"Since I can do no good because a woman,
Reach constantly at something that is near it.
--The Maid's Tragedy: BEAUMONT AND FLETCHER.
Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into
relief by poor dress. Her hand and wrist were so finely formed that
she could wear sleeves not less bare of style than those in which
the Blessed Virgin appeared to Italian painters; and her profile
as well as her stature and bearing seemed to gain the more dignity
from her plain garments, which by the side of provincial fashion
gave her the impressiveness of a fine quotation from the Bible,--or
from one of our elder poets,--in a paragraph of to-day's newspaper.
She was usually spoken of as being remarkably clever, but with the
addition that her sister Celia had more common-sense. Nevertheless,
Celia wore scarcely more trimmings; and it was only to close
observers that her dress differed from her sister's, and had a shade
of coquetry in its arrangements; for Miss Brooke's plain dressing
was due to mixed conditions, in most of which her sister shared.
The pride of being ladies had something to do with it: the Brooke
connections, though not exactly aristocratic, were unquestionably
"good:" if you inquired backward for a generation or two, you would
not find any yard-measuring or parcel-tying forefathers--anything
lower than an admiral or a clergyman; and there was even an ancestor
discernible as a Puritan gentleman who served under Cromwell,
but afterwards conformed, and managed to come out of all political
troubles as the proprietor of a respectable family estate.
Young women of such birth, living in a quiet country-house,
and attending a village church hardly larger than a parlor,
naturally regarded frippery as the ambition of a huckster's daughter.
Then there was well-bred economy, which in those days made show in
dress the first item to be deducted from, when any margin was required
for expenses more distinctive of rank. Such reasons would have been
enough to account for plain dress, quite apart from religious feeling;
but in Miss Brooke's case, religion alone would have determined it;
and Celia mildly acquiesced in all her sister's sentiments,
only infusing them with that common-sense which is able to accept
momentous doctrines without any eccentric agitation. Dorothea knew
many passages of Pascal's Pensees and of Jeremy Taylor by heart;
and to her the destinies of mankind, seen by the light of Christianity,
made the solicitudes of feminine fashion appear an occupation
for Bedlam. She could not reconcile the anxieties of a spiritual
life involving eternal consequences, with a keen interest in gimp
and artificial protrusions of drapery. Her mind was theoretic,
and yearned by its nature after some lofty conception of the world
which might frankly include the parish of Tipton and her own rule
of conduct there; she was enamoured of intensity and greatness,
and rash in embracing whatever seemed to her to have those aspects;
likely to seek martyrdom, to make retractations, and then to incur
martyrdom after all in a quarter where she had not sought it.
Certainly such elements in the character of a marriageable girl tended
to interfere with her lot, and hinder it from being decided according
to custom, by good looks, vanity, and merely canine affection.
With all this, she, the elder of the sisters, was not yet twenty,
and they had both been educated, since they were about twelve years old
and had lost their parents, on plans at once narrow and promiscuous,
first in an English family and afterwards in a Swiss family at Lausanne,
their bachelor uncle and guardian trying in this way to remedy the
disadvantages of their orphaned condition.
It was hardly a year since they had come to live at Tipton Grange
with their uncle, a man nearly sixty, of acquiescent temper,
miscellaneous opinions, and uncertain vote. He had travelled
in his younger years, and was held in this part of the county
to have contracted a too rambling habit of mind. Mr. Brooke's
conclusions were as difficult to predict as the weather: it was
only safe to say that he would act with benevolent intentions,
and that he would spend as little money as possible in carrying
them out. For the most glutinously indefinite minds enclose some
hard grains of habit; and a man has been seen lax about all his
own interests except the retention of his snuff-box, concerning
which he was watchful, suspicious, and greedy of clutch.
In Mr. Brooke the hereditary strain of Puritan energy was clearly
in abeyance; but in his niece Dorothea it glowed alike through faults
and virtues, turning sometimes into impatience of her uncle's talk
or his way of "letting things be" on his estate, and making her long
all the more for the time when she would be of age and have some
command of money for generous schemes. She was regarded as an heiress;
for not only had the sisters seven hundred a-year each from
their parents, but if Dorothea married and had a son, that son would
inherit Mr. Brooke's estate, presumably worth about three thousand
a-year--a rental which seemed wealth to provincial families,
still discussing Mr. Peel's late conduct on the Catholic question,
innocent of future gold-fields, and of that gorgeous plutocracy
which has so nobly exalted the necessities of genteel life.
And how should Dorothea not marry?--a girl so handsome and with
such prospects? Nothing could hinder it but her love of extremes,
and her insistence on regulating life according to notions which
might cause a wary man to hesitate before he made her an offer,
or even might lead her at last to refuse all offers. A young lady
of some birth and fortune, who knelt suddenly down on a brick floor
by the side of a sick laborer and prayed fervidly as if she thought
herself living in the time of the Apostles--who had strange whims
of fasting like a Papist, and of sitting up at night to read old
theological books! Such a wife might awaken you some fine morning with
a new scheme for the application of her income which would interfere
with political economy and the keeping of saddle-horses: a man would
naturally think twice before he risked himself in such fellowship.
Women were expected to have weak opinions; but the great safeguard
of society and of domestic life was, that opinions were not acted on.
Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics
were at large, one might know and avoid them.
The rural opinion about the new young ladies, even among the cottagers,
was generally in favor of Celia, as being so amiable and innocent-looking,
while Miss Brooke's large eyes seemed, like her religion, too unusual
and striking. Poor Dorothea! compared with her, the innocent-looking
Celia was knowing and worldly-wise; so much subtler is a human mind
than the outside tissues which make a sort of blazonry or clock-face for it.
Yet those who approached Dorothea, though prejudiced against her
by this alarming hearsay, found that she had a charm unaccountably
reconcilable with it. Most men thought her bewitching when she
was on horseback. She loved the fresh air and the various aspects
of the country, and when her eyes and cheeks glowed with mingled
pleasure she looked very little like a devotee. Riding was an
indulgence which she allowed herself in spite of conscientious qualms;
she felt that she enjoyed it in a pagan sensuous way, and always
looked forward to renouncing it.
She was open, ardent, and not in the least self-admiring; indeed,
it was pretty to see how her imagination adorned her sister Celia
with attractions altogether superior to her own, and if any gentleman
appeared to come to the Grange from some other motive than that of
seeing Mr. Brooke, she concluded that he must be in love with Celia:
Sir James Chettam, for example, whom she constantly considered from
Celia's point of view, inwardly debating whether it would be good
for Celia to accept him. That he should be regarded as a suitor
to herself would have seemed to her a ridiculous irrelevance.
Dorothea, with all her eagerness to know the truths of life,
retained very childlike ideas about marriage. She felt sure that
she would have accepted the judicious Hooker, if she had been born
in time to save him from that wretched mistake he made in matrimony;
or John Milton when his blindness had come on; or any of the other
great men whose odd habits it would have been glorious piety to endure;
but an amiable handsome baronet, who said "Exactly" to her remarks
even when she expressed uncertainty,--how could he affect her as a
lover? The really delightful marriage must be that where your husband
was a sort of father, and could teach you even Hebrew, if you wished it.
These peculiarities of Dorothea's character caused Mr. Brooke
to be all the more blamed in neighboring families for not securing
some middle-aged lady as guide and companion to his nieces.
But he himself dreaded so much the sort of superior woman likely
to be available for such a position, that he allowed himself to be
dissuaded by Dorothea's objections, and was in this case brave enough
to defy the world--that is to say, Mrs. Cadwallader the Rector's wife,
and the small group of gentry with whom he visited in the northeast corner
of Loamshire. So Miss Brooke presided in her uncle's household, and
did not at all dislike her new authority, with the homage that belonged to it.
Sir James Chettam was going to dine at the Grange to-day with
another gentleman whom the girls had never seen, and about whom
Dorothea felt some venerating expectation. This was the Reverend
Edward Casaubon, noted in the county as a man of profound learning,
understood for many years to be engaged on a great work concerning
religious history; also as a man of wealth enough to give lustre
to his piety, and having views of his own which were to be more
clearly ascertained on the publication of his book. His very name
carried an impressiveness hardly to be measured without a precise
chronology of scholarship.
Early in the day Dorothea had returned from the infant school
which she had set going in the village, and was taking her usual
place in the pretty sitting-room which divided the bedrooms
of the sisters, bent on finishing a plan for some buildings (a
kind of work which she delighted in), when Celia, who had been
watching her with a hesitating desire to propose something, said--
"Dorothea, dear, if you don't mind--if you are not very busy--suppose we
looked at mamma's jewels to-day, and divided them? It is exactly six months
to-day since uncle gave them to you, and you have not looked at them yet."
Celia's face had the shadow of a pouting expression in it, the full
presence of the pout being kept back by an habitual awe of Dorothea
and principle; two associated facts which might show a mysterious
electricity if you touched them incautiously. To her relief,
Dorothea's eyes were full of laughter as she looked up.
"What a wonderful little almanac you are, Celia! Is it six calendar
or six lunar months?"
"It is the last day of September now, and it was the first of
April when uncle gave them to you. You know, he said that he
had forgotten them till then. I believe you have never thought
of them since you locked them up in the cabinet here."
"Well, dear, we should never wear them, you know." Dorothea spoke
in a full cordial tone, half caressing, half explanatory.
She had her pencil in her hand, and was making tiny side-plans
on a margin.
Celia colored, and looked very grave. "I think, dear, we are
wanting in respect to mamma's memory, to put them by and take
no notice of them. And," she added, after hesitating a little,
with a rising sob of mortification, "necklaces are quite usual now;
and Madame Poincon, who was stricter in some things even than you are,
used to wear ornaments. And Christians generally--surely there are
women in heaven now who wore jewels." Celia was conscious of some
mental strength when she really applied herself to argument.
"You would like to wear them?" exclaimed Dorothea, an air of astonished
discovery animating her whole person with a dramatic action which she
had caught from that very Madame Poincon who wore the ornaments.
"Of course, then, let us have them out. Why did you not tell me
before? But the keys, the keys!" She pressed her hands against
the sides of her head and seemed to despair of her memory.
"They are here," said Celia, with whom this explanation had been
long meditated and prearranged.
"Pray open the large drawer of the cabinet and get out the jewel-box."
The casket was soon open before them, and the various jewels spread out,
making a bright parterre on the table. It was no great collection,
but a few of the ornaments were really of remarkable beauty, the finest
that was obvious at first being a necklace of purple amethysts set
in exquisite gold work, and a pearl cross with five brilliants in it.
Dorothea immediately took up the necklace and fastened it round
her sister's neck, where it fitted almost as closely as a bracelet;
but the circle suited the Henrietta-Maria style of Celia's head
and neck, and she could see that it did, in the pier-glass opposite.
"There, Celia! you can wear that with your Indian muslin.
But this cross you must wear with your dark dresses."
Celia was trying not to smile with pleasure. "O Dodo, you must
keep the cross yourself."
"No, no, dear, no," said Dorothea, putting up her hand with
"Yes, indeed you must; it would suit you--in your black dress, now,"
said Celia, insistingly. "You MIGHT wear that."
"Not for the world, not for the world. A cross is the last thing
I would wear as a trinket." Dorothea shuddered slightly.
"Then you will think it wicked in me to wear it," said Celia, uneasily.
"No, dear, no," said Dorothea, stroking her sister's cheek.
"Souls have complexions too: what will suit one will not suit another."
"But you might like to keep it for mamma's sake."
"No, I have other things of mamma's--her sandal-wood box which I am
so fond of--plenty of things. In fact, they are all yours, dear.
We need discuss them no longer. There--take away your property."
Celia felt a little hurt. There was a strong assumption of superiority
in this Puritanic toleration, hardly less trying to the blond
flesh of an unenthusiastic sister than a Puritanic persecution.
"But how can I wear ornaments if you, who are the elder sister,
will never wear them?"
"Nay, Celia, that is too much to ask, that I should wear trinkets
to keep you in countenance. If I were to put on such a necklace
as that, I should feel as if I had been pirouetting. The world
would go round with me, and I should not know how to walk."
Celia had unclasped the necklace and drawn it off. "It would be
a little tight for your neck; something to lie down and hang would
suit you better," she said, with some satisfaction. The complete
unfitness of the necklace from all points of view for Dorothea,
made Celia happier in taking it. She was opening some ring-boxes,
which disclosed a fine emerald with diamonds, and just then the sun
passing beyond a cloud sent a bright gleam over the table.
"How very beautiful these gems are!" said Dorothea, under a new current
of feeling, as sudden as the gleam. "It is strange how deeply colors
seem to penetrate one, like scent I suppose that is the reason why
gems are used as spiritual emblems in the Revelation of St. John.
They look like fragments of heaven. I think that emerald is more
beautiful than any of them."
"And there is a bracelet to match it," said Celia. "We did not
notice this at first."
"They are lovely," said Dorothea, slipping the ring and bracelet
on her finely turned finger and wrist, and holding them towards
the window on a level with her eyes. All the while her thought
was trying to justify her delight in the colors by merging them
in her mystic religious joy.
"You WOULD like those, Dorothea," said Celia, rather falteringly,
beginning to think with wonder that her sister showed some weakness,
and also that emeralds would suit her own complexion even better
than purple amethysts. "You must keep that ring and bracelet--if
nothing else. But see, these agates are very pretty and quiet."
"Yes! I will keep these--this ring and bracelet," said Dorothea.
Then, letting her hand fall on the table, she said in another
tone--"Yet what miserable men find such things, and work at them,
and sell them!" She paused again, and Celia thought that her sister
was going to renounce the ornaments, as in consistency she ought
"Yes, dear, I will keep these," said Dorothea, decidedly. "But take
all the rest away, and the casket."
She took up her pencil without removing the jewels, and still
looking at them. She thought of often having them by her, to feed
her eye at these little fountains of pure color.
"Shall you wear them in company?" said Celia, who was watching
her with real curiosity as to what she would do.
Dorothea glanced quickly at her sister. Across all her imaginative
adornment of those whom she loved, there darted now and then
a keen discernment, which was not without a scorching quality.
If Miss Brooke ever attained perfect meekness, it would not be
for lack of inward fire.
"Perhaps," she said, rather haughtily. "I cannot tell to what level
I may sink."
Celia blushed, and was unhappy: she saw that she had offended
her sister, and dared not say even anything pretty about the gift
of the ornaments which she put back into the box and carried away.
Dorothea too was unhappy, as she went on with her plan-drawing,
questioning the purity of her own feeling and speech in the scene
which had ended with that little explosion.
Celia's consciousness told her that she had not been at all in the
wrong: it was quite natural and justifiable that she should have
asked that question, and she repeated to herself that Dorothea was
inconsistent: either she should have taken her full share of the jewels,
or, after what she had said, she should have renounced them altogether.
"I am sure--at least, I trust," thought Celia, "that the wearing
of a necklace will not interfere with my prayers. And I do not see
that I should be bound by Dorothea's opinions now we are going
into society, though of course she herself ought to be bound by them.
But Dorothea is not always consistent."
Thus Celia, mutely bending over her tapestry, until she heard
her sister calling her.
"Here, Kitty, come and look at my plan; I shall think I am
a great architect, if I have not got incompatible stairs and fireplaces."
As Celia bent over the paper, Dorothea put her cheek against
her sister's arm caressingly. Celia understood the action.
Dorothea saw that she had been in the wrong, and Celia pardoned her.
Since they could remember, there had been a mixture of criticism
and awe in the attitude of Celia's mind towards her elder sister.
The younger had always worn a yoke; but is there any yoked creature
without its private opinions?
"`Dime; no ves aquel caballero que hacia nosotros viene sobre un
caballo rucio rodado que trae puesto en la cabeza un yelmo de oro?'
`Lo que veo y columbro,' respondio Sancho, `no es sino un hombre
sobre un as no pardo como el mio, que trae sobre la cabeza una
cosa que relumbra.' `Pues ese es el yelmo de Mambrino,' dijo Don
"`Seest thou not yon cavalier who cometh toward us on a
dapple-gray steed, and weareth a golden helmet?' `What I see,'
answered Sancho, `is nothing but a man on a gray ass like my own,
who carries something shiny on his head.' `Just so,' answered Don
Quixote: `and that resplendent object is the helmet of Mambrino.'"
"Sir Humphry Davy?" said Mr. Brooke, over the soup, in his easy
smiling way, taking up Sir James Chettam's remark that he was studying
Davy's Agricultural Chemistry. "Well, now, Sir Humphry Davy;
I dined with him years ago at Cartwright's, and Wordsworth was there
too--the poet Wordsworth, you know. Now there was something singular.
I was at Cambridge when Wordsworth was there, and I never met him--and
I dined with him twenty years afterwards at Cartwright's. There's
an oddity in things, now. But Davy was there: he was a poet too.
Or, as I may say, Wordsworth was poet one, and Davy was poet two.
That was true in every sense, you know."
Dorothea felt a little more uneasy than usual. In the beginning
of dinner, the party being small and the room still, these motes from
the mass of a magistrate's mind fell too noticeably. She wondered
how a man like Mr. Casaubon would support such triviality. His manners,
she thought, were very dignified; the set of his iron-gray hair
and his deep eye-sockets made him resemble the portrait of Locke.
He had the spare form and the pale complexion which became a student;
as different as possible from the blooming Englishman of the
red-whiskered type represented by Sir James Chettam.
"I am reading the Agricultural Chemistry," said this excellent baronet,
"because I am going to take one of the farms into my own hands,
and see if something cannot be done in setting a good pattern
of farming among my tenants. Do you approve of that, Miss Brooke?"
"A great mistake, Chettam," interposed Mr. Brooke, "going into
electrifying your land and that kind of thing, and making a parlor
of your cow-house. It won't do. I went into science a great deal
myself at one time; but I saw it would not do. It leads to everything;
you can let nothing alone. No, no--see that your tenants don't sell
their straw, and that kind of thing; and give them draining-tiles,
you know. But your fancy farming will not do--the most expensive
sort of whistle you can buy: you may as well keep a pack of hounds."
"Surely," said Dorothea, "it is better to spend money in finding
out how men can make the most of the land which supports them all,
than in keeping dogs and horses only to gallop over it. It is not
a sin to make yourself poor in performing experiments for the good
She spoke with more energy than is expected of so young a lady,
but Sir James had appealed to her. He was accustomed to do so,
and she had often thought that she could urge him to many good actions
when he was her brother-in-law.
Mr. Casaubon turned his eyes very markedly on Dorothea while she
was speaking, and seemed to observe her newly.
"Young ladies don't understand political economy, you know,"
said Mr. Brooke, smiling towards Mr. Casaubon. "I remember when we
were all reading Adam Smith. THERE is a book, now. I took in all
the new ideas at one time--human perfectibility, now. But some say,
history moves in circles; and that may be very well argued; I have
argued it myself. The fact is, human reason may carry you a little
too far--over the hedge, in fact. It carried me a good way at one time;
but I saw it would not do. I pulled up; I pulled up in time.
But not too hard. I have always been in favor of a little theory: we
must have Thought; else we shall be landed back in the dark ages.
But talking of books, there is Southey's `Peninsular War.' I am
reading that of a morning. You know Southey?"
"No" said Mr. Casaubon, not keeping pace with Mr. Brooke's impetuous
reason, and thinking of the book only. "I have little leisure for
such literature just now. I have been using up my eyesight on old
characters lately; the fact is, I want a reader for my evenings;
but I am fastidious in voices, and I cannot endure listening to
an imperfect reader. It is a misfortune, in some senses: I feed
too much on the inward sources; I live too much with the dead.
My mind is something like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about
the world and trying mentally to construct it as it used to be,
in spite of ruin and confusing changes. But I find it necessary
to use the utmost caution about my eyesight."
This was the first time that Mr. Casaubon had spoken at any length.
He delivered himself with precision, as if he had been called upon
to make a public statement; and the balanced sing-song neatness of
his speech, occasionally corresponded to by a movement of his head,
was the more conspicuous from its contrast with good Mr. Brooke's
scrappy slovenliness. Dorothea said to herself that Mr. Casaubon
was the most interesting man she had ever seen, not excepting even
Monsieur Liret, the Vaudois clergyman who had given conferences
on the history of the Waldenses. To reconstruct a past world,
doubtless with a view to the highest purposes of truth--what
a work to be in any way present at, to assist in, though only
as a lamp-holder! This elevating thought lifted her above her
annoyance at being twitted with her ignorance of political economy,
that never-explained science which was thrust as an extinguisher
over all her lights.
"But you are fond of riding, Miss Brooke," Sir James presently took
an opportunity of saying. "I should have thought you would enter
a little into the pleasures of hunting. I wish you would let me
send over a chestnut horse for you to try. It has been trained
for a lady. I saw you on Saturday cantering over the hill on a nag
not worthy of you. My groom shall bring Corydon for you every day,
if you will only mention the time."
"Thank you, you are very good. I mean to give up riding.
I shall not ride any more," said Dorothea, urged to this brusque
resolution by a little annoyance that Sir James would be soliciting
her attention when she wanted to give it all to Mr. Casaubon.
"No, that is too hard," said Sir James, in a tone of reproach that
showed strong interest. "Your sister is given to self-mortification,
is she not?" he continued, turning to Celia, who sat at his right hand.
"I think she is," said Celia, feeling afraid lest she should say
something that would not please her sister, and blushing as prettily
as possible above her necklace. "She likes giving up."
"If that were true, Celia, my giving-up would be self-indulgence,
not self-mortification. But there may be good reasons for choosing
not to do what is very agreeable," said Dorothea.
Mr. Brooke was speaking at the same time, but it was evident
that Mr. Casaubon was observing Dorothea, and she was aware of it.
"Exactly," said Sir James. "You give up from some high, generous motive."
"No, indeed, not exactly. I did not say that of myself,"
answered Dorothea, reddening. Unlike Celia, she rarely blushed,
and only from high delight or anger. At this moment she felt angry
with the perverse Sir James. Why did he not pay attention to Celia,
and leave her to listen to Mr. Casaubon?--if that learned man would
only talk, instead of allowing himself to be talked to by Mr. Brooke,
who was just then informing him that the Reformation either meant
something or it did not, that he himself was a Protestant to the core,
but that Catholicism was a fact; and as to refusing an acre
of your ground for a Romanist chapel, all men needed the bridle
of religion, which, properly speaking, was the dread of a Hereafter.
"I made a great study of theology at one time," said Mr. Brooke,
as if to explain the insight just manifested. "I know something
of all schools. I knew Wilberforce in his best days. Do you
Mr. Casaubon said, "No."
"Well, Wilberforce was perhaps not enough of a thinker; but if I
went into Parliament, as I have been asked to do, I should sit on
the independent bench, as Wilberforce did, and work at philanthropy."
Mr. Casaubon bowed, and observed that it was a wide field.
"Yes," said Mr. Brooke, with an easy smile, "but I have documents.
I began a long while ago to collect documents. They want arranging,
but when a question has struck me, I have written to somebody and got
an answer. I have documents at my back. But now, how do you arrange
"In pigeon-holes partly," said Mr. Casaubon, with rather a startled
air of effort.
"Ah, pigeon-holes will not do. I have tried pigeon-holes, but everything
gets mixed in pigeon-holes: I never know whether a paper is in A or Z."
"I wish you would let me sort your papers for you, uncle," said Dorothea.
"I would letter them all, and then make a list of subjects under each letter."
Mr. Casaubon gravely smiled approval, and said to Mr. Brooke,
"You have an excellent secretary at hand, you perceive."
"No, no," said Mr. Brooke, shaking his head; "I cannot let young
ladies meddle with my documents. Young ladies are too flighty."
Dorothea felt hurt. Mr. Casaubon would think that her uncle had
some special reason for delivering this opinion, whereas the remark
lay in his mind as lightly as the broken wing of an insect among
all the other fragments there, and a chance current had sent it
alighting on HER.
When the two girls were in the drawing-room alone, Celia said--
"How very ugly Mr. Casaubon is!"
"Celia! He is one of the most distinguished-looking men I ever saw.
He is remarkably like the portrait of Locke. He has the same
"Had Locke those two white moles with hairs on them?"
"Oh, I dare say! when people of a certain sort looked at him,"
said Dorothea, walking away a little.
"Mr. Casaubon is so sallow."
"All the better. I suppose you admire a man with the complexion
of a cochon de lait."
"Dodo!" exclaimed Celia, looking after her in surprise. "I never
heard you make such a comparison before."
"Why should I make it before the occasion came? It is a good
comparison: the match is perfect."
Miss Brooke was clearly forgetting herself, and Celia thought so.
"I wonder you show temper, Dorothea."
"It is so painful in you, Celia, that you will look at human
beings as if they were merely animals with a toilet, and never
see the great soul in a man's face."
"Has Mr. Casaubon a great soul?" Celia was not without a touch
of naive malice.
"Yes, I believe he has," said Dorothea, with the full voice
of decision. "Everything I see in him corresponds to his pamphlet
on Biblical Cosmology."
"He talks very little," said Celia
"There is no one for him to talk to."
Celia thought privately, "Dorothea quite despises Sir James Chettam;
I believe she would not accept him." Celia felt that this was a pity.
She had never been deceived as to the object of the baronet's interest.
Sometimes, indeed, she had reflected that Dodo would perhaps not
make a husband happy who had not her way of looking at things;
and stifled in the depths of her heart was the feeling that her sister
was too religious for family comfort. Notions and scruples were
like spilt needles, making one afraid of treading, or sitting down,
or even eating.
When Miss Brooke was at the tea-table, Sir James came to sit down
by her, not having felt her mode of answering him at all offensive.
Why should he? He thought it probable that Miss Brooke liked him,
and manners must be very marked indeed before they cease to be
interpreted by preconceptions either confident or distrustful.
She was thoroughly charming to him, but of course he theorized a
little about his attachment. He was made of excellent human dough,
and had the rare merit of knowing that his talents, even if let loose,
would not set the smallest stream in the county on fire: hence he
liked the prospect of a wife to whom he could say, "What shall we do?"
about this or that; who could help her husband out with reasons,
and would also have the property qualification for doing so.
As to the excessive religiousness alleged against Miss Brooke,
he had a very indefinite notion of what it consisted in, and thought
that it would die out with marriage. In short, he felt himself
to be in love in the right place, and was ready to endure a great
deal of predominance, which, after all, a man could always put
down when he liked. Sir James had no idea that he should ever
like to put down the predominance of this handsome girl, in whose
cleverness he delighted. Why not? A man's mind--what there is of
it--has always the advantage of being masculine,--as the smallest
birch-tree is of a higher kind than the most soaring palm,--and
even his ignorance is of a sounder quality. Sir James might not
have originated this estimate; but a kind Providence furnishes
the limpest personality with a little gunk or starch in the form
"Let me hope that you will rescind that resolution about the horse,
Miss Brooke," said the persevering admirer. "I assure you,
riding is the most healthy of exercises."
"I am aware of it," said Dorothea, coldly. "I think it would
do Celia good--if she would take to it."
"But you are such a perfect horsewoman."
"Excuse me; I have had very little practice, and I should be
"Then that is a reason for more practice. Every lady ought to be
a perfect horsewoman, that she may accompany her husband."
"You see how widely we differ, Sir James. I have made up my mind that I
ought not to be a perfect horsewoman, and so I should never correspond
to your pattern of a lady." Dorothea looked straight before her,
and spoke with cold brusquerie, very much with the air of a handsome boy,
in amusing contrast with the solicitous amiability of her admirer.
"I should like to know your reasons for this cruel resolution.
It is not possible that you should think horsemanship wrong."
"It is quite possible that I should think it wrong for me."
"Oh, why?" said Sir James, in a tender tone of remonstrance.
Mr. Casaubon had come up to the table, teacup in hand, and was listening.
"We must not inquire too curiously into motives," he interposed,
in his measured way. "Miss Brooke knows that they are apt to become
feeble in the utterance: the aroma is mixed with the grosser air.
We must keep the germinating grain away from the light."
Dorothea colored with pleasure, and looked up gratefully to the speaker.
Here was a man who could understand the higher inward life,
and with whom there could be some spiritual communion; nay, who could
illuminate principle with the widest knowledge a man whose learning
almost amounted to a proof of whatever he believed!
Dorothea's inferences may seem large; but really life could never have
gone on at any period but for this liberal allowance of conclusions,
which has facilitated marriage under the difficulties of civilization.
Has any one ever pinched into its pilulous smallness the cobweb
of pre-matrimonial acquaintanceship?
"Certainly," said good Sir James. "Miss Brooke shall not be urged
to tell reasons she would rather be silent upon. I am sure her
reasons would do her honor."
He was not in the least jealous of the interest with which Dorothea
had looked up at Mr. Casaubon: it never occurred to him that a girl
to whom he was meditating an offer of marriage could care for a dried
bookworm towards fifty, except, indeed, in a religious sort of way,
as for a clergyman of some distinction.
However, since Miss Brooke had become engaged in a conversation
with Mr. Casaubon about the Vaudois clergy, Sir James betook
himself to Celia, and talked to her about her sister; spoke of a
house in town, and asked whether Miss Brooke disliked London.
Away from her sister, Celia talked quite easily, and Sir James
said to himself that the second Miss Brooke was certainly very
agreeable as well as pretty, though not, as some people pretended,
more clever and sensible than the elder sister. He felt that he
had chosen the one who was in all respects the superior; and a man
naturally likes to look forward to having the best. He would
be the very Mawworm of bachelors who pretended not to expect it.
"Say, goddess, what ensued, when Raphael,
The affable archangel . . .
The story heard attentive, and was filled
With admiration, and deep muse, to hear
Of things so high and strange."
--Paradise Lost, B. vii.
If it had really occurred to Mr. Casaubon to think of Miss
Brooke as a suitable wife for him, the reasons that might induce
her to accept him were already planted in her mind, and by the
evening of the next day the reasons had budded and bloomed.
For they had had a long conversation in the morning, while Celia,
who did not like the company of Mr. Casaubon's moles and sallowness,
had escaped to the vicarage to play with the curate's ill-shod
but merry children.
Dorothea by this time had looked deep into the ungauged reservoir
of Mr. Casaubon's mind, seeing reflected there in vague labyrinthine
extension every quality she herself brought; had opened much of
her own experience to him, and had understood from him the scope
of his great work, also of attractively labyrinthine extent.
For he had been as instructive as Milton's "affable archangel;"
and with something of the archangelic manner he told her how he had
undertaken to show (what indeed had been attempted before, but not
with that thoroughness, justice of comparison, and effectiveness
of arrangement at which Mr. Casaubon aimed) that all the mythical
systems or erratic mythical fragments in the world were corruptions
of a tradition originally revealed. Having once mastered the true
position and taken a firm footing there, the vast field of mythical
constructions became intelligible, nay, luminous with the reflected
light of correspondences. But to gather in this great harvest
of truth was no light or speedy work. His notes already made
a formidable range of volumes, but the crowning task would be to
condense these voluminous still-accumulating results and bring them,
like the earlier vintage of Hippocratic books, to fit a little shelf.
In explaining this to Dorothea, Mr. Casaubon expressed himself nearly
as he would have done to a fellow-student, for he had not two styles
of talking at command: it is true that when he used a Greek or Latin
phrase he always gave the English with scrupulous care, but he would
probably have done this in any case. A learned provincial clergyman
is accustomed to think of his acquaintances as of "lords, knyghtes,
and other noble and worthi men, that conne Latyn but lytille."
Dorothea was altogether captivated by the wide embrace
of this conception. Here was something beyond the shallows
of ladies' school literature: here was a living Bossuet,
whose work would reconcile complete knowledge with devoted piety;
here was a modern Augustine who united the glories of doctor and saint.
The sanctity seemed no less clearly marked than the learning,
for when Dorothea was impelled to open her mind on certain themes
which she could speak of to no one whom she had before seen at Tipton,
especially on the secondary importance of ecclesiastical forms
and articles of belief compared with that spiritual religion,
that submergence of self in communion with Divine perfection
which seemed to her to be expressed in the best Christian books
of widely distant ages, she found in Mr. Casaubon a listener
who understood her at once, who could assure her of his own
agreement with that view when duly tempered with wise conformity,
and could mention historical examples before unknown to her.
"He thinks with me," said Dorothea to herself, "or rather, he thinks
a whole world of which my thought is but a poor twopenny mirror.
And his feelings too, his whole experience--what a lake compared
with my little pool!"
Miss Brooke argued from words and dispositions not less unhesitatingly
than other young ladies of her age. Signs are small measurable things,
but interpretations are illimitable, and in girls of sweet,
ardent nature, every sign is apt to conjure up wonder, hope, belief,
vast as a sky, and colored by a diffused thimbleful of matter in
the shape of knowledge. They are not always too grossly deceived;
for Sinbad himself may have fallen by good-luck on a true description,
and wrong reasoning sometimes lands poor mortals in right conclusions:
starting a long way off the true point, and proceeding by loops
and zigzags, we now and then arrive just where we ought to be.
Because Miss Brooke was hasty in her trust, it is not therefore
clear that Mr. Casaubon was unworthy of it.
He stayed a little longer than he had intended, on a slight pressure
of invitation from Mr. Brooke, who offered no bait except his own
documents on machine-breaking and rick-burning. Mr. Casaubon was
called into the library to look at these in a heap, while his host
picked up first one and then the other to read aloud from in a
skipping and uncertain way, passing from one unfinished passage
to another with a "Yes, now, but here!" and finally pushing them
all aside to open the journal of his youthful Continental travels.
"Look here--here is all about Greece. Rhamnus, the ruins of
Rhamnus--you are a great Grecian, now. I don't know whether you
have given much study to the topography. I spent no end of time
in making out these things--Helicon, now. Here, now!--`We started
the next morning for Parnassus, the double-peaked Parnassus.'
All this volume is about Greece, you know," Mr. Brooke wound up,
rubbing his thumb transversely along the edges of the leaves as he
held the book forward.
Mr. Casaubon made a dignified though somewhat sad audience;
bowed in the right place, and avoided looking at anything documentary
as far as possible, without showing disregard or impatience;
mindful that this desultoriness was associated with the institutions
of the country, and that the man who took him on this severe mental
scamper was not only an amiable host, but a landholder and
custos rotulorum. Was his endurance aided also by the reflection
that Mr. Brooke was the uncle of Dorothea?
Certainly he seemed more and more bent on making her talk to him,
on drawing her out, as Celia remarked to herself; and in looking at
her his face was often lit up by a smile like pale wintry sunshine.
Before he left the next morning, while taking a pleasant walk with Miss
Brooke along the gravelled terrace, he had mentioned to her that he
felt the disadvantage of loneliness, the need of that cheerful
companionship with which the presence of youth can lighten or vary
the serious toils of maturity. And he delivered this statement
with as much careful precision as if he had been a diplomatic envoy
whose words would be attended with results. Indeed, Mr. Casaubon
was not used to expect that he should have to repeat or revise his
communications of a practical or personal kind. The inclinations
which he had deliberately stated on the 2d of October he would think
it enough to refer to by the mention of that date; judging by the
standard of his own memory, which was a volume where a vide supra
could serve instead of repetitions, and not the ordinary long-used
blotting-book which only tells of forgotten writing. But in this
case Mr. Casaubon's confidence was not likely to be falsified,
for Dorothea heard and retained what he said with the eager interest
of a fresh young nature to which every variety in experience is an epoch.
It was three o'clock in the beautiful breezy autumn day when Mr. Casaubon
drove off to his Rectory at Lowick, only five miles from Tipton;
and Dorothea, who had on her bonnet and shawl, hurried along the shrubbery
and across the park that she might wander through the bordering wood
with no other visible companionship than that of Monk, the Great
St. Bernard dog, who always took care of the young ladies in their walks.
There had risen before her the girl's vision of a possible future
for herself to which she looked forward with trembling hope, and she
wanted to wander on in that visionary future without interruption.
She walked briskly in the brisk air, the color rose in her cheeks,
and her straw bonnet (which our contemporaries might look at
with conjectural curiosity as at an obsolete form of basket)
fell a little backward. She would perhaps be hardly characterized
enough if it were omitted that she wore her brown hair flatly braided
and coiled behind so as to expose the outline of her head in a
daring manner at a time when public feeling required the meagreness
of nature to be dissimulated by tall barricades of frizzed curls
and bows, never surpassed by any great race except the Feejeean.
This was a trait of Miss Brooke's asceticism. But there was nothing
of an ascetic's expression in her bright full eyes, as she looked
before her, not consciously seeing, but absorbing into the intensity
of her mood, the solemn glory of the afternoon with its long swathes
of light between the far-off rows of limes, whose shadows touched each other.
All people, young or old (that is, all people in those ante-reform
times), would have thought her an interesting object if they had
referred the glow in her eyes and cheeks to the newly awakened ordinary
images of young love: the illusions of Chloe about Strephon have been
sufficiently consecrated in poetry, as the pathetic loveliness of all
spontaneous trust ought to be. Miss Pippin adoring young Pumpkin,
and dreaming along endless vistas of unwearying companionship,
was a little drama which never tired our fathers and mothers,
and had been put into all costumes. Let but Pumpkin have a
figure which would sustain the disadvantages of the shortwaisted
swallow-tail, and everybody felt it not only natural but necessary
to the perfection of womanhood, that a sweet girl should be at once
convinced of his virtue, his exceptional ability, and above all,
his perfect sincerity. But perhaps no persons then living--certainly
none in the neighborhood of Tipton--would have had a sympathetic
understanding for the dreams of a girl whose notions about marriage
took their color entirely from an exalted enthusiasm about the ends
of life, an enthusiasm which was lit chiefly by its own fire,
and included neither the niceties of the trousseau, the pattern
of plate, nor even the honors and sweet joys of the blooming matron.
It had now entered Dorothea's mind that Mr. Casaubon might wish
to make her his wife, and the idea that he would do so touched
her with a sort of reverential gratitude. How good of him--nay, it
would be almost as if a winged messenger had suddenly stood beside
her path and held out his hand towards her! For a long while she
had been oppressed by the indefiniteness which hung in her mind,
like a thick summer haze, over all her desire to made her life
greatly effective. What could she do, what ought she to do?--she,
hardly more than a budding woman, but yet with an active conscience
and a great mental need, not to be satisfied by a girlish instruction
comparable to the nibblings and judgments of a discursive mouse.
With some endowment of stupidity and conceit, she might have thought
that a Christian young lady of fortune should find her ideal of life
in village charities, patronage of the humbler clergy, the perusal
of "Female Scripture Characters," unfolding the private experience
of Sara under the Old Dispensation, and Dorcas under the New,
and the care of her soul over her embroidery in her own boudoir--with
a background of prospective marriage to a man who, if less strict
than herself, as being involved in affairs religiously inexplicable,
might be prayed for and seasonably exhorted. From such contentment poor
Dorothea was shut out. The intensity of her religious disposition,
the coercion it exercised over her life, was but one aspect of a
nature altogether ardent, theoretic, and intellectually consequent:
and with such a nature struggling in the bands of a narrow teaching,
hemmed in by a social life which seemed nothing but a labyrinth
of petty courses, a walled-in maze of small paths that led
no whither, the outcome was sure to strike others as at once
exaggeration and inconsistency. The thing which seemed to her best,
she wanted to justify by the completest knowledge; and not to live
in a pretended admission of rules which were never acted on.
Into this soul-hunger as yet all her youthful passion was poured;
the union which attracted her was one that would deliver her from her
girlish subjection to her own ignorance, and give her the freedom of
voluntary submission to a guide who would take her along the grandest path.
"I should learn everything then," she said to herself, still walking
quickly along the bridle road through the wood. "It would be my
duty to study that I might help him the better in his great works.
There would be nothing trivial about our lives. Every-day things with us
would mean the greatest things. It would be like marrying Pascal.
I should learn to see the truth by the same light as great men have seen
it by. And then I should know what to do, when I got older: I should
see how it was possible to lead a grand life here--now--in England.
I don't feel sure about doing good in any way now: everything
seems like going on a mission to a people whose language I don't
know;--unless it were building good cottages--there can be no
doubt about that. Oh, I hope I should be able to get the people
well housed in Lowick! I will draw plenty of plans while I have time."
Dorothea checked herself suddenly with self-rebuke for the
presumptuous way in which she was reckoning on uncertain events,
but she was spared any inward effort to change the direction of her
thoughts by the appearance of a cantering horseman round a turning
of the road. The well-groomed chestnut horse and two beautiful
setters could leave no doubt that the rider was Sir James Chettam.
He discerned Dorothea, jumped off his horse at once, and, having
delivered it to his groom, advanced towards her with something white
on his arm, at which the two setters were barking in an excited manner.
"How delightful to meet you, Miss Brooke," he said, raising his
hat and showing his sleekly waving blond hair. "It has hastened
the pleasure I was looking forward to."
Miss Brooke was annoyed at the interruption. This amiable baronet,
really a suitable husband for Celia, exaggerated the necessity
of making himself agreeable to the elder sister. Even a prospective
brother-in-law may be an oppression if he will always be presupposing
too good an understanding with you, and agreeing with you even
when you contradict him. The thought that he had made the mistake
of paying his addresses to herself could not take shape: all her
mental activity was used up in persuasions of another kind.
But he was positively obtrusive at this moment, and his dimpled hands
were quite disagreeable. Her roused temper made her color deeply,
as she returned his greeting with some haughtiness.
Sir James interpreted the heightened color in the way most gratifying
to himself, and thought he never saw Miss Brooke looking so handsome.
"I have brought a little petitioner," he said, "or rather,
I have brought him to see if he will be approved before his
petition is offered." He showed the white object under his arm,
which was a tiny Maltese puppy, one of nature's most naive toys.
"It is painful to me to see these creatures that are bred merely
as pets," said Dorothea, whose opinion was forming itself that
very moment (as opinions will) under the heat of irritation.
"Oh, why?" said Sir James, as they walked forward.
"I believe all the petting that is given them does not make
them happy. They are too helpless: their lives are too frail.
A weasel or a mouse that gets its own living is more interesting.
I like to think that the animals about us have souls something
like our own, and either carry on their own little affairs or can be
companions to us, like Monk here. Those creatures are parasitic."
"I am so glad I know that you do not like them," said good Sir James.
"I should never keep them for myself, but ladies usually are fond
of these Maltese dogs. Here, John, take this dog, will you?"
The objectionable puppy, whose nose and eyes were equally black
and expressive, was thus got rid of, since Miss Brooke decided
that it had better not have been born. But she felt it necessary
"You must not judge of Celia's feeling from mine. I think she likes
these small pets. She had a tiny terrier once, which she was very
fond of. It made me unhappy, because I was afraid of treading on it.
I am rather short-sighted."
"You have your own opinion about everything, Miss Brooke, and it
is always a good opinion."
What answer was possible to such stupid complimenting?
"Do you know, I envy you that," Sir James said, as they continued
walking at the rather brisk pace set by Dorothea.
"I don't quite understand what you mean."
"Your power of forming an opinion. I can form an opinion of persons.
I know when I like people. But about other matters, do you know,
I have often a difficulty in deciding. One hears very sensible things
said on opposite sides."
"Or that seem sensible. Perhaps we don't always discriminate
between sense and nonsense."
Dorothea felt that she was rather rude.
"Exactly," said Sir James. "But you seem to have the power
"On the contrary, I am often unable to decide. But that is
from ignorance. The right conclusion is there all the same,
though I am unable to see it."
"I think there are few who would see it more readily. Do you know,
Lovegood was telling me yesterday that you had the best notion in
the world of a plan for cottages--quite wonderful for a young lady,
he thought. You had a real GENUS, to use his expression.
He said you wanted Mr. Brooke to build a new set of cottages, but he
seemed to think it hardly probable that your uncle would consent.
Do you know, that is one of the things I wish to do--I mean, on my
own estate. I should be so glad to carry out that plan of yours,
if you would let me see it. Of course, it is sinking money;
that is why people object to it. Laborers can never pay rent to make
it answer. But, after all, it is worth doing."
"Worth doing! yes, indeed," said Dorothea, energetically, forgetting
her previous small vexations. "I think we deserve to be beaten
out of our beautiful houses with a scourge of small cords--all
of us who let tenants live in such sties as we see round us.
Life in cottages might be happier than ours, if they were real
houses fit for human beings from whom we expect duties and affections."
"Will you show me your plan?"
"Yes, certainly. I dare say it is very faulty. But I have been
examining all the plans for cottages in Loudon's book, and picked
out what seem the best things. Oh what a happiness it would be to
set the pattern about here! I think instead of Lazarus at the gate,
we should put the pigsty cottages outside the park-gate."
Dorothea was in the best temper now. Sir James, as brother in-law,
building model cottages on his estate, and then, perhaps, others being
built at Lowick, and more and more elsewhere in imitation--it
would be as if the spirit of Oberlin had passed over the parishes
to make the life of poverty beautiful!
Sir James saw all the plans, and took one away to consult upon
with Lovegood. He also took away a complacent sense that he was
making great progress in Miss Brooke's good opinion. The Maltese
puppy was not offered to Celia; an omission which Dorothea
afterwards thought of with surprise; but she blamed herself for it.
She had been engrossing Sir James. After all, it was a relief
that there was no puppy to tread upon.
Celia was present while the plans were being examined, and observed
Sir James's illusion. "He thinks that Dodo cares about him,
and she only cares about her plans. Yet I am not certain that she
would refuse him if she thought he would let her manage everything
and carry out all her notions. And how very uncomfortable Sir
James would be! I cannot bear notions."
It was Celia's private luxury to indulge in this dislike.
She dared not confess it to her sister in any direct statement,
for that would be laying herself open to a demonstration that
she was somehow or other at war with all goodness. But on
safe opportunities, she had an indirect mode of making her negative
wisdom tell upon Dorothea, and calling her down from her rhapsodic
mood by reminding her that people were staring, not listening.
Celia was not impulsive: what she had to say could wait,
and came from her always with the same quiet staccato evenness.
When people talked with energy and emphasis she watched their faces
and features merely. She never could understand how well-bred
persons consented to sing and open their mouths in the ridiculous
manner requisite for that vocal exercise.
It was not many days before Mr. Casaubon paid a morning visit,
on which he was invited again for the following week to dine and stay
the night. Thus Dorothea had three more conversations with him,
and was convinced that her first impressions had been just.
He was all she had at first imagined him to be: almost everything
he had said seemed like a specimen from a mine, or the inscription
on the door of a museum which might open on the treasures of
past ages; and this trust in his mental wealth was all the deeper
and more effective on her inclination because it was now obvious
that his visits were made for her sake. This accomplished
man condescended to think of a young girl, and take the pains
to talk to her, not with absurd compliment, but with an appeal
to her understanding, and sometimes with instructive correction.
What delightful companionship! Mr. Casaubon seemed even unconscious
that trivialities existed, and never handed round that small-talk
of heavy men which is as acceptable as stale bride-cake brought forth
with an odor of cupboard. He talked of what he was interested in,
or else he was silent and bowed with sad civility. To Dorothea
this was adorable genuineness, and religious abstinence from that
artificiality which uses up the soul in the efforts of pretence.
For she looked as reverently at Mr. Casaubon's religious elevation
above herself as she did at his intellect and learning.
He assented to her expressions of devout feeling, and usually with
an appropriate quotation; he allowed himself to say that he had gone
through some spiritual conflicts in his youth; in short, Dorothea saw
that here she might reckon on understanding, sympathy, and guidance.
On one--only one--of her favorite themes she was disappointed.
Mr. Casaubon apparently did not care about building cottages,
and diverted the talk to the extremely narrow accommodation
which was to be had in the dwellings of the ancient Egyptians,
as if to check a too high standard. After he was gone,
Dorothea dwelt with some agitation on this indifference of his;
and her mind was much exercised with arguments drawn from the varying
conditions of climate which modify human needs, and from the admitted
wickedness of pagan despots. Should she not urge these arguments
on Mr. Casaubon when he came again? But further reflection told
her that she was presumptuous in demanding his attention to such
a subject; he would not disapprove of her occupying herself with it
in leisure moments, as other women expected to occupy themselves
with their dress and embroidery--would not forbid it when--Dorothea
felt rather ashamed as she detected herself in these speculations.
But her uncle had been invited to go to Lowick to stay a couple
of days: was it reasonable to suppose that Mr. Casaubon delighted
in Mr. Brooke's society for its own sake, either with or without
Meanwhile that little disappointment made her delight the more in Sir
James Chettam's readiness to set on foot the desired improvements.
He came much oftener than Mr. Casaubon, and Dorothea ceased to find him
disagreeable since he showed himself so entirely in earnest; for he had
already entered with much practical ability into Lovegood's estimates,
and was charmingly docile. She proposed to build a couple of cottages,
and transfer two families from their old cabins, which could then
be pulled down, so that new ones could be built on the old sites.
Sir James said "Exactly," and she bore the word remarkably well.
Certainly these men who had so few spontaneous ideas might be very
useful members of society under good feminine direction, if they were
fortunate in choosing their sisters-in-law! It is difficult to say
whether there was or was not a little wilfulness in her continuing
blind to the possibility that another sort of choice was in question
in relation to her. But her life was just now full of hope and action:
she was not only thinking of her plans, but getting down learned
books from the library and reading many things hastily (that she
might be a little less ignorant in talking to Mr. Casaubon), all the
while being visited with conscientious questionings whether she were
not exalting these poor doings above measure and contemplating them
with that self-satisfaction which was the last doom of ignorance and folly.
1st Gent. Our deeds are fetters that we forge ourselves.
2d Gent. Ay, truly: but I think it is the world
That brings the iron.
"Sir James seems determined to do everything you wish," said Celia,
as they were driving home from an inspection of the new building-site.
"He is a good creature, and more sensible than any one would imagine,"
said Dorothea, inconsiderately.
"You mean that he appears silly."
"No, no," said Dorothea, recollecting herself, and laying her hand
on her sister's a moment, "but he does not talk equally well on
"I should think none but disagreeable people do," said Celia,
in her usual purring way. "They must be very dreadful to live with.
Only think! at breakfast, and always."
Dorothea laughed. "O Kitty, you are a wonderful creature!"
She pinched Celia's chin, being in the mood now to think her
very winning and lovely--fit hereafter to be an eternal cherub,
and if it were not doctrinally wrong to say so, hardly more in need
of salvation than a squirrel. "Of course people need not be always
talking well. Only one tells the quality of their minds when they
try to talk well."
"You mean that Sir James tries and fails."
"I was speaking generally. Why do you catechise me about Sir
James? It is not the object of his life to please me."
"Now, Dodo, can you really believe that?"
"Certainly. He thinks of me as a future sister--that is all."
Dorothea had never hinted this before, waiting, from a certain
shyness on such subjects which was mutual between the sisters,
until it should be introduced by some decisive event. Celia blushed,
but said at once--
"Pray do not make that mistake any longer, Dodo. When Tantripp
was brushing my hair the other day, she said that Sir James's man
knew from Mrs. Cadwallader's maid that Sir James was to marry
the eldest Miss Brooke."
"How can you let Tantripp talk such gossip to you, Celia?"
said Dorothea, indignantly, not the less angry because details asleep
in her memory were now awakened to confirm the unwelcome revelation.
"You must have asked her questions. It is degrading."
"I see no harm at all in Tantripp's talking to me. It is better
to hear what people say. You see what mistakes you make by taking
up notions. I am quite sure that Sir James means to make you an offer;
and he believes that you will accept him, especially since you
have been so pleased with him about the plans. And uncle too--I
know he expects it. Every one can see that Sir James is very much
in love with you."
The revulsion was so strong and painful in Dorothea's mind that the tears
welled up and flowed abundantly. All her dear plans were embittered,
and she thought with disgust of Sir James's conceiving that she
recognized him as her lover. There was vexation too on account of Celia.
"How could he expect it?" she burst forth in her most impetuous manner.
"I have never agreed with him about anything but the cottages: I
was barely polite to him before."
"But you have been so pleased with him since then; he has begun
to feel quite sure that you are fond of him."
"Fond of him, Celia! How can you choose such odious expressions?"
said Dorothea, passionately.
"Dear me, Dorothea, I suppose it would be right for you to be fond
of a man whom you accepted for a husband."
"It is offensive to me to say that Sir James could think I was fond
of him. Besides, it is not the right word for the feeling I must
have towards the man I would accept as a husband."
"Well, I am sorry for Sir James. I thought it right to tell you,
because you went on as you always do, never looking just where you are,
and treading in the wrong place. You always see what nobody else sees;
it is impossible to satisfy you; yet you never see what is quite plain.
That's your way, Dodo." Something certainly gave Celia unusual courage;
and she was not sparing the sister of whom she was occasionally in awe.
Who can tell what just criticisms Murr the Cat may be passing on us
beings of wider speculation?
"It is very painful," said Dorothea, feeling scourged. "I can have
no more to do with the cottages. I must be uncivil to him. I must
tell him I will have nothing to do with them. It is very painful."
Her eyes filled again with tears.
"Wait a little. Think about it. You know he is going away for a day
or two to see his sister. There will be nobody besides Lovegood."
Celia could not help relenting. "Poor Dodo," she went on,
in an amiable staccato. "It is very hard: it is your favorite
FAD to draw plans."
"FAD to draw plans! Do you think I only care about my fellow-creatures'
houses in that childish way? I may well make mistakes. How can one
ever do anything nobly Christian, living among people with such petty
No more was said; Dorothea was too much jarred to recover her temper
and behave so as to show that she admitted any error in herself.
She was disposed rather to accuse the intolerable narrowness
and the purblind conscience of the society around her: and Celia
was no longer the eternal cherub, but a thorn in her spirit,
a pink-and-white nullifidian, worse than any discouraging presence
in the "Pilgrim's Progress." The FAD of drawing plans! What was
life worth--what great faith was possible when the whole
effect of one's actions could be withered up into such parched
rubbish as that? When she got out of the carriage, her cheeks
were pale and her eyelids red. She was an image of sorrow,
and her uncle who met her in the hall would have been alarmed,
if Celia had not been close to her looking so pretty and composed,
that he at once concluded Dorothea's tears to have their origin in
her excessive religiousness. He had returned, during their absence,
from a journey to the county town, about a petition for the pardon
of some criminal.
"Well, my dears," he said, kindly, as they went up to kiss him,
"I hope nothing disagreeable has happened while I have been away."
"No, uncle," said Celia, "we have been to Freshitt to look at
the cottages. We thought you would have been at home to lunch."
"I came by Lowick to lunch--you didn't know I came by Lowick. And I
have brought a couple of pamphlets for you, Dorothea--in the library,
you know; they lie on the table in the library."
It seemed as if an electric stream went through Dorothea,
thrilling her from despair into expectation. They were pamphlets
about the early Church. The oppression of Celia, Tantripp, and Sir
James was shaken off, and she walked straight to the library.
Celia went up-stairs. Mr. Brooke was detained by a message, but when
he re-entered the library, he found Dorothea seated and already
deep in one of the pamphlets which had some marginal manuscript
of Mr. Casaubon's,--taking it in as eagerly as she might have taken
in the scent of a fresh bouquet after a dry, hot, dreary walk.
She was getting away from Tipton and Freshitt, and her own sad
liability to tread in the wrong places on her way to the New Jerusalem.
Mr. Brooke sat down in his arm-chair, stretched his legs towards
the wood-fire, which had fallen into a wondrous mass of glowing dice
between the dogs, and rubbed his hands gently, looking very mildly
towards Dorothea, but with a neutral leisurely air, as if he had
nothing particular to say. Dorothea closed her pamphlet, as soon
as she was aware of her uncle's presence, and rose as if to go.
Usually she would have been interested about her uncle's merciful
errand on behalf of the criminal, but her late agitation had made
"I came back by Lowick, you know," said Mr. Brooke, not as if with
any intention to arrest her departure, but apparently from his
usual tendency to say what he had said before. This fundamental
principle of human speech was markedly exhibited in Mr. Brooke.
"I lunched there and saw Casaubon's library, and that kind of thing.
There's a sharp air, driving. Won't you sit down, my dear?
You look cold."
Dorothea felt quite inclined to accept the invitation. Some times,
when her uncle's easy way of taking things did not happen to
be exasperating, it was rather soothing. She threw off her mantle
and bonnet, and sat down opposite to him, enjoying the glow,
but lifting up her beautiful hands for a screen. They were not
thin hands, or small hands; but powerful, feminine, maternal hands.
She seemed to be holding them up in propitiation for her passionate
desire to know and to think, which in the unfriendly mediums
of Tipton and Freshitt had issued in crying and red eyelids.
She bethought herself now of the condemned criminal. "What news
have you brought about the sheep-stealer, uncle?"
"What, poor Bunch?--well, it seems we can't get him off--he
is to be hanged."
Dorothea's brow took an expression of reprobation and pity.
"Hanged, you know," said Mr. Brooke, with a quiet nod. "Poor Romilly! he
would have helped us. I knew Romilly. Casaubon didn't know Romilly.
He is a little buried in books, you know, Casaubon is."
"When a man has great studies and is writing a great work,
he must of course give up seeing much of the world. How can
he go about making acquaintances?"
"That's true. But a man mopes, you know. I have always been a
bachelor too, but I have that sort of disposition that I never moped;
it was my way to go about everywhere and take in everything.
I never moped: but I can see that Casaubon does, you know. He wants
a companion--a companion, you know."
"It would be a great honor to any one to be his companion,"
said Dorothea, energetically.
"You like him, eh?" said Mr. Brooke, without showing any surprise,
or other emotion. "Well, now, I've known Casaubon ten years,
ever since he came to Lowick. But I never got anything out of
him--any ideas, you know. However, he is a tiptop man and may
be a bishop--that kind of thing, you know, if Peel stays in.
And he has a very high opinion of you, my dear."
Dorothea could not speak.
"The fact is, he has a very high opinion indeed of you. And he
speaks uncommonly well--does Casaubon. He has deferred to me,
you not being of age. In short, I have promised to speak to you,
though I told him I thought there was not much chance. I was bound
to tell him that. I said, my niece is very young, and that kind
of thing. But I didn't think it necessary to go into everything.
However, the long and the short of it is, that he has asked my
permission to make you an offer of marriage--of marriage, you know,"
said Mr. Brooke, with his explanatory nod. "I thought it better
to tell you, my dear."
No one could have detected any anxiety in Mr. Brooke's manner,
but he did really wish to know something of his niece's mind, that,
if there were any need for advice, he might give it in time.
What feeling he, as a magistrate who had taken in so many ideas,
could make room for, was unmixedly kind. Since Dorothea did not
speak immediately, he repeated, "I thought it better to tell you,
"Thank you, uncle," said Dorothea, in a clear unwavering tone.
"I am very grateful to Mr. Casaubon. If he makes me an offer,
I shall accept him. I admire and honor him more than any man I
Mr. Brooke paused a little, and then said in a lingering low tone,
"Ah? . . . Well! He is a good match in some respects. But now,
Chettam is a good match. And our land lies together. I shall never
interfere against your wishes, my dear. People should have their
own way in marriage, and that sort of thing--up to a certain point,
you know. I have always said that, up to a certain point. I wish
you to marry well; and I have good reason to believe that Chettam
wishes to marry you. I mention it, you know."
"It is impossible that I should ever marry Sir James Chettam,"
said Dorothea. "If he thinks of marrying me, he has made
a great mistake."
"That is it, you see. One never knows. I should have thought
Chettam was just the sort of man a woman would like, now."
"Pray do not mention him in that light again, uncle," said Dorothea,
feeling some of her late irritation revive.
Mr. Brooke wondered, and felt that women were an inexhaustible
subject of study, since even he at his age was not in a perfect
state of scientific prediction about them. Here was a fellow
like Chettam with no chance at all.
"Well, but Casaubon, now. There is no hurry--I mean for you.
It's true, every year will tell upon him. He is over five-and-forty,
you know. I should say a good seven-and-twenty years older than you.
To be sure,--if you like learning and standing, and that sort
of thing, we can't have everything. And his income is good--he has
a handsome property independent of the Church--his income is good.
Still he is not young, and I must not conceal from you, my dear,
that I think his health is not over-strong. I know nothing else
"I should not wish to have a husband very near my own age,"
said Dorothea, with grave decision. "I should wish to have a husband
who was above me in judgment and in all knowledge."
Mr. Brooke repeated his subdued, "Ah?--I thought you had more
of your own opinion than most girls. I thought you liked your
own opinion--liked it, you know."
"I cannot imagine myself living without some opinions, but I
should wish to have good reasons for them, and a wise man could
help me to see which opinions had the best foundation, and would
help me to live according to them."
"Very true. You couldn't put the thing better--couldn't put
it better, beforehand, you know. But there are oddities in things,"
continued Mr. Brooke, whose conscience was really roused to do
the best he could for his niece on this occasion. "Life isn't cast
in a mould--not cut out by rule and line, and that sort of thing.
I never married myself, and it will be the better for you and yours.
The fact is, I never loved any one well enough to put myself into
a noose for them. It IS a noose, you know. Temper, now.
There is temper. And a husband likes to be master."
"I know that I must expect trials, uncle. Marriage is a state
of higher duties. I never thought of it as mere personal ease,"
said poor Dorothea.
"Well, you are not fond of show, a great establishment, balls, dinners,
that kind of thing. I can see that Casaubon's ways might suit you
better than Chettam's. And you shall do as you like, my dear.
I would not hinder Casaubon; I said so at once; for there is no
knowing how anything may turn out. You have not the same tastes
as every young lady; and a clergyman and scholar--who may be
a bishop--that kind of thing--may suit you better than Chettam.
Chettam is a good fellow, a good sound-hearted fellow, you know;
but he doesn't go much into ideas. I did, when I was his age.
But Casaubon's eyes, now. I think he has hurt them a little with too
"I should be all the happier, uncle, the more room there was for me
to help him," said Dorothea, ardently.
"You have quite made up your mind, I see. Well, my dear, the fact is,
I have a letter for you in my pocket." Mr. Brooke handed the letter
to Dorothea, but as she rose to go away, he added, "There is not
too much hurry, my dear. Think about it, you know."
When Dorothea had left him, he reflected that he had certainly
spoken strongly: he had put the risks of marriage before her in a
striking manner. It was his duty to do so. But as to pretending
to be wise for young people,--no uncle, however much he had travelled
in his youth, absorbed the new ideas, and dined with celebrities
now deceased, could pretend to judge what sort of marriage would
turn out well for a young girl who preferred Casaubon to Chettam.
In short, woman was a problem which, since Mr. Brooke's mind felt
blank before it, could be hardly less complicated than the revolutions
of an irregular solid.
"Hard students are commonly troubled with gowts, catarrhs,
rheums, cachexia, bradypepsia, bad eyes, stone, and collick,
crudities, oppilations, vertigo, winds, consumptions, and all such
diseases as come by over-much sitting: they are most part lean,
dry, ill-colored . . . and all through immoderate pains and
extraordinary studies. If you will not believe the truth of this,
look upon great Tostatus and Thomas Aquainas' works; and tell me whether
those men took pains."--BURTON'S Anatomy of Melancholy, P. I, s. 2.
This was Mr. Casaubon's letter.
MY DEAR MISS BROOKE,--I have your guardian's permission to address
you on a subject than which I have none more at heart. I am not,
I trust, mistaken in the recognition of some deeper correspondence
than that of date in the fact that a consciousness of need in my
own life had arisen contemporaneously with the possibility of my
becoming acquainted with you. For in the first hour of meeting you,
I had an impression of your eminent and perhaps exclusive fitness
to supply that need (connected, I may say, with such activity of the
affections as even the preoccupations of a work too special to be
abdicated could not uninterruptedly dissimulate); and each succeeding
opportunity for observation has given the impression an added
depth by convincing me more emphatically of that fitness which I
had preconceived, and thus evoking more decisively those affections
to which I have but now referred. Our conversations have, I think,
made sufficiently clear to you the tenor of my life and purposes:
a tenor unsuited, I am aware, to the commoner order of minds.
But I have discerned in you an elevation of thought and a capability
of devotedness, which I had hitherto not conceived to be compatible
either with the early bloom of youth or with those graces of sex that
may be said at once to win and to confer distinction when combined,
as they notably are in you, with the mental qualities above indicated.
It was, I confess, beyond my hope to meet with this rare combination
of elements both solid and attractive, adapted to supply aid
in graver labors and to cast a charm over vacant hours; and but
for the event of my introduction to you (which, let me again say,
I trust not to be superficially coincident with foreshadowing needs,
but providentially related thereto as stages towards the completion
of a life's plan), I should presumably have gone on to the last
without any attempt to lighten my solitariness by a matrimonial union.
Such, my dear Miss Brooke, is the accurate statement of my feelings;
and I rely on your kind indulgence in venturing now to ask you
how far your own are of a nature to confirm my happy presentiment.
To be accepted by you as your husband and the earthly guardian of
your welfare, I should regard as the highest of providential gifts.
In return I can at least offer you an affection hitherto unwasted,
and the faithful consecration of a life which, however short
in the sequel, has no backward pages whereon, if you choose
to turn them, you will find records such as might justly cause
you either bitterness or shame. I await the expression of your
sentiments with an anxiety which it would be the part of wisdom
(were it possible) to divert by a more arduous labor than usual.
But in this order of experience I am still young, and in looking forward
to an unfavorable possibility I cannot but feel that resignation
to solitude will be more difficult after the temporary illumination
In any case, I shall remain,
Yours with sincere devotion,
Dorothea trembled while she read this letter; then she fell on her knees,
buried her face, and sobbed. She could not pray: under the rush of solemn
emotion in which thoughts became vague and images floated uncertainly,
she could but cast herself, with a childlike sense of reclining,
in the lap of a divine consciousness which sustained her own.
She remained in that attitude till it was time to dress for dinner.
How could it occur to her to examine the letter, to look at it
critically as a profession of love? Her whole soul was possessed
by the fact that a fuller life was opening before her: she
was a neophyte about to enter on a higher grade of initiation.
She was going to have room for the energies which stirred uneasily
under the dimness and pressure of her own ignorance and the petty
peremptoriness of the world's habits.
Now she would be able to devote herself to large yet definite duties;
now she would be allowed to live continually in the light of a mind
that she could reverence. This hope was not unmixed with the glow
of proud delight--the joyous maiden surprise that she was chosen
by the man whom her admiration had chosen. All Dorothea's passion
was transfused through a mind struggling towards an ideal life;
the radiance of her transfigured girlhood fell on the first object
that came within its level. The impetus with which inclination
became resolution was heightened by those little events of the day
which had roused her discontent with the actual conditions of
After dinner, when Celia was playing an "air, with variations,"
a small kind of tinkling which symbolized the aesthetic part of the
young ladies' education, Dorothea went up to her room to answer
Mr. Casaubon's letter. Why should she defer the answer? She wrote
it over three times, not because she wished to change the wording,
but because her hand was unusually uncertain, and she could not bear
that Mr. Casaubon should think her handwriting bad and illegible.
She piqued herself on writing a hand in which each letter was
distinguishable without any large range of conjecture, and she meant
to make much use of this accomplishment, to save Mr. Casaubon's eyes.
Three times she wrote.
MY DEAR MR. CASAUBON,--I am very grateful to you for loving me,
and thinking me worthy to be your wife. I can look forward to no better
happiness than that which would be one with yours. If I said more,
it would only be the same thing written out at greater length,
for I cannot now dwell on any other thought than that I may be
Later in the evening she followed her uncle into the library
to give him the letter, that he might send it in the morning.
He was surprised, but his surprise only issued in a few moments'
silence, during which he pushed about various objects on his
writing-table, and finally stood with his back to the fire,
his glasses on his nose, looking at the address of Dorothea's letter.
"Have you thought enough about this, my dear?" he said at last.
"There was no need to think long, uncle. I know of nothing to make
me vacillate. If I changed my mind, it must be because of something
important and entirely new to me."
"Ah!--then you have accepted him? Then Chettam has no chance?
Has Chettam offended you--offended you, you know? What is it you
don't like in Chettam?"
"There is nothing that I like in him," said Dorothea, rather impetuously.
Mr. Brooke threw his head and shoulders backward as if some one
had thrown a light missile at him. Dorothea immediately felt
some self-rebuke, and said--
"I mean in the light of a husband. He is very kind, I think--really
very good about the cottages. A well-meaning man."
"But you must have a scholar, and that sort of thing? Well, it lies
a little in our family. I had it myself--that love of knowledge,
and going into everything--a little too much--it took me too far;
though that sort of thing doesn't often run in the female-line;
or it runs underground like the rivers in Greece, you know--it
comes out in the sons. Clever sons, clever mothers. I went
a good deal into that, at one time. However, my dear, I have
always said that people should do as they like in these things,
up to a certain point. I couldn't, as your guardian, have consented
to a bad match. But Casaubon stands well: his position is good.
I am afraid Chettam will be hurt, though, and Mrs. Cadwallader will
That evening, of course, Celia knew nothing of what had happened.
She attributed Dorothea's abstracted manner, and the evidence of
further crying since they had got home, to the temper she had been
in about Sir James Chettam and the buildings, and was careful not
to give further offence: having once said what she wanted to say,
Celia had no disposition to recur to disagreeable subjects.
It had been her nature when a child never to quarrel with any one--
only to observe with wonder that they quarrelled with her, and looked
like turkey-cocks; whereupon she was ready to play at cat's cradle
with them whenever they recovered themselves. And as to Dorothea,
it had always been her way to find something wrong in her sister's
words, though Celia inwardly protested that she always said just
how things were, and nothing else: she never did and never could
put words together out of her own head. But the best of Dodo was,
that she did not keep angry for long together. Now, though they
had hardly spoken to each other all the evening, yet when Celia put
by her work, intending to go to bed, a proceeding in which she was
always much the earlier, Dorothea, who was seated on a low stool,
unable to occupy herself except in meditation, said, with the musical
intonation which in moments of deep but quiet feeling made her speech
like a fine bit of recitative--
"Celia, dear, come and kiss me," holding her arms open as she spoke.
Celia knelt down to get the right level and gave her little
butterfly kiss, while Dorothea encircled her with gentle arms
and pressed her lips gravely on each cheek in turn.
"Don't sit up, Dodo, you are so pale to-night: go to bed soon,"
said Celia, in a comfortable way, without any touch of pathos.
"No, dear, I am very, very happy," said Dorothea, fervently.
"So much the better," thought Celia. "But how strangely Dodo goes
from one extreme to the other."
The next day, at luncheon, the butler, handing something to
Mr. Brooke, said, "Jonas is come back, sir, and has brought this letter."
Mr. Brooke read the letter, and then, nodding toward Dorothea,
said, "Casaubon, my dear: he will be here to dinner; he didn't
wait to write more--didn't wait, you know."
It could not seem remarkable to Celia that a dinner guest should
be announced to her sister beforehand, but, her eyes following
the same direction as her uncle's, she was struck with the peculiar
effect of the announcement on Dorothea. It seemed as if something
like the reflection of a white sunlit wing had passed across
her features, ending in one of her rare blushes. For the first time
it entered into Celia's mind that there might be something more
between Mr. Casaubon and her sister than his delight in bookish
talk and her delight in listening. Hitherto she had classed
the admiration for this "ugly" and learned acquaintance with the
admiration for Monsieur Liret at Lausanne, also ugly and learned.
Dorothea had never been tired of listening to old Monsieur Liret
when Celia's feet were as cold as possible, and when it had really
become dreadful to see the skin of his bald head moving about.
Why then should her enthusiasm not extend to Mr. Casaubon simply
in the same way as to Monsieur Liret? And it seemed probable
that all learned men had a sort of schoolmaster's view of young people.
But now Celia was really startled at the suspicion which had darted
into her mind. She was seldom taken by surprise in this way,
her marvellous quickness in observing a certain order of signs generally
preparing her to expect such outward events as she had an interest in.
Not that she now imagined Mr. Casaubon to be already an accepted
lover: she had only begun to feel disgust at the possibility that
anything in Dorothea's mind could tend towards such an issue.
Here was something really to vex her about Dodo: it was all very
well not to accept Sir James Chettam, but the idea of marrying
Mr. Casaubon! Celia felt a sort of shame mingled with a sense
of the ludicrous. But perhaps Dodo, if she were really bordering
on such an extravagance, might be turned away from it: experience
had often shown that her impressibility might be calculated on.
The day was damp, and they were not going to walk out, so they both
went up to their sitting-room; and there Celia observed that Dorothea,
instead of settling down with her usual diligent interest to
some occupation, simply leaned her elbow on an open book and looked
out of the window at the great cedar silvered with the damp.
She herself had taken up the making of a toy for the curate's children,
and was not going to enter on any subject too precipitately.
Dorothea was in fact thinking that it was desirable for Celia to know
of the momentous change in Mr. Casaubon's position since he had last
been in the house: it did not seem fair to leave her in ignorance
of what would necessarily affect her attitude towards him; but it was
impossible not to shrink from telling her. Dorothea accused herself
of some meanness in this timidity: it was always odious to her to
have any small fears or contrivances about her actions, but at this
moment she was seeking the highest aid possible that she might not
dread the corrosiveness of Celia's pretty carnally minded prose.
Her reverie was broken, and the difficulty of decision banished,
by Celia's small and rather guttural voice speaking in its usual tone,
of a remark aside or a "by the bye."
"Is any one else coming to dine besides Mr. Casaubon?"
"Not that I know of."
"I hope there is some one else. Then I shall not hear him eat
his soup so."
"What is there remarkable about his soup-eating?"
"Really, Dodo, can't you hear how he scrapes his spoon? And he
always blinks before he speaks. I don't know whether Locke blinked,
but I'm sure I am sorry for those who sat opposite to him if he did."
"Celia," said Dorothea, with emphatic gravity, "pray don't make
any more observations of that kind."
"Why not? They are quite true," returned Celia, who had her reasons
for persevering, though she was beginning to be a little afraid.
"Many things are true which only the commonest minds observe."
"Then I think the commonest minds must be rather useful.
I think it is a pity Mr. Casaubon's mother had not a commoner mind:
she might have taught him better." Celia was inwardly frightened,
and ready to run away, now she had hurled this light javelin.
Dorothea's feelings had gathered to an avalanche, and there could
be no further preparation.
"It is right to tell you, Celia, that I am engaged to marry
Perhaps Celia had never turned so pale before. The paper man she
was making would have had his leg injured, but for her habitual
care of whatever she held in her hands. She laid the fragile
figure down at once, and sat perfectly still for a few moments.
When she spoke there was a tear gathering
"Oh, Dodo, I hope you will be happy." Her sisterly tenderness could
not but surmount other feelings at this moment, and her fears
were the fears of affection.
Dorothea was still hurt and agitated.
"It is quite decided, then?" said Celia, in an awed under tone.
"And uncle knows?"
"I have accepted Mr. Casaubon's offer. My uncle brought me
the letter that contained it; he knew about it beforehand."
"I beg your pardon, if I have said anything to hurt you, Dodo,"
said Celia, with a slight sob. She never could have thought
that she should feel as she did. There was something funereal
in the whole affair, and Mr. Casaubon seemed to be the officiating
clergyman, about whom it would be indecent to make remarks.
"Never mind, Kitty, do not grieve. We should never admire
the same people. I often offend in something of the same way;
I am apt to speak too strongly of those who don't please me."
In spite of this magnanimity Dorothea was still smarting: perhaps as
much from Celia's subdued astonishment as from her small criticisms.
Of course all the world round Tipton would be out of sympathy
with this marriage. Dorothea knew of no one who thought as she
did about life and its best objects.
Nevertheless before the evening was at an end she was very happy.
In an hour's tete-a-tete with Mr. Casaubon she talked to him
with more freedom than she had ever felt before, even pouring
out her joy at the thought of devoting herself to him, and of
learning how she might best share and further all his great ends.
Mr. Casaubon was touched with an unknown delight (what man would
not have been?) at this childlike unrestrained ardor: he was not
surprised (what lover would have been?) that he should be the object
"My dear young lady--Miss Brooke--Dorothea!" he said, pressing her
hand between his hands, "this is a happiness greater than I had ever
imagined to be in reserve for me. That I should ever meet with a
mind and person so rich in the mingled graces which could render
marriage desirable, was far indeed from my conception. You have
all--nay, more than all--those qualities which I have ever regarded
as the characteristic excellences of womanhood. The great charm
of your sex is its capability of an ardent self-sacrificing affection,
and herein we see its fitness to round and complete the existence
of our own. Hitherto I have known few pleasures save of the severer
kind: my satisfactions have been those of the solitary student.
I have been little disposed to gather flowers that would wither
in my hand, but now I shall pluck them with eagerness, to place
them in your bosom."
No speech could have been more thoroughly honest in its intention:
the frigid rhetoric at the end was as sincere as the bark of a dog,
or the cawing of an amorous rook. Would it not be rash to conclude
that there was no passion behind those sonnets to Delia which strike
us as the thin music of a mandolin?
Dorothea's faith supplied all that Mr. Casaubon's words seemed
to leave unsaid: what believer sees a disturbing omission or
infelicity? The text, whether of prophet or of poet, expands for
whatever we can put into it, and even his bad grammar is sublime.
"I am very ignorant--you will quite wonder at my ignorance,"
said Dorothea. "I have so many thoughts that may be quite mistaken;
and now I shall be able to tell them all to you, and ask you about them.
But," she added, with rapid imagination of Mr. Casaubon's probable feeling,
"I will not trouble you too much; only when you are inclined to
listen to me. You must often be weary with the pursuit of subjects
in your own track. I shall gain enough if you will take me with you there."
"How should I be able now to persevere in any path without
your companionship?" said Mr. Casaubon, kissing her candid brow,
and feeling that heaven had vouchsafed him a blessing in every way
suited to his peculiar wants. He was being unconsciously wrought
upon by the charms of a nature which was entirely without hidden
calculations either for immediate effects or for remoter ends.
It was this which made Dorothea so childlike, and, according to some
judges, so stupid, with all her reputed cleverness; as, for example,
in the present case of throwing herself, metaphorically speaking,
at Mr. Casaubon's feet, and kissing his unfashionable shoe-ties
as if he were a Protestant Pope. She was not in the least teaching
Mr. Casaubon to ask if he were good enough for her, but merely asking
herself anxiously how she could be good enough for Mr. Casaubon.
Before he left the next day it had been decided that the marriage
should take place within six weeks. Why not? Mr. Casaubon's house
was ready. It was not a parsonage, but a considerable mansion,
with much land attached to it. The parsonage was inhabited by
the curate, who did all the duty except preaching the morning sermon.
My lady's tongue is like the meadow blades,
That cut you stroking them with idle hand.
Nice cutting is her function: she divides
With spiritual edge the millet-seed,
And makes intangible savings.
As Mr. Casaubon's carriage was passing out of the gateway,
it arrested the entrance of a pony phaeton driven by a lady with
a servant seated behind. It was doubtful whether the recognition
had been mutual, for Mr. Casaubon was looking absently before him;
but the lady was quick-eyed, and threw a nod and a "How do you do?"
in the nick of time. In spite of her shabby bonnet and very old
Indian shawl, it was plain that the lodge-keeper regarded her
as an important personage, from the low curtsy which was dropped
on the entrance of the small phaeton.
"Well, Mrs. Fitchett, how are your fowls laying now?" said the
high-colored, dark-eyed lady, with the clearest chiselled utterance.
"Pretty well for laying, madam, but they've ta'en to eating their
eggs: I've no peace o' mind with 'em at all."
"Oh, the cannibals! Better sell them cheap at once. What will
you sell them a couple? One can't eat fowls of a bad character
at a high price."
"Well, madam, half-a-crown: I couldn't let 'em go, not under."
"Half-a-crown, these times! Come now--for the Rector's chicken-broth
on a Sunday. He has consumed all ours that I can spare.
You are half paid with the sermon, Mrs. Fitchett, remember that.
Take a pair of tumbler-pigeons for them--little beauties. You must
come and see them. You have no tumblers among your pigeons."
"Well, madam, Master Fitchett shall go and see 'em after work.
He's very hot on new sorts; to oblige you."
"Oblige me! It will be the best bargain he ever made. A pair
of church pigeons for a couple of wicked Spanish fowls that eat
their own eggs! Don't you and Fitchett boast too much, that is all!"
The phaeton was driven onwards with the last words, leaving Mrs.
Fitchett laughing and shaking her head slowly, with an interjectional
"SureLY, sureLY!"--from which it might be inferred that she would
have found the country-side somewhat duller if the Rector's lady
had been less free-spoken and less of a skinflint. Indeed, both the
farmers and laborers in the parishes of Freshitt and Tipton
would have felt a sad lack of conversation but for the stories
about what Mrs. Cadwallader said and did: a lady of immeasurably
high birth, descended, as it were, from unknown earls, dim as the
crowd of heroic shades--who pleaded poverty, pared down prices,
and cut jokes in the most companionable manner, though with a turn
of tongue that let you know who she was. Such a lady gave a
neighborliness to both rank and religion, and mitigated the bitterness
of uncommuted tithe. A much more exemplary character with an infusion
of sour dignity would not have furthered their comprehension
of the Thirty-nine Articles, and would have been less socially uniting.
Mr. Brooke, seeing Mrs. Cadwallader's merits from a different point
of view, winced a little when her name was announced in the library,
where he was sitting alone.
"I see you have had our Lowick Cicero here," she said, seating
herself comfortably, throwing back her wraps, and showing a thin
but well-built figure. "I suspect you and he are brewing some
bad polities, else you would not be seeing so much of the lively man.
I shall inform against you: remember you are both suspicious characters
since you took Peel's side about the Catholic Bill. I shall tell
everybody that you are going to put up for Middlemarch on the Whig
side when old Pinkerton resigns, and that Casaubon is going to help
you in an underhand manner: going to bribe the voters with pamphlets,
and throw open the public-houses to distribute them. Come, confess!"
"Nothing of the sort," said Mr. Brooke, smiling and rubbing his
eye-glasses, but really blushing a little at the impeachment.
"Casaubon and I don't talk politics much. He doesn't care much about
the philanthropic side of things; punishments, and that kind of thing.
He only cares about Church questions. That is not my line of action,
"Ra-a-ther too much, my friend. I have heard of your doings.
Who was it that sold his bit of land to the Papists at Middlemarch?
I believe you bought it on purpose. You are a perfect Guy Faux.
See if you are not burnt in effigy this 5th of November coming.
Humphrey would not come to quarrel with you about it, so I
"Very good. I was prepared to be persecuted for not persecuting--not
persecuting, you know."
"There you go! That is a piece of clap-trap you have got ready for
the hustings. Now, DO NOT let them lure you to the hustings,
my dear Mr. Brooke. A man always makes a fool of himself,
speechifying: there's no excuse but being on the right side,
so that you can ask a blessing on your humming and hawing.
You will lose yourself, I forewarn you. You will make a Saturday
pie of all parties' opinions, and be pelted by everybody."
"That is what I expect, you know," said Mr. Brooke, not wishing
to betray how little he enjoyed this prophetic sketch--"what I
expect as an independent man. As to the Whigs, a man who goes
with the thinkers is not likely to be hooked on by any party.
He may go with them up to a certain point--up to a certain point,
you know. But that is what you ladies never understand."
"Where your certain point is? No. I should like to be told how a man
can have any certain point when he belongs to no party--leading
a roving life, and never letting his friends know his address.
`Nobody knows where Brooke will be--there's no counting on Brooke'--that
is what people say of you, to be quite frank. Now, do turn respectable.
How will you like going to Sessions with everybody looking shy
on you, and you with a bad conscience and an empty pocket?"
"I don't pretend to argue with a lady on politics," said Mr. Brooke,
with an air of smiling indifference, but feeling rather unpleasantly
conscious that this attack of Mrs. Cadwallader's had opened the
defensive campaign to which certain rash steps had exposed him.
"Your sex are not thinkers, you know--varium et mutabile
semper--that kind of thing. You don't know Virgil. I knew"--Mr.
Brooke reflected in time that he had not had the personal acquaintance
of the Augustan poet--"I was going to say, poor Stoddart, you know.
That was what HE said. You ladies are always against an
independent attitude--a man's caring for nothing but truth,
and that sort of thing. And there is no part of the county where
opinion is narrower than it is here--I don't mean to throw stones,
you know, but somebody is wanted to take the independent line;
and if I don't take it, who will?"
"Who? Why, any upstart who has got neither blood nor position.
People of standing should consume their independent nonsense at home,
not hawk it about. And you! who are going to marry your niece,
as good as your daughter, to one of our best men. Sir James would
be cruelly annoyed: it will be too hard on him if you turn round now
and make yourself a Whig sign-board."
Mr. Brooke again winced inwardly, for Dorothea's engagement had
no sooner been decided, than he had thought of Mrs. Cadwallader's
prospective taunts. It might have been easy for ignorant observers
to say, "Quarrel with Mrs. Cadwallader;" but where is a country
gentleman to go who quarrels with his oldest neighbors? Who could taste
the fine flavor in the name of Brooke if it were delivered casually,
like wine without a seal? Certainly a man can only be cosmopolitan
up to a certain point.
"I hope Chettam and I shall always be good friends; but I am sorry
to say there is no prospect of his marrying my niece," said Mr. Brooke,
much relieved to see through the window that Celia was coming in.
"Why not?" said Mrs. Cadwallader, with a sharp note of surprise.
"It is hardly a fortnight since you and I were talking about it."
"My niece has chosen another suitor--has chosen him, you know.
I have had nothing to do with it. I should have preferred Chettam;
and I should have said Chettam was the man any girl would have chosen.
But there is no accounting for these things. Your sex is capricious,
"Why, whom do you mean to say that you are going to let her marry?"
Mrs. Cadwallader's mind was rapidly surveying the possibilities
of choice for Dorothea.
But here Celia entered, blooming from a walk in the garden,
and the greeting with her delivered Mr. Brooke from the necessity
of answering immediately. He got up hastily, and saying, "By the way,
I must speak to Wright about the horses," shuffled quickly out
of the room.
"My dear child, what is this?--this about your sister's engagement?"
said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"She is engaged to marry Mr. Casaubon," said Celia, resorting, as usual,
to the simplest statement of fact, and enjoying this opportunity
of speaking to the Rector's wife alone.
"This is frightful. How long has it been going on?"
"I only knew of it yesterday. They are to be married in six weeks."
"Well, my dear, I wish you joy of your brother-in-law."
"I am so sorry for Dorothea."
"Sorry! It is her doing, I suppose."
"Yes; she says Mr. Casaubon has a great soul."
"With all my heart."
"Oh, Mrs. Cadwallader, I don't think it can be nice to marry a man
with a great soul."
"Well, my dear, take warning. You know the look of one now;
when the next comes and wants to marry you, don't you accept him."
"I'm sure I never should."
"No; one such in a family is enough. So your sister never cared
about Sir James Chettam? What would you have said to HIM
for a brother-in-law?"
"I should have liked that very much. I am sure he would have
been a good husband. Only," Celia added, with a slight blush
(she sometimes seemed to blush as she breathed), "I don't think
he would have suited Dorothea."
"Not high-flown enough?"
"Dodo is very strict. She thinks so much about everything,
and is so particular about what one says. Sir James never seemed
to please her."
"She must have encouraged him, I am sure. That is not very creditable."
"Please don't be angry with Dodo; she does not see things.
She thought so much about the cottages, and she was rude to Sir
James sometimes; but he is so kind, he never noticed it."
"Well," said Mrs. Cadwallader, putting on her shawl, and rising,
as if in haste, "I must go straight to Sir James and break this to him.
He will have brought his mother back by this time, and I must call.
Your uncle will never tell him. We are all disappointed, my dear.
Young people should think of their families in marrying. I set a bad
example--married a poor clergyman, and made myself a pitiable object
among the De Bracys--obliged to get my coals by stratagem, and pray
to heaven for my salad oil. However, Casaubon has money enough;
I must do him that justice. As to his blood, I suppose the family
quarterings are three cuttle-fish sable, and a commentator rampant.
By the bye, before I go, my dear, I must speak to your Mrs. Carter
about pastry. I want to send my young cook to learn of her.
Poor people with four children, like us, you know, can't afford to keep
a good cook. I have no doubt Mrs. Carter will oblige me. Sir James's
cook is a perfect dragon."
In less than an hour, Mrs. Cadwallader had circumvented Mrs. Carter
and driven to Freshitt Hall, which was not far from her own parsonage,
her husband being resident in Freshitt and keeping a curate in Tipton.
Sir James Chettam had returned from the short journey which had
kept him absent for a couple of days, and had changed his dress,
intending to ride over to Tipton Grange. His horse was standing at
the door when Mrs. Cadwallader drove up, and he immediately appeared
there himself, whip in hand. Lady Chettam had not yet returned,
but Mrs. Cadwallader's errand could not be despatched in the presence
of grooms, so she asked to be taken into the conservatory close by,
to look at the new plants; and on coming to a contemplative stand,
"I have a great shock for you; I hope you are not so far gone
in love as you pretended to be."
It was of no use protesting, against Mrs. Cadwallader's way of
putting things. But Sir James's countenance changed a little.
He felt a vague alarm.
"I do believe Brooke is going to expose himself after all. I accused
him of meaning to stand for Middlemarch on the Liberal side, and he
looked silly and never denied it--talked about the independent line,
and the usual nonsense."
"Is that all?" said Sir James, much relieved.
"Why," rejoined Mrs. Cadwallader, with a sharper note, "you don't
mean to say that you would like him to turn public man in that
way--making a sort of political Cheap Jack of himself?"
"He might be dissuaded, I should think. He would not like the expense."
"That is what I told him. He is vulnerable to reason there--always
a few grains of common-sense in an ounce of miserliness.
Miserliness is a capital quality to run in families; it's the safe
side for madness to dip on. And there must be a little crack
in the Brooke family, else we should not see what we are to see."
"What? Brooke standing for Middlemarch?"
"Worse than that. I really feel a little responsible. I always told
you Miss Brooke would be such a fine match. I knew there was a great
deal of nonsense in her--a flighty sort of Methodistical stuff.
But these things wear out of girls. However, I am taken by surprise
"What do you mean, Mrs. Cadwallader?" said Sir James. His fear lest
Miss Brooke should have run away to join the Moravian Brethren,
or some preposterous sect unknown to good society, was a little
allayed by the knowledge that Mrs. Cadwallader always made the worst
of things. "What has happened to Miss Brooke? Pray speak out."
"Very well. She is engaged to be married." Mrs. Cadwallader
paused a few moments, observing the deeply hurt expression in her
friend's face, which he was trying to conceal by a nervous smile,
while he whipped his boot; but she soon added, "Engaged to Casaubon."
Sir James let his whip fall and stooped to pick it up.
Perhaps his face had never before gathered so much concentrated
disgust as when he turned to Mrs. Cadwallader and repeated, "Casaubon?"
"Even so. You know my errand now."
"Good God! It is horrible! He is no better than a mummy!"
(The point of view has to be allowed for, as that of a blooming
and disappointed rival.)
"She says, he is a great soul.--A great bladder for dried peas
to rattle in!" said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"What business has an old bachelor like that to marry?" said Sir James.
"He has one foot in the grave."
"He means to draw it out again, I suppose."
"Brooke ought not to allow it: he should insist on its being put
off till she is of age. She would think better of it then.
What is a guardian for?"
"As if you could ever squeeze a resolution out of Brooke!"
"Cadwallader might talk to him."
"Not he! Humphrey finds everybody charming I never can get him
to abuse Casaubon. He will even speak well of the bishop, though I
tell him it is unnatural in a beneficed clergyman; what can one do
with a husband who attends so little to the decencies? I hide it
as well as I can by abusing everybody myself. Come, come, cheer up!
you are well rid of Miss Brooke, a girl who would have been requiring
you to see the stars by daylight. Between ourselves, little Celia
is worth two of her, and likely after all to be the better match.
For this marriage to Casaubon is as good as going to a nunnery."
"Oh, on my own account--it is for Miss Brooke's sake I think her
friends should try to use their influence."
"Well, Humphrey doesn't know yet. But when I tell him, you may
depend on it he will say, `Why not? Casaubon is a good fellow--and
young--young enough.' These charitable people never know vinegar from
wine till they have swallowed it and got the colic. However, if I
were a man I should prefer Celia, especially when Dorothea was gone.
The truth is, you have been courting one and have won the other.
I can see that she admires you almost as much as a man expects to
be admired. If it were any one but me who said so, you might think
it exaggeration. Good-by!"
Sir James handed Mrs. Cadwallader to the phaeton,
and then jumped on his horse. He was not going to renounce
his ride because of his friend's unpleasant news--only
to ride the faster in some other direction than that of Tipton Grange.
Now, why on earth should Mrs. Cadwallader have been at all busy
about Miss Brooke's marriage; and why, when one match that she
liked to think she had a hand in was frustrated, should she have
straightway contrived the preliminaries of another? Was there
any ingenious plot, any hide-and-seek course of action, which
might be detected by a careful telescopic watch? Not at all:
a telescope might have swept the parishes of Tipton and Freshitt,
the whole area visited by Mrs. Cadwallader in her phaeton,
without witnessing any interview that could excite suspicion,
or any scene from which she did not return with the same unperturbed
keenness of eye and the same high natural color. In fact, if that
convenient vehicle had existed in the days of the Seven Sages,
one of them would doubtless have remarked, that you can know little
of women by following them about in their pony-phaetons. Even
with a microscope directed on a water-drop we find ourselves making
interpretations which turn out to be rather coarse; for whereas
under a weak lens you may seem to see a creature exhibiting an active
voracity into which other smaller creatures actively play as if they
were so many animated tax-pennies, a stronger lens reveals to you
certain tiniest hairlets which make vortices for these victims
while the swallower waits passively at his receipt of custom.
In this way, metaphorically speaking, a strong lens applied to
Mrs. Cadwallader's match-making will show a play of minute causes
producing what may be called thought and speech vortices to bring
her the sort of food she needed. Her life was rurally simple,
quite free from secrets either foul, dangerous, or otherwise important,
and not consciously affected by the great affairs of the world.
All the more did the affairs of the great world interest her,
when communicated in the letters of high-born relations: the way
in which fascinating younger sons had gone to the dogs by marrying
their mistresses; the fine old-blooded idiocy of young Lord Tapir,
and the furious gouty humors of old Lord Megatherium; the exact
crossing of genealogies which had brought a coronet into a new branch
and widened the relations of scandal,--these were topics of which she
retained details with the utmost accuracy, and reproduced them in
an excellent pickle of epigrams, which she herself enjoyed the more
because she believed as unquestionably in birth and no-birth as she
did in game and vermin. She would never have disowned any one on the
ground of poverty: a De Bracy reduced to take his dinner in a basin
would have seemed to her an example of pathos worth exaggerating,
and I fear his aristocratic vices would not have horrified her.
But her feeling towards the vulgar rich was a sort of religious hatred:
they had probably made all their money out of high retail prices,
and Mrs. Cadwallader detested high prices for everything that was not
paid in kind at the Rectory: such people were no part of God's design
in making the world; and their accent was an affliction to the ears.
A town where such monsters abounded was hardly more than a sort
of low comedy, which could not be taken account of in a well-bred
scheme of the universe. Let any lady who is inclined to be hard
on Mrs. Cadwallader inquire into the comprehensiveness of her own
beautiful views, and be quite sure that they afford accommodation
for all the lives which have the honor to coexist with hers.
With such a mind, active as phosphorus, biting everything that came
near into the form that suited it, how could Mrs. Cadwallader feel
that the Miss Brookes and their matrimonial prospects were alien
to her? especially as it had been the habit of years for her to
scold Mr. Brooke with the friendliest frankness, and let him know
in confidence that she thought him a poor creature. From the first
arrival of the young ladies in Tipton she had prearranged Dorothea's
marriage with Sir James, and if it had taken place would have been
quite sure that it was her doing: that it should not take place
after she had preconceived it, caused her an irritation which every
thinker will sympathize with. She was the diplomatist of Tipton
and Freshitt, and for anything to happen in spite of her was an
offensive irregularity. As to freaks like this of Miss Brooke's,
Mrs. Cadwallader had no patience with them, and now saw that her
opinion of this girl had been infected with some of her husband's
weak charitableness: those Methodistical whims, that air of being
more religious than the rector and curate together, came from
a deeper and more constitutional disease than she had been willing to believe.
"However," said Mrs. Cadwallader, first to herself and afterwards
to her husband, "I throw her over: there was a chance, if she had
married Sir James, of her becoming a sane, sensible woman. He would
never have contradicted her, and when a woman is not contradicted,
she has no motive for obstinacy in her absurdities. But now I wish
her joy of her hair shirt."
It followed that Mrs. Cadwallader must decide on another match for
Sir James, and having made up her mind that it was to be the younger
Miss Brooke, there could not have been a more skilful move towards
the success of her plan than her hint to the baronet that he had made
an impression on Celia's heart. For he was not one of those gentlemen
who languish after the unattainable Sappho's apple that laughs
from the topmost bough--the charms which
"Smile like the knot of cowslips on the cliff,
Not to be come at by the willing hand."
He had no sonnets to write, and it could not strike him agreeably
that he was not an object of preference to the woman whom he
had preferred. Already the knowledge that Dorothea had chosen
Mr. Casaubon had bruised his attachment and relaxed its hold.
Although Sir James was a sportsman, he had some other feelings
towards women than towards grouse and foxes, and did not regard
his future wife in the light of prey, valuable chiefly for the
excitements of the chase. Neither was he so well acquainted
with the habits of primitive races as to feel that an ideal
combat for her, tomahawk in hand, so to speak, was necessary
to the historical continuity of the marriage-tie. On the contrary,
having the amiable vanity which knits us to those who are fond of us,
and disinclines us to those who are indifferent, and also a good
grateful nature, the mere idea that a woman had a kindness towards
him spun little threads of tenderness from out his heart towards hers.
Thus it happened, that after Sir James had ridden rather fast for
half an hour in a direction away from Tipton Grange, he slackened
his pace, and at last turned into a road which would lead him back
by a shorter cut. Various feelings wrought in him the determination
after all to go to the Grange to-day as if nothing new had happened.
He could not help rejoicing that he had never made the offer
and been rejected; mere friendly politeness required that he
should call to see Dorothea about the cottages, and now happily
Mrs. Cadwallader had prepared him to offer his congratulations,
if necessary, without showing too much awkwardness. He really
did not like it: giving up Dorothea was very painful to him;
but there was something in the resolve to make this visit forthwith
and conquer all show of feeling, which was a sort of file-biting and
counter-irritant. And without his distinctly recognizing the impulse,
there certainly was present in him the sense that Celia would be there,
and that he should pay her more attention than he had done before.
We mortals, men and women, devour many a disappointment between
breakfast and dinner-time; keep back the tears and look a little
pale about the lips, and in answer to inquiries say, "Oh, nothing!"
Pride helps us; and pride is not a bad thing when it only urges us
to hide our own hurts--not to hurt others.
"Piacer e popone
Vuol la sua stagione."
Mr. Casaubon, as might be expected, spent a great deal of his time
at the Grange in these weeks, and the hindrance which courtship
occasioned to the progress of his great work--the Key to all
Mythologies--naturally made him look forward the more eagerly
to the happy termination of courtship. But he had deliberately
incurred the hindrance, having made up his mind that it was now time
for him to adorn his life with the graces of female companionship,
to irradiate the gloom which fatigue was apt to hang over the intervals
of studious labor with the play of female fancy, and to secure in this,
his culminating age, the solace of female tendance for his declining years.
Hence he determined to abandon himself to the stream of feeling,
and perhaps was surprised to find what an exceedingly shallow rill
it was. As in droughty regions baptism by immersion could only be
performed symbolically, Mr. Casaubon found that sprinkling was
the utmost approach to a plunge which his stream would afford him;
and he concluded that the poets had much exaggerated the force
of masculine passion. Nevertheless, he observed with pleasure that
Miss Brooke showed an ardent submissive affection which promised
to fulfil his most agreeable previsions of marriage. It had once
or twice crossed his mind that possibly there, was some deficiency
in Dorothea to account for the moderation of his abandonment;
but he was unable to discern the deficiency, or to figure to himself
a woman who would have pleased him better; so that there was clearly
no reason to fall back upon but the exaggerations of human tradition.
"Could I not be preparing myself now to be more useful?"
said Dorothea to him, one morning, early in the time of courtship;
"could I not learn to read Latin and Greek aloud to you, as Milton's
daughters did to their father, without understanding what they read?"
"I fear that would be wearisome to you," said Mr. Casaubon, smiling;
"and, indeed, if I remember rightly, the young women you have
mentioned regarded that exercise in unknown tongues as a ground
for rebellion against the poet."
"Yes; but in the first place they were very naughty girls, else they
would have been proud to minister to such a father; and in the second
place they might have studied privately and taught themselves to
understand what they read, and then it would have been interesting.
I hope you don't expect me to be naughty and stupid?"
"I expect you to be all that an exquisite young lady can be in every
possible relation of life. Certainly it might be a great advantage
if you were able to copy the Greek character, and to that end it
were well to begin with a little reading."
Dorothea seized this as a precious permission. She would not have
asked Mr. Casaubon at once to teach her the languages, dreading of all
things to be tiresome instead of helpful; but it was not entirely
out of devotion to her future husband that she wished to know Latin
and Creek. Those provinces of masculine knowledge seemed to her
a standing-ground from which all truth could be seen more truly.
As it was, she constantly doubted her own conclusions, because she
felt her own ignorance: how could she be confident that one-roomed
cottages were not for the glory of God, when men who knew the classics
appeared to conciliate indifference to the cottages with zeal
for the glory? Perhaps even Hebrew might be necessary--at least the
alphabet and a few roots--in order to arrive at the core of things,
and judge soundly on the social duties of the Christian. And she
had not reached that point of renunciation at which she would have
been satisfier' with having a wise husband: she wished, poor child,
to be wise herself. Miss Brooke was certainly very naive with al:
her alleged cleverness. Celia, whose mind had never been thought
too powerful, saw the emptiness of other people's pretensions much
more readily. To have in general but little feeling, seems to be
the only security against feeling too much on any particular occasion.
However, Mr. Casaubon consented to listen and teach for an hour together,
like a schoolmaster of little boys, or rather like a lover,
to whom a mistress's elementary ignorance and difficulties have
a touching fitness. Few scholars would have disliked teaching
the alphabet under such circumstances. But Dorothea herself
was a little shocked and discouraged at her own stupidity,
and the answers she got to some timid questions about the value
of the Greek accents gave her a painful suspicion that here indeed
there might be secrets not capable of explanation to a woman's reason.
Mr. Brooke had no doubt on that point, and expressed himself with
his usual strength upon it one day that he came into the library
while the reading was going forward.
"Well, but now, Casaubon, such deep studies, classics, mathematics,
that kind of thing, are too taxing for a woman--too taxing, you know."
"Dorothea is learning to read the characters simply," said Mr. Casaubon,
evading the question. "She had the very considerate thought
of saving my eyes."
"Ah, well, without understanding, you know--that may not be so bad.
But there is a lightness about the feminine mind--a touch and go--music,
the fine arts, that kind of thing--they should study those up
to a certain point, women should; but in a light way, you know.
A woman should be able to sit down and play you or sing you a good old
English tune. That is what I like; though I have heard most things--been
at the opera in Vienna: Gluck, Mozart, everything of that sort.
But I'm a conservative in music--it's not like ideas, you know.
I stick to the good old tunes."
"Mr. Casaubon is not fond of the piano, and I am very glad he is not,"
said Dorothea, whose slight regard for domestic music and feminine
fine art must be forgiven her, considering the small tinkling
and smearing in which they chiefly consisted at that dark period.
She smiled and looked up at her betrothed with grateful eyes.
If he had always been asking her to play the "Last Rose of Summer,"
she would have required much resignation. "He says there is only an old
harpsichord at Lowick, and it is covered with books."
"Ah, there you are behind Celia, my dear. Celia, now,
plays very prettily, and is always ready to play. However,
since Casaubon does not like it, you are all right. But it's
a pity you should not have little recreations of that sort,
Casaubon: the bow always strung--that kind of thing, you know--will not do."
"I never could look on it in the light of a recreation to have my
ears teased with measured noises," said Mr. Casaubon. "A tune much
iterated has the ridiculous effect of making the words in my mind
perform a sort of minuet to keep time--an effect hardly tolerable,
I imagine, after boyhood. As to the grander forms of music,
worthy to accompany solemn celebrations, and even to serve as
an educating influence according to the ancient conception,
I say nothing, for with these we are not immediately concerned."
"No; but music of that sort I should enjoy," said Dorothea.
"When we were coming home from Lausanne my uncle took us to hear
the great organ at Freiberg, and it made me sob."
"That kind of thing is not healthy, my dear," said Mr. Brooke.
"Casaubon, she will be in your hands now: you must teach my niece
to take things more quietly, eh, Dorothea?"
He ended with a smile, not wishing to hurt his niece, but really
thinking that it was perhaps better for her to be early married
to so sober a fellow as Casaubon, since she would not hear of Chettam.
"It is wonderful, though," he said to himself as he shuffled out
of the room--"it is wonderful that she should have liked him.
However, the match is good. I should have been travelling out of my
brief to have hindered it, let Mrs. Cadwallader say what she will.
He is pretty certain to be a bishop, is Casaubon. That was a very
seasonable pamphlet of his on the Catholic Question:--a deanery
at least. They owe him a deanery."
And here I must vindicate a claim to philosophical reflectiveness,
by remarking that Mr. Brooke on this occasion little thought
of the Radical speech which, at a later period, he was led to make
on the incomes of the bishops. What elegant historian would
neglect a striking opportunity for pointing out that his heroes
did not foresee the history of the world, or even their own
actions?--For example, that Henry of Navarre, when a Protestant baby,
little thought of being a Catholic monarch; or that Alfred the Great,
when he measured his laborious nights with burning candles, had no
idea of future gentlemen measuring their idle days with watches.
Here is a mine of truth, which, however vigorously it may be worked,
is likely to outlast our coal.
But of Mr. Brooke I make a further remark perhaps less warranted
by precedent--namely, that if he had foreknown his speech,
it might not have made any great difference. To think with pleasure
of his niece's husband having a large ecclesiastical income was
one thing--to make a Liberal speech was another thing; and it is
a narrow mind which cannot look at a subject from various points of view.
"Oh, rescue her! I am her brother now,
And you her father. Every gentle maid
Should have a guardian in each gentleman."
It was wonderful to Sir James Chettam how well he continued to like
going to the Grange after he had once encountered the difficulty
of seeing Dorothea for the first time in the light of a woman who was
engaged to another man. Of course the forked lightning seemed to pass
through him when he first approached her, and he remained conscious
throughout the interview of hiding uneasiness; but, good as he was,
it must be owned that his uneasiness was less than it would have
been if he had thought his rival a brilliant and desirable match.
He had no sense of being eclipsed by Mr. Casaubon; he was only shocked
that Dorothea was under a melancholy illusion, and his mortification
lost some of its bitterness by being mingled with compassion.
Nevertheless, while Sir James said to himself that he had
completely resigned her, since with the perversity of a Desdemona
she had not affected a proposed match that was clearly suitable
and according to nature; he could not yet be quite passive under
the idea of her engagement to Mr. Casaubon. On the day when he
first saw them together in the light of his present knowledge,
it seemed to him that he had not taken the affair seriously enough.
Brooke was really culpable; he ought to have hindered it. Who could
speak to him? Something might be done perhaps even now, at least
to defer the marriage. On his way home he turned into the Rectory
and asked for Mr. Cadwallader. Happily, the Rector was at home,
and his visitor was shown into the study, where all the fishing
tackle hung. But he himself was in a little room adjoining,
at work with his turning apparatus, and he called to the baronet
to join him there. The two were better friends than any other
landholder and clergyman in the county--a significant fact
which was in agreement with the amiable expression of their faees.
Mr. Cadwallader was a large man, with full lips and a sweet smile;
very plain and rough in his exterior, but with that solid imperturbable
ease and good-humor which is infectious, and like great grassy hills
in the sunshine, quiets even an irritated egoism, and makes it
rather ashamed of itself. "Well, how are you?" he said, showing a
hand not quite fit to be grasped. "Sorry I missed you before.
Is there anything particular? You look vexed."
Sir James's brow had a little crease in it, a little depression
of the eyebrow, which he seemed purposely to exaggerate as he answered.
"It is only this conduct of Brooke's. I really think somebody
should speak to him."
"What? meaning to stand?" said Mr. Cadwallader, going on with
the arrangement of the reels which he had just been turning.
"I hardly think he means it. But where's the harm, if he likes it?
Any one who objects to Whiggery should be glad when the Whigs don't
put up the strongest fellow. They won't overturn the Constitution
with our friend Brooke's head for a battering ram."
"Oh, I don't mean that," said Sir James, who, after putting down
his hat and throwing himself into a chair, had begun to nurse
his leg and examine the sole of his boot with much bitterness.
"I mean this marriage. I mean his letting that blooming young girl
"What is the matter with Casaubon? I see no harm in him--if the girl
"She is too young to know what she likes. Her guardian ought
to interfere. He ought not to allow the thing to be done in this
headlong manner. I wonder a man like you, Cadwallader--a man
with daughters, can look at the affair with indifference:
and with such a heart as yours! Do think seriously about it."
"I am not joking; I am as serious as possible," said the Rector,
with a provoking little inward laugh. "You are as bad as Elinor.
She has been wanting me to go and lecture Brooke; and I have reminded
her that her friends had a very poor opinion of the match she made
when she married me."
"But look at Casaubon," said Sir James, indignantly. "He must
be fifty, and I don't believe he could ever have been much more
than the shadow of a man. Look at his legs!"
"Confound you handsome young fellows! you think of having it
all your own way in the world. Tou don't under stand women.
They don't admire you half so much as you admire yourselves.
Elinor used to tell her sisters that she married me for my ugliness--it
was so various and amusing that it had quite conquered her prudence."
"You! it was easy enough for a woman to love you. But this is no
question of beauty. I don't LIKE Casaubon." This was Sir James's
strongest way of implying that he thought ill of a man's character.
"Why? what do you know against him?" said the Rector laying down
his reels, and putting his thumbs into his armholes with an air
Sir James paused. He did not usually find it easy to give his
reasons: it seemed to him strange that people should not know
them without being told, since he only felt what was reasonable.
At last he said--
"Now, Cadwallader, has he got any heart?"
"Well, yes. I don't mean of the melting sort, but a sound kernel,
THAT you may be sure of. He is very good to his poor relations:
pensions several of the women, and is educating a young fellow at
a good deal of expense. Casaubon acts up to his sense of justice.
His mother's sister made a bad match--a Pole, I think--lost herself--at
any rate was disowned by her family. If it had not been for that,
Casaubon would not have had so much money by half. I believe he went
himself to find out his cousins, and see what he could do for them.
Every man would not ring so well as that, if you tried his metal.
YOU would, Chettam; but not every man."
"I don't know," said Sir James, coloring. "I am not so sure of myself."
He paused a moment, and then added, "That was a right thing for
Casaubon to do. But a man may wish to do what is right, and yet
be a sort of parchment code. A woman may not be happy with him.
And I think when a girl is so young as Miss Brooke is, her friends
ought to interfere a little to hinder her from doing anything foolish.
You laugh, because you fancy I have some feeling on my own account.
But upon my honor, it is not that. I should feel just the same if I
were Miss Brooke's brother or uncle."
"Well, but what should you do?"
"I should say that the marriage must not be decided on until she was
of age. And depend upon it, in that case, it would never come off.
I wish you saw it as I do--I wish you would talk to Brooke about it."
Sir James rose as he was finishing his sentence, for he saw
Mrs. Cadwallader entering from the study. She held by the hand her
youngest girl, about five years old, who immediately ran to papa,
and was made comfortable on his knee.
"I hear what you are talking about," said the wife. "But you
will make no impression on Humphrey. As long as the fish rise
to his bait, everybody is what he ought to be. Bless you,
Casaubon has got a trout-stream, and does not care about fishing
in it himself: could there be a better fellow?"
"Well, there is something in that," said the Rector, with his quiet,
inward laugh. "It is a very good quality in a man to have
"But seriously," said Sir James, whose vexation had not yet spent itself,
"don't you think the Rector might do some good by speaking?"
"Oh, I told you beforehand what he would say," answered Mrs. Cadwallader,
lifting up her eyebrows. "I have done what I could: I wash
my hands of the marriage."
"In the first place," said the Rector, looking rather grave,
"it would be nonsensical to expect that I could convince Brooke,
and make him act accordingly. Brooke is a very good fellow, but pulpy;
he will run into any mould, but he won't keep shape."
"He might keep shape long enough to defer the marriage," said Sir James.
"But, my dear Chettam, why should I use my influence to Casaubon's
disadvantage, unless I were much surer than I am that I should be
acting for the advantage of Miss Brooke? I know no harm of Casaubon.
I don't care about his Xisuthrus and Fee-fo-fum and the rest;
but then he doesn't care about my fishing-tackle. As to the line he
took on the Catholic Question, that was unexpected; but he has always
been civil to me, and I don't see why I should spoil his sport.
For anything I can tell, Miss Brooke may be happier with him than
she would be with any other man."
"Humphrey! I have no patience with you. You know you would rather
dine under the hedge than with Casaubon alone. You have nothing
to say to each other."
"What has that to do with Miss Brooke's marrying him? She does
not do it for my amusement."
"He has got no good red blood in his body," said Sir James.
"No. Somebody put a drop under a magnifying-glass and it was all
semicolons and parentheses," said Mrs. Cadwallader.
"Why does he not bring out his book, instead of marrying,"
said Sir James, with a disgust which he held warranted by the sound
feeling of an English layman.
"Oh, he dreams footnotes, and they run away with all his brains.
They say, when he was a little boy, he made an abstract of
`Hop o' my Thumb,' and he has been making abstracts ever since.
Ugh! And that is the man Humphrey goes on saying that a woman may be
"Well, he is what Miss Brooke likes," said the Rector. "I don't
profess to understand every young lady's taste."
"But if she were your own daughter?" said Sir James.
"That would be a different affair. She is NOT my daughter,
and I don't feel called upon to interfere. Casaubon is as good
as most of us. He is a scholarly clergyman, and creditable to
the cloth. Some Radical fellow speechifying at Middlemarch said
Casaubon was the learned straw-chopping incumbent, and Freke was
the brick-and-mortar incumbent, and I was the angling incumbent.
And upon my word, I don't see that one is worse or better than
the other." The Rector ended with his silent laugh. He always saw
the joke of any satire against himself. His conscience was large
and easy, like the rest of him: it did only what it could do without
Clearly, there would be no interference with Miss Brooke's
marriage through Mr. Cadwallader; and Sir James felt with some
sadness that she was to have perfect liberty of misjudgment.
It was a sign of his good disposition that he did not slacken
at all in his intention of carrying out Dorothea's de.
sign of the cottages. Doubtless this persistence was the best
course for his own dignity: but pride only helps us to be generous;
it never makes us so, any more than vanity makes us witty.
She was now enough aware of Sir James's position with regard to her,
to appreciate the rectitude of his perseverance in a landlord's duty,
to which he had at first been urged by a lover's complaisance,
and her pleasure in it was great enough to count for something
even in her present happiness. Per. haps she gave to Sir James
Chettam's cottages all the interest she could spare from Mr. Casaubon,
or rather from the symphony of hopeful dreams, admiring trust,
and passionate self devotion which that learned gentleman had set
playing in her soul. Hence it happened that in the good baronet's
succeed ing visits, while he was beginning to pay small attentions
to Celia, he found himself talking with more and more pleasure
to Dorothea. She was perfectly unconstrained and without irritation
towards him now, and he was gradually discovering the delight there
is in frank kindness and companionship between a man and a woman
who have no passion to hide or confess.
1st Gent. An ancient land in ancient oracles
Is called "law-thirsty": all the struggle there
Was after order and a perfect rule.
Pray, where lie such lands now? . . .
2d Gent. Why, where they lay of old--in human souls.
Mr. Casaubon's behavior about settlements was highly satisfactory
to Mr. Brooke, and the preliminaries of marriage rolled smoothly along,
shortening the weeks of courtship. The betrothed bride must see
her future home, and dictate any changes that she would like to have
made there. A woman dictates before marriage in order that she
may have an appetite for submission afterwards. And certainly,
the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our
own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it.
On a gray but dry November morning Dorothea drove to Lowick
in company with her uncle and Celia. Mr. Casaubon's home was
the manor-house. Close by, visible from some parts of the garden,
was the little church, with the old parsonage opposite.
In the beginning of his career, Mr. Casaubon had only held
the living, but the death of his brother had put him in possession
of the manor also. It had a small park, with a fine old oak here
and there, and an avenue of limes towards the southwest front,
with a sunk fence between park and pleasure-ground, so that from the
drawing-room windows the glance swept uninterruptedly along a slope
of greensward till the limes ended in a level of corn and pastures,
which often seemed to melt into a lake under the setting sun.
This was the happy side of the house, for the south and east looked
rather melancholy even under the brightest morning. The grounds here
were more confined, the flower-beds showed no very careful tendance,
and large clumps of trees, chiefly of sombre yews, had risen high,
not ten yards from the windows. The building, of greenish stone,
was in the old English style, not ugly, but small-windowed and
melancholy-looking: the sort of house that must have children,
many flowers, open windows, and little vistas of bright things,
to make it seem a joyous home. In this latter end of autumn,
with a sparse remnant of yellow leaves falling slowly athwart the dark
evergreens in a stillness without sunshine, the house too had an air
of autumnal decline, and Mr. Casaubon, when he presented himself,
had no bloom that could be thrown into relief by that background.
"Oh dear!" Celia said to herself, "I am sure Freshitt Hall would
have been pleasanter than this." She thought of the white freestone,
the pillared portico, and the terrace full of flowers, Sir James
smiling above them like a prince issuing from his enchantment
in a rose-bush, with a handkerchief swiftly metamorphosed
from the most delicately odorous petals--Sir James, who talked
so agreeably, always about things which had common-sense in them,
and not about learning! Celia had those light young feminine tastes
which grave and weatherworn gentlemen sometimes prefer in a wife;
but happily Mr. Casaubon's bias had been different, for he would
have had no chance with Celia.
Dorothea, on the contrary, found the house and grounds all
that she could wish: the dark book-shelves in the long library,
the carpets and curtains with colors subdued by time, the curious
old maps and bird's-eye views on the walls of the corridor,
with here and there an old vase below, had no oppression for her,
and seemed more cheerful than the easts and pictures at the Grange,
which her uncle had long ago brought home from his travels--they
being probably among the ideas he had taken in at one time.
To poor Dorothea these severe classical nudities and smirking
Renaissance-Correggiosities were painfully inexplicable, staring into
the midst of her Puritanic conceptions: she had never been taught
how she could bring them into any sort of relevance with her life.
But the owners of Lowick apparently had not been travellers,
and Mr. Casaubon's studies of the past were not carried on by means
of such aids.
Dorothea walked about the house with delightful emotion.
Everything seemed hallowed to her: this was to be the home
of her wifehood, and she looked up with eyes full of confidence
to Mr. Casaubon when he drew her attention specially to some
actual arrangement and asked her if she would like an alteration.
All appeals to her taste she met gratefully, but saw nothing to alter.
His efforts at exact courtesy and formal tenderness had no defect
for her. She filled up all blanks with unmanifested perfections,
interpreting him as she interpreted the works of Providence,
and accounting for seeming discords by her own deafness to the
higher harmonies. And there are many blanks left in the weeks
of courtship which a loving faith fills with happy assurance.
"Now, my dear Dorothea, I wish you to favor me by pointing out which
room you would like to have as your boudoir," said Mr. Casaubon,
showing that his views of the womanly nature were sufficiently
large to include that requirement.
"It is very kind of you to think of that," said Dorothea, "but I
assure you I would rather have all those matters decided for me.
I shall be much happier to take everything as it is--just as you
have been used to have it, or as you will yourself choose it to be.
I have no motive for wishing anything else."
"Oh, Dodo," said Celia, "will you not have the bow-windowed
Mr. Casaubon led the way thither. The bow-window looked down the
avenue of limes; the furniture was all of a faded blue, and there
were miniatures of ladies and gentlemen with powdered hair hanging
in a group. A piece of tapestry over a door also showed a blue-green
world with a pale stag in it. The chairs and tables were thin-legged
and easy to upset. It was a room where one might fancy the ghost
of a tight-laced lady revisiting the scene of her embroidery.
A light bookcase contained duodecimo volumes of polite literature
in calf, completing the furniture.
"Yes," said Mr. Brooke, "this would be a pretty room with some
new hangings, sofas, and that sort of thing. A little bare now."
"No, uncle," said Dorothea, eagerly. "Pray do not speak of
altering anything. There are so many other things in the world
that want altering--I like to take these things as they are.
And you like them as they are, don't you?" she added, looking at
Mr. Casaubon. "Perhaps this was your mother's room when she was young."
"It was," he said, with his slow bend of the head.
"This is your mother," said Dorothea, who had turned to examine
the group of miniatures. "It is like the tiny one you brought me;
only, I should think, a better portrait. And this one opposite,
who is this?"
"Her elder sister. They were, like you and your sister, the only
two children of their parents, who hang above them, you see."
"The sister is pretty," said Celia, implying that she thought
less favorably of Mr. Casaubon's mother. It was a new open ing
to Celia's imagination, that he came of a family who had all been
young in their time--the ladies wearing necklaces.
"It is a peculiar face," said Dorothea, looking closely. "Those deep
gray eyes rather near together--and the delicate irregular nose with
a sort of ripple in it--and all the powdered curls hanging backward.
Altogether it seems to me peculiar rather than pretty. There is
not even a family likeness between her and your mother."
"No. And they were not alike in their lot."
"You did not mention her to me," said Dorothea.
"My aunt made an unfortunate marriage. I never saw her."
Dorothea wondered a little, but felt that it would be indelicate just
then to ask for any information which Mr. Casaubon did not proffer,
and she turned to the window to admire the view. The sun had lately
pierced the gray, and the avenue of limes cast shadows.
"Shall we not walk in the garden now?" said Dorothea.
"And you would like to see the church, you know," said Mr. Brooke.
"It is a droll little church. And the village. It all lies in a
nut-shell. By the way, it will suit you, Dorothea; for the cottages
are like a row of alms-houses--little gardens, gilly-flowers, that
sort of thing."
"Yes, please," said Dorothea, looking at Mr. Casaubon, "I should
like to see all that." She had got nothing from him more graphic
about the Lowick cottages than that they were "not bad."
They were soon on a gravel walk which led chiefly between grassy
borders and clumps of trees, this being the nearest way to the church,
Mr. Casaubon said. At the little gate leading into the churchyard
there was a pause while Mr. Casaubon went to the parsonage close
by to fetch a key. Celia, who had been hanging a little in the rear,
came up presently, when she saw that Mr. Casaubon was gone away,
and said in her easy staccato, which always seemed to contradict
the suspicion of any malicious intent--
"Do you know, Dorothea, I saw some one quite young coming up one
of the walks."
"Is that astonishing, Celia?"
"There may be a young gardener, you know--why not?" said Mr. Brooke.
"I told Casaubon he should change his gardener."
"No, not a gardener," said Celia; "a gentleman with a sketch-book. He
had light-brown curls. I only saw his back. But he was quite young."
"The curate's son, perhaps," said Mr. Brooke. "Ah, there is
Casaubon again, and Tucker with him. He is going to introduce Tucker.
You don't know Tucker yet."
Mr. Tucker was the middle-aged curate, one of the "inferior clergy,"
who are usually not wanting in sons. But after the introduction,
the conversation did not lead to any question about his family,
and the startling apparition of youthfulness was forgotten by every
one but Celia. She inwardly declined to believe that the light-brown
curls and slim figure could have any relationship to Mr. Tucker,
who was just as old and musty-looking as she would have expected
Mr. Casaubon's curate to be; doubtless an excellent man who would go
to heaven (for Celia wished not to be unprincipled), but the corners
of his mouth were so unpleasant. Celia thought with some dismalness
of the time she should have to spend as bridesmaid at Lowick, while the
curate had probably no pretty little children whom she could like,
irrespective of principle.
Mr. Tucker was invaluable in their walk; and perhaps Mr. Casaubon
had not been without foresight on this head, the curate being able
to answer all Dorothea's questions about the villagers and the
other parishioners. Everybody, he assured her, was well off in Lowick:
not a cottager in those double cottages at a low rent but kept a pig,
and the strips of garden at the back were well tended. The small
boys wore excellent corduroy, the girls went out as tidy servants,
or did a little straw-plaiting at home: no looms here, no Dissent;
and though the public disposition was rather towards laying
by money than towards spirituality, there was not much vice.
The speckled fowls were so numerous that Mr. Brooke observed,
"Your farmers leave some barley for the women to glean, I see.
The poor folks here might have a fowl in their pot, as the good French
king used to wish for all his people. The French eat a good many
fowls--skinny fowls, you know."
"I think it was a very cheap wish of his," said Dorothea, indignantly.
"Are kings such monsters that a wish like that must be reckoned
a royal virtue?"
"And if he wished them a skinny fowl," said Celia, "that would
not be nice. But perhaps he wished them to have fat fowls."
"Yes, but the word has dropped out of the text, or perhaps was
subauditum; that is, present in the king's mind, but not uttered,"
said Mr. Casaubon, smiling and bending his head towards Celia,
who immediately dropped backward a little, because she could not bear
Mr. Casaubon to blink at her.
Dorothea sank into silence on the way back to the house. She felt
some disappointment, of which she was yet ashamed, that there was
nothing for her to do in Lowick; and in the next few minutes her mind
had glanced over the possibility, which she would have preferred,
of finding that her home would be in a parish which had a larger
share of the world's misery, so that she might have had more active
duties in it. Then, recurring to the future actually before her,
she made a picture of more complete devotion to Mr. Casaubon's
aims in which she would await new duties. Many such might reveal
themselves to the higher knowledge gained by her in that companionship.
Mr. Tucker soon left them, having some clerical work which would
not allow him to lunch at the Hall; and as they were re-entering
the garden through the little gate, Mr. Casaubon said--
"You seem a little sad, Dorothea. I trust you are pleased with
what you have seen."
"I am feeling something which is perhaps foolish and wrong,"
answered Dorothea, with her usual openness--"almost wishing that
the people wanted more to be done for them here. I have known
so few ways of making my life good for anything. Of course,
my notions of usefulness must be narrow. I must learn new ways
of helping people."
"Doubtless," said Mr. Casaubon. "Each position has its
corresponding duties. Yours, I trust, as the mistress of Lowick,
will not leave any yearning unfulfilled."
"Indeed, I believe that," said Dorothea, earnestly. "Do not suppose
that I am sad."
"That is well. But, if you are not tired, we will take another way
to the house than that by which we came."
Dorothea was not at all tired, and a little circuit was made
towards a fine yew-tree, the chief hereditary glory of the grounds
on this side of the house. As they approached it, a figure,
conspicuous on a dark background of evergreens, was seated on
a bench, sketching the old tree. Mr. Brooke, who was walking
in front with Celia, turned his head, and said--
"Who is that youngster, Casaubon?"
They had come very near when Mr. Casaubon answered--
"That is a young relative of mine, a second cousin: the grandson,
in fact," he added, looking at Dorothea, "of the lady whose portrait
you have been noticing, my aunt Julia."
The young man had laid down his sketch-book and risen. His bushy
light-brown curls, as well as his youthfulness, identified him
at once with Celia's apparition.
"Dorothea, let me introduce to you my cousin, Mr. Ladislaw.
Will, this is Miss Brooke."
The cousin was so close now, that, when he lifted his hat,
Dorothea could see a pair of gray eves rather near together,
a delicate irregular nose with a little ripple in it, and hair
falling backward; but there was a mouth and chin of a more prominent,
threatening aspect than belonged to the type of the grandmother's
miniature. Young Ladislaw did not feel it necessary to smile,
as if he were charmed with this introduction to his future second
cousin and her relatives; but wore rather a pouting air of discontent.
"You are an artist, I see," said Mr. Brooke, taking up the sketch-book
and turning it over in his unceremonious fashion.
"No, I only sketch a little. There is nothing fit to be seen there,"
said young Ladislaw, coloring, perhaps with temper rather than modesty.
"Oh, come, this is a nice bit, now. I did a little in this way
myself at one time, you know. Look here, now; this is what I
call a nice thing, done with what we used to call BRIO."
Mr. Brooke held out towards the two girls a large colored sketch
of stony ground and trees, with a pool.
"I am no judge of these things," said Dorothea, not coldly, but with
an eager deprecation of the appeal to her. "You know, uncle, I never
see the beauty of those pictures which you say are so much praised.
They are a language I do not understand. I suppose there is some
relation between pictures and nature which I am too ignorant to
feel--just as you see what a Greek sentence stands for which means
nothing to me." Dorothea looked up at Mr. Casaubon, who bowed
his head towards her, while Mr. Brooke said, smiling nonchalantly--
"Bless me, now, how different people are! But you had a bad style
of teaching, you know--else this is just the thing for girls--sketching,
fine art and so on. But you took to drawing plans; you don't
understand morbidezza, and that kind of thing. You will come
to my house, I hope, and I will show you what I did in this way,"
he continued, turning to young Ladislaw, who had to be recalled
from his preoccupation in observing Dorothea. Ladislaw had made up
his mind that she must be an unpleasant girl, since she was going
to marry Casaubon, and what she said of her stupidity about pictures
would have confirmed that opinion even if he had believed her.
As it was, he took her words for a covert judgment, and was certain
that she thought his sketch detestable. There was too much cleverness
in her apology: she was laughing both at her uncle and himself.
But what a voice! It was like the voice of a soul that had once lived
in an AEolian harp. This must be one of Nature's inconsistencies.
There could be no sort of passion in a girl who would marry Casaubon.
But he turned from her, and bowed his thanks for Mr. Brooke's invitation.
"We will turn over my Italian engravings together," continued that
good-natured man. "I have no end of those things, that I have laid
by for years. One gets rusty in this part of the country, you know.
Not you, Casaubon; you stick to your studies; but my best ideas
get undermost--out of use, you know. You clever young men must
guard against indolence. I was too indolent, you know: else I
might have been anywhere at one time."
"That is a seasonable admonition," said Mr. Casaubon; "but now we
will pass on to the house, lest the young ladies should be tired
When their backs were turned, young Ladislaw sat down to go
on with his sketching, and as he did so his face broke into an
expression of amusement which increased as he went on drawing,
till at last he threw back his head and laughed aloud. Partly it
was the reception of his own artistic production that tickled him;
partly the notion of his grave cousin as the lover of that girl;
and partly Mr. Brooke's definition of the place he might have
held but for the impediment of indolence. Mr. Will Ladislaw's
sense of the ludicrous lit up his features very agreeably: it was
the pure enjoyment of comicality, and had no mixture of sneering
"What is your nephew going to do with himself, Casaubon?"
said Mr. Brooke, as they went on.
"My cousin, you mean--not my nephew."
"Yes, yes, cousin. But in the way of a career, you know."
"The answer to that question is painfully doubtful. On leaving Rugby
he declined to go to an English university, where I would gladly
have placed him, and chose what I must consider the anomalous course
of studying at Heidelberg. And now he wants to go abroad again,
without any special object, save the vague purpose of what he
calls culture, preparation for he knows not what. He declines
to choose a profession."
"He has no means but what you furnish, I suppose."
"I have always given him and his friends reason to understand
that I would furnish in moderation what was necessary for providing
him with a scholarly education, and launching him respectably.
I am-therefore bound to fulfil the expectation so raised,"
said Mr. Casaubon, putting his conduct in the light of mere rectitude:
a trait of delicacy which Dorothea noticed with admiration.
"He has a thirst for travelling; perhaps he may turn out a Bruce
or a Mungo Park," said Mr. Brooke. "I had a notion of that myself
at one time."
"No, he has no bent towards exploration, or the enlargement
of our geognosis: that would be a special purpose which I could
recognize with some approbation, though without felicitating him
on a career which so often ends in premature and violent death.
But so far is he from having any desire for a more accurate knowledge
of the earth's surface, that he said he should prefer not to know
the sources of the Nile, and that there should be some unknown
regions preserved as hunting grounds for the poetic imagination."
"Well, there is something in that, you know," said Mr. Brooke,
who had certainly an impartial mind.
"It is, I fear, nothing more than a part of his general inaccuracy
and indisposition to thoroughness of all kinds, which would be a bad
augury for him in any profession, civil or sacred, even were he
so far submissive to ordinary rule as to choose one."
"Perhaps he has conscientious scruples founded on his own unfitness,"
said Dorothea, who was interesting herself in finding a favorable explanation.
"Because the law and medicine should be very serious professions
to undertake, should they not? People's lives and fortunes depend on them."
"Doubtless; but I fear that my young relative Will Ladislaw is
chiefly determined in his aversion to these callings by a dislike
to steady application, and to that kind of acquirement which is
needful instrumentally, but is not charming or immediately inviting
to self-indulgent taste. I have insisted to him on what Aristotle has
stated with admirable brevity, that for the achievement of any work
regarded as an end there must be a prior exercise of many energies
or acquired facilities of a secondary order, demanding patience.
I have pointed to my own manuscript volumes, which represent
the toil of years preparatory to a work not yet accomplished.
But in vain. To careful reasoning of this kind he replies
by calling himself Pegasus, and every form of prescribed work `harness.'"
Celia laughed. She was surprised to find that Mr. Casaubon could
say something quite amusing.
"Well, you know, he may turn out a Byron, a Chatterton,
a Churchill--that sort of thing--there's no telling," said Mr. Brooke.
"Shall you let him go to Italy, or wherever else he wants to go?"
"Yes; I have agreed to furnish him with moderate supplies for a year
or so; he asks no more. I shall let him be tried by the test
"That is very kind of you," said Dorothea, looking up at Mr. Casaubon
with delight. "It is noble. After all, people may really have
in them some vocation which is not quite plain to themselves,
may they not? They may seem idle and weak because they are growing.
We should be very patient with each other, I think."
"I suppose it is being engaged to be married that has made you
think patience good," said Celia, as soon as she and Dorothea
were alone together, taking off their wrappings.
"You mean that I am very impatient, Celia."
"Yes; when people don't do and say just what you like." Celia had
become less afraid of "saying things" to Dorothea since this
engagement: cleverness seemed to her more pitiable than ever.
"He had catched a great cold, had he had no other clothes to wear
than the skin of a bear not yet killed."--FULLER.
Young Ladislaw did not pay that visit to which Mr. Brooke had
invited him, and only six days afterwards Mr. Casaubon mentioned
that his young relative had started for the Continent, seeming by this
cold vagueness to waive inquiry. Indeed, Will had declined to fix
on any more precise destination than the entire area of Europe.
Genius, he held, is necessarily intolerant of fetters: on the one
hand it must have the utmost play for its spontaneity; on the other,
it may confidently await those messages from the universe which
summon it to its peculiar work, only placing itself in an attitude
of receptivity towards all sublime chances. The attitudes of
receptivity are various, and Will had sincerely tried many of them.
He was not excessively fond of wine, but he had several times taken
too much, simply as an experiment in that form of ecstasy; he had
fasted till he was faint, and then supped on lobster; he had made
himself ill with doses of opium. Nothing greatly original had resulted
from these measures; and the effects of the opium had convinced him
that there was an entire dissimilarity between his constitution
and De Quincey's. The superadded circumstance which would evolve
the genius had not yet come; the universe had not yet beckoned.
Even Caesar's fortune at one time was, but a grand presentiment.
We know what a masquerade all development is, and what effective shapes
may be disguised in helpless embryos.--In fact, the world is full
of hopeful analogies and handsome dubious eggs called possibilities.
Will saw clearly enough the pitiable instances of long incubation
producing no chick, and but for gratitude would have laughed
at Casaubon, whose plodding application, rows of note-books, and small
taper of learned theory exploring the tossed ruins of the world,
seemed to enforce a moral entirely encouraging to Will's generous
reliance on the intentions of the universe with regard to himself.
He held that reliance to be a mark of genius; and certainly it is no
mark to the contrary; genius consisting neither in self-conceit nor
in humility, but in a power to make or do, not anything in general,
but something in particular. Let him start for the Continent, then,
without our pronouncing on his future. Among all forms of mistake,
prophecy is the most gratuitous.
But at present this caution against a too hasty judgment interests
me more in relation to Mr. Casaubon than to his young cousin.
If to Dorothea Mr. Casaubon had been the mere occasion which had set
alight the fine inflammable material of her youthful illusions,
does it follow that he was fairly represented in the minds of those
less impassioned personages who have hitherto delivered their
judgments concerning him? I protest against any absolute conclusion,
any prejudice derived from Mrs. Cadwallader's contempt for a neighboring
clergyman's alleged greatness of soul, or Sir James Chettam's poor
opinion of his rival's legs,--from Mr. Brooke's failure to elicit
a companion's ideas, or from Celia's criticism of a middle-aged
scholar's personal appearance. I am not sure that the greatest man
of his age, if ever that solitary superlative existed, could escape
these unfavorable reflections of himself in various small mirrors;
and even Milton, looking for his portrait in a spoon, must submit
to have the facial angle of a bumpkin. Moreover, if Mr. Casaubon,
speaking for himself, has rather a chilling rhetoric, it is not
therefore certain that there is no good work or fine feeling in him.
Did not an immortal physicist and interpreter of hieroglyphs write
detestable verses? Has the theory of the solar system been advanced
by graceful manners and conversational tact? Suppose we turn
from outside estimates of a man, to wonder, with keener interest,
what is the report of his own consciousness about his doings or
capacity: with what hindrances he is carrying on his daily labors;
what fading of hopes, or what deeper fixity of self-delusion the
years are marking off within him; and with what spirit he wrestles
against universal pressure, which will one day be too heavy for him,
and bring his heart to its final pause. Doubtless his lot is
important in his own eyes; and the chief reason that we think
he asks too large a place in our consideration must be our want
of room for him, since we refer him to the Divine regard with
perfect confidence; nay, it is even held sublime for our neighbor
to expect the utmost there, however little he may have got from us.
Mr. Casaubon, too, was the centre of his own world; if he was
liable to think that others were providentially made for him,
and especially to consider them in the light of their fitness
for the author of a "Key to all Mythologies," this trait is not
quite alien to us, and, like the other mendicant hopes of mortals,
claims some of our pity.
Certainly this affair of his marriage with Miss Brooke touched him
more nearly than it did any one of the persons who have hitherto
shown their disapproval of it, and in the present stage of things I
feel more tenderly towards his experience of success than towards
the disappointment of the amiable Sir James. For in truth, as the
day fixed for his marriage came nearer, Mr. Casaubon did not find
his spirits rising; nor did the contemplation of that matrimonial
garden scene, where, as all experience showed, the path was to be
bordered with flowers, prove persistently more enchanting bo him
than the accustomed vaults where he walked taper in hand. He did
not confess to himself, still less could he have breathed to another,
his surprise that though he had won a lovely and noble-hearted girl
he had not won delight,--which he had also regarded as an object
to be found by search. It is true that he knew all the classical
passages implying the contrary; but knowing classical passages,
we find, is a mode of motion, which explains why they leave
so little extra force for their personal application.
Poor Mr. Casaubon had imagined that his long studious bachelorhood
had stored up for him a compound interest of enjoyment, and that
large drafts on his affections would not fail to be honored; for we
all of us, grave or light, get our thoughts entangled in metaphors,
and act fatally on the strength of them. And now he was in danger
of being saddened by the very conviction that his circumstances
were unusually happy: there was nothing external by which he could
account for a certain blankness of sensibility which came over him
just when his expectant gladness should have been most lively,
just when he exchanged the accustomed dulness of his Lowick library
for his visits to the Grange. Here was a weary experience in which
he was as utterly condemned to loneliness as in the despair which
sometimes threatened him while toiling in the morass of authorship
without seeming nearer to the goal. And his was that worst
loneliness which would shrink from sympathy. He could not but wish
that Dorothea should think him not less happy than the world would
expect her successful suitor to be; and in relation to his authorship
he leaned on her young trust and veneration, he liked to draw
forth her fresh interest in listening, as a means of encouragement
to himself: in talking to her he presented all his performance and
intention with the reflected confidence of the pedagogue, and rid
himself for the time of that chilling ideal audience which crowded
his laborious uncreative hours with the vaporous pressure of Tartarean shades.
For to Dorothea, after that toy-box history of the world adapted
to young ladies which had made the chief part of her education,
Mr. Casaubon's talk about his great book was full of new vistas;
and this sense of revelation, this surprise of a nearer introduction
to Stoics and Alexandrians, as people who had ideas not totally
unlike her own, kept in abeyance for the time her usual eagerness
for a binding theory which could bring her own life and doctrine
into strict connection with that amazing past, and give the remotest
sources of knowledge some bearing on her actions. That more complete
teaching would come--Mr. Casaubon would tell her all that: she was
looking forward to higher initiation in ideas, as she was looking
forward to marriage, and blending her dim conceptions of both.
It would be a great mistake to suppose that Dorothea would have cared
about any share in Mr. Casaubon's learning as mere accomplishment;
for though opinion in the neighborhood of Freshitt and Tipton
had pronounced her clever, that epithet would not have described
her to circles in whose more precise vocabulary cleverness implies
mere aptitude for knowing and doing, apart from character.
All her eagerness for acquirement lay within that full current of
sympathetic motive in which her ideas and impulses were habitually
swept along. She did not want to deck herself with knowledge--to
wear it loose from the nerves and blood that fed her action; and if
she had written a book she must have done it as Saint Theresa did,
under the command of an authority that constrained her conscience.
But something she yearned for by which her life might be filled
with action at once rational and ardent; and since the time was gone
by for guiding visions and spiritual directors, since prayer heightened
yearning but not instruction, what lamp was there but knowledge?
Surely learned men kept-the only oil; and who more learned than
Thus in these brief weeks Dorothea's joyous grateful expectation
was unbroken, and however her lover might occasionally be conscious
of flatness, he could never refer it to any slackening of her
The season was mild enough to encourage the project of extending
the wedding journey as far as Rome, and Mr. Casaubon was anxious
for this because he wished to inspect some manuscripts in the Vatican.
"I still regret that your sister is not to accompany us," he said
one morning, some time after it had been ascertained that Celia
objected to go, and that Dorothea did not wish for her companionship.
"You will have many lonely hours, Dorotheas, for I shall be
constrained to make the utmost use of my time during our stay in Rome,
and I should feel more at liberty if you had a companion."
The words "I should feel more at liberty" grated on Dorothea.
For the first time in speaking to Mr. Casaubon she colored
"You must have misunderstood me very much," she said, "if you think
I should not enter into the value of your time--if you think that I
should not willingly give up whatever interfered with your using
it to the best purpose."
"That is very amiable in you, my dear Dorothea," said Mr. Casaubon,
not in the least noticing that she was hurt; "but if you had a lady
as your companion, I could put you both under the care of a cicerone,
and we could thus achieve two purposes in the same space of time."
"I beg you will not refer to this again," said Dorothea, rather haughtily.
But immediately she feared that she was wrong, and turning towards
him she laid her hand on his, adding in a different tone, "Pray do
not be anxious about me. I shall have so much to think of when I
am alone. And Tantripp will be a sufficient companion, just to take
care of me. I could not bear to have Celia: she would be miserable."
It was time to dress. There was to be a dinner-party that day,
the last of the parties which were held at the Grange as proper
preliminaries to the wedding, and Dorothea was glad of a reason
for moving away at once on the sound of the bell, as if she needed
more than her usual amount of preparation. She was ashamed of being
irritated from some cause she could not define even to herse1f;
for though she had no intention to be untruthful, her reply had not
touched the real hurt within her. Mr. Casaubon's words had been
quite reasonable, yet they had brought a vague instantaneous sense
of aloofness on his part.
"Surely I am in a strangely selfish weak state of mind," she said
to herself. "How can I have a husband who is so much above me
without knowing that he needs me less than I need him?"
Having convinced herself that Mr. Casaubon was altogether right,
she recovered her equanimity, and was an agreeable image of serene
dignity when she came into the drawing-room in her silver-gray
dress--the simple lines of her dark-brown hair parted over her brow
and coiled massively behind, in keeping with the entire absence
from her manner and expression of all search after mere effect.
Sometimes when Dorothea was in company, there seemed to be as
complete an air of repose about her as if she had been a picture
of Santa Barbara looking out from her tower into the clear air;
but these intervals of quietude made the energy of her speech
and emotion the more remarked when some outward appeal had
She was naturally the subject of many observations this evening,
for the dinner-party was large and rather more miscellaneous
as to the male portion than any which had been held at the Grange
since Mr. Brooke's nieces had resided with him, so that the
talking was done in duos and trios more or less inharmonious.
There was the newly elected mayor of Middlemarch, who happened
to be a manufacturer; the philanthropic banker his brother-in-law,
who predominated so much in the town that some called him a Methodist,
others a hypocrite, according to the resources of their vocabulary;
and there were various professional men. In fact, Mrs. Cadwallader
said that Brooke was beginning to treat the Middlemarchers,
and that she preferred the farmers at the tithe-dinner, who drank her
health unpretentiously, and were not ashamed of their grandfathers'
furniture. For in that part of the country, before reform had
done its notable part in developing the political consciousness,
there was a clearer distinction of ranks and a dimmer distinction
of parties; so that Mr. Brooke's miscellaneous invitations seemed
to belong to that general laxity which came from his inordinate
travel and habit of taking too much in the form of ideas.
Already, as Miss Brooke passed out of the dining-room, opportunity
was found for some interjectional "asides"
"A fine woman, Miss Brooke! an uncommonly fine woman, by God!"
said Mr. Standish, the old lawyer, who had been so long concerned
with the landed gentry that he had become landed himself, and used
that oath in a deep-mouthed manner as a sort of armorial bearings,
stamping the speech of a man who held a good position.
Mr. Bulstrode, the banker, seemed to be addressed, but that
gentleman disliked coarseness and profanity, and merely bowed.
The remark was taken up by Mr. Chichely, a middle-aged bachelor
and coursing celebrity, who had a complexion something like
an Easter egg, a few hairs carefully arranged, and a carriage
implying the consciousness of a distinguished appearance.
"Yes, but not my style of woman: I like a woman who lays herself
out a little more to please us. There should be a little filigree
about a woman--something of the coquette. A man likes a sort
of challenge. The more of a dead set she makes at you the better."
"There's some truth in that," said Mr. Standish, disposed to be genial.
"And, by God, it's usually the way with them. I suppose it answers
some wise ends: Providence made them so, eh, Bulstrode?"
"I should be disposed to refer coquetry to another source,"
said Mr. Bulstrode. "I should rather refer it to the devil."
"Ay, to be sure, there should be a little devil in a woman,"
said Mr. Chichely, whose study of the fair sex seemed to have been
detrimental to his theology. "And I like them blond, with a
certain gait, and a swan neck. Between ourselves, the mayor's
daughter is more to my taste than Miss Brooke or Miss Celia either.
If I were a marrying man I should choose Miss Vincy before either
"Well, make up, make up," said Mr. Standish, jocosely; "you see
the middle-aged fellows early the day."
Mr. Chichely shook his head with much meaning: he was not going
to incur the certainty of being accepted by the woman he would choose.
The Miss Vincy who had the honor of being Mr. Chichely's ideal was
of course not present; for Mr. Brooke, always objecting to go too far,
would not have chosen that his nieces should meet the daughter
of a Middlemarch manufacturer, unless it were on a public occasion.
The feminine part of the company included none whom Lady
Chettam or Mrs. Cadwallader could object to; for Mrs. Renfrew,
the colonel's widow, was not only unexceptionable in point of breeding,
but also interesting on the ground of her complaint, which puzzled
the doctors, and seemed clearly a case wherein the fulness of
professional knowledge might need the supplement of quackery.
Lady Chettam, who attributed her own remarkable health to home-made
bitters united with constant medical attendance, entered with much
exercise of the imagination into Mrs. Renfrew's account of symptoms,
and into the amazing futility in her case of all, strengthening medicines.
"Where can all the strength of those medicines go, my dear?" said the
mild but stately dowager, turning to Mrs. Cadwallader reflectively,
when Mrs. Renfrew's attention was called away.
"It strengthens the disease," said the Rector's wife, much too
well-born not to be an amateur in medicine. "Everything depends on the
constitution: some people make fat, some blood, and some bile--that's
my view of the matter; and whatever they take is a sort of grist to the mill."
"Then she ought to take medicines that would reduce--reduce
the disease, you know, if you are right, my dear. And I think
what you say is reasonable."
"Certainly it is reasonable. You have two sorts of potatoes,
fed on the same soil. One of them grows more and more watery--"
"Ah! like this poor Mrs. Renfrew--that is what I think.
Dropsy! There is no swelling yet--it is inward. I should say she ought
to take drying medicines, shouldn't you?--or a dry hot-air bath.
Many things might be tried, of a drying nature."
"Let her try a certain person's pamphlets," said Mrs. Cadwallader
in an undertone, seeing the gentlemen enter. "He does not want drying."
"Who, my dear?" said Lady Chettam, a charming woman, not so quick
as to nullify the pleasure of explanation.
"The bridegroom--Casaubon. He has certainly been drying up faster
since the engagement: the flame of passion, I suppose."
"I should think he is far from having a good constitution,"
said Lady Chettam, with a still deeper undertone. "And then his
studies--so very dry, as you say."
"Really, by the side of Sir James, he looks like a death's head
skinned over for the occasion. Mark my words: in a year from this
time that girl will hate him. She looks up to him as an oracle now,
and by-and-by she will be at the other extreme. All flightiness!"
"How very shocking! I fear she is headstrong. But tell me--you
know all about him--is there anything very bad? What is the truth?"
"The truth? he is as bad as the wrong physic--nasty to take,
and sure to disagree."
"There could not be anything worse than that," said Lady Chettam,
with so vivid a conception of the physic that she seemed to have
learned something exact about Mr. Casaubon's disadvantages.
"However, James will hear nothing against Miss Brooke. He says she
is the mirror of women still."
"That is a generous make-believe of his. Depend upon it, he likes
little Celia better, and she appreciates him. I hope you like my
"Certainly; she is fonder of geraniums, and seems more docile,
though not so fine a figure. But we were talking of physic.
Tell me about this new young surgeon, Mr. Lydgate. I am told he is
wonderfully clever: he certainly looks it--a fine brow indeed."
"He is a gentleman. I heard him talking to Humphrey. He talks well."
"Yes. Mr. Brooke says he is one of the Lydgates of Northumberland,
really well connected. One does not expect it in a practitioner
of that kind. For my own part, I like a medical man more on a footing
with the servants; they are often all the cleverer. I assure you
I found poor Hicks's judgment unfailing; I never knew him wrong.
He was coarse and butcher-like, but he knew my constitution.
It was a loss to me his going off so suddenly. Dear me, what a
very animated conversation Miss Brooke seems to be having with this
"She is talking cottages and hospitals with him," said Mrs. Cadwallader,
whose ears and power of interpretation were quick. "I believe
he is a sort of philanthropist, so Brooke is sure to take him up."
"James," said Lady Chettam when her son came near, "bring Mr. Lydgate
and introduce him to me. I want to test him."
The affable dowager declared herself delighted with this opportunity
of making Mr. Lydgate's acquaintance, having heard of his success
in treating fever on a new plan.
Mr. Lydgate had the medical accomplishment of looking perfectly grave
whatever nonsense was talked to him, and his dark steady eyes gave him
impressiveness as a listener. He was as little as possible like the
lamented Hicks, especially in a certain careless refinement about his
toilet and utterance. Yet Lady Chettam gathered much confidence in him.
He confirmed her view of her own constitution as being peculiar,
by admitting that all constitutions might be called peculiar,
and he did not deny that hers might be more peculiar than others.
He did not approve of a too lowering system, including reckless cupping,
nor, on the other hand, of incessant port wine and bark. He said "I
think so" with an air of so much deference accompanying the insight
of agreement, that she formed the most cordial opinion of his talents.
"I am quite pleased with your protege," she said to Mr. Brooke
before going away.
"My protege?--dear me!--who is that?" said Mr. Brooke.
"This young Lydgate, the new doctor.-He seems to me to understand
his profession admirably."
"Oh, Lydgate! he is not my protege, you know; only I knew an
uncle of his who sent me a letter about him. However, I think he
is likely to be first-rate--has studied in Paris, knew Broussais;
has ideas, you know--wants to raise the profession."
"Lydgate has lots of ideas, quite new, about ventilation and diet,
that sort of thing," resumed Mr. Brooke, after he had handed out
Lady Chettam, and had returned to be civil to a group of Middlemarchers.
"Hang it, do you think that is quite sound?--upsetting The old treatment,
which has made Englishmen what they re?" said Mr. Standish.
"Medical knowledge is at a low ebb among us," said Mr. Bulstrode,
who spoke in a subdued tone, and had rather a sickly wir "I, for
my part, hail the advent of Mr. Lydgate. I hope to find good reason
for confiding the new hospital to his management."
"That is all very fine," replied Mr. Standish, who was not fond of
Mr. Bulstrode; "if you like him to try experiments on your hospital
patients, and kill a few people for charity I have no objection.
But I am not going to hand money out of my purse to have experiments
tried on me. I like treatment that has been tested a little."
"Well, you know, Standish, every dose you take is an experiment-an
experiment, you know," said Mr. Brooke, nodding towards the lawyer.
"Oh, if you talk in that sense!" said Mr. Standish, with as much
disgust at such non-legal quibbling as a man can well betray towards
a valuable client.
"I should be glad of any treatment that would cure me without
reducing me to a skeleton, like poor Grainger," said Mr. Vincy,
the mayor, a florid man, who would have served for a study of flesh
in striking contrast with the Franciscan tints of Mr. Bulstrode.
"It's an uncommonly dangerous thing to be left without any padding
against the shafts of disease, as somebody said,--and I think it a
very good expression myself."
Mr. Lydgate, of course, was out of hearing. He had quitted the
party early, and would have thought it altogether tedious but for
the novelty of certain introductions, especially the introduction
to Miss Brooke, whose youthful bloom, with her approaching marriage
to that faded scholar, and her interest in matters socially useful,
gave her the piquancy of an unusual combination.
"She is a good creature--that fine girl--but a little too earnest,"
he thought. "It is troublesome to talk to such women. They are
always wanting reasons, yet they are too ignorant to understand
the merits of any question, and usually fall hack on their moral
sense to settle things after their own taste."
Evidently Miss Brooke was not Mr. Lydgate's style of woman any more
than Mr. Chichely's. Considered, indeed, in relation to the latter,
whose mied was matured, she was altogether a mistake, and calculated
to shock his trust in final causes, including the adaptation of fine
young women to purplefaced bachelors. But Lydgate was less ripe,
and might possibly have experience before him which would modify
his opinion as to the most excellent things in woman.
Miss Brooke, however, was not again seen by either of these
gentlemen under her maiden name. Not long after that dinner-party
she had become Mrs. Casaubon, and was on her way to Rome.
"But deeds and language such as men do use,
And persons such as comedy would choose,
When she would show an image of the times,
And sport with human follies, not with crimes."
Lydgate, in fact, was already conscious of being fascinated by a
woman strikingly different from Miss Brooke: he did not in the
least suppose that he had lost his balance and fallen in love,
but he had said of that particular woman, "She is grace itself;
she is perfectly lovely and accomplished. That is what a woman
ought to be: she ought to produce the effect of exquisite music."
Plain women he regarded as he did the other severe facts of life,
to be faced with philosophy and investigated by science. But Rosamond
Vincy seemed to have the true melodic charm; and when a man has seen
the woman whom he would have chosen if he had intended to marry speedily,
his remaining a bachelor will usually depend on her resolution
rather than on his. Lydgate believed that he should not marry for
several years: not marry until he had trodden out a good clear path
for himself away from the broad road which was quite ready made.
He had seen Miss Vincy above his horizon almost as long as it
had taken Mr. Casaubon to become engaged and married: but this
learned gentleman was possessed of a fortune; he had assembled his
voluminous notes, and had made that sort of reputation which precedes
performance,--often the larger part of a man's fame. He took a wife,
as we have seen, to adorn the remaining quadrant of his course,
and be a little moon that would cause hardly a calculable perturbation.
But Lydgate was young, poor, ambitious. He had his half-century
before him instead of behind him, and he had come to Middlemarch bent
on doing many things that were not directly fitted to make his fortune
or even secure him a good income. To a man under such circumstances,
taking a wife is something more than a question of adornment,
however highly he may rate this; and Lydgate was disposed to give
it the first place among wifely functions. To his taste, guided by
a single conversation, here was the point on which Miss Brooke
would be found wanting, notwithstanding her undeniable beauty.
She did not look at things from the proper feminine angle.
The society of such women was about as relaxing as going from your
work to teach the second form, instead of reclining in a paradise
with sweet laughs for bird-notes, and blue eyes for a heaven.
Certainly nothing at present could seem much less important to
Lydgate than the turn of Miss Brooke's mind, or to Miss Brooke than
the qualities of the woman who had attracted this young surgeon.
But any one watching keenly the stealthy convergence of human lots,
sees a slow preparation of effects from one life on another,
which tells like a calculated irony on the indifference or the
frozen stare with which we look at our unintroduced neighbor.
Destiny stands by sarcastic with our dramatis personae folded
in her hand.
Old provincial society had its share of this subtle movement: had
not only its striking downfalls, its brilliant young professional
dandies who ended by living up an entry with a drab and six children
for their establishment, but also those less marked vicissitudes
which are constantly shifting the boundaries of social intercourse,
and begetting new consciousness of interdependence. Some slipped
a little downward, some got higher footing: people denied aspirates,
gained wealth, and fastidious gentlemen stood for boroughs;
some were caught in political currents, some in ecclesiastical,
and perhaps found themselves surprisingly grouped in consequence;
while a few personages or families that stood with rocky firmness
amid all this fluctuation, were slowly presenting new aspects
in spite of solidity, and altering with the double change of self
and beholder. Municipal town and rural parish gradually made fresh
threads of connection--gradually, as the old stocking gave way to the
savings-bank, and the worship of the solar guinea became extinct;
while squires and baronets, and even lords who had once lived
blamelessly afar from the civic mind, gathered the faultiness of
closer acquaintanceship. Settlers, too, came from distant counties,
some with an alarming novelty of skill, others with an offensive
advantage in cunning. In fact, much the same sort of movement
and mixture went on in old England as we find in older Herodotus,
who also, in telling what had been, thought it well to take a woman's
lot for his starting-point; though Io, as a maiden apparently
beguiled by attractive merchandise, was the reverse of Miss Brooke,
and in this respect perhaps bore more resemblance to Rosamond Vincy,
who had excellent taste in costume, with that nymph-like figure
and pure blindness which give the largest range to choice in the flow
and color of drapery. But these things made only part of her charm.
She was admitted to be the flower of Mrs. Lemon's school,
the chief school in the county, where the teaching included all
that was demanded in the accomplished female--even to extras,
such as the getting in and out of a carriage. Mrs. Lemon herself
had always held up Miss Vincy as an example: no pupil, she said,
exceeded that young lady for mental acquisition and propriety
of speech, while her musical execution was quite exceptional.
We cannot help the way in which people speak of us, and probably if
Mrs. Lemon had undertaken to describe Juliet or Imogen, these heroines
would not have seemed poetical. The first vision of Rosamond would
have been enough with most judges to dispel any prejudice excited by
Mrs. Lemon's praise.
Lydgate could not be long in Middlemarch without having that agreeable
vision, or even without making the acquaintance of the Vincy family;
for though Mr. Peacock, whose practice he had paid something to enter on,
had not been their doctor (Mrs. Vincy not liking the lowering system
adopted by him), he had many patients among their connections
and acquaintances. For who of any consequence in Middlemarch was
not connected or at least acquainted with the Vincys? They were
old manufacturers, and had kept a good house for three generations,
in which there had naturally been much intermarrying with neighbors
more or less decidedly genteel. Mr. Vincy's sister had made a wealthy
match in accepting Mr. Bulstrode, who, however, as a man not born
in the town, and altogether of dimly known origin, was considered
to have done well in uniting himself with a real Middlemarch family;
on the other hand, Mr. Vincy had descended a little, having taken
an innkeeper's daughter. But on this side too there was a cheering
sense of money; for Mrs. Vincy's sister had been second wife
to rich old Mr. Featherstone, and had died childless years ago,
so that her nephews and nieces might be supposed to touch the
affections of the widower. And it happened that Mr. Bulstrode
and Mr. Featherstone, two of Peacock's most important patients,
had, from different causes, given an especially good reception to
his successor, who had raised some partisanship as well as discussion.
Mr. Wrench, medical attendant to the Vincy family, very early had
grounds for thinking lightly of Lydgate's professional discretion,
and there was no report about him which was not retailed at the
Vincys', where visitors were frequent. Mr. Vincy was more inclined
to general good-fellowship than to taking sides, but there was
no need for him to be hasty in making any new man acquaintance.
Rosamond silently wished that her father would invite Mr. Lydgate.
She was tired of the faces and figures she had always been used
to--the various irregular profiles and gaits and turns of phrase
distinguishing those Middlemarch young men whom she had known as boys.
She had been at school with girls of higher position, whose brothers,
she felt sure, it would have been possible for her to be more
interested in, than in these inevitable Middlemarch companions.
But she would not have chosen to mention her wish to her father;
and he, for his part, was in no hurry on the subject. An alderman
about to be mayor must by-and-by enlarge his dinner-parties,
but at present there were plenty of guests at his well-spread table.
That table often remained covered with the relics of the family breakfast
long after Mr. Vincy had gone with his second son to the warehouse,
and when Miss Morgan was already far on in morning lessons with the
younger girls in the schoolroom. It awaited the family laggard,
who found any sort of inconvenience (to others) less disagreeable
than getting up when he was called. This was the case one morning
of the October in which we have lately seen Mr. Casaubon visiting
the Grange; and though the room was a little overheated with the fire,
which had sent the spaniel panting to a remote corner, Rosamond,
for some reason, continued to sit at her embroidery longer than usual,
now and then giving herself a little shake, and laying her work
on her knee to contemplate it with an air of hesitating weariness.
Her mamma, who had returned from an excursion to the kitchen,
sat on the other side of the small work-table with an air
of more entire placidity, until, the clock again giving notice
that it was going to strike, she looked up from the lace-mending
which was occupying her plump fingers and rang the bell.
"Knock at Mr. Fred's door again, Pritchard, and tell him it has
struck half-past ten."
This was said without any change in the radiant good-humor of
Mrs. Vincy's face, in which forty-five years had delved neither
angles nor parallels; and pushing back her pink capstrings, she let
her work rest on her lap, while she looked admiringly at her daughter.
"Mamma," said Rosamond, "when Fred comes down I wish you would
not let him have red herrings. I cannot bear the smell of them
all over the house at this hour of the morning."
"Oh, my dear, you are so hard on your brothers! It is the only fault
I have to find with you. You are the sweetest temper in the world,
but you are so tetchy with your brothers."
"Not tetchy, mamma: you never hear me speak in an unladylike way."
"Well, but you want to deny them things."
"Brothers are so unpleasant."
"Oh, my dear, you must allow for young men. Be thankful if they
have good hearts. A woman must learn to put up with little things.
You will be married some day."
"Not to any one who is like Fred."
"Don't decry your own brother, my dear. Few young men have less
against them, although he couldn't take his degree--I'm sure I
can't understand why, for he seems to me most clever. And you know
yourself he was thought equal to the best society at college.
So particular as you are, my dear, I wonder you are not glad to have
such a gentlemanly young man for a brother. You are always finding
fault with Bob because he is not Fred."
"Oh no, mamma, only because he is Bob."
"Well, my dear, you will not find any Middlemarch young man who has
not something against him."
"But"--here Rosamond's face broke into a smile which suddenly revealed
two dimples. She herself thought unfavorably of these dimples and smiled
little in general society. "But I shall not marry any Middlemarch young man."
"So it seems, my love, for you have as good as refused the pick
of them; and if there's better to be had, I'm sure there's no girl
better deserves it."
"Excuse me, mamma--I wish you would not say, `the pick of them.'"
"Why, what else are they?"
"I mean, mamma, it is rather a vulgar expression."
"Very likely, my dear; I never was a good speaker. What should
"The best of them."
"Why, that seems just as plain and common. If I had had time
to think, I should have said, `the most superior young men.'
But with your education you must know."
"What must Rosy know, mother?" said Mr. Fred, who had
slid in unobserved through the half-open door while the
ladies were bending over their work, and now going up
to the fire stood with his back towards it, warming the soles of his slippers.
"Whether it's right to say `superior young men,'" said Mrs. Vincy,
ringing the bell.
"Oh, there are so many superior teas and sugars now. Superior is
getting to be shopkeepers' slang."
"Are you beginning to dislike slang, then?" said Rosamond,
with mild gravity.
"Only the wrong sort. All choice of words is slang. It marks
"There is correct English: that is not slang."
"I beg your pardon: correct English is the slang of prigs who write
history and essays. And the strongest slang of all is the slang
"You will say anything, Fred, to gain your point."
"Well, tell me whether it is slang or poetry to call an ox
"Of course you can call it poetry if you like."
"Aha, Miss Rosy, you don't know Homer from slang. I shall invent
a new game; I shall write bits of slang and poetry on slips,
and give them to you to separate."
"Dear me, how amusing it is to hear young people talk!" said Mrs. Vincy,
with cheerful admiration.
"Have you got nothing else for my breakfast, Pritchard?" said Fred,
to the servant who brought in coffee and buttered toast;
while he walked round the table surveying the ham, potted beef,
and other cold remnants, with an air of silent rejection, and polite
forbearance from signs of disgust.
"Should you like eggs, sir?"
"Eggs, no! Bring me a grilled bone."
"Really, Fred," said Rosamond, when the servant had left the room,
"if you must have hot things for breakfast, I wish you would come
down earlier. You can get up at six o'clock to go out hunting;
I cannot understand why you find it so difficult to get up on
"That is your want of understanding, Rosy. I can get up to go
hunting because I like it."
"What would you think of me if I came down two hours after every
one else and ordered grilled bone?"
"I should think you were an uncommonly fast young lady," said Fred,
eating his toast with the utmost composure.
"I cannot see why brothers are to make themselves disagreeable,
any more than sisters."
"I don't make myself disagreeable; it is you who find me so.
Disagreeable is a word that describes your feelings and not my actions."
"I think it describes the smell of grilled bone."
"Not at all. It describes a sensation in your little nose associated
with certain finicking notions which are the classics of Mrs. Lemon's
school. Look at my mother you don't see her objecting to everything
except what she does herself. She is my notion of a pleasant woman."
"Bless you both, my dears, and don't quarrel," said Mrs. Vincy,
with motherly cordiality. "Come, Fred, tell us all about the new doctor.
How is your uncle pleased with him?"
"Pretty well, I think. He asks Lydgate all sorts of questions and
then screws up his face while he hears the answers, as if they were
pinching his toes. That's his way. Ah, here comes my grilled bone."
"But how came you to stay out so late, my dear? You only said you
were going to your uncle's."
"Oh, I dined at Plymdale's. We had whist. Lydgate was there too."
"And what do you think of him? He is very gentlemanly, I suppose.
They say he is of excellent family--his relations quite county people."
"Yes," said Fred. "There was a Lydgate at John's who spent
no end of money. I find this man is a second cousin of his.
But rich men may have very poor devils for second cousins."
"It always makes a difference, though, to be of good family,"
said Rosamond, with a tone of decision which showed that she had thought
on this subject. Rosamond felt that she might have been happier
if she had not been the daughter of a Middlemarch manufacturer.
She disliked anything which reminded her that her mother's father had
been an innkeeper. Certainly any one remembering the fact might think
that Mrs. Vincy had the air of a very handsome good-humored landlady,
accustomed to the most capricious orders of gentlemen.
"I thought it was odd his name was Tertius," said the
bright-faced matron, "but of course it's a name in the family.
But now, tell us exactly what sort of man he is."
"Oh, tallish, dark, clever--talks well--rather a prig, I think."
"I never can make out what you mean by a prig," said Rosamond.
"A fellow who wants to show that he has opinions."
"Why, my dear, doctors must have opinions," said Mrs. Vincy.
"What are they there for else?"
"Yes, mother, the opinions they are paid for. But a prig
is a fellow who is always making you a present of his opinions."
"I suppose Mary Garth admires Mr. Lydgate," said Rosamond,
not without a touch of innuendo.
"Really, I can't say." said Fred, rather glumly, as he left
the table, and taking up a novel which he had brought down with him,
threw himself into an arm-chair. "If you are jealous of her,
go oftener to Stone Court yourself and eclipse her."
"I wish you would not be so vulgar, Fred. If you have finished,
pray ring the bell."
"It is true, though--what your brother says, Rosamond," Mrs. Vincy began,
when the servant had cleared the table. "It is a thousand pities
you haven't patience to go and see your uncle more, so proud
of you as he is, and wanted you to live with him. There's no
knowing what he might have done for you as well as for Fred.
God knows, I'm fond of having you at home with me, but I can part
with my children for their good. And now it stands to reason
that your uncle Featherstone will do something for Mary Garth."
"Mary Garth can bear being at Stone Court, because she likes that
better than being a governess," said Rosamond, folding up her work.
"I would rather not have anything left to me if I must earn it
by enduring much of my uncle's cough and his ugly relations."
"He can't be long for this world, my dear; I wouldn't hasten his end,
but what with asthma and that inward complaint, let us hope there
is something better for him in another. And I have no ill-will
toward's Mary Garth, but there's justice to be thought of.
And Mr. Featherstone's first wife brought him no money, as my sister did.
Her nieces and nephews can't have so much claim as my sister's.
And I must say I think Mary Garth a dreadful plain girl--more fit
for a governess."
"Every one would not agree with you there, mother," said Fred,
who seemed to be able to read and listen too.
"Well, my dear," said Mrs. Vincy, wheeling skilfully, "if she
HAD some fortune left her,--a man marries his wife's relations,
and the Garths are so poor, and live in such a small way.
But I shall leave you to your studies, my dear; for I must go and do
"Fred's studies are not very deep," said Rosamond, rising with
her mamma, "he is only reading a novel."
"Well, well, by-and-by he'll go to his Latin and things,"
said Mrs. Vincy, soothingly, stroking her son's head. "There's a
fire in the smoking-room on purpose. It's your father's wish,
you know--Fred, my dear--and I always tell him you will be good,
and go to college again to take your degree."
Fred drew his mother's hand down to his lips, but said nothing.
"I suppose you are not going out riding to-day?" said Rosamond,
lingering a little after her mamma was gone.
"Papa says I may have the chestnut to ride now."
"You can go with me to-morrow, if you like. Only I am going
to Stone Court, remember."
"I want to ride so much, it is indifferent to me where we go."
Rosamond really wished to go to Stone Court, of all other places.
"Oh, I say, Rosy," said Fred, as she was passing out of the room,
"if you are going to the piano, let me come and play some airs
"Pray do not ask me this morning."
"Why not this morning?"
"Really, Fred, I wish you would leave off playing the flute.
A man looks very silly playing the flute. And you play so out
"When next any one makes love to you, Miss Rosamond, I will tell
him how obliging you are."
"Why should you expect me to oblige you by hearing you play the flute,
any more than I should expect you to oblige me by not playing it?"
"And why should you expect me to take you out riding?"
This question led to an adjustment, for Rosamond had set her mind
on that particular ride.
So Fred was gratified with nearly an hour's practice of "Ar hyd y nos,"
"Ye banks and braes," and other favorite airs from his "Instructor
on the Flute;" a wheezy performance, into which he threw much
ambition and an irrepressible hopefulness.
"He had more tow on his distaffe
Than Gerveis knew."
The ride to Stone Court, which Fred and Rosamond took the next morning,
lay through a pretty bit of midland landscape, almost all meadows
and pastures, with hedgerows still allowed to grow in bushy beauty
and to spread out coral fruit for the birds. Little details gave
each field a particular physiognomy, dear to the eyes that have looked
on them from childhood: the pool in the corner where the grasses
were dank and trees leaned whisperingly; the great oak shadowing
a bare place in mid-pasture; the high bank where the ash-trees grew;
the sudden slope of the old marl-pit making a red background for
the burdock; the huddled roofs and ricks of the homestead without
a traceable way of approach; the gray gate and fences against
the depths of the bordering wood; and the stray hovel, its old,
old thatch full of mossy hills and valleys with wondrous modulations
of light and shadow such as we travel far to see in later life,
and see larger, but not more beautiful. These are the things
that make the gamut of joy in landscape to midland-bred souls--the
things they toddled among, or perhaps learned by heart standing
between their father's knees while he drove leisurely.
But the road, even the byroad, was excellent; for Lowick, as we
have seen, was not a parish of muddy lanes and poor tenants; and it
was into Lowick parish that Fred and Rosamond entered after a couple
of miles' riding. Another mile would bring them to Stone Court,
and at the end of the first half, the house was already visible,
looking as if it had been arrested in its growth toward a stone
mansion by an unexpected budding of farm-buildings on its left flank,
which had hindered it from becoming anything more than the substantial
dwelling of a gentleman farmer. It was not the less agreeable
an object in the distance for the cluster of pinnacled corn-ricks
which balanced the fine row of walnuts on the right.
Presently it was possible to discern something that might be a gig
on the circular drive before the front door.
"Dear me," said Rosamond, "I hope none of my uncle's horrible
relations are there."
"They are, though. That is Mrs. Waule's gig--the last yellow gig left,
I should think. When I see Mrs. Waule in it, I understand how yellow
can have been worn for mourning. That gig seems to me more funereal
than a hearse. But then Mrs. Waule always has black crape on.
How does she manage it, Rosy? Her friends can't always be dying."
"I don't know at all. And she is not in the least evangelical,"
said Rosamond, reflectively, as if that religious point of view
would have fully accounted for perpetual crape. "And, not poor,"
she added, after a moment's pause.
"No, by George! They are as rich as Jews, those Waules and Featherstones;
I mean, for people like them, who don't want to spend anything.
And yet they hang about my uncle like vultures, and are afraid
of a farthing going away from their side of the family. But I
believe he hates them all."
The Mrs. Waule who was so far from being admirable in the eyes
of these distant connections, had happened to say this very morning
(not at all with a defiant air, but in a low, muffied, neutral tone,
as of a voice heard through cotton wool) that she did not wish "to
enjoy their good opinion." She was seated, as she observed, on her own
brother's hearth, and had been Jane Featherstone five-and-twenty years
before she had been Jane Waule, which entitled her to speak when her
own brother's name had been made free with by those who had no right to it.
"What are you driving at there?" said Mr. Featherstone,
holding his stick between his knees and settling his wig,
while he gave her a momentary sharp glance, which seemed
to react on him like a draught of cold air and set him coughing.
Mrs. Waule had to defer her answer till he was quiet again,
till Mary Garth had supplied him with fresh syrup, and he had begun
to rub the gold knob of his stick, looking bitterly at the fire.
It was a bright fire, but it made no difference to the chill-looking
purplish tint of Mrs. Waule's face, which was as neutral as her voice;
having mere chinks for eyes, and lips that hardly moved in speaking.
"The doctors can't master that cough, brother. It's just like what I have;
for I'm your own sister, constitution and everything. But, as I
was saying, it's a pity Mrs. Vincy's family can't be better conducted."
"Tchah! you said nothing o' the sort. You said somebody had made
free with my name."
"And no more than can be proved, if what everybody says is true.
My brother Solomon tells me it's the talk up and down in Middlemarch
how unsteady young Vincy is, and has been forever gambling at
billiards since home he came."
"Nonsense! What's a game at billiards? It's a good gentlemanly game;
and young Vincy is not a clodhopper. If your son John took
to billiards, now, he'd make a fool of himself."
"Your nephew John never took to billiards or any other game, brother,
and is far from losing hundreds of pounds, which, if what everybody
says is true, must be found somewhere else than out of Mr. Vincy
the father's pocket. For they say he's been losing money for years,
though nobody would think so, to see him go coursing and keeping open
house as they do. And I've heard say Mr. Bulstrode condemns Mrs. Vincy
beyond anything for her flightiness, and spoiling her children so."!
"What's Bulstrode to me? I don't bank with him."
"Well, Mrs. Bulstrode is Mr. Vincy's own sister, and they do say that
Mr. Vincy mostly trades on the Bank money; and you may see yourself,
brother, when a woman past forty has pink strings always flying,
and that light way of laughing at everything, it's very unbecoming.
But indulging your children is one thing, and finding money to pay
their debts is another. And it's openly said that young Vincy has
raised money on his expectations. I don't say what expectations.
Miss Garth hears me, and is welcome to tell again. I know young
people hang together."
"No, thank you, Mrs. Waule," said Mary Garth. "I dislike hearing
scandal too much to wish to repeat it."
Mr. Featherstone rubbed the knob of his stick and made a brief
convulsive show of laughter, which had much the same genuineness
as an old whist-player's chuckle over a bad hand. Still looking
at the fire, he said--
"And who pretends to say Fred Vincy hasn't got expectations? Such
a fine, spirited fellow is like enough to have 'em."
There was a slight pause before Mrs. Waule replied, and when she
did so, her voice seemed to be slightly moistened with tears,
though her face was still dry.
"Whether or no, brother, it is naturally painful to me and my brother
Solomon to hear your name made free with, and your complaint being such
as may carry you off sudden, and people who are no more Featherstones
than the Merry-Andrew at the fair, openly reckoning on your property
coming to THEM. And me your own sister, and Solomon your own
brother! And if that's to be it, what has it pleased the Almighty
to make families for?" Here Mrs. Waule's tears fell, but with moderation.
"Come, out with it, Jane!" said Mr. Featherstone, looking at her.
"You mean to say, Fred Vincy has been getting somebody to advance him
money on what he says he knows about my will, eh?"
"I never said so, brother" (Mrs. Waule's voice had again become dry
and unshaken). "It was told me by my brother Solomon last night when
he called coming from market to give me advice about the old wheat,
me being a widow, and my son John only three-and-twenty, though steady
beyond anything. And he had it from most undeniable authority,
and not one, but many."
"Stuff and nonsense! I don't believe a word of it. It's all a
got-up story. Go to the window, missy; I thought I heard a horse.
See if the doctor's coming."
"Not got up by me, brother, nor yet by Solomon, who, whatever else he
may be--and I don't deny he has oddities--has made his will and parted
his property equal between such kin as he's friends with; though,
for my part, I think there are times when some should be considered
more than others. But Solomon makes it no secret what he means to do."
"The more fool he!" said Mr. Featherstone, with some difficulty;
breaking into a severe fit of coughing that required Mary Garth
to stand near him, so that she did not find out whose horses they
were which presently paused stamping on the gravel before the door.
Before Mr. Featherstone's cough was quiet, Rosamond entered,
bearing up her riding-habit with much grace. She bowed ceremoniously
to Mrs. Waule, who said stiffly, "How do you do, miss?" smiled and
nodded silently to Mary, and remained standing till the coughing
should cease, and allow her uncle to notice her.
"Heyday, miss!" he said at last, "you have a fine color.
"Seeing about the horses. He will be in presently."
"Sit down, sit down. Mrs. Waule, you'd better go."
Even those neighbors who had called Peter Featherstone an old fox,
had never accused him of being insincerely polite, and his sister
was quite used to the peculiar absence of ceremony with which he
marked his sense of blood-relationship. Indeed, she herself was
accustomed to think that entire freedom from the necessity of behaving
agreeably was included in the Almighty's intentions about families.
She rose slowly without any sign of resentment, and said in her
usual muffled monotone, "Brother, I hope the new doctor will be
able to do something for you. Solomon says there's great talk
of his cleverness. I'm sure it's my wish you should be spared.
And there's none more ready to nurse you than your own sister
and your own nieces, if you'd only say the word. There's Rebecca,
and Joanna, and Elizabeth, you know."
"Ay, ay, I remember--you'll see I've remembered 'em all--all
dark and ugly. They'd need have some money, eh? There never was
any beauty in the women of our family; but the Featherstones have
always had some money, and the Waules too. Waule had money too.
A warm man was Waule. Ay, ay; money's a good egg; and if you
've got money to leave behind you, lay it in a warm nest.
Good-by, Mrs. Waule." Here Mr. Featherstone pulled at both sides
of his wig as if he wanted to deafen himself, and his sister went
away ruminating on this oracular speech of his. Notwithstanding her
jealousy of the Vincys and of Mary Garth, there remained as the
nethermost sediment in her mental shallows a persuasion that her
brother Peter Featherstone could never leave his chief property
away from his blood-relations:--else, why had the Almighty carried
off his two wives both childless, after he had gained so much
by manganese and things, turning up when nobody expected it?--and
why was there a Lowick parish church, and the Waules and Powderells
all sit ting in the same pew for generations, and the Featherstone
pew next to them, if, the Sunday after her brother Peter's death,
everybody was to know that the property was gone out of the
family? The human mind has at no period accepted a moral chaos;
and so preposterous a result was not strictly conceivable.
But we are frightened at much that is not strictly conceivable.
When Fred came in the old man eyed him with a peculiar twinkle,
which the younger had often had reason to interpret as pride in the
satisfactory details of his appearance.
"You two misses go away," said Mr. Featherstone. "I want to speak
"Come into my room, Rosamond, you will not mind the cold for a
little while," said Mary. The two girls had not only known each
other in childhood, but had been at the same provincial school
together (Mary as an articled pupil), so that they had many memories
in common, and liked very well to talk in private. Indeed, this
tete-a-tete was one of Rosamond's objects in coming to Stone Court.
Old Featherstone would not begin the dialogue till the door had
been closed. He continued to look at Fred with the same twinkle
and with one of his habitual grimaces, alternately screwing
and widening his mouth; and when he spoke, it was in a low tone,
which might be taken for that of an informer ready to be bought off,
rather than for the tone of an offended senior. He was not a man
to feel any strong moral indignation even on account of trespasses
against himself. It was natural that others should want to get
an advantage over him, but then, he was a little too cunning for them.
"So, sir, you've been paying ten per cent for money which you've
promised to pay off by mortgaging my land when I'm dead and gone,
eh? You put my life at a twelvemonth, say. But I can alter my
Fred blushed. He had not borrowed money in that way, for excellent
reasons. But he was conscious of having spoken with some confidence
(perhaps with more than he exactly remembered) about his prospect
of getting Featherstone's land as a future means of paying present debts.
"I don't know what you refer to, sir. I have certainly never
borrowed any money on such an insecurity. Please to explain."
"No, sir, it's you must explain. I can alter my will yet, let me
tell you. I'm of sound mind--can reckon compound interest in my head,
and remember every fool's name as well as I could twenty years ago.
What the deuce? I'm under eighty. I say, you must contradict
"I have contradicted it, sir," Fred answered, with a touch
of impatience, not remembering that his uncle did not verbally
discriminate contradicting from disproving, though no one was further
from confounding the two ideas than old Featherstone, who often
wondered that so many fools took his own assertions for proofs.
"But I contradict it again. The story is a silly lie."
"Nonsense! you must bring dockiments. It comes from authority."
"Name the authority, and make him name the man of whom I borrowed
the money, and then I can disprove the story."
"It's pretty good authority, I think--a man who knows most
of what goes on in Middlemarch. It's that fine, religious,
charitable uncle o' yours. Come now!" Here Mr. Featherstone
had his peculiar inward shake which signified merriment.
"Who else, eh?"
"Then the story has grown into this lie out of some sermonizing
words he may have let fall about me. Do they pretend that he named
the man who lent me the money?"
"If there is such a man, depend upon it Bulstrode knows him.
But, supposing you only tried to get the money lent, and didn't
get it--Bulstrode 'ud know that too. You bring me a writing
from Bulstrode to say he doesn't believe you've ever promised
to pay your debts out o' my land. Come now!"
Mr. Featherstone's face required its whole scale of grimaces as a
muscular outlet to his silent triumph in the soundness of his faculties.
Fred felt himself to be in a disgusting dilemma.
"You must be joking, sir. Mr. Bulstrode, like other men, believes scores
of things that are not true, and he has a prejudice against me.
I could easily get him to write that he knew no facts in proof
of the report you speak of, though it might lead to unpleasantness.
But I could hardly ask him to write down what he believes or does
not believe about me." Fred paused an instant, and then added,
in politic appeal to his uncle's vanity, "That is hardly a thing
for a gentleman to ask." But he was disappointed in the result.
"Ay, I know what you mean. You'd sooner offend me than Bulstrode.
And what's he?--he's got no land hereabout that ever I heard tell of.
A speckilating fellow! He may come down any day, when the devil
leaves off backing him. And that's what his religion means: he
wants God A'mighty to come in. That's nonsense! There's one
thing I made out pretty clear when I used to go to church--and
it's this: God A'mighty sticks to the land. He promises land,
and He gives land, and He makes chaps rich with corn and cattle.
But you take the other side. You like Bulstrode and speckilation
better than Featherstone and land."
"I beg your pardon, sir," said Fred, rising, standing with his
back to the fire and beating his boot with his whip. "I like
neither Bulstrode nor speculation." He spoke rather sulkily,
feeling himself stalemated.
"Well, well, you can do without me, that's pretty clear,"
said old Featherstone, secretly disliking the possibility that Fred
would show himself at all independent. "You neither want a bit
of land to make a squire of you instead of a starving parson,
nor a lift of a hundred pound by the way. It's all one to me.
I can make five codicils if I like, and I shall keep my bank-notes
for a nest-egg. It's all one to me."
Fred colored again. Featherstone had rarely given him presents
of money, and at this moment it seemed almost harder to part with
the immediate prospect of bank-notes than with the more distant
prospect of the land.
"I am not ungrateful, sir. I never meant to show disregard for
any kind intentions you might have towards me. On the contrary."
"Very good. Then prove it. You bring me a letter from Bulstrode
saying he doesn't believe you've been cracking and promising
to pay your debts out o' my land, and then, if there's any
scrape you've got into, we'll see if I can't back you a bit.
Come now! That's a bargain. Here, give me your arm. I'll try
and walk round the room."
Fred, in spite of his irritation, had kindness enough in him to be
a little sorry for the unloved, unvenerated old man, who with his
dropsical legs looked more than usually pitiable in walking.
While giving his arm, he thought that he should not himself
like to be an old fellow with his constitution breaking up;
and he waited good-temperedly, first before the window to hear
the wonted remarks about the guinea-fowls and the weather-cock,
and then before the scanty book-shelves, of which the chief glories
in dark calf were Josephus, Culpepper, Klopstock's "Messiah,"
and several volumes of the "Gentleman's Magazine."
"Read me the names o' the books. Come now! you're a college man."
Fred gave him the titles.
"What did missy want with more books? What must you be bringing
her more books for?"
"They amuse her, sir. She is very fond of reading."
"A little too fond," said Mr. Featherstone, captiously. "She was
for reading when she sat with me. But I put a stop to that.
She's got the newspaper to read out loud. That's enough for one day,
I should think. I can't abide to see her reading to herself.
You mind and not bring her any more books, do you hear?"
"Yes, sir, I hear." Fred had received this order before, and had
secretly disobeyed it. He intended to disobey it again.
"Ring the bell," said Mr. Featherstone; "I want missy to come down."
Rosamond and Mary had been talking faster than their male friends.
They did not think of sitting down, but stood at the toilet-table
near the window while Rosamond took off her hat, adjusted her veil,
and applied little touches of her finger-tips to her hair--hair
of infantine fairness, neither flaxen nor yellow. Mary Garth
seemed all the plainer standing at an angle between the two
nymphs--the one in the glass, and the one out of it, who looked
at each other with eyes of heavenly blue, deep enough to hold the
most exquisite meanings an ingenious beholder could put into them,
and deep enough to hide the meanings of the owner if these should
happen to be less exquisite. Only a few children in Middlemarch
looked blond by the side of Rosamond, and the slim figure displayed
by her riding-habit had delicate undulations. In fact, most men
in Middlemarch, except her brothers, held that Miss Vincy was the
best girl in the world, and some called her an angel. Mary Garth,
on the contrary, had the aspect of an ordinary sinner: she was brown;
her curly dark hair was rough and stubborn; her stature was low;
and it would not be true to declare, in satisfactory antithesis,
that she had all the virtues. Plainness has its peculiar
temptations and vices quite as much as beauty; it is apt either to
feign amiability, or, not feigning it, to show all the repulsive ness
of discontent: at any rate, to be called an ugly thing in contrast
with that lovely creature your companion, is apt to produce some
effect beyond a sense of fine veracity and fitness in the phrase.
At the age of two-and-twenty Mary had certainly not attained that
perfect good sense and good principle which are usually recommended
to the less fortunate girl, as if they were to be obtained in
quantities ready mixed, with a flavor of resignation as required.
Her shrewdness had a streak of satiric bitterness continually
renewed and never carried utterly out of sight, except by a strong
current of gratitude towards those who, instead of telling her
that she ought to be contented, did something to make her so.
Advancing womanhood had tempered her plainness, which was of a good
human sort, such as the mothers of our race have very commonly
worn in all latitudes under a more or less becoming headgear.
Rembrandt would have painted her with pleasure, and would have made
her broad features look out of the canvas with intelligent honesty.
For honesty, truth-telling fairness, was Mary's reigning virtue:
she neither tried to create illusions, nor indulged in them for her
own behoof, and when she was in a good mood she had humor enough
in her to laugh at herself. When she and Rosamond happened both to be
reflected in the glass, she said, laughingly--
"What a brown patch I am by the side of you, Rosy! You are
the most unbecoming companion."
"Oh no! No one thinks of your appearance, you are so sensible
and useful, Mary. Beauty is of very little consequence in reality,"
said Rosamond, turning her head towards Mary, but with eyes swerving
towards the new view of her neck in the glass.
"You mean my beauty," said Mary, rather sardonically.
Rosamond thought, "Poor Mary, she takes the kindest things ill."
Aloud she said, "What have you been doing lately?"
"I? Oh, minding the house--pouring out syrup--pretending to be
amiable and contented--learning to have a bad opinion of everybody."
"It is a wretched life for you."
"No," said Mary, curtly, with a little toss of her head. "I think
my life is pleasanter than your Miss Morgan's."
"Yes; but Miss Morgan is so uninteresting, and not young."
"She is interesting to herself, I suppose; and I am not at all sure
that everything gets easier as one gets older."
"No," said Rosamond, reflectively; "one wonders what such people do,
without any prospect. To be sure, there is religion as a support.
But," she added, dimpling, "it is very different with you,'Mary.
You may have an offer."
"Has any one told you he means to make me one?"
"Of course not. I mean, there is a gentleman who may fall in love
with you, seeing you almost every day."
A certain change in Mary's face was chiefly determined by the resolve
not to show any change.
"Does that always make people fall in love?" she answered, carelessly;
"it seems to me quite as often a reason for detesting each other."
"Not when they are interesting and agreeable. I hear that Mr. Lydgate
"Oh, Mr. Lydgate!" said Mary, with an unmistakable lapse
into indifference. "You want to know something about him,"
she added, not choosing to indulge Rosamond's indirectness.
"Merely, how you like him."
"There is no question of liking at present. My liking always wants
some little kindness to kindle it. I am not magnanimous enough
to like people who speak to me without seeming to see me."
"Is he so haughty?" said Rosamond, with heightened satisfaction.
"You know that he is of good family?"
"No; he did not give that as a reason."
"Mary! you are the oddest girl. But what sort of looking man
is he? Describe him to me."
"How can one describe a man? I can give you an inventory: heavy eyebrows,
dark eyes, a straight nose, thick dark hair, large solid white
hands--and--let me see--oh, an exquisite cambric pocket-handkerchief.
But you will see him. You know this is about the time of his visits."
Rosamond blushed a little, but said, meditatively, "I rather
like a haughty manner. I cannot endure a rattling young man."
"I did not tell you that Mr. Lydgate was haughty; but il y en
a pour tous les gouts, as little Mamselle used to say, and if any
girl can choose the particular sort of conceit she would like,
I should think it is you, Rosy."
"Haughtiness is not conceit; I call Fred conceited."
"I wish no one said any worse of him. He should be more careful.
Mrs. Waule has been telling uncle that Fred is very unsteady."
Mary spoke from a girlish impulse which got the better of her judgment.
There was a vague uneasiness associated with the word "unsteady"
which she hoped Rosamond might say something to dissipate.
But she purposely abstained from mentioning Mrs. Waule's more
"Oh, Fred is horrid!" said Rosamond. She would not have allowed
herself so unsuitable a word to any one but Mary.
"What do you mean by horrid?"
"He is so idle, and makes papa so angry, and says he will not
"I think Fred is quite right."
"How can you say he is quite right, Mary? I thought you had more
sense of religion."
"He is not fit to be a clergyman."
"But he ought to be fit."--"Well, then, he is not what he ought to be.
I know some other people who are in the same case."
"But no one approves of them. I should not like to marry a clergyman;
but there must be clergymen."
"It does not follow that Fred must be one."
"But when papa has been at the expense of educating him for it!
And only suppose, if he should have no fortune left him?"
"I can suppose that very well," said Mary, dryly.
"Then I wonder you can defend Fred," said Rosamond, inclined to push
"I don't defend him," said Mary, laughing; "I would defend any
parish from having him for a clergyman."
"But of course if he were a clergyman, he must be different."
"Yes, he would be a great hypocrite; and he is not that yet."
"It is of no use saying anything to you, Mary. You always take
"Why should I not take his part?" said Mary, lighting up.
"He would take mine. He is the only person who takes the least
trouble to oblige me."
"You make me feel very uncomfortable, Mary," said Rosamond,
with her gravest mildness; "I would not tell mamma for the world."
"What would you not tell her?" said Mary, angrily.
"Pray do not go into a rage, Mary," said Rosamond, mildly as ever.
"If your mamma is afraid that Fred will make me an offer, tell her
that I would not marry him if he asked me. But he is not going
to do so, that I am aware. He certainly never has asked me."
"Mary, you are always so violent."
"And you are always so exasperating."
"I? What can you blame me for?"
"Oh, blameless people are always the most exasperating. There is
the bell--I think we must go down."
"I did not mean to quarrel," said Rosamond, putting on her hat.
"Quarrel? Nonsense; we have not quarrelled. If one is not to get
into a rage sometimes, what is the good of being friends?"
"Am I to repeat what you have said?" "Just as you please. I never
say what I am afraid of having repeated. But let us go down."
Mr. Lydgate was rather late this morning, but the visitors stayed long
enough to see him; for Mr. Featherstone asked Rosamond to sing to him,
and she herself was-so kind as to propose a second favorite song
of his--"Flow on, thou shining river"--after she had sung "Home,
sweet home" (which she detested). This hard-headed old Overreach
approved of the sentimental song, as the suitable garnish for girls,
and also as fundamentally fine, sentiment being the right thing
for a song.
Mr. Featherstone was still applauding the last performance,
and assuring missy that her voice was as clear as a blackbird's,
when Mr. Lydgate's horse passed the window.
His dull expectation of the usual disagreeable routine with an aged
patient--who can hardly believe that medicine would not "set him up"
if the doctor were only clever enough--added to his general disbelief
in Middlemarch charms, made a doubly effective background to this
vision of Rosamond, whom old Featherstone made haste ostentatiously
to introduce as his niece, though he had never thought it worth
while to speak of Mary Garth in that light. Nothing escaped
Lydgate in Rosamond's graceful behavior: how delicately she waived
the notice which the old man's want of taste had thrust upon her
by a quiet gravity, not showing her dimples on the wrong occasion,
but showing them afterwards in speaking to Mary, to whom she
addressed herself with so much good-natured interest, that Lydgate,
after quickly examining Mary more fully than he had done before,
saw an adorable kindness in Rosamond's eyes. But Mary from some
cause looked rather out of temper.
"Miss Rosy has been singing me a song--you've nothing to say
against that, eh, doctor?" said Mr. Featherstone. "I like it
better than your physic."
"That has made me forget how the time was going," said Rosamond,
rising to reach her hat, which she had laid aside before singing,
so that her flower-like head on its white stem was seen in perfection
above-her riding-habit. "Fred, we must really go."
"Very good," said Fred, who had his own reasons for not being
in the best spirits, and wanted to get away.
"Miss Vincy is a musician?" said Lydgate, following her with his eyes.
(Every nerve and muscle in Rosamond was adjusted to the consciousness
that she was being looked at. She was by nature an actress of parts
that entered into her physique: she even acted her own character,
and so well, that she did not know it to be precisely her own.)
"The best in Middlemarch, I'll be bound," said Mr. Featherstone,
"let the next be who she will. Eh, Fred? Speak up for your sister."
"I'm afraid I'm out of court, sir. My evidence would be good
"Middlemarch has not a very high standard, uncle," said Rosamond,
with a pretty lightness, going towards her whip, which lay at
Lydgate was quick in anticipating her. He reached the whip
before she did, and turned to present it to her. She bowed
and looked at him: he of course was looking at her, and their
eyes met with that peculiar meeting which is never arrived at
by effort, but seems like a sudden divine clearance of haze.
I think Lydgate turned a little paler than usual, but Rosamond
blushed deeply and felt a certain astonishment. After that,
she was really anxious to go, and did not know what sort of stupidity
her uncle was talking of when she went to shake hands with him.
Yet this result, which she took to be a mutual impression, called
falling in love, was just what Rosamond had contemplated beforehand.
Ever since that important new arrival in Middlemarch she had
woven a little future, of which something like this scene was
the necessary beginning. Strangers, whether wrecked and clinging
to a raft, or duly escorted and accompanied by portmanteaus,
have always had a circumstantial fascination for the virgin mind,
against which native merit has urged itself in vain. And a stranger
was absolutely necessary to Rosamond's social romance, which had
always turned on a lover and bridegroom who was not a Middlemarcher,
and who had no connections at all like her own: of late, indeed,
the construction seemed to demand that he should somehow be
related to a baronet. Now that she and the stranger had met,
reality proved much more moving than anticipation, and Rosamond
could not doubt that this was the great epoch of her life.
She judged of her own symptoms as those of awakening love, and she
held it still more natural that Mr. Lydgate should have fallen
in love at first sight of her. These things happened so often
at balls, and why not by the morning light, when the complexion
showed all the better for it? Rosamond, though no older than Mary,
was rather used to being fallen in love with; but she, for her part,
had remained indifferent and fastidiously critical towards both
fresh sprig and faded bachelor. And here was Mr. Lydgate suddenly
corresponding to her ideal, being altogether foreign to Middlemarch,
carrying a certain air of distinction congruous with good family,
and possessing connections which offered vistas of that middle-class heaven,
rank: a man of talent, also, whom it would be especially delightful
to enslave: in fact, a man who had touched her nature quite newly,
and brought a vivid interest into her life which was better than
any fancied "might-be" such as she was in the habit of opposing to the actual.
Thus, in riding home, both the brother and the sister were preoccupied
and inclined to be silent. Rosamond, whose basis for her structure
had the usual airy slightness, was of remarkably detailed and
realistic imagination when the foundation had been once presupposed;
and before they had ridden a mile she was far on in the costume
and introductions of her wedded life, having determined on her
house in Middle-march, and foreseen the visits she would pay
to her husband's high-bred relatives at a distance, whose finished
manners she could appropriate as thoroughly as she had done
her school accomplishments, preparing herself thus for vaguer
elevations which might ultimately come. There was nothing financial,
still less sordid, in her previsions: she cared about what were
considered refinements, and not about the money that was to pay for them.
Fred's mind, on the other hand, was busy with an anxiety which
even his ready hopefulness could not immediately quell. He saw
no way of eluding Featherstone's stupid demand without incurring
consequences which he liked less even than the task of fulfilling it.
His father was already out of humor with him, and would be still
more so if he were the occasion of any additional coolness between
his own family and the Bulstrodes. Then, he himself hated having
to go and speak to his uncle Bulstrode, and perhaps after drinking
wine he had said many foolish things about Featherstone's property,
and these had been magnified by report. Fred felt that he made
a wretched figure as a fellow who bragged about expectations from
a queer old miser like Featherstone, and went to beg for certificates
at his bidding. But--those expectations! He really had them,
and he saw no agreeable alternative if he gave them up; besides,
he had lately made a debt which galled him extremely, and old
Featherstone had almost bargained to pay it off. The whole affair
was miserably small: his debts were small, even his expectations
were not anything so very magnificent. Fred had known men to whom he
would have been ashamed of confessing the smallness of his scrapes.
Such ruminations naturally produced a streak of misanthropic bitterness.
To be born the son of a Middlemarch manufacturer, and inevitable
heir to nothing in particular, while such men as Mainwaring and
Vyan--certainly life was a poor business, when a spirited young fellow,
with a good appetite for the best of everything, had so poor an outlook.
It had not occurred to Fred that the introduction of Bulstrode's name
in the matter was a fiction of old Featherstone's; nor could this
have made any difference to his position. He saw plainly enough
that the old man wanted to exercise his power by tormenting him
a little, and also probably to get some satisfaction out of seeing
him on unpleasant terms with Bulstrode. Fred fancied that he saw
to the bottom of his uncle Featherstone's soul, though in reality half
what he saw there was no more than the reflex of his own inclinations.
The difficult task of knowing another soul is not for young
gentlemen whose consciousness is chiefly made up of their own wishes.
Fred's main point of debate with himself was, whether he should tell
his father, or try to get through the affair without his father's
knowledge. It was probably Mrs. Waule who had been talking about him;
and if Mary Garth had repeated Mrs. Waule's report to Rosamond,
it would be sure to reach his father, who would as surely question
him about it. He said to Rosamond, as they slackened their pace--
"Rosy, did Mary tell you that Mrs. Waule had said anything about me?"
"Yes, indeed, she did."
"That you were very unsteady."
"Was that all?"
"I should think that was enough, Fred."
"You are sure she said no more?"
"Mary mentioned nothing else. But really, Fred, I think you ought
to be ashamed."
"Oh, fudge! Don't lecture me. What did Mary say about it?"
"I am not obliged to tell you. You care so very much what Mary says,
and you are too rude to allow me to speak."
"Of course I care what Mary says. She is the best girl I know."
"I should never have thought she was a girl to fall in love with."
"How do you know what men would fall in love with? Girls never know."
"At least, Fred, let me advise YOU not to fall in love with her,
for she says she would not marry you if you asked her."
"She might have waited till I did ask her."
"I knew it would nettle you, Fred."
"Not at all. She would not have said so if you had not provoked her."
Before reaching home, Fred concluded that he would tell the whole
affair as simply as possible to his father, who might perhaps take
on himself the unpleasant business of speaking to Bulstrode.