Part 12 out of 18
when you leave off, and how clearly you can explain things.
And you care that justice should be done to every one. I am so glad.
When we were in Rome, I thought you only cared for poetry and art,
and the things that adorn life for us who are well off.
But now I know you think about the rest of the world."
While she was speaking Dorothea had lost her personal embarrassment,
and had become like her former self. She looked at Will with a
direct glance, full of delighted confidence.
"You approve of my going away for years, then, and never coming
here again till I have made myself of some mark in the world?"
said Will, trying hard to reconcile the utmost pride with the utmost
effort to get an expression of strong feeling from Dorothea.
She was not aware how long it was before she answered. She had
turned her head and was looking out of the window on the rose-bushes,
which seemed to have in them the summers of all the years when Will
would be away. This was not judicious behavior. But Dorothea never
thought of studying her manners: she thought only of bowing to a sad
necessity which divided her from Will. Those first words of his
about his intentions had seemed to make everything clear to her:
he knew, she supposed, all about Mr. Casaubon's final conduct in
relation to him, and it had come to him with the same sort of shock
as to herself. He had never felt more than friendship for her--
had never had anything in his mind to justify what she felt to be
her husband's outrage on the feelings of both: and that friendship
he still felt. Something which may be called an inward silent
sob had gone on in Dorothea before she said with a pure voice,
just trembling in the last words as if only from its liquid flexibility--
"Yes, it must be right for you to do as you say. I shall be
very happy when I hear that you have made your value felt.
But you must have patience. It will perhaps be a long while."
Will never quite knew how it was that he saved himself from falling
down at her feet, when the "long while" came forth with its
gentle tremor. He used to say that the horrible hue and surface
of her crape dress was most likely the sufficient controlling force.
He sat still, however, and only said--
"I shall never hear from you. And you will forget all about me."
"No," said Dorothea, "I shall never forget you. I have never
forgotten any one whom I once knew. My life has never been crowded,
and seems not likely to be so. And I have a great deal of space
for memory at Lowick, haven't I?" She smiled.
"Good God!" Will burst out passionately, rising, with his hat still
in his hand, and walking away to a marble table, where he suddenly
turned and leaned his back against it. The blood had mounted to his
face and neck, and he looked almost angry. It had seemed to him
as if they were like two creatures slowly turning to marble in each
other's presence, while their hearts were conscious and their eyes
were yearning. But there was no help for it. It should never be true
of him that in this meeting to which he had come with bitter resolution
he had ended by a confession which might be interpreted into asking
for her fortune. Moreover, it was actually true that he was fearful
of the effect which such confessions might have on Dorothea herself.
She looked at him from that distance in some trouble, imagining that
there might have been an offence in her words. But all the while
there was a current of thought in her about his probable want
of money, and the impossibility of her helping him. If her uncle
had been at home, something might have been done through him!
It was this preoccupation with the hardship of Will's wanting money,
while she had what ought to have been his share, which led her to say,
seeing that he remained silent and looked away from her--
"I wonder whether you would like to have that miniature
which hangs up-stairs--I mean that beautiful miniature of
your grandmother. I think it is not right for me to keep it,
if you would wish to have it. It is wonderfully like you."
"You are very good," said Will, irritably. "No; I don't mind
about it. It is not very consoling to have one's own likeness.
It would be more consoling if others wanted to have it."
"I thought you would like to cherish her memory--I thought--"
Dorothea broke off an instant, her imagination suddenly warning
her away from Aunt Julia's history--"you would surely like to have
the miniature as a family memorial."
"Why should I have that, when I have nothing else! A man with only
a portmanteau for his stowage must keep his memorials in his head."
Will spoke at random: he was merely venting his petulance;
it was a little too exasperating to have his grandmother's portrait
offered him at that moment. But to Dorothea's feeling his words
had a peculiar sting. She rose and said with a touch of indignation
as well as hauteur--
"You are much the happier of us two, Mr. Ladislaw, to have nothing."
Will was startled. Whatever the words might be, the tone seemed
like a dismissal; and quitting his leaning posture, he walked
a little way towards her. Their eyes met, but with a strange
questioning gravity. Something was keeping their minds aloof,
and each was left to conjecture what was in the other. Will had
really never thought of himself as having a claim of inheritance
on the property which was held by Dorothea, and would have required
a narrative to make him understand her present feeling.
"I never felt it a misfortune to have nothing till now," he said.
"But poverty may be as bad as leprosy, if it divides us from what we
most care for."
The words cut Dorothea to the heart, and made her relent.
She answered in a tone of sad fellowship.
"Sorrow comes in so many ways. Two years ago I had no notion of that--
I mean of the unexpected way in which trouble comes, and ties our hands,
and makes us silent when we long to speak. I used to despise women
a little for not shaping their lives more, and doing better things.
I was very fond of doing as I liked, but I have almost given it up,"
she ended, smiling playfully.
"I have not given up doing as I like, but I can very seldom do it,"
said Will. He was standing two yards from her with his mind full
of contradictory desires and resolves--desiring some unmistakable
proof that she loved him, and yet dreading the position into which
such a proof might bring him. "The thing one most longs for may
be surrounded with conditions that would be intolerable."
At this moment Pratt entered and said, "Sir James Chettam
is in the library, madam."
"Ask Sir James to come in here," said Dorothea, immediately. It was
as if the same electric shock had passed through her and Will.
Each of them felt proudly resistant, and neither looked at the other,
while they awaited Sir James's entrance.
After shaking hands with Dorothea, he bowed as slightly as possible
to Ladislaw, who repaid the slightness exactly, and then going
towards Dorothea, said--
"I must say good-by, Mrs. Casaubon; and probably for a long while."
Dorothea put out her hand and said her good-by cordially. The sense
that Sir James was depreciating Will, and behaving rudely to him,
roused her resolution and dignity: there was no touch of confusion
in her manner. And when Will had left the room, she looked with
such calm self-possession at Sir James, saying, "How is Celia?"
that he was obliged to behave as if nothing had annoyed him.
And what would be the use of behaving otherwise? Indeed, Sir James
shrank with so much dislike from the association even in thought
of Dorothea with Ladislaw as her possible lover, that he would himself
have wished to avoid an outward show of displeasure which would
have recognized the disagreeable possibility. If any one had asked
him why he shrank in that way, I am not sure that he would at first
have said anything fuller or more precise than "_That_ Ladislaw!"--
though on reflection he might have urged that Mr. Casaubon's codicil,
barring Dorothea's marriage with Will, except under a penalty,
was enough to cast unfitness over any relation at all between them.
His aversion was all the stronger because he felt himself unable
But Sir James was a power in a way unguessed by himself. Entering
at that moment, he was an incorporation of the strongest reasons
through which Will's pride became a repellent force, keeping him
asunder from Dorothea.
Hath she her faults? I would you had them too.
They are the fruity must of soundest wine;
Or say, they are regenerating fire
Such as hath turned the dense black element
Into a crystal pathway for the sun.
If youth is the season of hope, it is often so only in the sense
that our elders are hopeful about us; for no age is so apt as youth
to think its emotions, partings, and resolves are the last of
their kind. Each crisis seems final, simply because it is new.
We are told that the oldest inhabitants in Peru do not cease to be
agitated by the earthquakes, but they probably see beyond each shock,
and reflect that there are plenty more to come.
To Dorothea, still in that time of youth when the eyes with their long
full lashes look out after their rain of tears unsoiled and unwearied
as a freshly opened passion-flower, that morning's parting with Will
Ladislaw seemed to be the close of their personal relations.
He was going away into the distance of unknown years, and if ever he
came back he would be another man. The actual state of his mind--
his proud resolve to give the lie beforehand to any suspicion
that he would play the needy adventurer seeking a rich woman--
lay quite out of her imagination, and she had interpreted all his
behavior easily enough by her supposition that Mr. Casaubon's codicil
seemed to him, as it did to her, a gross and cruel interdict on
any active friendship between them. Their young delight in speaking
to each other, and saying what no one else would care to hear,
was forever ended, and become a treasure of the past. For this
very reason she dwelt on it without inward check. That unique
happiness too was dead, and in its shadowed silent chamber she
might vent the passionate grief which she herself wondered at.
For the first time she took down the miniature from the wall and kept
it before her, liking to blend the woman who had been too hardly
judged with the grandson whom her own heart and judgment defended.
Can any one who has rejoiced in woman's tenderness think it a reproach
to her that she took the little oval picture in her palm and made
a bed for it there, and leaned her cheek upon it, as if that would
soothe the creatures who had suffered unjust condemnation?
She did not know then that it was Love who had come to her briefly,
as in a dream before awaking, with the hues of morning on his wings--
that it was Love to whom she was sobbing her farewell as his image
was banished by the blameless rigor of irresistible day. She only
felt that there was something irrevocably amiss and lost in her lot,
and her thoughts about the future were the more readily shapen
into resolve. Ardent souls, ready to construct their coming lives,
are apt to commit themselves to the fulfilment of their own visions.
One day that she went to Freshitt to fulfil her promise of staying
all night and seeing baby washed, Mrs. Cadwallader came to dine,
the Rector being gone on a fishing excursion. It was a warm evening,
and even in the delightful drawing-room, where the fine old turf sloped
from the open window towards a lilied pool and well-planted mounds,
the heat was enough to make Celia in her white muslin and light curls
reflect with pity on what Dodo must feel in her black dress and
close cap. But this was not until some episodes with baby were over,
and had left her mind at leisure. She had seated herself and taken
up a fan for some time before she said, in her quiet guttural--
"Dear Dodo, do throw off that cap. I am sure your dress must make
you feel ill."
"I am so used to the cap--it has become a sort of shell,"
said Dorothea, smiling. "I feel rather bare and exposed when it
"I must see you without it; it makes us all warm," said Celia,
throwing down her fan, and going to Dorothea. It was a pretty picture
to see this little lady in white muslin unfastening the widow's
cap from her more majestic sister, and tossing it on to a chair.
Just as the coils and braids of dark-brown hair had been set free,
Sir James entered the room. He looked at the released head, and said,
"Ah!" in a tone of satisfaction.
"It was I who did it, James," said Celia. "Dodo need not make
such a slavery of her mourning; she need not wear that cap any
more among her friends."
"My dear Celia," said Lady Chettam, "a widow must wear her
mourning at least a year."
"Not if she marries again before the end of it," said Mrs. Cadwallader,
who had some pleasure in startling her good friend the Dowager.
Sir James was annoyed, and leaned forward to play with Celia's
"That is very rare, I hope," said Lady Chettam, in a tone intended
to guard against such events. "No friend of ours ever committed
herself in that way except Mrs. Beevor, and it was very painful to
Lord Grinsell when she did so. Her first husband was objectionable,
which made it the greater wonder. And severely she was punished
for it. They said Captain Beevor dragged her about by the hair,
and held up loaded pistols at her."
"Oh, if she took the wrong man!" said Mrs. Cadwallader, who was in a
decidedly wicked mood. "Marriage is always bad then, first or second.
Priority is a poor recommendation in a husband if he has got no other.
I would rather have a good second husband than an indifferent first."
"My dear, your clever tongue runs away with you," said Lady Chettam.
"I am sure you would be the last woman to marry again prematurely,
if our dear Rector were taken away."
"Oh, I make no vows; it might be a necessary economy. It is
lawful to marry again, I suppose; else we might as well be Hindoos
instead of Christians. Of course if a woman accepts the wrong man,
she must take the consequences, and one who does it twice over
deserves her fate. But if she can marry blood, beauty, and bravery--
the sooner the better."
"I think the subject of our conversation is very ill-chosen,"
said Sir James, with a look of disgust. "Suppose we change it."
"Not on my account, Sir James," said Dorothea, determined not to lose
the opportunity of freeing herself from certain oblique references
to excellent matches. "If you are speaking on my behalf, I can
assure you that no question can be more indifferent and impersonal
to me than second marriage. It is no more to me than if you talked
of women going fox-hunting: whether it is admirable in them or not,
I shall not follow them. Pray let Mrs. Cadwallader amuse herself
on that subject as much as on any other."
"My dear Mrs. Casaubon," said Lady Chettam, in her stateliest way,
"you do not, I hope, think there was any allusion to you in my
mentioning Mrs. Beevor. It was only an instance that occurred to me.
She was step-daughter to Lord Grinsell: he married Mrs. Teveroy
for his second wife. There could be no possible allusion to you."
"Oh no," said Celia. "Nobody chose the subject; it all came out
of Dodo's cap. Mrs. Cadwallader only said what was quite true.
A woman could not be married in a widow's cap, James."
"Hush, my dear!" said Mrs. Cadwallader. "I will not offend again.
I will not even refer to Dido or Zenobia. Only what are we to
talk about? I, for my part, object to the discussion of Human Nature,
because that is the nature of rectors' wives."
Later in the evening, after Mrs. Cadwallader was gone, Celia said
privately to Dorothea, "Really, Dodo, taking your cap off made
you like yourself again in more ways than one. You spoke up just
as you used to do, when anything was said to displease you. But I
could hardly make out whether it was James that you thought wrong,
or Mrs. Cadwallader."
"Neither," said Dorothea. "James spoke out of delicacy to me, but he
was mistaken in supposing that I minded what Mrs. Cadwallader said.
I should only mind if there were a law obliging me to take any piece
of blood and beauty that she or anybody else recommended."
"But you know, Dodo, if you ever did marry, it would be all the better
to have blood and beauty," said Celia, reflecting that Mr. Casaubon
had not been richly endowed with those gifts, and that it would
be well to caution Dorothea in time.
"Don't be anxious, Kitty; I have quite other thoughts about my life.
I shall never marry again," said Dorothea, touching her sister's chin,
and looking at her with indulgent affection. Celia was nursing
her baby, and Dorothea had come to say good-night to her.
"Really--quite?" said Celia. "Not anybody at all--if he were
very wonderful indeed?"
Dorothea shook her head slowly. "Not anybody at all. I have
delightful plans. I should like to take a great deal of land,
and drain it, and make a little colony, where everybody should work,
and all the work should be done well. I should know every one of the
people and be their friend. I am going to have great consultations
with Mr. Garth: he can tell me almost everything I want to know."
"Then you _will_ be happy, if you have a plan, Dodo?" said Celia.
"Perhaps little Arthur will like plans when he grows up, and then he
can help you."
Sir James was informed that same night that Dorothea was really
quite set against marrying anybody at all, and was going to take
to "all sorts of plans," just like what she used to have.
Sir James made no remark. To his secret feeling there was something
repulsive in a woman's second marriage, and no match would prevent
him from feeling it a sort of desecration for Dorothea. He was
aware that the world would regard such a sentiment as preposterous,
especially in relation to a woman of one-and-twenty; the practice
of "the world" being to treat of a young widow's second marriage
as certain and probably near, and to smile with meaning if the widow
acts accordingly. But if Dorothea did choose to espouse her solitude,
he felt that the resolution would well become her.
"How happy is he born and taught
That serveth not another's will;
Whose armor is his honest thought,
And simple truth his only skill!
. . . . . . .
This man is freed from servile bands
Of hope to rise or fear to fall;
Lord of himself though not of lands;
And having nothing yet hath all."
--SIR HENRY WOTTON.
Dorothea's confidence in Caleb Garth's knowledge, which had begun
on her hearing that he approved of her cottages, had grown fast
during her stay at Freshitt, Sir James having induced her to take
rides over the two estates in company with himself and Caleb,
who quite returned her admiration, and told his wife that Mrs. Casaubon
had a head for business most uncommon in a woman. It must be
remembered that by "business" Caleb never meant money transactions,
but the skilful application of labor.
"Most uncommon!" repeated Caleb. "She said a thing I often used
to think myself when I was a lad:--`Mr. Garth, I should like
to feel, if I lived to be old, that I had improved a great piece
of land and built a great many good cottages, because the work
is of a healthy kind while it is being done, and after it is done,
men are the better for it.' Those were the very words: she sees
into things in that way."
"But womanly, I hope," said Mrs. Garth, half suspecting that
Mrs. Casaubon might not hold the true principle of subordination.
"Oh, you can't think!" said Caleb, shaking his head. "You would
like to hear her speak, Susan. She speaks in such plain words,
and a voice like music. Bless me! it reminds me of bits in the
`Messiah'--`and straightway there appeared a multitude of the
heavenly host, praising God and saying;' it has a tone with it
that satisfies your ear."
Caleb was very fond of music, and when he could afford it went
to hear an oratorio that came within his reach, returning from it
with a profound reverence for this mighty structure of tones,
which made him sit meditatively, looking on the floor and throwing
much unutterable language into his outstretched hands.
With this good understanding between them, it was natural that Dorothea
asked Mr. Garth to undertake any business connected with the three
farms and the numerous tenements attached to Lowick Manor; indeed,
his expectation of getting work for two was being fast fulfilled.
As he said, "Business breeds." And one form of business which was
beginning to breed just then was the construction of railways.
A projected line was to run through Lowick parish where the
cattle had hitherto grazed in a peace unbroken by astonishment;
and thus it happened that the infant struggles of the railway system
entered into the affairs of Caleb Garth, and determined the course
of this history with regard to two persons who were dear to him.
The submarine railway may have its difficulties; but the bed of the
sea is not divided among various landed proprietors with claims
for damages not only measurable but sentimental. In the hundred
to which Middlemarch belonged railways were as exciting a topic as the
Reform Bill or the imminent horrors of Cholera, and those who held
the most decided views on the subject were women and landholders.
Women both old and young regarded travelling by steam as presumptuous
and dangerous, and argued against it by saying that nothing should
induce them to get into a railway carriage; while proprietors,
differing from each other in their arguments as much as Mr. Solomon
Featherstone differed from Lord Medlicote, were yet unanimous in the
opinion that in selling land, whether to the Enemy of mankind or to a
company obliged to purchase, these pernicious agencies must be made
to pay a very high price to landowners for permission to injure mankind.
But the slower wits, such as Mr. Solomon and Mrs. Waule,
who both occupied land of their own, took a long time to
arrive at this conclusion, their minds halting at the vivid
conception of what it would be to cut the Big Pasture in two,
and turn it into three-cornered bits, which would be "nohow;"
while accommodation-bridges and high payments were remote and incredible.
"The cows will all cast their calves, brother," said Mrs. Waule, in a
tone of deep melancholy, "if the railway comes across the Near Close;
and I shouldn't wonder at the mare too, if she was in foal.
It's a poor tale if a widow's property is to be spaded away,
and the law say nothing to it. What's to hinder 'em from cutting
right and left if they begin? It's well known, _I_ can't fight."
"The best way would be to say nothing, and set somebody on to send 'em
away with a flea in their ear, when they came spying and measuring,"
said Solomon. "Folks did that about Brassing, by what I can understand.
It's all a pretence, if the truth was known, about their being
forced to take one way. Let 'em go cutting in another parish.
And I don't believe in any pay to make amends for bringing a lot
of ruffians to trample your crops. Where's a company's pocket?"
"Brother Peter, God forgive him, got money out of a company,"
said Mrs. Waule. "But that was for the manganese. That wasn't
for railways to blow you to pieces right and left."
"Well, there's this to be said, Jane," Mr. Solomon concluded,
lowering his voice in a cautious manner--"the more spokes we put
in their wheel, the more they'll pay us to let 'em go on, if they
must come whether or not."
This reasoning of Mr. Solomon's was perhaps less thorough than
he imagined, his cunning bearing about the same relation to the course
of railways as the cunning of a diplomatist bears to the general
chill or catarrh of the solar system. But he set about acting on his
views in a thoroughly diplomatic manner, by stimulating suspicion.
His side of Lowick was the most remote from the village, and the
houses of the laboring people were either lone cottages or were
collected in a hamlet called Frick, where a water-mill and some
stone-pits made a little centre of slow, heavy-shouldered industry.
In the absence of any precise idea as to what railways were,
public opinion in Frick was against them; for the human mind in that
grassy corner had not the proverbial tendency to admire the unknown,
holding rather that it was likely to be against the poor man,
and that suspicion was the only wise attitude with regard to it.
Even the rumor of Reform had not yet excited any millennial expectations
in Frick, there being no definite promise in it, as of gratuitous
grains to fatten Hiram Ford's pig, or of a publican at the "Weights
and Scales" who would brew beer for nothing, or of an offer on the
part of the three neighboring farmers to raise wages during winter.
And without distinct good of this kind in its promises, Reform seemed
on a footing with the bragging of pedlers, which was a hint for
distrust to every knowing person. The men of Frick were not ill-fed,
and were less given to fanaticism than to a strong muscular suspicion;
less inclined to believe that they were peculiarly cared for by heaven,
than to regard heaven itself as rather disposed to take them in--
a disposition observable in the weather.
Thus the mind of Frick was exactly of the sort for Mr. Solomon
Featherstone to work upon, he having more plenteous ideas of the
same order, with a suspicion of heaven and earth which was better
fed and more entirely at leisure. Solomon was overseer of the
roads at that time, and on his slow-paced cob often took his
rounds by Frick to look at the workmen getting the stones there,
pausing with a mysterious deliberation, which might have misled
you into supposing that he had some other reason for staying
than the mere want of impulse to move. After looking for a long
while at any work that was going on, he would raise his eyes a
little and look at the horizon; finally he would shake his bridle,
touch his horse with the whip, and get it to move slowly onward.
The hour-hand of a clock was quick by comparison with Mr. Solomon,
who had an agreeable sense that he could afford to be slow.
He was in the habit of pausing for a cautious, vaguely designing chat
with every hedger or ditcher on his way, and was especially willing
to listen even to news which he had heard before, feeling himself
at an advantage over all narrators in partially disbelieving them.
One day, however, he got into a dialogue with Hiram Ford, a wagoner,
in which he himself contributed information. He wished to know whether
Hiram had seen fellows with staves and instruments spying about:
they called themselves railroad people, but there was no telling
what they were or what they meant to do. The least they pretended
was that they were going to cut Lowick Parish into sixes and sevens.
"Why, there'll be no stirrin' from one pla-ace to another,"
said Hiram, thinking of his wagon and horses.
"Not a bit," said Mr. Solomon. "And cutting up fine land such as
this parish! Let 'em go into Tipton, say I. But there's no knowing
what there is at the bottom of it. Traffic is what they put for'ard;
but it's to do harm to the land and the poor man in the long-run."
"Why, they're Lunnon chaps, I reckon," said Hiram, who had a dim
notion of London as a centre of hostility to the country.
"Ay, to be sure. And in some parts against Brassing, by what I've
heard say, the folks fell on 'em when they were spying, and broke
their peep-holes as they carry, and drove 'em away, so as they knew
better than come again."
"It war good foon, I'd be bound," said Hiram, whose fun was much
restricted by circumstances.
"Well, I wouldn't meddle with 'em myself," said Solomon.
"But some say this country's seen its best days, and the sign is,
as it's being overrun with these fellows trampling right and left,
and wanting to cut it up into railways; and all for the big traffic
to swallow up the little, so as there shan't be a team left on the land,
nor a whip to crack."
"I'll crack _my_ whip about their ear'n, afore they bring it
to that, though," said Hiram, while Mr. Solomon, shaking his bridle,
Nettle-seed needs no digging. The ruin of this countryside by
railroads was discussed, not only at the "Weights and Scales,"
but in the hay-field, where the muster of working hands gave
opportunities for talk such as were rarely had through the rural year.
One morning, not long after that interview between Mr. Farebrother
and Mary Garth, in which she confessed to him her feeling for
Fred Vincy, it happened that her father had some business which took
him to Yoddrell's farm in the direction of Frick: it was to measure
and value an outlying piece of land belonging to Lowick Manor,
which Caleb expected to dispose of advantageously for Dorothea (it
must be confessed that his bias was towards getting the best possible
terms from railroad companies). He put up his gig at Yoddrell's, and in
walking with his assistant and measuring-chain to the scene of his work,
he encountered the party of the company's agents, who were adjusting
their spirit-level. After a little chat he left them, observing that
by-and-by they would reach him again where he was going to measure.
It was one of those gray mornings after light rains, which become
delicious about twelve o'clock, when the clouds part a little,
and the scent of the earth is sweet along the lanes and by the hedgerows.
The scent would have been sweeter to Fred Vincy, who was coming
along the lanes on horseback, if his mind had not been worried
by unsuccessful efforts to imagine what he was to do, with his
father on one side expecting him straightway to enter the Church,
with Mary on the other threatening to forsake him if he did enter it,
and with the working-day world showing no eager need whatever
of a young gentleman without capital and generally unskilled.
It was the harder to Fred's disposition because his father,
satisfied that he was no longer rebellious, was in good humor with him,
and had sent him on this pleasant ride to see after some greyhounds.
Even when he had fixed on what he should do, there would be the task
of telling his father. But it must be admitted that the fixing,
which had to come first, was the more difficult task:--what secular
avocation on earth was there for a young man (whose friends could
not get him an "appointment") which was at once gentlemanly,
lucrative, and to be followed without special knowledge?
Riding along the lanes by Frick in this mood, and slackening
his pace while he reflected whether he should venture to go round
by Lowick Parsonage to call on Mary, he could see over the hedges
from one field to another. Suddenly a noise roused his attention,
and on the far side of a field on his left hand he could see six
or seven men in smock-frocks with hay-forks in their hands making
an offensive approach towards the four railway agents who were
facing them, while Caleb Garth and his assistant were hastening
across the field to join the threatened group. Fred, delayed a few
moments by having to find the gate, could not gallop up to the spot
before the party in smock-frocks, whose work of turning the hay
had not been too pressing after swallowing their mid-day beer,
were driving the men in coats before them with their hay-forks;
while Caleb Garth's assistant, a lad of seventeen, who had snatched
up the spirit-level at Caleb's order, had been knocked down and
seemed to be lying helpless. The coated men had the advantage
as runners, and Fred covered their retreat by getting in front
of the smock-frocks and charging them suddenly enough to throw
their chase into confusion. "What do you confounded fools mean?"
shouted Fred, pursuing the divided group in a zigzag, and cutting
right and left with his whip. "I'll swear to every one of you
before the magistrate. You've knocked the lad down and killed him,
for what I know. You'll every one of you be hanged at the next assizes,
if you don't mind," said Fred, who afterwards laughed heartily as he
remembered his own phrases.
The laborers had been driven through the gate-way into their
hay-field, and Fred had checked his horse, when Hiram Ford,
observing himself at a safe challenging distance, turned back
and shouted a defiance which he did not know to be Homeric.
"Yo're a coward, yo are. Yo git off your horse, young measter,
and I'll have a round wi' ye, I wull. Yo daredn't come on wi'out
your hoss an' whip. I'd soon knock the breath out on ye, I would."
"Wait a minute, and I'll come back presently, and have a round
with you all in turn, if you like," said Fred, who felt confidence
in his power of boxing with his dearly beloved brethren. But just
now he wanted to hasten back to Caleb and the prostrate youth.
The lad's ankle was strained, and he was in much pain from it,
but he was no further hurt, and Fred placed him on the horse that he
might ride to Yoddrell's and be taken care of there.
"Let them put the horse in the stable, and tell the surveyors they
can come back for their traps," said Fred. "The ground is clear now."
"No, no," said Caleb, "here's a breakage. They'll have to give up
for to-day, and it will be as well. Here, take the things before you
on the horse, Tom. They'll see you coming, and they'll turn back."
"I'm glad I happened to be here at the right moment, Mr. Garth,"
said Fred, as Tom rode away. "No knowing what might have happened
if the cavalry had not come up in time."
"Ay, ay, it was lucky," said Caleb, speaking rather absently,
and looking towards the spot where he had been at work at the moment
of interruption. "But--deuce take it--this is what comes of men
being fools--I'm hindered of my day's work. I can't get along
without somebody to help me with the measuring-chain. However!"
He was beginning to move towards the spot with a look of vexation,
as if he had forgotten Fred's presence, but suddenly he turned round
and said quickly, "What have you got to do to-day, young fellow?"
"Nothing, Mr. Garth. I'll help you with pleasure--can I?" said Fred,
with a sense that he should be courting Mary when he was helping
"Well, you mustn't mind stooping and getting hot."
"I don't mind anything. Only I want to go first and have a round
with that hulky fellow who turned to challenge me. It would
be a good lesson for him. I shall not be five minutes."
"Nonsense!" said Caleb, with his most peremptory intonation.
"I shall go and speak to the men myself. It's all ignorance.
Somebody has been telling them lies. The poor fools don't know
"I shall go with you, then," said Fred.
"No, no; stay where you are. I don't want your young blood.
I can take care of myself."
Caleb was a powerful man and knew little of any fear except the fear
of hurting others and the fear of having to speechify. But he felt
it his duty at this moment to try and give a little harangue.
There was a striking mixture in him--which came from his having
always been a hard-working man himself--of rigorous notions about
workmen and practical indulgence towards them. To do a good day's
work and to do it well, he held to be part of their welfare, as it
was the chief part of his own happiness; but he had a strong sense
of fellowship with them. When he advanced towards the laborers
they had not gone to work again, but were standing in that form
of rural grouping which consists in each turning a shoulder towards
the other, at a distance of two or three yards. They looked
rather sulkily at Caleb, who walked quickly with one hand in his
pocket and the other thrust between the buttons of his waistcoat,
and had his every-day mild air when he paused among them.
"Why, my lads, how's this?" he began, taking as usual to brief phrases,
which seemed pregnant to himself, because he had many thoughts lying
under them, like the abundant roots of a plant that just manages to
peep above the water. "How came you to make such a mistake as this?
Somebody has been telling you lies. You thought those men up there
wanted to do mischief."
"Aw!" was the answer, dropped at intervals by each according
to his degree of unreadiness.
"Nonsense! No such thing! They're looking out to see which way the
railroad is to take. Now, my lads, you can't hinder the railroad:
it will be made whether you like it or not. And if you go fighting
against it, you'll get yourselves into trouble. The law gives
those men leave to come here on the land. The owner has nothing
to say against it, and if you meddle with them you'll have to do
with the constable and Justice Blakesley, and with the handcuffs
and Middlemarch jail. And you might be in for it now, if anybody
informed against you."
Caleb paused here, and perhaps the greatest orator could not have
chosen either his pause or his images better for the occasion.
"But come, you didn't mean any harm. Somebody told you the railroad
was a bad thing. That was a lie. It may do a bit of harm here
and there, to this and to that; and so does the sun in heaven.
But the railway's a good thing."
"Aw! good for the big folks to make money out on," said old
Timothy Cooper, who had stayed behind turning his hay while
the others had been gone on their spree;--"I'n seen lots o'
things turn up sin' I war a young un--the war an' the peace,
and the canells, an' the oald King George, an' the Regen', an'
the new King George, an' the new un as has got a new ne-ame--an'
it's been all aloike to the poor mon. What's the canells been t' him?
They'n brought him neyther me-at nor be-acon, nor wage to lay by,
if he didn't save it wi' clemmin' his own inside. Times ha'
got wusser for him sin' I war a young un. An' so it'll be wi'
the railroads. They'll on'y leave the poor mon furder behind.
But them are fools as meddle, and so I told the chaps here.
This is the big folks's world, this is. But yo're for the big folks,
Muster Garth, yo are."
Timothy was a wiry old laborer, of a type lingering in those times--
who had his savings in a stocking-foot, lived in a lone cottage,
and was not to be wrought on by any oratory, having as little of
the feudal spirit, and believing as little, as if he had not been
totally unacquainted with the Age of Reason and the Rights of Man.
Caleb was in a difficulty known to any person attempting in dark
times and unassisted by miracle to reason with rustics who are in
possession of an undeniable truth which they know through a hard
process of feeling, and can let it fall like a giant's club on your
neatly carved argument for a social benefit which they do not feel.
Caleb had no cant at command, even if he could have chosen to use it;
and he had been accustomed to meet all such difficulties in no other
way than by doing his "business" faithfully. He answered--
"If you don't think well of me, Tim, never mind; that's neither here
nor there now. Things may be bad for the poor man--bad they are;
but I want the lads here not to do what will make things worse
for themselves. The cattle may have a heavy load, but it won't
help 'em to throw it over into the roadside pit, when it's partly
their own fodder."
"We war on'y for a bit o' foon," said Hiram, who was beginning
to see consequences. "That war all we war arter."
"Well, promise me not to meddle again, and I'll see that nobody
informs against you."
"I'n ne'er meddled, an' I'n no call to promise," said Timothy.
"No, but the rest. Come, I'm as hard at work as any of you
to-day, and I can't spare much time. Say you'll be quiet without
"Aw, we wooant meddle--they may do as they loike for oos"--
were the forms in which Caleb got his pledges; and then he hastened
back to Fred, who had followed him, and watched him in the gateway.
They went to work, and Fred helped vigorously. His spirits had risen,
and he heartily enjoyed a good slip in the moist earth under
the hedgerow, which soiled his perfect summer trousers. Was it his
successful onset which had elated him, or the satisfaction of helping
Mary's father? Something more. The accidents of the morning had
helped his frustrated imagination to shape an employment for himself
which had several attractions. I am not sure that certain fibres
in Mr. Garth's mind had not resumed their old vibration towards
the very end which now revealed itself to Fred. For the effective
accident is but the touch of fire where there is oil and tow; and it
al ways appeared to Fred that the railway brought the needed touch.
But they went on in silence except when their business demanded speech.
At last, when they had finished and were walking away, Mr. Garth said--
"A young fellow needn't be a B. A. to do this sort of work, eh, Fred?"
"I wish I had taken to it before I had thought of being a B. A.,"
said Fred. He paused a moment, and then added, more hesitatingly,
"Do you think I am too old to learn your business, Mr. Garth?"
"My business is of many sorts, my boy," said Mr. Garth, smiling.
"A good deal of what I know can only come from experience:
you can't learn it off as you learn things out of a book.
But you are young enough to lay a foundation yet." Caleb pronounced
the last sentence emphatically, but paused in some uncertainty.
He had been under the impression lately that Fred had made up his mind
to enter the Church.
"You do think I could do some good at it, if I were to try?"
said Fred, more eagerly.
"That depends," said Caleb, turning his head on one side and lowering
his voice, with the air of a man who felt himself to be saying
something deeply religious. "You must be sure of two things:
you must love your work, and not be always looking over the edge
of it, wanting your play to begin. And the other is, you must not
be ashamed of your work, and think it would be more honorable to you
to be doing something else. You must have a pride in your own work
and in learning to do it well, and not be always saying, There's this
and there's that--if I had this or that to do, I might make something
of it. No matter what a man is--I wouldn't give twopence for him"--
here Caleb's mouth looked bitter, and he snapped his fingers--
"whether he was the prime minister or the rick-thatcher, if he
didn't do well what he undertook to do."
"I can never feel that I should do that in being a clergyman,"
said Fred, meaning to take a step in argument.
"Then let it alone, my boy," said Caleb, abruptly, "else you'll
never be easy. Or, if you _are_ easy, you'll be a poor stick."
"That is very nearly what Mary thinks about it," said Fred, coloring.
"I think you must know what I feel for Mary, Mr. Garth: I hope
it does not displease you that I have always loved her better
than any one else, and that I shall never love any one as I love her."
The expression of Caleb's face was visibly softening while Fred spoke.
But he swung his head with a solemn slowness, and said--
"That makes things more serious, Fred, if you want to take Mary's
happiness into your keeping."
"I know that, Mr. Garth," said Fred, eagerly, "and I would do anything
for _her_. She says she will never have me if I go into the Church;
and I shall be the most miserable devil in the world if I lose all hope
of Mary. Really, if I could get some other profession, business--
anything that I am at all fit for, I would work hard, I would deserve
your good opinion. I should like to have to do with outdoor things.
I know a good deal about land and cattle already. I used to believe,
you know--though you will think me rather foolish for it--that I
should have land of my own. I am sure knowledge of that sort would
come easily to me, especially if I could be under you in any way."
"Softly, my boy," said Caleb, having the image of "Susan" before
his eyes. "What have you said to your father about all this?"
"Nothing, yet; but I must tell him. I am only waiting to know
what I can do instead of entering the Church. I am very sorry to
disappoint him, but a man ought to be allowed to judge for himself
when he is four-and-twenty. How could I know when I was fifteen,
what it would be right for me to do now? My education was a mistake."
"But hearken to this, Fred," said Caleb. "Are you sure Mary
is fond of you, or would ever have you?"
"I asked Mr. Farebrother to talk to her, because she had forbidden me--
I didn't know what else to do," said Fred, apologetically. "And he
says that I have every reason to hope, if I can put myself in an
honorable position--I mean, out of the Church I dare say you think it
unwarrantable in me, Mr. Garth, to be troubling you and obtruding my
own wishes about Mary, before I have done anything at all for myself.
Of course I have not the least claim--indeed, I have already a debt
to you which will never be discharged, even when I have been,
able to pay it in the shape of money."
"Yes, my boy, you have a claim," said Caleb, with much feeling
in his voice. "The young ones have always a claim on the old to
help them forward. I was young myself once and had to do without
much help; but help would have been welcome to me, if it had been
only for the fellow-feeling's sake. But I must consider. Come to
me to-morrow at the office, at nine o'clock. At the office, mind."
Mr. Garth would take no important step without consulting Susan,
but it must be confessed that before he reached home he had
taken his resolution. With regard to a large number of matters
about which other men are decided or obstinate, he was the most
easily manageable man in the world. He never knew what meat
he would choose, and if Susan had said that they ought to live
in a four-roomed cottage, in order to save, he would have said,
"Let us go," without inquiring into details. But where Caleb's
feeling and judgment strongly pronounced, he was a ruler;
and in spite of his mildness and timidity in reproving, every one
about him knew that on the exceptional occasions when he chose,
he was absolute. He never, indeed, chose to be absolute except on
some one else's behalf. On ninety-nine points Mrs. Garth decided,
but on the hundredth she was often aware that she would have to perform
the singularly difficult task of carrying out her own principle,
and to make herself subordinate.
"It is come round as I thought, Susan," said Caleb, when they were
seated alone in the evening. He had already narrated the adventure
which had brought about Fred's sharing in his work, but had kept
back the further result. "The children _are_ fond of each other--
I mean, Fred and Mary."
Mrs. Garth laid her work on her knee, and fixed her penetrating
eyes anxiously on her husband.
"After we'd done our work, Fred poured it all out to me. He can't
bear to be a clergyman, and Mary says she won't have him if he is one;
and the lad would like to be under me and give his mind to business.
And I've determined to take him and make a man of him."
"Caleb!" said Mrs. Garth, in a deep contralto, expressive of
"It's a fine thing to do," said Mr. Garth, settling himself
firmly against the back of his chair, and grasping the elbows.
"I shall have trouble with him, but I think I shall carry
it through. The lad loves Mary, and a true love for a good
woman is a great thing, Susan. It shapes many a rough fellow."
"Has Mary spoken to you on the subject?" said Mrs Garth, secretly a
little hurt that she had to be informed on it herself.
"Not a word. I asked her about Fred once; I gave her a bit of a warning.
But she assured me she would never marry an idle self-indulgent man--
nothing since. But it seems Fred set on Mr. Farebrother to talk to her,
because she had forbidden him to speak himself, and Mr. Farebrother
has found out that she is fond of Fred, but says he must not be
a clergyman. Fred's heart is fixed on Mary, that I can see:
it gives me a good opinion of the lad--and we always liked him, Susan."
"It is a pity for Mary, I think," said Mrs. Garth.
"Because, Caleb, she might have had a man who is worth twenty
"Ah?" said Caleb, with surprise.
"I firmly believe that Mr. Farebrother is attached to her,
and meant to make her an offer; but of course, now that Fred has
used him as an envoy, there is an end to that better prospect."
There was a severe precision in Mrs. Garth's utterance. She was vexed
and disappointed, but she was bent on abstaining from useless words.
Caleb was silent a few moments under a conflict of feelings.
He looked at the floor and moved his head and hands in accompaniment
to some inward argumentation. At last he said--
"That would have made me very proud and happy, Susan, and I
should have been glad for your sake. I've always felt that your
belongings have never been on a level with you. But you took me,
though I was a plain man."
"I took the best and cleverest man I had ever known," said Mrs. Garth,
convinced that _she_ would never have loved any one who came
short of that mark.
"Well, perhaps others thought you might have done better.
But it would have been worse for me. And that is what touches me
close about Fred. The lad is good at bottom, and clever enough
to do, if he's put in the right way; and he loves and honors my
daughter beyond anything, and she has given him a sort of promise
according to what he turns out. I say, that young man's soul is
in my hand; and I'll do the best I can for him, so help me God!
It's my duty, Susan."
Mrs. Garth was not given to tears, but there was a large one
rolling down her face before her husband had finished. It came
from the pressure of various feelings, in which there was much
affection and some vexation. She wiped it away quickly, saying--
"Few men besides you would think it a duty to add to their anxieties
in that way, Caleb."
"That signifies nothing--what other men would think. I've got
a clear feeling inside me, and that I shall follow; and I hope
your heart will go with me, Susan, in making everything as light
as can be to Mary, poor child."
Caleb, leaning back in his chair, looked with anxious appeal towards
his wife. She rose and kissed him, saying, "God bless you, Caleb!
Our children have a good father."
But she went out and had a hearty cry to make up for the suppression
of her words. She felt sure that her husband's conduct would
be misunderstood, and about Fred she was rational and unhopeful.
Which would turn out to have the more foresight in it--her rationality
or Caleb's ardent generosity?
When Fred went to the office the next morning, there was a test
to be gone through which he was not prepared for.
"Now Fred," said Caleb, "you will have some desk-work. I have always
done a good deal of writing myself, but I can't do without help,
and as I want you to understand the accounts and get the values into
your head, I mean to do without another clerk. So you must buckle to.
How are you at writing and arithmetic?"
Fred felt an awkward movement of the heart; he had not thought
of desk-work; but he was in a resolute mood, and not going to shrink.
"I'm not afraid of arithmetic, Mr. Garth: it always came easily to me.
I think you know my writing."
"Let us see," said Caleb, taking up a pen, examining it carefully
and handing it, well dipped, to Fred with a sheet of ruled paper.
"Copy me a line or two of that valuation, with the figures at
At that time the opinion existed that it was beneath a gentleman
to write legibly, or with a hand in the least suitable to a clerk.
Fred wrote the lines demanded in a hand as gentlemanly as that of any
viscount or bishop of the day: the vowels were all alike and the
consonants only distinguishable as turning up or down, the strokes
had a blotted solidity and the letters disdained to keep the line--
in short, it was a manuscript of that venerable kind easy to interpret
when you know beforehand what the writer means.
As Caleb looked on, his visage showed a growing depression,
but when Fred handed him the paper he gave something like a snarl,
and rapped the paper passionately with the back of his hand.
Bad work like this dispelled all Caleb's mildness.
"The deuce!" he exclaimed, snarlingly. "To think that this is
a country where a man's education may cost hundreds and hundreds,
and it turns you out this!" Then in a more pathetic tone,
pushing up his spectacles and looking at the unfortunate scribe,
"The Lord have mercy on us, Fred, I can't put up with this!"
"What can I do, Mr. Garth?" said Fred, whose spirits had sunk very low,
not only at the estimate of his handwriting, but at the vision
of himself as liable to be ranked with office clerks.
"Do? Why, you must learn to form your letters and keep the line.
What's the use of writing at all if nobody can understand it?"
asked Caleb, energetically, quite preoccupied with the bad quality
of the work. "Is there so little business in the world that you must
be sending puzzles over the country? But that's the way people are
brought up. I should lose no end of time with the letters some people
send me, if Susan did not make them out for me. It's disgusting."
Here Caleb tossed the paper from him.
Any stranger peeping into the office at that moment might have
wondered what was the drama between the indignant man of business,
and the fine-looking young fellow whose blond complexion was getting
rather patchy as he bit his lip with mortification. Fred was struggling
with many thoughts. Mr. Garth had been so kind and encouraging at
the beginning of their interview, that gratitude and hopefulness had
been at a high pitch, and the downfall was proportionate. He had not
thought of desk-work--in fact, like the majority of young gentlemen,
he wanted an occupation which should be free from disagreeables.
I cannot tell what might have been the consequences if he had not
distinctly promised himself that he would go to Lowick to see
Mary and tell her that he was engaged to work under her father.
He did not like to disappoint himself there.
"I am very sorry," were all the words that he could muster.
But Mr. Garth was already relenting.
"We must make the best of it, Fred," he began, with a return to his
usual quiet tone. "Every man can learn to write. I taught myself.
Go at it with a will, and sit up at night if the day-time isn't enough.
We'll be patient, my boy. Callum shall go on with the books
for a bit, while you are learning. But now I must be off,"
said Caleb, rising. "You must let your father know our agreement.
You'll save me Callum's salary, you know, when you can write;
and I can afford to give you eighty pounds for the first year,
and more after."
When Fred made the necessary disclosure to his parents, the relative
effect on the two was a surprise which entered very deeply into
his memory. He went straight from Mr. Garth's office to the warehouse,
rightly feeling that the most respectful way in which he could behave to
his father was to make the painful communication as gravely and formally
as possible. Moreover, the decision would be more certainly understood
to be final, if the interview took place in his father's gravest
hours, which were always those spent in his private room at the warehouse.
Fred entered on the subject directly, and declared briefly what he
had done and was resolved to do, expressing at the end his regret
that he should be the cause of disappointment to his father,
and taking the blame on his own deficiencies. The regret was genuine,
and inspired Fred with strong, simple words.
Mr. Vincy listened in profound surprise without uttering even
an exclamation, a silence which in his impatient temperament was a sign
of unusual emotion. He had not been in good spirits about trade
that morning, and the slight bitterness in his lips grew intense
as he listened. When Fred had ended, there was a pause of nearly
a minute, during which Mr. Vincy replaced a book in his desk and turned
the key emphatically. Then he looked at his son steadily, and said--
"So you've made up your mind at last, sir?"
"Very well; stick to it. I've no more to say. You've thrown away
your education, and gone down a step in life, when I had given you
the means of rising, that's all."
"I am very sorry that we differ, father. I think I can be quite
as much of a gentleman at the work I have undertaken, as if I had
been a curate. But I am grateful to you for wishing to do the best
"Very well; I have no more to say. I wash my hands of you.
I only hope, when you have a son of your own he will make a better
return for the pains you spend on him."
This was very cutting to Fred. His father was using that unfair
advantage possessed by us all when we are in a pathetic situation
and see our own past as if it were simply part of the pathos.
In reality, Mr. Vincy's wishes about his son had had a great deal
of pride, inconsiderateness, and egoistic folly in them. But still
the disappointed father held a strong lever; and Fred felt as if he
were being banished with a malediction.
"I hope you will not object to my remaining at home, sir?" he said,
after rising to go; "I shall have a sufficient salary to pay for
my board, as of course I should wish to do."
"Board be hanged!" said Mr. Vincy, recovering himself in his disgust
at the notion that Fred's keep would be missed at his table.
"Of course your mother will want you to stay. But I shall keep no
horse for you, you understand; and you will pay your own tailor.
You will do with a suit or two less, I fancy, when you have to pay
Fred lingered; there was still something to be said. At last it came.
"I hope you will shake hands with me, father, and forgive me
the vexation I have caused you."
Mr. Vincy from his chair threw a quick glance upward at his son,
who had advanced near to him, and then gave his hand, saying hurriedly,
"Yes, yes, let us say no more."
Fred went through much more narrative and explanation with his mother,
but she was inconsolable, having before her eyes what perhaps her husband
had never thought of, the certainty that Fred would marry Mary Garth,
that her life would henceforth be spoiled by a perpetual infusion
of Garths and their ways, and that her darling boy, with his beautiful
face and stylish air "beyond anybody else's son in Middlemarch,"
would be sure to get like that family in plainness of appearance
and carelessness about his clothes. To her it seemed that there
was a Garth conspiracy to get possession of the desirable Fred,
but she dared not enlarge on this opinion, because a slight hint
of it had made him "fly out" at her as he had never done before.
Her temper was too sweet for her to show any anger, but she felt
that her happiness had received a bruise, and for several days merely
to look at Fred made her cry a little as if he were the subject
of some baleful prophecy. Perhaps she was the slower to recover
her usual cheerfulness because Fred had warned her that she must
not reopen the sore question with his father, who had accepted
his decision and forgiven him. If her husband had been vehement
against Fred, she would have been urged into defence of her darling.
It was the end of the fourth day when Mr. Vincy said to her--
"Come, Lucy, my dear, don't be so down-hearted. You always have
spoiled the boy, and you must go on spoiling him."
"Nothing ever did cut me so before, Vincy," said the wife, her fair
throat and chin beginning to tremble again, "only his illness."
"Pooh, pooh, never mind! We must expect to have trouble with
our children. Don't make it worse by letting me see you out of spirits."
"Well, I won't," said Mrs. Vincy, roused by this appeal and
adjusting herself with a little shake as of a bird which lays
down its ruffled plumage.
"It won't do to begin making a fuss about one," said Mr. Vincy,
wishing to combine a little grumbling with domestic cheerfulness.
"There's Rosamond as well as Fred."
"Yes, poor thing. I'm sure I felt for her being disappointed
of her baby; but she got over it nicely."
"Baby, pooh! I can see Lydgate is making a mess of his practice,
and getting into debt too, by what I hear. I shall have Rosamond
coming to me with a pretty tale one of these days. But they'll
get no money from me, I know. Let _his_ family help him.
I never did like that marriage. But it's no use talking. Ring the
bell for lemons, and don't look dull any more, Lucy. I'll drive you
and Louisa to Riverston to-morrow."
They numbered scarce eight summers when a name
Rose on their souls and stirred such motions there
As thrill the buds and shape their hidden frame
At penetration of the quickening air:
His name who told of loyal Evan Dhu,
Of quaint Bradwardine, and Vich Ian Vor,
Making the little world their childhood knew
Large with a land of mountain lake and scaur,
And larger yet with wonder love belief
Toward Walter Scott who living far away
Sent them this wealth of joy and noble grief.
The book and they must part, but day by day,
In lines that thwart like portly spiders ran
They wrote the tale, from Tully Veolan.
The evening that Fred Vincy walked to Lowick parsonage (he
had begun to see that this was a world in which even a spirited
young man must sometimes walk for want of a horse to carry him)
he set out at five o'clock and called on Mrs. Garth by the way,
wishing to assure himself that she accepted their new relations willingly.
He found the family group, dogs and cats included, under the great
apple-tree in the orchard. It was a festival with Mrs. Garth,
for her eldest son, Christy, her peculiar joy and pride, had come
home for a short holiday--Christy, who held it the most desirable
thing in the world to be a tutor, to study all literatures and be a
regenerate Porson, and who was an incorporate criticism on poor Fred,
a sort of object-lesson given to him by the educational mother.
Christy himself, a square-browed, broad-shouldered masculine edition
of his mother not much higher than Fred's shoulder--which made it
the harder that he should be held superior--was always as simple
as possible, and thought no more of Fred's disinclination to scholarship
than of a giraffe's, wishing that he himself were more of the
same height. He was lying on the ground now by his mother's chair,
with his straw hat laid flat over his eyes, while Jim on the other
side was reading aloud from that beloved writer who has made
a chief part in the happiness of many young lives. The volume was
"Ivanhoe," and Jim was in the great archery scene at the tournament,
but suffered much interruption from Ben, who had fetched his own
old bow and arrows, and was making himself dreadfully disagreeable,
Letty thought, by begging all present to observe his random shots,
which no one wished to do except Brownie, the active-minded but
probably shallow mongrel, while the grizzled Newfoundland lying in
the sun looked on with the dull-eyed neutrality of extreme old age.
Letty herself, showing as to her mouth and pinafore some slight
signs that she had been assisting at the gathering of the cherries
which stood in a coral-heap on the tea-table, was now seated
on the grass, listening open-eyed to the reading.
But the centre of interest was changed for all by the arrival
of Fred Vincy. When, seating himself on a garden-stool, he said
that he was on his way to Lowick Parsonage, Ben, who had thrown
down his bow, and snatched up a reluctant half-grown kitten instead,
strode across Fred's outstretched leg, and said "Take me!"
"Oh, and me too," said Letty.
"You can't keep up with Fred and me," said Ben.
"Yes, I can. Mother, please say that I am to go," urged Letty,
whose life was much checkered by resistance to her depreciation
as a girl.
"I shall stay with Christy," observed Jim; as much as to say
that he had the advantage of those simpletons; whereupon Letty
put her hand up to her head and looked with jealous indecision
from the one to the other.
"Let us all go and see Mary," said Christy, opening his arms.
"No, my dear child, we must not go in a swarm to the parsonage.
And that old Glasgow suit of yours would never do. Besides, your
father will come home. We must let Fred go alone. He can tell
Mary that you are here, and she will come back to-morrow."
Christy glanced at his own threadbare knees, and then at Fred's
beautiful white trousers. Certainly Fred's tailoring suggested
the advantages of an English university, and he had a graceful way
even of looking warm and of pushing his hair back with his handkerchief.
"Children, run away," said Mrs. Garth; "it is too warm to hang
about your friends. Take your brother and show him the rabbits."
The eldest understood, and led off the children immediately.
Fred felt that Mrs. Garth wished to give him an opportunity of saying
anything he had to say, but he could only begin by observing--
"How glad you must be to have Christy here!"
"Yes; he has come sooner than I expected. He got down from the coach
at nine o'clock, just after his father went out. I am longing for
Caleb to come and hear what wonderful progress Christy is making.
He has paid his expenses for the last year by giving lessons,
carrying on hard study at the same time. He hopes soon to get
a private tutorship and go abroad."
"He is a great fellow," said Fred, to whom these cheerful
truths had a medicinal taste, "and no trouble to anybody."
After a slight pause, he added, "But I fear you will think
that I am going to be a great deal of trouble to Mr. Garth."
"Caleb likes taking trouble: he is one of those men who always
do more than any one would have thought of asking them to do,"
answered Mrs. Garth. She was knitting, and could either look at
Fred or not, as she chose--always an advantage when one is bent
on loading speech with salutary meaning; and though Mrs. Garth
intended to be duly reserved, she did wish to say something
that Fred might be the better for.
"I know you think me very undeserving, Mrs. Garth, and with good reason,"
said Fred, his spirit rising a little at the perception of something
like a disposition to lecture him. "I happen to have behaved just
the worst to the people I can't help wishing for the most from.
But while two men like Mr. Garth and Mr. Farebrother have not given
me up, I don't see why I should give myself up." Fred thought it
might be well to suggest these masculine examples to Mrs. Garth.
"Assuredly," said she, with gathering emphasis. "A young man
for whom two such elders had devoted themselves would indeed be
culpable if he threw himself away and made their sacrifices vain."
Fred wondered a little at this strong language, but only said,
"I hope it will not be so with me, Mrs. Garth, since I have some
encouragement to believe that I may win Mary. Mr. Garth has told
you about that? You were not surprised, I dare say?" Fred ended,
innocently referring only to his own love as probably evident enough.
"Not surprised that Mary has given you encouragement?"
returned Mrs. Garth, who thought it would be well for Fred to be
more alive to the fact that Mary's friends could not possibly
have wished this beforehand, whatever the Vincys might suppose.
"Yes, I confess I was surprised."
"She never did give me any--not the least in the world, when I
talked to her myself," said Fred, eager to vindicate Mary.
"But when I asked Mr. Farebrother to speak for me, she allowed him
to tell me there was a hope."
The power of admonition which had begun to stir in Mrs. Garth had
not yet discharged itself. It was a little too provoking even for
_her_ self-control that this blooming youngster should flourish
on the disappointments of sadder and wiser people--making a meal
of a nightingale and never knowing it--and that all the while his
family should suppose that hers was in eager need of this sprig;
and her vexation had fermented the more actively because of its total
repression towards her husband. Exemplary wives will sometimes
find scapegoats in this way. She now said with energetic decision,
"You made a great mistake, Fred, in asking Mr. Farebrother to speak
"Did I?" said Fred, reddening instantaneously. He was alarmed,
but at a loss to know what Mrs. Garth meant, and added,
in an apologetic tone, "Mr. Farebrother has always been such
a friend of ours; and Mary, I knew, would listen to him gravely;
and he took it on himself quite readily."
"Yes, young people are usually blind to everything but their own wishes,
and seldom imagine how much those wishes cost others," said Mrs. Garth
She did not mean to go beyond this salutary general doctrine,
and threw her indignation into a needless unwinding of her worsted,
knitting her brow at it with a grand air.
"I cannot conceive how it could be any pain to Mr. Farebrother,"
said Fred, who nevertheless felt that surprising conceptions were
beginning to form themselves.
"Precisely; you cannot conceive," said Mrs. Garth, cutting her words
as neatly as possible.
For a moment Fred looked at the horizon with a dismayed anxiety,
and then turning with a quick movement said almost sharply--
"Do you mean to say, Mrs. Garth, that Mr. Farebrother is in love
"And if it were so, Fred, I think you are the last person who
ought to be surprised," returned Mrs. Garth, laying her knitting
down beside her and folding her arms. It was an unwonted sign
of emotion in her that she should put her work out of her hands.
In fact her feelings were divided between the satisfaction of giving
Fred his discipline and the sense of having gone a little too far.
Fred took his hat and stick and rose quickly.
"Then you think I am standing in his way, and in Mary's too?"
he said, in a tone which seemed to demand an answer.
Mrs. Garth could not speak immediately. She had brought herself into
the unpleasant position of being called on to say what she really felt,
yet what she knew there were strong reasons for concealing.
And to her the consciousness of having exceeded in words was
peculiarly mortifying. Besides, Fred had given out unexpected
electricity, and he now added, "Mr. Garth seemed pleased that
Mary should be attached to me. He could not have known anything of this."
Mrs. Garth felt a severe twinge at this mention of her husband, the fear
that Caleb might think her in the wrong not being easily endurable.
She answered, wanting to check unintended consequences--
"I spoke from inference only. I am not aware that Mary knows
anything of the matter."
But she hesitated to beg that he would keep entire silence on a
subject which she had herself unnecessarily mentioned, not being
used to stoop in that way; and while she was hesitating there
was already a rush of unintended consequences under the apple-tree
where the tea-things stood. Ben, bouncing across the grass with
Brownie at his heels, and seeing the kitten dragging the knitting
by a lengthening line of wool, shouted and clapped his hands;
Brownie barked, the kitten, desperate, jumped on the tea-table and
upset the milk, then jumped down again and swept half the cherries
with it; and Ben, snatching up the half-knitted sock-top, fitted
it over the kitten's head as a new source of madness, while Letty
arriving cried out to her mother against this cruelty--it was a
history as full of sensation as "This is the house that Jack built."
Mrs. Garth was obliged to interfere, the other young ones came up
and the tete-a-tete with Fred was ended. He got away as soon
as he could, and Mrs. Garth could only imply some retractation
of her severity by saying "God bless you" when she shook hands with him.
She was unpleasantly conscious that she had been on the verge
of speaking as "one of the foolish women speaketh"--telling first
and entreating silence after. But she had not entreated silence,
and to prevent Caleb's blame she determined to blame herself and
confess all to him that very night. It was curious what an awful
tribunal the mild Caleb's was to her, whenever he set it up.
But she meant to point out to him that the revelation might do Fred
Vincy a great deal of good.
No doubt it was having a strong effect on him as he walked to Lowick.
Fred's light hopeful nature had perhaps never had so much of a
bruise as from this suggestion that if he had been out of the way
Mary might have made a thoroughly good match. Also he was piqued
that he had been what he called such a stupid lout as to ask that
intervention from Mr. Farebrother. But it was not in a lover's nature--
it was not in Fred's, that the new anxiety raised about Mary's
feeling should not surmount every other. Notwithstanding his
trust in Mr. Farebrother's generosity, notwithstanding what Mary
had said to him, Fred could not help feeling that he had a rival:
it was a new consciousness, and he objected to it extremely,
not being in the least ready to give up Mary for her good, being ready
rather to fight for her with any man whatsoever. But the fighting
with Mr. Farebrother must be of a metaphorical kind, which was much
more difficult to Fred than the muscular. Certainly this experience
was a discipline for Fred hardly less sharp than his disappointment
about his uncle's will. The iron had not entered into his soul,
but he had begun to imagine what the sharp edge would be.
It did not once occur to Fred that Mrs. Garth might be mistaken
about Mr. Farebrother, but he suspected that she might be wrong
about Mary. Mary had been staying at the parsonage lately, and her
mother might know very little of what had been passing in her mind.
He did not feel easier when he found her looking cheerful with the
three ladies in the drawing-room. They were in animated discussion
on some subject which was dropped when he entered, and Mary
was copying the labels from a heap of shallow cabinet drawers,
in a minute handwriting which she was skilled in. Mr. Farebrother
was somewhere in the village, and the three ladies knew nothing
of Fred's peculiar relation to Mary: it was impossible for either
of them to propose that they should walk round the garden,
and Fred predicted to himself that he should have to go away without
saying a word to her in private. He told her first of Christy's
arrival and then of his own engagement with her father; and he
was comforted by seeing that this latter news touched her keenly.
She said hurriedly, "I am so glad," and then bent over her writing
to hinder any one from noticing her face. But here was a subject
which Mrs. Farebrother could not let pass.
"You don't mean, my dear Miss Garth, that you are glad to hear
of a young man giving up the Church for which he was educated:
you only mean that things being so, you are glad that he should be
under an excellent man like your father."
"No, really, Mrs. Farebrother, I am glad of both, I fear,"
said Mary, cleverly getting rid of one rebellious tear.
"I have a dreadfully secular mind. I never liked any clergyman
except the Vicar of Wakefield and Mr. Farebrother."
"Now why, my dear?" said Mrs. Farebrother, pausing on her large
wooden knitting-needles and looking at Mary. "You have always
a good reason for your opinions, but this astonishes me.
Of course I put out of the question those who preach new doctrine.
But why should you dislike clergymen?"
"Oh dear," said Mary, her face breaking into merriment as she
seemed to consider a moment, "I don't like their neckcloths."
"Why, you don't like Camden's, then," said Miss Winifred,
in some anxiety.
"Yes, I do," said Mary. "I don't like the other clergymen's neckcloths,
because it is they who wear them."
"How very puzzling!" said Miss Noble, feeling that her own intellect
was probably deficient.
"My dear, you are joking. You would have better reasons
than these for slighting so respectable a class of men,"
said Mrs. Farebrother, majestically.
"Miss Garth has such severe notions of what people should be that it
is difficult to satisfy her," said Fred.
"Well, I am glad at least that she makes an exception in favor
of my son," said the old lady.
Mary was wondering at Fred's piqued tone, when Mr. Farebrother came
in and had to hear the news about the engagement under Mr. Garth.
At the end he said with quiet satisfaction, "_That_ is right;"
and then bent to look at Mary's labels and praise her handwriting.
Fred felt horribly jealous--was glad, of course, that Mr. Farebrother
was so estimable, but wished that he had been ugly and fat as men
at forty sometimes are. It was clear what the end would be,
since Mary openly placed Farebrother above everybody, and these
women were all evidently encouraging the affair. He, was feeling
sure that he should have no chance of speaking to Mary,
when Mr. Farebrother said--
"Fred, help me to carry these drawers back into my study--
you have never seen my fine new study. Pray come too, Miss Garth.
I want you to see a stupendous spider I found this morning."
Mary at once saw the Vicar's intention. He had never since the
memorable evening deviated from his old pastoral kindness towards her,
and her momentary wonder and doubt had quite gone to sleep.
Mary was accustomed to think rather rigorously of what was probable,
and if a belief flattered her vanity she felt warned to dismiss it
as ridiculous, having early had much exercise in such dismissals.
It was as she had foreseen: when Fred had been asked to admire the
fittings of the study, and she had been asked to admire the spider,
Mr. Farebrother said--
"Wait here a minute or two. I am going to look out an engraving
which Fred is tall enough to hang for me. I shall be back in a
few minutes." And then he went out. Nevertheless, the first
word Fred said to Mary was--
"It is of no use, whatever I do, Mary. You are sure to marry
Farebrother at last." There was some rage in his tone.
"What do you mean, Fred?" Mary exclaimed indignantly, blushing deeply,
and surprised out of all her readiness in reply.
"It is impossible that you should not see it all clearly enough--
you who see everything."
"I only see that you are behaving very ill, Fred, in speaking so
of Mr. Farebrother after he has pleaded your cause in every way.
How can you have taken up such an idea?"
Fred was rather deep, in spite of his irritation. If Mary
had really been unsuspicious, there was no good in telling
her what Mrs. Garth had said.
"It follows as a matter of course," he replied. "When you are
continually seeing a man who beats me in everything, and whom
you set up above everybody, I can have no fair chance."
"You are very ungrateful, Fred," said Mary. "I wish I had never
told Mr. Farebrother that I cared for you in the least."
"No, I am not ungrateful; I should be the happiest fellow in the
world if it were not for this. I told your father everything,
and he was very kind; he treated me as if I were his son.
I could go at the work with a will, writing and everything, if it
were not for this."
"For this? for what?" said Mary, imagining now that something
specific must have been said or done.
"This dreadful certainty that I shall be bowled out by Farebrother."
Mary was appeased by her inclination to laugh.
"Fred," she said, peeping round to catch his eyes, which were
sulkily turned away from her, "you are too delightfully ridiculous.
If you were not such a charming simpleton, what a temptation
this would be to play the wicked coquette, and let you suppose
that somebody besides you has made love to me."
"Do you really like me best, Mary?" said Fred, turning eyes full
of affection on her, and trying to take her hand.
"I don't like you at all at this moment," said Mary, retreating,
and putting her hands behind her. "I only said that no mortal
ever made love to me besides you. And that is no argument
that a very wise man ever will," she ended, merrily.
"I wish you would tell me that you could not possibly ever think
of him," said Fred.
"Never dare to mention this any more to me, Fred," said Mary,
getting serious again. "I don't know whether it is more stupid
or ungenerous in you not to see that Mr. Farebrother has left us
together on purpose that we might speak freely. I am disappointed
that you should be so blind to his delicate feeling."
There was no time to say any more before Mr. Farebrother came back
with the engraving; and Fred had to return to the drawing-room still
with a jealous dread in his heart, but yet with comforting arguments
from Mary's words and manner. The result of the conversation was on
the whole more painful to Mary: inevitably her attention had taken
a new attitude, and she saw the possibility of new interpretations.
She was in a position in which she seemed to herself to be slighting
Mr. Farebrother, and this, in relation to a man who is much honored,
is always dangerous to the firmness of a grateful woman.
To have a reason for going home the next day was a relief, for Mary
earnestly desired to be always clear that she loved Fred best.
When a tender affection has been storing itself in us through many
of our years, the idea that we could accept any exchange for it
seems to be a cheapening of our lives. And we can set a watch over
our affections and our constancy as we can over other treasures.
"Fred has lost all his other expectations; he must keep this,"
Mary said to herself, with a smile curling her lips. It was
impossible to help fleeting visions of another kind--new dignities
and an acknowledged value of which she had often felt the absence.
But these things with Fred outside them, Fred forsaken and looking
sad for the want of her, could never tempt her deliberate thought.
"For there can live no hatred in thine eye,
Therefore in that I cannot know thy change:
In many's looks the false heart's history
Is writ in moods and frowns and wrinkles strange:
But Heaven in thy creation did decree
That in thy face sweet love should ever dwell:
Whate'er thy thoughts or thy heart's workings be
Thy looks should nothing thence but sweetness tell."
At the time when Mr. Vincy uttered that presentiment about Rosamond,
she herself had never had the idea that she should be driven to make
the sort of appeal which he foresaw. She had not yet had any
anxiety about ways and means, although her domestic life had been
expensive as well as eventful. Her baby had been born prematurely,
and all the embroidered robes and caps had to be laid by in darkness.
This misfortune was attributed entirely to her having persisted
in going out on horseback one day when her husband had desired her
not to do so; but it must not be supposed that she had shown temper
on the occasion, or rudely told him that she would do as she liked.
What led her particularly to desire horse-exercise was a visit from
Captain Lydgate, the baronet's third son, who, I am sorry to say,
was detested by our Tertius of that name as a vapid fop "parting
his hair from brow to nape in a despicable fashion" (not followed
by Tertius himself), and showing an ignorant security that he knew
the proper thing to say on every topic. Lydgate inwardly cursed his
own folly that he had drawn down this visit by consenting to go to his
uncle's on the wedding-tour, and he made himself rather disagreeable
to Rosamond by saying so in private. For to Rosamond this visit
was a source of unprecedented but gracefully concealed exultation.
She was so intensely conscious of having a cousin who was a baronet's
son staying in the house, that she imagined the knowledge of what
was implied by his presence to be diffused through all other minds;
and when she introduced Captain Lydgate to her guests, she had
a placid sense that his rank penetrated them as if it had been
an odor. The satisfaction was enough for the time to melt away
some disappointment in the conditions of marriage with a medical man
even of good birth: it seemed now that her marriage was visibly
as well as ideally floating her above the Middlemarch level, and the
future looked bright with letters and visits to and from Quallingham,
and vague advancement in consequence for Tertius. Especially as,
probably at the Captain's suggestion, his married sister, Mrs. Mengan,
had come with her maid, and stayed two nights on her way from town.
Hence it was clearly worth while for Rosamond to take pains with
her music and the careful selection of her lace.
As to Captain Lydgate himself, his low brow, his aquiline nose
bent on one side, and his rather heavy utterance, might have been
disadvantageous in any young gentleman who had not a military bearing
and mustache to give him what is doted on by some flower-like blond
heads as "style." He had, moreover, that sort of high-breeding
which consists in being free from the petty solicitudes of
middle-class gentility, and he was a great critic of feminine charms.
Rosamond delighted in his admiration now even more than she had
done at Quallingham, and he found it easy to spend several hours
of the day in flirting with her. The visit altogether was one
of the pleasantest larks he had ever had, not the less so perhaps
because he suspected that his queer cousin Tertius wished him away:
though Lydgate, who would rather (hyperbolically speaking) have died
than have failed in polite hospitality, suppressed his dislike,
and only pretended generally not to hear what the gallant officer said,
consigning the task of answering him to Rosamond. For he was not
at all a jealous husband, and preferred leaving a feather-headed
young gentleman alone with his wife to bearing him company.
"I wish you would talk more to the Captain at dinner, Tertius,"
said Rosamond, one evening when the important guest was gone
to Loamford to see some brother officers stationed there.
"You really look so absent sometimes--you seem to be seeing
through his head into something behind it, instead of looking at him."
"My dear Rosy, you don't expect me to talk much to such a conceited
ass as that, I hope," said Lydgate, brusquely. "If he got his
head broken, I might look at it with interest, not before."
"I cannot conceive why you should speak of your cousin so contemptuously,"
said Rosamond, her fingers moving at her work while she spoke
with a mild gravity which had a touch of disdain in it.
"Ask Ladislaw if he doesn't think your Captain the greatest bore he
ever met with. Ladislaw has almost forsaken the house since he came."
Rosamond thought she knew perfectly well why Mr. Ladislaw disliked
the Captain: he was jealous, and she liked his being jealous.
"It is impossible to say what will suit eccentric persons,"
she answered, "but in my opinion Captain Lydgate is a thorough
gentleman, and I think you ought not, out of respect to Sir Godwin,
to treat him with neglect."
"No, dear; but we have had dinners for him. And he comes in and
goes out as he likes. He doesn't want me"
"Still, when he is in the room, you might show him more attention.
He may not be a phoenix of cleverness in your sense; his profession
is different; but it would be all the better for you to talk a little
on his subjects. _I_ think his conversation is quite agreeable.
And he is anything but an unprincipled man."
"The fact is, you would wish me to be a little more like him,
Rosy," said Lydgate, in a sort of resigned murmur, with a
smile which was not exactly tender, and certainly not merry.
Rosamond was silent and did not smile again; but the lovely
curves of her face looked good-tempered enough without smiling.
Those words of Lydgate's were like a sad milestone marking how far
he had travelled from his old dreamland, in which Rosamond Vincy
appeared to be that perfect piece of womanhood who would reverence
her husband's mind after the fashion of an accomplished mermaid,
using her comb and looking-glass and singing her song for the
relaxation of his adored wisdom alone. He had begun to distinguish
between that imagined adoration and the attraction towards a man's
talent because it gives him prestige, and is like an order in his
button-hole or an Honorable before his name.
It might have been supposed that Rosamond had travelled too,
since she had found the pointless conversation of Mr. Ned Plymdale
perfectly wearisome; but to most mortals there is a stupidity
which is unendurable and a stupidity which is altogether acceptable--
else, indeed, what would become of social bonds? Captain Lydgate's
stupidity was delicately scented, carried itself with "style,"
talked with a good accent, and was closely related to Sir Godwin.
Rosamond found it quite agreeable and caught many of its phrases.
Therefore since Rosamond, as we know, was fond of horseback,
there were plenty of reasons why she should be tempted to resume
her riding when Captain Lydgate, who had ordered his man with
two horses to follow him and put up at the "Green Dragon,"
begged her to go out on the gray which he warranted to be gentle
and trained to carry a lady--indeed, he had bought it for his sister,
and was taking it to Quallingham. Rosamond went out the first time
without telling her husband, and came back before his return;
but the ride had been so thorough a success, and she declared
herself so much the better in consequence, that he was informed
of it with full reliance on his consent that she should go riding again.
On the contrary Lydgate was more than hurt--he was utterly
confounded that she had risked herself on a strange horse without
referring the matter to his wish. After the first almost
thundering exclamations of astonishment, which sufficiently
warned Rosamond of what was coming, he was silent for some moments.
"However, you have come back safely," he said, at last, in a
decisive tone. "You will not go again, Rosy; that is understood.
If it were the quietest, most familiar horse in the world,
there would always be the chance of accident. And you know very
well that I wished you to give up riding the roan on that account."
"But there is the chance of accident indoors, Tertius."
"My darling, don't talk nonsense," said Lydgate, in an imploring tone;
"surely I am the person to judge for you. I think it is enough
that I say you are not to go again."
Rosamond was arranging her hair before dinner, and the reflection
of her head in the glass showed no change in its loveliness except
a little turning aside of the long neck. Lydgate had been moving
about with his hands in his pockets, and now paused near her,
as if he awaited some assurance.
"I wish you would fasten up my plaits, dear," said Rosamond, letting her
arms fall with a little sigh, so as to make a husband ashamed of standing
there like a brute. Lydgate had often fastened the plaits before,
being among the deftest of men with his large finely formed fingers.
He swept up the soft festoons of plaits and fastened in the tall
comb (to such uses do men come!); and what could he do then but kiss
the exquisite nape which was shown in all its delicate curves?
But when we do what we have done before, it is often with a difference.
Lydgate was still angry, and had not forgotten his point.
"I shall tell the Captain that he ought to have known better than
offer you his horse," he said, as he moved away.
"I beg you will not do anything of the kind, Tertius," said Rosamond,
looking at him with something more marked than usual in her speech.
"It will be treating me as if I were a child. Promise that you will
leave the subject to me."
There did seem to be some truth in her objection. Lydgate said,
"Very well," with a surly obedience, and thus the discussion ended
with his promising Rosamond, and not with her promising him.
In fact, she had been determined not to promise. Rosamond had
that victorious obstinacy which never wastes its energy in
impetuous resistance. What she liked to do was to her the right thing,
and all her cleverness was directed to getting the means of doing it.
She meant to go out riding again on the gray, and she did go on
the next opportunity of her husband's absence, not intending that
he should know until it was late enough not to signify to her.
The temptation was certainly great: she was very fond of the exercise,
and the gratification of riding on a fine horse, with Captain Lydgate,
Sir Godwin's son, on another fine horse by her side, and of being met
in this position by any one but her husband, was something as good as
her dreams before marriage: moreover she was riveting the connection
with the family at Quallingham, which must be a wise thing to do.
But the gentle gray, unprepared for the crash of a tree that was
being felled on the edge of Halsell wood, took fright, and caused
a worse fright to Rosamond, leading finally to the loss of her baby.
Lydgate could not show his anger towards her, but he was rather
bearish to the Captain, whose visit naturally soon came to an end.
In all future conversations on the subject, Rosamond was mildly
certain that the ride had made no difference, and that if she had
stayed at home the same symptoms would have come on and would have
ended in the same way, because she had felt something like them before.
Lydgate could only say, "Poor, poor darling!"--but he secretly wondered
over the terrible tenacity of this mild creature. There was gathering
within him an amazed sense of his powerlessness over Rosamond.
His superior knowledge and mental force, instead of being, as he
had imagined, a shrine to consult on all occasions, was simply set
aside on every practical question. He had regarded Rosamond's
cleverness as precisely of the receptive kind which became a woman.
He was now beginning to find out what that cleverness was--what was
the shape into which it had run as into a close network aloof
and independent. No one quicker than Rosamond to see causes and
effects which lay within the track of her own tastes and interests:
she had seen clearly Lydgate's preeminence in Middlemarch society,
and could go on imaginatively tracing still more agreeable social
effects when his talent should have advanced him; but for her,
his professional and scientific ambition had no other relation
to these desirable effects than if they had been the fortunate
discovery of an ill-smelling oil. And that oil apart,
with which she had nothing to do, of course she believed in her own
opinion more than she did in his. Lydgate was astounded to find
in numberless trifling matters, as well as in this last serious
case of the riding, that affection did not make her compliant.
He had no doubt that the affection was there, and had no presentiment
that he had done anything to repel it. For his own part he said
to himself that he loved her as tenderly as ever, and could make up
his mind to her negations; but--well! Lydgate was much worried,
and conscious of new elements in his life as noxious to him as an
inlet of mud to a creature that has been used to breathe and bathe
and dart after its illuminated prey in the clearest of waters.
Rosamond was soon looking lovelier than ever at her worktable,
enjoying drives in her father's phaeton and thinking it likely
that she might be invited to Quallingham. She knew that she
was a much more exquisite ornament to the drawing-room there than
any daughter of the family, and in reflecting that the gentlemen
were aware of that, did not perhaps sufficiently consider whether
the ladies would be eager to see themselves surpassed.
Lydgate, relieved from anxiety about her, relapsed into what she
inwardly called his moodiness--a name which to her covered
his thoughtful preoccupation with other subjects than herself,
as well as that uneasy look of the brow and distaste for all ordinary
things as if they were mixed with bitter herbs, which really
made a sort of weather-glass to his vexation and foreboding.
These latter states of mind had one cause amongst others, which he
had generously but mistakenly avoided mentioning to Rosamond,
lest it should affect her health and spirits. Between him and her
indeed there was that total missing of each other's mental track,
which is too evidently possible even between persons who are
continually thinking of each other. To Lydgate it seemed that he
had been spending month after month in sacrificing more than half
of his best intent and best power to his tenderness for Rosamond;
bearing her little claims and interruptions without impatience, and,
above all, bearing without betrayal of bitterness to look through
less and less of interfering illusion at the blank unreflecting
surface her mind presented to his ardor for the more impersonal
ends of his profession and his scientific study, an ardor which he
had fancied that the ideal wife must somehow worship as sublime,
though not in the least knowing why. But his endurance was mingled
with a self-discontent which, if we know how to be candid, we shall
confess to make more than half our bitterness under grievances,
wife or husband included. It always remains true that if we had
been greater, circumstance would have been less strong against us.
Lydgate was aware that his concessions to Rosamond were often
little more than the lapse of slackening resolution, the creeping
paralysis apt to seize an enthusiasm which is out of adjustment
to a constant portion of our lives. And on Lydgate's enthusiasm
there was constantly pressing not a simple weight of sorrow,
but the biting presence of a petty degrading care, such as casts
the blight of irony over all higher effort.
This was the care which he had hitherto abstained from mentioning
to Rosamond; and he believed, with some wonder, that it had never entered
her mind, though certainly no difficulty could be less mysterious.
It was an inference with a conspicuous handle to it, and had been
easily drawn by indifferent observers, that Lydgate was in debt;
and he could not succeed in keeping out of his mind for long together
that he was every day getting deeper into that swamp, which tempts
men towards it with such a pretty covering of flowers and verdure.
It is wonderful how soon a man gets up to his chin there--in a condition
in which, spite of himself, he is forced to think chiefly of release,
though he had a scheme of the universe in his soul.
Eighteen months ago Lydgate was poor, but had never known the eager
want of small sums, and felt rather a burning contempt for any one
who descended a step in order to gain them. He was now experiencing
something worse than a simple deficit: he was assailed by the
vulgar hateful trials of a man who has bought and used a great
many things which might have been done without, and which he
is unable to pay for, though the demand for payment has become pressing.
How this came about may be easily seen without much arithmetic or
knowledge of prices. When a man in setting up a house and preparing
for marriage finds that his furniture and other initial expenses
come to between four and five hundred pounds more than he has
capital to pay for; when at the end of a year it appears that his
household expenses, horses and et caeteras, amount to nearly a thousand,
while the proceeds of the practice reckoned from the old books
to be worth eight hundred per annum have sunk like a summer pond
and make hardly five hundred, chiefly in unpaid entries, the plain
inference is that, whether he minds it or not, he is in debt.
Those were less expensive times than our own, and provincial life
was comparatively modest; but the ease with which a medical man
who had lately bought a practice, who thought that he was obliged
to keep two horses, whose table was supplied without stint, and who
paid an insurance on his life and a high rent for house and garden,
might find his expenses doubling his receipts, can be conceived by
any one who does not think these details beneath his consideration.
Rosamond, accustomed from her to an extravagant household,
thought that good housekeeping consisted simply in ordering the
best of everything--nothing else "answered;" and Lydgate supposed
that "if things were done at all, they must be done properly"--
he did not see how they were to live otherwise. If each head
of household expenditure had been mentioned to him beforehand,
he would have probably observed that "it could hardly come to much,"
and if any one had suggested a saving on a particular article--
for example, the substitution of cheap fish for dear--
it would have appeared to him simply a penny-wise, mean notion.
Rosamond, even without such an occasion as Captain Lydgate's visit,
was fond of giving invitations, and Lydgate, though he often thought
the guests tiresome, did not interfere. This sociability seemed
a necessary part of professional prudence, and the entertainment
must be suitable. It is true Lydgate was constantly visiting
the homes of the poor and adjusting his prescriptions of diet
to their small means; but, dear me! has it not by this time ceased
to be remarkable--is it not rather that we expect in men, that they
should have numerous strands of experience lying side by side
and never compare them with each other? Expenditure--like ugliness
and errors--becomes a totally new thing when we attach our own
personality to it, and measure it by that wide difference which is
manifest (in our own sensations) between ourselves and others.
Lydgate believed himself to be careless about his dress, and he
despised a man who calculated the effects of his costume; it seemed
to him only a matter of course that he had abundance of fresh garments--
such things were naturally ordered in sheaves. It must be remembered
that he had never hitherto felt the check of importunate debt,
and he walked by habit, not by self-criticism. But the check had come.
Its novelty made it the more irritating. He was amazed,
disgusted that conditions so foreign to all his purposes, so hatefully
disconnected with the objects he cared to occupy himself with,
should have lain in ambush and clutched him when he was unaware.
And there was not only the actual debt; there was the certainty
that in his present position he must go on deepening it.
Two furnishing tradesmen at Brassing, whose bills had been incurred
before his marriage, and whom uncalculated current expenses had
ever since prevented him from paying, had repeatedly sent him
unpleasant letters which had forced themselves on his attention.
This could hardly have been more galling to any disposition than
to Lydgate's, with his intense pride--his dislike of asking a favor
or being under an obligation to any one. He had scorned even to form
conjectures about Mr. Vincy's intentions on money matters, and nothing
but extremity could have induced him to apply to his father-in-law,
even if he had not been made aware in various indirect ways since
his marriage that Mr. Vincy's own affairs were not flourishing,
and that the expectation of help from him would be resented.
Some men easily trust in the readiness of friends; it had never in
the former part of his life occurred to Lydgate that he should need
to do so: he had never thought what borrowing would be to him;
but now that the idea had entered his mind, he felt that he would
rather incur any other hardship. In the mean time he had no money
or prospects of money; and his practice was not getting more lucrative.
No wonder that Lydgate had been unable to suppress all signs
of inward trouble during the last few months, and now that
Rosamond was regaining brilliant health, he meditated taking her
entirely into confidence on his difficulties. New conversance
with tradesmen's bills had forced his reasoning into a new
channel of comparison: he had begun to consider from a new point
of view what was necessary and unnecessary in goods ordered,
and to see that there must be some change of habits. How could
such a change be made without Rosamond's concurrence? The immediate
occasion of opening the disagreeable fact to her was forced upon him.
Having no money, and having privately sought advice as to what security
could possibly be given by a man in his position, Lydgate had offered
the one good security in his power to the less peremptory creditor,
who was a silversmith and jeweller, and who consented to take on himself
the upholsterer's credit also, accepting interest for a given term.
The security necessary was a bill of sale on the furniture of his house,
which might make a creditor easy for a reasonable time about a debt
amounting to less than four hundred pounds; and the silversmith,
Mr. Dover, was willing to reduce it by taking back a portion
of the plate and any other article which was as good as new.
"Any other article" was a phrase delicately implying jewellery,
and more particularly some purple amethysts costing thirty pounds,
which Lydgate had bought as a bridal present.
Opinions may be divided as to his wisdom in making this present:
some may think that it was a graceful attention to be expected from
a man like Lydgate, and that the fault of any troublesome consequences
lay in the pinched narrowness of provincial life at that time,
which offered no conveniences for professional people whose fortune
was not proportioned to their tastes; also, in Lydgate's ridiculous
fastidiousness about asking his friends for money.
However, it had seemed a question of no moment to him on that fine
morning when he went to give a final order for plate: in the