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Middlemarch

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CHAPTER XXXIV.

“1st Gent. Such men as this are feathers, chips, and straws,
    Carry no weight, no force.
2d Gent. But levity
    Is causal too, and makes the sum of weight.
    For power finds its place in lack of power;
    Advance is cession, and the driven ship
    May run aground because the helmsman’s thought
    Lacked force to balance opposites.”

It was on a morning of May that Peter Featherstone was buried. In the prosaic neighborhood of Middlemarch, May was not always warm and sunny, and on this particular morning a chill wind was blowing the blossoms from the surrounding gardens on to the green mounds of Lowick churchyard. Swiftly moving clouds only now and then allowed a gleam to light up any object, whether ugly or beautiful, that happened to stand within its golden shower. In the churchyard the objects were remarkably various, for there was a little country crowd waiting to see the funeral. The news had spread that it was to be a “big burying;” the old gentleman had left written directions about everything and meant to have a funeral “beyond his betters.” This was true; for old Featherstone had not been a Harpagon whose passions had all been devoured by the ever-lean and ever-hungry passion of saving, and who would drive a bargain with his undertaker beforehand. He loved money, but he also loved to spend it in gratifying his peculiar tastes, and perhaps he loved it best of all as a means of making others feel his power more or less uncomfortably. If any one will here contend that there must have been traits of goodness in old Featherstone, I will not presume to deny this; but I must observe that goodness is of a modest nature, easily discouraged, and when much privacy, elbowed in early life by unabashed vices, is apt to retire into extreme privacy, so that it is more easily believed in by those who construct a selfish old gentleman theoretically, than by those who form the narrower judgments based on his personal acquaintance. In any case, he had been bent on having a handsome funeral, and on having persons “bid” to it who would rather have stayed at home. He had even desired that female relatives should follow him to the grave, and poor sister Martha had taken a difficult journey for this purpose from the Chalky Flats. She and Jane would have been altogether cheered (in a tearful manner) by this sign that a brother who disliked seeing them while he was living had been prospectively fond of their presence when he should have become a testator, if the sign had not been made equivocal by being extended to Mrs. Vincy, whose expense in handsome crape seemed to imply the most presumptuous hopes, aggravated by a bloom of complexion which told pretty plainly that she was not a blood-relation, but of that generally objectionable class called wife’s kin.

We are all of us imaginative in some form or other, for images are the brood of desire; and poor old Featherstone, who laughed much at the way in which others cajoled themselves, did not escape the fellowship of illusion. In writing the programme for his burial he certainly did not make clear to himself that his pleasure in the little drama of which it formed a part was confined to anticipation. In chuckling over the vexations he could inflict by the rigid clutch of his dead hand, he inevitably mingled his consciousness with that livid stagnant presence, and so far as he was preoccupied with a future life, it was with one of gratification inside his coffin. Thus old Featherstone was imaginative, after his fashion.

However, the three mourning-coaches were filled according to the written orders of the deceased. There were pall-bearers on horseback, with the richest scarfs and hatbands, and even the under-bearers had trappings of woe which were of a good well-priced quality. The black procession, when dismounted, looked the larger for the smallness of the churchyard; the heavy human faces and the black draperies shivering in the wind seemed to tell of a world strangely incongruous with the lightly dropping blossoms and the gleams of sunshine on the daisies. The clergyman who met the procession was Mr. Cadwallader—also according to the request of Peter Featherstone, prompted as usual by peculiar reasons. Having a contempt for curates, whom he always called understrappers, he was resolved to be buried by a beneficed clergyman. Mr. Casaubon was out of the question, not merely because he declined duty of this sort, but because Featherstone had an especial dislike to him as the rector of his own parish, who had a lien on the land in the shape of tithe, also as the deliverer of morning sermons, which the old man, being in his pew and not at all sleepy, had been obliged to sit through with an inward snarl. He had an objection to a parson stuck up above his head preaching to him. But his relations with Mr. Cadwallader had been of a different kind: the trout-stream which ran through Mr. Casaubon’s land took its course through Featherstone’s also, so that Mr. Cadwallader was a parson who had had to ask a favor instead of preaching. Moreover, he was one of the high gentry living four miles away from Lowick, and was thus exalted to an equal sky with the sheriff of the county and other dignities vaguely regarded as necessary to the system of things. There would be a satisfaction in being buried by Mr. Cadwallader, whose very name offered a fine opportunity for pronouncing wrongly if you liked.

This distinction conferred on the Rector of Tipton and Freshitt was the reason why Mrs. Cadwallader made one of the group that watched old Featherstone’s funeral from an upper window of the manor. She was not fond of visiting that house, but she liked, as she said, to see collections of strange animals such as there would be at this funeral; and she had persuaded Sir James and the young Lady Chettam to drive the Rector and herself to Lowick in order that the visit might be altogether pleasant.

“I will go anywhere with you, Mrs. Cadwallader,” Celia had said; “but I don’t like funerals.”

“Oh, my dear, when you have a clergyman in your family you must accommodate your tastes: I did that very early. When I married Humphrey I made up my mind to like sermons, and I set out by liking the end very much. That soon spread to the middle and the beginning, because I couldn’t have the end without them.”

“No, to be sure not,” said the Dowager Lady Chettam, with stately emphasis.

The upper window from which the funeral could be well seen was in the room occupied by Mr. Casaubon when he had been forbidden to work; but he had resumed nearly his habitual style of life now in spite of warnings and prescriptions, and after politely welcoming Mrs. Cadwallader had slipped again into the library to chew a cud of erudite mistake about Cush and Mizraim.

But for her visitors Dorothea too might have been shut up in the library, and would not have witnessed this scene of old Featherstone’s funeral, which, aloof as it seemed to be from the tenor of her life, always afterwards came back to her at the touch of certain sensitive points in memory, just as the vision of St. Peter’s at Rome was inwoven with moods of despondency. Scenes which make vital changes in our neighbors’ lot are but the background of our own, yet, like a particular aspect of the fields and trees, they become associated for us with the epochs of our own history, and make a part of that unity which lies in the selection of our keenest consciousness.

The dream-like association of something alien and ill-understood with the deepest secrets of her experience seemed to mirror that sense of loneliness which was due to the very ardor of Dorothea’s nature. The country gentry of old time lived in a rarefied social air: dotted apart on their stations up the mountain they looked down with imperfect discrimination on the belts of thicker life below. And Dorothea was not at ease in the perspective and chilliness of that height.

“I shall not look any more,” said Celia, after the train had entered the church, placing herself a little behind her husband’s elbow so that she could slyly touch his coat with her cheek. “I dare say Dodo likes it: she is fond of melancholy things and ugly people.”

“I am fond of knowing something about the people I live among,” said Dorothea, who had been watching everything with the interest of a monk on his holiday tour. “It seems to me we know nothing of our neighbors, unless they are cottagers. One is constantly wondering what sort of lives other people lead, and how they take things. I am quite obliged to Mrs. Cadwallader for coming and calling me out of the library.”

“Quite right to feel obliged to me,” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “Your rich Lowick farmers are as curious as any buffaloes or bisons, and I dare say you don’t half see them at church. They are quite different from your uncle’s tenants or Sir James’s—monsters—farmers without landlords—one can’t tell how to class them.”

“Most of these followers are not Lowick people,” said Sir James; “I suppose they are legatees from a distance, or from Middlemarch. Lovegood tells me the old fellow has left a good deal of money as well as land.”

“Think of that now! when so many younger sons can’t dine at their own expense,” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “Ah,” turning round at the sound of the opening door, “here is Mr. Brooke. I felt that we were incomplete before, and here is the explanation. You are come to see this odd funeral, of course?”

“No, I came to look after Casaubon—to see how he goes on, you know. And to bring a little news—a little news, my dear,” said Mr. Brooke, nodding at Dorothea as she came towards him. “I looked into the library, and I saw Casaubon over his books. I told him it wouldn’t do: I said, ‘This will never do, you know: think of your wife, Casaubon.’ And he promised me to come up. I didn’t tell him my news: I said, he must come up.”

“Ah, now they are coming out of church,” Mrs. Cadwallader exclaimed. “Dear me, what a wonderfully mixed set! Mr. Lydgate as doctor, I suppose. But that is really a good looking woman, and the fair young man must be her son. Who are they, Sir James, do you know?”

“I see Vincy, the Mayor of Middlemarch; they are probably his wife and son,” said Sir James, looking interrogatively at Mr. Brooke, who nodded and said—

“Yes, a very decent family—a very good fellow is Vincy; a credit to the manufacturing interest. You have seen him at my house, you know.”

“Ah, yes: one of your secret committee,” said Mrs. Cadwallader, provokingly.

“A coursing fellow, though,” said Sir James, with a fox-hunter’s disgust.

“And one of those who suck the life out of the wretched handloom weavers in Tipton and Freshitt. That is how his family look so fair and sleek,” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “Those dark, purple-faced people are an excellent foil. Dear me, they are like a set of jugs! Do look at Humphrey: one might fancy him an ugly archangel towering above them in his white surplice.”

“It’s a solemn thing, though, a funeral,” said Mr. Brooke, “if you take it in that light, you know.”

“But I am not taking it in that light. I can’t wear my solemnity too often, else it will go to rags. It was time the old man died, and none of these people are sorry.”

“How piteous!” said Dorothea. “This funeral seems to me the most dismal thing I ever saw. It is a blot on the morning. I cannot bear to think that any one should die and leave no love behind.”

She was going to say more, but she saw her husband enter and seat himself a little in the background. The difference his presence made to her was not always a happy one: she felt that he often inwardly objected to her speech.

“Positively,” exclaimed Mrs. Cadwallader, “there is a new face come out from behind that broad man queerer than any of them: a little round head with bulging eyes—a sort of frog-face—do look. He must be of another blood, I think.”

“Let me see!” said Celia, with awakened curiosity, standing behind Mrs. Cadwallader and leaning forward over her head. “Oh, what an odd face!” Then with a quick change to another sort of surprised expression, she added, “Why, Dodo, you never told me that Mr. Ladislaw was come again!”

Dorothea felt a shock of alarm: every one noticed her sudden paleness as she looked up immediately at her uncle, while Mr. Casaubon looked at her.

“He came with me, you know; he is my guest—puts up with me at the Grange,” said Mr. Brooke, in his easiest tone, nodding at Dorothea, as if the announcement were just what she might have expected. “And we have brought the picture at the top of the carriage. I knew you would be pleased with the surprise, Casaubon. There you are to the very life—as Aquinas, you know. Quite the right sort of thing. And you will hear young Ladislaw talk about it. He talks uncommonly well—points out this, that, and the other—knows art and everything of that kind—companionable, you know—is up with you in any track—what I’ve been wanting a long while.”

Mr. Casaubon bowed with cold politeness, mastering his irritation, but only so far as to be silent. He remembered Will’s letter quite as well as Dorothea did; he had noticed that it was not among the letters which had been reserved for him on his recovery, and secretly concluding that Dorothea had sent word to Will not to come to Lowick, he had shrunk with proud sensitiveness from ever recurring to the subject. He now inferred that she had asked her uncle to invite Will to the Grange; and she felt it impossible at that moment to enter into any explanation.

Mrs. Cadwallader’s eyes, diverted from the churchyard, saw a good deal of dumb show which was not so intelligible to her as she could have desired, and could not repress the question, “Who is Mr. Ladislaw?”

“A young relative of Mr. Casaubon’s,” said Sir James, promptly. His good-nature often made him quick and clear-seeing in personal matters, and he had divined from Dorothea’s glance at her husband that there was some alarm in her mind.

“A very nice young fellow—Casaubon has done everything for him,” explained Mr. Brooke. “He repays your expense in him, Casaubon,” he went on, nodding encouragingly. “I hope he will stay with me a long while and we shall make something of my documents. I have plenty of ideas and facts, you know, and I can see he is just the man to put them into shape—remembers what the right quotations are, omne tulit punctum, and that sort of thing—gives subjects a kind of turn. I invited him some time ago when you were ill, Casaubon; Dorothea said you couldn’t have anybody in the house, you know, and she asked me to write.”

Poor Dorothea felt that every word of her uncle’s was about as pleasant as a grain of sand in the eye to Mr. Casaubon. It would be altogether unfitting now to explain that she had not wished her uncle to invite Will Ladislaw. She could not in the least make clear to herself the reasons for her husband’s dislike to his presence—a dislike painfully impressed on her by the scene in the library; but she felt the unbecomingness of saying anything that might convey a notion of it to others. Mr. Casaubon, indeed, had not thoroughly represented those mixed reasons to himself; irritated feeling with him, as with all of us, seeking rather for justification than for self-knowledge. But he wished to repress outward signs, and only Dorothea could discern the changes in her husband’s face before he observed with more of dignified bending and sing-song than usual—

“You are exceedingly hospitable, my dear sir; and I owe you acknowledgments for exercising your hospitality towards a relative of mine.”

The funeral was ended now, and the churchyard was being cleared.

“Now you can see him, Mrs. Cadwallader,” said Celia. “He is just like a miniature of Mr. Casaubon’s aunt that hangs in Dorothea’s boudoir—quite nice-looking.”

“A very pretty sprig,” said Mrs. Cadwallader, dryly. “What is your nephew to be, Mr. Casaubon?”

“Pardon me, he is not my nephew. He is my cousin.”

“Well, you know,” interposed Mr. Brooke, “he is trying his wings. He is just the sort of young fellow to rise. I should be glad to give him an opportunity. He would make a good secretary, now, like Hobbes, Milton, Swift—that sort of man.”

“I understand,” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “One who can write speeches.”

“I’ll fetch him in now, eh, Casaubon?” said Mr. Brooke. “He wouldn’t come in till I had announced him, you know. And we’ll go down and look at the picture. There you are to the life: a deep subtle sort of thinker with his fore-finger on the page, while Saint Bonaventure or somebody else, rather fat and florid, is looking up at the Trinity. Everything is symbolical, you know—the higher style of art: I like that up to a certain point, but not too far—it’s rather straining to keep up with, you know. But you are at home in that, Casaubon. And your painter’s flesh is good—solidity, transparency, everything of that sort. I went into that a great deal at one time. However, I’ll go and fetch Ladislaw.”



CHAPTER XXXV.

“Non, je ne comprends pas de plus charmant plaisir
Que de voir d’héritiers une troupe affligée
Le maintien interdit, et la mine allongée,
Lire un long testament où pales, étonnés
On leur laisse un bonsoir avec un pied de nez.
Pour voir au naturel leur tristesse profonde
Je reviendrais, je crois, exprès de l’autre monde.”
—REGNARD: Le Légataire Universel.

When the animals entered the Ark in pairs, one may imagine that allied species made much private remark on each other, and were tempted to think that so many forms feeding on the same store of fodder were eminently superfluous, as tending to diminish the rations. (I fear the part played by the vultures on that occasion would be too painful for art to represent, those birds being disadvantageously naked about the gullet, and apparently without rites and ceremonies.)

The same sort of temptation befell the Christian Carnivora who formed Peter Featherstone’s funeral procession; most of them having their minds bent on a limited store which each would have liked to get the most of. The long-recognized blood-relations and connections by marriage made already a goodly number, which, multiplied by possibilities, presented a fine range for jealous conjecture and pathetic hopefulness. Jealousy of the Vincys had created a fellowship in hostility among all persons of the Featherstone blood, so that in the absence of any decided indication that one of themselves was to have more than the rest, the dread lest that long-legged Fred Vincy should have the land was necessarily dominant, though it left abundant feeling and leisure for vaguer jealousies, such as were entertained towards Mary Garth. Solomon found time to reflect that Jonah was undeserving, and Jonah to abuse Solomon as greedy; Jane, the elder sister, held that Martha’s children ought not to expect so much as the young Waules; and Martha, more lax on the subject of primogeniture, was sorry to think that Jane was so “having.” These nearest of kin were naturally impressed with the unreasonableness of expectations in cousins and second cousins, and used their arithmetic in reckoning the large sums that small legacies might mount to, if there were too many of them. Two cousins were present to hear the will, and a second cousin besides Mr. Trumbull. This second cousin was a Middlemarch mercer of polite manners and superfluous aspirates. The two cousins were elderly men from Brassing, one of them conscious of claims on the score of inconvenient expense sustained by him in presents of oysters and other eatables to his rich cousin Peter; the other entirely saturnine, leaning his hands and chin on a stick, and conscious of claims based on no narrow performance but on merit generally: both blameless citizens of Brassing, who wished that Jonah Featherstone did not live there. The wit of a family is usually best received among strangers.

“Why, Trumbull himself is pretty sure of five hundred—that you may depend,—I shouldn’t wonder if my brother promised him,” said Solomon, musing aloud with his sisters, the evening before the funeral.

“Dear, dear!” said poor sister Martha, whose imagination of hundreds had been habitually narrowed to the amount of her unpaid rent.

But in the morning all the ordinary currents of conjecture were disturbed by the presence of a strange mourner who had plashed among them as if from the moon. This was the stranger described by Mrs. Cadwallader as frog-faced: a man perhaps about two or three and thirty, whose prominent eyes, thin-lipped, downward-curved mouth, and hair sleekly brushed away from a forehead that sank suddenly above the ridge of the eyebrows, certainly gave his face a batrachian unchangeableness of expression. Here, clearly, was a new legatee; else why was he bidden as a mourner? Here were new possibilities, raising a new uncertainty, which almost checked remark in the mourning-coaches. We are all humiliated by the sudden discovery of a fact which has existed very comfortably and perhaps been staring at us in private while we have been making up our world entirely without it. No one had seen this questionable stranger before except Mary Garth, and she knew nothing more of him than that he had twice been to Stone Court when Mr. Featherstone was down-stairs, and had sat alone with him for several hours. She had found an opportunity of mentioning this to her father, and perhaps Caleb’s were the only eyes, except the lawyer’s, which examined the stranger with more of inquiry than of disgust or suspicion. Caleb Garth, having little expectation and less cupidity, was interested in the verification of his own guesses, and the calmness with which he half smilingly rubbed his chin and shot intelligent glances much as if he were valuing a tree, made a fine contrast with the alarm or scorn visible in other faces when the unknown mourner, whose name was understood to be Rigg, entered the wainscoted parlor and took his seat near the door to make part of the audience when the will should be read. Just then Mr. Solomon and Mr. Jonah were gone up-stairs with the lawyer to search for the will; and Mrs. Waule, seeing two vacant seats between herself and Mr. Borthrop Trumbull, had the spirit to move next to that great authority, who was handling his watch-seals and trimming his outlines with a determination not to show anything so compromising to a man of ability as wonder or surprise.

“I suppose you know everything about what my poor brother’s done, Mr. Trumbull,” said Mrs. Waule, in the lowest of her woolly tones, while she turned her crape-shadowed bonnet towards Mr. Trumbull’s ear.

“My good lady, whatever was told me was told in confidence,” said the auctioneer, putting his hand up to screen that secret.

“Them who’ve made sure of their good-luck may be disappointed yet,” Mrs. Waule continued, finding some relief in this communication.

“Hopes are often delusive,” said Mr. Trumbull, still in confidence.

“Ah!” said Mrs. Waule, looking across at the Vincys, and then moving back to the side of her sister Martha.

“It’s wonderful how close poor Peter was,” she said, in the same undertones. “We none of us know what he might have had on his mind. I only hope and trust he wasn’t a worse liver than we think of, Martha.”

Poor Mrs. Cranch was bulky, and, breathing asthmatically, had the additional motive for making her remarks unexceptionable and giving them a general bearing, that even her whispers were loud and liable to sudden bursts like those of a deranged barrel-organ.

“I never was covetous, Jane,” she replied; “but I have six children and have buried three, and I didn’t marry into money. The eldest, that sits there, is but nineteen—so I leave you to guess. And stock always short, and land most awkward. But if ever I’ve begged and prayed; it’s been to God above; though where there’s one brother a bachelor and the other childless after twice marrying—anybody might think!”

Meanwhile, Mr. Vincy had glanced at the passive face of Mr. Rigg, and had taken out his snuff-box and tapped it, but had put it again unopened as an indulgence which, however clarifying to the judgment, was unsuited to the occasion. “I shouldn’t wonder if Featherstone had better feelings than any of us gave him credit for,” he observed, in the ear of his wife. “This funeral shows a thought about everybody: it looks well when a man wants to be followed by his friends, and if they are humble, not to be ashamed of them. I should be all the better pleased if he’d left lots of small legacies. They may be uncommonly useful to fellows in a small way.”

“Everything is as handsome as could be, crape and silk and everything,” said Mrs. Vincy, contentedly.

But I am sorry to say that Fred was under some difficulty in repressing a laugh, which would have been more unsuitable than his father’s snuff-box. Fred had overheard Mr. Jonah suggesting something about a “love-child,” and with this thought in his mind, the stranger’s face, which happened to be opposite him, affected him too ludicrously. Mary Garth, discerning his distress in the twitchings of his mouth, and his recourse to a cough, came cleverly to his rescue by asking him to change seats with her, so that he got into a shadowy corner. Fred was feeling as good-naturedly as possible towards everybody, including Rigg; and having some relenting towards all these people who were less lucky than he was aware of being himself, he would not for the world have behaved amiss; still, it was particularly easy to laugh.

But the entrance of the lawyer and the two brothers drew every one’s attention. The lawyer was Mr. Standish, and he had come to Stone Court this morning believing that he knew thoroughly well who would be pleased and who disappointed before the day was over. The will he expected to read was the last of three which he had drawn up for Mr. Featherstone. Mr. Standish was not a man who varied his manners: he behaved with the same deep-voiced, off-hand civility to everybody, as if he saw no difference in them, and talked chiefly of the hay-crop, which would be “very fine, by God!” of the last bulletins concerning the King, and of the Duke of Clarence, who was a sailor every inch of him, and just the man to rule over an island like Britain.

Old Featherstone had often reflected as he sat looking at the fire that Standish would be surprised some day: it is true that if he had done as he liked at the last, and burnt the will drawn up by another lawyer, he would not have secured that minor end; still he had had his pleasure in ruminating on it. And certainly Mr. Standish was surprised, but not at all sorry; on the contrary, he rather enjoyed the zest of a little curiosity in his own mind, which the discovery of a second will added to the prospective amazement on the part of the Featherstone family.

As to the sentiments of Solomon and Jonah, they were held in utter suspense: it seemed to them that the old will would have a certain validity, and that there might be such an interlacement of poor Peter’s former and latter intentions as to create endless “lawing” before anybody came by their own—an inconvenience which would have at least the advantage of going all round. Hence the brothers showed a thoroughly neutral gravity as they re-entered with Mr. Standish; but Solomon took out his white handkerchief again with a sense that in any case there would be affecting passages, and crying at funerals, however dry, was customarily served up in lawn.

Perhaps the person who felt the most throbbing excitement at this moment was Mary Garth, in the consciousness that it was she who had virtually determined the production of this second will, which might have momentous effects on the lot of some persons present. No soul except herself knew what had passed on that final night.

“The will I hold in my hand,” said Mr. Standish, who, seated at the table in the middle of the room, took his time about everything, including the coughs with which he showed a disposition to clear his voice, “was drawn up by myself and executed by our deceased friend on the 9th of August, 1825. But I find that there is a subsequent instrument hitherto unknown to me, bearing date the 20th of July, 1826, hardly a year later than the previous one. And there is farther, I see”—Mr. Standish was cautiously travelling over the document with his spectacles—“a codicil to this latter will, bearing date March 1, 1828.”

“Dear, dear!” said sister Martha, not meaning to be audible, but driven to some articulation under this pressure of dates.

“I shall begin by reading the earlier will,” continued Mr. Standish, “since such, as appears by his not having destroyed the document, was the intention of deceased.”

The preamble was felt to be rather long, and several besides Solomon shook their heads pathetically, looking on the ground: all eyes avoided meeting other eyes, and were chiefly fixed either on the spots in the table-cloth or on Mr. Standish’s bald head; excepting Mary Garth’s. When all the rest were trying to look nowhere in particular, it was safe for her to look at them. And at the sound of the first “give and bequeath” she could see all complexions changing subtly, as if some faint vibration were passing through them, save that of Mr. Rigg. He sat in unaltered calm, and, in fact, the company, preoccupied with more important problems, and with the complication of listening to bequests which might or might not be revoked, had ceased to think of him. Fred blushed, and Mr. Vincy found it impossible to do without his snuff-box in his hand, though he kept it closed.

The small bequests came first, and even the recollection that there was another will and that poor Peter might have thought better of it, could not quell the rising disgust and indignation. One likes to be done well by in every tense, past, present, and future. And here was Peter capable five years ago of leaving only two hundred apiece to his own brothers and sisters, and only a hundred apiece to his own nephews and nieces: the Garths were not mentioned, but Mrs. Vincy and Rosamond were each to have a hundred. Mr. Trumbull was to have the gold-headed cane and fifty pounds; the other second cousins and the cousins present were each to have the like handsome sum, which, as the saturnine cousin observed, was a sort of legacy that left a man nowhere; and there was much more of such offensive dribbling in favor of persons not present—problematical, and, it was to be feared, low connections. Altogether, reckoning hastily, here were about three thousand disposed of. Where then had Peter meant the rest of the money to go—and where the land? and what was revoked and what not revoked—and was the revocation for better or for worse? All emotion must be conditional, and might turn out to be the wrong thing. The men were strong enough to bear up and keep quiet under this confused suspense; some letting their lower lip fall, others pursing it up, according to the habit of their muscles. But Jane and Martha sank under the rush of questions, and began to cry; poor Mrs. Cranch being half moved with the consolation of getting any hundreds at all without working for them, and half aware that her share was scanty; whereas Mrs. Waule’s mind was entirely flooded with the sense of being an own sister and getting little, while somebody else was to have much. The general expectation now was that the “much” would fall to Fred Vincy, but the Vincys themselves were surprised when ten thousand pounds in specified investments were declared to be bequeathed to him:—was the land coming too? Fred bit his lips: it was difficult to help smiling, and Mrs. Vincy felt herself the happiest of women—possible revocation shrinking out of sight in this dazzling vision.

There was still a residue of personal property as well as the land, but the whole was left to one person, and that person was—O possibilities! O expectations founded on the favor of “close” old gentlemen! O endless vocatives that would still leave expression slipping helpless from the measurement of mortal folly!—that residuary legatee was Joshua Rigg, who was also sole executor, and who was to take thenceforth the name of Featherstone.

There was a rustling which seemed like a shudder running round the room. Every one stared afresh at Mr. Rigg, who apparently experienced no surprise.

“A most singular testamentary disposition!” exclaimed Mr. Trumbull, preferring for once that he should be considered ignorant in the past. “But there is a second will—there is a further document. We have not yet heard the final wishes of the deceased.”

Mary Garth was feeling that what they had yet to hear were not the final wishes. The second will revoked everything except the legacies to the low persons before mentioned (some alterations in these being the occasion of the codicil), and the bequest of all the land lying in Lowick parish with all the stock and household furniture, to Joshua Rigg. The residue of the property was to be devoted to the erection and endowment of almshouses for old men, to be called Featherstone’s Alms-Houses, and to be built on a piece of land near Middlemarch already bought for the purpose by the testator, he wishing—so the document declared—to please God Almighty. Nobody present had a farthing; but Mr. Trumbull had the gold-headed cane. It took some time for the company to recover the power of expression. Mary dared not look at Fred.

Mr. Vincy was the first to speak—after using his snuff-box energetically—and he spoke with loud indignation. “The most unaccountable will I ever heard! I should say he was not in his right mind when he made it. I should say this last will was void,” added Mr. Vincy, feeling that this expression put the thing in the true light. “Eh Standish?”

“Our deceased friend always knew what he was about, I think,” said Mr. Standish. “Everything is quite regular. Here is a letter from Clemmens of Brassing tied with the will. He drew it up. A very respectable solicitor.”

“I never noticed any alienation of mind—any aberration of intellect in the late Mr. Featherstone,” said Borthrop Trumbull, “but I call this will eccentric. I was always willingly of service to the old soul; and he intimated pretty plainly a sense of obligation which would show itself in his will. The gold-headed cane is farcical considered as an acknowledgment to me; but happily I am above mercenary considerations.”

“There’s nothing very surprising in the matter that I can see,” said Caleb Garth. “Anybody might have had more reason for wondering if the will had been what you might expect from an open-minded straightforward man. For my part, I wish there was no such thing as a will.”

“That’s a strange sentiment to come from a Christian man, by God!” said the lawyer. “I should like to know how you will back that up, Garth!”

“Oh,” said Caleb, leaning forward, adjusting his finger-tips with nicety and looking meditatively on the ground. It always seemed to him that words were the hardest part of “business.”

But here Mr. Jonah Featherstone made himself heard. “Well, he always was a fine hypocrite, was my brother Peter. But this will cuts out everything. If I’d known, a wagon and six horses shouldn’t have drawn me from Brassing. I’ll put a white hat and drab coat on to-morrow.”

“Dear, dear,” wept Mrs. Cranch, “and we’ve been at the expense of travelling, and that poor lad sitting idle here so long! It’s the first time I ever heard my brother Peter was so wishful to please God Almighty; but if I was to be struck helpless I must say it’s hard—I can think no other.”

“It’ll do him no good where he’s gone, that’s my belief,” said Solomon, with a bitterness which was remarkably genuine, though his tone could not help being sly. “Peter was a bad liver, and almshouses won’t cover it, when he’s had the impudence to show it at the last.”

“And all the while had got his own lawful family—brothers and sisters and nephews and nieces—and has sat in church with ’em whenever he thought well to come,” said Mrs. Waule. “And might have left his property so respectable, to them that’s never been used to extravagance or unsteadiness in no manner of way—and not so poor but what they could have saved every penny and made more of it. And me—the trouble I’ve been at, times and times, to come here and be sisterly—and him with things on his mind all the while that might make anybody’s flesh creep. But if the Almighty’s allowed it, he means to punish him for it. Brother Solomon, I shall be going, if you’ll drive me.”

“I’ve no desire to put my foot on the premises again,” said Solomon. “I’ve got land of my own and property of my own to will away.”

“It’s a poor tale how luck goes in the world,” said Jonah. “It never answers to have a bit of spirit in you. You’d better be a dog in the manger. But those above ground might learn a lesson. One fool’s will is enough in a family.”

“There’s more ways than one of being a fool,” said Solomon. “I shan’t leave my money to be poured down the sink, and I shan’t leave it to foundlings from Africay. I like Featherstones that were brewed such, and not turned Featherstones with sticking the name on ’em.”

Solomon addressed these remarks in a loud aside to Mrs. Waule as he rose to accompany her. Brother Jonah felt himself capable of much more stinging wit than this, but he reflected that there was no use in offending the new proprietor of Stone Court, until you were certain that he was quite without intentions of hospitality towards witty men whose name he was about to bear.

Mr. Joshua Rigg, in fact, appeared to trouble himself little about any innuendoes, but showed a notable change of manner, walking coolly up to Mr. Standish and putting business questions with much coolness. He had a high chirping voice and a vile accent. Fred, whom he no longer moved to laughter, thought him the lowest monster he had ever seen. But Fred was feeling rather sick. The Middlemarch mercer waited for an opportunity of engaging Mr. Rigg in conversation: there was no knowing how many pairs of legs the new proprietor might require hose for, and profits were more to be relied on than legacies. Also, the mercer, as a second cousin, was dispassionate enough to feel curiosity.

Mr. Vincy, after his one outburst, had remained proudly silent, though too much preoccupied with unpleasant feelings to think of moving, till he observed that his wife had gone to Fred’s side and was crying silently while she held her darling’s hand. He rose immediately, and turning his back on the company while he said to her in an undertone,—“Don’t give way, Lucy; don’t make a fool of yourself, my dear, before these people,” he added in his usual loud voice—“Go and order the phaeton, Fred; I have no time to waste.”

Mary Garth had before this been getting ready to go home with her father. She met Fred in the hall, and now for the first time had the courage to look at him. He had that withered sort of paleness which will sometimes come on young faces, and his hand was very cold when she shook it. Mary too was agitated; she was conscious that fatally, without will of her own, she had perhaps made a great difference to Fred’s lot.

“Good-by,” she said, with affectionate sadness. “Be brave, Fred. I do believe you are better without the money. What was the good of it to Mr. Featherstone?”

“That’s all very fine,” said Fred, pettishly. “What is a fellow to do? I must go into the Church now.” (He knew that this would vex Mary: very well; then she must tell him what else he could do.) “And I thought I should be able to pay your father at once and make everything right. And you have not even a hundred pounds left you. What shall you do now, Mary?”

“Take another situation, of course, as soon as I can get one. My father has enough to do to keep the rest, without me. Good-by.”

In a very short time Stone Court was cleared of well-brewed Featherstones and other long-accustomed visitors. Another stranger had been brought to settle in the neighborhood of Middlemarch, but in the case of Mr. Rigg Featherstone there was more discontent with immediate visible consequences than speculation as to the effect which his presence might have in the future. No soul was prophetic enough to have any foreboding as to what might appear on the trial of Joshua Rigg.

And here I am naturally led to reflect on the means of elevating a low subject. Historical parallels are remarkably efficient in this way. The chief objection to them is, that the diligent narrator may lack space, or (what is often the same thing) may not be able to think of them with any degree of particularity, though he may have a philosophical confidence that if known they would be illustrative. It seems an easier and shorter way to dignity, to observe that—since there never was a true story which could not be told in parables, where you might put a monkey for a margrave, and vice versa—whatever has been or is to be narrated by me about low people, may be ennobled by being considered a parable; so that if any bad habits and ugly consequences are brought into view, the reader may have the relief of regarding them as not more than figuratively ungenteel, and may feel himself virtually in company with persons of some style. Thus while I tell the truth about loobies, my reader’s imagination need not be entirely excluded from an occupation with lords; and the petty sums which any bankrupt of high standing would be sorry to retire upon, may be lifted to the level of high commercial transactions by the inexpensive addition of proportional ciphers.

As to any provincial history in which the agents are all of high moral rank, that must be of a date long posterior to the first Reform Bill, and Peter Featherstone, you perceive, was dead and buried some months before Lord Grey came into office.



CHAPTER XXXVI.

’T is strange to see the humors of these men,
These great aspiring spirits, that should be wise:
. . . . . . . .
For being the nature of great spirits to love
To be where they may be most eminent;
They, rating of themselves so farre above
Us in conceit, with whom they do frequent,
Imagine how we wonder and esteeme
All that they do or say; which makes them strive
To make our admiration more extreme,
Which they suppose they cannot, ’less they give
Notice of their extreme and highest thoughts.
—DANIEL: Tragedy of Philotas.

Mr. Vincy went home from the reading of the will with his point of view considerably changed in relation to many subjects. He was an open-minded man, but given to indirect modes of expressing himself: when he was disappointed in a market for his silk braids, he swore at the groom; when his brother-in-law Bulstrode had vexed him, he made cutting remarks on Methodism; and it was now apparent that he regarded Fred’s idleness with a sudden increase of severity, by his throwing an embroidered cap out of the smoking-room on to the hall-floor.

“Well, sir,” he observed, when that young gentleman was moving off to bed, “I hope you’ve made up your mind now to go up next term and pass your examination. I’ve taken my resolution, so I advise you to lose no time in taking yours.”

Fred made no answer: he was too utterly depressed. Twenty-four hours ago he had thought that instead of needing to know what he should do, he should by this time know that he needed to do nothing: that he should hunt in pink, have a first-rate hunter, ride to cover on a fine hack, and be generally respected for doing so; moreover, that he should be able at once to pay Mr. Garth, and that Mary could no longer have any reason for not marrying him. And all this was to have come without study or other inconvenience, purely by the favor of providence in the shape of an old gentleman’s caprice. But now, at the end of the twenty-four hours, all those firm expectations were upset. It was “rather hard lines” that while he was smarting under this disappointment he should be treated as if he could have helped it. But he went away silently and his mother pleaded for him.

“Don’t be hard on the poor boy, Vincy. He’ll turn out well yet, though that wicked man has deceived him. I feel as sure as I sit here, Fred will turn out well—else why was he brought back from the brink of the grave? And I call it a robbery: it was like giving him the land, to promise it; and what is promising, if making everybody believe is not promising? And you see he did leave him ten thousand pounds, and then took it away again.”

“Took it away again!” said Mr. Vincy, pettishly. “I tell you the lad’s an unlucky lad, Lucy. And you’ve always spoiled him.”

“Well, Vincy, he was my first, and you made a fine fuss with him when he came. You were as proud as proud,” said Mrs. Vincy, easily recovering her cheerful smile.

“Who knows what babies will turn to? I was fool enough, I dare say,” said the husband—more mildly, however.

“But who has handsomer, better children than ours? Fred is far beyond other people’s sons: you may hear it in his speech, that he has kept college company. And Rosamond—where is there a girl like her? She might stand beside any lady in the land, and only look the better for it. You see—Mr. Lydgate has kept the highest company and been everywhere, and he fell in love with her at once. Not but what I could have wished Rosamond had not engaged herself. She might have met somebody on a visit who would have been a far better match; I mean at her schoolfellow Miss Willoughby’s. There are relations in that family quite as high as Mr. Lydgate’s.”

“Damn relations!” said Mr. Vincy; “I’ve had enough of them. I don’t want a son-in-law who has got nothing but his relations to recommend him.”

“Why, my dear,” said Mrs. Vincy, “you seemed as pleased as could be about it. It’s true, I wasn’t at home; but Rosamond told me you hadn’t a word to say against the engagement. And she has begun to buy in the best linen and cambric for her underclothing.”

“Not by my will,” said Mr. Vincy. “I shall have enough to do this year, with an idle scamp of a son, without paying for wedding-clothes. The times are as tight as can be; everybody is being ruined; and I don’t believe Lydgate has got a farthing. I shan’t give my consent to their marrying. Let ’em wait, as their elders have done before ’em.”

“Rosamond will take it hard, Vincy, and you know you never could bear to cross her.”

“Yes, I could. The sooner the engagement’s off, the better. I don’t believe he’ll ever make an income, the way he goes on. He makes enemies; that’s all I hear of his making.”

“But he stands very high with Mr. Bulstrode, my dear. The marriage would please him, I should think.”

“Please the deuce!” said Mr. Vincy. “Bulstrode won’t pay for their keep. And if Lydgate thinks I’m going to give money for them to set up housekeeping, he’s mistaken, that’s all. I expect I shall have to put down my horses soon. You’d better tell Rosy what I say.”

This was a not infrequent procedure with Mr. Vincy—to be rash in jovial assent, and on becoming subsequently conscious that he had been rash, to employ others in making the offensive retractation. However, Mrs. Vincy, who never willingly opposed her husband, lost no time the next morning in letting Rosamond know what he had said. Rosamond, examining some muslin-work, listened in silence, and at the end gave a certain turn of her graceful neck, of which only long experience could teach you that it meant perfect obstinacy.

“What do you say, my dear?” said her mother, with affectionate deference.

“Papa does not mean anything of the kind,” said Rosamond, quite calmly. “He has always said that he wished me to marry the man I loved. And I shall marry Mr. Lydgate. It is seven weeks now since papa gave his consent. And I hope we shall have Mrs. Bretton’s house.”

“Well, my dear, I shall leave you to manage your papa. You always do manage everybody. But if we ever do go and get damask, Sadler’s is the place—far better than Hopkins’s. Mrs. Bretton’s is very large, though: I should love you to have such a house; but it will take a great deal of furniture—carpeting and everything, besides plate and glass. And you hear, your papa says he will give no money. Do you think Mr. Lydgate expects it?”

“You cannot imagine that I should ask him, mamma. Of course he understands his own affairs.”

“But he may have been looking for money, my dear, and we all thought of your having a pretty legacy as well as Fred;—and now everything is so dreadful—there’s no pleasure in thinking of anything, with that poor boy disappointed as he is.”

“That has nothing to do with my marriage, mamma. Fred must leave off being idle. I am going up-stairs to take this work to Miss Morgan: she does the open hemming very well. Mary Garth might do some work for me now, I should think. Her sewing is exquisite; it is the nicest thing I know about Mary. I should so like to have all my cambric frilling double-hemmed. And it takes a long time.”

Mrs. Vincy’s belief that Rosamond could manage her papa was well founded. Apart from his dinners and his coursing, Mr. Vincy, blustering as he was, had as little of his own way as if he had been a prime minister: the force of circumstances was easily too much for him, as it is for most pleasure-loving florid men; and the circumstance called Rosamond was particularly forcible by means of that mild persistence which, as we know, enables a white soft living substance to make its way in spite of opposing rock. Papa was not a rock: he had no other fixity than that fixity of alternating impulses sometimes called habit, and this was altogether unfavorable to his taking the only decisive line of conduct in relation to his daughter’s engagement—namely, to inquire thoroughly into Lydgate’s circumstances, declare his own inability to furnish money, and forbid alike either a speedy marriage or an engagement which must be too lengthy. That seems very simple and easy in the statement; but a disagreeable resolve formed in the chill hours of the morning had as many conditions against it as the early frost, and rarely persisted under the warming influences of the day. The indirect though emphatic expression of opinion to which Mr. Vincy was prone suffered much restraint in this case: Lydgate was a proud man towards whom innuendoes were obviously unsafe, and throwing his hat on the floor was out of the question. Mr. Vincy was a little in awe of him, a little vain that he wanted to marry Rosamond, a little indisposed to raise a question of money in which his own position was not advantageous, a little afraid of being worsted in dialogue with a man better educated and more highly bred than himself, and a little afraid of doing what his daughter would not like. The part Mr. Vincy preferred playing was that of the generous host whom nobody criticises. In the earlier half of the day there was business to hinder any formal communication of an adverse resolve; in the later there was dinner, wine, whist, and general satisfaction. And in the mean while the hours were each leaving their little deposit and gradually forming the final reason for inaction, namely, that action was too late. The accepted lover spent most of his evenings in Lowick Gate, and a love-making not at all dependent on money-advances from fathers-in-law, or prospective income from a profession, went on flourishingly under Mr. Vincy’s own eyes. Young love-making—that gossamer web! Even the points it clings to—the things whence its subtle interlacings are swung—are scarcely perceptible: momentary touches of fingertips, meetings of rays from blue and dark orbs, unfinished phrases, lightest changes of cheek and lip, faintest tremors. The web itself is made of spontaneous beliefs and indefinable joys, yearnings of one life towards another, visions of completeness, indefinite trust. And Lydgate fell to spinning that web from his inward self with wonderful rapidity, in spite of experience supposed to be finished off with the drama of Laure—in spite too of medicine and biology; for the inspection of macerated muscle or of eyes presented in a dish (like Santa Lucia’s), and other incidents of scientific inquiry, are observed to be less incompatible with poetic love than a native dulness or a lively addiction to the lowest prose. As for Rosamond, she was in the water-lily’s expanding wonderment at its own fuller life, and she too was spinning industriously at the mutual web. All this went on in the corner of the drawing-room where the piano stood, and subtle as it was, the light made it a sort of rainbow visible to many observers besides Mr. Farebrother. The certainty that Miss Vincy and Mr. Lydgate were engaged became general in Middlemarch without the aid of formal announcement.

Aunt Bulstrode was again stirred to anxiety; but this time she addressed herself to her brother, going to the warehouse expressly to avoid Mrs. Vincy’s volatility. His replies were not satisfactory.

“Walter, you never mean to tell me that you have allowed all this to go on without inquiry into Mr. Lydgate’s prospects?” said Mrs. Bulstrode, opening her eyes with wider gravity at her brother, who was in his peevish warehouse humor. “Think of this girl brought up in luxury—in too worldly a way, I am sorry to say—what will she do on a small income?”

“Oh, confound it, Harriet! What can I do when men come into the town without any asking of mine? Did you shut your house up against Lydgate? Bulstrode has pushed him forward more than anybody. I never made any fuss about the young fellow. You should go and talk to your husband about it, not me.”

“Well, really, Walter, how can Mr. Bulstrode be to blame? I am sure he did not wish for the engagement.”

“Oh, if Bulstrode had not taken him by the hand, I should never have invited him.”

“But you called him in to attend on Fred, and I am sure that was a mercy,” said Mrs. Bulstrode, losing her clew in the intricacies of the subject.

“I don’t know about mercy,” said Mr. Vincy, testily. “I know I am worried more than I like with my family. I was a good brother to you, Harriet, before you married Bulstrode, and I must say he doesn’t always show that friendly spirit towards your family that might have been expected of him.” Mr. Vincy was very little like a Jesuit, but no accomplished Jesuit could have turned a question more adroitly. Harriet had to defend her husband instead of blaming her brother, and the conversation ended at a point as far from the beginning as some recent sparring between the brothers-in-law at a vestry meeting.

Mrs. Bulstrode did not repeat her brother’s complaints to her husband, but in the evening she spoke to him of Lydgate and Rosamond. He did not share her warm interest, however; and only spoke with resignation of the risks attendant on the beginning of medical practice and the desirability of prudence.

“I am sure we are bound to pray for that thoughtless girl—brought up as she has been,” said Mrs. Bulstrode, wishing to rouse her husband’s feelings.

“Truly, my dear,” said Mr. Bulstrode, assentingly. “Those who are not of this world can do little else to arrest the errors of the obstinately worldly. That is what we must accustom ourselves to recognize with regard to your brother’s family. I could have wished that Mr. Lydgate had not entered into such a union; but my relations with him are limited to that use of his gifts for God’s purposes which is taught us by the divine government under each dispensation.”

Mrs. Bulstrode said no more, attributing some dissatisfaction which she felt to her own want of spirituality. She believed that her husband was one of those men whose memoirs should be written when they died.

As to Lydgate himself, having been accepted, he was prepared to accept all the consequences which he believed himself to foresee with perfect clearness. Of course he must be married in a year—perhaps even in half a year. This was not what he had intended; but other schemes would not be hindered: they would simply adjust themselves anew. Marriage, of course, must be prepared for in the usual way. A house must be taken instead of the rooms he at present occupied; and Lydgate, having heard Rosamond speak with admiration of old Mrs. Bretton’s house (situated in Lowick Gate), took notice when it fell vacant after the old lady’s death, and immediately entered into treaty for it.

He did this in an episodic way, very much as he gave orders to his tailor for every requisite of perfect dress, without any notion of being extravagant. On the contrary, he would have despised any ostentation of expense; his profession had familiarized him with all grades of poverty, and he cared much for those who suffered hardships. He would have behaved perfectly at a table where the sauce was served in a jug with the handle off, and he would have remembered nothing about a grand dinner except that a man was there who talked well. But it had never occurred to him that he should live in any other than what he would have called an ordinary way, with green glasses for hock, and excellent waiting at table. In warming himself at French social theories he had brought away no smell of scorching. We may handle even extreme opinions with impunity while our furniture, our dinner-giving, and preference for armorial bearings in our own case, link us indissolubly with the established order. And Lydgate’s tendency was not towards extreme opinions: he would have liked no barefooted doctrines, being particular about his boots: he was no radical in relation to anything but medical reform and the prosecution of discovery. In the rest of practical life he walked by hereditary habit; half from that personal pride and unreflecting egoism which I have already called commonness, and half from that naivete which belonged to preoccupation with favorite ideas.

Any inward debate Lydgate had as to the consequences of this engagement which had stolen upon him, turned on the paucity of time rather than of money. Certainly, being in love and being expected continually by some one who always turned out to be prettier than memory could represent her to be, did interfere with the diligent use of spare hours which might serve some “plodding fellow of a German” to make the great, imminent discovery. This was really an argument for not deferring the marriage too long, as he implied to Mr. Farebrother, one day that the Vicar came to his room with some pond-products which he wanted to examine under a better microscope than his own, and, finding Lydgate’s tableful of apparatus and specimens in confusion, said sarcastically—

“Eros has degenerated; he began by introducing order and harmony, and now he brings back chaos.”

“Yes, at some stages,” said Lydgate, lifting his brows and smiling, while he began to arrange his microscope. “But a better order will begin after.”

“Soon?” said the Vicar.

“I hope so, really. This unsettled state of affairs uses up the time, and when one has notions in science, every moment is an opportunity. I feel sure that marriage must be the best thing for a man who wants to work steadily. He has everything at home then—no teasing with personal speculations—he can get calmness and freedom.”

“You are an enviable dog,” said the Vicar, “to have such a prospect—Rosamond, calmness and freedom, all to your share. Here am I with nothing but my pipe and pond-animalcules. Now, are you ready?”

Lydgate did not mention to the Vicar another reason he had for wishing to shorten the period of courtship. It was rather irritating to him, even with the wine of love in his veins, to be obliged to mingle so often with the family party at the Vincys’, and to enter so much into Middlemarch gossip, protracted good cheer, whist-playing, and general futility. He had to be deferential when Mr. Vincy decided questions with trenchant ignorance, especially as to those liquors which were the best inward pickle, preserving you from the effects of bad air. Mrs. Vincy’s openness and simplicity were quite unstreaked with suspicion as to the subtle offence she might give to the taste of her intended son-in-law; and altogether Lydgate had to confess to himself that he was descending a little in relation to Rosamond’s family. But that exquisite creature herself suffered in the same sort of way:—it was at least one delightful thought that in marrying her, he could give her a much-needed transplantation.

“Dear!” he said to her one evening, in his gentlest tone, as he sat down by her and looked closely at her face—

But I must first say that he had found her alone in the drawing-room, where the great old-fashioned window, almost as large as the side of the room, was opened to the summer scents of the garden at the back of the house. Her father and mother were gone to a party, and the rest were all out with the butterflies.

“Dear! your eyelids are red.”

“Are they?” said Rosamond. “I wonder why.” It was not in her nature to pour forth wishes or grievances. They only came forth gracefully on solicitation.

“As if you could hide it from me!” said Lydgate, laying his hand tenderly on both of hers. “Don’t I see a tiny drop on one of the lashes? Things trouble you, and you don’t tell me. That is unloving.”

“Why should I tell you what you cannot alter? They are every-day things:—perhaps they have been a little worse lately.”

“Family annoyances. Don’t fear speaking. I guess them.”

“Papa has been more irritable lately. Fred makes him angry, and this morning there was a fresh quarrel because Fred threatens to throw his whole education away, and do something quite beneath him. And besides—”

Rosamond hesitated, and her cheeks were gathering a slight flush. Lydgate had never seen her in trouble since the morning of their engagement, and he had never felt so passionately towards her as at this moment. He kissed the hesitating lips gently, as if to encourage them.

“I feel that papa is not quite pleased about our engagement,” Rosamond continued, almost in a whisper; “and he said last night that he should certainly speak to you and say it must be given up.”

“Will you give it up?” said Lydgate, with quick energy—almost angrily.

“I never give up anything that I choose to do,” said Rosamond, recovering her calmness at the touching of this chord.

“God bless you!” said Lydgate, kissing her again. This constancy of purpose in the right place was adorable. He went on:—

“It is too late now for your father to say that our engagement must be given up. You are of age, and I claim you as mine. If anything is done to make you unhappy,—that is a reason for hastening our marriage.”

An unmistakable delight shone forth from the blue eyes that met his, and the radiance seemed to light up all his future with mild sunshine. Ideal happiness (of the kind known in the Arabian Nights, in which you are invited to step from the labor and discord of the street into a paradise where everything is given to you and nothing claimed) seemed to be an affair of a few weeks’ waiting, more or less.

“Why should we defer it?” he said, with ardent insistence. “I have taken the house now: everything else can soon be got ready—can it not? You will not mind about new clothes. Those can be bought afterwards.”

“What original notions you clever men have!” said Rosamond, dimpling with more thorough laughter than usual at this humorous incongruity. “This is the first time I ever heard of wedding-clothes being bought after marriage.”

“But you don’t mean to say you would insist on my waiting months for the sake of clothes?” said Lydgate, half thinking that Rosamond was tormenting him prettily, and half fearing that she really shrank from speedy marriage. “Remember, we are looking forward to a better sort of happiness even than this—being continually together, independent of others, and ordering our lives as we will. Come, dear, tell me how soon you can be altogether mine.”

There was a serious pleading in Lydgate’s tone, as if he felt that she would be injuring him by any fantastic delays. Rosamond became serious too, and slightly meditative; in fact, she was going through many intricacies of lace-edging and hosiery and petticoat-tucking, in order to give an answer that would at least be approximative.

“Six weeks would be ample—say so, Rosamond,” insisted Lydgate, releasing her hands to put his arm gently round her.

One little hand immediately went to pat her hair, while she gave her neck a meditative turn, and then said seriously—

“There would be the house-linen and the furniture to be prepared. Still, mamma could see to those while we were away.”

“Yes, to be sure. We must be away a week or so.”

“Oh, more than that!” said Rosamond, earnestly. She was thinking of her evening dresses for the visit to Sir Godwin Lydgate’s, which she had long been secretly hoping for as a delightful employment of at least one quarter of the honeymoon, even if she deferred her introduction to the uncle who was a doctor of divinity (also a pleasing though sober kind of rank, when sustained by blood). She looked at her lover with some wondering remonstrance as she spoke, and he readily understood that she might wish to lengthen the sweet time of double solitude.

“Whatever you wish, my darling, when the day is fixed. But let us take a decided course, and put an end to any discomfort you may be suffering. Six weeks!—I am sure they would be ample.”

“I could certainly hasten the work,” said Rosamond. “Will you, then, mention it to papa?—I think it would be better to write to him.” She blushed and looked at him as the garden flowers look at us when we walk forth happily among them in the transcendent evening light: is there not a soul beyond utterance, half nymph, half child, in those delicate petals which glow and breathe about the centres of deep color?

He touched her ear and a little bit of neck under it with his lips, and they sat quite still for many minutes which flowed by them like a small gurgling brook with the kisses of the sun upon it. Rosamond thought that no one could be more in love than she was; and Lydgate thought that after all his wild mistakes and absurd credulity, he had found perfect womanhood—felt as if already breathed upon by exquisite wedded affection such as would be bestowed by an accomplished creature who venerated his high musings and momentous labors and would never interfere with them; who would create order in the home and accounts with still magic, yet keep her fingers ready to touch the lute and transform life into romance at any moment; who was instructed to the true womanly limit and not a hair’s-breadth beyond—docile, therefore, and ready to carry out behests which came from that limit. It was plainer now than ever that his notion of remaining much longer a bachelor had been a mistake: marriage would not be an obstruction but a furtherance. And happening the next day to accompany a patient to Brassing, he saw a dinner-service there which struck him as so exactly the right thing that he bought it at once. It saved time to do these things just when you thought of them, and Lydgate hated ugly crockery. The dinner-service in question was expensive, but that might be in the nature of dinner-services. Furnishing was necessarily expensive; but then it had to be done only once.

“It must be lovely,” said Mrs. Vincy, when Lydgate mentioned his purchase with some descriptive touches. “Just what Rosy ought to have. I trust in heaven it won’t be broken!”

“One must hire servants who will not break things,” said Lydgate. (Certainly, this was reasoning with an imperfect vision of sequences. But at that period there was no sort of reasoning which was not more or less sanctioned by men of science.)

Of course it was unnecessary to defer the mention of anything to mamma, who did not readily take views that were not cheerful, and being a happy wife herself, had hardly any feeling but pride in her daughter’s marriage. But Rosamond had good reasons for suggesting to Lydgate that papa should be appealed to in writing. She prepared for the arrival of the letter by walking with her papa to the warehouse the next morning, and telling him on the way that Mr. Lydgate wished to be married soon.

“Nonsense, my dear!” said Mr. Vincy. “What has he got to marry on? You’d much better give up the engagement. I’ve told you so pretty plainly before this. What have you had such an education for, if you are to go and marry a poor man? It’s a cruel thing for a father to see.”

“Mr. Lydgate is not poor, papa. He bought Mr. Peacock’s practice, which, they say, is worth eight or nine hundred a-year.”

“Stuff and nonsense! What’s buying a practice? He might as well buy next year’s swallows. It’ll all slip through his fingers.”

“On the contrary, papa, he will increase the practice. See how he has been called in by the Chettams and Casaubons.”

“I hope he knows I shan’t give anything—with this disappointment about Fred, and Parliament going to be dissolved, and machine-breaking everywhere, and an election coming on—”

“Dear papa! what can that have to do with my marriage?”

“A pretty deal to do with it! We may all be ruined for what I know—the country’s in that state! Some say it’s the end of the world, and be hanged if I don’t think it looks like it! Anyhow, it’s not a time for me to be drawing money out of my business, and I should wish Lydgate to know that.”

“I am sure he expects nothing, papa. And he has such very high connections: he is sure to rise in one way or another. He is engaged in making scientific discoveries.”

Mr. Vincy was silent.

“I cannot give up my only prospect of happiness, papa. Mr. Lydgate is a gentleman. I could never love any one who was not a perfect gentleman. You would not like me to go into a consumption, as Arabella Hawley did. And you know that I never change my mind.”

Again papa was silent.

“Promise me, papa, that you will consent to what we wish. We shall never give each other up; and you know that you have always objected to long courtships and late marriages.”

There was a little more urgency of this kind, till Mr. Vincy said, “Well, well, child, he must write to me first before I can answer him,”—and Rosamond was certain that she had gained her point.

Mr. Vincy’s answer consisted chiefly in a demand that Lydgate should insure his life—a demand immediately conceded. This was a delightfully reassuring idea supposing that Lydgate died, but in the mean time not a self-supporting idea. However, it seemed to make everything comfortable about Rosamond’s marriage; and the necessary purchases went on with much spirit. Not without prudential considerations, however. A bride (who is going to visit at a baronet’s) must have a few first-rate pocket-handkerchiefs; but beyond the absolutely necessary half-dozen, Rosamond contented herself without the very highest style of embroidery and Valenciennes. Lydgate also, finding that his sum of eight hundred pounds had been considerably reduced since he had come to Middlemarch, restrained his inclination for some plate of an old pattern which was shown to him when he went into Kibble’s establishment at Brassing to buy forks and spoons. He was too proud to act as if he presupposed that Mr. Vincy would advance money to provide furniture; and though, since it would not be necessary to pay for everything at once, some bills would be left standing over, he did not waste time in conjecturing how much his father-in-law would give in the form of dowry, to make payment easy. He was not going to do anything extravagant, but the requisite things must be bought, and it would be bad economy to buy them of a poor quality. All these matters were by the bye. Lydgate foresaw that science and his profession were the objects he should alone pursue enthusiastically; but he could not imagine himself pursuing them in such a home as Wrench had—the doors all open, the oil-cloth worn, the children in soiled pinafores, and lunch lingering in the form of bones, black-handled knives, and willow-pattern. But Wrench had a wretched lymphatic wife who made a mummy of herself indoors in a large shawl; and he must have altogether begun with an ill-chosen domestic apparatus.

Rosamond, however, was on her side much occupied with conjectures, though her quick imitative perception warned her against betraying them too crudely.

“I shall like so much to know your family,” she said one day, when the wedding journey was being discussed. “We might perhaps take a direction that would allow us to see them as we returned. Which of your uncles do you like best?”

“Oh,—my uncle Godwin, I think. He is a good-natured old fellow.”

“You were constantly at his house at Quallingham, when you were a boy, were you not? I should so like to see the old spot and everything you were used to. Does he know you are going to be married?”

“No,” said Lydgate, carelessly, turning in his chair and rubbing his hair up.

“Do send him word of it, you naughty undutiful nephew. He will perhaps ask you to take me to Quallingham; and then you could show me about the grounds, and I could imagine you there when you were a boy. Remember, you see me in my home, just as it has been since I was a child. It is not fair that I should be so ignorant of yours. But perhaps you would be a little ashamed of me. I forgot that.”

Lydgate smiled at her tenderly, and really accepted the suggestion that the proud pleasure of showing so charming a bride was worth some trouble. And now he came to think of it, he would like to see the old spots with Rosamond.

“I will write to him, then. But my cousins are bores.”

It seemed magnificent to Rosamond to be able to speak so slightingly of a baronet’s family, and she felt much contentment in the prospect of being able to estimate them contemptuously on her own account.

But mamma was near spoiling all, a day or two later, by saying—

“I hope your uncle Sir Godwin will not look down on Rosy, Mr. Lydgate. I should think he would do something handsome. A thousand or two can be nothing to a baronet.”

“Mamma!” said Rosamond, blushing deeply; and Lydgate pitied her so much that he remained silent and went to the other end of the room to examine a print curiously, as if he had been absent-minded. Mamma had a little filial lecture afterwards, and was docile as usual. But Rosamond reflected that if any of those high-bred cousins who were bores, should be induced to visit Middlemarch, they would see many things in her own family which might shock them. Hence it seemed desirable that Lydgate should by-and-by get some first-rate position elsewhere than in Middlemarch; and this could hardly be difficult in the case of a man who had a titled uncle and could make discoveries. Lydgate, you perceive, had talked fervidly to Rosamond of his hopes as to the highest uses of his life, and had found it delightful to be listened to by a creature who would bring him the sweet furtherance of satisfying affection—beauty—repose—such help as our thoughts get from the summer sky and the flower-fringed meadows.

Lydgate relied much on the psychological difference between what for the sake of variety I will call goose and gander: especially on the innate submissiveness of the goose as beautifully corresponding to the strength of the gander.



CHAPTER XXXVII.

Thrice happy she that is so well assured
Unto herself and settled so in heart
That neither will for better be allured
Ne fears to worse with any chance to start,
But like a steddy ship doth strongly part
The raging waves and keeps her course aright;
Ne aught for tempest doth from it depart,
Ne aught for fairer weather’s false delight.
Such self-assurance need not fear the spight
Of grudging foes; ne favour seek of friends;
But in the stay of her own stedfast might
Neither to one herself nor other bends.
    Most happy she that most assured doth rest,
    But he most happy who such one loves best.
—SPENSER.

The doubt hinted by Mr. Vincy whether it were only the general election or the end of the world that was coming on, now that George the Fourth was dead, Parliament dissolved, Wellington and Peel generally depreciated and the new King apologetic, was a feeble type of the uncertainties in provincial opinion at that time. With the glow-worm lights of country places, how could men see which were their own thoughts in the confusion of a Tory Ministry passing Liberal measures, of Tory nobles and electors being anxious to return Liberals rather than friends of the recreant Ministers, and of outcries for remedies which seemed to have a mysteriously remote bearing on private interest, and were made suspicious by the advocacy of disagreeable neighbors? Buyers of the Middlemarch newspapers found themselves in an anomalous position: during the agitation on the Catholic Question many had given up the “Pioneer”—which had a motto from Charles James Fox and was in the van of progress—because it had taken Peel’s side about the Papists, and had thus blotted its Liberalism with a toleration of Jesuitry and Baal; but they were ill-satisfied with the “Trumpet,” which—since its blasts against Rome, and in the general flaccidity of the public mind (nobody knowing who would support whom)—had become feeble in its blowing.

It was a time, according to a noticeable article in the “Pioneer,” when the crying needs of the country might well counteract a reluctance to public action on the part of men whose minds had from long experience acquired breadth as well as concentration, decision of judgment as well as tolerance, dispassionateness as well as energy—in fact, all those qualities which in the melancholy experience of mankind have been the least disposed to share lodgings.

Mr. Hackbutt, whose fluent speech was at that time floating more widely than usual, and leaving much uncertainty as to its ultimate channel, was heard to say in Mr. Hawley’s office that the article in question “emanated” from Brooke of Tipton, and that Brooke had secretly bought the “Pioneer” some months ago.

“That means mischief, eh?” said Mr. Hawley. “He’s got the freak of being a popular man now, after dangling about like a stray tortoise. So much the worse for him. I’ve had my eye on him for some time. He shall be prettily pumped upon. He’s a damned bad landlord. What business has an old county man to come currying favor with a low set of dark-blue freemen? As to his paper, I only hope he may do the writing himself. It would be worth our paying for.”

“I understand he has got a very brilliant young fellow to edit it, who can write the highest style of leading article, quite equal to anything in the London papers. And he means to take very high ground on Reform.”

“Let Brooke reform his rent-roll. He’s a cursed old screw, and the buildings all over his estate are going to rack. I suppose this young fellow is some loose fish from London.”

“His name is Ladislaw. He is said to be of foreign extraction.”

“I know the sort,” said Mr. Hawley; “some emissary. He’ll begin with flourishing about the Rights of Man and end with murdering a wench. That’s the style.”

“You must concede that there are abuses, Hawley,” said Mr. Hackbutt, foreseeing some political disagreement with his family lawyer. “I myself should never favor immoderate views—in fact I take my stand with Huskisson—but I cannot blind myself to the consideration that the non-representation of large towns—”

“Large towns be damned!” said Mr. Hawley, impatient of exposition. “I know a little too much about Middlemarch elections. Let ’em quash every pocket borough to-morrow, and bring in every mushroom town in the kingdom—they’ll only increase the expense of getting into Parliament. I go upon facts.”

Mr. Hawley’s disgust at the notion of the “Pioneer” being edited by an emissary, and of Brooke becoming actively political—as if a tortoise of desultory pursuits should protrude its small head ambitiously and become rampant—was hardly equal to the annoyance felt by some members of Mr. Brooke’s own family. The result had oozed forth gradually, like the discovery that your neighbor has set up an unpleasant kind of manufacture which will be permanently under your nostrils without legal remedy. The “Pioneer” had been secretly bought even before Will Ladislaw’s arrival, the expected opportunity having offered itself in the readiness of the proprietor to part with a valuable property which did not pay; and in the interval since Mr. Brooke had written his invitation, those germinal ideas of making his mind tell upon the world at large which had been present in him from his younger years, but had hitherto lain in some obstruction, had been sprouting under cover.

The development was much furthered by a delight in his guest which proved greater even than he had anticipated. For it seemed that Will was not only at home in all those artistic and literary subjects which Mr. Brooke had gone into at one time, but that he was strikingly ready at seizing the points of the political situation, and dealing with them in that large spirit which, aided by adequate memory, lends itself to quotation and general effectiveness of treatment.

“He seems to me a kind of Shelley, you know,” Mr. Brooke took an opportunity of saying, for the gratification of Mr. Casaubon. “I don’t mean as to anything objectionable—laxities or atheism, or anything of that kind, you know—Ladislaw’s sentiments in every way I am sure are good—indeed, we were talking a great deal together last night. But he has the same sort of enthusiasm for liberty, freedom, emancipation—a fine thing under guidance—under guidance, you know. I think I shall be able to put him on the right tack; and I am the more pleased because he is a relation of yours, Casaubon.”

If the right tack implied anything more precise than the rest of Mr. Brooke’s speech, Mr. Casaubon silently hoped that it referred to some occupation at a great distance from Lowick. He had disliked Will while he helped him, but he had begun to dislike him still more now that Will had declined his help. That is the way with us when we have any uneasy jealousy in our disposition: if our talents are chiefly of the burrowing kind, our honey-sipping cousin (whom we have grave reasons for objecting to) is likely to have a secret contempt for us, and any one who admires him passes an oblique criticism on ourselves. Having the scruples of rectitude in our souls, we are above the meanness of injuring him—rather we meet all his claims on us by active benefits; and the drawing of cheques for him, being a superiority which he must recognize, gives our bitterness a milder infusion. Now Mr. Casaubon had been deprived of that superiority (as anything more than a remembrance) in a sudden, capricious manner. His antipathy to Will did not spring from the common jealousy of a winter-worn husband: it was something deeper, bred by his lifelong claims and discontents; but Dorothea, now that she was present—Dorothea, as a young wife who herself had shown an offensive capability of criticism, necessarily gave concentration to the uneasiness which had before been vague.

Will Ladislaw on his side felt that his dislike was flourishing at the expense of his gratitude, and spent much inward discourse in justifying the dislike. Casaubon hated him—he knew that very well; on his first entrance he could discern a bitterness in the mouth and a venom in the glance which would almost justify declaring war in spite of past benefits. He was much obliged to Casaubon in the past, but really the act of marrying this wife was a set-off against the obligation. It was a question whether gratitude which refers to what is done for one’s self ought not to give way to indignation at what is done against another. And Casaubon had done a wrong to Dorothea in marrying her. A man was bound to know himself better than that, and if he chose to grow gray crunching bones in a cavern, he had no business to be luring a girl into his companionship. “It is the most horrible of virgin-sacrifices,” said Will; and he painted to himself what were Dorothea’s inward sorrows as if he had been writing a choric wail. But he would never lose sight of her: he would watch over her—if he gave up everything else in life he would watch over her, and she should know that she had one slave in the world. Will had—to use Sir Thomas Browne’s phrase—a “passionate prodigality” of statement both to himself and others. The simple truth was that nothing then invited him so strongly as the presence of Dorothea.

Invitations of the formal kind had been wanting, however, for Will had never been asked to go to Lowick. Mr. Brooke, indeed, confident of doing everything agreeable which Casaubon, poor fellow, was too much absorbed to think of, had arranged to bring Ladislaw to Lowick several times (not neglecting meanwhile to introduce him elsewhere on every opportunity as “a young relative of Casaubon’s”). And though Will had not seen Dorothea alone, their interviews had been enough to restore her former sense of young companionship with one who was cleverer than herself, yet seemed ready to be swayed by her. Poor Dorothea before her marriage had never found much room in other minds for what she cared most to say; and she had not, as we know, enjoyed her husband’s superior instruction so much as she had expected. If she spoke with any keenness of interest to Mr. Casaubon, he heard her with an air of patience as if she had given a quotation from the Delectus familiar to him from his tender years, and sometimes mentioned curtly what ancient sects or personages had held similar ideas, as if there were too much of that sort in stock already; at other times he would inform her that she was mistaken, and reassert what her remark had questioned.

But Will Ladislaw always seemed to see more in what she said than she herself saw. Dorothea had little vanity, but she had the ardent woman’s need to rule beneficently by making the joy of another soul. Hence the mere chance of seeing Will occasionally was like a lunette opened in the wall of her prison, giving her a glimpse of the sunny air; and this pleasure began to nullify her original alarm at what her husband might think about the introduction of Will as her uncle’s guest. On this subject Mr. Casaubon had remained dumb.

But Will wanted to talk with Dorothea alone, and was impatient of slow circumstance. However slight the terrestrial intercourse between Dante and Beatrice or Petrarch and Laura, time changes the proportion of things, and in later days it is preferable to have fewer sonnets and more conversation. Necessity excused stratagem, but stratagem was limited by the dread of offending Dorothea. He found out at last that he wanted to take a particular sketch at Lowick; and one morning when Mr. Brooke had to drive along the Lowick road on his way to the county town, Will asked to be set down with his sketch-book and camp-stool at Lowick, and without announcing himself at the Manor settled himself to sketch in a position where he must see Dorothea if she came out to walk—and he knew that she usually walked an hour in the morning.

But the stratagem was defeated by the weather. Clouds gathered with treacherous quickness, the rain came down, and Will was obliged to take shelter in the house. He intended, on the strength of relationship, to go into the drawing-room and wait there without being announced; and seeing his old acquaintance the butler in the hall, he said, “Don’t mention that I am here, Pratt; I will wait till luncheon; I know Mr. Casaubon does not like to be disturbed when he is in the library.”

“Master is out, sir; there’s only Mrs. Casaubon in the library. I’d better tell her you’re here, sir,” said Pratt, a red-cheeked man given to lively converse with Tantripp, and often agreeing with her that it must be dull for Madam.

“Oh, very well; this confounded rain has hindered me from sketching,” said Will, feeling so happy that he affected indifference with delightful ease.

In another minute he was in the library, and Dorothea was meeting him with her sweet unconstrained smile.

“Mr. Casaubon has gone to the Archdeacon’s,” she said, at once. “I don’t know whether he will be at home again long before dinner. He was uncertain how long he should be. Did you want to say anything particular to him?”

“No; I came to sketch, but the rain drove me in. Else I would not have disturbed you yet. I supposed that Mr. Casaubon was here, and I know he dislikes interruption at this hour.”

“I am indebted to the rain, then. I am so glad to see you.” Dorothea uttered these common words with the simple sincerity of an unhappy child, visited at school.

“I really came for the chance of seeing you alone,” said Will, mysteriously forced to be just as simple as she was. He could not stay to ask himself, why not? “I wanted to talk about things, as we did in Rome. It always makes a difference when other people are present.”

“Yes,” said Dorothea, in her clear full tone of assent. “Sit down.” She seated herself on a dark ottoman with the brown books behind her, looking in her plain dress of some thin woollen-white material, without a single ornament on her besides her wedding-ring, as if she were under a vow to be different from all other women; and Will sat down opposite her at two yards’ distance, the light falling on his bright curls and delicate but rather petulant profile, with its defiant curves of lip and chin. Each looked at the other as if they had been two flowers which had opened then and there. Dorothea for the moment forgot her husband’s mysterious irritation against Will: it seemed fresh water at her thirsty lips to speak without fear to the one person whom she had found receptive; for in looking backward through sadness she exaggerated a past solace.

“I have often thought that I should like to talk to you again,” she said, immediately. “It seems strange to me how many things I said to you.”

“I remember them all,” said Will, with the unspeakable content in his soul of feeling that he was in the presence of a creature worthy to be perfectly loved. I think his own feelings at that moment were perfect, for we mortals have our divine moments, when love is satisfied in the completeness of the beloved object.

“I have tried to learn a great deal since we were in Rome,” said Dorothea. “I can read Latin a little, and I am beginning to understand just a little Greek. I can help Mr. Casaubon better now. I can find out references for him and save his eyes in many ways. But it is very difficult to be learned; it seems as if people were worn out on the way to great thoughts, and can never enjoy them because they are too tired.”

“If a man has a capacity for great thoughts, he is likely to overtake them before he is decrepit,” said Will, with irrepressible quickness. But through certain sensibilities Dorothea was as quick as he, and seeing her face change, he added, immediately, “But it is quite true that the best minds have been sometimes overstrained in working out their ideas.”

“You correct me,” said Dorothea. “I expressed myself ill. I should have said that those who have great thoughts get too much worn in working them out. I used to feel about that, even when I was a little girl; and it always seemed to me that the use I should like to make of my life would be to help some one who did great works, so that his burthen might be lighter.”

Dorothea was led on to this bit of autobiography without any sense of making a revelation. But she had never before said anything to Will which threw so strong a light on her marriage. He did not shrug his shoulders; and for want of that muscular outlet he thought the more irritably of beautiful lips kissing holy skulls and other emptinesses ecclesiastically enshrined. Also he had to take care that his speech should not betray that thought.

“But you may easily carry the help too far,” he said, “and get over-wrought yourself. Are you not too much shut up? You already look paler. It would be better for Mr. Casaubon to have a secretary; he could easily get a man who would do half his work for him. It would save him more effectually, and you need only help him in lighter ways.”

“How can you think of that?” said Dorothea, in a tone of earnest remonstrance. “I should have no happiness if I did not help him in his work. What could I do? There is no good to be done in Lowick. The only thing I desire is to help him more. And he objects to a secretary: please not to mention that again.”

“Certainly not, now I know your feeling. But I have heard both Mr. Brooke and Sir James Chettam express the same wish.”

“Yes,” said Dorothea, “but they don’t understand—they want me to be a great deal on horseback, and have the garden altered and new conservatories, to fill up my days. I thought you could understand that one’s mind has other wants,” she added, rather impatiently—“besides, Mr. Casaubon cannot bear to hear of a secretary.”

“My mistake is excusable,” said Will. “In old days I used to hear Mr. Casaubon speak as if he looked forward to having a secretary. Indeed he held out the prospect of that office to me. But I turned out to be—not good enough for it.”

Dorothea was trying to extract out of this an excuse for her husband’s evident repulsion, as she said, with a playful smile, “You were not a steady worker enough.”

“No,” said Will, shaking his head backward somewhat after the manner of a spirited horse. And then, the old irritable demon prompting him to give another good pinch at the moth-wings of poor Mr. Casaubon’s glory, he went on, “And I have seen since that Mr. Casaubon does not like any one to overlook his work and know thoroughly what he is doing. He is too doubtful—too uncertain of himself. I may not be good for much, but he dislikes me because I disagree with him.”

Will was not without his intentions to be always generous, but our tongues are little triggers which have usually been pulled before general intentions can be brought to bear. And it was too intolerable that Casaubon’s dislike of him should not be fairly accounted for to Dorothea. Yet when he had spoken he was rather uneasy as to the effect on her.

But Dorothea was strangely quiet—not immediately indignant, as she had been on a like occasion in Rome. And the cause lay deep. She was no longer struggling against the perception of facts, but adjusting herself to their clearest perception; and now when she looked steadily at her husband’s failure, still more at his possible consciousness of failure, she seemed to be looking along the one track where duty became tenderness. Will’s want of reticence might have been met with more severity, if he had not already been recommended to her mercy by her husband’s dislike, which must seem hard to her till she saw better reason for it.

She did not answer at once, but after looking down ruminatingly she said, with some earnestness, “Mr. Casaubon must have overcome his dislike of you so far as his actions were concerned: and that is admirable.”

“Yes; he has shown a sense of justice in family matters. It was an abominable thing that my grandmother should have been disinherited because she made what they called a mesalliance, though there was nothing to be said against her husband except that he was a Polish refugee who gave lessons for his bread.”

“I wish I knew all about her!” said Dorothea. “I wonder how she bore the change from wealth to poverty: I wonder whether she was happy with her husband! Do you know much about them?”

“No; only that my grandfather was a patriot—a bright fellow—could speak many languages—musical—got his bread by teaching all sorts of things. They both died rather early. And I never knew much of my father, beyond what my mother told me; but he inherited the musical talents. I remember his slow walk and his long thin hands; and one day remains with me when he was lying ill, and I was very hungry, and had only a little bit of bread.”

“Ah, what a different life from mine!” said Dorothea, with keen interest, clasping her hands on her lap. “I have always had too much of everything. But tell me how it was—Mr. Casaubon could not have known about you then.”

“No; but my father had made himself known to Mr. Casaubon, and that was my last hungry day. My father died soon after, and my mother and I were well taken care of. Mr. Casaubon always expressly recognized it as his duty to take care of us because of the harsh injustice which had been shown to his mother’s sister. But now I am telling you what is not new to you.”

In his inmost soul Will was conscious of wishing to tell Dorothea what was rather new even in his own construction of things—namely, that Mr. Casaubon had never done more than pay a debt towards him. Will was much too good a fellow to be easy under the sense of being ungrateful. And when gratitude has become a matter of reasoning there are many ways of escaping from its bonds.

“No,” answered Dorothea; “Mr. Casaubon has always avoided dwelling on his own honorable actions.” She did not feel that her husband’s conduct was depreciated; but this notion of what justice had required in his relations with Will Ladislaw took strong hold on her mind. After a moment’s pause, she added, “He had never told me that he supported your mother. Is she still living?”

“No; she died by an accident—a fall—four years ago. It is curious that my mother, too, ran away from her family, but not for the sake of her husband. She never would tell me anything about her family, except that she forsook them to get her own living—went on the stage, in fact. She was a dark-eyed creature, with crisp ringlets, and never seemed to be getting old. You see I come of rebellious blood on both sides,” Will ended, smiling brightly at Dorothea, while she was still looking with serious intentness before her, like a child seeing a drama for the first time.

But her face, too, broke into a smile as she said, “That is your apology, I suppose, for having yourself been rather rebellious; I mean, to Mr. Casaubon’s wishes. You must remember that you have not done what he thought best for you. And if he dislikes you—you were speaking of dislike a little while ago—but I should rather say, if he has shown any painful feelings towards you, you must consider how sensitive he has become from the wearing effect of study. Perhaps,” she continued, getting into a pleading tone, “my uncle has not told you how serious Mr. Casaubon’s illness was. It would be very petty of us who are well and can bear things, to think much of small offences from those who carry a weight of trial.”

“You teach me better,” said Will. “I will never grumble on that subject again.” There was a gentleness in his tone which came from the unutterable contentment of perceiving—what Dorothea was hardly conscious of—that she was travelling into the remoteness of pure pity and loyalty towards her husband. Will was ready to adore her pity and loyalty, if she would associate himself with her in manifesting them. “I have really sometimes been a perverse fellow,” he went on, “but I will never again, if I can help it, do or say what you would disapprove.”

“That is very good of you,” said Dorothea, with another open smile. “I shall have a little kingdom then, where I shall give laws. But you will soon go away, out of my rule, I imagine. You will soon be tired of staying at the Grange.”

“That is a point I wanted to mention to you—one of the reasons why I wished to speak to you alone. Mr. Brooke proposes that I should stay in this neighborhood. He has bought one of the Middlemarch newspapers, and he wishes me to conduct that, and also to help him in other ways.”

“Would not that be a sacrifice of higher prospects for you?” said Dorothea.

“Perhaps; but I have always been blamed for thinking of prospects, and not settling to anything. And here is something offered to me. If you would not like me to accept it, I will give it up. Otherwise I would rather stay in this part of the country than go away. I belong to nobody anywhere else.”

“I should like you to stay very much,” said Dorothea, at once, as simply and readily as she had spoken at Rome. There was not the shadow of a reason in her mind at the moment why she should not say so.

“Then I will stay,” said Ladislaw, shaking his head backward, rising and going towards the window, as if to see whether the rain had ceased.

But the next moment, Dorothea, according to a habit which was getting continually stronger, began to reflect that her husband felt differently from herself, and she colored deeply under the double embarrassment of having expressed what might be in opposition to her husband’s feeling, and of having to suggest this opposition to Will. His face was not turned towards her, and this made it easier to say—

“But my opinion is of little consequence on such a subject. I think you should be guided by Mr. Casaubon. I spoke without thinking of anything else than my own feeling, which has nothing to do with the real question. But it now occurs to me—perhaps Mr. Casaubon might see that the proposal was not wise. Can you not wait now and mention it to him?”

“I can’t wait to-day,” said Will, inwardly seared by the possibility that Mr. Casaubon would enter. “The rain is quite over now. I told Mr. Brooke not to call for me: I would rather walk the five miles. I shall strike across Halsell Common, and see the gleams on the wet grass. I like that.”

He approached her to shake hands quite hurriedly, longing but not daring to say, “Don’t mention the subject to Mr. Casaubon.” No, he dared not, could not say it. To ask her to be less simple and direct would be like breathing on the crystal that you want to see the light through. And there was always the other great dread—of himself becoming dimmed and forever ray-shorn in her eyes.

“I wish you could have stayed,” said Dorothea, with a touch of mournfulness, as she rose and put out her hand. She also had her thought which she did not like to express:—Will certainly ought to lose no time in consulting Mr. Casaubon’s wishes, but for her to urge this might seem an undue dictation.

So they only said “Good-by,” and Will quitted the house, striking across the fields so as not to run any risk of encountering Mr. Casaubon’s carriage, which, however, did not appear at the gate until four o’clock. That was an unpropitious hour for coming home: it was too early to gain the moral support under ennui of dressing his person for dinner, and too late to undress his mind of the day’s frivolous ceremony and affairs, so as to be prepared for a good plunge into the serious business of study. On such occasions he usually threw into an easy-chair in the library, and allowed Dorothea to read the London papers to him, closing his eyes the while. To-day, however, he declined that relief, observing that he had already had too many public details urged upon him; but he spoke more cheerfully than usual, when Dorothea asked about his fatigue, and added with that air of formal effort which never forsook him even when he spoke without his waistcoat and cravat—

“I have had the gratification of meeting my former acquaintance, Dr. Spanning, to-day, and of being praised by one who is himself a worthy recipient of praise. He spoke very handsomely of my late tractate on the Egyptian Mysteries,—using, in fact, terms which it would not become me to repeat.” In uttering the last clause, Mr. Casaubon leaned over the elbow of his chair, and swayed his head up and down, apparently as a muscular outlet instead of that recapitulation which would not have been becoming.

“I am very glad you have had that pleasure,” said Dorothea, delighted to see her husband less weary than usual at this hour. “Before you came I had been regretting that you happened to be out to-day.”

“Why so, my dear?” said Mr. Casaubon, throwing himself backward again.

“Because Mr. Ladislaw has been here; and he has mentioned a proposal of my uncle’s which I should like to know your opinion of.” Her husband she felt was really concerned in this question. Even with her ignorance of the world she had a vague impression that the position offered to Will was out of keeping with his family connections, and certainly Mr. Casaubon had a claim to be consulted. He did not speak, but merely bowed.

“Dear uncle, you know, has many projects. It appears that he has bought one of the Middlemarch newspapers, and he has asked Mr. Ladislaw to stay in this neighborhood and conduct the paper for him, besides helping him in other ways.”

Dorothea looked at her husband while she spoke, but he had at first blinked and finally closed his eyes, as if to save them; while his lips became more tense. “What is your opinion?” she added, rather timidly, after a slight pause.

“Did Mr. Ladislaw come on purpose to ask my opinion?” said Mr. Casaubon, opening his eyes narrowly with a knife-edged look at Dorothea. She was really uncomfortable on the point he inquired about, but she only became a little more serious, and her eyes did not swerve.

“No,” she answered immediately, “he did not say that he came to ask your opinion. But when he mentioned the proposal, he of course expected me to tell you of it.”

Mr. Casaubon was silent.

“I feared that you might feel some objection. But certainly a young man with so much talent might be very useful to my uncle—might help him to do good in a better way. And Mr. Ladislaw wishes to have some fixed occupation. He has been blamed, he says, for not seeking something of that kind, and he would like to stay in this neighborhood because no one cares for him elsewhere.”

Dorothea felt that this was a consideration to soften her husband. However, he did not speak, and she presently recurred to Dr. Spanning and the Archdeacon’s breakfast. But there was no longer sunshine on these subjects.

The next morning, without Dorothea’s knowledge, Mr. Casaubon despatched the following letter, beginning “Dear Mr. Ladislaw” (he had always before addressed him as “Will”):—

“Mrs. Casaubon informs me that a proposal has been made to you, and (according to an inference by no means stretched) has on your part been in some degree entertained, which involves your residence in this neighborhood in a capacity which I am justified in saying touches my own position in such a way as renders it not only natural and warrantable in me when that effect is viewed under the influence of legitimate feeling, but incumbent on me when the same effect is considered in the light of my responsibilities, to state at once that your acceptance of the proposal above indicated would be highly offensive to me. That I have some claim to the exercise of a veto here, would not, I believe, be denied by any reasonable person cognizant of the relations between us: relations which, though thrown into the past by your recent procedure, are not thereby annulled in their character of determining antecedents. I will not here make reflections on any person’s judgment. It is enough for me to point out to yourself that there are certain social fitnesses and proprieties which should hinder a somewhat near relative of mine from becoming any wise conspicuous in this vicinity in a status not only much beneath my own, but associated at best with the sciolism of literary or political adventurers. At any rate, the contrary issue must exclude you from further reception at my house.
Yours faithfully,
“EDWARD CASAUBON.”

Meanwhile Dorothea’s mind was innocently at work towards the further embitterment of her husband; dwelling, with a sympathy that grew to agitation, on what Will had told her about his parents and grandparents. Any private hours in her day were usually spent in her blue-green boudoir, and she had come to be very fond of its pallid quaintness. Nothing had been outwardly altered there; but while the summer had gradually advanced over the western fields beyond the avenue of elms, the bare room had gathered within it those memories of an inward life which fill the air as with a cloud of good or bad angels, the invisible yet active forms of our spiritual triumphs or our spiritual falls. She had been so used to struggle for and to find resolve in looking along the avenue towards the arch of western light that the vision itself had gained a communicating power. Even the pale stag seemed to have reminding glances and to mean mutely, “Yes, we know.” And the group of delicately touched miniatures had made an audience as of beings no longer disturbed about their own earthly lot, but still humanly interested. Especially the mysterious “Aunt Julia” about whom Dorothea had never found it easy to question her husband.

And now, since her conversation with Will, many fresh images had gathered round that Aunt Julia who was Will’s grandmother; the presence of that delicate miniature, so like a living face that she knew, helping to concentrate her feelings. What a wrong, to cut off the girl from the family protection and inheritance only because she had chosen a man who was poor! Dorothea, early troubling her elders with questions about the facts around her, had wrought herself into some independent clearness as to the historical, political reasons why eldest sons had superior rights, and why land should be entailed: those reasons, impressing her with a certain awe, might be weightier than she knew, but here was a question of ties which left them uninfringed. Here was a daughter whose child—even according to the ordinary aping of aristocratic institutions by people who are no more aristocratic than retired grocers, and who have no more land to “keep together” than a lawn and a paddock—would have a prior claim. Was inheritance a question of liking or of responsibility? All the energy of Dorothea’s nature went on the side of responsibility—the fulfilment of claims founded on our own deeds, such as marriage and parentage.

It was true, she said to herself, that Mr. Casaubon had a debt to the Ladislaws—that he had to pay back what the Ladislaws had been wronged of. And now she began to think of her husband’s will, which had been made at the time of their marriage, leaving the bulk of his property to her, with proviso in case of her having children. That ought to be altered; and no time ought to be lost. This very question which had just arisen about Will Ladislaw’s occupation, was the occasion for placing things on a new, right footing. Her husband, she felt sure, according to all his previous conduct, would be ready to take the just view, if she proposed it—she, in whose interest an unfair concentration of the property had been urged. His sense of right had surmounted and would continue to surmount anything that might be called antipathy. She suspected that her uncle’s scheme was disapproved by Mr. Casaubon, and this made it seem all the more opportune that a fresh understanding should be begun, so that instead of Will’s starting penniless and accepting the first function that offered itself, he should find himself in possession of a rightful income which should be paid by her husband during his life, and, by an immediate alteration of the will, should be secured at his death. The vision of all this as what ought to be done seemed to Dorothea like a sudden letting in of daylight, waking her from her previous stupidity and incurious self-absorbed ignorance about her husband’s relation to others. Will Ladislaw had refused Mr. Casaubon’s future aid on a ground that no longer appeared right to her; and Mr. Casaubon had never himself seen fully what was the claim upon him. “But he will!” said Dorothea. “The great strength of his character lies here. And what are we doing with our money? We make no use of half of our income. My own money buys me nothing but an uneasy conscience.”

There was a peculiar fascination for Dorothea in this division of property intended for herself, and always regarded by her as excessive. She was blind, you see, to many things obvious to others—likely to tread in the wrong places, as Celia had warned her; yet her blindness to whatever did not lie in her own pure purpose carried her safely by the side of precipices where vision would have been perilous with fear.

The thoughts which had gathered vividness in the solitude of her boudoir occupied her incessantly through the day on which Mr. Casaubon had sent his letter to Will. Everything seemed hindrance to her till she could find an opportunity of opening her heart to her husband. To his preoccupied mind all subjects were to be approached gently, and she had never since his illness lost from her consciousness the dread of agitating him. But when young ardor is set brooding over the conception of a prompt deed, the deed itself seems to start forth with independent life, mastering ideal obstacles. The day passed in a sombre fashion, not unusual, though Mr. Casaubon was perhaps unusually silent; but there were hours of the night which might be counted on as opportunities of conversation; for Dorothea, when aware of her husband’s sleeplessness, had established a habit of rising, lighting a candle, and reading him to sleep again. And this night she was from the beginning sleepless, excited by resolves. He slept as usual for a few hours, but she had risen softly and had sat in the darkness for nearly an hour before he said—

“Dorothea, since you are up, will you light a candle?”

“Do you feel ill, dear?” was her first question, as she obeyed him.

“No, not at all; but I shall be obliged, since you are up, if you will read me a few pages of Lowth.”

“May I talk to you a little instead?” said Dorothea.

“Certainly.”

“I have been thinking about money all day—that I have always had too much, and especially the prospect of too much.”

“These, my dear Dorothea, are providential arrangements.”

“But if one has too much in consequence of others being wronged, it seems to me that the divine voice which tells us to set that wrong right must be obeyed.”

“What, my love, is the bearing of your remark?”

“That you have been too liberal in arrangements for me—I mean, with regard to property; and that makes me unhappy.”

“How so? I have none but comparatively distant connections.”

“I have been led to think about your aunt Julia, and how she was left in poverty only because she married a poor man, an act which was not disgraceful, since he was not unworthy. It was on that ground, I know, that you educated Mr. Ladislaw and provided for his mother.”

Dorothea waited a few moments for some answer that would help her onward. None came, and her next words seemed the more forcible to her, falling clear upon the dark silence.

“But surely we should regard his claim as a much greater one, even to the half of that property which I know that you have destined for me. And I think he ought at once to be provided for on that understanding. It is not right that he should be in the dependence of poverty while we are rich. And if there is any objection to the proposal he mentioned, the giving him his true place and his true share would set aside any motive for his accepting it.”

“Mr. Ladislaw has probably been speaking to you on this subject?” said Mr. Casaubon, with a certain biting quickness not habitual to him.

“Indeed, no!” said Dorothea, earnestly. “How can you imagine it, since he has so lately declined everything from you? I fear you think too hardly of him, dear. He only told me a little about his parents and grandparents, and almost all in answer to my questions. You are so good, so just—you have done everything you thought to be right. But it seems to me clear that more than that is right; and I must speak about it, since I am the person who would get what is called benefit by that ‘more’ not being done.”

There was a perceptible pause before Mr. Casaubon replied, not quickly as before, but with a still more biting emphasis.

“Dorothea, my love, this is not the first occasion, but it were well that it should be the last, on which you have assumed a judgment on subjects beyond your scope. Into the question how far conduct, especially in the matter of alliances, constitutes a forfeiture of family claims, I do not now enter. Suffice it, that you are not here qualified to discriminate. What I now wish you to understand is, that I accept no revision, still less dictation within that range of affairs which I have deliberated upon as distinctly and properly mine. It is not for you to interfere between me and Mr. Ladislaw, and still less to encourage communications from him to you which constitute a criticism on my procedure.”

Poor Dorothea, shrouded in the darkness, was in a tumult of conflicting emotions. Alarm at the possible effect on himself of her husband’s strongly manifested anger, would have checked any expression of her own resentment, even if she had been quite free from doubt and compunction under the consciousness that there might be some justice in his last insinuation. Hearing him breathe quickly after he had spoken, she sat listening, frightened, wretched—with a dumb inward cry for help to bear this nightmare of a life in which every energy was arrested by dread. But nothing else happened, except that they both remained a long while sleepless, without speaking again.

The next day, Mr. Casaubon received the following answer from Will Ladislaw:—

“DEAR MR. CASAUBON,—I have given all due consideration to your letter of yesterday, but I am unable to take precisely your view of our mutual position. With the fullest acknowledgment of your generous conduct to me in the past, I must still maintain that an obligation of this kind cannot fairly fetter me as you appear to expect that it should. Granted that a benefactor’s wishes may constitute a claim; there must always be a reservation as to the quality of those wishes. They may possibly clash with more imperative considerations. Or a benefactor’s veto might impose such a negation on a man’s life that the consequent blank might be more cruel than the benefaction was generous. I am merely using strong illustrations. In the present case I am unable to take your view of the bearing which my acceptance of occupation—not enriching certainly, but not dishonorable—will have on your own position which seems to me too substantial to be affected in that shadowy manner. And though I do not believe that any change in our relations will occur (certainly none has yet occurred) which can nullify the obligations imposed on me by the past, pardon me for not seeing that those obligations should restrain me from using the ordinary freedom of living where I choose, and maintaining myself by any lawful occupation I may choose. Regretting that there exists this difference between us as to a relation in which the conferring of benefits has been entirely on your side—
I remain, yours with persistent obligation,
WILL LADISLAW.”

Poor Mr. Casaubon felt (and must not we, being impartial, feel with him a little?) that no man had juster cause for disgust and suspicion than he. Young Ladislaw, he was sure, meant to defy and annoy him, meant to win Dorothea’s confidence and sow her mind with disrespect, and perhaps aversion, towards her husband. Some motive beneath the surface had been needed to account for Will’s sudden change of course in rejecting Mr. Casaubon’s aid and quitting his travels; and this defiant determination to fix himself in the neighborhood by taking up something so much at variance with his former choice as Mr. Brooke’s Middlemarch projects, revealed clearly enough that the undeclared motive had relation to Dorothea. Not for one moment did Mr. Casaubon suspect Dorothea of any doubleness: he had no suspicions of her, but he had (what was little less uncomfortable) the positive knowledge that her tendency to form opinions about her husband’s conduct was accompanied with a disposition to regard Will Ladislaw favorably and be influenced by what he said. His own proud reticence had prevented him from ever being undeceived in the supposition that Dorothea had originally asked her uncle to invite Will to his house.

And now, on receiving Will’s letter, Mr. Casaubon had to consider his duty. He would never have been easy to call his action anything else than duty; but in this case, contending motives thrust him back into negations.

Should he apply directly to Mr. Brooke, and demand of that troublesome gentleman to revoke his proposal? Or should he consult Sir James Chettam, and get him to concur in remonstrance against a step which touched the whole family? In either case Mr. Casaubon was aware that failure was just as probable as success. It was impossible for him to mention Dorothea’s name in the matter, and without some alarming urgency Mr. Brooke was as likely as not, after meeting all representations with apparent assent, to wind up by saying, “Never fear, Casaubon! Depend upon it, young Ladislaw will do you credit. Depend upon it, I have put my finger on the right thing.” And Mr. Casaubon shrank nervously from communicating on the subject with Sir James Chettam, between whom and himself there had never been any cordiality, and who would immediately think of Dorothea without any mention of her.

Poor Mr. Casaubon was distrustful of everybody’s feeling towards him, especially as a husband. To let any one suppose that he was jealous would be to admit their (suspected) view of his disadvantages: to let them know that he did not find marriage particularly blissful would imply his conversion to their (probably) earlier disapproval. It would be as bad as letting Carp, and Brasenose generally, know how backward he was in organizing the matter for his “Key to all Mythologies.” All through his life Mr. Casaubon had been trying not to admit even to himself the inward sores of self-doubt and jealousy. And on the most delicate of all personal subjects, the habit of proud suspicious reticence told doubly.

Thus Mr. Casaubon remained proudly, bitterly silent. But he had forbidden Will to come to Lowick Manor, and he was mentally preparing other measures of frustration.



CHAPTER XXXVIII.

“C’est beaucoup que le jugement des hommes sur les actions humaines; tôt ou tard il devient efficace.”
—GUIZOT.

Sir James Chettam could not look with any satisfaction on Mr. Brooke’s new courses; but it was easier to object than to hinder. Sir James accounted for his having come in alone one day to lunch with the Cadwalladers by saying—

“I can’t talk to you as I want, before Celia: it might hurt her. Indeed, it would not be right.”

“I know what you mean—the ‘Pioneer’ at the Grange!” darted in Mrs. Cadwallader, almost before the last word was off her friend’s tongue. “It is frightful—this taking to buying whistles and blowing them in everybody’s hearing. Lying in bed all day and playing at dominoes, like poor Lord Plessy, would be more private and bearable.”

“I see they are beginning to attack our friend Brooke in the ‘Trumpet,’” said the Rector, lounging back and smiling easily, as he would have done if he had been attacked himself. “There are tremendous sarcasms against a landlord not a hundred miles from Middlemarch, who receives his own rents, and makes no returns.”

“I do wish Brooke would leave that off,” said Sir James, with his little frown of annoyance.

“Is he really going to be put in nomination, though?” said Mr. Cadwallader. “I saw Farebrother yesterday—he’s Whiggish himself, hoists Brougham and Useful Knowledge; that’s the worst I know of him;—and he says that Brooke is getting up a pretty strong party. Bulstrode, the banker, is his foremost man. But he thinks Brooke would come off badly at a nomination.”

“Exactly,” said Sir James, with earnestness. “I have been inquiring into the thing, for I’ve never known anything about Middlemarch politics before—the county being my business. What Brooke trusts to, is that they are going to turn out Oliver because he is a Peelite. But Hawley tells me that if they send up a Whig at all it is sure to be Bagster, one of those candidates who come from heaven knows where, but dead against Ministers, and an experienced Parliamentary man. Hawley’s rather rough: he forgot that he was speaking to me. He said if Brooke wanted a pelting, he could get it cheaper than by going to the hustings.”

“I warned you all of it,” said Mrs. Cadwallader, waving her hands outward. “I said to Humphrey long ago, Mr. Brooke is going to make a splash in the mud. And now he has done it.”

“Well, he might have taken it into his head to marry,” said the Rector. “That would have been a graver mess than a little flirtation with politics.”

“He may do that afterwards,” said Mrs. Cadwallader—“when he has come out on the other side of the mud with an ague.”

“What I care for most is his own dignity,” said Sir James. “Of course I care the more because of the family. But he’s getting on in life now, and I don’t like to think of his exposing himself. They will be raking up everything against him.”

“I suppose it’s no use trying any persuasion,” said the Rector. “There’s such an odd mixture of obstinacy and changeableness in Brooke. Have you tried him on the subject?”

“Well, no,” said Sir James; “I feel a delicacy in appearing to dictate. But I have been talking to this young Ladislaw that Brooke is making a factotum of. Ladislaw seems clever enough for anything. I thought it as well to hear what he had to say; and he is against Brooke’s standing this time. I think he’ll turn him round: I think the nomination may be staved off.”

“I know,” said Mrs. Cadwallader, nodding. “The independent member hasn’t got his speeches well enough by heart.”

“But this Ladislaw—there again is a vexatious business,” said Sir James. “We have had him two or three times to dine at the Hall (you have met him, by the bye) as Brooke’s guest and a relation of Casaubon’s, thinking he was only on a flying visit. And now I find he’s in everybody’s mouth in Middlemarch as the editor of the ‘Pioneer.’ There are stories going about him as a quill-driving alien, a foreign emissary, and what not.”

“Casaubon won’t like that,” said the Rector.

“There is some foreign blood in Ladislaw,” returned Sir James. “I hope he won’t go into extreme opinions and carry Brooke on.”

“Oh, he’s a dangerous young sprig, that Mr. Ladislaw,” said Mrs. Cadwallader, “with his opera songs and his ready tongue. A sort of Byronic hero—an amorous conspirator, it strikes me. And Thomas Aquinas is not fond of him. I could see that, the day the picture was brought.”

“I don’t like to begin on the subject with Casaubon,” said Sir James. “He has more right to interfere than I. But it’s a disagreeable affair all round. What a character for anybody with decent connections to show himself in!—one of those newspaper fellows! You have only to look at Keck, who manages the ‘Trumpet.’ I saw him the other day with Hawley. His writing is sound enough, I believe, but he’s such a low fellow, that I wished he had been on the wrong side.”

“What can you expect with these peddling Middlemarch papers?” said the Rector. “I don’t suppose you could get a high style of man anywhere to be writing up interests he doesn’t really care about, and for pay that hardly keeps him in at elbows.”

“Exactly: that makes it so annoying that Brooke should have put a man who has a sort of connection with the family in a position of that kind. For my part, I think Ladislaw is rather a fool for accepting.”

“It is Aquinas’s fault,” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “Why didn’t he use his interest to get Ladislaw made an attache or sent to India? That is how families get rid of troublesome sprigs.”

“There is no knowing to what lengths the mischief may go,” said Sir James, anxiously. “But if Casaubon says nothing, what can I do?”

“Oh my dear Sir James,” said the Rector, “don’t let us make too much of all this. It is likely enough to end in mere smoke. After a month or two Brooke and this Master Ladislaw will get tired of each other; Ladislaw will take wing; Brooke will sell the ‘Pioneer,’ and everything will settle down again as usual.”

“There is one good chance—that he will not like to feel his money oozing away,” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “If I knew the items of election expenses I could scare him. It’s no use plying him with wide words like Expenditure: I wouldn’t talk of phlebotomy, I would empty a pot of leeches upon him. What we good stingy people don’t like, is having our sixpences sucked away from us.”

“And he will not like having things raked up against him,” said Sir James. “There is the management of his estate. They have begun upon that already. And it really is painful for me to see. It is a nuisance under one’s very nose. I do think one is bound to do the best for one’s land and tenants, especially in these hard times.”

“Perhaps the ‘Trumpet’ may rouse him to make a change, and some good may come of it all,” said the Rector. “I know I should be glad. I should hear less grumbling when my tithe is paid. I don’t know what I should do if there were not a modus in Tipton.”

“I want him to have a proper man to look after things—I want him to take on Garth again,” said Sir James. “He got rid of Garth twelve years ago, and everything has been going wrong since. I think of getting Garth to manage for me—he has made such a capital plan for my buildings; and Lovegood is hardly up to the mark. But Garth would not undertake the Tipton estate again unless Brooke left it entirely to him.”

“In the right of it too,” said the Rector. “Garth is an independent fellow: an original, simple-minded fellow. One day, when he was doing some valuation for me, he told me point-blank that clergymen seldom understood anything about business, and did mischief when they meddled; but he said it as quietly and respectfully as if he had been talking to me about sailors. He would make a different parish of Tipton, if Brooke would let him manage. I wish, by the help of the ‘Trumpet,’ you could bring that round.”

“If Dorothea had kept near her uncle, there would have been some chance,” said Sir James. “She might have got some power over him in time, and she was always uneasy about the estate. She had wonderfully good notions about such things. But now Casaubon takes her up entirely. Celia complains a good deal. We can hardly get her to dine with us, since he had that fit.” Sir James ended with a look of pitying disgust, and Mrs. Cadwallader shrugged her shoulders as much as to say that she was not likely to see anything new in that direction.

“Poor Casaubon!” the Rector said. “That was a nasty attack. I thought he looked shattered the other day at the Archdeacon’s.”

“In point of fact,” resumed Sir James, not choosing to dwell on “fits,” “Brooke doesn’t mean badly by his tenants or any one else, but he has got that way of paring and clipping at expenses.”

“Come, that’s a blessing,” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “That helps him to find himself in a morning. He may not know his own opinions, but he does know his own pocket.”

“I don’t believe a man is in pocket by stinginess on his land,” said Sir James.

“Oh, stinginess may be abused like other virtues: it will not do to keep one’s own pigs lean,” said Mrs. Cadwallader, who had risen to look out of the window. “But talk of an independent politician and he will appear.”

“What! Brooke?” said her husband.

“Yes. Now, you ply him with the ‘Trumpet,’ Humphrey; and I will put the leeches on him. What will you do, Sir James?”

“The fact is, I don’t like to begin about it with Brooke, in our mutual position; the whole thing is so unpleasant. I do wish people would behave like gentlemen,” said the good baronet, feeling that this was a simple and comprehensive programme for social well-being.

“Here you all are, eh?” said Mr. Brooke, shuffling round and shaking hands. “I was going up to the Hall by-and-by, Chettam. But it’s pleasant to find everybody, you know. Well, what do you think of things?—going on a little fast! It was true enough, what Lafitte said—‘Since yesterday, a century has passed away:’—they’re in the next century, you know, on the other side of the water. Going on faster than we are.”

“Why, yes,” said the Rector, taking up the newspaper. “Here is the ‘Trumpet’ accusing you of lagging behind—did you see?”

“Eh? no,” said Mr. Brooke, dropping his gloves into his hat and hastily adjusting his eye-glass. But Mr. Cadwallader kept the paper in his hand, saying, with a smile in his eyes—

“Look here! all this is about a landlord not a hundred miles from Middlemarch, who receives his own rents. They say he is the most retrogressive man in the county. I think you must have taught them that word in the ‘Pioneer.’”

“Oh, that is Keck—an illiterate fellow, you know. Retrogressive, now! Come, that’s capital. He thinks it means destructive: they want to make me out a destructive, you know,” said Mr. Brooke, with that cheerfulness which is usually sustained by an adversary’s ignorance.

“I think he knows the meaning of the word. Here is a sharp stroke or two. If we had to describe a man who is retrogressive in the most evil sense of the word—we should say, he is one who would dub himself a reformer of our constitution, while every interest for which he is immediately responsible is going to decay: a philanthropist who cannot bear one rogue to be hanged, but does not mind five honest tenants being half-starved: a man who shrieks at corruption, and keeps his farms at rack-rent: who roars himself red at rotten boroughs, and does not mind if every field on his farms has a rotten gate: a man very open-hearted to Leeds and Manchester, no doubt; he would give any number of representatives who will pay for their seats out of their own pockets: what he objects to giving, is a little return on rent-days to help a tenant to buy stock, or an outlay on repairs to keep the weather out at a tenant’s barn-door or make his house look a little less like an Irish cottier’s. But we all know the wag’s definition of a philanthropist: a man whose charity increases directly as the square of the distance. And so on. All the rest is to show what sort of legislator a philanthropist is likely to make,” ended the Rector, throwing down the paper, and clasping his hands at the back of his head, while he looked at Mr. Brooke with an air of amused neutrality.

“Come, that’s rather good, you know,” said Mr. Brooke, taking up the paper and trying to bear the attack as easily as his neighbor did, but coloring and smiling rather nervously; “that about roaring himself red at rotten boroughs—I never made a speech about rotten boroughs in my life. And as to roaring myself red and that kind of thing—these men never understand what is good satire. Satire, you know, should be true up to a certain point. I recollect they said that in ‘The Edinburgh’ somewhere—it must be true up to a certain point.”

“Well, that is really a hit about the gates,” said Sir James, anxious to tread carefully. “Dagley complained to me the other day that he hadn’t got a decent gate on his farm. Garth has invented a new pattern of gate—I wish you would try it. One ought to use some of one’s timber in that way.”

“You go in for fancy farming, you know, Chettam,” said Mr. Brooke, appearing to glance over the columns of the “Trumpet.” “That’s your hobby, and you don’t mind the expense.”

“I thought the most expensive hobby in the world was standing for Parliament,” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “They said the last unsuccessful candidate at Middlemarch—Giles, wasn’t his name?—spent ten thousand pounds and failed because he did not bribe enough. What a bitter reflection for a man!”

“Somebody was saying,” said the Rector, laughingly, “that East Retford was nothing to Middlemarch, for bribery.”

“Nothing of the kind,” said Mr. Brooke. “The Tories bribe, you know: Hawley and his set bribe with treating, hot codlings, and that sort of thing; and they bring the voters drunk to the poll. But they are not going to have it their own way in future—not in future, you know. Middlemarch is a little backward, I admit—the freemen are a little backward. But we shall educate them—we shall bring them on, you know. The best people there are on our side.”

“Hawley says you have men on your side who will do you harm,” remarked Sir James. “He says Bulstrode the banker will do you harm.”

“And that if you got pelted,” interposed Mrs. Cadwallader, “half the rotten eggs would mean hatred of your committee-man. Good heavens! Think what it must be to be pelted for wrong opinions. And I seem to remember a story of a man they pretended to chair and let him fall into a dust-heap on purpose!”

“Pelting is nothing to their finding holes in one’s coat,” said the Rector. “I confess that’s what I should be afraid of, if we parsons had to stand at the hustings for preferment. I should be afraid of their reckoning up all my fishing days. Upon my word, I think the truth is the hardest missile one can be pelted with.”

“The fact is,” said Sir James, “if a man goes into public life he must be prepared for the consequences. He must make himself proof against calumny.”

“My dear Chettam, that is all very fine, you know,” said Mr. Brooke. “But how will you make yourself proof against calumny? You should read history—look at ostracism, persecution, martyrdom, and that kind of thing. They always happen to the best men, you know. But what is that in Horace?—fiat justitia, ruat … something or other.”

“Exactly,” said Sir James, with a little more heat than usual. “What I mean by being proof against calumny is being able to point to the fact as a contradiction.”

“And it is not martyrdom to pay bills that one has run into one’s self,” said Mrs. Cadwallader.

But it was Sir James’s evident annoyance that most stirred Mr. Brooke. “Well, you know, Chettam,” he said, rising, taking up his hat and leaning on his stick, “you and I have a different system. You are all for outlay with your farms. I don’t want to make out that my system is good under all circumstances—under all circumstances, you know.”

“There ought to be a new valuation made from time to time,” said Sir James. “Returns are very well occasionally, but I like a fair valuation. What do you say, Cadwallader?”

“I agree with you. If I were Brooke, I would choke the ‘Trumpet’ at once by getting Garth to make a new valuation of the farms, and giving him carte blanche about gates and repairs: that’s my view of the political situation,” said the Rector, broadening himself by sticking his thumbs in his armholes, and laughing towards Mr. Brooke.

“That’s a showy sort of thing to do, you know,” said Mr. Brooke. “But I should like you to tell me of another landlord who has distressed his tenants for arrears as little as I have. I let the old tenants stay on. I’m uncommonly easy, let me tell you, uncommonly easy. I have my own ideas, and I take my stand on them, you know. A man who does that is always charged with eccentricity, inconsistency, and that kind of thing. When I change my line of action, I shall follow my own ideas.”

After that, Mr. Brooke remembered that there was a packet which he had omitted to send off from the Grange, and he bade everybody hurriedly good-by.

“I didn’t want to take a liberty with Brooke,” said Sir James; “I see he is nettled. But as to what he says about old tenants, in point of fact no new tenant would take the farms on the present terms.”

“I have a notion that he will be brought round in time,” said the Rector. “But you were pulling one way, Elinor, and we were pulling another. You wanted to frighten him away from expense, and we want to frighten him into it. Better let him try to be popular and see that his character as a landlord stands in his way. I don’t think it signifies two straws about the ‘Pioneer,’ or Ladislaw, or Brooke’s speechifying to the Middlemarchers. But it does signify about the parishioners in Tipton being comfortable.”

“Excuse me, it is you two who are on the wrong tack,” said Mrs. Cadwallader. “You should have proved to him that he loses money by bad management, and then we should all have pulled together. If you put him a-horseback on politics, I warn you of the consequences. It was all very well to ride on sticks at home and call them ideas.”