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Full text of "Middlemarch: a study of provincial life"

Digitized by tine Internet Arciiive 

in 2010 witii funding from 

University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign 



http://www.archive.org/details/middlemarchstudy21elio 



MIDDLE MARCH 



STUDY OF PEOVIXCIAL LIFE 



BY 

GEOEGE ELIOT 



VOL. IL 



AVILLIAM BLACKWOOD AND SONS 
EDINBURGH AND LONDON 
MDCCCLXXII 



^X5 



CONTENTS OF THE SECOND VOLUME. 



PAGE 

BOOK III. WAITING FOR DEATH, . 1 

" IV. THKEE LOVE PROBLEMS, , l77 



MIDDLEMARCH 



BOOK III. 



WAITING FOR DEATH 



BOOK III. . 

WAITING FOE DEATH. 



CHAPTER XXIII. 



• Your horses of the Sun," he said, 
" And first-rate whip Apollo ! 

Whate'er they be, I'll eat my head. 
But I will beat them hollow." 



Fred Yincy, we have seen, had a debt on his 
mind, and though no such immaterial burthen 
could depress that buoyant-hearted young gentle- 
man for many hours together, there were circum- 
stances connected with this debt which made the 
thought of it unusually importunate. The creditor 
was Mr Bambridge, a horse-dealer of the neigh- 
bourhood, whose company was much sought in 
Middlemarch by young men understood to be 
" addicted to pleasure." During the vacations 
Fred had naturally required more amusements 



4 MIDDLEMAECH. 

than lie had ready money for, and Mr Bambridge 
had been accomniodating enough not only to trust 
him for the hire of horses and the accidental 
expense of ruining a fine hunter, but also to 
make a small advance by which he might be able 
to meet some losses at billiards. The total debt 
was a hundred and sixty pounds. Bambridge 
was in no alarm about his money, being sure that 
young Vincy had backers ; but he had required 
something to show for it, and Fred had at first 
given a bill wdth his own signature. Three 
months later he had renewed this bill with the 
signature of Caleb Garth. On both occasions 
Fred had felt confident that he should meet the 
bill himself, having ample funds at disposal in 
his own hopefulness. You will hardly demand 
that his confidence should have a basis in exter- 
nal facts ; such confidence, we know, is something 
less coarse and materialistic : it is a comfortable 
disposition leading us to expect that the wisdom 
of providence or the folly of our friends, the mys- 
teries of luck or the still greater mystery of our 
high individual value in the universe, will bring 
about agreeable issues, such as are consistent with 
our good taste in costume, and our general pre- 
ference for the best style of thing. Fred felt sure 
that he should have a present from his uncle, that 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOE DEATH. 5 

he sliould have a run of luck, that by dint of 
" swapping " he should gradually metamorphose a 
horse worth forty pounds into a horse that would 
fetch a hundred at any moment — "judgment" 
being always equivalent to an unspecified sum 
in hard cash. And in any case, even supposing 
negations which only a morbid disti-ust could 
imagine, Fred had always (at that time) his 
father's pocket as a last resource, so that his 
assets of hopefulness had a sort of gorgeous super- 
fluity about them. Of what might be the capa- 
city of his father's pocket, Fred had only a vague 
notion: was not trade elastic? And would not 
the deficiencies of one year be made up for by the 
surplus of another ? The Vincys lived in an easy 
profuse way, not with any new ostentation, but 
according to the family habits and traditions, so 
that the children had no standard of economy, and 
the elder ones retained some of their infantine 
notion that their father might pay for anything 
if he would. Mr Vincy himself had expensive 
Middlemarch habits — spent money on coursing, 
on his cellar, and on dinner-giving, while mamma 
had those running accounts with tradespeople, 
which give a cheerful sense of getting everything 
one wants without any question of payment. But 
it was in the nature of fathers, Fred knew, to 



6 MIDDLEMAECH. 

bully one about expenses : there was always a 
little storm over his extravagance if he had to 
disclose a debt, and Fred disliked bad weather 
within doors. He was too filial to be disrespect- 
ful to his father, and he bore the thunder with 
the certainty that it was transient; but in the 
mean time it was disagreeable to see his mother 
cry, and also to be obliged to look sulky instead of 
having fun ; for Fred was so good-tempered that 
if he looked glum under scolding, it was chiefly 
for propriety's sake. The easier course plainly, 
was to renew the bill with a friend's signature. 
Why not ? With the superfluous securities of hope 
at his command, there was no reason why he should 
not have increased other people's liabilities to any 
extent, but for the fact that men whose names 
were good for anything were usually pessimists, 
indisposed to believe that the universal order of 
things would necessarily be agreeable to an agree- 
able young gentleman. 

With a favour to ask we review our list of 
friends, do justice to their more amiable qualities, 
forgive their little offences, and concerning each 
in turn, try to arrive at the conclusion that he 
will be eager to oblige us, our own eagerness to be 
obliged being as communicable as other warmth. 
Still there is always a certain number who are 



BOOK m.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 7 

dismissed as but moderately eager until the others 
have refused ; and it happened that Fred checked 
off all his friends but one, on the ground that 
applying to them would be disagreeable; being 
implicitly convinced that he at least (whatever 
might be maintained about mankind generally) 
had a right to be free from anything disagreeable. 
That he should ever fall into a thoroughly unplea- 
sant position — wear trousers shrunk with washing, 
eat cold mutton, have to walk for want of a horse, 
or to " duck under " in any sort of way — was an 
absurdity irreconcilable with those cheerful in- 
tuitions implanted in him by nature. And Fred 
winced under the idea of being looked down upon 
as wanting funds for small debts. Thus it came 
to pass that the friend whom he chose to apply to 
was at once the poorest and the kindest — namely, 
Caleb Garth. 

The Garths were very fond of Fred, as he was 
of them ; for when he and Eosamond were little 
ones, and the Garths were better off, the slight 
connection between the two families through ^Ir 
Featherstone's double marriage (the first to Mr 
Garth's sister, and the second to Mrs Yincy's) 
had led to an acquaintance which was carried on 
between the children rather than the parents: 
the children drank tea together out of their toy 



8 MIDDLEMAKCII. 

tea-cups, and spent whole days together in play. 
Mary was a little hoyden, and Fred at six years 
old thought her the nicest girl in the world, mak- 
ing her his wife with a brass ring which he had 
cut from an umbrella. Through all the stages of 
his education he had kept his affection for the 
Garths, and his habit of going to their house as 
a second home, though any intercourse between 
them and the elders of his family had long ceased. 
Even when Caleb Garth was prosperous, the 
Vincys were on condescending terms with him 
and his wife, for there were nice distinctions of 
rank in Middlemarch ; and though old manufac- 
turers could not any more than dukes be connected 
with none but equals, they were conscious of an 
inherent social superiority which was defined with 
great nicety in practice, though hardly expressible 
theoretically. Since then Mr Garth had failed in 
the building business, which he had unfortunately 
added to his other avocations of surveyor, valuer, 
and agent, had conducted that business for a time 
entirely for the benefit of his assignees, and had 
been living narrowly, exerting himself to the ut- 
most that he might after all pay twenty shillings 
in the pound. He had now achieved this, and 
from all who did not think it a bad precedent, his 
honourable exertions had won him due esteem; 
but in no part of the world is genteel visiting 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOE DEATH. 9 

founded on esteem, in the absence of suitable 
furniture and complete dinner - service. LIrs 
Vincy bad never been at her ease with Mrs 
Garth, and frequently spoke of her as a woman 
who had had to work for her bread — meaning 
that Mrs Garth had been a teacher before her 
marriage ; in which case an intimacy with Lind- 
ley Murray and Mangnall's Questions was some- 
thing like a draper's discrimination of calico 
trade -marks, or a courier's acquaintance with 
foreign countries : no woman who was better off 
needed that sort of thing. And since Mary had 
been keeping Mr Featherstone's house, Mrs 
Vincy's want of liking for the Garths had been 
converted into something more positive, by alarm 
lest Fred should engage himself to this plain girl, 
whose parents '' lived in such a small way." Fred, 
being aware of this, never spoke at home of his 
visits to Mrs Garth, which had of late become 
more frequent, the increasing ardour of his affec- 
tion for Mary inclining him the more towards 
those who belonged to her. 

Mr Garth had a small of&ce in the town, and to 
this Fred went with his request. He obtained it 
without much difficulty, for a large amount of 
painful experience had not sufficed to make Caleb 
Garth cautious about his own affairs, or distrust- 
ful of his fellow-men when they had not proved 



10 MIDDLEMARCH. 

themselves untrustworthy ; and he had the high- 
est opinion of Fred, was " sure the lad ^yould turn 
out well — an open affectionate fellow, with a good 
bottom to his character — you might trust him for 
anything." Such was Caleb's psychological argu- 
ment. He was one of those rare men who are 
rigid to themselves and indulgent to others. He 
had a certain shame about his neighbours' errors, 
and never spoke of them willingly ; hence he was 
not likely to divert his mind from the best mode 
of hardening timber and other ingenious devices 
in order to preconceive those errors. If he had to 
blame any one, it was necessary for him to move 
all the papers within his reach, or describe various 
diagrams with his stick, or make calculations with 
the odd money in his pocket, before he could 
begin ; and he would rather do other men's work 
than find fault with their doing. I fear he was a 
bad disciplinarian. 

When Fred stated the circumstances of his debt, 
his wish to meet it without troubling his father, 
and the certainty that the money would be forth- 
coming so as to cause no one any inconvenience, 
Caleb pushed his spectacles upward, listened, 
looked into his favourite's clear young eyes, and 
believed him, not distinguishing confidence about 
the future from veracity about the past ; but he 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 11 

felt that it was an occasion for a friendly hint as 
to conduct, and that before giving his signature he 
must give a rather strong admonition. Accord- 
ingly, he took the paper and lowered his spectacles, 
measured the space at his command, reached his 
pen and examined it, dipped it in the ink and 
examined it again, then pushed the paper a little 
way from him, lifted up his spectacles again, 
showed a deepened depression in the outer angle 
of his bushy eyebrows, which gave his face a 
peculiar mildness (pardon these details for once — 
you would have learned to love them if you had 
known Caleb Garth), and said in a comfortable tone, 

" It was a misfortune, eh, that breaking the 
horse's knees ? And then, these exchanges, they 
don't answer when you have 'cute jockies to deal 
with. You'll be wiser another time, my boy." 

Whereupon Caleb drew down his spectacles, 
and proceeded to write his signature with the care 
which he always gave to that performance ; for 
whatever he did in the way of business he did 
well. He contemplated the large well-propor- 
tioned letters and final flourish, with his head a 
trifle on one side for an instant, then handed it to 
Fred, said " Good-bye," and returned forthwith to 
his absorption in a plan for Sir James Chettam's 
new farm-buildings. 



12 MIDDLEMARCH. 

Either because his interest in this work thrust 
the incident of the signature from his memory, or 
for some reason of which Caleb was more con- 
scious, Mrs Garth remained ignorant of the affair. 

Since it occurred, a change had come over Fred's 
sky, which altered his view of the distance, and 
was the reason why his uncle Featherstone's pre- 
sent of money was of importance enough to make 
his colour come and go, first with a too definite 
expectation, and afterwards with a proportionate 
disappointment. His failure in passing his ex- 
amination, had made his accumulation of college 
debts the more unpardonable by his father, and 
there had been an unprecedented storm at home. 
Mr Vincy had sw^orn that if he had anything more 
of that sort to put up with, Fred should turn out 
and get his living how he could; and he had never 
yet quite recovered his good-humoured tone to his 
son, who had especially enraged him by saying at 
this stage of things that he did not want to be a 
clergyman, and would rather not " go on with that." 
Fred was conscious that he would have been yet 
more severely dealt with if his family as well as 
himself had not secretly regarded him as Mr 
Featherstone's heir ; that old gentleman's pride in 
him, and apparent fondness for him, serving in 
the stead of more exemplary conduct — just as 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 13 

when a youthful nobleman steals jewellery we call 
the act kleptomania, speak of it with a philo- 
sophical smile, and never think of his being 
sent to the house of correction as if he were a 
ragged boy who had stolen turnips. In fact, tacit 
expectations of what would be done for him by 
Uncle Featherstone determined the angle at which 
most people viewed Fred Vincy in Middlemarch ; 
and in his own consciousness, what Uncle Feather- 
stone would do for him in an emergency, or what 
he would do simply as an incorporated luck, formed 
always an immeasurable depth of aerial perspec- 
tive. But that present of bank-notes, once made, 
was measurable, and being applied to the amount 
of the debt, showed a deficit which had still to be 
filled up either by Fred's "judgment" or by luck in 
some other shape. For that little episode of the 
alleged borrowing, in which he had made his 
father the agent in getting the Bulstrode certifi- 
cate, was a new reason against going to his father 
for money towards meeting his actual debt. Fred 
was keen enough to foresee that anger would 
confuse distinctions, and that his denial of hav- 
ing borrowed expressly on the strength of his 
uncle's will would be taken as a falsehood. He 
had gone to his father and told him one vexatious 
affair, and he had left another untold : in such 



14 MroDLEMAPtCH. 

cases the complete revelation always produces the 
impression of a previous duplicity. Now Fred 
piqued himself on keeping clear of lies, and even 
fibs ; he often shrugged his shoulders and made a 
significant grimace at what he called Rosamond's 
fibs (it is only brothers who can associate such 
ideas with a lovely girl) ; and rather than incur 
the accusation of falsehood he would even incur 
some trouble and self-restraint. It was under 
strong inward pressure of this kind that Fred had 
taken the wise step of depositing the eighty pounds 
with his mother. It was a pity that he had not 
at once given them to Mr Garth ; but he meant to 
make the sum complete with another sixty, and 
with a view to this, he had kept twenty pounds in 
his own pocket as a sort of seed-corn, which, 
planted by judgment and watered by luck, might 
yield more than threefold — a very poor rate of mul- 
tiplication when the field is a young gentleman's 
infinite soul, with all the numerals at command. 

Fred was not a gambler : he had not that specific 
disease in which the suspension of the whole 
nervous energy on a chance or risk becomes as 
necessary as the dram to the drunkard ; he had 
only the tendency to that diffusive form of gamb- 
ling which has no alcoholic' intensity, but is carried 
on with the healtliiest chyle-fed blood, keeping 



BOOK m. — WAITING FOL DEATH. 15 

up a joyous imaginative activity whicli fashions 
events according to desire, and having no fears 
about its own weather, only sees the advantage 
there must be to others in going aboard with 
it. Hopefulness has a pleasure in making a throw 
of any kind, because the prospect of success is 
certain ; and only a more generous pleasure in 
offering as many as possible a share in the stake. 
Fred liked play, especially billiards, as he liked 
hunting or, riding a steeplechase ; and he only 
liked it the better because he wanted money and 
hoped to win. But the twenty pounds' worth of 
seed-corn had been planted in vain in the seduc- 
tive green plot — all of it at least which had not 
been dispersed by the roadside — and Fred found 
himself close upon the term of payment with no 
money at command beyond the eighty pounds 
which he had deposited with his mother. The 
broken-winded horse which he rode represented a 
present which had been made to him a long while 
ago by his uncle Featherstone : his father always 
allowed him to keep a horse, Mr Vincy's own habits 
making him regard this as a reasonable demand 
even for a son who was rather exasperating. This 
horse, then, was Fred's property, and in his anxiety 
to meet the imminent bill he determined to sacri- 
fice a possession without which life would certainly 



16 MIDDLEMAECH. 

be wortli little. He made the resolution with a 
sense of heroism — heroism forced on him by the 
dread of breaking his word to Mr Garth, by his 
love for Mary and awe of her opinion. He would 
start for Houndsley horse-fair wdiich was to be 
held the next morning, and — simply sell his horse, 
bringing back the money by coach ? — Well, the 
horse w^ould hardly fetch more than thirty pounds, 
and there w^as no knowing what might happen : 
it would be folly to balk himself of luck before- 
hand. It was a hundred to one that some good 
chance would fall in his way : the longer he 
thought of it, the less possible it seemed that he 
should not have a good chance, and the less reason- 
able that he should not equip himself with the 
powder and shot for bringing it down. He would 
ride to Houndsley w^ith Bambridge and with Hor- 
rock " the vet/' and w^ithout asking them any- 
thing expressly, he should virtually get the benefit 
of their opinion. Before he set out, Ered got the 
eighty pounds from his mother. 

Most of those who saw Fred riding out of 
Middlemarch in company with Bambridge and 
Horrock, on his way of course to Houndsley horse- 
fair, thought that young Vincy was pleasure - 
seeking as usual ; and but for an unwonted con- 
sciousness of grave matters on hand, he himself 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 17 

would have had a sense of dissipation, and of doing 
what might be expected of a gay young fellow. 
Considering that Fred was not at all coarse, that 
he rather looked down on the manners and speech 
of young men who had not been to the university, 
and that he had written stanzas as pastoral and 
unvoluptuous as his flute-playing, his attraction 
towards Bambridge and Horrock was an interest- 
ing fact which even the love of horse-flesh would 
not wholly' account for without that mysterious 
influence of Naming which determines so much of 
mortal choice. Under any other name than " plea- 
sure" the society of Messieurs Bambridge and 
Horrock must certainly have been regarded as 
monotonous ; and to arrive with them at Hound- 
sley on a drizzling afternoon, to get down at the 
Eed Lion in a street shaded with coal-dust, and 
dine in a room furnished with a dirt-enamelled 
map of the county, a bad portrait of an anonymous 
horse in a stable. His ^Majesty George the Fourth 
with legs and cravat, and various leaden spittoons, 
might have seemed a hard business, but for the 
sustaining power of nomenclature which deter- 
mined that the pursuit of these things was " gay." 
In Mr Horrock there was certainly an appa- 
rent unfathomableness which ofi'ered play to the 
imagination. Costume, at a glance, gave him 

VOL. II. B 



18 MIDDLEMARCH. 

a thrilling association with horses (enough to 
specify the hat-brim which took the slightest 
upward angle just to escape the suspicion of 
bending downwards), and nature had given him a 
face which by dint of Mongolian eyes, and a nose, 
mouth, and chin seeming to follow his hat-brim in 
a moderate inclination upwards, gave the effect of 
a subdued unchangeable sceptical smile, of all 
expressions the most tyrannous over a suscep- 
tible mind, and, when accompanied by adequate 
silence, likely to create the reputation of an 
invincible understanding, an infinite fund of 
humour — too dry to flow, and probably in a state 
of immovable crust, — and a critical judgment 
which, if you could ever be fortunate enough to 
know it, would be the thing and no other. It 
is a physiognomy seen in all vocations, but per- 
haps it has never been more powerful over Ihe 
youth of England than in a judge of horses. 

Mr Horrock, at a question from Fred about his 
horse's fetlock, turned sideways in his saddle, and 
watched the horse's action for the space of three 
minutes, then turned forward, twitched his own 
bridle, and remained silent with a profile neither 
more nor less sceptical than it had been. 

The part thus played in dialogue by Mr Horrock 
was terribly effective. A mixture of passions was 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 19 

excited in Fred — a mad desire to tlirash Horrock's 
opinion into utterance, restrained by anxiety to 
retain the advantage of his friendship. There was 
always the chance that Horrock might say some- 
thing quite invaluable at the right moment. 

Mr Bambridge had more open manners, and ap- 
peared to give forth his ideas without economy. 
He was loud, robust, and was sometimes spoken 
of as being " given to indulgence " — chiefly in 
swearing, drinking, and beating his wife. Some 
people who had lost by him called him a vicious 
man ; but he regarded horse-dealing as the finest 
of the arts, and might have argued plausibly that 
it had nothing to do with morality. He was un- 
deniably a prosperous man, bore his drinking 
better than others bore their moderation, and, on 
the whole, flourished like the green bay-tree. But 
his range of conversation was limited, and like the 
fine old tune, " Drops of brandy," gave you after a 
while a sense of returning upon itself in a way 
that might make weak heads dizzy. But a slight 
infusion of Mr Bambridge was felt to give tone 
and character to several circles in Lliddlemarch ; 
and he was a distinguished figure in the bar and 
billiard-room at the Green Dragon. He knew 
some anecdotes about the heroes of the turf, and 
various clever tricks of Marquesses and Viscounts 



20 MIDDLEMAKCH. 

which seemed to prove that blood asserted its pre- 
eminence even among blacklegs ; but the minute 
retentiveness of his memory was chiefly shown 
about the horses he had himself bought and sold ; 
the number of miles they would trot you in no 
time without turning a hair being, after the lapse 
of years, still a subject of passionate asseveration, 
in which he would assist the imagination of his 
hearers by solemnly swearing that they never saw 
anything like it. In short, Mr Bambridge was a 
man of pleasure and a gay companion. 

Fred was subtle, and did not tell his friends 
that he was going to Houndsley bent on selling 
his horse : he wished to get indirectly at their 
genuine opinion of its value, not being aware that 
a genuine opinion was the last thing likely to 
be extracted from such eminent critics. It was 
not Mr Bambridge's weakness to be a gratuitous 
flatterer. He had never before been so much 
struck with the fact that this unfortunate bay was 
a roarer to a degree which required the roundest 
word for perdition to give you any idea of it. 

" You made a bad hand at swapping when you 
went to anybody but me, Vincy. Why, you 
never threw your leg across a finer horse than 
that chesnut, and you gave him for this brute. 
If you set him cantering, he goes on like twenty 



BOOK III. — ^VAITING FOR DEATH. 21 

sawyers. I never heard but one worse roarer in 
my life, and that was a roan : it belonged to 
Pegwell, the corn-factor ; he used to drive him in 
his gig seven years ago, and he wanted me to take 
him, but I said, ' Thank you, Peg, I don't deal 
in wind-instruments." That was what I said. It 
went the round of the country, that joke did. 
But, what the heU! the horse was a penny 
trumpet to that roarer of yours." 

" Why, you said just now his was worse than 
mine," said Fred, more irritable than usual. 

" I said a lie, then," said ]\Ir Bambridge, em- 
phatically. "There wasn't a penny to choose 
between 'em." 

Fred spurred his horse, and they trotted on a 
little way. When they slackened again, Mr Bam- 
bridge said — 

" Not but what the roan was a better trotter 
than yours." 

" I'm quite satisfied with his paces, I know," 
said Fred, who required all the consciousness of 
being in gay company to support him ; " I say, his 
trot is an uncommonly clean one, eh, Horrock ? " 

Mr Horrock looked before him with as complete 
a neutrality as if he had been a portrait by a great 
master. 

Fred gave up the fallacious hope of getting a 



22 MIDDLEMAECH. 

genuine opinion ; but on reflection lie saw that 
Bambridge's depreciation and Horrock's silence 
were both virtually encouraging, and indicated 
that they thought better of the horse than they 
chose to say. 

That very evening, indeed, before the fair had 
set in, Fred thought he saw a favourable opening 
for disposing advantageously of his horse, but an 
opening which made him congratulate himself on 
his foresight in bringing with him his eighty 
pounds. A young farmer, acquainted with 
Mr Bambridge, came into the Eed Lion, and 
entered into conversation about parting with a 
hunter, which he introduced at once as Diamond, 
implying that it was a public character. For 
himself he only wanted a useful hack, which 
would draw upon occasion ; being about to marry 
and to give up hunting. The hunter was in a 
friend's stable at some little distance ; there was 
still time for gentlemen to see it before dark. The 
friend's stable had to be reached through a back 
street where you might as easily have been pois- 
oned without expense of drugs as in any grim 
street of that unsanitary period. Fred was not for- 
tified against disgust by brandy, as his companions 
were, but the hope of having at last seen the horse 
that would enable hiui to make money w^as exhil- 



BOOK III. — "^'AITING FOR DEATH. 23 

arating enougli to lead him over tlie same ground 
again the first thing in the morning. He felt sure 
that if he did not come to a bargain with the 
farmer, Bambridge would; for the stress of cir- 
cumstances, Fred felt, was sharpening his acuteness 
and endowing him with all the constructive power 
of suspicion. Bambridge had run down Diamond 
in a way that he never would have done (the 
horse being a friend's) if he had not thought of 
buying it ; every one who looked at the animal — 
even Horrock — was evidently impressed with its 
merit. To get all the advantage of being with 
men of this sort, you must know how to draw 
your inferences, and not be a spoon who takes 
things literally. The colour of the horse was a 
dappled grey, and Fred happened to know that 
Lord Medlicote's man was on the look-out for just 
such a horse. After all his running down, 
Bambridge let it out in the course of the evening, 
when the farmer was absent, that he had seen 
worse horses go for eighty pounds. Of course he 
contradicted himself twenty times over, but when 
you know what is likely to be true you can test 
a man's admissions. And Fred could not but 
reckon his own judgment of a horse as worth 
something. The farmer had paused over Fred's 
respectable though broken - winded steed long 



24 MIDDLEMAECH. 

enough to show that he thought it worth con- 
sideration, and it seemed probable that he would 
take it, with five-and-twenty pounds in addition, 
as the equivalent of Diamond. In that case Fred, 
when he had parted with his new horse for at least 
eighty pounds, would be fifty - five pounds in 
pocket by the transaction, and would have a hun- 
dred and thirty-five pounds towards meeting the 
bill; so that the deficit temporarily thrown on 
Mr Garth would at the utmost be twenty-five 
pounds. By the time he was hurrying on liis 
clothes in the morning, he saw so clearly the 
importance of not losing this rare chance, that if 
Bambridge and Horrock had both dissuaded him, 
he would not have been deluded into a direct 
interpretation of their purpose: he would have 
been aware that those deep hands held something 
else than a young fellow^'s interest. With regard 
to horses, distrust was your only clue. But scep- 
ticism, as we know, can never be thoroughly 
applied, else life would come to a standstill : 
something we must believe in and do, and what- 
ever that something may be called, it is virtually 
our own judgment, even when it seems like the 
most slavish reliance on another. Fred believed 
in the excellence of his bargain, and even before 
the fair had well set in, had got possession of the 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 25 

dappled grey, at the price of liis old liorse and 
thirty pounds in addition — only five pounds more 
than he had expected to give. 

But he felt a little worried and wearied, perhaps 
with mental debate, and without waiting for the 
further gaieties of the horse-fair, he set out alone 
on his fourteen miles' journey, meaning to take it 
very quietly and keep his horse fresh. 



26 



CHAPTEE XXIV. 



** The ofifender's sorrow brings but small relief 
To him who wears the strong offence's cross." 

—Shakespeare: Sonnets. 



I AM sorry to say that only the third day after the 
propitious events at Houndsley Fred Vincy had 
fallen into worse spirits than he had known in his 
life before. Not that he had been disappointed as 
to the possible market for his horse, but that before 
the bargain could be concluded with Lord Medli- 
cote's man, this Diamond^ in which hope to the 
amount of eighty pounds had been invested, had 
without the slightest warning exhibited in the 
stable a most vicious energy in kicking, had just 
missed killing the groom, and had ended in laming 
himself severely by catching his leg in a rope that 
overhung the stable-board. There was no more 
redress for this than for the discovery of bad 
temper after marriage — which of course old com- 
panions were aware of before the ceremony. For 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 27 

some reason or other, Fred had none of his usual 
elasticity under this stroke of ill-fortune : he was 
simply aware that he had only fift}^ pounds, that 
there was no chance of his getting any more at 
present, and that the bill for a hundred and sixty 
would be presented in five days. Even if he had 
applied to his father on the plea that Mr Garth 
should be saved from loss, Fred felt smartingly 
that his father would angrily refuse to rescue Mr 
Garth from the consequence of what he would call 
encouraging extravagance and deceit. He was so 
utterly downcast that he could frame no other 
project than to go straight to Mr Garth and tell 
him the sad truth, carrying with him the fifty 
pounds, and getting that sum at least safely out 
of his own hands. His father, being at the ware- 
house, did not yet know of the accident: when 
he did, he would storm about the vicious brute 
being brought into his stable ; and before meeting 
that lesser annoyance Fred wanted to get away 
with all his courage to face the greater. He took 
his father's nag, for he had made up his mind that 
when he had told Mr Garth, he would ride to 
Stone Court and confess all to Mary. In fact, it 
is probable that but for Mary's existence and 
Fred's love for her, his conscience would have 
been much less active both in previously urging 



28 MIDDLEMARCH. 

the debt on his thought and in impelling him not 
to spare himself after his usual fashion by defer- 
ring an unpleasant task, but to act as directly and 
simply as he could. Even much stronger mortals 
than Fred Yincy hold half their rectitude in the 
mind of the being they love best. '' The theatre 
of all my actions is fallen," said an antique per- 
sonage when his chief friend was dead ; and they 
are fortunate who get a theatre where the audience 
demands their best. Certainly it would have made 
a considerable difference to Fred at that time if 
Mary Garth had had no decided notions as to what 
was admirable in character. 

Mr Garth was not at the office, and Fred rode 
on to his house, which was a little way outside 
the town — a homely place with an orchard in 
front of it, a rambling, old-fashioned, half-timbered 
building, which before the town had spread had 
been a farmhouse, but was now surrounded with 
the private gardens of the townsmen. We get the 
fonder of our houses if they have a physiognomy 
of their own, as our friends have. The Garth 
family, which was rather a large one, for Mary 
had four brothers and one sister, were very fond of 
their old house, from which all the best furniture 
had long been sold. Fred liked it too, knowing it 
by heart even to the attic which smelt deliciously 



BOOK ni. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 29 

of apples and quinces, and until to-day he had 
never come to it without pleasant expectations ; 
but his heart beat uneasily now with the sense 
that he should probably have to make his con- 
fession before Mrs Garth, of whom he was rather 
more in awe than of her husband. Not that 
she was inclined to sarcasm and to impulsive 
sallies, as Mary was. In her present matronly 
age at least, Mrs Garth never committed her- 
self by over-hasty speech ; having, as she said, 
borne the yoke in her youth, and learned self- 
control. She had that rare sense which discerns 
what is inalterable, and submits to it without 
murmuring. Adoring her husband's virtues, she 
had very early made up her mind to his inca- 
pacity of minding his own interests, and had 
met the consequences cheerfully. She had been 
magnanimous enough to renounce all pride in 
teapots or children's frilling, and had never 
poured any pathetic confidences into the ears of 
her feminine neighbours concerning !Mr Garth's 
want of prudence and the sums he might have 
had if he had been like other men. Hence these 
fair neighbours thought her either proud or eccen- 
tric, and sometimes spoke of her to their husbands 
as " your fine Mrs Garth." She was not without 
her criticism of them in return, being more accu- 



30 MIDDLEMARCH. 

lately instructed than most matrons in Middle- 
march, and — where is the blameless woman? — 
apt to be a little severe towards her own sex, 
which in her opinion was framed to be entirely 
subordinate. On the other hand, she was dispro- 
portionately indulgent towards the failings of men, 
and was often heard to say that these were natural. 
Also, it must be admitted that Mrs Garth was a 
trifle too emphatic in her resistance to what she 
held to be follies : the passage from governess into 
housewife had wrought itseK a little too strongly 
into her consciousness, and she rarely forgot that 
while her grammar and accent were above the 
town standard, she wore a plain cap, cooked the 
family dinner, and darned all the stockings. She 
had sometimes taken pupils in a peripatetic fashion, 
making them follow her about in the kitchen with 
their book or slate. She thought it good for them 
to see that she could make an excellent lather 
while she corrected their blunders " without look- 
ing," — that a woman with her sleeves tucked up 
above her elbows might know all about the Sub- 
junctive Mood or the Torrid Zone — that, in short, 
she might possess " education" and other good 
things ending in " tion," and worthy to be pro- 
nounced emphatically, without being a useless 
doll. When she made remarks to this edifying 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOE DEATH. 31 

effect, she had a firm little frown on her brow, 
which yet did not hinder her face from looking 
benevolent, and her words which came forth like 
a procession were uttered in a fervid agreeable 
contralto. Certainly, the exemplary Mrs Garth 
had her droll aspects, but her character sustained 
her oddities, as a very fine wine sustains a flavour 
of skin. 

Towards Fred Vincy she had a motherly feeling, 
and had always been disposed to excuse his errors, 
though she would probably not have excused 
Mary for engaging herself to him, her daughter 
being included in that more rigorous judgment 
which she applied to her own sex. But this very 
fact of her exceptional indulgence towards him 
made it the harder to Fred that he must now 
inevitably sink in her opinion. And the circum- 
stances of his visit turned out to be still more 
unpleasant than he had expected ; for Caleb Garth 
had gone out early to look at some repairs not far 
off. Mrs Garth at certain hours was always in the 
kitchen, and this morning she was caiTying on 
several occupations at once there — making her 
pies at the well-scoured deal table on one side of 
that airy room, observing Sally's movements at 
the oven and dough-tub through an open door, and 
giving lessons to her youngest boy and girl, who 



32 MIDDLEMARCH. 

were standing opposite to her at the table with 
their books and slates before them. A tub and a 
clothes-horse at the other end of the kitchen indi- 
cated an intermittent wash of small things also 
going on. 

Mrs Garth, with her sleeves turned above her 
elbows, deftly handling her pastry — applying her 
rolling-pin and giving ornamental pinches, while 
she expounded with grammatical fervour what 
were the right views about the concord of verbs 
and pronouns with " nouns of multitude or signi- 
fying many," was a sight agreeably amusing. She 
was of the same curly-haired, square-faced type as 
Mary, but handsomer, with more delicacy of fea- 
ture, a pale skin, a solid matronly figure, and a 
remarkable firmness of glance. In her snowy- 
frilled cap she reminded one of that delightful 
Frenchwoman whom we have all seen marketing, 
basket on arm. Looking at the mother, you might 
hope that the daughter would become like her, 
which is a prospective advantage equal to a dowry 
— the mother too often standing behind the daugh- 
ter like a malignant prophecy — "Such as I am, 
she will shortly be." 

" Now let us go through that once more," said 
Mrs Garth, pinching an apple-puff which seemed 
to distract Ben, an energetic young male v ith a 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOK DEATH. 33 

heavy brow, from due attention to the lesson. 
** ' Not without regard to the import of the word 
as conveying unity or plurality of idea ' — tell me 
again what that means, Ben." 

(Mrs Garth, like more celebrated educators, 
had her favourite ancient paths, and in a general 
wreck of society would have tried to hold her 
*Lindley Murray' above the waves.) 

"Oh — it means — you must think what you 
mean," said Ben, rather peevishly. " I hate gram- 
mar. What's the use of it ? " 

" To teach you to speak and write correctly, 
so that you can be understood," said Mrs Garth, 
with severe precision. " Should you like to speak 
as old Job does ? " 

" Yes," said Ben, stoutly ; " it's funnier. He 
-vsays, ' Yo goo ' — that's just as good as ' You go.' " 

"But he says, 'A ship's in the garden,' instead 
of ' a sheep,'" said Letty, with an air of superiority. 
" You might think he meant a ship off the sea." 

" No, you mightn't, if you weren't silly," said 
Ben. " How could a ship off the sea come there ?" 

" These things belong only to pronunciation, 
which is the least part of grammar," said Mrs 
Garth. "That apple-peel is to be eaten by the 
pigs, Ben ; if you eat it, I must give them your 
piece of pasty. Job has only to speak about 

VOL. II. c 



34 MIDDLEMAECII. 

very plain things. How do you think you would 
write or speak about anything more difficult, if 
you knew no more of grammar than he does? 
You would use wTong words, and put words in 
the wrong places, and instead of making people 
understand you, they would turn away from you 
as a tiresome person. What would you do then V 

"I shouldn't care, I should leave off," said 
Ben, with a sense that this was an agreeable 
issue where grammar was concerned. 

" I see you are getting tired and stupid, Ben," 
said Mrs Garth, accustomed to these obstructive 
arguments from her male offspring. Having fin- 
ished her pies, she moved towards the clothes- 
horse, and said, " Come here and tell me the story 
I told you on Wednesday, about Cincinnatus." 

" I know ! he was a farmer," said Ben. 

"Now, Ben, he was a Eoman — let one tell," 
said Letty, using her elbow contentiously. 

" You silly thing, he was a lioman farmer, and 
he was ploughing." 

"Yes, but before that — that didn't come first 
— people wanted him," said Letty. 

" Well, but you must say what sort of a man he 
was first," insisted Ben. "He was a wise man, 
like my father, and that made the people want 
his advice. And he was a brave man, and could 



BOOK III. — ^VAIT1^'G FOR DEATH. 35 

figlit. And so could my father — couldu't lie, 
mother ? " 

" Now, Ben, let me tell the story straight on, as 
mother told it us," said Letty, frowning. " Please, 
mother, tell Ben not to speak." 

" Letty, I am ashamed of you," said her mother, 
wringing out the caps from the tub. " 'When your 
brother began, you ought to have waited to see if 
he could not tell the story. How rude you look, 
pushing and frowning, as if you wanted to conquer 
with your elbows ! Cincinnatus, I am sure, would 
have been sorry to see his daughter behave so." 
(Mrs Garth delivered this awful sentence with 
much majesty of enunciation, and Letty felt that 
between repressed volubility and general dis- 
esteem, that of the Eomans inclusive, life was 
already a painful affair.) " Now, Ben." 

"Well— oh — well — why, there was a great deal 
of fighting, and they were all blockheads, and — I 
can't tell it just how you told it — but they wanted 
a man to be captain and king and everything " 

''Dictator, now," said Letty, with injured looks, 
and not without a wish to make her mother repent. 

" Very well, dictator ! " said Ben, contemptu- 
ously. "But that isn't a good word: he didn't 
tell them to write on slates," 

" Come, come, Ben, you are not so ignorant as 



36 MIDDLEMAKCH. 

that," said Mrs Garth, carefully serious. " Hark, 
there is a knock at the door ! Eun, Letty, and 
open it." 

The knock was Fred's; and when Letty said 
that her father was not in yet, but that her mother 
was in the kitchen, Fred had no alternative. He 
could not depart from his usual practice of going 
to see Mrs Garth in the kitchen if she happened 
to be at work there. He put his arm round Letty' s 
neck silently, and led her into the kitchen without 
his usual jokes and caresses. 

Mrs Garth was surprised to see Fred at this 
hour, but surprise was not a feeling that she was 
given to express, and she only said, quietly con- 
tinuing her work — 

"You, Fred, so early in the day? You look 
quite pale. Has anything happened ? " 

" I want to speak to Mr Garth," said Fred, not 
yet ready to say more — "and to you also," he 
added, after a little pause, for he had no doubt 
that Mrs Garth knew everything about the bill, 
and he must in the end speak of it before her, if 
not to her solely. 

" Caleb will be in again in a few minutes," said 
Mrs Garth, who imagined some trouble between 
Fred and his father. " He is sure not to be long, 
because he has some work at his desk that must 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOE DEATH. 37 

be doue this morning. Do you mind staying 
with me, while I finish my matters here ? " 

" But we needn't go on about Cincinnatus, need 
we ? " said Ben, who had taken Fred's whip out 
of his hand, and was trying its efficiency on the 
cat. 

" No, go out now. But put that whip down. 
How very mean of you to whip poor old Tortoise ! 
Pray take the ^^hip from him, Fred." 

" Come, old boy, give it me," said Fred, putting 
out his hand. 

" Will you let me ride on your horse to-day ? " 
said Ben, rendering up the whip, with an air of 
not being obliged to do it. 

"Not to-day — another time. I am not riding 
my own horse." 

" Shall you see Mary to-day ? " 

" Yes, I think so," said Fred, with an unpleasant 
twinge. 

" Tell her to come home soon, and play at for- 
feits, and make fun." 

" Enough, enough, Ben ! run away," said Mrs 
Garth, seeing that Fred was teased. 

" Are Letty and Ben your only pupils now, ^Mrs 
Garth ? " said Fred, when the children were gone 
and it was needful to say something that would 
pass the time. lie was not yet sure whether he 



33 MIDDLEMARCH. 

sliould wait for Mr Gartli, or use any good op- 
portunity in conversation to confess to Mrs Garth 
herself, give her the money and ride away. 

"One — only one. Fanny Hackbutt comes at 
half-past eleven. I am not getting a great income 
now," said IMrs Garth, smiling. " I am at a low 
ebb with pupils. But I have saved my little 
purse for Alfred's premium: I have ninety-two 
pounds. He can go to Mr Hanmer's now ; he is 
just at the right age." 

This did not lead well towards the news that 
Mr Garth was on the brink of losing ninety- two 
pounds and more. Fred was silent. "Young 
gentlemen who go to college are rather more costly 
than that," Mrs Garth innocently continued, pull- 
ing out the edging on a cajj-border. " And Caleb 
thinks that Alfred will turn out a distinguished 
engineer : he wants to give the boy a good chance. 
There he is ! I hear him coming in. "We will go 
to him in the parlour, shall we ? " 

When they entered the parlour Caleb had 
thrown down his hat and was seated at his desk. 

*' What, Fred my boy ? " he said, in a tone of 
mild surprise, holding his pen still undipped. 
" You are here betimes." But missing the usual 
expression of cheerful greeting in Fred's face, he 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 39 

immediately added, " Is there any thing up at 
home ? — anything the matter ? " 

" Yes, Mr Garth, I am come to tell something 
that I am afraid will give you a bad opinion of 
me. I am come to tell you and Mrs Garth that 
I can't keep my word. I can't find the money 
to meet the bill after all. I have been unfortu- 
nate ; I have only got these fifty pounds towards 
the hundred and sixty." 

While Fred was speaking, he had taken out the 
notes and laid them on the desk before Mr Garth. 
He had burst forth at once with the plain fact, 
feeling boyishly miserable and without verbal 
resources. ]\Irs Garth was mutely astonished, and 
looked at her husband for an explanation. Caleb 
blushed, and after a little pause said — 

" Oh, I didn't tell you, Susan : I put my name to 
fi bill for Fred ; it was for a hundred and sixty 
pounds. He made sure he could meet it him- 
self." 

There was an evident change in Mrs Garth's 
face, but it was like a change below the surface of 
water which remains smooth. She fixed her eyes 
on Fred, saying — 

"I suppose you have asked your father for the 
rest of the money and he has refused you." 



40 MIDDLEMAECH. 

" No," said Fred, biting his lip, and speaking 
with more difificulty ; " but I know it will be of no 
use to ask him ; and unless it were of use, I should 
not like to mention Mr Garth's name in the 
matter." 

"It has come at an unfortunate time," said 
Caleb, in his hesitating way, looking down at the 
notes and nervously fingering the paper, " Christ- 
mas upon us — I'm rather hard up just now. You 
see, I have to cut out everything like a tailor 
with short measure. What can we do, Susan ? I 
shall want every farthing we have in the bank. 
It's a hundred and ten pounds, the deuce take 
it!" 

" I must give you the ninety-two pounds that I 
have put b)^ for Alfred's premium," said Mrs Garth, 
gravely and decisively, though a nice ear might 
have discerned a slight tremor in some of the 
words. *'And I have no doubt that Mary has 
twenty pounds saved from her salary by this time. 
She will advance it." 

Mrs Garth had not again looked at Fred, and 
was not in the least calculating what words she 
should use to cut him the most effectively. Like 
the eccentric woman she was, she was at present 
absorbed in considering what was to be done, and 
did not fancy that the end could be better achieved 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 41 

by bitter remarks or explosions. But she had 
made Fred feel for the first time something like 
the tooth of remorse. Curiously enough, his paiu 
in the affair beforehand had consisted almost 
entirely in the sense that he must seem dishonour- 
able, and sink in the opinion of the Garths : he 
had not occupied himself with the inconvenience 
and possible injury that his breach might occa- 
sion them, for this exercise of the imagination on 
other people's needs is not common with hopeful 
young gentlemen. Indeed w^e are most of us 
brought up in the notion that the highest motive 
for not doing a wrong is something irrespective of 
the beings who would suffer the wrong. But at 
this moment he suddenly saw himself as a piti- 
ful rascal who was robbing two women of their 
savings. 

" I shall certainly pay it all, Mrs Garth — ulti- 
mately," he stammered out. 

" Yes, ultimately," said Mrs Garth, who having 
a special dislike to fine words on ugly occasions, 
could not now repress an epigram. "But boys 
cannot well be apprenticed ultimately : they should 
be apprenticed at fifteen." She had never been so 
little inclined to make excuses for Fred. 

"I was the most in the Avrong, Susan," said 
Caleb. "Fred made sure of finding the money. 



42 MIDDLEMAECH. 

But I'd no business to be fingering bills. I sup- 
pose you Lave looked all round and tried all honest 
means ? " lie added, fixing his merciful grey eyes 
on Fred. Caleb was too delicate to specify Mr 
Featherstone. 

" Yes, I have tried everything — I really have. I 
should have had a hundred and thirty pounds 
ready but for a misfortune with a horse which I 
was about to sell. My uncle liad given me 
eighty pounds, and I paid away thirty with my 
old horse in order to get another which I was 
going to sell for eighty or more — I meant to go 
without a horse — but now it has turned out vicious 
and lamed itself. I wish I and the horses too had 
been at the devil, before I had brought this on 
you. There's no one else I care so much for : you 
and Mrs Garth have always been so kind to me. 
However, it's no use saying that. You will always 
think me a rascal now.'* 

Fred turned round and hurried out of the room, 
conscious that he was getting rather womanish, 
and feeling confusedly that his being sorry was 
not of much use to the Garths. They could see 
him mount, and quickly pass through the gate. 

" I am disappointed in Fred Yincy," said Mrs 
Garth. *' I would not have believed beforehand 
that he would have drawn you into his debts. I 



BOOK III. — WAITIXG FOK DEATH. 43 

knew he was extravagant, but I did not think that 
he would be so mean as to hang his risks on his 
oldest friend, who could the least afiford to lose." 

" I was a fool, Susan.'' 

"That you w^ere," said the wife, nodding and 
smiling. " But I should not have gone to publish 
it in the market-place. AVhy should you keep 
such things from me ? It is just so with your 
buttons ; you let them burst off without telling 
me, and go out with your waistband hanging. If 
I had only known I might have been ready with 
some better plan." 

" You are sadly cut up, I know, Susan," said 
Caleb, looking feelingly at her. " I can't abide 
your losing the money you've scraped together for 
Alfred." 

" It is ver}' \vell that I had scraped it together ; 
and it is you who will have to suffer, for you must 
teach the boy yourself. You must give up your 
bad habits. Some men take to drinking, and you 
have taken to working without pay. You must 
indulge yourself a little less in that. And you 
must ride over to Mary, and ask the child what 
money she has." 

Caleb had pushed his chair back, and was lean- 
ing forward, shaking his head slowly, and fitting 
his finger-tips together with much nicety. 



44 MIDDLEMARCfl. 

"Poor Mary!" he said. "Susan," he went on 
in a lowered tone, " I'm afraid she may be fond of 
Fred." 

" Oh no ! She always laughs at him ; and he is 
not likely to think of her in any other than a 
brotherly way." 

Caleb made no rejoinder, but presently lowered 
his spectacles, drew up his chair to the desk, and 
said, "Deuce take the bill — I wish it was at 
Hanover ! These things are a sad interruption 
to business ! " 

The first part of this speech comprised his whole 
store of maledictory expression, and was uttered 
with a slight snarl easy to imagine. But it would 
be difficult to convey to those who never heard 
him utter the word " business," the peculiar tone 
of fervid veneration, of religious regard, in which 
he wrapped it, as a consecrated symbol is wrapped 
in its gold-fringed linen. 

Caleb Garth often shook his head in meditation 
on the value, the indispensable might of that 
myriad-headed, myriad-handed labour by which 
the social body is fed, clothed, and housed. It 
had laid hold of his imagination in boyhood. The 
echoes of the great hammer where roof or keel were 
a-making, the signal-shouts of the workmen, the 
roar of the furnace, the thunder and plash of the 



BOOK HI.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 45 

engine, were a sublime music to him ; the felling 
and lading of timber, and the huge trunk vibrating 
star-like in the distance along the highway, the 
crane at work on the wharf, the piled-up produce 
in warehouses, the precision and variety of mus- 
cular effort wherever exact work had to be turned 
out, — all these sights of his youth had acted on 
him as poetry without the aid of the poets, had 
made a pliilosophy for him without the aid of phil- 
osophers, a religion without the aid of theology. 
His early ambition had been to have as effective 
a share as possible in this sublime labour, which 
was peculiarly dignified by him with the name of 
" business ;" and though he had only been a short 
time under a surveyor, and had been chiefly his 
own teacher, he knew more of land, building, 
and mining than most of the special men in the 
county. 

His classification of human employments was 
rather crude, and, like the categories of more cele- 
brated men, would not be acceptable in these 
advanced times. He divided them into " business, 
politics, preaching, learning, and amusement." 
He liad nothing to say against the last four ; but 
he regarded them as a reverential pagan regarded 
other gods than his own. In the same way, he 
thought very well of all ranks, but he would not 



46 MIDDLEMARCH. 

himself liave liked to be of any rank in which he 
had not such close contact with " business " as to 
get often honourably decorated with marks of 
dust and mortar, the damp of the engine, or the 
sweet soil of the woods and fields. Though he 
had never regarded himself as other than an or- 
thodox Christian, and would argue on prevenient 
grace if the subject were proposed to him, I think 
his virtual divinities were good practical schemes, 
accurate work, and the faithful completion of un- 
dertakings : his prince of darkness was a slack 
workman. But there was no spirit of denial in 
Caleb, and the world seemed so wondrous to him 
that he was ready to accept any number of sys- 
tems, like any number of firmaments, if they did 
not obviously interfere with the best land-drainage, 
solid building, correct measuring, and judicious 
boring (for coal). In fact, he had a reverential 
soul with a strong practical intelligence. But he 
could not manage finance : he knew values well, 
but he had no keenness of imasrination for mone- 
tary results in the shape of profit and loss : and 
having ascertained this to his cost, he determined 
to give up all forms of his beloved "business" 
which required that talent. He gave himself up 
entirely to the many kinds of work which he could 
do without handling capital, and was one of those 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 47 

precious men within his own district whom every- 
body would choose to work for them, because he 
did his work well, charged very little, and often 
declined to charge at all. It is no wonder, then, 
that the Garths were poor, and "lived in a small 
way." However, they did not mind it. 



48 



CHAPTER XXV. 



Love seeketh not itself to please, 

Nor for itself hath any care. 
But for another gives its ease, 

And builds a heaven in hell's despair. 



Love seeketh only self to please, 

To biud another to its delight, 
Joys in another's loss of ease, 

And builds a hell ia heaven's despite." 

— W. Blake : Songs of Experience. 



Fred Vincy wanted to arrive at Stone Court when 
Mary could not expect him, and when his uncle 
was not down-stairs : in that case she might be 
sitting alone in the wainscoated parlour. He left 
his horse in the 3^ard to avoid making a noise on 
the gravel in front, and entered the parlour with- 
out other notice than the noise of the door-handle. 
Mary was in her usual corner, laughing over Mrs 
Piozzi's recollections of Johnson, and looked up 
with the fun still in her face. It gradually faded 
as she saw Fred approach her without speaking, 
and stand before her with his elbow on the mantel- 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 49 

piece, looking ill. She too was silent, only raising 
her eyes to him inquiringly. 

"Mary," he began, "I am a good-for-nothing 
blackguard." 

" I should think one of those epithets would do 
at a time," said Mary, trying to smile, but feeling 
alarmed. 

" I know you will never think well of me any 
more. You will think me a liar. You will think 
me dishonest. You will think I didn't care for 
you, or your father and mother. You always do 
make the worst of me, I know." 

" I cannot deny that I shall think all that of 
you, Fred, if you give me good reasons. But 
please to tell me at once what you have done. I 
would rather know the painful truth than imagine 
it." 

" I owed money — a hundred and sixty pounds. 
I asked your father to put his name to a bill. I 
thought it would not signify to him. I made sure 
of paying the money myself, and I have tried as 
hard as I could. And now, I have been so im- 
lucky — a horse has turned out badly — I can only 
pay fifty pounds. And I can't ask my father for 
the money : he would not give me a farthing. 
And my uncle gave me a hundred a little while 
ago. So what can I do ? And now your father 

VOL. II. D 



50 MIDDLEMARCII. 

has no ready money to spare, and your mother 
will have to pay away her ninety-two pounds that 
she has saved, and she says your savings must go 
too. You see what a " 

"Oh, poor mother, poor father ! " said Mary, her 
eyes filling with tears, and a little sob rising which 
she tried to repress. She looked straight before 
her and took no notice of Fred, all the conse- 
quences at home becoming present to her. He 
too remained silent for some moments, feeling 
more miserable than ever. 

"I wouldn't have hurt you so for the world, 
Mary," he said at last. " You can never forgive 
me." 

"What does it matter wdiether I forgive you ? " 
said Mary, passionately. '•' Would that make it 
any better for my mother to lose the money she 
has been earning by lessons for four years, that 
she might send Alfred to Mr Hanmer's ? Should 
you think all that pleasant enough if I forgave 
you?" 

" Say what you like, Mary. I deserve it all." 

"I don't want to say anything," said Mary, 
more quietly ; '' my anger is of no use." She dried 
her eyes, threw aside her book, rose and fetched 
her sewing. 

Fred followed her with his eyes, hoping that 



BOOK III. —WAITING FOR DEATH. 51 

they would meet hers, and in that way find access 
for his imploring penitence. But no ! Mary could 
easily avoid looking upward. 

" I do care about your mother's money going," 
he said, when she was seated again and sewing 
quickly. *' I wanted to ask you, ]\Iary — don't 
you think that LIr Featherstone — if you were to 
tell him — tell him, I mean, about apprenticing 
Alfred — would advance the money ? " 

*' ^ly family is not fond of begging, Fred. We 
would rather work for our money. Besides, you 
say that Mr Featherstone has lately given you a 
hundred pounds. He rarely makes presents ; he 
has never made presents to us. I am sure my 
father will not ask him for anything ; and even if 
I chose to beg of him, it would be of no use." 

" I am so miserable, Mary — if you knew how 
miserable I am, you would be sorry for me." 

" There are other things to be more sorry for 
than that. But selfish people always think their 
own discomfort of more importance than anything 
else in the world : I see enough of that every 
day." 

" It is hardly fair to call me selfish. If you 
knew what things other young men do, you would 
think me a good way off the worst." 

*' I know that people who spend a great deal of 



52 MIDDLEMARCH. 

money on themselves without knowing how they 
shall pay, must be selfish. They are always 
thinking of what they can get for themselves, and 
not of what other people may lose." 

" Any man may be unfortunate, Mary, and find 
himself unable to pay when he meant it. There 
is not a better man in the world than your father, 
and yet he got into trouble." 

" How dare you make any comparison between 
my father and you, Fred ? " said Mary, in a deep 
tone of indignation. " He never got into trouble 
by thinking of his own idle pleasures, but because 
he was always thinking of the work he was doing 
for other people. And he has fared hard, and 
worked hard to make good everybody's loss." 

" And you think that I shall never try to make 
good anything, Mary. It is not generous to believe 
the worst of a man. When you have got any 
power over him, I think you might try and use it 
to make him better ; but that is what you never 
do. However, I'm going," Fred ended, languidly. 
" I shall never speak to you about anything again. 

I'm very sorry for all the trouble I've caused 

that's all." 

Mary had dropped her work out of her hand 
and looked up. There is often something maternal 
even in a girlish love, and Mary's hard experience 



BOOK III.— ^VAITING FOR DEATH. 53 

had wrought her nature to an impressibility very 
different from that hard slight thing which we call 
girlishness. At Fred's last words she felt an in- 
stantaneous pang, something like what a mother 
feels at the imagined sobs or cries of her naughty 
truant child, which may lose itself and get harm. 
And when, looking up, her eyes met his dull de- 
spairing glance, her pity for him surmounted her 
anger and all her other anxieties. 

" Oh, Fred, how ill you look ! Sit down a mo- 
ment. Don't go yet. Let me tell uncle that you 
are here. He has been wondering that he has 
not seen you for a whole week.'' Mary spoke 
hurriedly, saying the words that came first with- 
out knowing very well what they were, but saying 
them in a half-soothing half-beseeching tone, and 
rising as if to go away to Mr Featherstone. Of 
course Fred felt as if the clouds had parted and 
a gleam had come : he moved and stood in her 
way. 

" Say one word, Mary, and I will do anything. 
Say you will not think the worst of me— will not 
give me up altogether." 

" As if it were any pleasure to me to think ill 
of you," said Mary, in a mournful tone. " As if 
it were not very painful to me to see you an idle 
frivolous creature. How can you bear to be so 



54 MIDDLEMAECH. 

contemptible, when others are working and striv- 
ing, and there are so many things to be done — 
how can you bear to be fit for nothing in the 
world that is useful? And with so much good 
in your disposition, Fred, — you might be worth a 
great deal." 

" I will try to be anything you like, Mary, if 
you will say that you love me/' 

*'I should be ashamed to say that I loved a 
man who must always be hanging on others, and 
reckoning on what they would do for him. What 
will you be when you are forty ? Like Mr Bowyer, 
I suppose — ^just as idle, living in Mrs Beck's front 
parlour — fat and shabby, hoping somebody will 
invite you to dinner — spending your morning in 
learning a comic song — oh no! learning a tune 
on the flute.'* 

Mary's lips had begun to curl with a smile as 
soon as she had asked that question about Fred's 
future (young souls are mobile), and before she 
ended, her face had its full illumination of fun. 
To him it was like the cessation of an ache that 
Mary could laugh at him, and with a passive sort 
of smile he tried to reach her hand ; but she slip- 
ped away quickly towards the door and said, " I 
shall tell uncle. You must see him for a moment 
or two." 



BOOK TIL — ^WAITING FOR DEATH. 55 

Fred secretly felt that his future was guaran- 
teed against the fulfilment of j\Iary's sarcastic 
prophecies, apart from that ''anything" which he 
was ready to do if she would define it. He never 
dared in Mary's presence to approach the subject 
of his expectations from Mr Featherstone, and she 
always ignored them, as if everything depended on 
himself. But if ever he actually came into the 
property, she must recognise the change in his 
position. All this passed through his mind some- 
what languidly, before he went up to see his uncle. 
He stayed but a little while, excusing himself on 
the ground that he had a cold ; and Mary did not 
reappear before he left the house. But as he rode 
home, he began to be more conscious of being ill> 
than of being melancholy. 

When Caleb Garth arrived at Stone Court soon 
after dusk, Mary was not surprised, although he 
seldom had leisure for paying her a visit, and was 
not at all fond of having to talk with Mr Feather- 
stone. The old man, on the other hand, felt him- 
self ill at ease with a brother-in-law whom he 
could not annoy, who did not mind about being 
considered poor, had nothing to ask of him, and 
understood all kinds of farming and mining busi- 
ness better than he did. But Mary had felt sure 
that her parents would want to see her, and if her 



56 MIDDLEMARCH. 

father had not come, she would have obtained 
leave to go home for an hour or two the next day. 
After discussing prices during tea with Mr Feather- 
stone, Caleb rose to bid him good-bye, and said, 
" I want to speak to you, Mary/' 

She took a candle into another large parlour, 
where there was no fire, and setting down the 
feeble light on the dark mahogany table, turned 
round to her father, and putting her arms round 
his neck kissed him with childish kisses which he 
delighted in, — the expression of his large brows 
softening as the expression of a great beautiful 
dog softens when it is caressed. Mary was his 
favourite child, and whatever Susan might say, 
and riglit as she was on all other subjects, 
Caleb thought it natural that Fred or any one 
else should think Mary more loveable than other 
girls. 

" I've got something to tell you, my dear," said 
Caleb, in his hesitating way. "!No very good 
news ; but then it might be worse." 

" About money, father ? I think I know what 
it is." 

" Ay 1 how can that be ? You see, Fve been a 
bit of a fool again, arid put my name to a bill, and 
now it comes to paying ; and your mother has got 
to part with her savings, that's the worst of it, and 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 57 

even they won't quite make things even. "We 
wanted a hundred and ten pounds : your mother 
has ninety-two, and I have none to spare in the 
bank; and she thinks that you will have some 
savings." 

*'0h yes; I have more than four-and-twenty 
pounds. I thought you would come, father, so 
I put it in my bag. See ! beautiful white notes 
and gold." 

Mary took out the folded money from her reti- 
cule and put it into her father's hand. 

" Well, but how, — we only want eighteen — here, 
put the rest back, child, — but how did you know 
about it?" said Caleb, who, in his unconquerable 
indifference to money, was beginning to be chiefly 
concerned about the relation the affair might have 
to Mary's affections. 

" Fred told me this morning." 

"Ah ! Did he come on purpose ?" 

"Yes, I think so. He was a good deal dis- 
tressed." 

" I'm afraid Fred is not to be trusted, Mary," 
said the father, with hesitating tenderness. " He 
means better than he acts, perhaps. But I 
should think it a pity for anybody's happiness 
to be wrapped up in liim, and so would your 
mother." 



58 MIDDLEMAECH. 

" And so should I, father," said Mary, not look- 
ing up, but putting the back of her father's hand 
against her cheek. 

" I don't want to pry, my dear. But I was afraid 
there might be something between you and Fred, 
and I wanted to caution you. You see, Mary" — 
here Caleb's voice became more tender; he had 
been pushing his hat about on the table and look- 
ing at it, but finally he turned his e3^es on his 
daughter — " a woman, let her be as good as she 
may, has got to put up with the life her husband 
makes for her. Your mother has had to put up 
with a good deal because of me." 

Mary turned the back of her felther's hand to 
her lips and smiled at him. 

"Well, well, nobody's perfect, but" — here Mr 
Garth shook his head to help out the inadequacy 
of words — "what I'm thinking of is — what it must 
be for a wife when she's never sure of her husband, 
when he hasn't got a principle in him to make him 
more afraid of doing the wrong thing by others 
than of getting his own toes pinched. That's the 
long and the short of it, Mary. Young folks may 
get fond of each other before they know what life 
is, and they may think it all holiday if they can 
only get togethet ; but it soon turns into working- 
day, my dear. However, you have more sense 



BOOK m. — WAITING FOE DEATH. 69 

than most, and you haven't been kept in cotton- 
wool : there may be no occasion for me to say this, 
but a father trembles for his daughter, and you 
are all by yourself here." 

"Don't fear for me, father," said Mary, gravely 
meeting her father's eyes ; " Fred has always been 
very good to me ; he is kind-hearted and affec- 
tionate, and not false, I think, with all his self- 
indulgence.. But I will never engage myself to 
one who has no manly independence, and who 
goes on loitering away his time on the chance that 
others will provide for him. You and my mother 
have taught me too much pride for that." 

" That's right — that's right. Then I am easy," 
said Mr Garth, taking up his hat. " But it's hard 
to run away with your earnings, child." 

"Father!" said Mary, in her deepest tone of 
remonstrance. " Take pocketfuls of love besides 
to them all at home," was her last word before he 
closed the outer door on himself. 

" I suppose your father wanted your earnings," 
said old ]\Ir Featherstone, with his usual power of 
unpleasant surmise, when Mary returned to him. 
" He makes but a tight fit, I reckon. You're of age 
now ; you ought to be saving for yourself." 

" I consider my father and mother the be^t part 
of myself, sir," said ^lary, coldly. 



60 MIDDLEMAECH. 

Mr Featlierstone grunted: lie could not deny 
that an ordinary sort of girl like her might be 
expected to be useful, so he thought of another 
rejoinder, disagreeable enough to be always apro- 
pos. "If Fred Vincy comes to-morrow, now, 
don't you keep him chattering : let him come up 
to me." 



61 



CHAPTEE XXVI. 



" He beats me and I rail at him : worthy satisfaction ! would it were 
otherwise— that I could beat him while he railed at me." — Troilug and 
Cressida. 



But Fred did not go to Stone Court the next day, 
for reasons that were quite peremptory. From 
those visits to unsanitary Houndsley streets in 
search of Diamond, he had brought back not only 
a bad bargain in horse-flesh, but the further mis- 
fortune of some ailment which for a day or two had 
seemed mere depression and headache, but which 
got so much worse when he returned from his 
visit to Stone Court that, going into the dining- 
room, he threw himself on the sofa, and in answer 
to his mother's anxious question, said, " I feel 
very ill : I think you must send for Wrench." 

Wrench came but did not apprehend anything 
serious, spoke of a " slight derangement," and did 
not speak of coming again on the morrow. He 
had a due value for the Vincys' house, but the 



62 MIDDLEMARCH. 

wariest men are apt to be a little dulled by 
routine, and on worried mornings will sometimes 
go through their business with the zest of the 
daily bell-ringer. Mr Wrench was a small, neat, 
bilious man, with a well-dressed wig : he had a 
laborious practice, an irascible temper, a lym- 
phatic wife and seven children ; and he was 
already rather late before setting out on a four- 
miles drive to meet Dr Minchin on the other side 
of Tipton, the decease of Hicks, a rural practitioner, 
having increased Middlemarch practice in that 
direction. Great statesmen err, and why not 
small medical men ? Mr Wrench did not neglect 
sending the usual white parcels, which this time 
had black and drastic contents. Their effect was 
not alleviating to poor Fred, who, however, un- 
willing as he said to believe that he was " in for 
an illness," rose at his usual easy hour the next 
morning and went down-stairs meaning to break- 
fast, but succeeded in nothing but in sitting and 
shivering by the fire. Mr Wrench was again sent 
for, but was gone on his rounds, and Mrs Vincy 
seeing her darling's changed looks and general 
misery, began to cry and said she would send for 
Dr Sprague. 

"Oh, nonsense, mother ! It's nothing," said Fred, 
putting out his hot dry hand to her, "I shall 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 63 

soon be all right. I must have taken cold in that 
nasty damp ride." 

"Mamma!" said Eosamond, who was seated near 
the window (the dining-room windows looked on 
that highly respectable street called Lowick Gate), 
" there is Mr Lydgate, stopping to speak to some 
one. If I were you I would call him in. He has 
cured Ellen Bulstrode. They say he cures every 
one." 

Mrs Vincy sprang to the window and opened it 
in an instant, thinking only of Fred and not of 
medical etiquette. Lydgate was only two yards 
off on the other side of some iron palisading, and 
turned round at the sudden sound of the sash, 
before she called to him. In two minutes he was 
in the room, and Eosamond went out, after wait- 
ing just long enough to show a pretty anxiety 
conflicting with her sense of what was becoming. 

Lydgate had to hear a narrative in which Mrs 
Vincy 's mind insisted with remarkable instinct on 
every point of minor importance, especially on 
what Mr Wrench had said and had not said about 
coming again. That there might be an awkward 
affair with Wrench, Lydgate saw at once ; but the 
case was serious enough to make him dismiss that 
consideration : he was convinced that Fred was in 
the pink-skinned stage of typhoid fever, and that 



64 MIDDLEMARCH. 

he had taken just the wrong medicines. He must 
go to bed immediately, must have a regular nurse, 
and various appliances and precautions must be 
used, about which Lydgate was particular. Poor 
Mrs Vincy's terror at these indications of danger 
found vent in such words as came most easily. 
She thought it " very ill usage on the part of Mr 
Wrench, who had attended their house so many 
years in preference to Mr Peacock, though Mr 
Peacock was equally a friend. Why Mr Wrench 
should neglect her children more than others, she 
could not for the life of her understand. He 
had not neglected Mrs Larcher's when they had 
the measles, nor indeed would Mrs Vincy have 
wished that he should. And if anything should 
happen ..." 

Here poor Mrs Vincy's spirit quite broke down, 
and her Niobe- throat and good-humoured face 
were sadly convulsed. This was in the hall out 
of Pred's hearing, but Eosamond had opened the 
drawing-room door, and now came forward anxi- 
ously. Lydgate apologised for Mr Wrench, said 
that the symptoms yesterday might have been 
disguising, and that this form of fever was very 
equivocal in its beginnings : he would go im- 
mediately to the druggist's and have a prescrip- 
tion made up in order to lose no time, but he 



BOOK III. —WAITING FOE DEATH. 65 

would write to Mr Wrencli and tell him what had 
been done. 

"But you must come again — you must go on 
attending Fred. I can't have my boy left to any- 
body who may come or not. I bear nobody ill- 
will, thank God, and Mr AVrench saved me in the 
pleurisy, but he'd better have let me die — if — 
if " 

" I will meet Mr Wrench here, then, shall I V* 
said Lydgate, really believing that Wrench was 
not well prepared to deal wisely with a case of 
this kind. 

" Pray make that arrangement, Mr Lydgate," 
said Eosamond, coming to her mother's aid, and 
supporting her arm to lead her away. 

When Mr Vincy came home he was very angry 
with Wrench, and did not care if he never came 
into his house again. Lydgate should go on now, 
whether Wrench liked it or not. It was no joke 
to have fever in the house. Everybody must be 
sent to now, not to come to dinner on Thursday. 
And Pritchard needn't get up any wine : brandy 
was the best thing against infection. " I shall 
drink brandy," added Mr Vincy, emphatically — as 
much as to say, this was not an occasion for firing 
with blank - cartridges. " He's an uncommonly 

VOL. II. E 



66 MIDDLEMAECH. 

unfortunate lad, is Fred. He'd need have some 
luck by-and-by to make up for all this — else I 
don't know who'd have an eldest son." 

" Don't say so, Vincy," said the mother, with a 
quivering lip, " if you don't want him to be taken 
from me." 

" It will worret you to death, Lucy; that I can 
see," said Mr Vincy, more mildly. "However, 
Wrench shall know what I think of the matter." 
(What Mr Vincy thought confusedly was, that 
the fever might somehow have been hindered if 
Wrench had shown the proper solicitude about 
his — the Mayor's — family.) "I'm the last man 
to give in to the cry about new doctors or new 
parsons, either — whether they're Bulstrode's men 
or not. But Wrench shall know what I think, 
take it as he will." 

Wrench did not take it at all well. Lydgate 
was as polite as he could be in his offhand way, 
but politeness in a man who has placed you at a 
disadvantage is only an additional exasperation, 
especially if he happens to have been an object of 
dislike beforehand. Country practitioners used 
to be an irritable species, susceptible on the point 
of honour ; and Mr Wrench was one of the most 
irritable among them. He did not refuse to meet 
Lydgate in the evening, but his temper was some- 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 67 

what tried on the occasion. He had to hear Mrs 
Yincy say — 

" Oh, Mr Wrench, what have I ever done that 
you should use me so ? — To go away, and never 
to come again ! And my hoy might have heen 
stretched a corpse ! " 

Mr Vincy, who had heen keeping up a sharp 
fire on the enemy Infection, and was a good deal 
heated in consequence, started up when he heard 
Wrench come in, and went into the hall to let liim 
know what he thought. 

" I'll tell you what, Wrench, this is heyond a 
joke," said the Mayor, who of late had had to 
rebuke offenders with an official air, and now 
broadened himself by putting his thumbs in his 
armholes. — "To let fever get unawares into a 
house like this. There are some things that 
ought to be actionable, and are not so — that's 
my opinion." 

But irrational reproaches were easier to bear 
than the sense of being instructed, or rather the 
sense that a younger man, like Lydgate, inwardly 
considered him in need of instruction, for " in 
point of fact," Mr Wrench afterwards said, Lydgate 
paraded flighty, foreign notions, which would not 
wear. He swallowed his ire for the moment, but 
he afterwards wrote to decline further attendance 



68 MIDDLEMARCH. 

in the case. The house might be a good one, but 
Mr Wrench was not going to truckle to anybody 
on a professional matter. He reflected, with much 
probability on his side, that Lydgate would by- 
and-by be caught tripping too, and that his un- 
gentlemanly attempts to discredit the sale of drugs 
by his professional brethren would by-and-by re- 
coil on himself. He threw out biting remarks on 
Lydgate's tricks, worthy only of a quack, to get 
himself a factitious reputation with credulous 
people. That cant about cures was never got up 
by sound practitioners. 

This was a point on which Lydgate smarted as 
much as Wrench could desire. To be puffed by 
ignorance was not only humiliating, but perilous, 
and not more enviable than the reputation of the 
weather-prophet. He was impatient of the fool- 
ish expectations amidst which all work must be 
carried on, and likely enough to damage himself 
as much as Mr Wrench could wish, by an unpro- 
fessional openness. 

However, Lydgate was installed as medical at- 
tendant on the Vincys, and the event was a sub- 
ject of general conversation in Middlemarch. 
Some said, that the Vincys had behaved scandal- 
ously, that Mr Vincy had threatened Wrench, 
and that Mrs Vincy had accused him of poisoning 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 69 

her son. Others were of opinion that Mr Lyd- 
gate's passing by was providential, that he was 
wonderfully clever in fevers, and that Bulstrode 
was in the right to bring him forward. Many 
people believed that Lydgate's coming to the town 
at all was really due to Bulstrode ; and Mrs Taft, 
who was always counting stitches and gathered 
her information in misleading fragments caught 
between the rows of her knitting, had got it into 
her head that Mr Lydgate was a natural son of 
Bulstrode's, a fact which seemed to justify her 
suspicions of evangelical laymen. 

She one day communicated this piece of know- 
ledge to Mrs Farebrother, who did not fail to tell 
her son of it, observing — 

" I should not be surprised at anything in Bul- 
strode, but I should be soriy to think it of Mr 
Lydgate." 

" Why, mother," said Mr Farebrother, after an 
explosive laugh, " you know very weU that Lyd- 
gate is of a good family in the JSTorth. He never 
heard of Bulstrode before he came here." 

" That is satisfactory so far as Mr Lydgate is 
concerned, Camden," said the old lady, with an air 
of precision. "But as to Bulstrode — the report 
may be true of some other sen." 



70 



CHAPTEK XXVII. 



" Let the high Muse chant loves Olympian : 
We are hut mortals, and must sing of man.' 



An eminent philosopher among my friends, who 
can dignify even your ugly furniture by lifting it 
into the serene light of science, has shown me 
this pregnant little fact. Your pier-glass or 
extensive surface of polished steel made to be 
rubbed by a housemaid, wiU. be minutely and mul- 
titudinously scratched in all directions ; but place 
now against it a lighted candle as a centre of 
illumination, and lo ! the scratches will seem to 
arrange themselves in a fine series of concentric 
circles round that little sun. It is demonstrable 
that the scratches are going everywhere impar- 
tially, and it is only your candle which produces 
the flattering illusion of a concentric arrangement, 
its light falling with an exclusive optical selection. 
These things are a parable. The scratches are 
events, and the candle is the egoism of any person 



BOOK ITI. — WAITING FOE DEATH. 71 

now absent — of Miss Vincy, for example. Eosa- 
mond had a Providence of her own who had kindly 
made her more charming than other girls, and 
who seemed to have arranged Fred's illness and 
]\Ir Wrench's mistake in order to bring her and 
Lydgate within effective proximity. It would 
have been to contravene these arrangements if 
Eosamond had consented to go away to Stone 
Court or elsewhere, as her parents wished her to 
do, especially since Mr Lydgate thought the precau- 
tion needless. Therefore, while Miss Morgan and 
the children were sent away to a farmhouse the 
morning after Fred's illness had declared itself, 
Eosamond refused to leave papa and mamma. 

Poor mamma indeed was an object to touch 
any creature born of woman ; and Mr Vincy, who 
doated on his wife, was more alarmed on her 
account than on Fred's. But for his insistance 
she would have taken no rest : her brightness 
was all bedimmed ; unconscious of her costume 
which had always been so fresh and gay, she was 
like a sick bird with languid eye and plumage 
ruffled, her senses dulled to the sights and sounds 
that used most to interest her. Fred's delirium, 
in which he seemed to be wandering out of her 
reach, tore her heart. After her first outburst 
against Mr Wrench she went about very quietly : 



72 MIDDLEMARCH. 

her one low cry was to Lydgate. She would follow 
him out of the room and put her hand on his arm 
moaning out, " Save my boy." Once she pleaded, 
" He has always been good to me, Mr Lydgate : 
he never had a hard word for his mother," — as if 
poor Fred's suffering were an accusation against 
him. All the deepest fibres of the mother's 
memory were stirred, and the young man whose 
voice took a gentler tone when he spoke to her, 
was one with the babe whom she had loved, with 
a love new to her, before he was born. 

*' I have good hope, Mrs Vincy," Lydgate would 
say. " Come down with me and let us talk about 
the food." In that way he led her to the parlour 
where Kosamond was, and made a change for her, 
surprising her into taking some tea or broth 
which had been prepared for her. There w^as a 
constant understanding between him and Eosa- 
mond on these matters. He almost always saw 
her before going to the sick-room, and she ap- 
pealed to him as to what she could do for mamma. 
Her presence of mind and adroitness in carrying 
out his hints were admirable, and it is not wonder- 
ful that the idea of seeing Eosamond began to 
mingle itself with his interest in the case. Espe- 
cially when the critical stage was passed, and he 
began to feel confident of Fred's recovery. In the 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOE DEATH. 73 

more doubtful time, he had advised calling in Dr 
Sprague (who, if he could, would rather have 
remained neutral on Wrench's account) ; but after 
two consultations, the conduct of the case was left 
to Lydgate, and there was every reason to make 
him assiduous. Morning and evening he was 
at Mr Vincy's, and gradually the visits became 
cheerful as Fred became simply feeble, and lay 
not only in need of the utmost petting but con- 
scious of it, so that Mrs Yincy felt as if after 
all the illness had made a festival for her ten- 
derness. 

Both father and mother held it an added reason 
for good spirits, when old Mr Featherstone sent 
messages by Lydgate, saying that Fred must make 
haste and get well, as be, Peter Featherstone, could 
not do without him, and missed his \dsits sadly. 
The old man himself was getting bedridden. Mrs 
Yincy told these messages to Fred when he could 
listen, and he turned towards her his delicate, 
pinched face, from which all the thick blond hair 
had been cut away, and in which the eyes seemed 
to have got larger, yearning for some word about 
Mary — wondering what she felt about his illness. 
No word passed his lips ; but "to hear with eyes 
belongs to love's rare wit," and the mother in tlie 
fulness of her heart not only divined Fred's hmg- 



74 MIDDLEMAHCH. 

ing, but felt ready for any sacrifice iu order to 
satisfy him. 

" If I can only see my boy strong again/' she 
said, in her loving folly ; " and who knows ? — per- 
haps master of Stone Court ! and he can many 
anybody he likes then." 

"Not if they won't have me, mother," said 
Fred. The illness had made him childish, and 
tears came as he spoke. 

"Oh, take a bit of jelly, my dear," said Mrs 
Vincy, secretly incredulous of any such refusal. 

She never left Fred's side when her husband 
was not in the house, and thus Eosamond was in 
the unusual position of being much alone. Lyd- 
gate, naturally, never thought of staying long with 
her, yet it seemed that the brief impersonal con- 
versations they had together were creating that 
peculiar intimacy which consists in shyness. They 
were obliged to look at each other in speaking, 
and somehow the looking could not be carried 
through as the matter of course which it really 
was. Lydgate began to feel this sort of conscious- 
ness unpleasant, and one day looked down, or 
anywhere, like an ill-worked puppet. But this 
turned out badly : the next day, Eosamond looked 
down, and the consequence was that when their 
eyes met again, both were more conscious than 



BOOK III. — "WAITING FOU DE.\TII. 75 

before. There was no help for this in science, 
and as Lydgate did not want to flirt, there seemed 
to be no help for it in folly. It was therefore a 
relief when neighbours no longer considered the 
house in quarantine, and when the chances of 
seeing Eosamond alone were very much reduced. 

But that intimacy of mutual embarrassment, in 
which each feels that the other is feeling some- 
thin^, havino: once existed, its effect is not to be 
done away with. Talk about the weather and 
other well-bred topics is apt to seem a hollow 
device, and behaviour can hardly become easy 
unless it frankly recognises a mutual fascination 
— which of course need not mean anything deep 
or serious. This was the way in which Eosamond 
and Lydgate slid gracefully into ease, and made 
their intercourse lively again. Visitors came and 
went as usual, there was once more music in the 
drawing-room, and all the extra hospitality of Mr 
Vincy's mayoralty returned. Lydgate, whenever 
lie could, took his seat by Eosamond's side, and 
lingered to hear her music, calling himself her 
captive — meaning, all the while, not to be her 
captive. The preposterousness of the notion that 
he could at once set up a satisfactory establish- 
ment as a married man was a sufficient guarantee 
against danger. This play at being a little in love 



/6 MIDDLEMARCH. 

was agreeable, and did not interfere with graver 
pursuits. Flirtation, after all, was not necessarily 
a singeing process. Eosamond, for her part, had 
never enjoyed the days so much in her life before : 
she was sure of being admired by some one worth 
captivating, and she did not distinguish flirtation 
from love, either in herself or in another. She 
seemed to be sailing with a fair wind just whither 
she would go, and her thoughts were much occu- 
pied with a handsome house in Lowick Gate 
which she hoped w^ould by -and -by be vacant. 
She was quite determined, when she was married, 
to rid herself adroitly of all the visitors who were 
not agreeable to her at her father's; and she 
imagined the drawing-room in her favourite house 
with various styles of furniture. 

Certainly her thoughts were much occupied 
with Lydgate himself; he seemed to her almost 
perfect: if he had known his notes so that his 
enchantment under her music had been less like 
an emotional elephant's, and if he had been able 
to discriminate better the refinements of her taste 
in dress, she could hardly have mentioned a defi- 
ciency in him. How different he was from young 
Plymdale or Mr Caius Larcher! Those young 
men had not a notion of French, and could speak 
on no subject with striking knowledge, except 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 77 

perhaps the dyeing aud carr3n.ng trades, which of 
course they were ashamed to mention ; they were 
Middlemarch gentry, elated with their silver- 
headed whips and satin stocks, but embarrassed 
in their manners, and timidly jocose : even Fred 
was above them, having at least the accent and 
manner of a university man. Whereas Lydgate 
was always listened to, bore himself with the care- 
less politeness of conscious superiority, and seemed 
to have the right clothes on by a certain natural 
affinity, without ever having to think about them. 
Kosamond was proud when he entered the room, 
and when he approached her with a distinguish- 
ing smile, she had a delicious sense that she was 
the object of enviable homage. If Lydgate had 
been aware of all the pride he excited in that 
delicate bosom, he might have been just as well 
pleased as any other man, even the most densely 
ignorant of humoral pathology or fibrous tissue : 
he held it one of the prettiest attitudes of the 
feminine mind to adore a man's pre-eminence 
without too precise a knowledge of what it con- 
sisted in. 

But Kosamond was not one of those helpless 
girls who betray themselves unawares, and whose 
behaviour is awkwardly driven by their impulses, 
instead of being steered by wary grace and pro- 



78 MIDDLEMARCH. 

priety. Do you imagine that her rapid forecast 
and rumination concerning house-furniture and 
society were ever discernible in her conversation, 
even with her mamma? On the contrary, she 
would have expressed the prettiest surprise and 
disapprobation if she had heard that another young 
lady had been detected in that immodest prema- 
tureness — indeed, would probably have disbelieved 
in its possibility. For Eosamond never showed 
any unbecoming knowledge, and was always that 
combination of correct sentiments, music, dancing, 
drawing, elegant note-writing, private album for 
extracted verse, and perfect blond loveliness, which 
made the irresistible woman for the doomed man 
of that date. Think no unfair evil of her, pray : 
she had no wicked plots, nothing sordid or mer- 
cenary ; in fact, she never thought of money ex- 
cept as something necessary which other people 
would always provide. She was not in the habit 
of devising falsehoods, and if her statements were 
no direct clue to fact, why, they were not in- 
tended in that light — they were among her ele- 
gant accomplishments, intended to please. Na- 
ture had inspired many arts in finishing Mrs 
Lemon's favourite pupil, who by general consent 
(Fred's excepted) was a rare compound of beauty, 
cleverness, and amiability. 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 70 

Lydgate found it more and more agreeable to be 
with her, and there was no constraint now, there 
was a delightful interchange of influence in their 
eyes, and what they said had that superfluity of 
meaning for them, which is observable with some 
sense of flatness by a third person ; still, they had 
no interviews or asides from which a third person 
need have been excluded. In fact, they flirted ; 
and Lydgate was secure in the belief that they did 
nothing else. If a man could not love and be 
wise, surely he could flirt and be wise at the same 
time ? EeaUy, the men in Middlemarch, except 
Mr Farebrother, were great bores, and Lydgate did 
not care about commercial politics or cards : what 
was he to do for relaxation ? He was often in- 
vited to the Bulstrodes' ; but the girls there were 
hardly out of the schoolroom ; and Mrs Bulstrode's 
naive way of conciliating piety and worldliness, 
the nothingness of this life and the desirability of 
cut glass, the consciousness at once of filthy rags 
and the best damask, was not a sufficient relief 
from the weight of her husband's invariable seri- 
ousness. The Vincys' house, with all its faults, 
^vas the pleasanter by contrast ; besides, it nour- 
ished Eosamond — sweet to look at as a half- 
opened blush-rose, and adorned with accomplish- 
ments for the refined amusement of man. 



80 MIDDLEMARCH. 

But he made some enemies, other than medical, 
by his success with Miss Vincy. One evening he 
came into the drawing-room rather late, when 
several other visitors were there. The card-table 
had drawn off the elders, and Mr Ned Plymdale 
(one of the good matches in Middlemarch, though 
not one of its leading minds) was in tete-a-tete 
with Eosamond. He had brought the last ' Keep- 
sake,' the gorgeous watered-silk publication which 
marked modern progress at that time; and he con- 
sidered himself very fortunate that he could be the 
first to look over it with her, dwelling on the 
ladies and gentlemen with shiny copper -plate 
cheeks and copper-plate smiles, and pointing to 
comic verses as capital and sentimental stories as 
interesting. Eosamond was gracious, and Mr Ned 
was satisfied that he had the very best thing in 
art and literature as a medium for " paying ad- 
dresses" — the very thing to please a nice girl. 
He had also reasons, deep rather than ostensible, 
for being satisfied with his own appearance. To 
superficial observers his chin had too vanishing an 
aspect, looking as if it were being gradually re- 
absorbed. And it did indeed cause him some diffi- 
culty about the fit of his satin stocks, for which 
chins were at that time useful. 

" I think the Honourable Mrs S. is something 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 81 

like yon," said Mr Ned. He kept the book open 
at the bewitching portrait, and looked at it rather 
languishingly. 

" Her back is very large ; she seems to have sat 
for that," said Eosamond, not meaning any satire, 
but thinking how red young Plymdale's hands 
were, and wondering why Lydgate did not come. 
She went on with her tatting all the while. 

" I did not say she was as beautiful as you are," 
said Mr Ned, venturing to look from the portrait 
to its rival. 

" I suspect you of being an adroit flatterer," said 
Eosamond, feeling sure that she should have to 
reject this young gentleman a second time. 

But now Lydgate came in ; the book was closed 
before he reached Rosamond's corner, and as he 
took his seat with easy confidence on the other 
side of her, young Plymdale's jaw feU like a 
barometer towards the cheerless side of change. 
Eosamond enjoyed not only Lydgate's presence 
but its effect : she liked to excite jealousy. 

" What a late comer you are !" she said, as they 
shook hands. " Mamma liad given you up a little 
while ago. How do you find Fred ? " 

"As usual ; going on well, but slowly. I want 
him to go away — to Stone Court, for example. 
But your mamma seems to have some objection." 

VOL. II. p 



82 MIDDLEMAECH. 

" Poor fellow !" said Eosamond, prettily. "You 
will see Fred so changed," she added, turning to 
the other suitor ; " we have looked to Mr Lydgate 
as our guardian angel during this illness." 

Mr Ned smiled nervously, while Lydgate draw- 
ing the ' Keepsake' towards him and opening it, 
gave a short scornful laugh and tossed up his 
chin, as if in wonderment at human folly. 

"What are you laughing at so profanely?" said 
Eosamond, with bland neutrality. 

"I wonder which would turn out to be the 
silliest — the engravings or the writing here," said 
Lydgate, in his most convinced tone, while he 
turned over the pages quickly, seeming to see all 
through the book in no time, and showing his 
large white hands to much advantage, as Eosa- 
mond thought. "Do look at this bridegroom 
coming out of church : did you ever see such a ' 
' sugared invention' — as the Elizabethans used to 
say ? Did any haberdasher ever look so smirking ? 
Yet I will answer for it the story makes him one 
of the first gentlemen in the land." 

" You are so severe, I am frightened at you," 
said Eosamond, keeping her amusement duly 
moderate. Poor young Plymdale had lingered 
with admiration over this very engraving, and 
his spirit was stirred. 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 83 

" There are a great many celebrated people 
writing in the ' Keepsake/ at all events," he said, 
in a tone at once piqued and timid. " This is the 
first time I have heard it called silly." 

" I think I shall turn round on you and accuse 
.you of being a Goth," said Eosamond, looking at 
Lydgate with a smile. " I suspect you know 
nothing about Lady Blessington and L. E. L." 
Eosamond herself was not without relish for these 
writers, but she did not readily commit herself by 
admiration, and was alive to the slightest hint 
that anything was not, according to Lydgate, in 
the very highest taste. 

" But Sir Walter Scott — I suppose Mr Lydgate 
knows him," said young Plymdale, a little cheered 
by this advantage. 

" Oh, I read no literature now," said Lydgate, 
shutting the book, and pushing it away. " I read 
so much when I was a lad, that I suppose it will 
last me all my life. I used to know Scott's poems 
by heart." 

" I should like to know when you left off," said 
Eosamond, " because then I might be sure that I 
knew something which you did not know." 

"Mr Lydgate would say that was not worth 
knowing," said Mr Ned, purposely caustic. 

" On the contrary," said Lydgate, showing no 



84 MIDDLEMAECH. 

smart, but smiling with exasperating confidence 
at Eosamond. " It would be worth knowing by the 
fact that Miss Vincy could tell it me." 

Young Plymdale soon went to look at the whist- 
playing, thinking that Lydgate was one of the 
most conceited, unpleasant fellows it had ever 
been his ill-fortune to meet. 

" How rash you are ! " said Eosamond, inwardly 
delighted. "Do you see that you have given 
offence ? " 

''What— is it Mr Plymdale's book? I am 
sorry. I didn't think about it." 

" I shall begin to admit what you said of your- 
self when you first came here — that you are a 
bear, and want teaching by the birds." 

" Well, there is a bird who can teach me what 
she will. Don't I listen to her willingly?" 

To Eosamond it seemed as if she and Lydgate 
were as good as engaged. That they were some 
time to be engaged had long been an idea in her 
mind ; and ideas, we know, tend to a more solid 
kind of existence, the necessary materials being 
at hand. It is true, Lydgate had the counter-idea 
of remaining unengaged ; but this was a mere 
negative, a shadow cast by other resolves which 
themselves were capable of shrinking. Circum- 



BOOK III. — TP'AITIXG FOU DEATH. 85 

stance was almost sure to be on the side of Eosa- 
mond's idea, which had a shaping activity and 
looked through watchful blue eyes, whereas Lyd- 
gate's lay blind and unconcerned as a jelly-fish 
which gets melted without knowing it. 

That evening when he went home, he looked at 
his phials to see how a process of maceration was 
going on, with undisturbed interest ; and he wrote 
out his daily notes with as much precision as 
usual. The reveries from which it was difficult for 
him to detach himself were ideal constructions of 
something else than Eosamond's virtues, and the 
primitive tissue was still his fair unknown. More- 
over, he was beginning to feel some zest for the 
growing though half-suppressed feud between him 
and the other medical men, which was likely 
to become more manifest, now that Eulstrode's 
method of managing the new hospital was about 
to be declared ; and there were various inspiriting 
signs that his non-acceptance by some of Pea- 
cock's patients might be counterbalanced by the 
impression he had produced in other quarters. 
Only a few days later, when he had happened to 
overtake Eosamond on the Lowick Eoad and had 
got down from his horse to walk by her side until 
he had quite protected her from a passing drove. 



86 MIDDLEMARCII. 

he had been stopped by a servant on horseback 
with a message calling him in to a house of some 
importance where Peacock had never attended; 
and it was the second instance of this kind. The 
servant was Sir James Chettam's, and the house 
was Lowick Manor. 



87 



CHAPTER XXVIII. 



1st Gent. All times are good to seek your wedded home 
Bringing a mutual delight. 

2d Gent. Why, truei 

The calendar hath not an evil day 
For souls made one by love, and even death 
Were sweetness, if it came like rolling waves 
While they two clasped each other, and foresaw 
No life apart." 



^Ir and Mrs Casaubon, returning from their wed- 
ding journey, arrived at Lowick Manor in the 
middle of January. A light snow was falling as 
they descended at the door, and in the morning, 
when Dorothea passed from her dressing-room 
into the blue-green boudoir that we know of, she 
saw the long avenue of limes lifting their trunks 
from a white earth, and spreading white branches 
a.gainst the dun and motionless sky. The distant 
Hat shrank in uniform whiteness and low-hanging 
uniformity of cloud. The very furniture in the 
room seemed to have shrunk since she saw it 
before : the stag in the tapestry looked more 



88 MIDDLEMARCH. 

like a ghost in his ghostly blue-green world; 
the volumes of polite literature in the bookcase 
looked more like immovable imitations of books. 
The bright fire of dry oak-boughs burning on the 
dogs seemed an incongruous renewal of life and 
glow — like the figure of Dorothea herself as she 
entered carrying the red-leather cases containing 
the cameos for Celia. 

She was glowing from her morning toilette as 
only healthful youth can glow : there was gem- 
like brightness on her coiled hair and in her hazel 
eyes; there was warm red life in her lips; her 
throat had a breathing whiteness above the differ- 
ing white of the fur which itself seemed to wind 
about her neck and cling down her blue-grey 
pelisse with a tenderness gathered from her own, 
a sentient commingled innocence which kept its 
loveliness against the crystalline purity of the out- 
door snow. As she laid the cameo-cases on the 
table in the bow-window, she unconsciously kept 
her hands on them, immediately absorbed in look- 
ing out on the still, white enclosure which made 
her visible world. 

Mr Casaubon, who had risen early complaining 
of palpitation, was in the library giving audience 
to his curate Mr Tucker. By-and-by Celia would 
come in her quality of bridesmaid as well as sister, 



BOOK IIL — WAITING FOE DEATH. 89 

and tlirougli the next weeks there would be wed- 
ding visits received and given ; -all in continuance 
of that transitional life understood to correspond 
with the excitement of bridal felicity, and keeping 
up the sense of busy ineffectiveness, as of a dream 
which the dreamer begins to suspect. The duties 
of her married life, contemplated as so great be- 
forehand, seemed to be shrinking with the furni- 
ture and the white vapour-walled landscape. The 
clear heights where she expected to walk in full 
communion had become difficult to see even in 
her imagination ; the delicious repose of the soul 
on a complete superior had been shaken into un- 
easy effort and alarmed with dim presentiment. 
'Wlien would the days begin of that active wifely 
devotion which was to strengthen her husband's 
life and exalt her own? Xever perhaps, as she 
had preconceived them ; but somehow — still some- 
how. In this solemnly-pledged union of her life, 
duty would present itself in some new form of 
inspiration and give a new meaning to wifely 
love. 

Meanwhile there was the snow and the low 
arch of dun vapour—there was the stifling oppres- 
sion of that gentlewoman's world, where every- 
tliing was done for her and none asked for her aid 
— where the sense of connection with a manifold 



90 MIDDLEMAECH. 

pregnant existence had to be kept up painfully as 
an inward vision, instead of coming from without 
in claims that would have shaped her energies. — 
" What shall I do ? " " Whatever you please, my 
dear : " that had been her brief history since she 
had left off learning morning lessons and practis- 
ing silly rhythms on the hated piano. Marriage, 
which was to bring guidance into worthy and im- 
perative occupation, had not yet freed her from 
the gentlewoman's oppressive liberty : it had not 
even filled her leisure with the ruminant joy of 
unchecked tenderness. Her blooming full-pulsed 
youth stood there in a moral imprisonment which 
made itself one with the chill, colourless, narrowed 
landscape, with the shrunken furniture, the never^ 
read books, and the ghostly stag in a pale fantastic 
world that seemed to be vanishing from the day- 
light. 

In the first minutes when Dorothea looked out 
she felt nothing but the dreary oppression ; then 
came a keen remembrance, and turning away from 
the window she walked round the room. The ideas 
and hopes which were living in her mind when she 
first saw this room nearly three months before were 
present now only as memories : she judged them 
as we judge transient and departed things. All 
existence seemed to beat with a lower pulse than 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOU DEATH. 91 

lier own, and her religious faith was a solitary cry, 
the struggle out of a nightmare in which every ob- 
ject was withering and shrinking away from her. 
Each remembered thing in the room was disen- 
chanted, was deadened as an unlit transparency, 
till her wandering gaze came to the group of 
miniatures, and there at last she saw something 
which had gathered new breath and meaning : it 
was th« miniature of ]\Ir Casaubon's aunt Julia, 
who had made the unfortunate marriage — of Will 
Ladislaw's grandmother. Dorothea could fancy 
that it was alive now — the delicate woman's face 
which yet had a headstrong look, a peculiarity 
difficult to interpret. Was it only her friends 
who thousjht her marriage unfortunate ? or did 
she herself find it out to be a mistake, and taste 
the salt bitterness of her tears in the merciful 
silence of the night? What breadths of experi- 
ence Dorothea seemed to have passed over since 
she first looked at this miniature ! She felt a 
new companionship with it, as if it had an ear for 
her and could see how she was looking at it. 
Here was a woman who had known some diffi- 
culty about marriage. Nay, the colours deepened, 
the lips and chin seemed to get larger, the hair 
and eyes seemed to be sending out light, the face 
was masculine and beamed on her with that full 



92 MIDDLEMAECH. 

gaze which tells her on whom it falls that she is 
too interesting for the slightest movement of her 
eyelid to pass unnoticed and uninterpreted. The 
vivid presentation came like a pleasant glow to 
Dorothea : she felt herself smiling, and turning 
from the miniature sat down and looked up as if 
she were again talking to a figure in front of her. 
But the smile disappeared as she went on medi- 
tating, and at last she said aloud — 

" Oh, it was cruel to speak so I How sad — how 
di-eadful!" 

She rose quickly and went out of the room, 
hurrying along the corridor, with the irresistible 
impulse to go and see her husband and inquire 
if she could do anything for him. Perhaps Mr 
Tucker was gone and Mr Casaubon was alone in 
the library. She felt as if all her morning's gloom 
would vanish if she could see her husband glad 
because of her presence. 

But when she reached the head of the dark oak 
staircase, there was Celia coming up, and below 
there was Mr Brooke, exchanging welcomes and 
congratulations with Mr Casaubon. 

"Dodo!" said Celia, in her quiet staccato; 
then kissed her sister, whose arms encircled her, 
and said no more. I think they both cried a 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 93 

little in a furtive manner, while Dorothea ran 
down-stairs to greet her uncle. 

" I need not ask how you are, my dear," said 
Mr Brooke, after kissing her forehead. "Eome 
has agreed with you, I see — happiness, frescoes, 
the antique — that sort of thing. Well, it's very 
pleasant to have you back again, and you under- 
stand all about art now, eh ? But Casaubon is a 
little pale, I tell him — a little pale, you know. 
Studying hard in his holidays is carrying it rather 
too far. I overdid it at one time " — Mr Brooke 
still held Dorothea's hand, but had turned his 
face to Mr Casaubon — " about topography, ruins, 
temples — I thought I had a clue, but I saw it 
would carry me too far, and nothing might have 
come of it. You may go any length in that sort 
of thing, and nothing may come of it, you know." 

Dorothea's eyes also were turned up to her hus- 
band's face with some anxiety at the idea that 
those who saw him afresh after absence might be 
aware of signs which she had not noticed. 

"Nothing to alarm you, my dear," said Mr 
Brooke, observing her expression. "A little 
English beef and mutton will soon make a dif- 
ference. It was all very well to look pale, sitting 
for the portrait of Aquinas, you know — we got 



94 mDDLEMARCII. 

your letter just in time. But Aquinas, now — he 
was a little too subtle, wasn't he ? Does any- 
body read Aquinas?" 

" He is not indeed an author adapted to super- 
ficial minds/' said Mr Casaubon, meeting these 
timely questions with dignified patience. 

"You would like coffee in your own room, 
uncle ? " said Dorothea, coming to the rescue. 

" Yes ; and you must go to Celia : she has great 
news to tell you, you know. I leave it all to her." 

The blue - green boudoir looked much more 
cheerful when Celia was seated there in a pelisse 
exactly like her sister's, surveying the cameos 
with a placid satisfaction, while the conversation 
passed on to other topics. 

" Do you think it nice to go to Eome on a w^ed- 
ding journey ? " said Celia, with her ready deli- 
cate blush which Dorothea was used to on the 
smallest occasions. 

" It would not suit all — not you, dear, for ex- 
ample," said Dorothea, quietly. No one would 
ever know what she thought of a wedding journey 
to Eome. 

"Mrs Cadwallader says it is nonsense, people 
going a long journey when they are married. She 
says, they get tired to death of each other, and 
can't quarrel comfortably, as they would at home. 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOE DEATH. 95 

And Lady Chettam says she went to Bath." Celia's 
colour changed again and again — seemed 

** To come and go with tidings from the heart, 
As it a running messenger had been." 

It must mean more than Celia's blushing usually 
did. 

" Celia ! has something happened ? " said Doro- 
thea, in a tone full of sisterly feeling. "Have 
you really any great news to tell me ? " 

" It was because you went away, Dodo. Then 
there was nobody but me for Sir James to talk 
to," said Celia, with a certain roguishness in her 
eyes. 

" I understand. It is as I used to hope and 
believe," said Dorothea, taking her sister's face 
between her hands, and looking at her half anx- 
iously. Celia's marriage seemed more serious 
than it used to do. 

" It was only three days ago," said Celia. " And 
Lady Chettam is very kind." 

" And you are very happy ? " 

"Yes. We are not going to be married yet. 
Because everything is to be got ready. And I don't 
want to be married so very soon, because I think 
it is nice to be engaged. And we shall be manied 
all our lives after." 

" I do believe you could not marry better, Kitty. 



96 MIDDLEMAECH. 

Sir James is a good, honourable man," said Doro- 
thea, warmly. 

" He has gone on with the cottages, Dodo. He 
will tell you about them when he comes. Shall 
you be glad to see him? " 

" Of course I shall. How can you ask me ? " 
''Only I was afraid you w^ould be getting so 
learned,'' said Celia, regarding Mr Casaubon's 
learning as a kind of damp which might in due 
time saturate a neighbouring body. 



97 



CHAPTEE XXIX. 



" I found that no Renius in another could please me. My unfortunate 
paradoxes lyid entirely dried up that source of comfort."— Goldsmith. 



One morning, some weeks after her arrival at 
Lowick, Dorothea — hut why always Dorothea? 
Was her point of view the only possible one with 
regard to this marriage ? I protest against all our 
interest, all our effort at understandin^r heinsr 
given to the young skins that look blooming in 
spite of trouble ; for these too will get faded, and 
will know the older and more eating griefs which 
we are helping to neglect. In spite of the blink- 
ing eyes and white moles objectionable to Celia, 
and the want of muscular curve which was morally 
painful to Sir James, Mr Casaubon had an intense 
consciousness witJiin him, and was spiritually 
a-hungered like the rest of us. He had done 
nothing exceptional in marrying — nothing but 
what society sanctions, and considers an occasion 
for wreaths and bouquets. It had occurred to 

VOL. II. G 



98 MIDDLEMARCH. 

him that he must not any longer defer his inten- 
tion of matrimony, and he had reflected that in 
taking a wife, a man of good position should 
expect and carefully choose a blooming young 
lady — the younger the better, because more edu- 
cable and submissive — of a rank equal to his own, 
of religious principles, virtuous disposition, and 
good understanding. On such a young lady he 
would make handsome settlements, and he w^ould 
neglect no arrangement for her happiness: in 
return, he should receive family pleasures and 
leave behind him that copy of himself which 
seemed so urgently required of a man — to the 
sonneteers of the sixteenth century. Times had 
altered since then, and no sonneteer had insisted 
on Mr Casaubon's leaving a copy of himself; 
moreover, he had not yet succeeded in issuing 
copies of his mythological key ; but he had always 
intended to acquit himself by marriage, and the 
sense that he was fast leaving the years behind 
him, that the world was getting dimmer and that 
he felt lonely, was a reason to him for losing no 
more time in overtaking domestic delights before 
they too were left behind by the years. 

And when he had seen Dorothea he believed that 
he had found even more than he demanded : she 
might really be such a helpmate to him as would 



BOOK m.— WAITIXG rOR DEATH. 99 

enable him to dispense with a hired secretary, an 
aid which Mr Casaubon had never yet employed 
and had a suspicious dread of. (Mr Casaubon 
was nervously conscious that he was expected to 
manifest a powerful mind.) Providence, in its 
kindness, had supplied him with the wife he 
needed. A wife, a modest young lady, with the 
purely appreciative, unambitious abihties of her 
sex, is sure to think her husband's mind powerful. 
Whether Providence had taken equal care of ^Miss 
Brooke in presenting her with Mr Casaubon was 
an idea which could hardly occur to him. Society 
never made the preposterous demand that a man 
should think as much about his own qualifications 
for making a charming girl happy as he thinks of 
hers for making himself happy. As if a man 
could choose not only his wife but his wife's hus- 
band ! Or as if he were bound to provide charms 
for his posterity in his own person ! — When 
Dorothea accepted him with effusion, that was 
only natural ; and Mr Casaubon believed that his 
happiness was going to begin. 

He had not had much foretaste of happiness in 
his previous life. To know intense joy without a 
strong bodily frame, one must have an enthusias- 
tic soul. Mr Casaubon had never had a strong 
bodily frame, and his soul was sensitive without 



100 MIDDLEMARCH. 

being enthusiastic : it was too languid to thrill 
out of self-consciousness into passionate delight ; 
it went on fluttering in the swampy ground where 
it was hatched, thinking of its wings and never 
flying. His experience was of that pitiable kind 
which shrinks from pity, and fears most of all that 
it should be known: it was that proud narrow 
sensitiveness which has not mass enough to spare 
for transformation into sympathy, and quivers 
thread-like in small currents of self-preoccupation 
or at best of an egoistic scrupulosity. And Mr 
Casaubon had many scruples : he was capable of 
a severe self-restraint ; he was resolute in being a 
man of honour, according to the code ; he would 
be unimpeachable by any recognised opinion. In 
conduct these ends had been attained; but the 
difiiculty of making his Key to all Mythologies 
unimpeachable weighed like lead upon his mind ; 
and the pamphlets — or "Parerga" as he called 
them — by which he tested his public and deposited 
small monumental records of his march, were far 
from having been seen in all their significance. 
He suspected the Archdeacon of not having read 
them ; he was in painful doubt as to what was 
really thought of them by the leading minds of 
Brasenose, and bitterly convinced that his old 
acquaintance Carp had been the v/riter of that 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOE DEATH. 1 01 

depreciatory recension wliicli was kept locked in 
a small drawer of Mr Casaubon's desk, and also in 
a dark closet of his verbal memory. These were 
heavy impressions to struggle against, and brought 
that melancholy embitterment which is the conse- 
quence of all excessive claim : even his religious 
faith wavered with his wavering trust in his own 
authorship, and the consolations of the Christian 
hope in immortality seemed to lean on the immor- 
tality of the still unwritten Key to all ]\Iytholo- 
gies. For my part I am very sorry for him. It 
is an uneasy lot at best, to be what we call highly 
taught and yet not to enjoy : to be present at this 
great spectacle of life and never to be liberated 
from a small hungry shivering self — never to be 
fully possessed by the glory we behold, never to 
have our consciousness rapturously transformed 
into the vividness of a thought, the ardour of a 
passion, the energy of an action, but always to be 
scholarly and uninspired, ambitious and timid, 
scrupulous and dim-sighted. Becoming a dean or 
even a bishop would make little difference, I fear, 
to Mr Casaubon's uneasiness. Doubtless some 
ancient Greek "has observed that behind the big 
mask and the speaking-trumpet, there must always 
be our poor little eyes peeping as usual and our 
timorous lips more or less under anxious control. 



102 MIDDLEMAKCH. 

To this mental estate mapped out a quarter of a 
century before, to sensibilities thus fenced in, Mr 
Casaubon had thought of annexing happiness with 
a lovely young bride ; but even before marriage, as 
we have seen, he found himself under a new 
depression in the consciousness that the new bliss 
was not blissful to him. Inclination yearned back 
to its old, easier custom. And the deeper he went 
in domesticity the more did the sense of acquitting 
himself and acting with propriety predominate 
over any other satisfaction. Marriage, like religion 
and erudition, nay, like authorship itself, w^as 
fated to become an outward requirement, and 
Edward Casaubon was bent on fulfilling unim- 
peachably all requirements. Even drawing Doro- 
thea into use in his study, according to his own 
intention before marriage, was an effort which he 
was always tempted to defer, and but for her plead- 
ing insistance it might never have begun. But she 
had succeeded in making it a matter of course 
that she should take her place at an early hour in 
the library and have work either of reading aloud 
or copying assigned her. The work had been 
easier to define because Mr Casaubon had adopted 
an immediate intention : there was to be a new 
Parergon, a small monograph on some lately-traced 
indications concerning the Egyptian mysteries 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DrATH. 103 

whereby certain assertions of Warburton's could 
be corrected. Eeferences were extensive even 
here, but not altogether shoreless ; and sentences 
were actually to be written in the shape wherein 
they would be scanned by Brasenose and a less 
formidable posterity. These minor monumental 
productions were always exciting to Mr Casau- 
bon; digestion was made difficult by the inter- 
ference .of citations, or by the rivalry of dialectical 
phrases ringing against each other in his brain. 
And from the first there was to be a Latin dedica- 
tion about which everything was uncertain except 
that it was not to be addressed to Carp : it was a 
poisonous regret to Mr Casaubon that he had once 
addressed a dedication to Carp in which he had 
numbered that member of the animal kingdom 
among the viros nulli ccvo perituros, a mistake 
which would infallibly lay the dedicator open to 
ridicule in the next age, and might even be 
chuckled over by Pike and Tench in the present. 
Thus Mr Casaubon was in one of his busiest 
epochs, and as I began to say a little while ago, 
Dorothea joined him early in the librar}^ where he 
had breakfasted alone. Celia at this time was on 
a second visit to Lowick, probably the last before 
her marriage, and was in the drawing-room ex- 
pecting Sir James. 



10-1 MIDDLEMAECH. 

Dorothea had learned to read the signs of her 
husband's mood, and she saw that the morning 
had become more foggy there during the last hour. 
She was going silently to her desk when he said, 
in that distant tone which implied that he was 
discharging a disagreeable duty — 

"Dorothea, here is a letter for you, which was 
enclosed in one addressed to me," 

It was a letter of two pages, and she immediately 
looked at the signature. 

"Mr Ladislaw! What can he have to say to 
me?" she exclaimed, in a tone of pleased sur- 
prise. ''But," she added, looking at Mr Casau- 
bon, " I can imagine what he has written to 
you about." 

*' You can, if j^ou please, read the letter," said 
Mr Casaubon, severely pointing to it with his 
pen, and not looking at her. " But I may as well 
say beforehand, that I must decline the proposal 
it contains to pay a visit here. I trust I may 
be excused for desiring an interval of complete 
freedom from such distractions as have been 
hitherto inevitable, and especially from guests 
whose desultory vivacity makes their presence a 
fatigue." 

There had been no clashing of temper between 
Dorothea and her husband since that little exjjlo- 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOE DEATH. 105 

sion in Eome, which had left such strong traces 
in her mind that it had been easier ever since 
to quell emotion than to incur the consequence 
of venting it. But this ill-tempered anticipation 
that she could desire visits which might be dis- 
agreeable to her husband, this gratuitous defence 
of himself against selfish complaint on her part, 
was too sharp a sting to be meditated on until 
after it had been resented. Dorothea liad thought 
that she could have been patient with John ^Mil- 
ton, but she had never imagined him behaving in 
this way ; and for a moment Mr Casaubon seemed 
to be stupidly undiscerning and odiously unjust. 
Pity, that newborn babe which was by-and-by to 
rule many a storm within her, did not " stride the 
blast" on this occasion. With her first words 
uttered in a tone that shook him, she startled Mr 
Casaubon into looking at her, and meeting tlie 
flash of her eyes. 

" Why do you attribute to me a wish for any- 
thing that would annoy you ? You speak to me 
as if I were something you had to contend against. 
Wait at least till I appear to consult my own 
pleasure apart from yours." 

" Dorothea, you are hasty," answered Mr Casau- 
bon, nervously. 

Decidedly, this woman was too young to be on 



toe MiDDLEMAilCIt. 

the formidable level of wifehood — unless she had 
been pale and featureless and taken everything 
for granted. 

"I think it was you who were first hasty in 
your false suppositions about my feeling," said 
Dorothea, in the same tone. The fire was not 
dissipated yet, and she thought it was ignoble in 
her husband not to apologise to her. 

" We will, if you please, say no more on this 
subject, Dorothea. I have neither leisure nor 
energy for this kind of debate." 

Here Mr Casaubon dipped his pen and made as 
if he would return to his writing, though his hand 
trembled so much that the words seemed to be 
written in an unknown character. There are 
answers which, in turning away wrath, only send 
it to the other end of the room, and to have a dis- 
cussion coolly waived when you feel that justice is 
all on your own side is even more exasperating in 
marriage than in philosophy. 

Dorothea left Ladislaw's two letters unread on 
her husband's writing-table and went to her own 
place, the scorn and indignation within her rejecting 
the reading of these letters, just as we hurl away 
any trash towards which we seem to have been sus- 
pected of mean cupidity. She did not in the least 
divine the subtle sources of her husband's bad 



BOOK 111. — WAITING TOU DEATH. 107 

temper about these letters ; she only knew that they 
had caused him to offend her. She began to work 
at once, and her hand did not tremble; on the 
contrary, in writing out the quotations which had 
been given to her the day before, she felt that she 
was forming her letters beautifully, and it seemed 
to her that she saw the construction of the Latin 
she was copying, and which she was beginning to 
understand, more clearly than usual. In her indig- 
nation there was a sense of superiority, but it went 
out for the present in firmness of stroke, and did 
not compress itself into an inward articulate voice 
pronouncing the once affable archangel a poor 
creature. 

There had been this apparent quiet for half an 
hour, and Dorothea had not looked away from her 
own table, when she heard the loud bang of a 
book on the floor, and turning quickly saw Mr 
Gasaubon on the library-steps clinging forward as 
if he were in some bodily distress. She started up 
and bounded towards him in an instant : he was 
evidently in great straits for breath. Jumping on 
a stool she got close to his elbow and said with 
her whole soul melted into tender alarm — 

*' Can you lean on me, dear ? " 

He was still for two or three minutes, which 
seemed endless to her, unable to speak or move, 



108 MIDDLEMARCn. 

gasping for breath. When at last he descended 
the three steps and fell backward in the large 
chair which Dorothea had drawn close to the foot 
of the ladder, he no longer gasped but seemed 
helpless and about to faint. Dorothea rang the 
bell violently, and presently Mr Casaubon was 
helped to the couch: he did not faint, and was 
gradually reviving w^hen Sir James Chettam 
came in, having been met in the hall with the 
news that Mr Casaubon had " had a fit in the 
library." 

" Good God ! this is just what might have been 
expected," was his immediate thought. If his 
prophetic soul had been urged to particularise, it 
seemed to him that " fits " would have been the 
definite expression alighted upon. He asked his 
informant, the butler, whether the doctor had been 
sent for. The butler never knew his master want 
the doctor before ; but would it not be right to 
send for a physician ? 

"When Sir James entered the library, however, 
Mr Casaubon could make some signs of his usual 
politeness, and Dorothea, who in the reaction from 
her first terror had been kneeling and sobbing by 
his side, now rose and herself proposed that some 
one should ride off for a medical man. 

" I recommend you to send for Lydgate," said 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOE DEATH. 109 

Sir James. " My mother has called him in, and 
she has found him uncommonly clever. She has 
had a poor opinion of the physicians since my 
father's death." 

Dorothea appealed to her husband, and he made 
a silent sign of approval. So Mr Xydgate was 
sent for and he came wonderfully soon, for the 
messenger, who was Sir James Chettam's man and 
knew Mr Lydgate, met him leading his horse 
along the Lowick road and giving his arm to Miss 
Vincy. 

Celia, in the drawing-room, had known nothing 
of the trouble till Sir James told her of it. After 
Dorothea's account, he no longer considered the 
illness a fit, but still something " of that nature." 

" Poor dear Dodo — how dreadful ! " said Celia, 
feeling as much grieved as her own perfect happi- 
ness would allow. Her little hands were clasped, 
and enclosed by Sir James's as a bud is enfolded 
by a liberal calyx. " It is very shocking that JMr 
Casaubon should be ill ; but I never did like him. 
And I think he is not half fond enough of Doro- 
thea ; and he ought to be, for I am sure no one 
else would have had him — do you think they 
would?" 

" I always thought it a horrible sacrifice of your 
sister," said Sir James. 



110 MIDDLEMAECH. 

'^ Yes. But poor Dodo never did do what other 
people do, and I think she never will." 

" She is a noble creature," said the loyal-hearted 
Sir James. He had just had a fresh impression 
of this kind, as he had seen Dorothea stretching 
her tender arm under her husband's neck and 
looking at him with unspeakable sorrow. He did 
not know how much penitence there was in the 
sorrow. 

'' Yes," said Celia, thinking it was very well for 
Sir James to say so, but he would not have been 
comfortable with Dodo. " Shall I go to her ? 
Could I help her, do you think ? " 

" I think it would be well for you just to go 
and see her before Lydgate comes,". said Sir James, 
magnanimously. '' Only don't stay long." 

While Celia was gone, he walked np and down 
remembering what he had originally felt about' 
Dorothea's engagement, and feeling a revival of 
his distrust at Mr Brooke's indifference. If Cad- 
wallader — if every one else had regarded the affair 
as he, Sir James, had done, the marriage might 
liave been hindered. It was wicked to let a young 
girl blindly decide her fate in that way, without 
any effort to save her. Sir James had long ceased 
to have any regrets on his own account : his heart 
was satisfied with his engagement to Celia. But 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. Ill 

he had a chivalrous nature (was not the disinter- 
ested service of woman among the ideal glories 
of old chivalry ?) : his disregarded love had not 
turned to bitterness ; its death had made sweet 
odours — floating memories that clung with a con- 
secrating effect to Dorothea. He could remain 
her brotherly friend, interpreting her actions with 
generous trustfulness. 



112 



CHAPTEE XXX. 

" Qui vcut delasser hors de propos, lasse."— Pascal 

Mr Casaubon had no second attack of equal 
severity with the first, and in a few days began to 
recover his usual condition. But Lydgate seeraed 
to think the case worth a great deal of attention. 
He not only used his stethoscope (which had not 
become a matter of course in practice at that 
time), but sat quietly by his patient and watched 
him. To Mr Casaubon's questions about himself, 
he replied that the source of the illness was the 
common error of intellectual men — a too eager and 
monotonous application : the remedy was, to be 
satisfied with moderate work, and to seek variety 
of relaxation. Mr Brooke, who sat by on one oc- 
casion, suggested that Mr Casaubon should go fish- 
ing, as Cadwallader did, and have a turning-room, 
make toys, table-legs, and that kind of thing. 

*' In short you recommend me to anticipate the 
arrival of my second childhood/' said poor Mr 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 113 

Casaubon, witli some bitterness. " These things," 
he added, looking at Lydgate, " would be to me 
such relaxation as tow-picking is to prisoners in 
a house of correction." 

"I confess," said Lydgate, smiling, "amuse- 
ment is rather an unsatisfactory prescription. It 
is something like telling people to keep up their 
spirits. Perhaps I had better say, that you must 
submit to be mildly bored rather than to go on 
working." 

*'Yes, yes," said Mr Brooke. "Get Dorothea 
to play backgammon with you in the evenings. 
And shuttlecock, now — I don't know a finer game 
than shuttlecock for the daytime. I remember 
it all the fashion. To be sure, your eyes might 
not stand that, Casaubon. But you must unbend, 
you know. Why, you might take to some light 
study : conchology, now : I always think that 
must be a light study. Or get Dorothea to read 
you light things, Smollett — 'Eoderick Eandom/ 
* Humphrey Clinker :' they are a little broad, but 
she may read anything now she's married, you 
know. I remember they made me laugh un- 
commonly — there's a droll bit about a postilion's 
breeches. AVe have no such humour now. I have 
gone through all these things, but they might be 
rather new to you." 

VOL. II. H 



114 MIDDLEMARCH. 

" As new as eating thistles," would have been 
an answer to represent Mr Casaubon's feelings. 
But he only bowed resignedly, with due respect 
to his wife's uncle, and observed that doubtless 
the works he mentioned had " served as a resource 
to a certain order of minds." 

" You see," said the able magistrate to Lydgate, 
when they were outside the door, " Casaubon has 
been a little narrow : it leaves him rather at a 
loss when you forbid him his particular work, 
which I believe is something very deep indeed — 
in the line of research, you know. I would never 
give way to that ; I was always versatile. But 
a clergyman is tied a little tight. If they would 
make him a bishop, now ! — he did a very good 
pamphlet for Peel. He would have more move- 
ment then, more show ; he might get a little 
flesh. But I recommend you to talk to Mrs 
Casaubon. She is clever enough for anything, is 
my niece. Tell her, her husband wants liveli- 
ness, diversion : put her on amusing tactics." 

Without Mr Brooke's advice, Lydgate had de- 
termined on speaking to Dorothea. She had not 
been present while her uncle was throwing out 
his pleasant suggestions as to the mode in which 
life at Lowick might be enlivened, but she was 
usually by her husband's side, and the unaffected 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 115 

signs of intense anxiety in her face and voice 
about whatever touched his mind or health, made 
a drama which Lydgate was inclined to watch. 
He said to himself that he was only doing right 
in telling her the truth about her husband's pro- 
bable future, but he certainly thought also that 
it would be interesting to talk confidentially with 
her. A medical man likes to make psychologica. 
observations, and sometimes in the pursuit of 
such studies is too easily tempted into momentous 
prophecy ^vhich life and death easily set at 
nought. Lydgate had often been satirical on tliis 
gratuitous prediction, and he meant now to be 
guarded. 

He asked for Mrs Casaubon, but being told 
that she was out walking, he was going away, 
when Dorothea and Celia appeared, both glow- 
ing from their struggle with the March wind. 
"When Lydgate begged to speak with her alone, 
Dorothea opened the library door which hap- 
pened to be the nearest, thinking of nothing at 
the moment but what he might have to say about 
Mr Casaubon. It was the first time she had 
entered this room since her husband had been taken 
ill, and the servant had chosen not to open the 
shutters. But tliere was light enough to read by 
from tlie narrow upper panes of the windows. 



116 MIDDLEMARCH. 

"You will not mind this sombre liglit," said 
Dorothea, standing in the middle of the room. 
" Since you forbade books, the library has been out 
of the question. But Mr Casaubon will soon be 
here again, I hope. Is he not making progress ? " 

" Yes, much more rapid progress than I at first 
expected. Indeed, he is already nearly in his 
usual state of health." 

" You do not fear that the illness will return ? " 
said Dorothea, whose quick ear had detected some 
significance in Lydgate's tone. 

" Such cases are peculiarly difficult to pro- 
nounce upon," said Lydgate. "The only point 
on which I can be confident is that it will be 
desirable to be very watchful on Mr Casaubon 's 
account, lest he should in any way strain his 
nervous power." 

"I beseech you to speak quite plainly," said 
Dorothea, in an imploring tone. " I cannot bear 
to think that there might be something which 
I did not know, and which, if I had known it, 
would have made me act differently." The words 
came out like a cry : it was evident that they 
were the voice of some mental experience which 
lay not very far off. 

" Sit down," she added, placing herself on the 
nearest chair, and throwing off her bonnet and 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 117 

gloves, witli au instinctive discarding of formality 
where a gi-eat question of destiny was concerned 

""Wliat you say now justifies my own view," 
said Lydgate. "I think it is one's function as 
a medical man to hinder regrets of that sort as 
far as possible. But I beg you to observe that 
Mr Casaubon's case is precisely of the kind in 
which the issue is most difficult to pronounce 
upon. He may possibly live for fifteen years or 
more, without much worse health than he has had 
hitherto." 

Dorothea had turned very pale, and when Lyd« 
gate paused she said in a low voice, " You mean, 
if we are very careful." 

"Yes — careful against mental agitation of all 
kinds, and against excessive application." 

" He would be miserable, if he had to give up 
his work," said Dorothea, with a quick prevision 
of that wretchedness. 

" I am aware of that. The only course is to 
try by all means, direct and indirect, to moderate 
and vary his occupations. AVith a happy con- 
currence of circumstances, there is, as I said, no 
immediate danger from that affection of the heart 
which I believe to have been the cause of his 
late attack. On the other hand, it is possible 
that the disease may develop itself more rapidly : 



118 MIDDLEMAECH. 

ib is one of those cases in whicli death is some- 
times sudden. Nothing should be neglected 
"svhich might be affected by such an issue." 

There was silence for a few moments, while 
Dorothea sat as if she had been turned to 
marble, though the life within her was so intense 
that her mind had never before swept in brief 
time over an equal range of scenes and motives. 

** Help me, pray," she said, at last, in the same 
low voice as before. " Tell me what I can do." 

" What do you think of foreign travel ? You 
have been lately in Eome, I think." 

The memories which made this resource utterly 
hopeless were a new current that shook Dorothea 
out of her pallid immobility. 

" Oh, that would not do-— ^that would be worse 
than anything," she said with a more childlike 
despondency, while the tears rolled down. " No* 
thing will be of any use that he does not enjoy." 

"I wish that I could have spared you this 
pain," said Lydgate, deeply touched, yet won- 
dering about her marriage. Women just like 
Dorothea had not entered into his traditions. 

" It was right of you to tell me. I thank you 
for telling me the truth." 

" I wish you to understand that I shall not say 
anything to enlighten Mr Casaubon himself. 1 



BCOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 119 

tliink it desirable for him to know nothing more 
than that he must not overwork himself, and 
must observe certain rules. Anxiety of any kind 
would be precisely the most unfavourable con- 
dition for him." 

Lydgate rose, and Dorothea mechanically rose at 
the same time, unclasping her cloak and throw- 
ing it off as if it stifled her. He was bowing and 
quitting Iier, when an impulse which if she had 
been alone would have turned into a prayer, 
made her say with a sob in her voice — 

" Oh, you are a wise man, are you not ? You 
know all about life and death. Advise me. 
Think what I can do. He has been labouring 
all his life and looking forward. He minds 
about nothing else. And I mind about nothing 
else—" 

For years after Lydgate remembered the im- 
pression produced in him by this involuntary 
appeal — this cry from soul to soul, without other 
consciousness than their moving with kindred 
natures in the same embroiled medium, the same 
troublous fitfully - illuminated life. But what 
could he say now except that he should sec Mr 
Casaubon again to-morrow ? 

When he was gone, Dorothea's tears gushed 
forth, and relieved her stifling oppression. Then 



120 MIDDLEMARCH. 

she dried her eyes, reminded that her distress 
must not be betrayed to her husband ; and looked 
round the room thinking that she must order the 
servant to attend to it as usual, since Mr Casau- 
bon might now at any moment wisli to enter. On 
his writing-table there were letters which had 
lain untouched since the morning when he was 
taken ill, and among them, as Dorothea well re- 
membered, there were young Ladislaw's letters, 
the one addressed to her still unopened. The 
associations of these letters had been made the 
more painful by that sudden attack of illness which 
she felt that the agitation caused by her anger 
might have helped to bring on : it would be time 
enough to read them when they were again thrust 
upon her, and she had had no inclination to fetch 
them from the library. But now it occurred to her 
that they should be put out of her husband's sight : 
whatever might have been the sources of his an- 
noyance about them, he must, if possible, not be 
annoyed again; and she ran her eyes first over the 
letter addressed to him to assure herself whether 
or not it would be necessary to write in order to 
hinder the offensive visit. 

Will wrote from Eome, and began by saying 
that his obligations to Mr Casaubon were too deep 
for all thanks not to seem impertinent It was 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 121 

plain that if he were not grateful, he must be tlie 
poorest-spirited rascal who had ever found a gen- 
erous friend. To expand in wordy thanks would 
be like saying, *' I am honest." Lut AVill had 
come to perceive that his defects — defects 'svhich 
Mr Casaubon had himself often pointed to — needed 
for their correction that more strenuous position 
which his relative's generosity had hitherto pre- 
vented from being inevitable. He trusted that he 
should make the best return, if return were pos- 
sible, by showing the effectiveness of the education 
for wliich he was indebted, and by ceasing in 
future to need any diversion towards himself of 
funds on which others might have a better claim. 
He was coming to England, to try his fortune, as 
many other young men were obliged to do whose 
only capital was in their brains. His friend Xau- 
mann had desired him to take charge of the " Dis- 
pute" — the picture painted for Mr Casaubon, 
with whose permission, and INFrs Casaubon's, "Will 
would convey it to Lowick in person. A letter 
addressed to the Poste Eestante in Paris within 
the fortnight would hinder him, if necessary, from 
arrivincf at an inconvenient moment. He en- 
closed a letter to Mrs Casaubon in which he 
continued a discussion about art, begun with 
her in Pome. 



122 MIDDLEMAECII. 

Opening her own letter Dorothea saw tliat it 
was a lively continuation of his remonstrance with 
her fanatical sympathy and her want of sturdy 
neutral delight in things as they were — an out- 
l)ouring of his young vivacity which it was im- 
possible to read just now. She had immediately 
to consider what was to be done about the other 
letter: there "was still time perhaps to prevent 
Will from coming to Lowick. Dorothea ended by 
giving the letter to her uncle, who was still in the 
house, and begging him to let Will know that Mr 
Casaubon had been ill, and that his health would 
not allow the reception of any visitors. 

No one more ready than Mr Brooke to write a 
letter : his only difficulty was to write a short one, 
and his ideas in this case expanded over the three 
large pages and the inward foldings. He had 
simply said to Dorothea — 

" To be sure, I will -svrite, my dear. He's a 
very clever young fellow—this young Ladislaw — 
I daresay will be a rising young man. It's a good 
letter — marks his sense of things, you know. How- 
ever, I will tell him about Casaubon." 

But the end of Mr Brooke's pen was a thinking 
organ, evolving sentences, especially of a benevolent 
kind, before the rest of his mind could Avell over- 
take them. It expressed regrets and proposed 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOR DEATtt. 123 

remedies, wliicli, when Mr Brooke read them, 
seemed felicitously worded — surprisingly the right 
thing, and determined a sequel which he had 
never before thought of. In this case, his pen 
found it such a pity that young Ladislaw should 
not have come into the neighbourhood just at that 
time, in order that IMr Brooke might make his 
acquaintance more fully, and that they might go 
over the long-neglected Italian drawings together 
— it also felt such an interest in a young man who 
was starting in life with a stock of ideas — that by 
the end of the second page it had persuaded Mr 
Brooke to invite young Ladislaw, since he could 
not be received at Lowick, to come to Tipton 
Grange. "Why not? They could find a great 
many things to do together, and this was a period 
of peculiar growth — the political horizon was ex- 
panding, and — in short Mr Brooke's pen went off 
into a little speech which it had lately reported for 
that imperfectly-edited organ the 'Middlemarch 
Pioneer.' While Mr Brooke was sealing this 
letter, he felt elated with an influx of dim projects : 
— a young man capable of putting ideas into form, 
the * Pioneer ' purchased to clear the pathway for 
a new candidate, documents utilised — who knew 
\vhat might come of it all ? Since Celia was going 
to marry immediately, it would be very pleasant 



124 MIDDLEMAECH. 

to have a young fellow at table with him, at least 
for a time. 

But he went away without telling Dorothea 
what he had put into the letter, for she was en- 
gaged with her husband and — in fact these things 
were of no importance to her. 



CHAPTER XXXI. 



How will you know the pitch of that great bell 
Tob large for you to stir? Let but a flute 
Play 'neatli the line-mixed metal : listen close 
Till the right note flows forth, a silvery rill : 
Then shall the huge bell tremble— then the mass 
With myriad waves concurrent shall respond 
In low soft unison. 



Lydgate that evening spoke to Miss Yincy of 
Mrs Casaubon, and laid some emphasis on tlie 
strong feeling slie appeared to Lave for that formal 
studious man thirty years older than herself. 

" Of course she is devoted to her husband," 
said Eosamond, implying a notion of necessary 
sequence which the scientific man regarded as 
the prettiest possible for a woman ; but she was 
tliinking at the same time that it was not so very 
melanclioly to be mistress of Lowick Manor witli 
a husband likely to die soon. " Do you tliink her 
very handsome ? " 

" She certainly is handsome, but I have not 
thought about it," said Lydgate. 



126 MIDDLEMAHCII. 

" I suppose it would be unprofessional," said 
Eosamond, dimpling. " But liow your practice 
is spreading ! You were called in before to the 
Chettams, I think ; and now, the Casaubons." 

" Yes," said Lydgate, in a tone of compulsory 
admission. " But I don't really like attending 
such people so well as the poor. The cases are 
more monotonous, and one has to go through more 
fuss and listen more deferentially to nonsense." 

" Not more tlian in Middlemarch," said Eosa- 
mond. " And at least you go through wide corri- 
dors and have the scent of rose-leaves everywhere." 

" That is true, Mademoiselle de Montmorenci," 
said Lydgate, just bending his head to the table 
and lifting with his fourth finger her delicate hand- 
kerchief which lay at the mouth of her reticule, 
as if to enjoy its scent, while he looked at her 
with a smile. 

But this agreeable holiday freedom with which 
Lydgate hovered about the flower of Middle- 
march, could not continue indefinitely. It was 
not more possible to find social isolation in that 
town than elsewhere, and two people persistently 
flirting could by no means escape from "the 
various entanglements, weights, blows, clashings, 
motions, by which things severally go on." 
Whatever Miss Vincy did must bo remarked, 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. ]27 

and she was perhaps the more conspicuous to 
admirers and critics because just now ^Irs Vincy, 
after some struggle, had gone with Fred to stay a 
little while at Stone Court, there being no other 
way of at once gratifying old Featherstone and 
keeping wateli against Mary Garth, who appeared 
a less tolerable daughter-in-law in proportion as 
Fred's illness disappeared. 

Aunt Bulstrode, for example, came a little 
oftener into Lowick Gate to see Eosamond, now 
she was alone. For Mrs Bulstrode had a true 
sisterly feeling for her brother ; always thinking 
that he might have married better, but wishing 
well to the children. ISTow Mrs Bulstrode had 
a long - standing intimacy with Mrs Plymdale. 
They had nearly the same preferences in silks, 
patterns for underclothing, china-ware, and clergy- 
men ; they confided their little troubles of healtli 
and household management to each other, and 
various little points of superiority on Mrs Bul- 
strode's side, namely, more decided seriousness, 
more admiration for mind, and a house outside 
the town, sometimes served to give colour to 
their conversation without dividing them : well- 
meaning women both, knowing very little of their 
own motives. 

]Mrs Bulstrode paying a morning visit to Mrs 



128 AIIDDLEMAKCH. 

Plymdale happened to say that she could not stay 
longer, because she ^vas going to see poor Eosa- 
mond. 

" Why do you say ' poor Rosamond ' ? " said 
Mrs Plymdale, a round-eyed sharp little woman, 
like a tamed falcon. 

" She is so pretty, and has been brought up in 
such thoughtlessness. The mother, you know, 
had always that levity about her, which makes 
me anxious for the children." 

" Well, Harriet, if I am to speak my mind," 
said Mrs Plymdale, with emphasis, " I must say, 
anybody would suppose you and Mr Bulstrode 
would be delighted with what has happened, for 
you have done everything to put Mr Lydgate 
forward." 

" Selina, what do you mean ? " said JNfrs Bul- 
strode, in genuine surprise. 

" Not but what I am truly thankful for Ned's 
sake," said Mrs Plymdale. " He could certainly 
better afford to keep such a wife than some people 
can; but I should wish him to look elsewhere. 
Still a mother has anxieties, and some young men 
would take to a bad life in consequence. Besides, 
if I was obliged to speak, I should say I was not 
fond of strangers coming into a town." 

" I don't know, Selina," said Mrs Bulstrode, 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 129 

with a little emphasis in her turn. "Mr Bul- 
strode was a stranger here at one time. Abraham 
and Moses were strangers in the land, and we are 
told to entertain strangers. And especially," she 
added, after a slight pause, " when they are unex- 
ceptionable." 

''I was not speaking in a religious sense, 
Harriet. I spoke as a mother." 

" Selina, I am sure you have never heard me 
say anything against a niece of mine marrying 
your son." 

" Oh, it is pride in Miss Vincy — I am sure it is 
nothing else," said Mrs Plymdale, who had never 
before given all her confidence to " Harriet " on 
this subject. "No young man in Middlemarch 
was good enough for her : I have heard her 
mother say as much. That is not a Christian 
spirit, I think. But now, from all I hear, she has 
found a man as proud as herself." 

"You don't mean that there is anything be- 
tween Eosamond and Mr Lydgate ? " said Mrs 
Bulstrode, rather mortified at finding out her own 
ignorance. 

" Is it possible you don't know, Harriet ? " 

" Oh, I go about so little ; and I am not fond 
of gossip ; I really never hear any. You see so 

VOL. II. I 



130 MIDDLEMAECIT. 

many people tliat I don't see. Your circle is 
rather different from ours." 

" Well, but your own niece and Mr Bulstrode's 
great favourite — and yours too, I am sure, Har- 
riet 1 I thougM, at one time, you meant him for 
Kate, when she is a little older." 

'' I don't believe there can be anything serious 
at present," said Mrs Bulstrode. " My brother 
would certainly have told me." 

'' Well, people have different ways, but I under- 
stand that nobody can see Miss Vincy and Mr 
Lydgate together without taking them to be 
engaged. However, it is not my business. Shall 
I put up the pattern of mittens ? " 

After this Mrs Bulstrode drove to her niece with 
a mind newly weighted. She was herself hand- 
somely dressed, but she noticed with a little more 
regret than usual that Eosamond, who was just 
come in and met her in walking-dress, was almost 
as expensively equipped. Mrs Bulstrode was a 
feminine, smaller edition of her brother, and had 
none of her husband's low-toned pallor. She had 
a good honest glance and used no circumlocution. 

" You are alone, I see, my dear," she said, as 
they entered the drawing-room together, looking 
round gravely. Eosamond felt sure that her aunt 
had something particular to say, and they sat 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 131 

down near each other. Nevertheless, the quilling 
inside Eosamond's bonnet was so charming that 
it was impossible not to desire the same kind of 
thing for Kate, and Mrs Bulstrode's eyes, which 
were rather fine, rolled round that ample quiUed 
circuit, while she spoke. 

" I have just heard something about you that 
has surprised me very much, Eosamond." 

" What is that, aunt ? " Eosamond's eyes also 
were roaming over her aunt's large embroidered 
collar. 

" I can hardly believe it — that you should be 
engaged without my knowing it — without your 
father's telling me." Here Mrs Bulstrode's eyes 
finally rested on Eosamond's, who blushed deeply, 
and said — 

" I am not engaged, aunt." 

" How is it that every one says so, then—that 
it is the town's talk ? " 

" The town's talk is of very little consequence, 
I think," said Eosamond, inw^ardly gratified. 

"Oh, my dear, be more thoughtful; don't despise 
your neighbours so. Eemember you are turned 
twenty-two now, and you will have no fortune : 
your father, I am sure, will not be able to spare 
you anything. Mr Lydgate is very intellectual 
and clever ; I know there is an attraction in that. 



132 MIDDLEMARCIT. 

I like talking to such men myself ; and your 
uncle finds him very useful. But the profession 
is a poor one here. To be sure, this life is not 
everything ; but it is seldom a medical man has 
true religious views — there is too much pride of 
intellect. And you are not fit to marry a poor 
man." 

" Mr Lydgate is not a poor man, aunt. He has 
very high connections." 

" He told me himself he was poor." . 

" That is because he is used to people who 
have a high style of living." 

" My dear Eosamond, you must not think of 
living in high style." 

Eosamond looked down and played with her 
reticule. She was not a fiery young lady and had 
no sharp answers, but she meant to live as she 
pleased. 

" Then it is really true ? " said Mrs Bulstrode, 
looking very earnestly at her niece. " You are 
thinking of Mr Lydgate : there is some under- 
standing between you, though your father doesn't 
know. Be open, my dear Eosamond : Mr Lydgate 
has really made you an offer?" 

Poor Eosamond's feelings were very unpleasant. 
She had been quite easy as to Lydgate's feeling 
and intention, but now when her aunt put this 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 133 

question she did not like being unable to say Yes. 
Her pride was hurt, but her habitual control of 
manner helped her. 

"Pray excuse me, aunt. I would rather not 
speak on the subject." 

"You would not give your heart to a man 
without a decided prospect, I trust, my dear. 
And think of the two excellent offers I know 
of that jow have refused!— and one still with- 
in your reach, if you will not throw it away. 
I knew a very great beauty who married badly 
at last, by doing so. ^Mr Ned Plymdale is a nice 
young man — some might think good-looking ; and 
an only son ; and a large business of that kind is 
better than a profession. Not that marrying is 
everything. I would have you seek first the 
kingdom of God. But a girl should keep her 
heart within her own power." 

" I should never give it to Mr Ned Plymdale, 
if it were. I have already refused him. If I 
loved, I should love at once and without change," 
said Eosamond, with a great sense of being a 
romantic heroine, and playing the part prettily. 

" I see how it is, my dear," said Mrs Bulstrode, 
in a melancholy voice, rising to go. "You have 
allowed your affections to be engaged without 
return." 



134 MIDDLEMARCII. 

" No, indeed, aunt," said Eosamond, with em- 
phasis. 

" Then you are quite confident that Mr Lydgate 
has a serious attachment to you ? " 

Eosamond's cheeks by this time were persistently 
burning, and she felt much mortification. She 
chose to be silent, and her aunt went away all the 
more convinced. 

Mr Bulstrode in things worldly and indifferent 
was disposed to do what his wife bade him, and 
she now, without telling her reasons, desired him 
on the next opportunity to find out in conversation 
with Mr Lydgate whether he had any intention of 
marrying soon. The result was a decided negative. 
Mr Bulstrode, on being cross-questioned, showed 
that Lydgate had spoken as no man would who 
had any attachment that could issue in matrimony. 
Mrs Bulstrode now felt that she had a serious 
duty before her, and she soon managed to arrange 
a tete-db'tite with Lydgate, in which she passed 
from inquiries about Pred Vincy's health, and ex- 
pressions of her sincere anxiety for her brother's 
large family, to general remarks on the dangers 
which lay before young people with regard to their 
settlement in life. Young men were often wdld 
and disappointing, making little return for the 
money spent on them, and a girl was exposed to 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 135 

many circumstances which might interfere with 
her prospects. 

" Especially when she has great attractions, and 
her parents see much company/' said Mrs Bulstrode. 
*' Gentlemen pay her attention, and engross her 
all to themselves, for the mere pleasure of the 
moment, and that drives off others. I think it 
is a heavy responsibility, Mr Lydgate, to inter- 
fere with the prospects of any girl." Here Mrs 
Bulstrode fixed her eyes on him, with an un- 
mistakable purpose of warning, if not of rebuke. 

"Clearly," said Lydgate, looking at her — per- 
haps even staring a little in return. "On the 
other hand, a man must be a great coxcomb to go 
about with a notion that he must not pay attention 
to a young lady lest she should fall in love with 
him, or lest others should think she must." 

"Oh, Mr Lydgate, you know well what your 
advantages are. You know that our young men 
here cannot cope with you. Where you frequent 
a house it may militate very much against a girl's 
making a desirable settlement in life, and prevent 
her from accepting offers even if they are made." 

Lj^dgate was less flattered by his advantage over 
the Middlemarch Orlandos than he was annoyed 
by the perception of Mrs Bulstrode's meaning. 
She felt that she had spoken as impressively as 



136 MIDDLEMARCH. 

it was necessary to do, and that in using the 
superior word " militate " she had thrown a noble 
drapery over a mass of particulars which were 
still evident enough. 

Lydgate was fuming a little, pushed his hair 
back with one hand, felt curiously in his waist- 
coat-pocket with the other, and then stooped to 
beckon the tiny black spaniel, which had the 
insight to decline his hollow caresses. It would 
not have been decent to go away, because he had 
been dining with other guests, and had just taken 
tea. But Mrs Bulstrode, having no doubt that 
she had been understood, turned the conversation. 

Solomon's Proverbs, I think, have omitted to 
say, that as the sore palate findeth grit, so an 
uneasy consciousness heareth innuendoes. The 
next day Mr Farebrother, parting from Lydgate 
in the street, supposed that they should meet at 
Vincy's in the evening. Lydgate answered curtly, 
no — he had work to do — he must give up going 
out in the evening. 

" What, you are going to get lashed to the mast, 
eh, and are stopping your ears ? " said the Vicar. 
" Well, if you don't mean to be won by the sirens, 
you are right to take precautions in time.'* 

A few days before, Lydgate would have taken 
no notice of these words as anything more than 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 137 

the Vicar's usual way of putting things. They 
seemed now to convey an innuendo whicli confirmed 
the impression that he had been making a fool of 
himself and behaving so as to be misunderstood : 
not, he believed, by Eosamond herself; she, he 
felt sure, took everything as lightly as he intended 
it. She had an exquisite tact and insight in re- 
lation to all points of manner ; but the people 
she lived among were blunderers and busybodies. 
However, the mistake should go no farther. He 
resolved — and kept his resolution — that he would 
not go to Mr Vincy's except on business. 

Rosamond became very unhappy. The uneasi- 
ness first stirred by her aunt's questions grew and 
grew till at the end of ten days that she had not 
seen Lydgate, it grew into terror at the blank that 
might possibly come — into foreboding of that 
ready, fatal sponge whicli so cheaply wipes out the 
hopes of mortals. The world would have a new 
dreariness for her, as a wilderness that a magician's 
spells had turned for a little while into a garden. 
She felt that she was beginning to know the pang 
of disappointed love, and that no other man could 
be the occasion of such delightful aerial building 
as she had been enjoying for the last six months. 
Poor Rosamond lost her appetite and felt as for- 
lorn as Ariadne — as a charmiiig stngc Ariadne left 



138 MIDDLEMARCH. 

Lehind with all lier boxes full of costumes and no 
hope of a coach. 

There are many wonderful mixtures in the world 
which are all alike called love, and claim the 
privileges of a sublime rage which is an apology 
for everything (in literature and the drama). 
Happily Eosamond did not think of committing 
any desperate act: she plaited her fair hair as 
beautifully as usual, and kept herself proudly calm. 
Her most cheerful supposition ^vas that her aunt 
Bulstrode had interfered in some w^ay to hinder 
Lydgate's visits: everything was better than a 
spontaneous indifference in him. Any one who 
imagines ten days too short a time — not for fall- 
ing into leanness, lightness, or other measurable 
effects of passion, but — for the whole spiritual 
circuit of alarmed conjecture and disappointment, 
is ignorant of what can go on in the elegant leisure 
of a young lady's mind. 

On the eleventh day, however, Lydgate when 
leaving Stone Court was requested by Mrs Yincy 
to let her husband know that there was a marked 
change in Mr Featherstone's health, and that she 
wished him to come to Stone Court on that day. 
Now Lydgate might have called at the warehouse, 
or might have written a message on a leaf of his 
pocket-book and left it at the door. Yet these 



BOOK lil. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 139 

simple devices apparently did not occur to him, 
from whicli we may conclude that he had no 
strong objection to calling at the house at an hour 
when Mr Vincy was not at home, and leaving the 
message with Miss Vincy. A man may, from 
various motives, decline to give his company, but 
perhaps not even a sage would be gratified that 
nobody missed him. It would be a graceful, easy 
way of piecing on the new habits to the old, to 
liave a few playful words with Kosamond about 
his resistance to dissipation, and his firm resolve 
to take long fasts even from sweet sounds. It 
must be confessed, also, that momentaiy specula- 
tions as to all the possible grounds for Mrs Bul- 
strode's hints had managed to get woven like 
slight clinging hairs into the more substantial web 
of his thoughts. 

Miss Vincy was alone, and blushed so deeply 
when Lydgate came in that he felt a correspond- 
ing embarrassment, and instead of any playful- 
ness, he began at once to speak of his reason for 
calling, and to beg her, almost formally, to deliver 
the message to her father. Eosamond who at tlie 
first moment felt as if her happiness were return- 
ing, was keenly hurt by Lydgate's manner; her 
blush had departed, and she assented coldly, 
without adding an unnecessary word, some trivial 



140 MIDDLEMAECH. 

cliaiii-work which she had in her hands enabling 
her to avoid looking at Lydgate higher than his 
chin. In all failures, the beginning is certainly 
the half of the whole. After sitting two long 
moments while he moved his w^iip and could say 
nothing, Lydgate rose to go, and Eosamond, 
made nervous by her struggle between morti- 
fication and the wish not to betray it, dropped 
her chain as if startled, and rose too, mechani- 
cally. Lydgate instantaneously stooped to pick 
up the chain. When he rose he w^as very near to 
a lovely little face set on a fair long neck which 
he had been used to see turning about under the 
most perfect management of self-contented grace. 
But as he raised his eyes now he saw a certain 
helpless quivering which touched him quite 
newly, and made him look at Eosamond wdth a 
questioning flash. At this moment she was as 
natural as she had ever been when she was five 
years old : she felt that her tears had risen, and 
it was no use to try to do anything else than let 
them stay like water on a blue flower or let them 
fall over her cheeks, even as they would. 

That moment of naturalness was the crystallis- 
ing feather-touch : it shook flirtation into love. 
Eemember that the ambitious man who was 
looking at tliose Forget-me-nots under the water 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOll DEATH. 141 

was very warm-hearted and rash. He did not 
know where the chain went ; an idea had thrilled 
through the recesses within him which had a 
miraculous effect in raising the power of pas- 
sionate love lying buried there in no sealed 
sepulchre, but under the lightest, easily-pierced 
mould. His words were quite abrupt and awk- 
ward; but the tone made them sound like an 
ardent, appealing avowal. 

" What is the matter ? you are distressed. Tull 
me — pray." 

Eosamond had never been spoken to in such 
tones before. I am not sure that she knew what 
the words were ; but she looked at Lydgate and 
the tears fell over her cheeks. There could have 
been no more complete answer than that silence, 
and Lydgate, forgetting everything else, com- 
pletely mastered by the outrush of tenderness at 
the sudden belief that this sweet young creature 
depended on him for her joy, actually put his 
arms round her, folding her gently and protect- 
ingly — he was used to being gentle with the 
weak and suffering— and kissed each of tlie two 
large tears. Tliis was a strange way of arriving 
at an understanding, but it was a short way. 
Eosamond was not angry, but she moved back- 
ward a little in timid happiness, and Lydgate 



142 MIDDLEMAECII. 

could now sit near her and speak less incom- 
pletely. Eosamond had to make her little con- 
fession, and he poured out words of gratitude and 
tenderness with impulsive lavishment. In half 
an hour he left the house an engaged man, whose 
soul was not his own, but the woman's to whom 
he had bound himself. 

He came again in the evening to speak with 
Mr Vincy, who, just returned from Stone Court, 
was feeling sure that it would not be long before 
he heard of Mr Featherstone's demise. The feli- 
citous word " demise," which had seasonably oc- 
curred to him, had raised his spirits even above 
their usual evening pitch. The right word is 
always a power, and communicates its definite- 
ness to our action. Considered as a demise, old 
Featherstone's death assumed a merely legal 
aspect, so that Mr Vincy could tap his snuff-box 
over it and be jovial, without even an intermittent 
affectation of solemnity; and Mr Vincy hated 
both solemnity and affectation. Who was ever 
awe-struck about a testator, or sang a hymn on 
the title to real property ? Mr Vincy was inclined 
to take a jovial view of all things that evening: 
he even observed to Lydgate that Fred had got 
the family constitution after all, and would soon 
be as fine a fellow as ever again ; and when his 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 143 

approbation of Eosamond's engagement was asked 
for, he gave it with astonishing facility, passing at 
once to general remarks on the desirableness of 
matrimony for young men and maidens, and ap- 
parently deducing from the whole the appropriate- 
ness of a little more punch . 



144 



CHAPTER XXXII. 



They'll take suggestion as a cat laps milk." 

—Shakespeare: Tempest. 



The triumphant confidence of the Mayor founded 
on Mr Featherstone's insistent demand that Fred 
and his mother should not leave him, was a feeble 
emotion compared with all that was agitating the 
breasts of the old man's blood - relations, who 
naturally manifested more their sense of the family 
tie and were more visibly numerous now that he 
had become bedridden. Naturally: for when 
" poor Peter " had occupied his arm-chair in the 
wainscoated parlour, no assiduous beetles for 
whom the cook prepares boiling water could have 
been less welcome on a hearth which they 
had reasons for preferring, than those persons 
whose Featherstone blood was ill-nourished, not 
from penuriousness on their part, but from pov- 
erty. Brother Solomon and Sister Jane were rich, 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 145 

and tlie family candour and total abstinence from 
false politeness "vvith which they were always re- 
ceived seemed to them no argument that their 
brother in the solemn act of making his will would 
overlook the superior claims of wealth. Them- 
selves at least he had never been unnatural 
enough to banish from his house, and it seemed 
hardly eccentric that he should have kept away 
Brother Jonah, Sister Martha, and the rest, 
who had no shadow of such claims. They knew 
Peter's maxim, that money was a good egg, and 
should be laid in a warm nest. 

But Brother Jonah, Sister Martha, and all the 
needy exiles, held a different point of view. Pro- 
babilities are as various as the faces to be seen at 
will in fretwork or paperhangings : every form is 
there, from Jupiter to Judy, if you only look with 
creative inclination. To the poorer and least 
favoured it seemed likely that since Peter had 
done nothing for them in his life, he would re- 
member them at the last. Jonah argued that men 
liked to make a surprise of their wills, while 
Martha said that nobody need be surprised if he 
left the best part of his money to those who least 
expected it. Also it was not to be thought but 
that an own brother " lying there " with dropsy 
in his legs must come to feel that blood was 

VOL. 11. K 



146 :,ITDDLEMxVr.CII. 

thicker than water, and if he didn't alter his will, 
he might have money by him. At any rate some 
blood-relations should be on the premises and on 
the watch against those who were hardly relations 
at all. Such things had been known as forged 
wills and disputed wills, which seemed to have 
the golden-hazy advantage of somehow enabling 
non-legatees to live out of them. Again, those 
who were no blood-relations might be caught 
making away with things — and poor Peter " lying 
there " helpless ! Somebody should be on the 
watch. But in this conclusion they were at one 
with Solomon and Jane ; also, some nephews, 
nieces, and cousins, arguing with still greater 
subtilty as to what might be done by a man able 
to *'will away" his property and give himself 
large treats of oddity, felt in a handsome sort of 
way that there was a family interest to be at- 
tended to, and thought of Stone Court as a place 
which it would be nothing but right for them 
to visit. Sister Martha, otherwise ]\Irs Cranch, 
living with some wheeziness in the Chalky Elats, 
could not undertake the journey ; but her son, as 
being poor Peter's own nephew, could represent 
her advantageously, and watch lest his uncle 
Jonah should make an unfair use of the impro- 
bable things which seemed likely to happen. In 



BOOK ITT. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 147 

fact tliere was a general sense running in the 
I'eatherstone blood that everybody must watch 
everybody else, and that it would be well for 
everybody else to reflect tliat the Almighty was 
watching him. 

Thus Stone Court continually saw one or other 
blood -relation alighting or departing, and IMary 
Garth had the unpleasant task of carrying their 
messages ,to Mr Featherstone, who would see none 
of them, and sent her down with the still more un- 
pleasant task of telling them so. As manager of 
the household she felt bound to ask them in good 
provincial fashion to stay and eat ; but she chose 
to consult Mrs Vincy on the point of extra down- 
stairs consumption now that Mr Featherstone was 
laid up. 

" Oh, my dear, you must do things handsomely 
where there's last illness and a property. God 
knows, I don't grudge them every ham in tlie 
house — only, save the best for the funeral. Have 
Gome stuffed veal always, and a fine cheese in cut. 
You must expect to keep open house in these last 
illnesses," said liberal Mrs Vincy, once more of 
cheerful note and bright plumage. 

But some of the visitors alitzhted and did not 
depart after, the handsome treating to veal and 
ham. Brother Jonah, for example (there are such 



148 MIDDLEMARCII. 

unpleasant people in most families ; perhaps even 
in the highest aristocracy there are Brobdinguag 
specimens, gigantically in debt and bloated at 
greater expense) — Brother Jonah, I say, having come 
down in the world, was mainly supported by a 
calling which he was modest enough not to boast 
of, though it was much better than swindling either 
on exchange or turf, but which did not require 
his presence at Brassing so long as he had a good 
corner to sit in and a supply of food. He chose 
the kitchen-corner, partly because he liked it best, 
and partly because he did not want to sit with 
Solomon, concerning whom he had a strong 
brotherly opinion. Seated in a famous arm-chair 
and in his best suit, constantly within sight of 
sood cheer, he had a comfortable consciousness of 
being on the premises, mingled with fleeting sug- 
gestions of Sunday and the bar at the Green Man ; 
and he informed Mary Garth that he should not 
go out of reach of his brother Peter while that 
poor fellow was above ground. The troublesome 
ones in a family are usually either the wits or tlie 
idiots. Jonah was the wit among the Feather- 
stones, and joked with the maid-servants when 
they came about the hearth, but seemed to con- 
sider Miss Garth a suspicious character, and fol- 
lowed her with cold eyes. 



BOOK in.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 140 

Mary would have borne this one pair of eyes 
with comparative ease, but unfortunately there 
was young Cranch, who, having come all the way 
from the Chalky Flats to represent his mother and 
watch his uncle Jonah, also felt it his duty to stay 
and to sit chiefly in the kitchen to give his uncle 
company. Young Cranch was not exactly the bal- 
ancing point between the wit and the idiot, — verg- 
ing slightly towards the latter type, and squinting so 
as to leave everything in doubt about his sentiments 
except that they were not of a forcible character. 
When Mary Garth entered the kitchen and jNIr 
Jonah Featherstone began to follow her with his 
cold detective eyes, young Cranch turning his 
head in the same direction seemed to insist on it 
that she should remark how he was squinting, as 
if he did it with design, like the gypsies when 
Borrow read the New Testament to them. This 
was rather too much for poor Mary ; sometimes it 
made her bilious, sometimes it upset her gravity. 
One day that she had an opportunity she could 
not resist describing the kitchen scene to Fred, 
who would not be hindered from immediately go- 
ing to see it, affecting simply to pass through. 
But no sooner did he face the four eyes than he 
had to rush through the nearest door which hap- 
pened to lead to the dairy, and there under the high 



150 MIDDLEMARCir. 

roof and among the pans he gave way to laughter 
wliich made a hollow resonance perfectly audible 
in the kitchen. He fled by another aoorway, but 
Mr Jonah who had not before seen Fred's white 
complexion, long legs, and pinched delicacy of 
face, prepared many sarcasms in which these 
points of appearance were wittily combined with 
the lowest moral attributes. 

" Why, Tom, you don't wear such gentlemanly 
trousers — yoio haven't got half such fine long legs," 
said Jonah to his nephew, winking at the same 
time, to imply that there was something more in 
these statements than their undeniableness. Tom 
looked at his legs, but left it uncertain whether 
he preferred his moral advantages to a more vici- 
ous length of limb and reprehensible gentility of 
trouser. 

In the large wainscoated parlour too there M^ere 
constantly pairs of eyes on the watch, and own 
relatives eager to be " sitters-up." Many came, 
lunched, and departed, but Brother Solomon and 
the lady who had been Jane Featherstone for 
twenty-five years before she was Mrs Waule foutid 
it good to be there every day for hours, without 
other calculable occupation than that of observing 
the cunning Mary Garth (who was so deep that 
She could be found out in nothing) and giving 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 151 

occasional dry wrinkly indications of crying — as 
if capable of ton-ents in a wetter season — at the 
thought tha^they were not allowed to go into Mr 
Featherstone's room. For the old man's dislike of 
his own family seemed to get stronger as he got 
less able to amuse himself by saying biting things 
to them. Too languid to sting, he had the more 
venom refluent in his blood. 

Not fully believing the message sent through 
Mary Garth, they had presented themselves together 
within the door of the bedroom, both in black — 
Mrs Waule having a white handkerchief partially 
unfolded in her hand — and both with faces in a 
sort of half-mourning purple ; while Mrs Vincy 
with her pink cheeks and pink ribbons flying 
was actually administering a cordial to their own 
brother, and the light- complexioned Fred, his 
short hair curling as might be expected in a 
gambler's, was lolling at his ease in a large 
chair. 

Old Featherstone no sooner caught sight of 
these funereal figures appearing in spite of his 
orders than rage came to strengthen him more 
successfully than the cordial. He was propped 
up on a bed-rest, and always had his gold-headed 
Stick lying by him. fie seized it now and swept 
it backwards and forwards in as large an area as 



152 MTDDLEMARCH. 

he could, apparently to ban these ugly spectres, 
crying in a hoarse sort of screech — 

" Back, back, Mrs Waiile ! Back, Solomon ! " 

" Oh, brother Peter," Mrs Waule began — but 
Solomon put his hand before her repressingly. 
He was a large-cheeked man, nearly seventy, with 
small furtive eyes, and was not only of much 
blander temper but thought himself much deeper 
than his brother Peter ; indeed not likely to be 
deceived in any of his fellow-men, inasmuch as 
they could not well be more greedy and deceitful 
than he suspected them of being. Even the 
invisible powers, he thought, were likely to be 
soothed by a bland parenthesis here and there — 
coming from a man of property, who might have 
been as impious as others. 

" Brother Peter," he said, in a wheedling yet 
gravely official tone, "it's nothing but right T 
should speak to you about the Three Crofts and 
the Manganese. The Almighty knows what 
I've got on my mind . . ." 

" Then He knows more than I want to know," 
said Peter, laying down his stick with a show of 
truce which had a threat in it too, for he reversed 
the stick so as to make the gold handle a club in 
case of closer fighting, and looked hard at Solo- 
mon's bald head. 



BOOK III.— WAITING TOIL DEATH. 153 

" There's tilings you miglit repent of, Brother, 
for want of speakmg to me," said Solomon, not 
advancing, however. "I could sit up with you 
to-night, and Jane with me, willingly, and you 
might take your own time to speak, or let me 
speak." 

" Yes, I shall take my own time — you needn't 
offer me yours," said Peter. 

'* But you can't take your own time to die in. 
Brother," began Mrs Waule, with her usual woolly 
tone. "And when you lie speechless you may be 
tired of having strangers about you, and you may 

think of me and my children " but here her 

voice broke under the touching thought which she 
was attributing to her speechless brother; the 
mention of ourselves being naturally affecting. 

" No, I shan't," said old Featherstone, contra- 
dictiously. " I shan't think of any of you. I've 
made my will, I tell you, I've made my will." 
Here he turned his head towards Mrs Yincy, and 
swallowed some more of his cordial. 

" Some people would be ashamed to fill up a 
place belonging by rights to others," said Mrs 
Waule, turning her narrow eyes in the same 
direction. 

" Oil, sister," said Solomon, with ironical soft- 
ness, "you and me are not fine, and handsome, 



154 MIDDLEMARCII. 

and clever enough : we must be humble and let 
smart people push themselves before us." 

Fred's spirit could not bear this: rising and 
looking at Mr Feathers tone, he said, " Shall my 
mother and I leave the room, sir, that you may 
be alone with your friends ? " 

" Sit down, I tell you," said old Featherstone, 
snappishly. " Stop where you are. Good-bye, So- 
lomon," he added, trying to wield his stick again, 
but failing now that he had reversed the handle. 
"Good-bye, Mrs Waule. Don't you come again." 

"I shall be down-stairs, brother, whether or no," 
said Solomon. " I shall do my duty, and it re- 
mains to be seen what the Almighty will allow." 

" Yes, in property going out of families," said 
]\Irs Waule, in continuation, — '' and where there's 
steady young men to carry on. But I pity them 
who are not such, and I pity their mothers^ 
Good-bye, Brother Peter." 

" Eemember, I'm the eldest after you, Brother, 
arid prospered from the first, just as you did, and 
have got land already by the name of Feartherstone," 
said Solomon, relying much on that reflection, as 
one which might be suggested in the watches of 
the night. "But I bid you good-bye for the 
|)resent." 

Their exit was hastened by their seeing old 



BOOK III. — Waiting Fois death. 155 

Featlierstone pull his ^Yig on each side and shut 
his eyes with his mouth-widening grimace, as if 
he were determined to be deaf and blind. 

None the less they came to Stone Court daily 
and sat below at the post of duty, sometimes car- 
rying on a slow dialogue in an undertone in which 
the observation and response were so far apart, 
that any one hearing them might have imagined 
himself listening to speaking automata, in some 
doubt whether the ingenious mechanism would 
really work, or wind itself up for a long time in 
order to stick and be silent. Solomon and Jane 
would have been sorry to be quick : what that led 
to micjht be seen on the other side of the wall in 
the person of Brother Jonah. 

But their watch in the walnscoated parlour was 
sometimes varied by the presence of other guests 
from far or near. Now that Peter Featherstone 
was up-stairs, his property could be discussed with 
all that local enlightenment to be found on the 
spot: some rural and Middlemarch neighbours Ox- 
pressed much agreement with the family and sym- 
pathy with their interest against the Vincys, and 
feminine visitors were even moved to tears, in con- 
versation with Mrs Waule, when they recalled 
the fact that they themselves had been disappointed 
ill times past by codicils and marriages for spite 



15G MIDDLEMAECIT. 

Oil the part of ungrateful elderly gentlemen, who, 
it might have been supposed, had been spared for 
something better. Such conversation paused sud- 
denly, like an organ when the bellows are let drop, 
if Mary Garth came into the room ; and all eyes 
were turned on her as a possible legatee, or one 
who might get access to iron chests. 

But the younger men, who were relatives or 
connections of the family, were disposed to admire 
her in this problematic light, as a girl who showed 
much conduct, and who among all the chances 
that were flying might turn out to be at least a 
moderate prize. Hence she had her share of com- 
pliments and polite attentions. 

Especially from Mr Borthrop Trumbull, a dis- 
tinguished bachelor and auctioneer of those parts, 
much concerned in the sale of land and cattle : a 
public character, indeed, whose name was seen on 
widely-distributed placards, and who might rea- 
sonably be sorry for those who did not know of 
liim. He was second cousin to Peter Featherstone, 
and had been treated by him w^ith more amenity 
than any other relative, being useful in matters of 
business ; and in that programme of his funeral 
which the old man had himself dictated, he had 
been named as a Bearer. There was no odious 
cupidity in Mr Borthrop Trumbull — nothing more 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOE DEATH. 157 

than a sincere sense of his own merit, which, ho 
was aware, in case of rivalry might tell against 
competitors ; so that if Peter Featherstone, wlio 
so far as he, Trumbull, was concerned, had behaved 
like as good a soul as ever breathed, should have 
done anything handsome by him, all he could say 
was, that he had never fished and fawned, but had 
advised him to the best of his experience, which 
now extended over twenty years from the time 
of his apprenticeship at fifteen, and was likely to 
yield a knowledge of no surreptitious kind. His 
admiration was far from being confined to himself, 
but was accustomed professionally as well as pri- 
vately to delight in estimating things at a high 
rate. He was an amateur of superior phrases, 
and never used poor language without immediately 
correcting himself — which was fortunate, as he 
was rather loud, and given to predominate, stand- 
ing or walking about frequently, pulling down his 
waistcoat with the air of a man who is very much 
of his own opinion, trimming himself rapidly witli 
his fore-finger, and marking each new series in 
these movements by a busy play with his large 
seals. There was occasionally a little fierceness 
in liis demeanour, but it was directed chiefly 
against false opinion, of which there is so much 
to correct in the w^orld that a man of some read- 



158 MIDDLEMAECH. 

ing and experience necessarily has his patience 
kied. He felt that the Featherstone family gen- 
erally was of limited understanding, but being a 
man of the world and a public character took 
everything as a matter of course, and even went 
to converse with Mr Jonah and young Cranch in 
the kitchen, not doubting that he had impressed 
the latter greatly by his leading questions con- 
cerning the Chalky Flats. If anybody had ob- 
served that Mr Borthrop Trumbull, being an auc- 
tioneer, w^as bound to know the nature of every- 
thing, he would have smiled and trimmed him- 
self silently with the sense that he came pretty 
near that. On the whole, in an auctioneering 
way, he was an honourable man, not ashamed of 
his business, and feeling that "the celebrated 
Peel, now Sir Eobert," if introduced to him, would 
not fail to recognise his importance. 

" I don't mind if I have a slice of that ham, and 
a glass of that ale, Miss Garth, if you will allow 
me," he said, coming into the parlour at half-past 
eleven, after having had the exceptional privilege 
of seeing old Featherstone, and standing with his 
back to the fire between Mrs Waule and Solomon. 
" It's not necessary for you to go out ; — let me ring 
the bell." 

" Thank you," said Mary, '' I have an errand." 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 153 

" Well, 'Mv Trumbull, you're highly favoured," 
said Mrs Waule. 

" What, seeing the old man ? " said the auction- 
eer, playing with his seals dispassionately. '' Ah, 
you see, he has relied on me considerably." Here 
he pressed his lips together, and frowned medita- 
tively. 

" Might anybody ask what their brother has 
been saying?" said Solomon, in a soft tone of 
humility, in which he had a sense of luxurious 
cunning, he being a rich man and not in need 
of it. 

" Oh yes, anybody may ask," said Mr Trumbull, 
with loud and f]rood- humoured thoudi cutting' 
sarcasm. "Anybody may interrogate. Any one 
may give their remarks an interrogative turn," he 
continued, his sonorousness rising with his style. 
" This is constantly done by good speakers, even 
when they anticipate no answer. It is what we 
call a figure of speech — speech at a high figure, as 
one may say." The eloquent auctioneer smiled at 
his own ingenuity. 

" I shouldn't be sorry to hear he'd remembered 
you, Mv Trumbull," said Solomon. " I never was 
against the deserving. It's the undeserving I'm 
against." 

"Ah, there it is, you see, there it is," said Mr 



160 MIDDLEMARCH. 

Trumbull, significantly. " It can't be denied that 
undeserving people have been legatees, and even 
residuary legatees. It is so, with testamentary 
dispositions." Again he pursed up his lips and 
frowned a little. 

"Do you mean to say for certain, Mr Trum- 
bull, that my brother has left his land away from 
our family ? " said Mrs Waule, on whom, as an 
unhopeful woman, those long words had a depres- 
sing effect. 

"A man might as well turn his land into charity 
land at once as leave it to some people," observed 
Solomon, his sister's question having drawn no 
answer. 

"What, Blue-Coat land?" said Mrs AYaule, 
again. *' Oh, Mr Trumbull, you never can mean 
to say that. It would be flying in the face of the 
Almighty that's prospered him." 

While Mrs Waule was speaking, Mr Borthrop 
Trumbull walked away from the fireplace towards 
tlie window, patrolling with his fore-finger round 
the inside of his stock, then along his whiskers 
and the curves of his hair. He now walked to 
Miss Garth's work-table, opened a book which lay 
there and read the title aloud with pompous 
emphasis as if he were offering it for sale : 

'*'Anne of Geierstein' (pronounced Jeersteen) 



BOOK m. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 161 

* or the Maiden of the Mist, by the Author of Wav- 
erley.' " Then turning the page, he began sonor- 
ously — '*The course of four centuries has well-nigh 
elapsed since the series of events which are related 
in the following chapters took place on the Con- 
tinent." He pronounced the last truly admirable 
word with the accent on the last syllable, not as 
unaware of vulgar usage, but feeling that this 
novel delivery enhanced the sonorous beauty 
which his reading had given to the whole. 

And now the servant came in with the tray, so 
that the moments for answering Mrs Waule's 
question had gone by safely, while she and Solo- 
mon, watching Mr Trumbull's movements, were 
thinking that high learning interfered sadly with 
serious alffairs. Mr Borthrop Trumbull really 
knew nothing about old Featherstone's will ; but 
he could hardly have been brought to declare any 
ignorance unless he had been arrested for mis- 
prision of treason. 

" I shall take a mere mouthful of ham and a 
glass of ale," he said, reassuringly. " As a man 
with public business, I take a snack when I can. 
I will back this ham," he added, after swallowing 
some morsels with alarming haste, " against any 
ham in the three kingdoms. In my opinion it is 

VOL. II. li 



162 MIDDLEMARCH. 

better than the hams at Freshitt Hall — and I 
think I am a tolerable judge." 

"Some don't like so much sugar in their hams," 
said Mrs Waule. " But my poor brother would 
always have sugar." 

" If any person demands better, he is at liberty 
to do so ; but, God bless me, what an aroma ! I 
should be glad to buy-in that quality, I know. 
There is some gratification to a gentleman " — here 
Mr Trumbull's voice conveyed an emotional re- 
monstrance — " in having this kind of ham set on 
his table." 

He pushed aside his plate, poured out his glass 
of ale and drew his chair a little forward, profiting 
by the occasion to look at the inner side of his 
legs, which he stroked approvingly — Mr Trumbull 
having all those less frivolous airs and gestures 
which distinguish the predominant races of the 
north. 

"You have an interesting work there, I see. Miss 
Garth," he observed, when Mary re-entered. " It 
is by the Author of 'Waverley ' : that is Sir AYalter 
Scott. I have bought one of his w^orks myself — 
a very nice thing, a very superior publication, 
entitled ' Ivanhoe.' You will not get any writer 
to beat him in a hurry, I think — he will not, in 
my opinion, be speedily surpassed. I have just 



BOOK III.— WAITING FOR DEATH. 163 

been reading a portion at the commencement of 
'Anneof Jeersteen/ It commences well." (Things 
never began with Mr Borthrop Trumbull: they 
always commenced, both in private life and on 
his handbills.) "You are a reader, I see. Do 
you subscribe to our Middlemarch library ? " 

"No," said Mary. "Mr Fred Vincy brought 
this book." 

"I am a great bookman myself," returned Mr 
Trumbull. " I have no less than two hundred 
volumes in calf, and I flatter myself they are well 
selected. Also pictures by Murillo, Eubens, Teni- 
ers, Titian, Vandyck, and others. I shall be 
happy to lend you any work you like to mention. 
Miss Garth." 

"I am much obliged," said Mary, hastening 
away again, " but I have little time for reading." 

" I should say my brother has done something 
for her in his will," said Mr Solomon, in a very 
low undertone, when she had shut the door be- 
hind her, pointing with his head towards the 
absent Mary. 

" His first wife was a poor match for him, 
though," said Mrs Waule. " She brought him 
nothing: and this young woman is only her niece. 
And very proud. And my brother has always 
paid her wage." 



164 MIDDLEMARCH. 

"A sensible girl though, in my opinion," said 
Mr Trumbull, finishing his ale and starting up 
with an emphatic adjustment of his waistcoat. 
" I have observed her when she has been mixing 
medicine in drops. She minds what she is doing, 
sir. That is a great point in a woman, and a great 
point for our friend up-stairs, poor dear old soul. 
A man whose life is of any value should think of 
his wife as a nurse : that is what I should do, if I 
married ; and I believe I have lived single long 
enough not to make a mistake in that line. Some 
men must marry to elevate themselves a little, 
but when I am in need of that, I hope some one 
will tell me so — T hope some individual will 
apprise me of the fact. I wish you good morning, 
Mrs Waule. Good morning, Mr Solomon. I trust 
we shall meet under less melancholy auspices." 

When Mr Trumbull had departed with a fine 
bow, Solomon, leaning forward, observed to his 
sister, "You may depend, Jane, my brother has 
left that girl a lumping sum." 

"Anybody would think so, from the way Mr 
Trumbull talks," said Jane. Then, after a pause, 
" He talks as if my daughters wasn't to be trusted 
to give drops." 

" Auctioneers talk wild," said Solomon. " Not 
but what Trumbull has made money." 



165 



CHAPTEE XXXIII. 



' Close up his eyes and draw the curtain close; 
And let us all to meditation." 

—2 Eenry VI. 



That night after twelve o'clock Mary Garth re- 
lieved the watch in Mr Featherst one's room, and 
sat there alone through the small hours. She 
often chose this task, in which she found soma 
pleasure, notwithstanding the old man's testiness 
whenever he demanded her attentions. There 
were intervals in which she could sit perfectly 
still, enjoying the outer stillness and the subdued 
light. The red fire with its gently audible move- 
ment seemed like a solemn existence calmly inde- 
pendent of the petty passions, the imbecile desires, 
the straining after worthless uncertainties, which 
were daily moving her contempt. Mary was fond 
of her own thoughts, and could amuse herself well 
sitting in twilight with her hands in her lap ; for, 
having early had strong reason to beUeve that 



166 MIDDLEMAECH. 

things were not likely to be arranged for her pecu- 
liar satisfaction, she wasted no time in astonish- 
ment and annoyance at that fact. And she had 
already come to take life very much as a comedy 
in which she had a proud, nay, a generous resolu- 
tion not to act the mean or treacherous part. 
Mary might have become cynical if she had not 
had parents whom she honoured, and a well of 
affectionate gratitude within her, which was all 
the fuller because she had learned to make no 
unreasonable claims. 

She sat to-night revolving, as she was wont, the 
scenes of the day, her lips often curling with 
amusement at the oddities to which her fancy 
added fresh drollery: people were so ridiculous 
with their illusions, carrying their fool's caps 
unawares, thinking their own lies opaque while 
everybody else's were transparent, making them- 
selves exceptions to everything, as if when all the 
world looked yellow under a lamp they alone were 
rosy. Yet there were some illusions under Mary's 
eyes which were not quite comic to her. She was 
secretly convinced, though she had no other 
grounds than her close observation of old Feather- 
stone's nature, that in spite of his fondness for 
having the Vincys about him, they were as likely 
to be disappointed as any of the relations whom 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 167 

he kept at a distance. She had a good deal of 
disdain for Mrs Yincy's evident alarm lest she and 
Fred should be alone together, but it did not 
hinder her from thinking anxiously of the way 
in which Fred would be affected, if it should turn 
out that his uncle had left him as poor as ever. 
She could make a butt of Fred when he was 
present, but she did not enjoy his follies when 
he was absent. 

Yet she liked her thoughts : a vigorous young 
mind not overbalanced by passion, finds a good in 
making acquaintance with life, and w^atches its 
own powers with interest. Mary had plenty of 
merriment within. 

Her thought was not veined by any solemnity 
or pathos about the old man on the bed : such 
sentiments are easier to affect than to feel about 
an aged creature whose life is not visibly anything 
but a remnant of vices. She had always seen the 
most disagreeable side of Mr Featherstone : he 
was not proud of her, and she was only useful to 
him. To be anxious about a soul that is always 
snapping at you must be left to the saints of the 
earth; and Mary was not one of them. She had 
never returned him a harsh word, and had waited 
on him faithfully: that was her utmost. Old 
Featherstone himself was not in the least anxioua 



168 MLDDLEMAECH. 

about his soul, and had declined to see Mr Tucker 
on the subject. 

To-night he had not once snapped, and for the 
first hour or two he lay remarkably still, until 
at last Mary heard him rattling his bunch of 
keys against the tin box which he always kept 
in the bed beside him. About three o'clock 
he said, with remarkable distinctness, "Missy, 
come here ! " 

Mary obeyed and found that he had already 
drawn the tin box from under the clothes, though 
he usually asked to have this done for him ; and 
he had selected the key. He now unlocked the 
box, and, drawing from it another key, looked 
straight at her with eyes that seemed to have 
recovered all their sharpness and said, " How many 
of 'em are in the house ? " 

"You mean of your own relations, sir," said 
Mary, well used to the old man's way of speech. 
He nodded slightly and she went on. 

"Mr Jonah Featherstone and young Cranch 
are sleeping here." 

" Oh ay, they stick, do they? and the rest — they 
come every day, I'll warrant — Solomon and Jane, 
and all the young uns ? They come peeping, and 
counting and casting up ? " 

" Not all of them every day. Mr Solomon and 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 169 

Mrs Waule are here every day, and the others 
come often." 

The old man listened with a grimace while she 
spoke, and then said, relaxing his face, " The more 
fools they. You hearken. Missy. It's three o'clock 
in the morning, and I've got all my faculties as 
well as ever I had in my life. I know all my 
property, and where the money's put out, and 
everything. And I've made everything ready to 
change my mind, and do as I like at the last. Do 
you hear, Missy? I've got my faculties." 

" Well, sir ? " said Mary, quietly. 

He now lowered his tone with an air of deeper 
cunning. " I've made two wills, and I'm going 
to burn one. Now you do as I teU you. This is 
the key of my iron chest, in the closet there. 
You push well at the side of the brass plate at 
the top, till it goes like a bolt : then you can put 
the key in the front lock and turn it. See and do 
that ; and take out the topmost paper — Last Will 
and Testament — big printed." 

" No, sir," said Mary, in a firm voice, " I cannot 
do that." 

" Not do it ? I tell you, you must," said the 
old man, his voice beginning to shake under the 
shock of this resistance. 

" I cannot touch your iron chest or your wilL 



170 MIDDLEMARCH. 

I must refuse to do anything that might lay me 
open to suspicion." 

" I tell you, I'm in my right mind. Shan't I 
do as I like at the last ? I made two wills on 
purpose. Take the key, I say." 

"No, sir, I will not," said Mary, more resol- 
utely still. Her repulsion was getting stronger. 

" I tell you, there's no time to lose." 

"I cannot help that, sir. I will not let the 
close of your life soil the beginning of mine. I 
will not touch your iron chest or your will." She 
moved to a little distance from the bedside. 

The old man paused with a blank stare for a 
little while, holding the one key erect on the ring ; 
then with an agitated jerk he began to work with 
his bony left hand at emptying the tin box before 
him. 

"Missy," he began to say, hurriedly, "look- 
here ! take the money — the notes and gold — look 
here — take it — you shall have it all — do as I tell 

you." 

He made an effort to stretch out the key to- 
wards her as far as possible, and Mary again 
retreated. 

" I will not touch your key or your money, sir. 
Pray don't ask me to do it again. If you do, I 
must go and call your brother." 



BOOK m. — ^WAITING FOR DEATH. 171 

He let his hand fall, and for the first time in 
her life Mary saw old Peter Featherstone begin 
to cry childishly. She said, in as gentle a tone as 
she could command, " Pray put up your money, 
sir ; " and then went away to her seat by the fire, 
hoping this would help to convince him that it 
was useless to say more. Presently he rallied 
and said eagerly — 

" Look here, then. Call the young chap. Call 
Fred Vincy." 

Mary's heart began to beat more quickly. 
Various ideas rushed through her mind as to what 
the burning of a second will might imply. She 
had to make a difficult decision in a hurry. 

"I will call him, if you w^ill let me call Mr 
Jonah and others with him." 

" Nobody else, I say. The young chap. I shall 
do as I like." 

" Wait till broad daylight, sir, wlien every one 
is stirring. Or let me call Simmons now, to go 
and fetch the lawyer. He can be here in less 
than two hours." 

'' Lawyer ? What do I want with the lawyer ? 
Nobody shall know — I say, nobody shall know. 
I shall do as I like." 

"Let me call some one else, sir," said Mary, 
persuasively. She did not like her position — alone 



172 MIDDLEMARCH. 

with the old man, who seemed to show a strange 
flaring of nervous energy which enabled him to 
speak. again and again without falling into his 
usual cough ; yet she desired not to push unneces- 
sarily the contradiction which agitated him. " Let 
me, pray, call some one else." 

" You let me alone, I say. Look here, Missy. 
Take the money. You'll never have the chance 
again. It's pretty nigh two hundred — there's more 
in the box, and nobody knows how much there 
was. Take it and do as I tell you." 

Mary, standing by the fire, saw its red light 
falling on the old man, propped up on his pil- 
lows and bed-rest, with his bony hand holding 
out the key, and the money lying on the quilt 
before him. She never forgot that vision of a 
man wanting to do as he liked at the last. But 
the way in which he had put the offer of the- 
money urged her to speak with harder resolu- 
tion than ever. 

" It is of no use, sir. I will not do it. Put up 
your money. I will not touch your money. I 
will do anything else I can to comfort you ; but I 
will not touch your keys or your money." 

" Anything else — anything else ! " said old 
Featherstone, with hoarse rage, which, as if in a 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 173 

nightmare, tried to be loud, and yet was only just 
audible. " I want nothing else. You come here 
— you come here." 

Mary approached him cautiously, knowing him 
too well She saw him dropping his keys and 
trying to grasp his stick, while he looked at her 
like an aged hyena, the muscles of his face getting 
distorted with the effort of his hand. She paused 
at a safe distance. 

" Let me give you some cordial," she said, 
quietly, " and try to compose yourself. You will 
perhaps go to sleep. And to-morrow by daylight 
you can do as you like." 

He lifted the stick, in spite of her being beyond 
his reach, and threw it with a hard effort which 
was but impotence. It fell, slipping over the foot 
of the bed. Mary let it lie, and retreated to her 
chair by the fire. By-and-by, she would go to 
him with the cordial. Fatigue would make him 
passive. It was getting towards the chillest 
moment of the morning, the fire had got low, and 
she could see through the chink between the 
moreen window -curtains the light whitened by 
the blind. Having put some wood on the fire 
and thrown a shawl over her, she sat down, hoping 
that Mr Featherstone might now fall asleep. If 



174 MIDDLEMAKCH. 

she went near him the irritation might be kept 
up. He had said nothing after throwing the stick, 
but she had seen him taking his keys again and 
laying his right hand on the money. He did not 
put it up, however, and she thought that he was 
dropping off to sleep. 

But Mary herself began to be more agitated by 
the remembrance of what she had gone through, 
than she had been by the reality — questioning 
those acts of hers which had come imperatively 
and excluded all question in the critical mo- 
ment. 

Presently the dry wood sent out a flame which 
illuminated every crevice, and Mary saw that the 
old man was lying quietly with his head turned a 
little on one side. She went towards him with 
inaudible steps, and thought that his face looked 
strangely motionless; but the next moment the 
movement of the flame communicating itself to all 
objects made her uncertain. The violent beating 
of her heart rendered her perceptions so doubtful 
that even when she touched him and listened for 
his breathing, she could not trust her conclusions. 
She went to the window and gently propped aside 
the curtain and blind, so that the still light of the 
sky fell on the bed. 



BOOK III. — WAITING FOR DEATH. 175 

The next moment she ran to the bell and rang 
it energetically. In a very little while there 
was no longer any doubt that Peter Featherstone 
was dead, with his right hand clasping the keys, 
and his left hand lying on the heap of notes 
and gold.