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Middlemarch

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CHAPTER VII.

“Piacer e popone
Vuol la sua stagione.”
—Italian Proverb.

Mr. Casaubon, as might be expected, spent a great deal of his time at the Grange in these weeks, and the hindrance which courtship occasioned to the progress of his great work—the Key to all Mythologies—naturally made him look forward the more eagerly to the happy termination of courtship. But he had deliberately incurred the hindrance, having made up his mind that it was now time for him to adorn his life with the graces of female companionship, to irradiate the gloom which fatigue was apt to hang over the intervals of studious labor with the play of female fancy, and to secure in this, his culminating age, the solace of female tendance for his declining years. Hence he determined to abandon himself to the stream of feeling, and perhaps was surprised to find what an exceedingly shallow rill it was. As in droughty regions baptism by immersion could only be performed symbolically, Mr. Casaubon found that sprinkling was the utmost approach to a plunge which his stream would afford him; and he concluded that the poets had much exaggerated the force of masculine passion. Nevertheless, he observed with pleasure that Miss Brooke showed an ardent submissive affection which promised to fulfil his most agreeable previsions of marriage. It had once or twice crossed his mind that possibly there was some deficiency in Dorothea to account for the moderation of his abandonment; but he was unable to discern the deficiency, or to figure to himself a woman who would have pleased him better; so that there was clearly no reason to fall back upon but the exaggerations of human tradition.

“Could I not be preparing myself now to be more useful?” said Dorothea to him, one morning, early in the time of courtship; “could I not learn to read Latin and Greek aloud to you, as Milton’s daughters did to their father, without understanding what they read?”

“I fear that would be wearisome to you,” said Mr. Casaubon, smiling; “and, indeed, if I remember rightly, the young women you have mentioned regarded that exercise in unknown tongues as a ground for rebellion against the poet.”

“Yes; but in the first place they were very naughty girls, else they would have been proud to minister to such a father; and in the second place they might have studied privately and taught themselves to understand what they read, and then it would have been interesting. I hope you don’t expect me to be naughty and stupid?”

“I expect you to be all that an exquisite young lady can be in every possible relation of life. Certainly it might be a great advantage if you were able to copy the Greek character, and to that end it were well to begin with a little reading.”

Dorothea seized this as a precious permission. She would not have asked Mr. Casaubon at once to teach her the languages, dreading of all things to be tiresome instead of helpful; but it was not entirely out of devotion to her future husband that she wished to know Latin and Greek. Those provinces of masculine knowledge seemed to her a standing-ground from which all truth could be seen more truly. As it was, she constantly doubted her own conclusions, because she felt her own ignorance: how could she be confident that one-roomed cottages were not for the glory of God, when men who knew the classics appeared to conciliate indifference to the cottages with zeal for the glory? Perhaps even Hebrew might be necessary—at least the alphabet and a few roots—in order to arrive at the core of things, and judge soundly on the social duties of the Christian. And she had not reached that point of renunciation at which she would have been satisfied with having a wise husband: she wished, poor child, to be wise herself. Miss Brooke was certainly very naive with all her alleged cleverness. Celia, whose mind had never been thought too powerful, saw the emptiness of other people’s pretensions much more readily. To have in general but little feeling, seems to be the only security against feeling too much on any particular occasion.

However, Mr. Casaubon consented to listen and teach for an hour together, like a schoolmaster of little boys, or rather like a lover, to whom a mistress’s elementary ignorance and difficulties have a touching fitness. Few scholars would have disliked teaching the alphabet under such circumstances. But Dorothea herself was a little shocked and discouraged at her own stupidity, and the answers she got to some timid questions about the value of the Greek accents gave her a painful suspicion that here indeed there might be secrets not capable of explanation to a woman’s reason.

Mr. Brooke had no doubt on that point, and expressed himself with his usual strength upon it one day that he came into the library while the reading was going forward.

“Well, but now, Casaubon, such deep studies, classics, mathematics, that kind of thing, are too taxing for a woman—too taxing, you know.”

“Dorothea is learning to read the characters simply,” said Mr. Casaubon, evading the question. “She had the very considerate thought of saving my eyes.”

“Ah, well, without understanding, you know—that may not be so bad. But there is a lightness about the feminine mind—a touch and go—music, the fine arts, that kind of thing—they should study those up to a certain point, women should; but in a light way, you know. A woman should be able to sit down and play you or sing you a good old English tune. That is what I like; though I have heard most things—been at the opera in Vienna: Gluck, Mozart, everything of that sort. But I’m a conservative in music—it’s not like ideas, you know. I stick to the good old tunes.”

“Mr. Casaubon is not fond of the piano, and I am very glad he is not,” said Dorothea, whose slight regard for domestic music and feminine fine art must be forgiven her, considering the small tinkling and smearing in which they chiefly consisted at that dark period. She smiled and looked up at her betrothed with grateful eyes. If he had always been asking her to play the “Last Rose of Summer,” she would have required much resignation. “He says there is only an old harpsichord at Lowick, and it is covered with books.”

“Ah, there you are behind Celia, my dear. Celia, now, plays very prettily, and is always ready to play. However, since Casaubon does not like it, you are all right. But it’s a pity you should not have little recreations of that sort, Casaubon: the bow always strung—that kind of thing, you know—will not do.”

“I never could look on it in the light of a recreation to have my ears teased with measured noises,” said Mr. Casaubon. “A tune much iterated has the ridiculous effect of making the words in my mind perform a sort of minuet to keep time—an effect hardly tolerable, I imagine, after boyhood. As to the grander forms of music, worthy to accompany solemn celebrations, and even to serve as an educating influence according to the ancient conception, I say nothing, for with these we are not immediately concerned.”

“No; but music of that sort I should enjoy,” said Dorothea. “When we were coming home from Lausanne my uncle took us to hear the great organ at Freiberg, and it made me sob.”

“That kind of thing is not healthy, my dear,” said Mr. Brooke. “Casaubon, she will be in your hands now: you must teach my niece to take things more quietly, eh, Dorothea?”

He ended with a smile, not wishing to hurt his niece, but really thinking that it was perhaps better for her to be early married to so sober a fellow as Casaubon, since she would not hear of Chettam.

“It is wonderful, though,” he said to himself as he shuffled out of the room—“it is wonderful that she should have liked him. However, the match is good. I should have been travelling out of my brief to have hindered it, let Mrs. Cadwallader say what she will. He is pretty certain to be a bishop, is Casaubon. That was a very seasonable pamphlet of his on the Catholic Question:—a deanery at least. They owe him a deanery.”

And here I must vindicate a claim to philosophical reflectiveness, by remarking that Mr. Brooke on this occasion little thought of the Radical speech which, at a later period, he was led to make on the incomes of the bishops. What elegant historian would neglect a striking opportunity for pointing out that his heroes did not foresee the history of the world, or even their own actions?—For example, that Henry of Navarre, when a Protestant baby, little thought of being a Catholic monarch; or that Alfred the Great, when he measured his laborious nights with burning candles, had no idea of future gentlemen measuring their idle days with watches. Here is a mine of truth, which, however vigorously it may be worked, is likely to outlast our coal.

But of Mr. Brooke I make a further remark perhaps less warranted by precedent—namely, that if he had foreknown his speech, it might not have made any great difference. To think with pleasure of his niece’s husband having a large ecclesiastical income was one thing—to make a Liberal speech was another thing; and it is a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.



CHAPTER VIII.

“Oh, rescue her! I am her brother now,
And you her father. Every gentle maid
Should have a guardian in each gentleman.”

It was wonderful to Sir James Chettam how well he continued to like going to the Grange after he had once encountered the difficulty of seeing Dorothea for the first time in the light of a woman who was engaged to another man. Of course the forked lightning seemed to pass through him when he first approached her, and he remained conscious throughout the interview of hiding uneasiness; but, good as he was, it must be owned that his uneasiness was less than it would have been if he had thought his rival a brilliant and desirable match. He had no sense of being eclipsed by Mr. Casaubon; he was only shocked that Dorothea was under a melancholy illusion, and his mortification lost some of its bitterness by being mingled with compassion.

Nevertheless, while Sir James said to himself that he had completely resigned her, since with the perversity of a Desdemona she had not affected a proposed match that was clearly suitable and according to nature; he could not yet be quite passive under the idea of her engagement to Mr. Casaubon. On the day when he first saw them together in the light of his present knowledge, it seemed to him that he had not taken the affair seriously enough. Brooke was really culpable; he ought to have hindered it. Who could speak to him? Something might be done perhaps even now, at least to defer the marriage. On his way home he turned into the Rectory and asked for Mr. Cadwallader. Happily, the Rector was at home, and his visitor was shown into the study, where all the fishing tackle hung. But he himself was in a little room adjoining, at work with his turning apparatus, and he called to the baronet to join him there. The two were better friends than any other landholder and clergyman in the county—a significant fact which was in agreement with the amiable expression of their faces.

Mr. Cadwallader was a large man, with full lips and a sweet smile; very plain and rough in his exterior, but with that solid imperturbable ease and good-humor which is infectious, and like great grassy hills in the sunshine, quiets even an irritated egoism, and makes it rather ashamed of itself. “Well, how are you?” he said, showing a hand not quite fit to be grasped. “Sorry I missed you before. Is there anything particular? You look vexed.”

Sir James’s brow had a little crease in it, a little depression of the eyebrow, which he seemed purposely to exaggerate as he answered.

“It is only this conduct of Brooke’s. I really think somebody should speak to him.”

“What? meaning to stand?” said Mr. Cadwallader, going on with the arrangement of the reels which he had just been turning. “I hardly think he means it. But where’s the harm, if he likes it? Any one who objects to Whiggery should be glad when the Whigs don’t put up the strongest fellow. They won’t overturn the Constitution with our friend Brooke’s head for a battering ram.”

“Oh, I don’t mean that,” said Sir James, who, after putting down his hat and throwing himself into a chair, had begun to nurse his leg and examine the sole of his boot with much bitterness. “I mean this marriage. I mean his letting that blooming young girl marry Casaubon.”

“What is the matter with Casaubon? I see no harm in him—if the girl likes him.”

“She is too young to know what she likes. Her guardian ought to interfere. He ought not to allow the thing to be done in this headlong manner. I wonder a man like you, Cadwallader—a man with daughters, can look at the affair with indifference: and with such a heart as yours! Do think seriously about it.”

“I am not joking; I am as serious as possible,” said the Rector, with a provoking little inward laugh. “You are as bad as Elinor. She has been wanting me to go and lecture Brooke; and I have reminded her that her friends had a very poor opinion of the match she made when she married me.”

“But look at Casaubon,” said Sir James, indignantly. “He must be fifty, and I don’t believe he could ever have been much more than the shadow of a man. Look at his legs!”

“Confound you handsome young fellows! you think of having it all your own way in the world. You don’t understand women. They don’t admire you half so much as you admire yourselves. Elinor used to tell her sisters that she married me for my ugliness—it was so various and amusing that it had quite conquered her prudence.”

“You! it was easy enough for a woman to love you. But this is no question of beauty. I don’t like Casaubon.” This was Sir James’s strongest way of implying that he thought ill of a man’s character.

“Why? what do you know against him?” said the Rector laying down his reels, and putting his thumbs into his armholes with an air of attention.

Sir James paused. He did not usually find it easy to give his reasons: it seemed to him strange that people should not know them without being told, since he only felt what was reasonable. At last he said—

“Now, Cadwallader, has he got any heart?”

“Well, yes. I don’t mean of the melting sort, but a sound kernel, that you may be sure of. He is very good to his poor relations: pensions several of the women, and is educating a young fellow at a good deal of expense. Casaubon acts up to his sense of justice. His mother’s sister made a bad match—a Pole, I think—lost herself—at any rate was disowned by her family. If it had not been for that, Casaubon would not have had so much money by half. I believe he went himself to find out his cousins, and see what he could do for them. Every man would not ring so well as that, if you tried his metal. You would, Chettam; but not every man.”

“I don’t know,” said Sir James, coloring. “I am not so sure of myself.” He paused a moment, and then added, “That was a right thing for Casaubon to do. But a man may wish to do what is right, and yet be a sort of parchment code. A woman may not be happy with him. And I think when a girl is so young as Miss Brooke is, her friends ought to interfere a little to hinder her from doing anything foolish. You laugh, because you fancy I have some feeling on my own account. But upon my honor, it is not that. I should feel just the same if I were Miss Brooke’s brother or uncle.”

“Well, but what should you do?”

“I should say that the marriage must not be decided on until she was of age. And depend upon it, in that case, it would never come off. I wish you saw it as I do—I wish you would talk to Brooke about it.”

Sir James rose as he was finishing his sentence, for he saw Mrs. Cadwallader entering from the study. She held by the hand her youngest girl, about five years old, who immediately ran to papa, and was made comfortable on his knee.

“I hear what you are talking about,” said the wife. “But you will make no impression on Humphrey. As long as the fish rise to his bait, everybody is what he ought to be. Bless you, Casaubon has got a trout-stream, and does not care about fishing in it himself: could there be a better fellow?”

“Well, there is something in that,” said the Rector, with his quiet, inward laugh. “It is a very good quality in a man to have a trout-stream.”

“But seriously,” said Sir James, whose vexation had not yet spent itself, “don’t you think the Rector might do some good by speaking?”

“Oh, I told you beforehand what he would say,” answered Mrs. Cadwallader, lifting up her eyebrows. “I have done what I could: I wash my hands of the marriage.”

“In the first place,” said the Rector, looking rather grave, “it would be nonsensical to expect that I could convince Brooke, and make him act accordingly. Brooke is a very good fellow, but pulpy; he will run into any mould, but he won’t keep shape.”

“He might keep shape long enough to defer the marriage,” said Sir James.

“But, my dear Chettam, why should I use my influence to Casaubon’s disadvantage, unless I were much surer than I am that I should be acting for the advantage of Miss Brooke? I know no harm of Casaubon. I don’t care about his Xisuthrus and Fee-fo-fum and the rest; but then he doesn’t care about my fishing-tackle. As to the line he took on the Catholic Question, that was unexpected; but he has always been civil to me, and I don’t see why I should spoil his sport. For anything I can tell, Miss Brooke may be happier with him than she would be with any other man.”

“Humphrey! I have no patience with you. You know you would rather dine under the hedge than with Casaubon alone. You have nothing to say to each other.”

“What has that to do with Miss Brooke’s marrying him? She does not do it for my amusement.”

“He has got no good red blood in his body,” said Sir James.

“No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying-glass and it was all semicolons and parentheses,” said Mrs. Cadwallader.

“Why does he not bring out his book, instead of marrying,” said Sir James, with a disgust which he held warranted by the sound feeling of an English layman.

“Oh, he dreams footnotes, and they run away with all his brains. They say, when he was a little boy, he made an abstract of ‘Hop o’ my Thumb,’ and he has been making abstracts ever since. Ugh! And that is the man Humphrey goes on saying that a woman may be happy with.”

“Well, he is what Miss Brooke likes,” said the Rector. “I don’t profess to understand every young lady’s taste.”

“But if she were your own daughter?” said Sir James.

“That would be a different affair. She is not my daughter, and I don’t feel called upon to interfere. Casaubon is as good as most of us. He is a scholarly clergyman, and creditable to the cloth. Some Radical fellow speechifying at Middlemarch said Casaubon was the learned straw-chopping incumbent, and Freke was the brick-and-mortar incumbent, and I was the angling incumbent. And upon my word, I don’t see that one is worse or better than the other.” The Rector ended with his silent laugh. He always saw the joke of any satire against himself. His conscience was large and easy, like the rest of him: it did only what it could do without any trouble.

Clearly, there would be no interference with Miss Brooke’s marriage through Mr. Cadwallader; and Sir James felt with some sadness that she was to have perfect liberty of misjudgment. It was a sign of his good disposition that he did not slacken at all in his intention of carrying out Dorothea’s design of the cottages. Doubtless this persistence was the best course for his own dignity: but pride only helps us to be generous; it never makes us so, any more than vanity makes us witty. She was now enough aware of Sir James’s position with regard to her, to appreciate the rectitude of his perseverance in a landlord’s duty, to which he had at first been urged by a lover’s complaisance, and her pleasure in it was great enough to count for something even in her present happiness. Perhaps she gave to Sir James Chettam’s cottages all the interest she could spare from Mr. Casaubon, or rather from the symphony of hopeful dreams, admiring trust, and passionate self devotion which that learned gentleman had set playing in her soul. Hence it happened that in the good baronet’s succeeding visits, while he was beginning to pay small attentions to Celia, he found himself talking with more and more pleasure to Dorothea. She was perfectly unconstrained and without irritation towards him now, and he was gradually discovering the delight there is in frank kindness and companionship between a man and a woman who have no passion to hide or confess.



CHAPTER IX.

1st Gent. An ancient land in ancient oracles
    Is called “law-thirsty”: all the struggle there
    Was after order and a perfect rule.
    Pray, where lie such lands now? . . .
2d Gent. Why, where they lay of old—in human souls.

Mr. Casaubon’s behavior about settlements was highly satisfactory to Mr. Brooke, and the preliminaries of marriage rolled smoothly along, shortening the weeks of courtship. The betrothed bride must see her future home, and dictate any changes that she would like to have made there. A woman dictates before marriage in order that she may have an appetite for submission afterwards. And certainly, the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it.

On a gray but dry November morning Dorothea drove to Lowick in company with her uncle and Celia. Mr. Casaubon’s home was the manor-house. Close by, visible from some parts of the garden, was the little church, with the old parsonage opposite. In the beginning of his career, Mr. Casaubon had only held the living, but the death of his brother had put him in possession of the manor also. It had a small park, with a fine old oak here and there, and an avenue of limes towards the southwest front, with a sunk fence between park and pleasure-ground, so that from the drawing-room windows the glance swept uninterruptedly along a slope of greensward till the limes ended in a level of corn and pastures, which often seemed to melt into a lake under the setting sun. This was the happy side of the house, for the south and east looked rather melancholy even under the brightest morning. The grounds here were more confined, the flower-beds showed no very careful tendance, and large clumps of trees, chiefly of sombre yews, had risen high, not ten yards from the windows. The building, of greenish stone, was in the old English style, not ugly, but small-windowed and melancholy-looking: the sort of house that must have children, many flowers, open windows, and little vistas of bright things, to make it seem a joyous home. In this latter end of autumn, with a sparse remnant of yellow leaves falling slowly athwart the dark evergreens in a stillness without sunshine, the house too had an air of autumnal decline, and Mr. Casaubon, when he presented himself, had no bloom that could be thrown into relief by that background.

“Oh dear!” Celia said to herself, “I am sure Freshitt Hall would have been pleasanter than this.” She thought of the white freestone, the pillared portico, and the terrace full of flowers, Sir James smiling above them like a prince issuing from his enchantment in a rose-bush, with a handkerchief swiftly metamorphosed from the most delicately odorous petals—Sir James, who talked so agreeably, always about things which had common-sense in them, and not about learning! Celia had those light young feminine tastes which grave and weatherworn gentlemen sometimes prefer in a wife; but happily Mr. Casaubon’s bias had been different, for he would have had no chance with Celia.

Dorothea, on the contrary, found the house and grounds all that she could wish: the dark book-shelves in the long library, the carpets and curtains with colors subdued by time, the curious old maps and bird’s-eye views on the walls of the corridor, with here and there an old vase below, had no oppression for her, and seemed more cheerful than the casts and pictures at the Grange, which her uncle had long ago brought home from his travels—they being probably among the ideas he had taken in at one time. To poor Dorothea these severe classical nudities and smirking Renaissance-Correggiosities were painfully inexplicable, staring into the midst of her Puritanic conceptions: she had never been taught how she could bring them into any sort of relevance with her life. But the owners of Lowick apparently had not been travellers, and Mr. Casaubon’s studies of the past were not carried on by means of such aids.

Dorothea walked about the house with delightful emotion. Everything seemed hallowed to her: this was to be the home of her wifehood, and she looked up with eyes full of confidence to Mr. Casaubon when he drew her attention specially to some actual arrangement and asked her if she would like an alteration. All appeals to her taste she met gratefully, but saw nothing to alter. His efforts at exact courtesy and formal tenderness had no defect for her. She filled up all blanks with unmanifested perfections, interpreting him as she interpreted the works of Providence, and accounting for seeming discords by her own deafness to the higher harmonies. And there are many blanks left in the weeks of courtship which a loving faith fills with happy assurance.

“Now, my dear Dorothea, I wish you to favor me by pointing out which room you would like to have as your boudoir,” said Mr. Casaubon, showing that his views of the womanly nature were sufficiently large to include that requirement.

“It is very kind of you to think of that,” said Dorothea, “but I assure you I would rather have all those matters decided for me. I shall be much happier to take everything as it is—just as you have been used to have it, or as you will yourself choose it to be. I have no motive for wishing anything else.”

“Oh, Dodo,” said Celia, “will you not have the bow-windowed room up-stairs?”

Mr. Casaubon led the way thither. The bow-window looked down the avenue of limes; the furniture was all of a faded blue, and there were miniatures of ladies and gentlemen with powdered hair hanging in a group. A piece of tapestry over a door also showed a blue-green world with a pale stag in it. The chairs and tables were thin-legged and easy to upset. It was a room where one might fancy the ghost of a tight-laced lady revisiting the scene of her embroidery. A light bookcase contained duodecimo volumes of polite literature in calf, completing the furniture.

“Yes,” said Mr. Brooke, “this would be a pretty room with some new hangings, sofas, and that sort of thing. A little bare now.”

“No, uncle,” said Dorothea, eagerly. “Pray do not speak of altering anything. There are so many other things in the world that want altering—I like to take these things as they are. And you like them as they are, don’t you?” she added, looking at Mr. Casaubon. “Perhaps this was your mother’s room when she was young.”

“It was,” he said, with his slow bend of the head.

“This is your mother,” said Dorothea, who had turned to examine the group of miniatures. “It is like the tiny one you brought me; only, I should think, a better portrait. And this one opposite, who is this?”

“Her elder sister. They were, like you and your sister, the only two children of their parents, who hang above them, you see.”

“The sister is pretty,” said Celia, implying that she thought less favorably of Mr. Casaubon’s mother. It was a new opening to Celia’s imagination, that he came of a family who had all been young in their time—the ladies wearing necklaces.

“It is a peculiar face,” said Dorothea, looking closely. “Those deep gray eyes rather near together—and the delicate irregular nose with a sort of ripple in it—and all the powdered curls hanging backward. Altogether it seems to me peculiar rather than pretty. There is not even a family likeness between her and your mother.”

“No. And they were not alike in their lot.”

“You did not mention her to me,” said Dorothea.

“My aunt made an unfortunate marriage. I never saw her.”

Dorothea wondered a little, but felt that it would be indelicate just then to ask for any information which Mr. Casaubon did not proffer, and she turned to the window to admire the view. The sun had lately pierced the gray, and the avenue of limes cast shadows.

“Shall we not walk in the garden now?” said Dorothea.

“And you would like to see the church, you know,” said Mr. Brooke. “It is a droll little church. And the village. It all lies in a nut-shell. By the way, it will suit you, Dorothea; for the cottages are like a row of alms-houses—little gardens, gilly-flowers, that sort of thing.”

“Yes, please,” said Dorothea, looking at Mr. Casaubon, “I should like to see all that.” She had got nothing from him more graphic about the Lowick cottages than that they were “not bad.”

They were soon on a gravel walk which led chiefly between grassy borders and clumps of trees, this being the nearest way to the church, Mr. Casaubon said. At the little gate leading into the churchyard there was a pause while Mr. Casaubon went to the parsonage close by to fetch a key. Celia, who had been hanging a little in the rear, came up presently, when she saw that Mr. Casaubon was gone away, and said in her easy staccato, which always seemed to contradict the suspicion of any malicious intent—

“Do you know, Dorothea, I saw some one quite young coming up one of the walks.”

“Is that astonishing, Celia?”

“There may be a young gardener, you know—why not?” said Mr. Brooke. “I told Casaubon he should change his gardener.”

“No, not a gardener,” said Celia; “a gentleman with a sketch-book. He had light-brown curls. I only saw his back. But he was quite young.”

“The curate’s son, perhaps,” said Mr. Brooke. “Ah, there is Casaubon again, and Tucker with him. He is going to introduce Tucker. You don’t know Tucker yet.”

Mr. Tucker was the middle-aged curate, one of the “inferior clergy,” who are usually not wanting in sons. But after the introduction, the conversation did not lead to any question about his family, and the startling apparition of youthfulness was forgotten by every one but Celia. She inwardly declined to believe that the light-brown curls and slim figure could have any relationship to Mr. Tucker, who was just as old and musty-looking as she would have expected Mr. Casaubon’s curate to be; doubtless an excellent man who would go to heaven (for Celia wished not to be unprincipled), but the corners of his mouth were so unpleasant. Celia thought with some dismalness of the time she should have to spend as bridesmaid at Lowick, while the curate had probably no pretty little children whom she could like, irrespective of principle.

Mr. Tucker was invaluable in their walk; and perhaps Mr. Casaubon had not been without foresight on this head, the curate being able to answer all Dorothea’s questions about the villagers and the other parishioners. Everybody, he assured her, was well off in Lowick: not a cottager in those double cottages at a low rent but kept a pig, and the strips of garden at the back were well tended. The small boys wore excellent corduroy, the girls went out as tidy servants, or did a little straw-plaiting at home: no looms here, no Dissent; and though the public disposition was rather towards laying by money than towards spirituality, there was not much vice. The speckled fowls were so numerous that Mr. Brooke observed, “Your farmers leave some barley for the women to glean, I see. The poor folks here might have a fowl in their pot, as the good French king used to wish for all his people. The French eat a good many fowls—skinny fowls, you know.”

“I think it was a very cheap wish of his,” said Dorothea, indignantly. “Are kings such monsters that a wish like that must be reckoned a royal virtue?”

“And if he wished them a skinny fowl,” said Celia, “that would not be nice. But perhaps he wished them to have fat fowls.”

“Yes, but the word has dropped out of the text, or perhaps was subauditum; that is, present in the king’s mind, but not uttered,” said Mr. Casaubon, smiling and bending his head towards Celia, who immediately dropped backward a little, because she could not bear Mr. Casaubon to blink at her.

Dorothea sank into silence on the way back to the house. She felt some disappointment, of which she was yet ashamed, that there was nothing for her to do in Lowick; and in the next few minutes her mind had glanced over the possibility, which she would have preferred, of finding that her home would be in a parish which had a larger share of the world’s misery, so that she might have had more active duties in it. Then, recurring to the future actually before her, she made a picture of more complete devotion to Mr. Casaubon’s aims in which she would await new duties. Many such might reveal themselves to the higher knowledge gained by her in that companionship.

Mr. Tucker soon left them, having some clerical work which would not allow him to lunch at the Hall; and as they were re-entering the garden through the little gate, Mr. Casaubon said—

“You seem a little sad, Dorothea. I trust you are pleased with what you have seen.”

“I am feeling something which is perhaps foolish and wrong,” answered Dorothea, with her usual openness—“almost wishing that the people wanted more to be done for them here. I have known so few ways of making my life good for anything. Of course, my notions of usefulness must be narrow. I must learn new ways of helping people.”

“Doubtless,” said Mr. Casaubon. “Each position has its corresponding duties. Yours, I trust, as the mistress of Lowick, will not leave any yearning unfulfilled.”

“Indeed, I believe that,” said Dorothea, earnestly. “Do not suppose that I am sad.”

“That is well. But, if you are not tired, we will take another way to the house than that by which we came.”

Dorothea was not at all tired, and a little circuit was made towards a fine yew-tree, the chief hereditary glory of the grounds on this side of the house. As they approached it, a figure, conspicuous on a dark background of evergreens, was seated on a bench, sketching the old tree. Mr. Brooke, who was walking in front with Celia, turned his head, and said—

“Who is that youngster, Casaubon?”

They had come very near when Mr. Casaubon answered—

“That is a young relative of mine, a second cousin: the grandson, in fact,” he added, looking at Dorothea, “of the lady whose portrait you have been noticing, my aunt Julia.”

The young man had laid down his sketch-book and risen. His bushy light-brown curls, as well as his youthfulness, identified him at once with Celia’s apparition.

“Dorothea, let me introduce to you my cousin, Mr. Ladislaw. Will, this is Miss Brooke.”

The cousin was so close now, that, when he lifted his hat, Dorothea could see a pair of gray eyes rather near together, a delicate irregular nose with a little ripple in it, and hair falling backward; but there was a mouth and chin of a more prominent, threatening aspect than belonged to the type of the grandmother’s miniature. Young Ladislaw did not feel it necessary to smile, as if he were charmed with this introduction to his future second cousin and her relatives; but wore rather a pouting air of discontent.

“You are an artist, I see,” said Mr. Brooke, taking up the sketch-book and turning it over in his unceremonious fashion.

“No, I only sketch a little. There is nothing fit to be seen there,” said young Ladislaw, coloring, perhaps with temper rather than modesty.

“Oh, come, this is a nice bit, now. I did a little in this way myself at one time, you know. Look here, now; this is what I call a nice thing, done with what we used to call brio.” Mr. Brooke held out towards the two girls a large colored sketch of stony ground and trees, with a pool.

“I am no judge of these things,” said Dorothea, not coldly, but with an eager deprecation of the appeal to her. “You know, uncle, I never see the beauty of those pictures which you say are so much praised. They are a language I do not understand. I suppose there is some relation between pictures and nature which I am too ignorant to feel—just as you see what a Greek sentence stands for which means nothing to me.” Dorothea looked up at Mr. Casaubon, who bowed his head towards her, while Mr. Brooke said, smiling nonchalantly—

“Bless me, now, how different people are! But you had a bad style of teaching, you know—else this is just the thing for girls—sketching, fine art and so on. But you took to drawing plans; you don’t understand morbidezza, and that kind of thing. You will come to my house, I hope, and I will show you what I did in this way,” he continued, turning to young Ladislaw, who had to be recalled from his preoccupation in observing Dorothea. Ladislaw had made up his mind that she must be an unpleasant girl, since she was going to marry Casaubon, and what she said of her stupidity about pictures would have confirmed that opinion even if he had believed her. As it was, he took her words for a covert judgment, and was certain that she thought his sketch detestable. There was too much cleverness in her apology: she was laughing both at her uncle and himself. But what a voice! It was like the voice of a soul that had once lived in an Aeolian harp. This must be one of Nature’s inconsistencies. There could be no sort of passion in a girl who would marry Casaubon. But he turned from her, and bowed his thanks for Mr. Brooke’s invitation.

“We will turn over my Italian engravings together,” continued that good-natured man. “I have no end of those things, that I have laid by for years. One gets rusty in this part of the country, you know. Not you, Casaubon; you stick to your studies; but my best ideas get undermost—out of use, you know. You clever young men must guard against indolence. I was too indolent, you know: else I might have been anywhere at one time.”

“That is a seasonable admonition,” said Mr. Casaubon; “but now we will pass on to the house, lest the young ladies should be tired of standing.”

When their backs were turned, young Ladislaw sat down to go on with his sketching, and as he did so his face broke into an expression of amusement which increased as he went on drawing, till at last he threw back his head and laughed aloud. Partly it was the reception of his own artistic production that tickled him; partly the notion of his grave cousin as the lover of that girl; and partly Mr. Brooke’s definition of the place he might have held but for the impediment of indolence. Mr. Will Ladislaw’s sense of the ludicrous lit up his features very agreeably: it was the pure enjoyment of comicality, and had no mixture of sneering and self-exaltation.

“What is your nephew going to do with himself, Casaubon?” said Mr. Brooke, as they went on.

“My cousin, you mean—not my nephew.”

“Yes, yes, cousin. But in the way of a career, you know.”

“The answer to that question is painfully doubtful. On leaving Rugby he declined to go to an English university, where I would gladly have placed him, and chose what I must consider the anomalous course of studying at Heidelberg. And now he wants to go abroad again, without any special object, save the vague purpose of what he calls culture, preparation for he knows not what. He declines to choose a profession.”

“He has no means but what you furnish, I suppose.”

“I have always given him and his friends reason to understand that I would furnish in moderation what was necessary for providing him with a scholarly education, and launching him respectably. I am therefore bound to fulfil the expectation so raised,” said Mr. Casaubon, putting his conduct in the light of mere rectitude: a trait of delicacy which Dorothea noticed with admiration.

“He has a thirst for travelling; perhaps he may turn out a Bruce or a Mungo Park,” said Mr. Brooke. “I had a notion of that myself at one time.”

“No, he has no bent towards exploration, or the enlargement of our geognosis: that would be a special purpose which I could recognize with some approbation, though without felicitating him on a career which so often ends in premature and violent death. But so far is he from having any desire for a more accurate knowledge of the earth’s surface, that he said he should prefer not to know the sources of the Nile, and that there should be some unknown regions preserved as hunting grounds for the poetic imagination.”

“Well, there is something in that, you know,” said Mr. Brooke, who had certainly an impartial mind.

“It is, I fear, nothing more than a part of his general inaccuracy and indisposition to thoroughness of all kinds, which would be a bad augury for him in any profession, civil or sacred, even were he so far submissive to ordinary rule as to choose one.”

“Perhaps he has conscientious scruples founded on his own unfitness,” said Dorothea, who was interesting herself in finding a favorable explanation. “Because the law and medicine should be very serious professions to undertake, should they not? People’s lives and fortunes depend on them.”

“Doubtless; but I fear that my young relative Will Ladislaw is chiefly determined in his aversion to these callings by a dislike to steady application, and to that kind of acquirement which is needful instrumentally, but is not charming or immediately inviting to self-indulgent taste. I have insisted to him on what Aristotle has stated with admirable brevity, that for the achievement of any work regarded as an end there must be a prior exercise of many energies or acquired facilities of a secondary order, demanding patience. I have pointed to my own manuscript volumes, which represent the toil of years preparatory to a work not yet accomplished. But in vain. To careful reasoning of this kind he replies by calling himself Pegasus, and every form of prescribed work ‘harness.’”

Celia laughed. She was surprised to find that Mr. Casaubon could say something quite amusing.

“Well, you know, he may turn out a Byron, a Chatterton, a Churchill—that sort of thing—there’s no telling,” said Mr. Brooke. “Shall you let him go to Italy, or wherever else he wants to go?”

“Yes; I have agreed to furnish him with moderate supplies for a year or so; he asks no more. I shall let him be tried by the test of freedom.”

“That is very kind of you,” said Dorothea, looking up at Mr. Casaubon with delight. “It is noble. After all, people may really have in them some vocation which is not quite plain to themselves, may they not? They may seem idle and weak because they are growing. We should be very patient with each other, I think.”

“I suppose it is being engaged to be married that has made you think patience good,” said Celia, as soon as she and Dorothea were alone together, taking off their wrappings.

“You mean that I am very impatient, Celia.”

“Yes; when people don’t do and say just what you like.” Celia had become less afraid of “saying things” to Dorothea since this engagement: cleverness seemed to her more pitiable than ever.



CHAPTER X.

“He had catched a great cold, had he had no other clothes to wear than the skin of a bear not yet killed.”
—FULLER.

Young Ladislaw did not pay that visit to which Mr. Brooke had invited him, and only six days afterwards Mr. Casaubon mentioned that his young relative had started for the Continent, seeming by this cold vagueness to waive inquiry. Indeed, Will had declined to fix on any more precise destination than the entire area of Europe. Genius, he held, is necessarily intolerant of fetters: on the one hand it must have the utmost play for its spontaneity; on the other, it may confidently await those messages from the universe which summon it to its peculiar work, only placing itself in an attitude of receptivity towards all sublime chances. The attitudes of receptivity are various, and Will had sincerely tried many of them. He was not excessively fond of wine, but he had several times taken too much, simply as an experiment in that form of ecstasy; he had fasted till he was faint, and then supped on lobster; he had made himself ill with doses of opium. Nothing greatly original had resulted from these measures; and the effects of the opium had convinced him that there was an entire dissimilarity between his constitution and De Quincey’s. The superadded circumstance which would evolve the genius had not yet come; the universe had not yet beckoned. Even Caesar’s fortune at one time was but a grand presentiment. We know what a masquerade all development is, and what effective shapes may be disguised in helpless embryos. In fact, the world is full of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities. Will saw clearly enough the pitiable instances of long incubation producing no chick, and but for gratitude would have laughed at Casaubon, whose plodding application, rows of note-books, and small taper of learned theory exploring the tossed ruins of the world, seemed to enforce a moral entirely encouraging to Will’s generous reliance on the intentions of the universe with regard to himself. He held that reliance to be a mark of genius; and certainly it is no mark to the contrary; genius consisting neither in self-conceit nor in humility, but in a power to make or do, not anything in general, but something in particular. Let him start for the Continent, then, without our pronouncing on his future. Among all forms of mistake, prophecy is the most gratuitous.

But at present this caution against a too hasty judgment interests me more in relation to Mr. Casaubon than to his young cousin. If to Dorothea Mr. Casaubon had been the mere occasion which had set alight the fine inflammable material of her youthful illusions, does it follow that he was fairly represented in the minds of those less impassioned personages who have hitherto delivered their judgments concerning him? I protest against any absolute conclusion, any prejudice derived from Mrs. Cadwallader’s contempt for a neighboring clergyman’s alleged greatness of soul, or Sir James Chettam’s poor opinion of his rival’s legs,—from Mr. Brooke’s failure to elicit a companion’s ideas, or from Celia’s criticism of a middle-aged scholar’s personal appearance. I am not sure that the greatest man of his age, if ever that solitary superlative existed, could escape these unfavorable reflections of himself in various small mirrors; and even Milton, looking for his portrait in a spoon, must submit to have the facial angle of a bumpkin. Moreover, if Mr. Casaubon, speaking for himself, has rather a chilling rhetoric, it is not therefore certain that there is no good work or fine feeling in him. Did not an immortal physicist and interpreter of hieroglyphs write detestable verses? Has the theory of the solar system been advanced by graceful manners and conversational tact? Suppose we turn from outside estimates of a man, to wonder, with keener interest, what is the report of his own consciousness about his doings or capacity: with what hindrances he is carrying on his daily labors; what fading of hopes, or what deeper fixity of self-delusion the years are marking off within him; and with what spirit he wrestles against universal pressure, which will one day be too heavy for him, and bring his heart to its final pause. Doubtless his lot is important in his own eyes; and the chief reason that we think he asks too large a place in our consideration must be our want of room for him, since we refer him to the Divine regard with perfect confidence; nay, it is even held sublime for our neighbor to expect the utmost there, however little he may have got from us. Mr. Casaubon, too, was the centre of his own world; if he was liable to think that others were providentially made for him, and especially to consider them in the light of their fitness for the author of a “Key to all Mythologies,” this trait is not quite alien to us, and, like the other mendicant hopes of mortals, claims some of our pity.

Certainly this affair of his marriage with Miss Brooke touched him more nearly than it did any one of the persons who have hitherto shown their disapproval of it, and in the present stage of things I feel more tenderly towards his experience of success than towards the disappointment of the amiable Sir James. For in truth, as the day fixed for his marriage came nearer, Mr. Casaubon did not find his spirits rising; nor did the contemplation of that matrimonial garden scene, where, as all experience showed, the path was to be bordered with flowers, prove persistently more enchanting to him than the accustomed vaults where he walked taper in hand. He did not confess to himself, still less could he have breathed to another, his surprise that though he had won a lovely and noble-hearted girl he had not won delight,—which he had also regarded as an object to be found by search. It is true that he knew all the classical passages implying the contrary; but knowing classical passages, we find, is a mode of motion, which explains why they leave so little extra force for their personal application.

Poor Mr. Casaubon had imagined that his long studious bachelorhood had stored up for him a compound interest of enjoyment, and that large drafts on his affections would not fail to be honored; for we all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors, and act fatally on the strength of them. And now he was in danger of being saddened by the very conviction that his circumstances were unusually happy: there was nothing external by which he could account for a certain blankness of sensibility which came over him just when his expectant gladness should have been most lively, just when he exchanged the accustomed dulness of his Lowick library for his visits to the Grange. Here was a weary experience in which he was as utterly condemned to loneliness as in the despair which sometimes threatened him while toiling in the morass of authorship without seeming nearer to the goal. And his was that worst loneliness which would shrink from sympathy. He could not but wish that Dorothea should think him not less happy than the world would expect her successful suitor to be; and in relation to his authorship he leaned on her young trust and veneration, he liked to draw forth her fresh interest in listening, as a means of encouragement to himself: in talking to her he presented all his performance and intention with the reflected confidence of the pedagogue, and rid himself for the time of that chilling ideal audience which crowded his laborious uncreative hours with the vaporous pressure of Tartarean shades.

For to Dorothea, after that toy-box history of the world adapted to young ladies which had made the chief part of her education, Mr. Casaubon’s talk about his great book was full of new vistas; and this sense of revelation, this surprise of a nearer introduction to Stoics and Alexandrians, as people who had ideas not totally unlike her own, kept in abeyance for the time her usual eagerness for a binding theory which could bring her own life and doctrine into strict connection with that amazing past, and give the remotest sources of knowledge some bearing on her actions. That more complete teaching would come—Mr. Casaubon would tell her all that: she was looking forward to higher initiation in ideas, as she was looking forward to marriage, and blending her dim conceptions of both. It would be a great mistake to suppose that Dorothea would have cared about any share in Mr. Casaubon’s learning as mere accomplishment; for though opinion in the neighborhood of Freshitt and Tipton had pronounced her clever, that epithet would not have described her to circles in whose more precise vocabulary cleverness implies mere aptitude for knowing and doing, apart from character. All her eagerness for acquirement lay within that full current of sympathetic motive in which her ideas and impulses were habitually swept along. She did not want to deck herself with knowledge—to wear it loose from the nerves and blood that fed her action; and if she had written a book she must have done it as Saint Theresa did, under the command of an authority that constrained her conscience. But something she yearned for by which her life might be filled with action at once rational and ardent; and since the time was gone by for guiding visions and spiritual directors, since prayer heightened yearning but not instruction, what lamp was there but knowledge? Surely learned men kept the only oil; and who more learned than Mr. Casaubon?

Thus in these brief weeks Dorothea’s joyous grateful expectation was unbroken, and however her lover might occasionally be conscious of flatness, he could never refer it to any slackening of her affectionate interest.

The season was mild enough to encourage the project of extending the wedding journey as far as Rome, and Mr. Casaubon was anxious for this because he wished to inspect some manuscripts in the Vatican.

“I still regret that your sister is not to accompany us,” he said one morning, some time after it had been ascertained that Celia objected to go, and that Dorothea did not wish for her companionship. “You will have many lonely hours, Dorothea, for I shall be constrained to make the utmost use of my time during our stay in Rome, and I should feel more at liberty if you had a companion.”

The words “I should feel more at liberty” grated on Dorothea. For the first time in speaking to Mr. Casaubon she colored from annoyance.

“You must have misunderstood me very much,” she said, “if you think I should not enter into the value of your time—if you think that I should not willingly give up whatever interfered with your using it to the best purpose.”

“That is very amiable in you, my dear Dorothea,” said Mr. Casaubon, not in the least noticing that she was hurt; “but if you had a lady as your companion, I could put you both under the care of a cicerone, and we could thus achieve two purposes in the same space of time.”

“I beg you will not refer to this again,” said Dorothea, rather haughtily. But immediately she feared that she was wrong, and turning towards him she laid her hand on his, adding in a different tone, “Pray do not be anxious about me. I shall have so much to think of when I am alone. And Tantripp will be a sufficient companion, just to take care of me. I could not bear to have Celia: she would be miserable.”

It was time to dress. There was to be a dinner-party that day, the last of the parties which were held at the Grange as proper preliminaries to the wedding, and Dorothea was glad of a reason for moving away at once on the sound of the bell, as if she needed more than her usual amount of preparation. She was ashamed of being irritated from some cause she could not define even to herself; for though she had no intention to be untruthful, her reply had not touched the real hurt within her. Mr. Casaubon’s words had been quite reasonable, yet they had brought a vague instantaneous sense of aloofness on his part.

“Surely I am in a strangely selfish weak state of mind,” she said to herself. “How can I have a husband who is so much above me without knowing that he needs me less than I need him?”

Having convinced herself that Mr. Casaubon was altogether right, she recovered her equanimity, and was an agreeable image of serene dignity when she came into the drawing-room in her silver-gray dress—the simple lines of her dark-brown hair parted over her brow and coiled massively behind, in keeping with the entire absence from her manner and expression of all search after mere effect. Sometimes when Dorothea was in company, there seemed to be as complete an air of repose about her as if she had been a picture of Santa Barbara looking out from her tower into the clear air; but these intervals of quietude made the energy of her speech and emotion the more remarked when some outward appeal had touched her.

She was naturally the subject of many observations this evening, for the dinner-party was large and rather more miscellaneous as to the male portion than any which had been held at the Grange since Mr. Brooke’s nieces had resided with him, so that the talking was done in duos and trios more or less inharmonious. There was the newly elected mayor of Middlemarch, who happened to be a manufacturer; the philanthropic banker his brother-in-law, who predominated so much in the town that some called him a Methodist, others a hypocrite, according to the resources of their vocabulary; and there were various professional men. In fact, Mrs. Cadwallader said that Brooke was beginning to treat the Middlemarchers, and that she preferred the farmers at the tithe-dinner, who drank her health unpretentiously, and were not ashamed of their grandfathers’ furniture. For in that part of the country, before reform had done its notable part in developing the political consciousness, there was a clearer distinction of ranks and a dimmer distinction of parties; so that Mr. Brooke’s miscellaneous invitations seemed to belong to that general laxity which came from his inordinate travel and habit of taking too much in the form of ideas.

Already, as Miss Brooke passed out of the dining-room, opportunity was found for some interjectional “asides.”

“A fine woman, Miss Brooke! an uncommonly fine woman, by God!” said Mr. Standish, the old lawyer, who had been so long concerned with the landed gentry that he had become landed himself, and used that oath in a deep-mouthed manner as a sort of armorial bearings, stamping the speech of a man who held a good position.

Mr. Bulstrode, the banker, seemed to be addressed, but that gentleman disliked coarseness and profanity, and merely bowed. The remark was taken up by Mr. Chichely, a middle-aged bachelor and coursing celebrity, who had a complexion something like an Easter egg, a few hairs carefully arranged, and a carriage implying the consciousness of a distinguished appearance.

“Yes, but not my style of woman: I like a woman who lays herself out a little more to please us. There should be a little filigree about a woman—something of the coquette. A man likes a sort of challenge. The more of a dead set she makes at you the better.”

“There’s some truth in that,” said Mr. Standish, disposed to be genial. “And, by God, it’s usually the way with them. I suppose it answers some wise ends: Providence made them so, eh, Bulstrode?”

“I should be disposed to refer coquetry to another source,” said Mr. Bulstrode. “I should rather refer it to the devil.”

“Ay, to be sure, there should be a little devil in a woman,” said Mr. Chichely, whose study of the fair sex seemed to have been detrimental to his theology. “And I like them blond, with a certain gait, and a swan neck. Between ourselves, the mayor’s daughter is more to my taste than Miss Brooke or Miss Celia either. If I were a marrying man I should choose Miss Vincy before either of them.”

“Well, make up, make up,” said Mr. Standish, jocosely; “you see the middle-aged fellows carry the day.”

Mr. Chichely shook his head with much meaning: he was not going to incur the certainty of being accepted by the woman he would choose.

The Miss Vincy who had the honor of being Mr. Chichely’s ideal was of course not present; for Mr. Brooke, always objecting to go too far, would not have chosen that his nieces should meet the daughter of a Middlemarch manufacturer, unless it were on a public occasion. The feminine part of the company included none whom Lady Chettam or Mrs. Cadwallader could object to; for Mrs. Renfrew, the colonel’s widow, was not only unexceptionable in point of breeding, but also interesting on the ground of her complaint, which puzzled the doctors, and seemed clearly a case wherein the fulness of professional knowledge might need the supplement of quackery. Lady Chettam, who attributed her own remarkable health to home-made bitters united with constant medical attendance, entered with much exercise of the imagination into Mrs. Renfrew’s account of symptoms, and into the amazing futility in her case of all strengthening medicines.

“Where can all the strength of those medicines go, my dear?” said the mild but stately dowager, turning to Mrs. Cadwallader reflectively, when Mrs. Renfrew’s attention was called away.

“It strengthens the disease,” said the Rector’s wife, much too well-born not to be an amateur in medicine. “Everything depends on the constitution: some people make fat, some blood, and some bile—that’s my view of the matter; and whatever they take is a sort of grist to the mill.”

“Then she ought to take medicines that would reduce—reduce the disease, you know, if you are right, my dear. And I think what you say is reasonable.”

“Certainly it is reasonable. You have two sorts of potatoes, fed on the same soil. One of them grows more and more watery—”

“Ah! like this poor Mrs. Renfrew—that is what I think. Dropsy! There is no swelling yet—it is inward. I should say she ought to take drying medicines, shouldn’t you?—or a dry hot-air bath. Many things might be tried, of a drying nature.”

“Let her try a certain person’s pamphlets,” said Mrs. Cadwallader in an undertone, seeing the gentlemen enter. “He does not want drying.”

“Who, my dear?” said Lady Chettam, a charming woman, not so quick as to nullify the pleasure of explanation.

“The bridegroom—Casaubon. He has certainly been drying up faster since the engagement: the flame of passion, I suppose.”

“I should think he is far from having a good constitution,” said Lady Chettam, with a still deeper undertone. “And then his studies—so very dry, as you say.”

“Really, by the side of Sir James, he looks like a death’s head skinned over for the occasion. Mark my words: in a year from this time that girl will hate him. She looks up to him as an oracle now, and by-and-by she will be at the other extreme. All flightiness!”

“How very shocking! I fear she is headstrong. But tell me—you know all about him—is there anything very bad? What is the truth?”

“The truth? he is as bad as the wrong physic—nasty to take, and sure to disagree.”

“There could not be anything worse than that,” said Lady Chettam, with so vivid a conception of the physic that she seemed to have learned something exact about Mr. Casaubon’s disadvantages. “However, James will hear nothing against Miss Brooke. He says she is the mirror of women still.”

“That is a generous make-believe of his. Depend upon it, he likes little Celia better, and she appreciates him. I hope you like my little Celia?”

“Certainly; she is fonder of geraniums, and seems more docile, though not so fine a figure. But we were talking of physic. Tell me about this new young surgeon, Mr. Lydgate. I am told he is wonderfully clever: he certainly looks it—a fine brow indeed.”

“He is a gentleman. I heard him talking to Humphrey. He talks well.”

“Yes. Mr. Brooke says he is one of the Lydgates of Northumberland, really well connected. One does not expect it in a practitioner of that kind. For my own part, I like a medical man more on a footing with the servants; they are often all the cleverer. I assure you I found poor Hicks’s judgment unfailing; I never knew him wrong. He was coarse and butcher-like, but he knew my constitution. It was a loss to me his going off so suddenly. Dear me, what a very animated conversation Miss Brooke seems to be having with this Mr. Lydgate!”

“She is talking cottages and hospitals with him,” said Mrs. Cadwallader, whose ears and power of interpretation were quick. “I believe he is a sort of philanthropist, so Brooke is sure to take him up.”

“James,” said Lady Chettam when her son came near, “bring Mr. Lydgate and introduce him to me. I want to test him.”

The affable dowager declared herself delighted with this opportunity of making Mr. Lydgate’s acquaintance, having heard of his success in treating fever on a new plan.

Mr. Lydgate had the medical accomplishment of looking perfectly grave whatever nonsense was talked to him, and his dark steady eyes gave him impressiveness as a listener. He was as little as possible like the lamented Hicks, especially in a certain careless refinement about his toilet and utterance. Yet Lady Chettam gathered much confidence in him. He confirmed her view of her own constitution as being peculiar, by admitting that all constitutions might be called peculiar, and he did not deny that hers might be more peculiar than others. He did not approve of a too lowering system, including reckless cupping, nor, on the other hand, of incessant port wine and bark. He said “I think so” with an air of so much deference accompanying the insight of agreement, that she formed the most cordial opinion of his talents.

“I am quite pleased with your protege,” she said to Mr. Brooke before going away.

“My protege?—dear me!—who is that?” said Mr. Brooke.

“This young Lydgate, the new doctor. He seems to me to understand his profession admirably.”

“Oh, Lydgate! he is not my protege, you know; only I knew an uncle of his who sent me a letter about him. However, I think he is likely to be first-rate—has studied in Paris, knew Broussais; has ideas, you know—wants to raise the profession.”

“Lydgate has lots of ideas, quite new, about ventilation and diet, that sort of thing,” resumed Mr. Brooke, after he had handed out Lady Chettam, and had returned to be civil to a group of Middlemarchers.

“Hang it, do you think that is quite sound?—upsetting the old treatment, which has made Englishmen what they are?” said Mr. Standish.

“Medical knowledge is at a low ebb among us,” said Mr. Bulstrode, who spoke in a subdued tone, and had rather a sickly air. “I, for my part, hail the advent of Mr. Lydgate. I hope to find good reason for confiding the new hospital to his management.”

“That is all very fine,” replied Mr. Standish, who was not fond of Mr. Bulstrode; “if you like him to try experiments on your hospital patients, and kill a few people for charity I have no objection. But I am not going to hand money out of my purse to have experiments tried on me. I like treatment that has been tested a little.”

“Well, you know, Standish, every dose you take is an experiment-an experiment, you know,” said Mr. Brooke, nodding towards the lawyer.

“Oh, if you talk in that sense!” said Mr. Standish, with as much disgust at such non-legal quibbling as a man can well betray towards a valuable client.

“I should be glad of any treatment that would cure me without reducing me to a skeleton, like poor Grainger,” said Mr. Vincy, the mayor, a florid man, who would have served for a study of flesh in striking contrast with the Franciscan tints of Mr. Bulstrode. “It’s an uncommonly dangerous thing to be left without any padding against the shafts of disease, as somebody said,—and I think it a very good expression myself.”

Mr. Lydgate, of course, was out of hearing. He had quitted the party early, and would have thought it altogether tedious but for the novelty of certain introductions, especially the introduction to Miss Brooke, whose youthful bloom, with her approaching marriage to that faded scholar, and her interest in matters socially useful, gave her the piquancy of an unusual combination.

“She is a good creature—that fine girl—but a little too earnest,” he thought. “It is troublesome to talk to such women. They are always wanting reasons, yet they are too ignorant to understand the merits of any question, and usually fall back on their moral sense to settle things after their own taste.”

Evidently Miss Brooke was not Mr. Lydgate’s style of woman any more than Mr. Chichely’s. Considered, indeed, in relation to the latter, whose mind was matured, she was altogether a mistake, and calculated to shock his trust in final causes, including the adaptation of fine young women to purplefaced bachelors. But Lydgate was less ripe, and might possibly have experience before him which would modify his opinion as to the most excellent things in woman.

Miss Brooke, however, was not again seen by either of these gentlemen under her maiden name. Not long after that dinner-party she had become Mrs. Casaubon, and was on her way to Rome.



CHAPTER XI.

But deeds and language such as men do use,
And persons such as comedy would choose,
When she would show an image of the times,
And sport with human follies, not with crimes.
—BEN JONSON.

Lydgate, in fact, was already conscious of being fascinated by a woman strikingly different from Miss Brooke: he did not in the least suppose that he had lost his balance and fallen in love, but he had said of that particular woman, “She is grace itself; she is perfectly lovely and accomplished. That is what a woman ought to be: she ought to produce the effect of exquisite music.” Plain women he regarded as he did the other severe facts of life, to be faced with philosophy and investigated by science. But Rosamond Vincy seemed to have the true melodic charm; and when a man has seen the woman whom he would have chosen if he had intended to marry speedily, his remaining a bachelor will usually depend on her resolution rather than on his. Lydgate believed that he should not marry for several years: not marry until he had trodden out a good clear path for himself away from the broad road which was quite ready made. He had seen Miss Vincy above his horizon almost as long as it had taken Mr. Casaubon to become engaged and married: but this learned gentleman was possessed of a fortune; he had assembled his voluminous notes, and had made that sort of reputation which precedes performance,—often the larger part of a man’s fame. He took a wife, as we have seen, to adorn the remaining quadrant of his course, and be a little moon that would cause hardly a calculable perturbation. But Lydgate was young, poor, ambitious. He had his half-century before him instead of behind him, and he had come to Middlemarch bent on doing many things that were not directly fitted to make his fortune or even secure him a good income. To a man under such circumstances, taking a wife is something more than a question of adornment, however highly he may rate this; and Lydgate was disposed to give it the first place among wifely functions. To his taste, guided by a single conversation, here was the point on which Miss Brooke would be found wanting, notwithstanding her undeniable beauty. She did not look at things from the proper feminine angle. The society of such women was about as relaxing as going from your work to teach the second form, instead of reclining in a paradise with sweet laughs for bird-notes, and blue eyes for a heaven.

Certainly nothing at present could seem much less important to Lydgate than the turn of Miss Brooke’s mind, or to Miss Brooke than the qualities of the woman who had attracted this young surgeon. But any one watching keenly the stealthy convergence of human lots, sees a slow preparation of effects from one life on another, which tells like a calculated irony on the indifference or the frozen stare with which we look at our unintroduced neighbor. Destiny stands by sarcastic with our dramatis personae folded in her hand.

Old provincial society had its share of this subtle movement: had not only its striking downfalls, its brilliant young professional dandies who ended by living up an entry with a drab and six children for their establishment, but also those less marked vicissitudes which are constantly shifting the boundaries of social intercourse, and begetting new consciousness of interdependence. Some slipped a little downward, some got higher footing: people denied aspirates, gained wealth, and fastidious gentlemen stood for boroughs; some were caught in political currents, some in ecclesiastical, and perhaps found themselves surprisingly grouped in consequence; while a few personages or families that stood with rocky firmness amid all this fluctuation, were slowly presenting new aspects in spite of solidity, and altering with the double change of self and beholder. Municipal town and rural parish gradually made fresh threads of connection—gradually, as the old stocking gave way to the savings-bank, and the worship of the solar guinea became extinct; while squires and baronets, and even lords who had once lived blamelessly afar from the civic mind, gathered the faultiness of closer acquaintanceship. Settlers, too, came from distant counties, some with an alarming novelty of skill, others with an offensive advantage in cunning. In fact, much the same sort of movement and mixture went on in old England as we find in older Herodotus, who also, in telling what had been, thought it well to take a woman’s lot for his starting-point; though Io, as a maiden apparently beguiled by attractive merchandise, was the reverse of Miss Brooke, and in this respect perhaps bore more resemblance to Rosamond Vincy, who had excellent taste in costume, with that nymph-like figure and pure blindness which give the largest range to choice in the flow and color of drapery. But these things made only part of her charm. She was admitted to be the flower of Mrs. Lemon’s school, the chief school in the county, where the teaching included all that was demanded in the accomplished female—even to extras, such as the getting in and out of a carriage. Mrs. Lemon herself had always held up Miss Vincy as an example: no pupil, she said, exceeded that young lady for mental acquisition and propriety of speech, while her musical execution was quite exceptional. We cannot help the way in which people speak of us, and probably if Mrs. Lemon had undertaken to describe Juliet or Imogen, these heroines would not have seemed poetical. The first vision of Rosamond would have been enough with most judges to dispel any prejudice excited by Mrs. Lemon’s praise.

Lydgate could not be long in Middlemarch without having that agreeable vision, or even without making the acquaintance of the Vincy family; for though Mr. Peacock, whose practice he had paid something to enter on, had not been their doctor (Mrs. Vincy not liking the lowering system adopted by him), he had many patients among their connections and acquaintances. For who of any consequence in Middlemarch was not connected or at least acquainted with the Vincys? They were old manufacturers, and had kept a good house for three generations, in which there had naturally been much intermarrying with neighbors more or less decidedly genteel. Mr. Vincy’s sister had made a wealthy match in accepting Mr. Bulstrode, who, however, as a man not born in the town, and altogether of dimly known origin, was considered to have done well in uniting himself with a real Middlemarch family; on the other hand, Mr. Vincy had descended a little, having taken an innkeeper’s daughter. But on this side too there was a cheering sense of money; for Mrs. Vincy’s sister had been second wife to rich old Mr. Featherstone, and had died childless years ago, so that her nephews and nieces might be supposed to touch the affections of the widower. And it happened that Mr. Bulstrode and Mr. Featherstone, two of Peacock’s most important patients, had, from different causes, given an especially good reception to his successor, who had raised some partisanship as well as discussion. Mr. Wrench, medical attendant to the Vincy family, very early had grounds for thinking lightly of Lydgate’s professional discretion, and there was no report about him which was not retailed at the Vincys’, where visitors were frequent. Mr. Vincy was more inclined to general good-fellowship than to taking sides, but there was no need for him to be hasty in making any new man acquaintance. Rosamond silently wished that her father would invite Mr. Lydgate. She was tired of the faces and figures she had always been used to—the various irregular profiles and gaits and turns of phrase distinguishing those Middlemarch young men whom she had known as boys. She had been at school with girls of higher position, whose brothers, she felt sure, it would have been possible for her to be more interested in, than in these inevitable Middlemarch companions. But she would not have chosen to mention her wish to her father; and he, for his part, was in no hurry on the subject. An alderman about to be mayor must by-and-by enlarge his dinner-parties, but at present there were plenty of guests at his well-spread table.

That table often remained covered with the relics of the family breakfast long after Mr. Vincy had gone with his second son to the warehouse, and when Miss Morgan was already far on in morning lessons with the younger girls in the schoolroom. It awaited the family laggard, who found any sort of inconvenience (to others) less disagreeable than getting up when he was called. This was the case one morning of the October in which we have lately seen Mr. Casaubon visiting the Grange; and though the room was a little overheated with the fire, which had sent the spaniel panting to a remote corner, Rosamond, for some reason, continued to sit at her embroidery longer than usual, now and then giving herself a little shake, and laying her work on her knee to contemplate it with an air of hesitating weariness. Her mamma, who had returned from an excursion to the kitchen, sat on the other side of the small work-table with an air of more entire placidity, until, the clock again giving notice that it was going to strike, she looked up from the lace-mending which was occupying her plump fingers and rang the bell.

“Knock at Mr. Fred’s door again, Pritchard, and tell him it has struck half-past ten.”

This was said without any change in the radiant good-humor of Mrs. Vincy’s face, in which forty-five years had delved neither angles nor parallels; and pushing back her pink capstrings, she let her work rest on her lap, while she looked admiringly at her daughter.

“Mamma,” said Rosamond, “when Fred comes down I wish you would not let him have red herrings. I cannot bear the smell of them all over the house at this hour of the morning.”

“Oh, my dear, you are so hard on your brothers! It is the only fault I have to find with you. You are the sweetest temper in the world, but you are so tetchy with your brothers.”

“Not tetchy, mamma: you never hear me speak in an unladylike way.”

“Well, but you want to deny them things.”

“Brothers are so unpleasant.”

“Oh, my dear, you must allow for young men. Be thankful if they have good hearts. A woman must learn to put up with little things. You will be married some day.”

“Not to any one who is like Fred.”

“Don’t decry your own brother, my dear. Few young men have less against them, although he couldn’t take his degree—I’m sure I can’t understand why, for he seems to me most clever. And you know yourself he was thought equal to the best society at college. So particular as you are, my dear, I wonder you are not glad to have such a gentlemanly young man for a brother. You are always finding fault with Bob because he is not Fred.”

“Oh no, mamma, only because he is Bob.”

“Well, my dear, you will not find any Middlemarch young man who has not something against him.”

“But”—here Rosamond’s face broke into a smile which suddenly revealed two dimples. She herself thought unfavorably of these dimples and smiled little in general society. “But I shall not marry any Middlemarch young man.”

“So it seems, my love, for you have as good as refused the pick of them; and if there’s better to be had, I’m sure there’s no girl better deserves it.”

“Excuse me, mamma—I wish you would not say, ‘the pick of them.’”

“Why, what else are they?”

“I mean, mamma, it is rather a vulgar expression.”

“Very likely, my dear; I never was a good speaker. What should I say?”

“The best of them.”

“Why, that seems just as plain and common. If I had had time to think, I should have said, ‘the most superior young men.’ But with your education you must know.”

“What must Rosy know, mother?” said Mr. Fred, who had slid in unobserved through the half-open door while the ladies were bending over their work, and now going up to the fire stood with his back towards it, warming the soles of his slippers.

“Whether it’s right to say ‘superior young men,’” said Mrs. Vincy, ringing the bell.

“Oh, there are so many superior teas and sugars now. Superior is getting to be shopkeepers’ slang.”

“Are you beginning to dislike slang, then?” said Rosamond, with mild gravity.

“Only the wrong sort. All choice of words is slang. It marks a class.”

“There is correct English: that is not slang.”

“I beg your pardon: correct English is the slang of prigs who write history and essays. And the strongest slang of all is the slang of poets.”

“You will say anything, Fred, to gain your point.”

“Well, tell me whether it is slang or poetry to call an ox a leg-plaiter.”

“Of course you can call it poetry if you like.”

“Aha, Miss Rosy, you don’t know Homer from slang. I shall invent a new game; I shall write bits of slang and poetry on slips, and give them to you to separate.”

“Dear me, how amusing it is to hear young people talk!” said Mrs. Vincy, with cheerful admiration.

“Have you got nothing else for my breakfast, Pritchard?” said Fred, to the servant who brought in coffee and buttered toast; while he walked round the table surveying the ham, potted beef, and other cold remnants, with an air of silent rejection, and polite forbearance from signs of disgust.

“Should you like eggs, sir?”

“Eggs, no! Bring me a grilled bone.”

“Really, Fred,” said Rosamond, when the servant had left the room, “if you must have hot things for breakfast, I wish you would come down earlier. You can get up at six o’clock to go out hunting; I cannot understand why you find it so difficult to get up on other mornings.”

“That is your want of understanding, Rosy. I can get up to go hunting because I like it.”

“What would you think of me if I came down two hours after every one else and ordered grilled bone?”

“I should think you were an uncommonly fast young lady,” said Fred, eating his toast with the utmost composure.

“I cannot see why brothers are to make themselves disagreeable, any more than sisters.”

“I don’t make myself disagreeable; it is you who find me so. Disagreeable is a word that describes your feelings and not my actions.”

“I think it describes the smell of grilled bone.”

“Not at all. It describes a sensation in your little nose associated with certain finicking notions which are the classics of Mrs. Lemon’s school. Look at my mother; you don’t see her objecting to everything except what she does herself. She is my notion of a pleasant woman.”

“Bless you both, my dears, and don’t quarrel,” said Mrs. Vincy, with motherly cordiality. “Come, Fred, tell us all about the new doctor. How is your uncle pleased with him?”

“Pretty well, I think. He asks Lydgate all sorts of questions and then screws up his face while he hears the answers, as if they were pinching his toes. That’s his way. Ah, here comes my grilled bone.”

“But how came you to stay out so late, my dear? You only said you were going to your uncle’s.”

“Oh, I dined at Plymdale’s. We had whist. Lydgate was there too.”

“And what do you think of him? He is very gentlemanly, I suppose. They say he is of excellent family—his relations quite county people.”

“Yes,” said Fred. “There was a Lydgate at John’s who spent no end of money. I find this man is a second cousin of his. But rich men may have very poor devils for second cousins.”

“It always makes a difference, though, to be of good family,” said Rosamond, with a tone of decision which showed that she had thought on this subject. Rosamond felt that she might have been happier if she had not been the daughter of a Middlemarch manufacturer. She disliked anything which reminded her that her mother’s father had been an innkeeper. Certainly any one remembering the fact might think that Mrs. Vincy had the air of a very handsome good-humored landlady, accustomed to the most capricious orders of gentlemen.

“I thought it was odd his name was Tertius,” said the bright-faced matron, “but of course it’s a name in the family. But now, tell us exactly what sort of man he is.”

“Oh, tallish, dark, clever—talks well—rather a prig, I think.”

“I never can make out what you mean by a prig,” said Rosamond.

“A fellow who wants to show that he has opinions.”

“Why, my dear, doctors must have opinions,” said Mrs. Vincy. “What are they there for else?”

“Yes, mother, the opinions they are paid for. But a prig is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions.”

“I suppose Mary Garth admires Mr. Lydgate,” said Rosamond, not without a touch of innuendo.

“Really, I can’t say.” said Fred, rather glumly, as he left the table, and taking up a novel which he had brought down with him, threw himself into an arm-chair. “If you are jealous of her, go oftener to Stone Court yourself and eclipse her.”

“I wish you would not be so vulgar, Fred. If you have finished, pray ring the bell.”

“It is true, though—what your brother says, Rosamond,” Mrs. Vincy began, when the servant had cleared the table. “It is a thousand pities you haven’t patience to go and see your uncle more, so proud of you as he is, and wanted you to live with him. There’s no knowing what he might have done for you as well as for Fred. God knows, I’m fond of having you at home with me, but I can part with my children for their good. And now it stands to reason that your uncle Featherstone will do something for Mary Garth.”

“Mary Garth can bear being at Stone Court, because she likes that better than being a governess,” said Rosamond, folding up her work. “I would rather not have anything left to me if I must earn it by enduring much of my uncle’s cough and his ugly relations.”

“He can’t be long for this world, my dear; I wouldn’t hasten his end, but what with asthma and that inward complaint, let us hope there is something better for him in another. And I have no ill-will towards Mary Garth, but there’s justice to be thought of. And Mr. Featherstone’s first wife brought him no money, as my sister did. Her nieces and nephews can’t have so much claim as my sister’s. And I must say I think Mary Garth a dreadful plain girl—more fit for a governess.”

“Every one would not agree with you there, mother,” said Fred, who seemed to be able to read and listen too.

“Well, my dear,” said Mrs. Vincy, wheeling skilfully, “if she had some fortune left her,—a man marries his wife’s relations, and the Garths are so poor, and live in such a small way. But I shall leave you to your studies, my dear; for I must go and do some shopping.”

“Fred’s studies are not very deep,” said Rosamond, rising with her mamma, “he is only reading a novel.”

“Well, well, by-and-by he’ll go to his Latin and things,” said Mrs. Vincy, soothingly, stroking her son’s head. “There’s a fire in the smoking-room on purpose. It’s your father’s wish, you know—Fred, my dear—and I always tell him you will be good, and go to college again to take your degree.”

Fred drew his mother’s hand down to his lips, but said nothing.

“I suppose you are not going out riding to-day?” said Rosamond, lingering a little after her mamma was gone.

“No; why?”

“Papa says I may have the chestnut to ride now.”

“You can go with me to-morrow, if you like. Only I am going to Stone Court, remember.”

“I want to ride so much, it is indifferent to me where we go.” Rosamond really wished to go to Stone Court, of all other places.

“Oh, I say, Rosy,” said Fred, as she was passing out of the room, “if you are going to the piano, let me come and play some airs with you.”

“Pray do not ask me this morning.”

“Why not this morning?”

“Really, Fred, I wish you would leave off playing the flute. A man looks very silly playing the flute. And you play so out of tune.”

“When next any one makes love to you, Miss Rosamond, I will tell him how obliging you are.”

“Why should you expect me to oblige you by hearing you play the flute, any more than I should expect you to oblige me by not playing it?”

“And why should you expect me to take you out riding?”

This question led to an adjustment, for Rosamond had set her mind on that particular ride.

So Fred was gratified with nearly an hour’s practice of “Ar hyd y nos,” “Ye banks and braes,” and other favorite airs from his “Instructor on the Flute;” a wheezy performance, into which he threw much ambition and an irrepressible hopefulness.



CHAPTER XII.

He had more tow on his distaffe
Than Gerveis knew.
—CHAUCER.

The ride to Stone Court, which Fred and Rosamond took the next morning, lay through a pretty bit of midland landscape, almost all meadows and pastures, with hedgerows still allowed to grow in bushy beauty and to spread out coral fruit for the birds. Little details gave each field a particular physiognomy, dear to the eyes that have looked on them from childhood: the pool in the corner where the grasses were dank and trees leaned whisperingly; the great oak shadowing a bare place in mid-pasture; the high bank where the ash-trees grew; the sudden slope of the old marl-pit making a red background for the burdock; the huddled roofs and ricks of the homestead without a traceable way of approach; the gray gate and fences against the depths of the bordering wood; and the stray hovel, its old, old thatch full of mossy hills and valleys with wondrous modulations of light and shadow such as we travel far to see in later life, and see larger, but not more beautiful. These are the things that make the gamut of joy in landscape to midland-bred souls—the things they toddled among, or perhaps learned by heart standing between their father’s knees while he drove leisurely.

But the road, even the byroad, was excellent; for Lowick, as we have seen, was not a parish of muddy lanes and poor tenants; and it was into Lowick parish that Fred and Rosamond entered after a couple of miles’ riding. Another mile would bring them to Stone Court, and at the end of the first half, the house was already visible, looking as if it had been arrested in its growth toward a stone mansion by an unexpected budding of farm-buildings on its left flank, which had hindered it from becoming anything more than the substantial dwelling of a gentleman farmer. It was not the less agreeable an object in the distance for the cluster of pinnacled corn-ricks which balanced the fine row of walnuts on the right.

Presently it was possible to discern something that might be a gig on the circular drive before the front door.

“Dear me,” said Rosamond, “I hope none of my uncle’s horrible relations are there.”

“They are, though. That is Mrs. Waule’s gig—the last yellow gig left, I should think. When I see Mrs. Waule in it, I understand how yellow can have been worn for mourning. That gig seems to me more funereal than a hearse. But then Mrs. Waule always has black crape on. How does she manage it, Rosy? Her friends can’t always be dying.”

“I don’t know at all. And she is not in the least evangelical,” said Rosamond, reflectively, as if that religious point of view would have fully accounted for perpetual crape. “And, not poor,” she added, after a moment’s pause.

“No, by George! They are as rich as Jews, those Waules and Featherstones; I mean, for people like them, who don’t want to spend anything. And yet they hang about my uncle like vultures, and are afraid of a farthing going away from their side of the family. But I believe he hates them all.”

The Mrs. Waule who was so far from being admirable in the eyes of these distant connections, had happened to say this very morning (not at all with a defiant air, but in a low, muffled, neutral tone, as of a voice heard through cotton wool) that she did not wish “to enjoy their good opinion.” She was seated, as she observed, on her own brother’s hearth, and had been Jane Featherstone five-and-twenty years before she had been Jane Waule, which entitled her to speak when her own brother’s name had been made free with by those who had no right to it.

“What are you driving at there?” said Mr. Featherstone, holding his stick between his knees and settling his wig, while he gave her a momentary sharp glance, which seemed to react on him like a draught of cold air and set him coughing.

Mrs. Waule had to defer her answer till he was quiet again, till Mary Garth had supplied him with fresh syrup, and he had begun to rub the gold knob of his stick, looking bitterly at the fire. It was a bright fire, but it made no difference to the chill-looking purplish tint of Mrs. Waule’s face, which was as neutral as her voice; having mere chinks for eyes, and lips that hardly moved in speaking.

“The doctors can’t master that cough, brother. It’s just like what I have; for I’m your own sister, constitution and everything. But, as I was saying, it’s a pity Mrs. Vincy’s family can’t be better conducted.”

“Tchah! you said nothing o’ the sort. You said somebody had made free with my name.”

“And no more than can be proved, if what everybody says is true. My brother Solomon tells me it’s the talk up and down in Middlemarch how unsteady young Vincy is, and has been forever gambling at billiards since home he came.”

“Nonsense! What’s a game at billiards? It’s a good gentlemanly game; and young Vincy is not a clodhopper. If your son John took to billiards, now, he’d make a fool of himself.”

“Your nephew John never took to billiards or any other game, brother, and is far from losing hundreds of pounds, which, if what everybody says is true, must be found somewhere else than out of Mr. Vincy the father’s pocket. For they say he’s been losing money for years, though nobody would think so, to see him go coursing and keeping open house as they do. And I’ve heard say Mr. Bulstrode condemns Mrs. Vincy beyond anything for her flightiness, and spoiling her children so.”

“What’s Bulstrode to me? I don’t bank with him.”

“Well, Mrs. Bulstrode is Mr. Vincy’s own sister, and they do say that Mr. Vincy mostly trades on the Bank money; and you may see yourself, brother, when a woman past forty has pink strings always flying, and that light way of laughing at everything, it’s very unbecoming. But indulging your children is one thing, and finding money to pay their debts is another. And it’s openly said that young Vincy has raised money on his expectations. I don’t say what expectations. Miss Garth hears me, and is welcome to tell again. I know young people hang together.”

“No, thank you, Mrs. Waule,” said Mary Garth. “I dislike hearing scandal too much to wish to repeat it.”

Mr. Featherstone rubbed the knob of his stick and made a brief convulsive show of laughter, which had much the same genuineness as an old whist-player’s chuckle over a bad hand. Still looking at the fire, he said—

“And who pretends to say Fred Vincy hasn’t got expectations? Such a fine, spirited fellow is like enough to have ’em.”

There was a slight pause before Mrs. Waule replied, and when she did so, her voice seemed to be slightly moistened with tears, though her face was still dry.

“Whether or no, brother, it is naturally painful to me and my brother Solomon to hear your name made free with, and your complaint being such as may carry you off sudden, and people who are no more Featherstones than the Merry-Andrew at the fair, openly reckoning on your property coming to them. And me your own sister, and Solomon your own brother! And if that’s to be it, what has it pleased the Almighty to make families for?” Here Mrs. Waule’s tears fell, but with moderation.

“Come, out with it, Jane!” said Mr. Featherstone, looking at her. “You mean to say, Fred Vincy has been getting somebody to advance him money on what he says he knows about my will, eh?”

“I never said so, brother” (Mrs. Waule’s voice had again become dry and unshaken). “It was told me by my brother Solomon last night when he called coming from market to give me advice about the old wheat, me being a widow, and my son John only three-and-twenty, though steady beyond anything. And he had it from most undeniable authority, and not one, but many.”

“Stuff and nonsense! I don’t believe a word of it. It’s all a got-up story. Go to the window, missy; I thought I heard a horse. See if the doctor’s coming.”

“Not got up by me, brother, nor yet by Solomon, who, whatever else he may be—and I don’t deny he has oddities—has made his will and parted his property equal between such kin as he’s friends with; though, for my part, I think there are times when some should be considered more than others. But Solomon makes it no secret what he means to do.”

“The more fool he!” said Mr. Featherstone, with some difficulty; breaking into a severe fit of coughing that required Mary Garth to stand near him, so that she did not find out whose horses they were which presently paused stamping on the gravel before the door.

Before Mr. Featherstone’s cough was quiet, Rosamond entered, bearing up her riding-habit with much grace. She bowed ceremoniously to Mrs. Waule, who said stiffly, “How do you do, miss?” smiled and nodded silently to Mary, and remained standing till the coughing should cease, and allow her uncle to notice her.

“Heyday, miss!” he said at last, “you have a fine color. Where’s Fred?”

“Seeing about the horses. He will be in presently.”

“Sit down, sit down. Mrs. Waule, you’d better go.”

Even those neighbors who had called Peter Featherstone an old fox, had never accused him of being insincerely polite, and his sister was quite used to the peculiar absence of ceremony with which he marked his sense of blood-relationship. Indeed, she herself was accustomed to think that entire freedom from the necessity of behaving agreeably was included in the Almighty’s intentions about families. She rose slowly without any sign of resentment, and said in her usual muffled monotone, “Brother, I hope the new doctor will be able to do something for you. Solomon says there’s great talk of his cleverness. I’m sure it’s my wish you should be spared. And there’s none more ready to nurse you than your own sister and your own nieces, if you’d only say the word. There’s Rebecca, and Joanna, and Elizabeth, you know.”

“Ay, ay, I remember—you’ll see I’ve remembered ’em all—all dark and ugly. They’d need have some money, eh? There never was any beauty in the women of our family; but the Featherstones have always had some money, and the Waules too. Waule had money too. A warm man was Waule. Ay, ay; money’s a good egg; and if you’ve got money to leave behind you, lay it in a warm nest. Good-by, Mrs. Waule.” Here Mr. Featherstone pulled at both sides of his wig as if he wanted to deafen himself, and his sister went away ruminating on this oracular speech of his. Notwithstanding her jealousy of the Vincys and of Mary Garth, there remained as the nethermost sediment in her mental shallows a persuasion that her brother Peter Featherstone could never leave his chief property away from his blood-relations:—else, why had the Almighty carried off his two wives both childless, after he had gained so much by manganese and things, turning up when nobody expected it?—and why was there a Lowick parish church, and the Waules and Powderells all sitting in the same pew for generations, and the Featherstone pew next to them, if, the Sunday after her brother Peter’s death, everybody was to know that the property was gone out of the family? The human mind has at no period accepted a moral chaos; and so preposterous a result was not strictly conceivable. But we are frightened at much that is not strictly conceivable.

When Fred came in the old man eyed him with a peculiar twinkle, which the younger had often had reason to interpret as pride in the satisfactory details of his appearance.

“You two misses go away,” said Mr. Featherstone. “I want to speak to Fred.”

“Come into my room, Rosamond, you will not mind the cold for a little while,” said Mary. The two girls had not only known each other in childhood, but had been at the same provincial school together (Mary as an articled pupil), so that they had many memories in common, and liked very well to talk in private. Indeed, this tête-à-tête was one of Rosamond’s objects in coming to Stone Court.

Old Featherstone would not begin the dialogue till the door had been closed. He continued to look at Fred with the same twinkle and with one of his habitual grimaces, alternately screwing and widening his mouth; and when he spoke, it was in a low tone, which might be taken for that of an informer ready to be bought off, rather than for the tone of an offended senior. He was not a man to feel any strong moral indignation even on account of trespasses against himself. It was natural that others should want to get an advantage over him, but then, he was a little too cunning for them.

“So, sir, you’ve been paying ten per cent for money which you’ve promised to pay off by mortgaging my land when I’m dead and gone, eh? You put my life at a twelvemonth, say. But I can alter my will yet.”

Fred blushed. He had not borrowed money in that way, for excellent reasons. But he was conscious of having spoken with some confidence (perhaps with more than he exactly remembered) about his prospect of getting Featherstone’s land as a future means of paying present debts.

“I don’t know what you refer to, sir. I have certainly never borrowed any money on such an insecurity. Please do explain.”

“No, sir, it’s you must explain. I can alter my will yet, let me tell you. I’m of sound mind—can reckon compound interest in my head, and remember every fool’s name as well as I could twenty years ago. What the deuce? I’m under eighty. I say, you must contradict this story.”

“I have contradicted it, sir,” Fred answered, with a touch of impatience, not remembering that his uncle did not verbally discriminate contradicting from disproving, though no one was further from confounding the two ideas than old Featherstone, who often wondered that so many fools took his own assertions for proofs. “But I contradict it again. The story is a silly lie.”

“Nonsense! you must bring dockiments. It comes from authority.”

“Name the authority, and make him name the man of whom I borrowed the money, and then I can disprove the story.”

“It’s pretty good authority, I think—a man who knows most of what goes on in Middlemarch. It’s that fine, religious, charitable uncle o’ yours. Come now!” Here Mr. Featherstone had his peculiar inward shake which signified merriment.

“Mr. Bulstrode?”

“Who else, eh?”

“Then the story has grown into this lie out of some sermonizing words he may have let fall about me. Do they pretend that he named the man who lent me the money?”

“If there is such a man, depend upon it Bulstrode knows him. But, supposing you only tried to get the money lent, and didn’t get it—Bulstrode ’ud know that too. You bring me a writing from Bulstrode to say he doesn’t believe you’ve ever promised to pay your debts out o’ my land. Come now!”

Mr. Featherstone’s face required its whole scale of grimaces as a muscular outlet to his silent triumph in the soundness of his faculties.

Fred felt himself to be in a disgusting dilemma.

“You must be joking, sir. Mr. Bulstrode, like other men, believes scores of things that are not true, and he has a prejudice against me. I could easily get him to write that he knew no facts in proof of the report you speak of, though it might lead to unpleasantness. But I could hardly ask him to write down what he believes or does not believe about me.” Fred paused an instant, and then added, in politic appeal to his uncle’s vanity, “That is hardly a thing for a gentleman to ask.” But he was disappointed in the result.

“Ay, I know what you mean. You’d sooner offend me than Bulstrode. And what’s he?—he’s got no land hereabout that ever I heard tell of. A speckilating fellow! He may come down any day, when the devil leaves off backing him. And that’s what his religion means: he wants God A’mighty to come in. That’s nonsense! There’s one thing I made out pretty clear when I used to go to church—and it’s this: God A’mighty sticks to the land. He promises land, and He gives land, and He makes chaps rich with corn and cattle. But you take the other side. You like Bulstrode and speckilation better than Featherstone and land.”

“I beg your pardon, sir,” said Fred, rising, standing with his back to the fire and beating his boot with his whip. “I like neither Bulstrode nor speculation.” He spoke rather sulkily, feeling himself stalemated.

“Well, well, you can do without me, that’s pretty clear,” said old Featherstone, secretly disliking the possibility that Fred would show himself at all independent. “You neither want a bit of land to make a squire of you instead of a starving parson, nor a lift of a hundred pound by the way. It’s all one to me. I can make five codicils if I like, and I shall keep my bank-notes for a nest-egg. It’s all one to me.”

Fred colored again. Featherstone had rarely given him presents of money, and at this moment it seemed almost harder to part with the immediate prospect of bank-notes than with the more distant prospect of the land.

“I am not ungrateful, sir. I never meant to show disregard for any kind intentions you might have towards me. On the contrary.”

“Very good. Then prove it. You bring me a letter from Bulstrode saying he doesn’t believe you’ve been cracking and promising to pay your debts out o’ my land, and then, if there’s any scrape you’ve got into, we’ll see if I can’t back you a bit. Come now! That’s a bargain. Here, give me your arm. I’ll try and walk round the room.”

Fred, in spite of his irritation, had kindness enough in him to be a little sorry for the unloved, unvenerated old man, who with his dropsical legs looked more than usually pitiable in walking. While giving his arm, he thought that he should not himself like to be an old fellow with his constitution breaking up; and he waited good-temperedly, first before the window to hear the wonted remarks about the guinea-fowls and the weather-cock, and then before the scanty book-shelves, of which the chief glories in dark calf were Josephus, Culpepper, Klopstock’s “Messiah,” and several volumes of the “Gentleman’s Magazine.”

“Read me the names o’ the books. Come now! you’re a college man.”

Fred gave him the titles.

“What did missy want with more books? What must you be bringing her more books for?”

“They amuse her, sir. She is very fond of reading.”

“A little too fond,” said Mr. Featherstone, captiously. “She was for reading when she sat with me. But I put a stop to that. She’s got the newspaper to read out loud. That’s enough for one day, I should think. I can’t abide to see her reading to herself. You mind and not bring her any more books, do you hear?”

“Yes, sir, I hear.” Fred had received this order before, and had secretly disobeyed it. He intended to disobey it again.

“Ring the bell,” said Mr. Featherstone; “I want missy to come down.”

Rosamond and Mary had been talking faster than their male friends. They did not think of sitting down, but stood at the toilet-table near the window while Rosamond took off her hat, adjusted her veil, and applied little touches of her finger-tips to her hair—hair of infantine fairness, neither flaxen nor yellow. Mary Garth seemed all the plainer standing at an angle between the two nymphs—the one in the glass, and the one out of it, who looked at each other with eyes of heavenly blue, deep enough to hold the most exquisite meanings an ingenious beholder could put into them, and deep enough to hide the meanings of the owner if these should happen to be less exquisite. Only a few children in Middlemarch looked blond by the side of Rosamond, and the slim figure displayed by her riding-habit had delicate undulations. In fact, most men in Middlemarch, except her brothers, held that Miss Vincy was the best girl in the world, and some called her an angel. Mary Garth, on the contrary, had the aspect of an ordinary sinner: she was brown; her curly dark hair was rough and stubborn; her stature was low; and it would not be true to declare, in satisfactory antithesis, that she had all the virtues. Plainness has its peculiar temptations and vices quite as much as beauty; it is apt either to feign amiability, or, not feigning it, to show all the repulsiveness of discontent: at any rate, to be called an ugly thing in contrast with that lovely creature your companion, is apt to produce some effect beyond a sense of fine veracity and fitness in the phrase. At the age of two-and-twenty Mary had certainly not attained that perfect good sense and good principle which are usually recommended to the less fortunate girl, as if they were to be obtained in quantities ready mixed, with a flavor of resignation as required. Her shrewdness had a streak of satiric bitterness continually renewed and never carried utterly out of sight, except by a strong current of gratitude towards those who, instead of telling her that she ought to be contented, did something to make her so. Advancing womanhood had tempered her plainness, which was of a good human sort, such as the mothers of our race have very commonly worn in all latitudes under a more or less becoming headgear. Rembrandt would have painted her with pleasure, and would have made her broad features look out of the canvas with intelligent honesty. For honesty, truth-telling fairness, was Mary’s reigning virtue: she neither tried to create illusions, nor indulged in them for her own behoof, and when she was in a good mood she had humor enough in her to laugh at herself. When she and Rosamond happened both to be reflected in the glass, she said, laughingly—

“What a brown patch I am by the side of you, Rosy! You are the most unbecoming companion.”

“Oh no! No one thinks of your appearance, you are so sensible and useful, Mary. Beauty is of very little consequence in reality,” said Rosamond, turning her head towards Mary, but with eyes swerving towards the new view of her neck in the glass.

“You mean my beauty,” said Mary, rather sardonically.

Rosamond thought, “Poor Mary, she takes the kindest things ill.” Aloud she said, “What have you been doing lately?”

“I? Oh, minding the house—pouring out syrup—pretending to be amiable and contented—learning to have a bad opinion of everybody.”

“It is a wretched life for you.”

“No,” said Mary, curtly, with a little toss of her head. “I think my life is pleasanter than your Miss Morgan’s.”

“Yes; but Miss Morgan is so uninteresting, and not young.”

“She is interesting to herself, I suppose; and I am not at all sure that everything gets easier as one gets older.”

“No,” said Rosamond, reflectively; “one wonders what such people do, without any prospect. To be sure, there is religion as a support. But,” she added, dimpling, “it is very different with you, Mary. You may have an offer.”

“Has any one told you he means to make me one?”

“Of course not. I mean, there is a gentleman who may fall in love with you, seeing you almost every day.”

A certain change in Mary’s face was chiefly determined by the resolve not to show any change.

“Does that always make people fall in love?” she answered, carelessly; “it seems to me quite as often a reason for detesting each other.”

“Not when they are interesting and agreeable. I hear that Mr. Lydgate is both.”

“Oh, Mr. Lydgate!” said Mary, with an unmistakable lapse into indifference. “You want to know something about him,” she added, not choosing to indulge Rosamond’s indirectness.

“Merely, how you like him.”

“There is no question of liking at present. My liking always wants some little kindness to kindle it. I am not magnanimous enough to like people who speak to me without seeming to see me.”

“Is he so haughty?” said Rosamond, with heightened satisfaction. “You know that he is of good family?”

“No; he did not give that as a reason.”

“Mary! you are the oddest girl. But what sort of looking man is he? Describe him to me.”

“How can one describe a man? I can give you an inventory: heavy eyebrows, dark eyes, a straight nose, thick dark hair, large solid white hands—and—let me see—oh, an exquisite cambric pocket-handkerchief. But you will see him. You know this is about the time of his visits.”

Rosamond blushed a little, but said, meditatively, “I rather like a haughty manner. I cannot endure a rattling young man.”

“I did not tell you that Mr. Lydgate was haughty; but il y en a pour tous les goûts, as little Mamselle used to say, and if any girl can choose the particular sort of conceit she would like, I should think it is you, Rosy.”

“Haughtiness is not conceit; I call Fred conceited.”

“I wish no one said any worse of him. He should be more careful. Mrs. Waule has been telling uncle that Fred is very unsteady.” Mary spoke from a girlish impulse which got the better of her judgment. There was a vague uneasiness associated with the word “unsteady” which she hoped Rosamond might say something to dissipate. But she purposely abstained from mentioning Mrs. Waule’s more special insinuation.

“Oh, Fred is horrid!” said Rosamond. She would not have allowed herself so unsuitable a word to any one but Mary.

“What do you mean by horrid?”

“He is so idle, and makes papa so angry, and says he will not take orders.”

“I think Fred is quite right.”

“How can you say he is quite right, Mary? I thought you had more sense of religion.”

“He is not fit to be a clergyman.”

“But he ought to be fit.”—“Well, then, he is not what he ought to be. I know some other people who are in the same case.”

“But no one approves of them. I should not like to marry a clergyman; but there must be clergymen.”

“It does not follow that Fred must be one.”

“But when papa has been at the expense of educating him for it! And only suppose, if he should have no fortune left him?”

“I can suppose that very well,” said Mary, dryly.

“Then I wonder you can defend Fred,” said Rosamond, inclined to push this point.

“I don’t defend him,” said Mary, laughing; “I would defend any parish from having him for a clergyman.”

“But of course if he were a clergyman, he must be different.”

“Yes, he would be a great hypocrite; and he is not that yet.”

“It is of no use saying anything to you, Mary. You always take Fred’s part.”

“Why should I not take his part?” said Mary, lighting up. “He would take mine. He is the only person who takes the least trouble to oblige me.”

“You make me feel very uncomfortable, Mary,” said Rosamond, with her gravest mildness; “I would not tell mamma for the world.”

“What would you not tell her?” said Mary, angrily.

“Pray do not go into a rage, Mary,” said Rosamond, mildly as ever.

“If your mamma is afraid that Fred will make me an offer, tell her that I would not marry him if he asked me. But he is not going to do so, that I am aware. He certainly never has asked me.”

“Mary, you are always so violent.”

“And you are always so exasperating.”

“I? What can you blame me for?”

“Oh, blameless people are always the most exasperating. There is the bell—I think we must go down.”

“I did not mean to quarrel,” said Rosamond, putting on her hat.

“Quarrel? Nonsense; we have not quarrelled. If one is not to get into a rage sometimes, what is the good of being friends?”

“Am I to repeat what you have said?”

“Just as you please. I never say what I am afraid of having repeated. But let us go down.”

Mr. Lydgate was rather late this morning, but the visitors stayed long enough to see him; for Mr. Featherstone asked Rosamond to sing to him, and she herself was so kind as to propose a second favorite song of his—“Flow on, thou shining river”—after she had sung “Home, sweet home” (which she detested). This hard-headed old Overreach approved of the sentimental song, as the suitable garnish for girls, and also as fundamentally fine, sentiment being the right thing for a song.

Mr. Featherstone was still applauding the last performance, and assuring missy that her voice was as clear as a blackbird’s, when Mr. Lydgate’s horse passed the window.

His dull expectation of the usual disagreeable routine with an aged patient—who can hardly believe that medicine would not “set him up” if the doctor were only clever enough—added to his general disbelief in Middlemarch charms, made a doubly effective background to this vision of Rosamond, whom old Featherstone made haste ostentatiously to introduce as his niece, though he had never thought it worth while to speak of Mary Garth in that light. Nothing escaped Lydgate in Rosamond’s graceful behavior: how delicately she waived the notice which the old man’s want of taste had thrust upon her by a quiet gravity, not showing her dimples on the wrong occasion, but showing them afterwards in speaking to Mary, to whom she addressed herself with so much good-natured interest, that Lydgate, after quickly examining Mary more fully than he had done before, saw an adorable kindness in Rosamond’s eyes. But Mary from some cause looked rather out of temper.

“Miss Rosy has been singing me a song—you’ve nothing to say against that, eh, doctor?” said Mr. Featherstone. “I like it better than your physic.”

“That has made me forget how the time was going,” said Rosamond, rising to reach her hat, which she had laid aside before singing, so that her flower-like head on its white stem was seen in perfection above her riding-habit. “Fred, we must really go.”

“Very good,” said Fred, who had his own reasons for not being in the best spirits, and wanted to get away.

“Miss Vincy is a musician?” said Lydgate, following her with his eyes. (Every nerve and muscle in Rosamond was adjusted to the consciousness that she was being looked at. She was by nature an actress of parts that entered into her physique: she even acted her own character, and so well, that she did not know it to be precisely her own.)

“The best in Middlemarch, I’ll be bound,” said Mr. Featherstone, “let the next be who she will. Eh, Fred? Speak up for your sister.”

“I’m afraid I’m out of court, sir. My evidence would be good for nothing.”

“Middlemarch has not a very high standard, uncle,” said Rosamond, with a pretty lightness, going towards her whip, which lay at a distance.

Lydgate was quick in anticipating her. He reached the whip before she did, and turned to present it to her. She bowed and looked at him: he of course was looking at her, and their eyes met with that peculiar meeting which is never arrived at by effort, but seems like a sudden divine clearance of haze. I think Lydgate turned a little paler than usual, but Rosamond blushed deeply and felt a certain astonishment. After that, she was really anxious to go, and did not know what sort of stupidity her uncle was talking of when she went to shake hands with him.

Yet this result, which she took to be a mutual impression, called falling in love, was just what Rosamond had contemplated beforehand. Ever since that important new arrival in Middlemarch she had woven a little future, of which something like this scene was the necessary beginning. Strangers, whether wrecked and clinging to a raft, or duly escorted and accompanied by portmanteaus, have always had a circumstantial fascination for the virgin mind, against which native merit has urged itself in vain. And a stranger was absolutely necessary to Rosamond’s social romance, which had always turned on a lover and bridegroom who was not a Middlemarcher, and who had no connections at all like her own: of late, indeed, the construction seemed to demand that he should somehow be related to a baronet. Now that she and the stranger had met, reality proved much more moving than anticipation, and Rosamond could not doubt that this was the great epoch of her life. She judged of her own symptoms as those of awakening love, and she held it still more natural that Mr. Lydgate should have fallen in love at first sight of her. These things happened so often at balls, and why not by the morning light, when the complexion showed all the better for it? Rosamond, though no older than Mary, was rather used to being fallen in love with; but she, for her part, had remained indifferent and fastidiously critical towards both fresh sprig and faded bachelor. And here was Mr. Lydgate suddenly corresponding to her ideal, being altogether foreign to Middlemarch, carrying a certain air of distinction congruous with good family, and possessing connections which offered vistas of that middle-class heaven, rank; a man of talent, also, whom it would be especially delightful to enslave: in fact, a man who had touched her nature quite newly, and brought a vivid interest into her life which was better than any fancied “might-be” such as she was in the habit of opposing to the actual.

Thus, in riding home, both the brother and the sister were preoccupied and inclined to be silent. Rosamond, whose basis for her structure had the usual airy slightness, was of remarkably detailed and realistic imagination when the foundation had been once presupposed; and before they had ridden a mile she was far on in the costume and introductions of her wedded life, having determined on her house in Middlemarch, and foreseen the visits she would pay to her husband’s high-bred relatives at a distance, whose finished manners she could appropriate as thoroughly as she had done her school accomplishments, preparing herself thus for vaguer elevations which might ultimately come. There was nothing financial, still less sordid, in her previsions: she cared about what were considered refinements, and not about the money that was to pay for them.

Fred’s mind, on the other hand, was busy with an anxiety which even his ready hopefulness could not immediately quell. He saw no way of eluding Featherstone’s stupid demand without incurring consequences which he liked less even than the task of fulfilling it. His father was already out of humor with him, and would be still more so if he were the occasion of any additional coolness between his own family and the Bulstrodes. Then, he himself hated having to go and speak to his uncle Bulstrode, and perhaps after drinking wine he had said many foolish things about Featherstone’s property, and these had been magnified by report. Fred felt that he made a wretched figure as a fellow who bragged about expectations from a queer old miser like Featherstone, and went to beg for certificates at his bidding. But—those expectations! He really had them, and he saw no agreeable alternative if he gave them up; besides, he had lately made a debt which galled him extremely, and old Featherstone had almost bargained to pay it off. The whole affair was miserably small: his debts were small, even his expectations were not anything so very magnificent. Fred had known men to whom he would have been ashamed of confessing the smallness of his scrapes. Such ruminations naturally produced a streak of misanthropic bitterness. To be born the son of a Middlemarch manufacturer, and inevitable heir to nothing in particular, while such men as Mainwaring and Vyan—certainly life was a poor business, when a spirited young fellow, with a good appetite for the best of everything, had so poor an outlook.

It had not occurred to Fred that the introduction of Bulstrode’s name in the matter was a fiction of old Featherstone’s; nor could this have made any difference to his position. He saw plainly enough that the old man wanted to exercise his power by tormenting him a little, and also probably to get some satisfaction out of seeing him on unpleasant terms with Bulstrode. Fred fancied that he saw to the bottom of his uncle Featherstone’s soul, though in reality half what he saw there was no more than the reflex of his own inclinations. The difficult task of knowing another soul is not for young gentlemen whose consciousness is chiefly made up of their own wishes.

Fred’s main point of debate with himself was, whether he should tell his father, or try to get through the affair without his father’s knowledge. It was probably Mrs. Waule who had been talking about him; and if Mary Garth had repeated Mrs. Waule’s report to Rosamond, it would be sure to reach his father, who would as surely question him about it. He said to Rosamond, as they slackened their pace—

“Rosy, did Mary tell you that Mrs. Waule had said anything about me?”

“Yes, indeed, she did.”

“What?”

“That you were very unsteady.”

“Was that all?”

“I should think that was enough, Fred.”

“You are sure she said no more?”

“Mary mentioned nothing else. But really, Fred, I think you ought to be ashamed.”

“Oh, fudge! Don’t lecture me. What did Mary say about it?”

“I am not obliged to tell you. You care so very much what Mary says, and you are too rude to allow me to speak.”

“Of course I care what Mary says. She is the best girl I know.”

“I should never have thought she was a girl to fall in love with.”

“How do you know what men would fall in love with? Girls never know.”

“At least, Fred, let me advise you not to fall in love with her, for she says she would not marry you if you asked her.”

“She might have waited till I did ask her.”

“I knew it would nettle you, Fred.”

“Not at all. She would not have said so if you had not provoked her.” Before reaching home, Fred concluded that he would tell the whole affair as simply as possible to his father, who might perhaps take on himself the unpleasant business of speaking to Bulstrode.