Part 15 out of 18
his hated companion was a dreary beginning of the Christmas day;
but at the end of the drive, Raffles had recovered his spirits,
and parted in a contentment for which there was the good reason
that the banker had given him a hundred pounds. Various motives
urged Bulstrode to this open-handedness, but he did not himself
inquire closely into all of them. As he had stood watching Raffles
in his uneasy sleep, it had certainly entered his mind that the man
had been much shattered since the first gift of two hundred pounds.
He had taken care to repeat the incisive statement of his resolve
not to be played on any more; and had tried to penetrate Raffles
with the fact that he had shown the risks of bribing him to be
quite equal to the risks of defying him. But when, freed from his
repulsive presence, Bulstrode returned to his quiet home, he brought
with him no confidence that he had secured more than a respite.
It was as if he had had a loathsome dream, and could not shake off
its images with their hateful kindred of sensations--as if on all
the pleasant surroundings of his life a dangerous reptile had left
his slimy traces.
Who can know how much of his most inward life is made up of the
thoughts he believes other men to have about him, until that fabric
of opinion is threatened with ruin?
Bulstrode was only the more conscious that there was a deposit
of uneasy presentiment in his wife's mind, because she carefully
avoided any allusion to it. He had been used every day to taste
the flavor of supremacy and the tribute of complete deference:
and the certainty that he was watched or measured with a hidden
suspicion of his having some discreditable secret, made his voice
totter when he was speaking to edification. Foreseeing, to men
of Bulstrode's anxious temperament, is often worse than seeing;
and his imagination continually heightened the anguish of an
imminent disgrace. Yes, imminent; for if his defiance of Raffles
did not keep the man away--and though he prayed for this result he
hardly hoped for it--the disgrace was certain. In vain he said
to himself that, if permitted, it would be a divine visitation,
a chastisement, a preparation; he recoiled from the imagined burning;
and he judged that it must be more for the Divine glory that he
should escape dishonor. That recoil had at last urged him to make
preparations for quitting Middlemarch. If evil truth must be reported
of him, he would then be at a less scorching distance from the
contempt of his old neighbors; and in a new scene, where his life
would not have gathered the same wide sensibility, the tormentor,
if he pursued him, would be less formidable. To leave the place
finally would, he knew, be extremely painful to his wife, and on other
grounds he would have preferred to stay where he had struck root.
Hence he made his preparations at first in a conditional way,
wishing to leave on all sides an opening for his return after
brief absence, if any favorable intervention of Providence should
dissipate his fears. He was preparing to transfer his management
of the Bank, and to give up any active control of other commercial
affairs in the neighborhood, on the ground of his failing health,
but without excluding his future resumption of such work. The measure
would cause him some added expense and some diminution of income beyond
what he had already undergone from the general depression of trade;
and the Hospital presented itself as a principal object of outlay
on which he could fairly economize.
This was the experience which had determined his conversation
with Lydgate. But at this time his arrangements had most of them
gone no farther than a stage at which he could recall them if they
proved to be unnecessary. He continually deferred the final steps;
in the midst of his fears, like many a man who is in danger of
shipwreck or of being dashed from his carriage by runaway horses,
he had a clinging impression that something would happen to hinder
the worst, and that to spoil his life by a late transplantation
might be over-hasty--especially since it was difficult to account
satisfactorily to his wife for the project of their indefinite exile
from the only place where she would like to live.
Among the affairs Bulstrode had to care for, was the management
of the farm at Stone Court in case of his absence; and on this
as well as on all other matters connected with any houses and land
he possessed in or about Middlemarch, he had consulted Caleb Garth.
Like every one else who had business of that sort, he wanted to get the
agent who was more anxious for his employer's interests than his own.
With regard to Stone Court, since Bulstrode wished to retain his hold
on the stock, and to have an arrangement by which he himself could,
if he chose, resume his favorite recreation of superintendence,
Caleb had advised him not to trust to a mere bailiff, but to let
the land, stock, and implements yearly, and take a proportionate
share of the proceeds.
"May I trust to you to find me a tenant on these terms, Mr. Garth?"
said Bulstrode. "And will you mention to me the yearly sum
which would repay you for managing these affairs which we have
"I'll think about it," said Caleb, in his blunt way. "I'll see
how I can make it out."
If it had not been that he had to consider Fred Vincy's future,
Mr. Garth would not probably have been glad of any addition to his work,
of which his wife was always fearing an excess for him as he grew older.
But on quitting Bulstrode after that conversation, a very alluring
idea occurred to him about this said letting of Stone Court.
What if Bulstrode would agree to his placing Fred Vincy there
on the understanding that he, Caleb Garth, should be responsible
for the management? It would be an excellent schooling for Fred;
he might make a modest income there, and still have time left to get
knowledge by helping in other business. He mentioned his notion
to Mrs. Garth with such evident delight that she could not bear
to chill his pleasure by expressing her constant fear of his
undertaking too much.
"The lad would be as happy as two," he said, throwing himself
back in his chair, and looking radiant, "if I could tell him it
was all settled. Think; Susan! His mind had been running on
that place for years before old Featherstone died. And it would
be as pretty a turn of things as could be that he should hold
the place in a good industrious way after all--by his taking
to business. For it's likely enough Bulstrode might let him go on,
and gradually buy the stock. He hasn't made up his mind, I can see,
whether or not he shall settle somewhere else as a lasting thing.
I never was better pleased with a notion in my life. And then
the children might be married by-and-by, Susan."
"You will not give any hint of the plan to Fred, until you are
sure that Bulstrode would agree to the plan?" said Mrs. Garth,
in a tone of gentle caution. "And as to marriage, Caleb, we old
people need not help to hasten it."
"Oh, I don't know," said Caleb, swinging his head aside.
"Marriage is a taming thing. Fred would want less of my bit
and bridle. However, I shall say nothing till I know the ground
I'm treading on. I shall speak to Bulstrode again."
He took his earliest opportunity of doing so. Bulstrode had anything
but a warm interest in his nephew Fred Vincy, but he had a strong
wish to secure Mr. Garth's services on many scattered points of
business at which he was sure to be a considerable loser, if they
were under less conscientious management. On that ground he made
no objection to Mr. Garth's proposal; and there was also another
reason why he was not sorry to give a consent which was to benefit
one of the Vincy family. It was that Mrs. Bulstrode, having heard
of Lydgate's debts, had been anxious to know whether her husband could
not do something for poor Rosamond, and had been much troubled on
learning from him that Lydgate's affairs were not easily remediable,
and that the wisest plan was to let them "take their course."
Mrs. Bulstrode had then said for the first time, "I think you are
always a little hard towards my family, Nicholas. And I am sure I
have no reason to deny any of my relatives. Too worldly they may be,
but no one ever had to say that they were not respectable."
"My dear Harriet," said Mr. Bulstrode, wincing under his wife's eyes,
which were filling with tears, "I have supplied your brother
with a great deal of capital. I cannot be expected to take care
of his married children."
That seemed to be true, and Mrs. Bulstrode's remonstrance subsided
into pity for poor Rosamond, whose extravagant education she had
always foreseen the fruits of.
But remembering that dialogue, Mr. Bulstrode felt that when he had
to talk to his wife fully about his plan of quitting Middlemarch,
he should be glad to tell her that he had made an arrangement
which might be for the good of her nephew Fred. At present he had
merely mentioned to her that he thought of shutting up The Shrubs
for a few months, and taking a house on the Southern Coast.
Hence Mr. Garth got the assurance he desired, namely, that in case
of Bulstrode's departure from Middlemarch for an indefinite time,
Fred Vincy should be allowed to have the tenancy of Stone Court on
the terms proposed.
Caleb was so elated with his hope of this "neat turn" being given
to things, that if his self-control had not been braced by a little
affectionate wifely scolding, he would have betrayed everything to Mary,
wanting "to give the child comfort." However, he restrained himself,
and kept in strict privacy from Fred certain visits which he
was making to Stone Court, in order to look more thoroughly into
the state of the land and stock, and take a preliminary estimate.
He was certainly more eager in these visits than the probable speed
of events required him to be; but he was stimulated by a fatherly
delight in occupying his mind with this bit of probable happiness
which he held in store like a hidden birthday gift for Fred and Mary.
"But suppose the whole scheme should turn out to be a castle
in the air?" said Mrs. Garth.
"Well, well," replied Caleb; "the castle will tumble about nobody's head."
"If thou hast heard a word, let it die with thee."
Mr. Bulstrode was still seated in his manager's room at the Bank,
about three o'clock of the same day on which he had received Lydgate
there, when the clerk entered to say that his horse was waiting,
and also that Mr. Garth was outside and begged to speak with him.
"By all means," said Bulstrode; and Caleb entered. "Pray sit down,
Mr. Garth," continued the banker, in his suavest tone.
"I am glad that you arrived just in time to find me here.
I know you count your minutes."
"Oh," said Caleb, gently, with a slow swing of his head on one side,
as he seated himself and laid his hat on the floor.
He looked at the ground, leaning forward and letting his long fingers
droop between his legs, while each finger moved in succession,
as if it were sharing some thought which filled his large quiet brow.
Mr. Bulstrode, like every one else who knew Caleb, was used
to his slowness in beginning to speak on any topic which he felt
to be important, and rather expected that he was about to recur
to the buying of some houses in Blindman's Court, for the sake
of pulling them down, as a sacrifice of property which would be
well repaid by the influx of air and light on that spot. It was
by propositions of this kind that Caleb was sometimes troublesome
to his employers; but he had usually found Bulstrode ready to meet
him in projects of improvement, and they had got on well together.
When he spoke again, however, it was to say, in rather a subdued voice--
"I have just come away from Stone Court, Mr. Bulstrode."
"You found nothing wrong there, I hope," said the banker; "I was
there myself yesterday. Abel has done well with the lambs this year."
"Why, yes," said Caleb, looking up gravely, "there is something wrong--
a stranger, who is very ill, I think. He wants a doctor, and I came
to tell you of that. His name is Raffles."
He saw the shock of his words passing through Bulstrode's frame.
On this subject the banker had thought that his fears were too constantly
on the watch to be taken by surprise; but he had been mistaken.
"Poor wretch!" he said in a compassionate tone, though his lips
trembled a little. "Do you know how he came there?"
"I took him myself," said Caleb, quietly--"took him up in my gig.
He had got down from the coach, and was walking a little
beyond the turning from the toll-house, and I overtook him.
He remembered seeing me with you once before, at Stone Court,
and he asked me to take him on. I saw he was ill: it seemed
to me the right thing to do, to carry him under shelter.
And now I think you should lose no time in getting advice for him."
Caleb took up his hat from the floor as he ended, and rose slowly
from his seat.
"Certainly," said Bulstrode, whose mind was very active at this moment.
"Perhaps you will yourself oblige me, Mr. Garth, by calling at
Mr. Lydgate's as you pass--or stay! he may at this hour probably
be at the Hospital. I will first send my man on the horse there
with a note this instant, and then I will myself ride to Stone Court."
Bulstrode quickly wrote a note, and went out himself to give
the commission to his man. When he returned, Caleb was standing
as before with one hand on the back of the chair, holding his hat
with the other. In Bulstrode's mind the dominant thought was,
"Perhaps Raffles only spoke to Garth of his illness. Garth may wonder,
as he must have done before, at this disreputable fellow's claiming
intimacy with me; but he will know nothing. And he is friendly to me--
I can be of use to him."
He longed for some confirmation of this hopeful conjecture,
but to have asked any question as to what Raffles had said or done
would have been to betray fear.
"I am exceedingly obliged to you, Mr. Garth," he said, in his usual
tone of politeness. "My servant will be back in a few minutes,
and I shall then go myself to see what can be done for this
unfortunate man. Perhaps you had some other business with me?
If so, pray be seated."
"Thank you," said Caleb, making a slight gesture with his right
hand to waive the invitation. "I wish to say, Mr. Bulstrode,
that I must request you to put your business into some other hands
than mine. I am obliged to you for your handsome way of meeting me--
about the letting of Stone Court, and all other business.
But I must give it up." A sharp certainty entered like a stab into
"This is sudden, Mr. Garth," was all he could say at first.
"It is," said Caleb; "but it is quite fixed. I must give it up."
He spoke with a firmness which was very gentle, and yet he could see
that Bulstrode seemed to cower under that gentleness, his face looking
dried and his eyes swerving away from the glance which rested on him.
Caleb felt a deep pity for him, but he could have used no pretexts
to account for his resolve, even if they would have been of any use.
"You have been led to this, I apprehend, by some slanders
concerning me uttered by that unhappy creature," said Bulstrode,
anxious now to know the utmost.
"That is true. I can't deny that I act upon what I heard from him."
"You are a conscientious man, Mr. Garth--a man, I trust,
who feels himself accountable to God. You would not wish to injure
me by being too ready to believe a slander," said Bulstrode,
casting about for pleas that might be adapted to his hearer's mind.
"That is a poor reason for giving up a connection which I think
I may say will be mutually beneficial."
"I would injure no man if I could help it," said Caleb; "even if I
thought God winked at it. I hope I should have a feeling for my
fellow-creature. But, sir--I am obliged to believe that this Raffles
has told me the truth. And I can't be happy in working with you,
or profiting by you. It hurts my mind. I must beg you to seek
"Very well, Mr. Garth. But I must at least claim to know the worst
that he has told you. I must know what is the foul speech that I
am liable to be the victim of," said Bulstrode, a certain amount
of anger beginning to mingle with his humiliation before this quiet
man who renounced his benefits.
"That's needless," said Caleb, waving his hand, bowing his head slightly,
and not swerving from the tone which had in it the merciful intention
to spare this pitiable man. "What he has said to me will never
pass from my lips, unless something now unknown forces it from me.
If you led a harmful life for gain, and kept others out of their
rights by deceit, to get the more for yourself, I dare say you repent--
you would like to go back, and can't: that must be a bitter thing"--
Caleb paused a moment and shook his head--"it is not for me to make
your life harder to you."
"But you do--you do make it harder to me," said Bulstrode constrained
into a genuine, pleading cry. "You make it harder to me by turning
your back on me."
"That I'm forced to do," said Caleb, still more gently, lifting up
his hand. "I am sorry. I don't judge you and say, he is wicked,
and I am righteous. God forbid. I don't know everything. A man
may do wrong, and his will may rise clear out of it, though he can't
get his life clear. That's a bad punishment. If it is so with you,--
well, I'm very sorry for you. But I have that feeling inside me,
that I can't go on working with you. That's all, Mr. Bulstrode.
Everything else is buried, so far as my will goes. And I wish
"One moment, Mr. Garth!" said Bulstrode, hurriedly. "I may trust
then to your solemn assurance that you will not repeat either
to man or woman what--even if it have any degree of truth in it--
is yet a malicious representation?" Caleb's wrath was stirred,
and he said, indignantly--
"Why should I have said it if I didn't mean it? I am in no fear
of you. Such tales as that will never tempt my tongue."
"Excuse me--I am agitated--I am the victim of this abandoned man."
"Stop a bit! you have got to consider whether you didn't help
to make him worse, when you profited by his vices."
"You are wronging me by too readily believing him," said Bulstrode,
oppressed, as by a nightmare, with the inability to deny flatly
what Raffles might have said; and yet feeling it an escape
that Caleb had not so stated it to him as to ask for that flat denial.
"No," said Caleb, lifting his hand deprecatingly; "I am ready to
believe better, when better is proved. I rob you of no good chance.
As to speaking, I hold it a crime to expose a man's sin unless
I'm clear it must be done to save the innocent. That is my way
of thinking, Mr. Bulstrode, and what I say, I've no need to swear.
I wish you good-day."
Some hours later, when he was at home, Caleb said to his wife,
incidentally, that he had had some little differences with Bulstrode,
and that in consequence, he had given up all notion of taking
Stone Court, and indeed had resigned doing further business for him.
"He was disposed to interfere too much, was he?" said Mrs. Garth,
imagining that her husband had been touched on his sensitive point,
and not been allowed to do what he thought right as to materials
and modes of work.
"Oh," said Caleb, bowing his head and waving his hand gravely.
And Mrs. Garth knew that this was a sign of his not intending to speak
further on the subject.
As for Bulstrode, he had almost immediately mounted his horse and set
off for Stone Court, being anxious to arrive there before Lydgate.
His mind was crowded with images and conjectures, which were a language
to his hopes and fears, just as we hear tones from the vibrations
which shake our whole system. The deep humiliation with which he
had winced under Caleb Garth's knowledge of his past and rejection
of his patronage, alternated with and almost gave way to the sense
of safety in the fact that Garth, and no other, had been the man
to whom Raffles had spoken. It seemed to him a sort of earnest
that Providence intended his rescue from worse consequences;
the way being thus left open for the hope of secrecy. That Raffles
should be afflicted with illness, that he should have been led
to Stone Court rather than elsewhere--Bulstrode's heart fluttered
at the vision of probabilities which these events conjured up.
If it should turn out that he was freed from all danger of disgrace--
if he could breathe in perfect liberty--his life should be more
consecrated than it had ever been before. He mentally lifted
up this vow as if it would urge the result he longed for--
he tried to believe in the potency of that prayerful resolution--
its potency to determine death. He knew that he ought to say,
"Thy will be done;" and he said it often. But the intense desire
remained that the will of God might be the death of that hated man.
Yet when he arrived at Stone Court he could not see the change
in Raffles without a shock. But for his pallor and feebleness,
Bulstrode would have called the change in him entirely mental.
Instead of his loud tormenting mood, he showed an intense, vague terror,
and seemed to deprecate Bulstrode's anger, because the money was
all gone--he had been robbed--it had half of it been taken from him.
He had only come here because he was ill and somebody was hunting him--
somebody was after him he had told nobody anything, he had kept
his mouth shut. Bulstrode, not knowing the significance of
these symptoms, interpreted this new nervous susceptibility into
a means of alarming Raffles into true confessions, and taxed him
with falsehood in saying that he had not told anything, since he
had just told the man who took him up in his gig and brought him
to Stone Court. Raffles denied this with solemn adjurations;
the fact being that the links of consciousness were interrupted in him,
and that his minute terror-stricken narrative to Caleb Garth had been
delivered under a set of visionary impulses which had dropped back
Bulstrode's heart sank again at this sign that he could get no
grasp over the wretched man's mind, and that no word of Raffles
could be trusted as to the fact which he most wanted to know,
namely, whether or not he had really kept silence to every one in
the neighborhood except Caleb Garth. The housekeeper had told him
without the least constraint of manner that since Mr. Garth left,
Raffles had asked her for beer, and after that had not spoken,
seeming very ill. On that side it might be concluded that there
had been no betrayal. Mrs. Abel thought, like the servants at
The Shrubs, that the strange man belonged to the unpleasant "kin"
who are among the troubles of the rich; she had at first referred
the kinship to Mr. Rigg, and where there was property left,
the buzzing presence of such large blue-bottles seemed natural enough.
How he could be "kin" to Bulstrode as well was not so clear,
but Mrs. Abel agreed with her husband that there was "no knowing,"
a proposition which had a great deal of mental food for her,
so that she shook her head over it without further speculation.
In less than an hour Lydgate arrived. Bulstrode met him outside
the wainscoted parlor, where Raffles was, and said--
"I have called you in, Mr. Lydgate, to an unfortunate man who was once
in my employment, many years ago. Afterwards he went to America,
and returned I fear to an idle dissolute life. Being destitute,
he has a claim on me. He was slightly connected with Rigg,
the former owner of this place, and in consequence found his way here.
I believe he is seriously ill: apparently his mind is affected.
I feel bound to do the utmost for him."
Lydgate, who had the remembrance of his last conversation with
Bulstrode strongly upon him, was not disposed to say an unnecessary
word to him, and bowed slightly in answer to this account;
but just before entering the room he turned automatically
and said, "What is his name?"--to know names being as much a part
of the medical man's accomplishment as of the practical politician's.
"Raffles, John Raffles," said Bulstrode, who hoped that whatever
became of Raffles, Lydgate would never know any more of him.
When he had thoroughly examined and considered the patient, Lydgate
ordered that he should go to bed, and be kept there in as complete
quiet as possible, and then went with Bulstrode into another room.
"It is a serious case, I apprehend," said the banker, before Lydgate
began to speak.
"No--and yes," said Lydgate, half dubiously. "It is difficult
to decide as to the possible effect of long-standing complications;
but the man had a robust constitution to begin with. I should not
expect this attack to be fatal, though of course the system is
in a ticklish state. He should be well watched and attended to."
"I will remain here myself," said Bulstrode. "Mrs. Abel and her
husband are inexperienced. I can easily remain here for the night,
if you will oblige me by taking a note for Mrs. Bulstrode."
"I should think that is hardly necessary," said Lydgate. "He seems
tame and terrified enough. He might become more unmanageable.
But there is a man here--is there not?"
"I have more than once stayed here a few nights for the sake
of seclusion," said Bulstrode, indifferently; "I am quite disposed
to do so now. Mrs. Abel and her husband can relieve or aid me,
"Very well. Then I need give my directions only to you," said Lydgate,
not feeling surprised at a little peculiarity in Bulstrode.
"You think, then, that the case is hopeful?" said Bulstrode,
when Lydgate had ended giving his orders.
"Unless there turn out to be further complications, such as I
have not at present detected--yes," said Lydgate. "He may pass
on to a worse stage; but I should not wonder if he got better
in a few days, by adhering to the treatment I have prescribed.
There must be firmness. Remember, if he calls for liquors of any sort,
not to give them to him. In my opinion, men in his condition are
oftener killed by treatment than by the disease. Still, new symptoms
may arise. I shall come again to-morrow morning."
After waiting for the note to be carried to Mrs. Bulstrode,
Lydgate rode away, forming no conjectures, in the first instance,
about the history of Raffles, but rehearsing the whole argument,
which had lately been much stirred by the publication of Dr. Ware's
abundant experience in America, as to the right way of treating
cases of alcoholic poisoning such as this. Lydgate, when abroad,
had already been interested in this question: he was strongly
convinced against the prevalent practice of allowing alcohol
and persistently administering large doses of opium; and he had
repeatedly acted on this conviction with a favorable result.
"The man is in a diseased state," he thought, "but there's a good deal
of wear in him still. I suppose he is an object of charity to Bulstrode.
It is curious what patches of hardness and tenderness lie side by
side in men's dispositions. Bulstrode seems the most unsympathetic
fellow I ever saw about some people, and yet he has taken no end
of trouble, and spent a great deal of money, on benevolent objects.
I suppose he has some test by which he finds out whom Heaven
cares for--he has made up his mind that it doesn't care for me."
This streak of bitterness came from a plenteous source, and kept
widening in the current of his thought as he neared Lowick Gate.
He had not been there since his first interview with Bulstrode
in the morning, having been found at the Hospital by the banker's
messenger; and for the first time he was returning to his home
without the vision of any expedient in the background which left
him a hope of raising money enough to deliver him from the coming
destitution of everything which made his married life tolerable--
everything which saved him and Rosamond from that bare isolation
in which they would be forced to recognize how little of a comfort
they could be to each other. It was more bearable to do without
tenderness for himself than to see that his own tenderness could
make no amends for the lack of other things to her. The sufferings
of his own pride from humiliations past and to come were keen enough,
yet they were hardly distinguishable to himself from that more acute
pain which dominated them--the pain of foreseeing that Rosamond
would come to regard him chiefly as the cause of disappointment and
unhappiness to her. He had never liked the makeshifts of poverty,
and they had never before entered into his prospects for himself;
but he was beginning now to imagine how two creatures who loved
each other, and had a stock of thoughts in common, might laugh
over their shabby furniture, and their calculations how far they
could afford butter and eggs. But the glimpse of that poetry
seemed as far off from him as the carelessness of the golden age;
in poor Rosamond's mind there was not room enough for luxuries to look
small in. He got down from his horse in a very sad mood, and went
into the house, not expecting to be cheered except by his dinner,
and reflecting that before the evening closed it would be wise
to tell Rosamond of his application to Bulstrode and its failure.
It would be well not to lose time in preparing her for the worst.
But his dinner waited long for him before he was able to eat it.
For on entering he found that Dover's agent had already put a man
in the house, and when he asked where Mrs. Lydgate was, he was told
that she was in her bedroom. He went up and found her stretched
on the bed pale and silent, without an answer even in her face
to any word or look of his. He sat down by the bed and leaning
over her said with almost a cry of prayer--
"Forgive me for this misery, my poor Rosamond! Let us only love
She looked at him silently, still with the blank despair on her face;
but then the tears began to fill her blue eyes, and her lip trembled.
The strong man had had too much to bear that day. He let his head
fall beside hers and sobbed.
He did not hinder her from going to her father early in the morning--
it seemed now that he ought not to hinder her from doing as she pleased.
In half an hour she came back, and said that papa and mamma wished her
to go and stay with them while things were in this miserable state.
Papa said he could do nothing about the debt--if he paid this,
there would be half-a-dozen more. She had better come back
home again till Lydgate had got a comfortable home for her.
"Do you object, Tertius?"
"Do as you like," said Lydgate. "But things are not coming
to a crisis immediately. There is no hurry."
"I should not go till to-morrow," said Rosamond; "I shall want
to pack my clothes."
"Oh, I would wait a little longer than to-morrow--there is no
knowing what may happen," said Lydgate, with bitter irony.
"I may get my neck broken, and that may make things easier to you."
It was Lydgate's misfortune and Rosamond's too, that his tenderness
towards her, which was both an emotional prompting and a well-considered
resolve, was inevitably interrupted by these outbursts of indignation
either ironical or remonstrant. She thought them totally unwarranted,
and the repulsion which this exceptional severity excited in
her was in danger of making the more persistent tenderness unacceptable.
"I see you do not wish me to go," she said, with chill mildness;
"why can you not say so, without that kind of violence? I shall stay
until you request me to do otherwise."
Lydgate said no more, but went out on his rounds. He felt bruised
and shattered, and there was a dark line under his eyes which
Rosamond had not seen before. She could not bear to look at him.
Tertius had a way of taking things which made them a great deal
worse for her.
Our deeds still travel with us from afar,
And what we have been makes us what we are."
Bulstrode's first object after Lydgate had left Stone Court was
to examine Raffles's pockets, which he imagined were sure to carry
signs in the shape of hotel-bills of the places he had stopped in,
if he had not told the truth in saying that he had come straight
from Liverpool because he was ill and had no money. There were
various bills crammed into his pocketbook, but none of a later
date than Christmas at any other place, except one, which bore
date that morning. This was crumpled up with a hand-bill about
a horse-fair in one of his tail-pockets, and represented the cost
of three days' stay at an inn at Bilkley, where the fair was held--
a town at least forty miles from Middlemarch. The bill was heavy,
and since Raffles had no luggage with him, it seemed probable that he
had left his portmanteau behind in payment, in order to save money
for his travelling fare; for his purse was empty, and he had only
a couple of sixpences and some loose pence in his pockets.
Bulstrode gathered a sense of safety from these indications that
Raffles had really kept at a distance from Middlemarch since his
memorable visit at Christmas. At a distance and among people who
were strangers to Bulstrode, what satisfaction could there be to
Raffles's tormenting, self-magnifying vein in telling old scandalous
stories about a Middlemarch banker? And what harm if he did talk?
The chief point now was to keep watch over him as long as there
was any danger of that intelligible raving, that unaccountable
impulse to tell, which seemed to have acted towards Caleb Garth;
and Bulstrode felt much anxiety lest some such impulse should come
over him at the sight of Lydgate. He sat up alone with him through
the night, only ordering the housekeeper to lie down in her clothes,
so as to be ready when he called her, alleging his own indisposition
to sleep, and his anxiety to carry out the doctor's orders.
He did carry them out faithfully, although Raffles was incessantly
asking for brandy, and declaring that he was sinking away--
that the earth was sinking away from under him. He was restless
and sleepless, but still quailing and manageable. On the offer
of the food ordered by Lydgate, which he refused, and the denial
of other things which he demanded, he seemed to concentrate
all his terror on Bulstrode, imploringly deprecating his anger,
his revenge on him by starvation, and declaring with strong oaths
that he had never told any mortal a word against him. Even this
Bulstrode felt that he would not have liked Lydgate to hear;
but a more alarming sign of fitful alternation in his delirium was,
that in-the morning twilight Raffles suddenly seemed to imagine
a doctor present, addressing him and declaring that Bulstrode
wanted to starve him to death out of revenge for telling, when he
never had told.
Bulstrode's native imperiousness and strength of determination served
him well. This delicate-looking man, himself nervously perturbed,
found the needed stimulus in his strenuous circumstances, and through
that difficult night and morning, while he had the air of an animated
corpse returned to movement without warmth, holding the mastery
by its chill impassibility his mind was intensely at work thinking
of what he had to guard against and what would win him security.
Whatever prayers he might lift up, whatever statements he might inwardly
make of this man's wretched spiritual condition, and the duty he
himself was under to submit to the punishment divinely appointed for
him rather than to wish for evil to another--through all this effort
to condense words into a solid mental state, there pierced and spread
with irresistible vividness the images of the events he desired.
And in the train of those images came their apology. He could not
but see the death of Raffles, and see in it his own deliverance.
What was the removal of this wretched creature? He was impenitent--
but were not public criminals impenitent?--yet the law decided
on their fate. Should Providence in this case award death,
there was no sin in contemplating death as the desirable issue--
if he kept his hands from hastening it--if he scrupulously did
what was prescribed. Even here there might be a mistake:
human prescriptions were fallible things: Lydgate had said that
treatment had hastened death,--why not his own method of treatment?
But of course intention was everything in the question of right
And Bulstrode set himself to keep his intention separate from
his desire. He inwardly declared that he intended to obey orders.
Why should he have got into any argument about the validity of
these orders? It was only the common trick of desire--which avails
itself of any irrelevant scepticism, finding larger room for itself
in all uncertainty about effects, in every obscurity that looks
like the absence of law. Still, he did obey the orders.
His anxieties continually glanced towards Lydgate, and his remembrance
of what had taken place between them the morning before was accompanied
with sensibilities which had not been roused at all during the
actual scene. He had then cared but little about Lydgate's painful
impressions with regard to the suggested change in the Hospital,
or about the disposition towards himself which what he held to be his
justifiable refusal of a rather exorbitant request might call forth.
He recurred to the scene now with a perception that he had probably
made Lydgate his enemy, and with an awakened desire to propitiate him,
or rather to create in him a strong sense of personal obligation.
He regretted that he had not at once made even an unreasonable
money-sacrifice. For in case of unpleasant suspicions, or even
knowledge gathered from the raving of Raffles, Bulstrode would have
felt that he had a defence in Lydgate's mind by having conferred
a momentous benefit on him. But the regret had perhaps come too late.
Strange, piteous conflict in the soul of this unhappy man,
who had longed for years to be better than he was--who had taken
his selfish passions into discipline and clad them in severe robes,
so that he had walked with them as a devout choir, till now that
a terror had risen among them, and they could chant no longer,
but threw out their common cries for safety.
It was nearly the middle of the day before Lydgate arrived:
he had meant to come earlier, but had been detained, he said;
and his shattered looks were noticed by Balstrode. But he immediately
threw himself into the consideration of the patient, and inquired
strictly into all that had occurred. Raffles was worse, would take
hardly any food, was persistently wakeful and restlessly raving;
but still not violent. Contrary to Bulstrode's alarmed expectation,
he took little notice of Lydgate's presence, and continued to talk or
"What do you think of him?" said Bulstrode, in private.
"The symptoms are worse."
"You are less hopeful?"
"No; I still think he may come round. Are you going to stay here yourself?"
said Lydgate, looking at Bulstrode with an abrupt question, which made
him uneasy, though in reality it was not due to any suspicious conjecture.
"Yes, I think so," said Bulstrode, governing himself and speaking
with deliberation. "Mrs. Bulstrode is advised of the reasons which
detain me. Mrs. Abel and her husband are not experienced enough
to be left quite alone, and this kind of responsibility is scarcely
included in their service of me. You have some fresh instructions,
The chief new instruction that Lydgate had to give was on
the administration of extremely moderate doses of opium,
in case of the sleeplessness continuing after several hours.
He had taken the precaution of bringing opium in his pocket, and he
gave minute directions to Bulstrode as to the doses, and the point
at which they should cease. He insisted on the risk of not ceasing;
and repeated his order that no alcohol should be given.
"From what I see of the case," he ended, "narcotism is the only
thing I should be much afraid of. He may wear through even without
much food. There's a good deal of strength in him."
"You look ill yourself, Mr. Lydgate--a most unusual, I may say
unprecedented thing in my knowledge of you," said Bulstrode,
showing a solicitude as unlike his indifference the day before,
as his present recklessness about his own fatigue was unlike his
habitual self-cherishing anxiety. "I fear you are harassed."
"Yes, I am," said Lydgate, brusquely, holding his hat, and ready
"Something new, I fear," said Bulstrode, inquiringly. "Pray be seated."
"No, thank you," said Lydgate, with some hauteur. "I mentioned
to you yesterday what was the state of my affairs. There is nothing
to add, except that the execution has since then been actually put into
my house. One can tell a good deal of trouble in a short sentence.
I will say good morning."
"Stay, Mr. Lydgate, stay," said Bulstrode; "I have been
reconsidering this subject. I was yesterday taken by surprise,
and saw it superficially. Mrs. Bulstrode is anxious for her niece,
and I myself should grieve at a calamitous change in your position.
Claims on me are numerous, but on reconsideration, I esteem it right
that I should incur a small sacrifice rather than leave you unaided.
You said, I think, that a thousand pounds would suffice entirely to
free you from your burthens, and enable you to recover a firm stand?"
"Yes," said Lydgate, a great leap of joy within him surmounting every
other feeling; "that would pay all my debts, and leave me a little
on hand. I could set about economizing in our way of living.
And by-and-by my practice might look up."
"If you will wait a moment, Mr. Lydgate, I will draw a cheek to
that amount. I am aware that help, to be effectual in these cases,
should be thorough."
While Bulstrode wrote, Lydgate turned to the window thinking of his home--
thinking of his life with its good start saved from frustration,
its good purposes still unbroken.
"You can give me a note of hand for this, Mr. Lydgate," said the banker,
advancing towards him with the check. "And by-and-by, I hope,
you may be in circumstances gradually to repay me. Meanwhile, I have
pleasure in thinking that you will be released from further difficulty."
"I am deeply obliged to you," said Lydgate. "You have restored
to me the prospect of working with some happiness and some chance
It appeared to him a very natural movement in Bulstrode that he
should have reconsidered his refusal: it corresponded with the more
munificent side of his character. But as he put his hack into
a canter, that he might get the sooner home, and tell the good news
to Rosamond, and get cash at the bank to pay over to Dover's agent,
there crossed his mind, with an unpleasant impression, as from
a dark-winged flight of evil augury across his vision, the thought
of that contrast in himself which a few months had brought--that he
should be overjoyed at being under a strong personal obligation--
that he should be overjoyed at getting money for himself from Bulstrode.
The banker felt that he had done something to nullify one cause
of uneasiness, and yet he was scarcely the easier. He did not measure
the quantity of diseased motive which had made him wish for Lydgate's
good-will, but the quantity was none the less actively there,
like an irritating agent in his blood. A man vows, and yet will not
cast away the means of breaking his vow. Is it that he distinctly
means to break it? Not at all; but the desires which tend to break
it are at work in him dimly, and make their way into his imagination,
and relax his muscles in the very moments when he is telling himself
over again the reasons for his vow. Raffles, recovering quickly,
returning to the free use of his odious powers--how could Bulstrode
wish for that? Raffles dead was the image that brought release,
and indirectly he prayed for that way of release, beseeching that,
if it were possible, the rest of his days here below might be
freed from the threat of an ignominy which would break him utterly
as an instrument of God's service. Lydgate's opinion was not
on the side of promise that this prayer would be fulfilled;
and as the day advanced, Bulstrode felt himself getting irritated
at the persistent life in this man, whom he would fain have seen
sinking into the silence of death imperious will stirred murderous
impulses towards this brute life, over which will, by itself,
had no power. He said inwardly that he was getting too much worn;
he would not sit up with the patient to-night, but leave him to
Mrs. Abel, who, if necessary, could call her husband.
At six o'clock, Raffles, having had only fitful perturbed
snatches of sleep, from which he waked with fresh restlessness
and perpetual cries that he was sinking away, Bulstrode began
to administer the opium according to Lydgate's directions.
At the end of half an hour or more he called Mrs. Abel and told
her that he found himself unfit for further watching. He must
now consign the patient to her care; and he proceeded to repeat
to her Lydgate's directions as to the quantity of each dose.
Mrs. Abel had not before known anything of Lydgate's prescriptions;
she had simply prepared and brought whatever Bulstrode ordered,
and had done what he pointed out to her. She began now to ask
what else she should do besides administering the opium.
"Nothing at present, except the offer of the soup or the soda-water:
you can come to me for further directions. Unless there is any
important change, I shall not come into the room again to-night. You
will ask your husband for help if necessary. I must go to bed early."
"You've much need, sir, I'm sure," said Mrs. Abel, "and to take
something more strengthening than what you've done."
Bulstrode went away now without anxiety as to what Raffles might say
in his raving, which had taken on a muttering incoherence not likely
to create any dangerous belief. At any rate he must risk this.
He went down into the wainscoted parlor first, and began to
consider whether he would not have his horse saddled and go home
by the moonlight, and give up caring for earthly consequences.
Then, he wished that he had begged Lydgate to come again
that evening. Perhaps he might deliver a different opinion,
and think that Raffles was getting into a less hopeful state.
Should he send for Lydgate? If Raffles were really getting worse,
and slowly dying, Bulstrode felt that he could go to bed and sleep
in gratitude to Providence. But was he worse? Lydgate might come
and simply say that he was going on as he expected, and predict
that he would by-and-by fall into a good sleep, and get well.
What was the use of sending for him? Bulstrode shrank from that result.
No ideas or opinions could hinder him from seeing the one probability
to be, that Raffles recovered would be just the same man as before,
with his strength as a tormentor renewed, obliging him to drag away
his wife to spend her years apart from her friends and native place,
carrying an alienating suspicion against him in her heart.
He had sat an hour and a half in this conflict by the firelight only,
when a sudden thought made him rise and light the bed-candle,
which he had brought down with him. The thought was, that he
had not told Mrs. Abel when the doses of opium must cease.
He took hold of the candlestick, but stood motionless for a long while.
She might already have given him more than Lydgate had prescribed.
But it was excusable in him, that he should forget part of an order,
in his present wearied condition. He walked up-stairs, candle
in hand, not knowing whether he should straightway enter his own
room and go to bed, or turn to the patient's room and rectify
his omission. He paused in the passage, with his face turned towards
Raffles's room, and he could hear him moaning and murmuring.
He was not asleep, then. Who could know that Lydgate's prescription
would not be better disobeyed than followed, since there was still
He turned into his own room. Before he had quite undressed,
Mrs. Abel rapped at the door; he opened it an inch, so that he
could hear her speak low.
"If you please, sir, should I have no brandy nor nothing to give
the poor creetur? He feels sinking away, and nothing else will
he swaller--and but little strength in it, if he did--only the opium.
And he says more and more he's sinking down through the earth."
To her surprise, Mr. Bulstrode did not answer. A struggle was going
on within him.
"I think he must die for want o' support, if he goes on in that way.
When I nursed my poor master, Mr. Robisson, I had to give him port-wine
and brandy constant, and a big glass at a time," added Mrs. Abel,
with a touch of remonstrance in her tone.
But again Mr. Bulstrode did not answer immediately, and she continued,
"It's not a time to spare when people are at death's door, nor would
you wish it, sir, I'm sure. Else I should give him our own bottle o'
rum as we keep by us. But a sitter-up so as you've been, and doing
everything as laid in your power--"
Here a key was thrust through the inch of doorway, and Mr. Bulstrode
said huskily, "That is the key of the wine-cooler. You will find
plenty of brandy there."
Early in the morning--about six--Mr. Bulstrode rose and spent
some time in prayer. Does any one suppose that private prayer
is necessarily candid--necessarily goes to the roots of action?
Private prayer is inaudible speech, and speech is representative:
who can represent himself just as he is, even in his own reflections?
Bulstrode had not yet unravelled in his thought the confused promptings
of the last four-and-twenty hours.
He listened in the passage, and could hear hard stertorous breathing.
Then he walked out in the garden, and looked at the early rime on
the grass and fresh spring leaves. When he re-entered the house,
he felt startled at the sight of Mrs. Abel.
"How is your patient--asleep, I think?" he said, with an attempt
at cheerfulness in his tone.
"He's gone very deep, sir," said Mrs. Abel. "He went off gradual
between three and four o'clock. Would you please to go and look
at him? I thought it no harm to leave him. My man's gone afield,
and the little girl's seeing to the kettles."
Bulstrode went up. At a glance he knew that Raffles was not in
the sleep which brings revival, but in the sleep which streams
deeper and deeper into the gulf of death.
He looked round the room and saw a bottle with some brandy in it,
and the almost empty opium phial. He put the phial out of sight,
and carried the brandy-bottle down-stairs with him, locking it again
in the wine-cooler.
While breakfasting he considered whether he should ride to
Middlemarch at once, or wait for Lydgate's arrival. He decided
to wait, and told Mrs. Abel that she might go about her work--
he could watch in the bed-chamber.
As he sat there and beheld the enemy of his peace going irrevocably
into silence, he felt more at rest than he had done for many months.
His conscience was soothed by the enfolding wing of secrecy,
which seemed just then like an angel sent down for his relief.
He drew out his pocket-book to review various memoranda there as
to the arrangements he had projected and partly carried out in the
prospect of quitting Middlemarch, and considered how far he would
let them stand or recall them, now that his absence would be brief.
Some economies which he felt desirable might still find a suitable
occasion in his temporary withdrawal from management, and he hoped
still that Mrs. Casaubon would take a large share in the expenses
of the Hospital. In that way the moments passed, until a change
in the stertorous breathing was marked enough to draw his attention
wholly to the bed, and forced him to think of the departing life,
which had once been subservient to his own--which he had once been
glad to find base enough for him to act on as he would. It was his
gladness then which impelled him now to be glad that the life was at
And who could say that the death of Raffles had been hastened?
Who knew what would have saved him?
Lydgate arrived at half-past ten, in time to witness the final
pause of the breath. When he entered the room Bulstrode observed
a sudden expression in his face, which was not so much surprise as a
recognition that he had not judged correctly. He stood by the bed
in silence for some time, with his eyes turned on the dying man,
but with that subdued activity of expression which showed that he
was carrying on an inward debate.
"When did this change begin?" said he, looking at Bulstrode.
"I did not watch by him last night," said Bulstrode.
"I was over-worn, and left him under Mrs. Abel's care.
She said that he sank into sleep between three and four o'clock.
When I came in before eight he was nearly in this condition."
Lydgate did not ask another question, but watched in silence until
he said, "It's all over."
This morning Lydgate was in a state of recovered hope and freedom.
He had set out on his work with all his old animation, and felt himself
strong enough to bear all the deficiencies of his married life.
And he was conscious that Bulstrode had been a benefactor to him.
But he was uneasy about this case. He had not expected it to
terminate as it had done. Yet he hardly knew how to put a question
on the subject to Bulstrode without appearing to insult him;
and if he examined the housekeeper--why, the man was dead.
There seemed to be no use in implying that somebody's ignorance
or imprudence had killed him. And after all, he himself might
He and Bulstrode rode back to Middlemarch together, talking of
many things--chiefly cholera and the chances of the Reform Bill
in the House of Lords, and the firm resolve of the political Unions.
Nothing was said about Raffles, except that Bulstrode mentioned
the necessity of having a grave for him in Lowick churchyard,
and observed that, so far as he knew, the poor man had no connections,
except Rigg, whom he had stated to be unfriendly towards him.
On returning home Lydgate had a visit from Mr. Farebrother. The Vicar
had not been in the town the day before, but the news that there
was an execution in Lydgate's house had got to Lowick by the evening,
having been carried by Mr. Spicer, shoemaker and parish-clerk, who had
it from his brother, the respectable bell-hanger in Lowick Gate.
Since that evening when Lydgate had come down from the billiard
room with Fred Vincy, Mr. Farebrother's thoughts about him had
been rather gloomy. Playing at the Green Dragon once or oftener
might have been a trifle in another man; but in Lydgate it was
one of several signs that he was getting unlike his former self.
He was beginning to do things for which he had formerly even an
excessive scorn. Whatever certain dissatisfactions in marriage,
which some silly tinklings of gossip had given him hints of,
might have to do with this change, Mr. Farebrother felt sure
that it was chiefly connected with the debts which were being
more and more distinctly reported, and he began to fear that any
notion of Lydgate's having resources or friends in the background
must be quite illusory. The rebuff he had met with in his first
attempt to win Lydgate's confidence, disinclined him to a second;
but this news of the execution being actually in the house,
determined the Vicar to overcome his reluctance.
Lydgate had just dismissed a poor patient, in whom he was much interested,
and he came forward to put out his hand--with an open cheerfulness
which surprised Mr. Farebrother. Could this too be a proud rejection of
sympathy and help? Never mind; the sympathy and help should be offered.
"How are you, Lydgate? I came to see you because I had heard
something which made me anxious about you," said the Vicar, in the
tone of a good brother, only that there was no reproach in it.
They were both seated by this time, and Lydgate answered immediately--
"I think I know what you mean. You had heard that there was
an execution in the house?"
"Yes; is it true?"
"It was true," said Lydgate, with an air of freedom, as if he did
not mind talking about the affair now. "But the danger is over;
the debt is paid. I am out of my difficulties now: I shall be freed
from debts, and able, I hope, to start afresh on a better plan."
"I am very thankful to hear it," said the Vicar, falling back in
his chair, and speaking with that low-toned quickness which often
follows the removal of a load. "I like that better than all
the news in the `Times.' I confess I came to you with a heavy heart."
"Thank you for coming," said Lydgate, cordially. "I can enjoy
the kindness all the more because I am happier. I have certainly
been a good deal crushed. I'm afraid I shall find the bruises
still painful by-and by," he added, smiling rather sadly;
"but just now I can only feel that the torture-screw is off."
Mr. Farebrother was silent for a moment, and then said earnestly,
"My dear fellow, let me ask you one question. Forgive me if I take
"I don't believe you will ask anything that ought to offend me."
"Then--this is necessary to set my heart quite at rest--you have not--
have you?--in order to pay your debts, incurred another debt which
may harass you worse hereafter?"
"No," said Lydgate, coloring slightly. "There is no reason why I
should not tell you--since the fact is so--that the person to whom I
am indebted is Bulstrode. He has made me a very handsome advance--
a thousand pounds--and he can afford to wait for repayment."
"Well, that is generous," said Mr. Farebrother, compelling himself
to approve of the man whom he disliked. His delicate feeling shrank
from dwelling even in his thought on the fact that he had always
urged Lydgate to avoid any personal entanglement with Bulstrode.
He added immediately, "And Bulstrode must naturally feel an interest
in your welfare, after you have worked with him in a way which has
probably reduced your income instead of adding to it. I am glad
to think that he has acted accordingly."
Lydgate felt uncomfortable under these kindly suppositions.
They made more distinct within him the uneasy consciousness
which had shown its first dim stirrings only a few hours before,
that Bulstrode's motives for his sudden beneficence following
close upon the chillest indifference might be merely selfish.
He let the kindly suppositions pass. He could not tell the history
of the loan, but it was more vividly present with him than ever,
as well as the fact which the Vicar delicately ignored--that this
relation of personal indebtedness to Bulstrode was what he had once
been most resolved to avoid.
He began, instead of answering, to speak of his projected economies,
and of his having come to look at his life from a different point
"I shall set up a surgery," he said. "I really think I made
a mistaken effort in that respect. And if Rosamond will not mind,
I shall take an apprentice. I don't like these things, but if
one carries them out faithfully they are not really lowering.
I have had a severe galling to begin with: that will make the small
rubs seem easy."
Poor Lydgate! the "if Rosamond will not mind," which had fallen
from him involuntarily as part of his thought, was a significant
mark of the yoke he bore. But Mr. Farebrother, whose hopes entered
strongly into the same current with Lydgate's, and who knew
nothing about him that could now raise a melancholy presentiment,
left him with affectionate congratulation.
Clown. . . . 'Twas in the Bunch of Grapes, where, indeed,
you have a delight to sit, have you not?
Froth. I have so: because it is an open room, and good for winter.
Clo. Why, very well then: I hope here be truths.
--Measure for Measure.
Five days after the death of Raffles, Mr. Bambridge was standing
at his leisure under the large archway leading into the yard of the
Green Dragon. He was not fond of solitary contemplation, but he
had only just come out of the house, and any human figure standing
at ease under the archway in the early afternoon was as certain
to attract companionship as a pigeon which has found something worth
peeking at. In this case there was no material object to feed upon,
but the eye of reason saw a probability of mental sustenance in the
shape of gossip. Mr. Hopkins, the meek-mannered draper opposite,
was the first to act on this inward vision, being the more ambitious
of a little masculine talk because his customers were chiefly women.
Mr. Bambridge was rather curt to the draper, feeling that Hopkins
was of course glad to talk to _him_, but that he was not going
to waste much of his talk on Hopkins. Soon, however, there was
a small cluster of more important listeners, who were either
deposited from the passers-by, or had sauntered to the spot expressly
to see if there were anything going on at the Green Dragon;
and Mr. Bambridge was finding it worth his while to say many
impressive things about the fine studs he had been seeing and the
purchases he had made on a journey in the north from which he had
just returned. Gentlemen present were assured that when they could
show him anything to cut out a blood mare, a bay, rising four,
which was to be seen at Doncaster if they chose to go and look
at it, Mr. Bambridge would gratify them by being shot "from here
to Hereford." Also, a pair of blacks which he was going to put
into the break recalled vividly to his mind a pair which he had sold
to Faulkner in '19, for a hundred guineas, and which Faulkner had
sold for a hundred and sixty two months later--any gent who could
disprove this statement being offered the privilege of calling
Mr. Bambridge by a very ugly name until the exercise made his throat dry.
When the discourse was at this point of animation, came up Mr. Frank
Hawley. He was not a man to compromise his dignity by lounging at
the Green Dragon, but happening to pass along the High Street and
seeing Bambridge on the other side, he took some of his long strides
across to ask the horsedealer whether he had found the first-rate
gig-horse which he had engaged to look for. Mr. Hawley was requested
to wait until he had seen a gray selected at Bilkley: if that did
not meet his wishes to a hair, Bambridge did not know a horse when he
saw it, which seemed to be the highest conceivable unlikelihood.
Mr. Hawley, standing with his back to the street, was fixing a time for
looking at the gray and seeing it tried, when a horseman passed slowly by.
"Bulstrode!" said two or three voices at once in a low tone, one of them,
which was the draper's, respectfully prefixing the "Mr.;" but nobody
having more intention in this interjectural naming than if they had said
"the Riverston coach" when that vehicle appeared in the distance.
Mr. Hawley gave a careless glance round at Bulstrode's back,
but as Bambridge's eyes followed it he made a sarcastic grimace.
"By jingo! that reminds me," he began, lowering his voice a little,
"I picked up something else at Bilkley besides your gig-horse,
Mr. Hawley. I picked up a fine story about Bulstrode.
Do you know how he came by his fortune? Any gentleman wanting
a bit of curious information, I can give it him free of expense.
If everybody got their deserts, Bulstrode might have had to say
his prayers at Botany Bay."
"What do you mean?" said Mr. Hawley, thrusting his hands into
his pockets, and pushing a little forward under the archway.
If Bulstrode should turn out to be a rascal, Frank Hawley had
a prophetic soul.
"I had it from a party who was an old chum of Bulstrode's.
I'll tell you where I first picked him up," said Bambridge,
with a sudden gesture of his fore-finger. "He was at Larcher's sale,
but I knew nothing of him then--he slipped through my fingers--
was after Bulstrode, no doubt. He tells me he can tap Bulstrode
to any amount, knows all his secrets. However, he blabbed to me
at Bilkley: he takes a stiff glass. Damme if I think he meant
to turn king's evidence; but he's that sort of bragging fellow,
the bragging runs over hedge and ditch with him, till he'd brag of a
spavin as if it 'ud fetch money. A man should know when to pull up."
Mr. Bambridge made this remark with an air of disgust, satisfied that
his own bragging showed a fine sense of the marketable.
"What's the man's name? Where can he be found?" said Mr. Hawley.
"As to where he is to be found, I left him to it at the Saracen's Head;
but his name is Raffles."
"Raffles!" exclaimed Mr. Hopkins. "I furnished his funeral yesterday.
He was buried at Lowick. Mr. Bulstrode followed him. A very
decent funeral." There was a strong sensation among the listeners.
Mr. Bambridge gave an ejaculation in which "brimstone" was the
mildest word, and Mr. Hawley, knitting his brows and bending
his head forward, exclaimed, "What?--where did the man die?"
"At Stone Court," said the draper. "The housekeeper said he was
a relation of the master's. He came there ill on Friday."
"Why, it was on Wednesday I took a glass with him," interposed Bambridge.
"Did any doctor attend him?" said Mr. Hawley
"Yes. Mr. Lydgate. Mr. Bulstrode sat up with him one night.
He died the third morning."
"Go on, Bambridge," said Mr. Hawley, insistently. "What did this
fellow say about Bulstrode?"
The group had already become larger, the town-clerk's presence being
a guarantee that something worth listening to was going on there;
and Mr. Bambridge delivered his narrative in the hearing of seven.
It was mainly what we know, including the fact about Will Ladislaw,
with some local color and circumstance added: it was what Bulstrode
had dreaded the betrayal of--and hoped to have buried forever with
the corpse of Raffles--it was that haunting ghost of his earlier
life which as he rode past the archway of the Green Dragon he was
trusting that Providence had delivered him from. Yes, Providence.
He had not confessed to himself yet that he had done anything
in the way of contrivance to this end; he had accepted what seemed
to have been offered. It was impossible to prove that he had done
anything which hastened the departure of that man's soul.
But this gossip about Bulstrode spread through Middlemarch like
the smell of fire. Mr. Frank Hawley followed up his information
by sending a clerk whom he could trust to Stone Court on a pretext
of inquiring about hay, but really to gather all that could be
learned about Raffles and his illness from Mrs. Abel. In this way
it came to his knowledge that Mr. Garth had carried the man to Stone
Court in his gig; and Mr. Hawley in consequence took an opportunity
of seeing Caleb, calling at his office to ask whether he had time
to undertake an arbitration if it were required, and then asking
him incidentally about Raffles. Caleb was betrayed into no word
injurious to Bulstrode beyond the fact which he was forced to admit,
that he had given up acting for him within the last week.
Mr Hawley drew his inferences, and feeling convinced that Raffles
had told his story to Garth, and that Garth had given up Bulstrode's
affairs in consequence, said so a few hours later to Mr. Toller.
The statement was passed on until it had quite lost the stamp
of an inference, and was taken as information coming straight
from Garth, so that even a diligent historian might have concluded
Caleb to be the chief publisher of Bulstrode's misdemeanors.
Mr. Hawley was not slow to perceive that there was no handle
for the law either in the revelations made by Raffles or in the
circumstances of his death. He had himself ridden to Lowick village
that he might look at the register and talk over the whole matter
with Mr. Farebrother, who was not more surprised than the lawyer
that an ugly secret should have come to light about Bulstrode,
though he had always had justice enough in him to hinder his antipathy
from turning into conclusions. But while they were talking another
combination was silently going forward in Mr. Farebrother's mind,
which foreshadowed what was soon to be loudly spoken of in Middlemarch
as a necessary "putting of two and two together." With the reasons
which kept Bulstrode in dread of Raffles there flashed the thought
that the dread might have something to do with his munificence
towards his medical man; and though he resisted the suggestion
that it had been consciously accepted in any way as a bribe, he had
a foreboding that this complication of things might be of malignant
effect on Lydgate's reputation. He perceived that Mr. Hawley knew
nothing at present of the sudden relief from debt, and he himself
was careful to glide away from all approaches towards the subject.
"Well," he said, with a deep breath, wanting to wind up the
illimitable discussion of what might have been, though nothing could
be legally proven, "it is a strange story. So our mercurial Ladislaw
has a queer genealogy! A high-spirited young lady and a musical
Polish patriot made a likely enough stock for him to spring from,
but I should never have suspected a grafting of the Jew pawnbroker.
However, there's no knowing what a mixture will turn out beforehand.
Some sorts of dirt serve to clarify."
"It's just what I should have expected," said Mr. Hawley,
mounting his horse. "Any cursed alien blood, Jew, Corsican, or Gypsy."
"I know he's one of your black sheep, Hawley. But he is really
a disinterested, unworldly fellow," said Mr. Farebrother, smiling.
"Ay, ay, that is your Whiggish twist," said Mr. Hawley, who had been
in the habit of saying apologetically that Farebrother was such
a damned pleasant good-hearted fellow you would mistake him for a Tory.
Mr. Hawley rode home without thinking of Lydgate's attendance on
Raffles in any other light than as a piece of evidence on the side
of Bulstrode. But the news that Lydgate had all at once become
able not only to get rid of the execution in his house but to pay
all his debts in Middlemarch was spreading fast, gathering round
it conjectures and comments which gave it new body and impetus,
and soon filling the ears of other persons besides Mr. Hawley,
who were not slow to see a significant relation between this sudden
command of money and Bulstrode's desire to stifle the scandal
of Raffles. That the money came from Bulstrode would infallibly
have been guessed even if there had been no direct evidence of it;
for it had beforehand entered into the gossip about Lydgate's affairs,
that neither his father-in-law nor his own family would do anything
for him, and direct evidence was furnished not only by a clerk
at the Bank, but by innocent Mrs. Bulstrode herself, who mentioned
the loan to Mrs. Plymdale, who mentioned it to her daughter-in-law
of the house of Toller, who mentioned it generally. The business
was felt to be so public and important that it required dinners
to feed it, and many invitations were just then issued and accepted
on the strength of this scandal concerning Bulstrode and Lydgate;
wives, widows, and single ladies took their work and went out to tea
oftener than usual; and all public conviviality, from the Green
Dragon to Dollop's, gathered a zest which could not be won from
the question whether the Lords would throw out the Reform Bill.
For hardly anybody doubted that some scandalous reason or other was at
the bottom of Bulstrode's liberality to Lydgate. Mr. Hawley indeed,
in the first instance, invited a select party, including the
two physicians, with Mr Toller and Mr. Wrench, expressly to hold
a close discussion as to the probabilities of Raffles's illness,
reciting to them all the particulars which had been gathered from
Mrs. Abel in connection with Lydgate's certificate, that the death
was due to delirium tremens; and the medical gentlemen, who all
stood undisturbedly on the old paths in relation to this disease,
declared that they could see nothing in these particulars which could
be transformed into a positive ground of suspicion. But the moral
grounds of suspicion remained: the strong motives Bulstrode
clearly had for wishing to be rid of Raffles, and the fact that at
this critical moment he had given Lydgate the help which he must
for some time have known the need for; the disposition, moreover,
to believe that Bulstrode would be unscrupulous, and the absence
of any indisposition to believe that Lydgate might be as easily
bribed as other haughty-minded men when they have found themselves
in want of money. Even if the money had been given merely to make
him hold his tongue about the scandal of Bulstrode's earlier life,
the fact threw an odious light on Lydgate, who had long been sneered
at as making himself subservient to the banker for the sake of working
himself into predominance, and discrediting the elder members of
his profession. Hence, in spite of the negative as to any direct
sign of guilt in relation to the death at Stone Court, Mr. Hawley's
select party broke up with the sense that the affair had "an ugly look."
But this vague conviction of indeterminable guilt, which was enough
to keep up much head-shaking and biting innuendo even among substantial
professional seniors, had for the general mind all the superior
power of mystery over fact. Everybody liked better to conjecture
how the thing was, than simply to know it; for conjecture soon became
more confident than knowledge, and had a more liberal allowance
for the incompatible. Even the more definite scandal concerning
Bulstrode's earlier life was, for some minds, melted into the mass
of mystery, as so much lively metal to be poured out in dialogue,
and to take such fantastic shapes as heaven pleased.
This was the tone of thought chiefly sanctioned by Mrs. Dollop,
the spirited landlady of the Tankard in Slaughter Lane, who had often
to resist the shallow pragmatism of customers disposed to think
that their reports from the outer world were of equal force with
what had "come up" in her mind. How it had been brought to her she
didn't know, but it was there before her as if it had been "scored
with the chalk on the chimney-board--" as Bulstrode should say,
"his inside was _that black_ as if the hairs of his head knowed
the thoughts of his heart, he'd tear 'em up by the roots."
"That's odd," said Mr. Limp, a meditative shoemaker, with weak
eyes and a piping voice. "Why, I read in the `Trumpet' that was
what the Duke of Wellington said when he turned his coat and went
over to the Romans."
"Very like," said Mrs. Dollop. "If one raskill said it, it's more
reason why another should. But hypo_crite_ as he's been,
and holding things with that high hand, as there was no parson i'
the country good enough for him, he was forced to take Old Harry
into his counsel, and Old Harry's been too many for him."
"Ay, ay, he's a 'complice you can't send out o' the country,"
said Mr. Crabbe, the glazier, who gathered much news and groped
among it dimly. "But by what I can make out, there's them says
Bulstrode was for running away, for fear o' being found out,
"He'll be drove away, whether or no," said Mr. Dill, the barber,
who had just dropped in. "I shaved Fletcher, Hawley's clerk,
this morning--he's got a bad finger--and he says they're all of one
mind to get rid of Bulstrode. Mr. Thesiger is turned against him,
and wants him out o' the parish. And there's gentlemen in this town
says they'd as soon dine with a fellow from the hulks. `And a deal
sooner I would,' says Fletcher; `for what's more against one's stomach
than a man coming and making himself bad company with his religion,
and giving out as the Ten Commandments are not enough for him,
and all the while he's worse than half the men at the tread-mill?'
Fletcher said so himself."
"It'll be a bad thing for the town though, if Bulstrode's money
goes out of it," said Mr. Limp, quaveringly.
"Ah, there's better folks spend their money worse," said a
firm-voiced dyer, whose crimson hands looked out of keeping
with his good-natured face.
"But he won't keep his money, by what I can make out," said the glazier.
"Don't they say as there's somebody can strip it off him?
By what I can understan', they could take every penny off him,
if they went to lawing."
"No such thing!" said the barber, who felt himself a little above
his company at Dollop's, but liked it none the worse. "Fletcher says
it's no such thing. He says they might prove over and over again
whose child this young Ladislaw was, and they'd do no more than
if they proved I came out of the Fens--he couldn't touch a penny."
"Look you there now!" said Mrs. Dollop, indignantly. "I thank
the Lord he took my children to Himself, if that's all the law
can do for the motherless. Then by that, it's o' no use who your
father and mother is. But as to listening to what one lawyer says
without asking another--I wonder at a man o' your cleverness,
Mr. Dill. It's well known there's always two sides, if no more;
else who'd go to law, I should like to know? It's a poor tale,
with all the law as there is up and down, if it's no use proving
whose child you are. Fletcher may say that if he likes, but I say,
don't Fletcher _me_!"
Mr. Dill affected to laugh in a complimentary way at Mrs. Dollop,
as a woman who was more than a match for the lawyers; being disposed
to submit to much twitting from a landlady who had a long score
"If they come to lawing, and it's all true as folks say,
there's more to be looked to nor money," said the glazier.
"There's this poor creetur as is dead and gone; by what I can make out,
he'd seen the day when he was a deal finer gentleman nor Bulstrode."
"Finer gentleman! I'll warrant him," said Mrs. Dollop; "and a far
personabler man, by what I can hear. As I said when Mr. Baldwin,
the tax-gatherer, comes in, a-standing where you sit, and says,
`Bulstrode got all his money as he brought into this town by thieving
and swindling,'--I said, `You don't make me no wiser, Mr. Baldwin:
it's set my blood a-creeping to look at him ever sin' here he came
into Slaughter Lane a-wanting to buy the house over my head:
folks don't look the color o' the dough-tub and stare at you as if they
wanted to see into your backbone for nothingk.' That was what I said,
and Mr. Baldwin can bear me witness."
"And in the rights of it too," said Mr. Crabbe. "For by what I can
make out, this Raffles, as they call him, was a lusty, fresh-colored man
as you'd wish to see, and the best o' company--though dead he lies
in Lowick churchyard sure enough; and by what I can understan',
there's them knows more than they _should_ know about how he got there."
"I'll believe you!" said Mrs. Dallop, with a touch of scorn
at Mr. Crabbe's apparent dimness. "When a man's been 'ticed
to a lone house, and there's them can pay for hospitals and nurses
for half the country-side choose to be sitters-up night and day,
and nobody to come near but a doctor as is known to stick at nothingk,
and as poor as he can hang together, and after that so flush o'
money as he can pay off Mr. Byles the butcher as his bill has
been running on for the best o' joints since last Michaelmas was
a twelvemonth--I don't want anybody to come and tell me as there's
been more going on nor the Prayer-book's got a service for--
I don't want to stand winking and blinking and thinking."
Mrs. Dollop looked round with the air of a landlady accustomed
to dominate her company. There was a chorus of adhesion from the
more courageous; but Mr. Limp, after taking a draught, placed his
flat hands together and pressed them hard between his knees,
looking down at them with blear-eyed contemplation, as if the scorching
power of Mrs. Dollop's speech had quite dried up and nullified
his wits until they could be brought round again by further moisture.
"Why shouldn't they dig the man up and have the Crowner?"
said the dyer. "It's been done many and many's the time.
If there's been foul play they might find it out."
"Not they, Mr. Jonas!" said Mrs Dollop, emphatically. "I know
what doctors are. They're a deal too cunning to be found out.
And this Doctor Lydgate that's been for cutting up everybody before
the breath was well out o' their body--it's plain enough what use
he wanted to make o' looking into respectable people's insides.
He knows drugs, you may be sure, as you can neither smell nor see,
neither before they're swallowed nor after. Why, I've seen drops
myself ordered by Doctor Gambit, as is our club doctor and a
good charikter, and has brought more live children into the world nor
ever another i' Middlemarch--I say I've seen drops myself as made
no difference whether they was in the glass or out, and yet have
griped you the next day. So I'll leave your own sense to judge.
Don't tell me! All I say is, it's a mercy they didn't take this Doctor
Lydgate on to our club. There's many a mother's child might ha'
The heads of this discussion at "Dollop's" had been the common
theme among all classes in the town, had been carried to Lowick
Parsonage on one side and to Tipton Grange on the other, had come
fully to the ears of the Vincy family, and had been discussed with
sad reference to "poor Harriet" by all Mrs. Bulstrode's friends,
before Lydgate knew distinctly why people were looking strangely at him,
and before Bulstrode himself suspected the betrayal of his secrets.
He had not been accustomed to very cordial relations with his neighbors,
and hence he could not miss the signs of cordiality; moreover, he had
been taking journeys on business of various kinds, having now made
up his mind that he need not quit Middlemarch, and feeling able
consequently to determine on matters which he had before left in suspense.
"We will make a journey to Cheltenham in the course of a month or two,"
he had said to his wife. "There are great spiritual advantages
to be had in that town along with the air and the waters, and six
weeks there will be eminently refreshing to us."
He really believed in the spiritual advantages, and meant that his
life henceforth should be the more devoted because of those later sins
which he represented to himself as hypothetic, praying hypothetically
for their pardon:--"if I have herein transgressed."
As to the Hospital, he avoided saying anything further to Lydgate,
fearing to manifest a too sudden change of plans immediately on the
death of Raffles. In his secret soul he believed that Lydgate suspected
his orders to have been intentionally disobeyed, and suspecting this he
must also suspect a motive. But nothing had been betrayed to him as to
the history of Raffles, and Bulstrode was anxious not to do anything
which would give emphasis to his undefined suspicions. As to any
certainty that a particular method of treatment would either save or
kill, Lydgate himself was constantly arguing against such dogmatism; he
had no right to speak, and he had every motive for being silent. Hence
Bulstrode felt himself providentially secured. The only incident he had
strongly winced under had been an occasional encounter with Caleb Garth,
who, however, had raised his hat with mild gravity.
Meanwhile, on the part of the principal townsmen a strong
determination was growing against him.
A meeting was to be held in the Town-Hall on a sanitary question
which had risen into pressing importance by the occurrence of a cholera
case in the town. Since the Act of Parliament, which had been
hurriedly passed, authorizing assessments for sanitary measures,
there had been a Board for the superintendence of such measures
appointed in Middlemarch, and much cleansing and preparation
had been concurred in by Whigs and Tories. The question now was,
whether a piece of ground outside the town should be secured as a
burial-ground by means of assessment or by private subscription.
The meeting was to be open, and almost everybody of importance
in the town was expected to be there.
Mr. Bulstrode was a member of the Board, and just before twelve
o'clock he started from the Bank with the intention of urging the plan
of private subscription. Under the hesitation of his projects,
he had for some time kept himself in the background, and he felt
that he should this morning resume his old position as a man of action
and influence in the public affairs of the town where he expected to
end his days. Among the various persons going in the same direction,
he saw Lydgate; they joined, talked over the object of the meeting,
and entered it together.
It seemed that everybody of mark had been earlier than they.
But there were still spaces left near the head of the large
central table, and they made their way thither. Mr. Farebrother
sat opposite, not far from Mr. Hawley; all the medical men were there;
Mr. Thesiger was in the chair, and Mr. Brooke of Tipton was on his
Lydgate noticed a peculiar interchange of glances when he
and Bulstrode took their seats.
After the business had been fully opened by the chairman,
who pointed out the advantages of purchasing by subscription a piece
of ground large enough to be ultimately used as a general cemetery,
Mr. Bulstrode, whose rather high-pitched but subdued and fluent
voice the town was used to at meetings of this sort, rose and asked
leave to deliver his opinion. Lydgate could see again the peculiar
interchange of glances before Mr. Hawley started up, and said
in his firm resonant voice, "Mr. Chairman, I request that before
any one delivers his opinion on this point I may be permitted
to speak on a question of public feeling, which not only by myself,
but by many gentlemen present, is regarded as preliminary."
Mr. Hawley's mode of speech, even when public decorum repressed his
"awful language," was formidable in its curtness and self-possession.
Mr. Thesiger sanctioned the request, Mr. Bulstrode sat down,
and Mr. Hawley continued.
"In what I have to say, Mr. Chairman, I am not speaking simply
on my own behalf: I am speaking with the concurrence and at
the express request of no fewer than eight of my fellow-townsmen,
who are immediately around us. It is our united sentiment that
Mr. Bulstrode should be called upon--and I do now call upon him--
to resign public positions which he holds not simply as a tax-payer,
but as a gentleman among gentlemen. There are practices and there
are acts which, owing to circumstances, the law cannot visit,
though they may be worse than many things which are legally punishable.
Honest men and gentlemen, if they don't want the company of people who
perpetrate such acts, have got to defend themselves as they best can,
and that is what I and the friends whom I may call my clients in this
affair are determined to do. I don't say that Mr. Bulstrode has
been guilty of shameful acts, but I call upon him either publicly
to deny and confute the scandalous statements made against him by a
man now dead, and who died in his house--the statement that he was
for many years engaged in nefarious practices, and that he won his
fortune by dishonest procedures--or else to withdraw from positions
which could only have been allowed him as a gentleman among gentlemen."
All eyes in the room were turned on Mr. Bulstrode, who, since the first
mention of his name, had been going through a crisis of feeling almost
too violent for his delicate frame to support. Lydgate, who himself
was undergoing a shock as from the terrible practical interpretation
of some faint augury, felt, nevertheless, that his own movement
of resentful hatred was checked by that instinct of the Healer
which thinks first of bringing rescue or relief to the sufferer,
when he looked at the shrunken misery of Bulstrode's livid face.
The quick vision that his life was after all a failure, that he was
a dishonored man, and must quail before the glance of those towards
whom he had habitually assumed the attitude of a reprover--that God
had disowned him before men and left him unscreened to the triumphant
scorn of those who were glad to have their hatred justified--the sense
of utter futility in that equivocation with his conscience in dealing
with the life of his accomplice, an equivocation which now turned
venomously upon him with the full-grown fang of a discovered lie:--
all this rushed through him like the agony of terror which fails to kill,
and leaves the ears still open to the returning wave of execration.
The sudden sense of exposure after the re-established sense of
safety came--not to the coarse organization of a criminal but to--
the susceptible nerve of a man whose intensest being lay in such
mastery and predominance as the conditions of his life had shaped
But in that intense being lay the strength of reaction. Through all
his bodily infirmity there ran a tenacious nerve of ambitious
self-preserving will, which had continually leaped out like a flame,
scattering all doctrinal fears, and which, even while he sat
an object of compassion for the merciful, was beginning to stir
and glow under his ashy paleness. Before the last words were
out of Mr. Hawley's mouth, Bulstrode felt that he should answer,
and that his answer would be a retort. He dared not get up and say,
"I am not guilty, the whole story is false"--even if he had
dared this, it would have seemed to him, under his present keen sense
of betrayal, as vain as to pull, for covering to his nakedness,
a frail rag which would rend at every little strain.
For a few moments there was total silence, while every man
in the room was looking at Bulstrode. He sat perfectly still,
leaning hard against the back of his chair; he could not venture
to rise, and when he began to speak he pressed his hands upon
the seat on each side of him. But his voice was perfectly audible,
though hoarser than usual, and his words were distinctly pronounced,
though he paused between sentence as if short of breath. He said,
turning first toward Mr. Thesiger, and then looking at Mr. Hawley--
"I protest before you, sir, as a Christian minister, against the sanction
of proceedings towards me which are dictated by virulent hatred.
Those who are hostile to me are glad to believe any libel uttered
by a loose tongue against me. And their consciences become strict
against me. Say that the evil-speaking of which I am to be made
the victim accuses me of malpractices--" here Bulstrode's voice
rose and took on a more biting accent, till it seemed a low cry--
"who shall be my accuser? Not men whose own lives are unchristian,
nay, scandalous--not men who themselves use low instruments to
carry out their ends--whose profession is a tissue of chicanery--
who have been spending their income on their own sensual enjoyments,
while I have been devoting mine to advance the best objects with
regard to this life and the next."
After the word chicanery there was a growing noise, half of murmurs
and half of hisses, while four persons started up at once--Mr. Hawley,
Mr. Toller, Mr. Chichely, and Mr. Hackbutt; but Mr. Hawley's
outburst was instantaneous, and left the others behind in silence.
"If you mean me, sir, I call you and every one else to the inspection
of my professional life. As to Christian or unchristian, I repudiate
your canting palavering Christianity; and as to the way in which I
spend my income, it is not my principle to maintain thieves and cheat
offspring of their due inheritance in order to support religion
and set myself up as a saintly Killjoy. I affect no niceness
of conscience--I have not found any nice standards necessary yet
to measure your actions by, sir. And I again call upon you to enter
into satisfactory explanations concerning the scandals against you,
or else to withdraw from posts in which we at any rate decline you
as a colleague. I say, sir, we decline to co-operate with a man
whose character is not cleared from infamous lights cast upon it,
not only by reports but by recent actions."
"Allow me, Mr. Hawley," said the chairman; and Mr. Hawley,
still fuming, bowed half impatiently, and sat down with his hands
thrust deep in his pockets.
"Mr. Bulstrode, it is not desirable, I think, to prolong the
present discussion," said Mr. Thesiger, turning to the pallid
trembling man; "I must so far concur with what has fallen from
Mr. Hawley in expression of a general feeling, as to think it
due to your Christian profession that you should clear yourself,
if possible, from unhappy aspersions. I for my part should be
willing to give you full opportunity and hearing. But I must say
that your present attitude is painfully inconsistent with those
principles which you have sought to identify yourself with, and for
the honor of which I am bound to care. I recommend you at present,
as your clergyman, and one who hopes for your reinstatement
in respect, to quit the room, and avoid further hindrance to business."
Bulstrode, after a moment's hesitation, took his hat from the
floor and slowly rose, but he grasped the corner of the chair
so totteringly that Lydgate felt sure there was not strength
enough in him to walk away without support. What could he do?
He could not see a man sink close to him for want of help.
He rose and gave his arm to Bulstrode, and in that way led him out
of the room; yet this act, which might have been one of gentle duty
and pure compassion, was at this moment unspeakably bitter to him.
It seemed as if he were putting his sign-manual to that association
of himself with Bulstrode, of which he now saw the full meaning
as it must have presented itself to other minds. He now felt the
conviction that this man who was leaning tremblingly on his arm,
had given him the thousand pounds as a bribe, and that somehow the
treatment of Raffles had been tampered with from an evil motive.
The inferences were closely linked enough; the town knew of the loan,
believed it to be a bribe, and believed that he took it as a bribe.
Poor Lydgate, his mind struggling under the terrible clutch
of this revelation, was all the while morally forced to take
Mr. Bulstrode to the Bank, send a man off for his carriage,
and wait to accompany him home.
Meanwhile the business of the meeting was despatched, and fringed
off into eager discussion among various groups concerning this
affair of Bulstrode--and Lydgate.
Mr. Brooke, who had before heard only imperfect hints of it,
and was very uneasy that he had "gone a little too far"
in countenancing Bulstrode, now got himself fully informed,
and felt some benevolent sadness in talking to Mr. Farebrother
about the ugly light in which Lydgate had come to be regarded.
Mr. Farebrother was going to walk back to Lowick.
"Step into my carriage," said Mr. Brooke. "I am going round to see
Mrs. Casaubon. She was to come back from Yorkshire last night.
She will like to see me, you know."
So they drove along, Mr. Brooke chatting with good-natured hope
that there had not really been anything black in Lydgate's behavior--
a young fellow whom he had seen to be quite above the common mark,
when he brought a letter from his uncle Sir Godwin. Mr. Farebrother
said little: he was deeply mournful: with a keen perception of
human weakness, he could not be confident that under the pressure
of humiliating needs Lydgate had not fallen below himself.
When the carriage drove up to the gate of the Manor, Dorothea was
out on the gravel, and came to greet them.
"Well, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, "we have just come from a meeting--
a sanitary meeting, you know."
"Was Mr. Lydgate there?" said Dorothea, who looked full of health
and animation, and stood with her head bare under the gleaming
April lights. "I want to see him and have a great consultation
with him about the Hospital. I have engaged with Mr. Bulstrode
to do so."
"Oh, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, "we have been hearing bad news--
bad news, you know."
They walked through the garden towards the churchyard gate,
Mr. Farebrother wanting to go on to the parsonage; and Dorothea
heard the whole sad story.
She listened with deep interest, and begged to hear twice over the
facts and impressions concerning Lydgate. After a short silence,
pausing at the churchyard gate, and addressing Mr. Farebrother,
she said energetically--
"You don't believe that Mr. Lydgate is guilty of anything base?
I will not believe it. Let us find out the truth and clear him!"
SUNSET AND SUNRISE.
Full souls are double mirrors, making still
An endless vista of fair things before,
Repeating things behind.
Dorothea's impetuous generosity, which would have leaped at once
to the vindication of Lydgate from the suspicion of having
accepted money as a bribe, underwent a melancholy check when she
came to consider all the circumstances of the case by the light
of Mr. Farebrother's experience.
"It is a delicate matter to touch," he said. "How can we begin
to inquire into it? It must be either publicly by setting the
magistrate and coroner to work, or privately by questioning Lydgate.
As to the first proceeding there is no solid ground to go upon,
else Hawley would have adopted it; and as to opening the subject
with Lydgate, I confess I should shrink from it. He would probably
take it as a deadly insult. I have more than once experienced the
difficulty of speaking to him on personal matters. And--one should
know the truth about his conduct beforehand, to feel very confident
of a good result."
"I feel convinced that his conduct has not been guilty: I believe that
people are almost always better than their neighbors think they are,"
said Dorothea. Some of her intensest experience in the last two
years had set her mind strongly in opposition to any unfavorable
construction of others; and for the first time she felt rather
discontented with Mr. Farebrother. She disliked this cautious
weighing of consequences, instead of an ardent faith in efforts
of justice and mercy, which would conquer by their emotional force.
Two days afterwards, he was dining at the Manor with her uncle
and the Chettams, and when the dessert was standing uneaten,
the servants were out of the room, and Mr. Brooke was nodding
in a nap, she returned to the subject with renewed vivacity.
"Mr. Lydgate would understand that if his friends hear a calumny
about him their first wish must be to justify him. What do we
live for, if it is not to make life less difficult to each other?
I cannot be indifferent to the troubles of a man who advised me
in _my_ trouble, and attended me in my illness."
Dorothea's tone and manner were not more energetic than they
had been when she was at the head of her uncle's table nearly
three years before, and her experience since had given her more
right to express a decided opinion. But Sir James Chettam was no
longer the diffident and acquiescent suitor: he was the anxious
brother-in-law, with a devout admiration for his sister, but with a
constant alarm lest she should fall under some new illusion almost
as bad as marrying Casaubon. He smiled much less; when he said
"Exactly" it was more often an introduction to a dissentient opinion
than in those submissive bachelor days; and Dorothea found to her
surprise that she had to resolve not to be afraid of him--all the
more because he was really her best friend. He disagreed with her now.
"But, Dorothea," he said, remonstrantly, "you can't undertake
to manage a man's life for him in that way. Lydgate must know--
at least he will soon come to know how he stands. If he can
clear himself, he will. He must act for himself."
"I think his friends must wait till they find an opportunity,"
added Mr. Farebrother. "It is possible--I have often felt
so much weakness in myself that I can conceive even a man of
honorable disposition, such as I have always believed Lydgate to be,
succumbing to such a temptation as that of accepting money which was
offered more or less indirectly as a bribe to insure his silence
about scandalous facts long gone by. I say, I can conceive this,
if he were under the pressure of hard circumstances--if he had been
harassed as I feel sure Lydgate has been. I would not believe
anything worse of him except under stringent proof. But there is
the terrible Nemesis following on some errors, that it is always
possible for those who like it to interpret them into a crime:
there is no proof in favor of the man outside his own consciousness
"Oh, how cruel!" said Dorothea, clasping her hands. "And would you
not like to be the one person who believed in that man's innocence,
if the rest of the world belied him? Besides, there is a man's
character beforehand to speak for him."
"But, my dear Mrs. Casaubon," said Mr. Farebrother, smiling gently
at her ardor, "character is not cut in marble--it is not something
solid and unalterable. It is something living and changing,
and may become diseased as our bodies do."
"Then it may be rescued and healed," said Dorothea "I should not
be afraid of asking Mr. Lydgate to tell me the truth, that I might
help him. Why should I be afraid? Now that I am not to have
the land, James, I might do as Mr. Bulstrode proposed, and take
his place in providing for the Hospital; and I have to consult
Mr. Lydgate, to know thoroughly what are the prospects of doing
good by keeping up the present plans. There is the best opportunity
in the world for me to ask for his confidence; and he would be able
to tell me things which might make all the circumstances clear.
Then we would all stand by him and bring him out of his trouble.
People glorify all sorts of bravery except the bravery they might
show on behalf of their nearest neighbors." Dorothea's eyes had
a moist brightness in them, and the changed tones of her voice
roused her uncle, who began to listen.
"It is true that a woman may venture on some efforts of sympathy which
would hardly succeed if we men undertook them," said Mr. Farebrother,
almost converted by Dorothea's ardor.
"Surely, a woman is bound to be cautious and listen to those who
know the world better than she does." said Sir James, with his
little frown. "Whatever you do in the end, Dorothea, you should
really keep back at present, and not volunteer any meddling with
this Bulstrode business. We don't know yet what may turn up.
You must agree with me?" he ended, looking at Mr. Farebrother.
"I do think it would be better to wait," said the latter.
"Yes, yes, my dear," said Mr. Brooke, not quite knowing at what point
the discussion had arrived, but coming up to it with a contribution
which was generally appropriate. "It is easy to go too far, you know.
You must not let your ideas run away with you. And as to being
in a hurry to put money into schemes--it won't do, you know.
Garth has drawn me in uncommonly with repairs, draining, that sort
of thing: I'm uncommonly out of pocket with one thing or another.
I must pull up. As for you, Chettam, you are spending a fortune on
those oak fences round your demesne."
Dorothea, submitting uneasily to this discouragement, went with
Celia into the library, which was her usual drawing-room.
"Now, Dodo, do listen to what James says," said Celia, "else you
will be getting into a scrape. You always did, and you always will,
when you set about doing as you please. And I think it is a mercy
now after all that you have got James to think for you. He lets
you have your plans, only he hinders you from being taken in.
And that is the good of having a brother instead of a husband.
A husband would not let you have your plans."
"As if I wanted a husband!" said Dorothea. "I only want not to
have my feelings checked at every turn." Mrs. Casaubon was still
undisciplined enough to burst into angry tears.
"Now, really, Dodo," said Celia, with rather a deeper guttural than usual,
"you _are_ contradictory: first one thing and then another.
You used to submit to Mr. Casaubon quite shamefully: I think you
would have given up ever coming to see me if he had asked you."
"Of course I submitted to him, because it was my duty; it was my
feeling for him," said Dorothea, looking through the prism of her tears.
"Then why can't you think it your duty to submit a little to what
James wishes?" said Celia, with a sense of stringency in her argument.
"Because he only wishes what is for your own good. And, of course,
men know best about everything, except what women know better."
Dorothea laughed and forgot her tears.
"Well, I mean about babies and those things," explained Celia.
"I should not give up to James when I knew he was wrong, as you used
to do to Mr. Casaubon."
Pity the laden one; this wandering woe
May visit you and me.
When Lydgate had allayed Mrs. Bulstrode's anxiety by telling her
that her husband had been seized with faintness at the meeting,
but that he trusted soon to see him better and would call again
the next day, unless she-sent for him earlier, he went directly home,
got on his horse, and rode three miles out of the town for the sake
of being out of reach.
He felt himself becoming violent and unreasonable as if raging
under the pain of stings: he was ready to curse the day on
which he had come to Middlemarch. Everything that bad happened
to him there seemed a mere preparation for this hateful fatality,
which had come as a blight on his honorable ambition, and must make
even people who had only vulgar standards regard his reputation
as irrevocably damaged. In such moments a man can hardly escape
being unloving. Lydgate thought of himself as the sufferer,
and of others as the agents who had injured his lot. He had meant
everything to turn out differently; and others had thrust themselves
into his life and thwarted his purposes. His marriage seemed an
unmitigated calamity; and he was afraid of going to Rosamond before
he had vented himself in this solitary rage, lest the mere sight
of her should exasperate him and make him behave unwarrantably.
There are episodes in most men's lives in which their highest
qualities can only cast a deterring shadow over the objects that fill
their inward vision: Lydgate's tenderheartedness was present just
then only as a dread lest he should offend against it, not as an
emotion that swayed him to tenderness. For he was very miserable.
Only those who know the supremacy of the intellectual life--
the life which has a seed of ennobling thought and purpose within it--
can understand the grief of one who falls from that serene activity
into the absorbing soul-wasting struggle with worldly annoyances.
How was he to live on without vindicating himself among people
who suspected him of baseness? How could he go silently away from
Middlemarch as if he were retreating before a just condemnation?