.”

“Ay, ay; you want to coax me into thinking him a fine match.”

“No, indeed, father. I don’t love him because he is a fine match.”

“What for, then?”

“Oh, dear, because I have always loved him. I should never like scolding any one else so well; and that is a point to be thought of in a husband.”

“Your mind is quite settled, then, Mary?” said Caleb, returning to his first tone. “There’s no other wish come into it since things have been going on as they have been of late?” (Caleb meant a great deal in that vague phrase;) “because, better late than never. A woman must not force her heart—she’ll do a man no good by that.”

“My feelings have not changed, father,” said Mary, calmly. “I shall be constant to Fred as long as he is constant to me. I don’t think either of us could spare the other, or like any one else better, however much we might admire them. It would make too great a difference to us—like seeing all the old places altered, and changing the name for everything. We must wait for each other a long while; but Fred knows that.”

Instead of speaking immediately, Caleb stood still and screwed his stick on the grassy walk. Then he said, with emotion in his voice, “Well, I’ve got a bit of news. What do you think of Fred going to live at Stone Court, and managing the land there?”

“How can that ever be, father?” said Mary, wonderingly.

“He would manage it for his aunt Bulstrode. The poor woman has been to me begging and praying. She wants to do the lad good, and it might be a fine thing for him. With saving, he might gradually buy the stock, and he has a turn for farming.”

“Oh, Fred would be so happy! It is too good to believe.”

“Ah, but mind you,” said Caleb, turning his head warningly, “I must take it on my shoulders, and be responsible, and see after everything; and that will grieve your mother a bit, though she mayn’t say so. Fred had need be careful.”

“Perhaps it is too much, father,” said Mary, checked in her joy. “There would be no happiness in bringing you any fresh trouble.”

“Nay, nay; work is my delight, child, when it doesn’t vex your mother. And then, if you and Fred get married,” here Caleb’s voice shook just perceptibly, “he’ll be steady and saving; and you’ve got your mother’s cleverness, and mine too, in a woman’s sort of way; and you’ll keep him in order. He’ll be coming by-and-by, so I wanted to tell you first, because I think you’d like to tell him by yourselves. After that, I could talk it well over with him, and we could go into business and the nature of things.”

“Oh, you dear good father!” cried Mary, putting her hands round her father’s neck, while he bent his head placidly, willing to be caressed. “I wonder if any other girl thinks her father the best man in the world!”

“Nonsense, child; you’ll think your husband better.”

“Impossible,” said Mary, relapsing into her usual tone; “husbands are an inferior class of men, who require keeping in order.”

When they were entering the house with Letty, who had run to join them, Mary saw Fred at the orchard-gate, and went to meet him.

“What fine clothes you wear, you extravagant youth!” said Mary, as Fred stood still and raised his hat to her with playful formality. “You are not learning economy.”

“Now that is too bad, Mary,” said Fred. “Just look at the edges of these coat-cuffs! It is only by dint of good brushing that I look respectable. I am saving up three suits—one for a wedding-suit.”

“How very droll you will look!—like a gentleman in an old fashion-book.”

“Oh no, they will keep two years.”

“Two years! be reasonable, Fred,” said Mary, turning to walk. “Don’t encourage flattering expectations.”

“Why not? One lives on them better than on unflattering ones. If we can’t be married in two years, the truth will be quite bad enough when it comes.”

“I have heard a story of a young gentleman who once encouraged flattering expectations, and they did him harm.”

“Mary, if you’ve got something discouraging to tell me, I shall bolt; I shall go into the house to Mr. Garth. I am out of spirits. My father is so cut up—home is not like itself. I can’t bear any more bad news.”

“Should you call it bad news to be told that you were to live at Stone Court, and manage the farm, and be remarkably prudent, and save money every year till all the stock and furniture were your own, and you were a distinguished agricultural character, as Mr. Borthrop Trumbull says—rather stout, I fear, and with the Greek and Latin sadly weather-worn?”

“You don’t mean anything except nonsense, Mary?” said Fred, coloring slightly nevertheless.

“That is what my father has just told me of as what may happen, and he never talks nonsense,” said Mary, looking up at Fred now, while he grasped her hand as they walked, till it rather hurt her; but she would not complain.

“Oh, I could be a tremendously good fellow then, Mary, and we could be married directly.”

“Not so fast, sir; how do you know that I would not rather defer our marriage for some years? That would leave you time to misbehave, and then if I liked some one else better, I should have an excuse for jilting you.”

“Pray don’t joke, Mary,” said Fred, with strong feeling. “Tell me seriously that all this is true, and that you are happy because of it—because you love me best.”

“It is all true, Fred, and I am happy because of it—because I love you best,” said Mary, in a tone of obedient recitation.

They lingered on the door-step under the steep-roofed porch, and Fred almost in a whisper said—

“When we were first engaged, with the umbrella-ring, Mary, you used to—”

The spirit of joy began to laugh more decidedly in Mary’s eyes, but the fatal Ben came running to the door with Brownie yapping behind him, and, bouncing against them, said—

“Fred and Mary! are you ever coming in?—or may I eat your cake?”

FINALE.

Every limit is a beginning as well as an ending. Who can quit young lives after being long in company with them, and not desire to know what befell them in their after-years? For the fragment of a life, however typical, is not the sample of an even web: promises may not be kept, and an ardent outset may be followed by declension; latent powers may find their long-waited opportunity; a past error may urge a grand retrieval.

Marriage, which has been the bourne of so many narratives, is still a great beginning, as it was to Adam and Eve, who kept their honeymoon in Eden, but had their first little one among the thorns and thistles of the wilderness. It is still the beginning of the home epic—the gradual conquest or irremediable loss of that complete union which makes the advancing years a climax, and age the harvest of sweet memories in common.

Some set out, like Crusaders of old, with a glorious equipment of hope and enthusiasm and get broken by the way, wanting patience with each other and the world.

All who have cared for Fred Vincy and Mary Garth will like to know that these two made no such failure, but achieved a solid mutual happiness. Fred surprised his neighbors in various ways. He became rather distinguished in his side of the county as a theoretic and practical farmer, and produced a work on the “Cultivation of Green Crops and the Economy of Cattle-Feeding” which won him high congratulations at agricultural meetings. In Middlemarch admiration was more reserved: most persons there were inclined to believe that the merit of Fred’s authorship was due to his wife, since they had never expected Fred Vincy to write on turnips and mangel-wurzel.

But when Mary wrote a little book for her boys, called “Stories of Great Men, taken from Plutarch,” and had it printed and published by Gripp & Co., Middlemarch, every one in the town was willing to give the credit of this work to Fred, observing that he had been to the University, “where the ancients were studied,” and might have been a clergyman if he had chosen.

In this way it was made clear that Middlemarch had never been deceived, and that there was no need to praise anybody for writing a book, since it was always done by somebody else.

Moreover, Fred remained unswervingly steady. Some years after his marriage he told Mary that his happiness was half owing to Farebrother, who gave him a strong pull-up at the right moment. I cannot say that he was never again misled by his hopefulness: the yield of crops or the profits of a cattle sale usually fell below his estimate; and he was always prone to believe that he could make money by the purchase of a horse which turned out badly—though this, Mary observed, was of course the fault of the horse, not of Fred’s judgment. He kept his love of horsemanship, but he rarely allowed himself a day’s hunting; and when he did so, it was remarkable that he submitted to be laughed at for cowardliness at the fences, seeming to see Mary and the boys sitting on the five-barred gate, or showing their curly heads between hedge and ditch.

There were three boys: Mary was not discontented that she brought forth men-children only; and when Fred wished to have a girl like her, she said, laughingly, “that would be too great a trial to your mother.” Mrs. Vincy in her declining years, and in the diminished lustre of her housekeeping, was much comforted by her perception that two at least of Fred’s boys were real Vincys, and did not “feature the Garths.” But Mary secretly rejoiced that the youngest of the three was very much what her father must have been when he wore a round jacket, and showed a marvellous nicety of aim in playing at marbles, or in throwing stones to bring down the mellow pears.

Ben and Letty Garth, who were uncle and aunt before they were well in their teens, disputed much as to whether nephews or nieces were more desirable; Ben contending that it was clear girls were good for less than boys, else they would not be always in petticoats, which showed how little they were meant for; whereupon Letty, who argued much from books, got angry in replying that God made coats of skins for both Adam and Eve alike—also it occurred to her that in the East the men too wore petticoats. But this latter argument, obscuring the majesty of the former, was one too many, for Ben answered contemptuously, “The more spooneys they!” and immediately appealed to his mother whether boys were not better than girls. Mrs. Garth pronounced that both were alike naughty, but that boys were undoubtedly stronger, could run faster, and throw with more precision to a greater distance. With this oracular sentence Ben was well satisfied, not minding the naughtiness; but Letty took it ill, her feeling of superiority being stronger than her muscles.

Fred never became rich—his hopefulness had not led him to expect that; but he gradually saved enough to become owner of the stock and furniture at Stone Court, and the work which Mr. Garth put into his hands carried him in plenty through those “bad times” which are always present with farmers. Mary, in her matronly days, became as solid in figure as her mother; but, unlike her, gave the boys little formal teaching, so that Mrs. Garth was alarmed lest they should never be well grounded in grammar and geography. Nevertheless, they were found quite forward enough when they went to school; perhaps, because they had liked nothing so well as being with their mother. When Fred was riding home on winter evenings he had a pleasant vision beforehand of the bright hearth in the wainscoted parlor, and was sorry for other men who could not have Mary for their wife; especially for Mr. Farebrother. “He was ten times worthier of you than I was,” Fred could now say to her, magnanimously. “To be sure he was,” Mary answered; “and for that reason he could do better without me. But you—I shudder to think what you would have been—a curate in debt for horse-hire and cambric pocket-handkerchiefs!”

On inquiry it might possibly be found that Fred and Mary still inhabit Stone Court—that the creeping plants still cast the foam of their blossoms over the fine stone-wall into the field where the walnut-trees stand in stately row—and that on sunny days the two lovers who were first engaged with the umbrella-ring may be seen in white-haired placidity at the open window from which Mary Garth, in the days of old Peter Featherstone, had often been ordered to look out for Mr. Lydgate.

Lydgate’s hair never became white. He died when he was only fifty, leaving his wife and children provided for by a heavy insurance on his life. He had gained an excellent practice, alternating, according to the season, between London and a Continental bathing-place; having written a treatise on Gout, a disease which has a good deal of wealth on its side. His skill was relied on by many paying patients, but he always regarded himself as a failure: he had not done what he once meant to do. His acquaintances thought him enviable to have so charming a wife, and nothing happened to shake their opinion. Rosamond never committed a second compromising indiscretion. She simply continued to be mild in her temper, inflexible in her judgment, disposed to admonish her husband, and able to frustrate him by stratagem. As the years went on he opposed her less and less, whence Rosamond concluded that he had learned the value of her opinion; on the other hand, she had a more thorough conviction of his talents now that he gained a good income, and instead of the threatened cage in Bride Street provided one all flowers and gilding, fit for the bird of paradise that she resembled. In brief, Lydgate was what is called a successful man. But he died prematurely of diphtheria, and Rosamond afterwards married an elderly and wealthy physician, who took kindly to her four children. She made a very pretty show with her daughters, driving out in her carriage, and often spoke of her happiness as “a reward”—she did not say for what, but probably she meant that it was a reward for her patience with Tertius, whose temper never became faultless, and to the last occasionally let slip a bitter speech which was more memorable than the signs he made of his repentance. He once called her his basil plant; and when she asked for an explanation, said that basil was a plant which had flourished wonderfully on a murdered man’s brains. Rosamond had a placid but strong answer to such speeches. Why then had he chosen her? It was a pity he had not had Mrs. Ladislaw, whom he was always praising and placing above her. And thus the conversation ended with the advantage on Rosamond’s side. But it would be unjust not to tell, that she never uttered a word in depreciation of Dorothea, keeping in religious remembrance the generosity which had come to her aid in the sharpest crisis of her life.

Dorothea herself had no dreams of being praised above other women, feeling that there was always something better which she might have done, if she had only been better and known better. Still, she never repented that she had given up position and fortune to marry Will Ladislaw, and he would have held it the greatest shame as well as sorrow to him if she had repented. They were bound to each other by a love stronger than any impulses which could have marred it. No life would have been possible to Dorothea which was not filled with emotion, and she had now a life filled also with a beneficent activity which she had not the doubtful pains of discovering and marking out for herself. Will became an ardent public man, working well in those times when reforms were begun with a young hopefulness of immediate good which has been much checked in our days, and getting at last returned to Parliament by a constituency who paid his expenses. Dorothea could have liked nothing better, since wrongs existed, than that her husband should be in the thick of a struggle against them, and that she should give him wifely help. Many who knew her, thought it a pity that so substantive and rare a creature should have been absorbed into the life of another, and be only known in a certain circle as a wife and mother. But no one stated exactly what else that was in her power she ought rather to have done—not even Sir James Chettam, who went no further than the negative prescription that she ought not to have married Will Ladislaw.

But this opinion of his did not cause a lasting alienation; and the way in which the family was made whole again was characteristic of all concerned. Mr. Brooke could not resist the pleasure of corresponding with Will and Dorothea; and one morning when his pen had been remarkably fluent on the prospects of Municipal Reform, it ran off into an invitation to the Grange, which, once written, could not be done away with at less cost than the sacrifice (hardly to be conceived) of the whole valuable letter. During the months of this correspondence Mr. Brooke had continually, in his talk with Sir James Chettam, been presupposing or hinting that the intention of cutting off the entail was still maintained; and the day on which his pen gave the daring invitation, he went to Freshitt expressly to intimate that he had a stronger sense than ever of the reasons for taking that energetic step as a precaution against any mixture of low blood in the heir of the Brookes.

But that morning something exciting had happened at the Hall. A letter had come to Celia which made her cry silently as she read it; and when Sir James, unused to see her in tears, asked anxiously what was the matter, she burst out in a wail such as he had never heard from her before.

“Dorothea has a little boy. And you will not let me go and see her. And I am sure she wants to see me. And she will not know what to do with the baby—she will do wrong things with it. And they thought she would die. It is very dreadful! Suppose it had been me and little Arthur, and Dodo had been hindered from coming to see me! I wish you would be less unkind, James!”

“Good heavens, Celia!” said Sir James, much wrought upon, “what do you wish? I will do anything you like. I will take you to town to-morrow if you wish it.” And Celia did wish it.

It was after this that Mr. Brooke came, and meeting the Baronet in the grounds, began to chat with him in ignorance of the news, which Sir James for some reason did not care to tell him immediately. But when the entail was touched on in the usual way, he said, “My dear sir, it is not for me to dictate to you, but for my part I would let that alone. I would let things remain as they are.”

Mr. Brooke felt so much surprised that he did not at once find out how much he was relieved by the sense that he was not expected to do anything in particular.

Such being the bent of Celia’s heart, it was inevitable that Sir James should consent to a reconciliation with Dorothea and her husband. Where women love each other, men learn to smother their mutual dislike. Sir James never liked Ladislaw, and Will always preferred to have Sir James’s company mixed with another kind: they were on a footing of reciprocal tolerance which was made quite easy only when Dorothea and Celia were present.

It became an understood thing that Mr. and Mrs. Ladislaw should pay at least two visits during the year to the Grange, and there came gradually a small row of cousins at Freshitt who enjoyed playing with the two cousins visiting Tipton as much as if the blood of these cousins had been less dubiously mixed.

Mr. Brooke lived to a good old age, and his estate was inherited by Dorothea’s son, who might have represented Middlemarch, but declined, thinking that his opinions had less chance of being stifled if he remained out of doors.

Sir James never ceased to regard Dorothea’s second marriage as a mistake; and indeed this remained the tradition concerning it in Middlemarch, where she was spoken of to a younger generation as a fine girl who married a sickly clergyman, old enough to be her father, and in little more than a year after his death gave up her estate to marry his cousin—young enough to have been his son, with no property, and not well-born. Those who had not seen anything of Dorothea usually observed that she could not have been “a nice woman,” else she would not have married either the one or the other.

Certainly those determining acts of her life were not ideally beautiful. They were the mixed result of young and noble impulse struggling amidst the conditions of an imperfect social state, in which great feelings will often take the aspect of error, and great faith the aspect of illusion. For there is no creature whose inward being is so strong that it is not greatly determined by what lies outside it. A new Theresa will hardly have the opportunity of reforming a conventual life, any more than a new Antigone will spend her heroic piety in daring all for the sake of a brother’s burial: the medium in which their ardent deeds took shape is forever gone. But we insignificant people with our daily words and acts are preparing the lives of many Dorotheas, some of which may present a far sadder sacrifice than that of the Dorothea whose story we know.

Her finely touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature, like that river of which Cyrus broke the strength, spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs.

THE END