Part 5 out of 18
the light had changed, and you cannot find the pearly dawn at noonday.
The fact is unalterable, that a fellow-mortal with whose nature you
are acquainted solely through the brief entrances and exits of a few
imaginative weeks called courtship, may, when seen in the continuity
of married companionship, be disclosed as something better or worse
than what you have preconceived, but will certainly not appear
altogether the same. And it would be astonishing to find how soon
the change is felt if we had no kindred changes to compare with it.
To share lodgings with a brilliant dinner-companion, or to see
your favorite politician in the Ministry, may bring about changes
quite as rapid: in these cases too we begin by knowing little and
believing much, and we sometimes end by inverting the quantities.
Still, such comparisons might mislead, for no man was more incapable
of flashy make-believe than Mr. Casaubon: he was as genuine a
character as any ruminant animal, and he had not actively assisted
in creating any illusions about himself. How was it that in the weeks
since her marriage, Dorothea had not distinctly observed but felt
with a stifling depression, that the large vistas and wide fresh air
which she had dreamed of finding in her husband's mind were replaced
by anterooms and winding passages which seemed to lead nowhither?
I suppose it was that in courtship everything is regarded as provisional
and preliminary, and the smallest sample of virtue or accomplishment
is taken to guarantee delightful stores which the broad leisure
of marriage will reveal. But the door-sill of marriage once crossed,
expectation is concentrated on the present. Having once embarked
on your marital voyage, it is impossible not to be aware that you
make no way and that the sea is not within sight--that, in fact,
you are exploring an enclosed basin.
In their conversation before marriage, Mr. Casaubon had often dwelt on
some explanation or questionable detail of which Dorothea did not see
the bearing; but such imperfect coherence seemed due to the brokenness
of their intercourse, and, supported by her faith in their future,
she had listened with fervid patience to a recitation of possible
arguments to be brought against Mr. Casaubon's entirely new view
of the Philistine god Dagon and other fish-deities, thinking that
hereafter she should see this subject which touched him so nearly
from the same high ground whence doubtless it had become so important
to him. Again, the matter-of-course statement and tone of dismissal
with which he treated what to her were the most stirring thoughts,
was easily accounted for as belonging to the sense of haste and
preoccupation in which she herself shared during their engagement.
But now, since they had been in Rome, with all the depths of her
emotion roused to tumultuous activity, and with life made a new
problem by new elements, she had been becoming more and more aware,
with a certain terror, that her mind was continually sliding into
inward fits of anger and repulsion, or else into forlorn weariness.
How far the judicious Hooker or any other hero of erudition would
have been the same at Mr. Casaubon's time of life, she had no means
of knowing, so that he could not have the advantage of comparison;
but her husband's way of commenting on the strangely impressive objects
around them had begun to affect her with a sort of mental shiver:
he had perhaps the best intention of acquitting himself worthily,
but only of acquitting himself. What was fresh to her mind was worn
out to his; and such capacity of thought and feeling as had ever
been stimulated in him by the general life of mankind had long
shrunk to a sort of dried preparation, a lifeless embalmment
When he said, "Does this interest you, Dorothea? Shall we stay
a little longer? I am ready to stay if you wish it,"--it seemed
to her as if going or staying were alike dreary. Or, "Should you
like to go to the Farnesina, Dorothea? It contains celebrated
frescos designed or painted by Raphael, which most persons think
it worth while to visit."
"But do you care about them?" was always Dorothea's question.
"They are, I believe, highly esteemed. Some of them represent
the fable of Cupid and Psyche, which is probably the romantic
invention of a literary period, and cannot, I think, be reckoned
as a genuine mythical product. But if you like these wall-paintings
we can easily drive thither; and you will then, I think, have seen
the chief works of Raphael, any of which it were a pity to omit
in a visit to Rome. He is the painter who has been held to combine
the most complete grace of form with sublimity of expression.
Such at least I have gathered to be the opinion of cognoscenti."
This kind of answer given in a measured official tone, as of a
clergyman reading according to the rubric, did not help to justify
the glories of the Eternal City, or to give her the hope that if she
knew more about them the world would be joyously illuminated for her.
There is hardly any contact more depressing to a young ardent
creature than that of a mind in which years full of knowledge
seem to have issued in a blank absence of interest or sympathy.
On other subjects indeed Mr. Casaubon showed a tenacity of occupation
and an eagerness which are usually regarded as the effect of enthusiasm,
and Dorothea was anxious to follow this spontaneous direction of
his thoughts, instead of being made to feel that she dragged him away
from it. But she was gradually ceasing to expect with her former
delightful confidence that she should see any wide opening where she
followed him. Poor Mr. Casaubon himself was lost among small closets
and winding stairs, and in an agitated dimness about the Cabeiri,
or in an exposure of other mythologists' ill-considered parallels,
easily lost sight of any purpose which had prompted him to these labors.
With his taper stuck before him he forgot the absence of windows,
and in bitter manuscript remarks on other men's notions about
the solar deities, he had become indifferent to the sunlight.
These characteristics, fixed and unchangeable as bone in Mr. Casaubon,
might have remained longer unfelt by Dorothea if she had been encouraged
to pour forth her girlish and womanly feeling--if he would have held
her hands between his and listened with the delight of tenderness and
understanding to all the little histories which made up her experience,
and would have given her the same sort of intimacy in return,
so that the past life of each could be included in their mutual
knowledge and affection--or if she could have fed her affection with
those childlike caresses which are the bent of every sweet woman,
who has begun by showering kisses on the hard pate of her bald doll,
creating a happy soul within that woodenness from the wealth of her
own love. That was Dorothea's bent. With all her yearning to know
what was afar from her and to be widely benignant, she had ardor
enough for what was near, to have kissed Mr. Casaubon's coat-sleeve,
or to have caressed his shoe-latchet, if he would have made any other
sign of acceptance than pronouncing her, with his unfailing propriety,
to be of a most affectionate and truly feminine nature, indicating at
the same time by politely reaching a chair for her that he regarded
these manifestations as rather crude and startling. Having made his
clerical toilet with due care in the morning, he was prepared only for
those amenities of life which were suited to the well-adjusted stiff
cravat of the period, and to a mind weighted with unpublished matter.
And by a sad contradiction Dorothea's ideas and resolves seemed
like melting ice floating and lost in the warm flood of which they
had been but another form. She was humiliated to find herself a mere
victim of feeling, as if she could know nothing except through
that medium: all her strength was scattered in fits of agitation,
of struggle, of despondency, and then again in visions of more
complete renunciation, transforming all hard conditions into duty.
Poor Dorothea! she was certainly troublesome--to herself chiefly;
but this morning for the first time she had been troublesome to
She had begun, while they were taking coffee, with a determination
to shake off what she inwardly called her selfishness, and turned
a face all cheerful attention to her husband when he said,
"My dear Dorothea, we must now think of all that is yet left undone,
as a preliminary to our departure. I would fain have returned home
earlier that we might have been at Lowick for the Christmas; but my
inquiries here have been protracted beyond their anticipated period.
I trust, however, that the time here has not been passed unpleasantly
to you. Among the sights of Europe, that of Rome has ever been
held one of the most striking and in some respects edifying.
I well remember that I considered it an epoch in my life when I
visited it for the first time; after the fall of Napoleon, an event
which opened the Continent to travellers. Indeed I think it is one
among several cities to which an extreme hyperbole has been applied--
`See Rome and die:' but in your case I would propose an emendation
and say, See Rome as a bride, and live henceforth as a happy wife."
Mr. Casaubon pronounced this little speech with the most conscientious
intention, blinking a little and swaying his head up and down,
and concluding with a smile. He had not found marriage a rapturous state,
but he had no idea of being anything else than an irreproachable husband,
who would make a charming young woman as happy as she deserved to be.
"I hope you are thoroughly satisfied with our stay--I mean,
with the result so far as your studies are concerned," said Dorothea,
trying to keep her mind fixed on what most affected her husband.
"Yes," said Mr. Casaubon, with that peculiar pitch of voice which makes
the word half a negative. "I have been led farther than I had foreseen,
and various subjects for annotation have presented themselves which,
though I have no direct need of them, I could not pretermit.
The task, notwithstanding the assistance of my amanuensis, has been
a somewhat laborious one, but your society has happily prevented me
from that too continuous prosecution of thought beyond the hours
of study which has been the snare of my solitary life."
"I am very glad that my presence has made any difference to you,"
said Dorothea, who had a vivid memory of evenings in which she
had supposed that Mr. Casaubon's mind had gone too deep during
the day to be able to get to the surface again. I fear there
was a little temper in her reply. "I hope when we get to Lowick,
I shall be more useful to you, and be able to enter a little more
into what interests you."
"Doubtless, my dear," said Mr. Casaubon, with a slight bow.
"The notes I have here made will want sifting, and you can,
if you please, extract them under my direction."
"And all your notes," said Dorothea, whose heart had already
burned within her on this subject, so that now she could not help
speaking with her tongue. "All those rows of volumes--will you not
now do what you used to speak of?--will you not make up your mind
what part of them you will use, and begin to write the book which
will make your vast knowledge useful to the world? I will write
to your dictation, or I will copy and extract what you tell me:
I can be of no other use." Dorothea, in a most unaccountable,
darkly feminine manner, ended with a slight sob and eyes full
The excessive feeling manifested would alone have been highly disturbing
to Mr. Casaubon, but there were other reasons why Dorothea's words
were among the most cutting and irritating to him that she could
have been impelled to use. She was as blind to his inward troubles
as he to hers: she had not yet learned those hidden conflicts in her
husband which claim our pity. She had not yet listened patiently
to his heartbeats, but only felt that her own was beating violently.
In Mr. Casaubon's ear, Dorothea's voice gave loud emphatic iteration
to those muffled suggestions of consciousness which it was possible
to explain as mere fancy, the illusion of exaggerated sensitiveness:
always when such suggestions are unmistakably repeated from without,
they are resisted as cruel and unjust. We are angered even by the
full acceptance of our humiliating confessions--how much more by
hearing in hard distinct syllables from the lips of a near observer,
those confused murmurs which we try to call morbid, and strive
against as if they were the oncoming of numbness! And this cruel
outward accuser was there in the shape of a wife--nay, of a
young bride, who, instead of observing his abundant pen-scratches
and amplitude of paper with the uncritical awe of an elegant-minded
canary-bird, seemed to present herself as a spy watching everything
with a malign power of inference. Here, towards this particular
point of the compass, Mr. Casaubon had a sensitiveness to match
Dorothea's, and an equal quickness to imagine more than the fact.
He had formerly observed with approbation her capacity for worshipping
the right object; he now foresaw with sudden terror that this
capacity might be replaced by presumption, this worship by the most
exasperating of all criticism,--that which sees vaguely a great
many fine ends, and has not the least notion what it costs to reach them.
For the first time since Dorothea had known him, Mr. Casaubon's
face had a quick angry flush upon it.
"My love," he said, with irritation reined in by propriety,
"you may rely upon me for knowing the times and the seasons,
adapted to the different stages of a work which is not to be measured
by the facile conjectures of ignorant onlookers. It had been easy
for me to gain a temporary effect by a mirage of baseless opinion;
but it is ever the trial of the scrupulous explorer to be saluted
with the impatient scorn of chatterers who attempt only the
smallest achievements, being indeed equipped for no other.
And it were well if all such could be admonished to discriminate
judgments of which the true subject-matter lies entirely beyond
their reach, from those of which the elements may be compassed
by a narrow and superficial survey."
This speech was delivered with an energy and readiness quite unusual
with Mr. Casaubon. It was not indeed entirely an improvisation,
but had taken shape in inward colloquy, and rushed out like the round
grains from a fruit when sudden heat cracks it. Dorothea was not
only his wife: she was a personification of that shallow world
which surrounds the appreciated or desponding author.
Dorothea was indignant in her turn. Had she not been repressing
everything in herself except the desire to enter into some fellowship
with her husband's chief interests?
"My judgment _was_ a very superficial one--such as I am capable
of forming," she answered, with a prompt resentment, that needed
no rehearsal. "You showed me the rows of notebooks--you have often
spoken of them--you have often said that they wanted digesting.
But I never heard you speak of the writing that is to be published.
Those were very simple facts, and my judgment went no farther.
I only begged you to let me be of some good to you."
Dorothea rose to leave the table and Mr. Casaubon made no reply,
taking up a letter which lay beside him as if to reperuse it.
Both were shocked at their mutual situation--that each should
have betrayed anger towards the other. If they had been at home,
settled at Lowick in ordinary life among their neighbors, the clash
would have been less embarrassing: but on a wedding journey,
the express object of which is to isolate two people on the ground
that they are all the world to each other, the sense of disagreement is,
to say the least, confounding and stultifying. To have changed
your longitude extensively and placed yourselves in a moral
solitude in order to have small explosions, to find conversation
difficult and to hand a glass of water without looking, can hardly
be regarded as satisfactory fulfilment even to the toughest minds.
To Dorothea's inexperienced sensitiveness, it seemed like a catastrophe,
changing all prospects; and to Mr. Casaubon it was a new pain,
he never having been on a wedding journey before, or found himself
in that close union which was more of a subjection than he had been
able to imagine, since this charming young bride not only obliged
him to much consideration on her behalf (which he had sedulously
given), but turned out to be capable of agitating him cruelly just
where he most needed soothing. Instead of getting a soft fence
against the cold, shadowy, unapplausive audience of his life, had he
only given it a more substantial presence?
Neither of them felt it possible to speak again at present.
To have reversed a previous arrangement and declined to go out would
have been a show of persistent anger which Dorothea's conscience
shrank from, seeing that she already began to feel herself guilty.
However just her indignation might be, her ideal was not to
claim justice, but to give tenderness. So when the carriage
came to the door, she drove with Mr. Casaubon to the Vatican,
walked with him through the stony avenue of inscriptions, and when
she parted with him at the entrance to the Library, went on through
the Museum out of mere listlessness as to what was around her.
She had not spirit to turn round and say that she would drive anywhere.
It was when Mr. Casaubon was quitting her that Naumann had first
seen her, and he had entered the long gallery of sculpture at
the same time with her; but here Naumann had to await Ladislaw
with whom he was to settle a bet of champagne about an enigmatical
mediaeval-looking figure there. After they had examined the figure,
and had walked on finishing their dispute, they had parted,
Ladislaw lingering behind while Naumann had gone into the Hall
of Statues where he again saw Dorothea, and saw her in that brooding
abstraction which made her pose remarkable. She did not really see
the streak of sunlight on the floor more than she saw the statues:
she was inwardly seeing the light of years to come in her own home
and over the English fields and elms and hedge-bordered highroads;
and feeling that the way in which they might be filled with joyful
devotedness was not so clear to her as it had been. But in Dorothea's
mind there was a current into which all thought and feeling were
apt sooner or later to flow--the reaching forward of the whole
consciousness towards the fullest truth, the least partial good.
There was clearly something better than anger and despondency.
"Hire facounde eke full womanly and plain,
No contrefeted termes had she
To semen wise."
It was in that way Dorothea came to be sobbing as soon as she was
securely alone. But she was presently roused by a knock at the door,
which made her hastily dry her eyes before saying, "Come in."
Tantripp had brought a card, and said that there was a gentleman
waiting in the lobby. The courier had told him that only Mrs. Casaubon
was at home, but he said he was a relation of Mr. Casaubon's: would
she see him?
"Yes," said Dorothea, without pause; "show him into the salon."
Her chief impressions about young Ladislaw were that when she
had seen him at Lowick she had been made aware of Mr. Casaubon's
generosity towards him, and also that she had been interested
in his own hesitation about his career. She was alive to anything
that gave her an opportunity for active sympathy, and at this
moment it seemed as if the visit had come to shake her out of her
self-absorbed discontent--to remind her of her husband's goodness,
and make her feel that she had now the right to be his helpmate
in all kind deeds. She waited a minute or two, but when she passed
into the next room there were just signs enough that she had been
crying to make her open face look more youthful and appealing
than usual. She met Ladislaw with that exquisite smile of good-will
which is unmixed with vanity, and held out her hand to him.
He was the elder by several years, but at that moment he looked
much the younger, for his transparent complexion flushed suddenly,
and he spoke with a shyness extremely unlike the ready indifference
of his manner with his male companion, while Dorothea became all
the calmer with a wondering desire to put him at ease.
"I was not aware that you and Mr. Casaubon were in Rome,
until this morning, when I saw you in the Vatican Museum," he said.
"I knew you at once--but--I mean, that I concluded Mr. Casaubon's
address would be found at the Poste Restante, and I was anxious
to pay my respects to him and you as early as possible."
"Pray sit down. He is not here now, but he will be glad to hear
of you, I am sure," said Dorothea, seating herself unthinkingly
between the fire and the light of the tall window, and pointing
to a chair opposite, with the quietude of a benignant matron.
The signs of girlish sorrow in her face were only the more striking.
"Mr. Casaubon is much engaged; but you will leave your address--
will you not?--and he will write to you."
"You are very good," said Ladislaw, beginning to lose his
diffidence in the interest with which he was observing the signs
of weeping which had altered her face. "My address is on my card.
But if you will allow me I will call again to-morrow at an hour
when Mr. Casaubon is likely to be at home."
"He goes to read in the Library of the Vatican every day, and you
can hardly see him except by an appointment. Especially now.
We are about to leave Rome, and he is very busy. He is usually away
almost from breakfast till dinner. But I am sure he will wish you
to dine with us."
Will Ladislaw was struck mute for a few moments. He had never been fond
of Mr. Casaubon, and if it had not been for the sense of obligation,
would have laughed at him as a Bat of erudition. But the idea
of this dried-up pedant, this elaborator of small explanations
about as important as the surplus stock of false antiquities kept
in a vendor's back chamber, having first got this adorable young
creature to marry him, and then passing his honeymoon away from her,
groping after his mouldy futilities (Will was given to hyperbole)--
this sudden picture stirred him with a sort of comic disgust:
he was divided between the impulse to laugh aloud and the equally
unseasonable impulse to burst into scornful invective.
For an instant he felt that the struggle, was causing a queer
contortion of his mobile features, but with a good effort
he resolved it into nothing more offensive than a merry smile.
Dorothea wondered; but the smile was irresistible, and shone back
from her face too. Will Ladislaw's smile was delightful, unless you
were angry with him beforehand: it was a gush of inward light
illuminating the transparent skin as well as the eyes, and playing
about every curve and line as if some Ariel were touching them
with a new charm, and banishing forever the traces of moodiness.
The reflection of that smile could not but have a little merriment
in it too, even under dark eyelashes still moist, as Dorothea
said inquiringly, "Something amuses you?"
"Yes," said Will, quick in finding resources. "I am thinking
of the sort of figure I cut the first time I saw you, when you
annihilated my poor sketch with your criticism."
"My criticism?" said Dorothea, wondering still more. "Surely not.
I always feel particularly ignorant about painting."
"I suspected you of knowing so much, that you knew how to say just what
was most cutting. You said--I dare say you don't remember it as I do--
that the relation of my sketch to nature was quite hidden from you.
At least, you implied that." Will could laugh now as well as smile.
"That was really my ignorance," said Dorothea, admiring
Will's good-humor. "I must have said so only because I never could see
any beauty in the pictures which my uncle told me all judges thought
very fine. And I have gone about with just the same ignorance in Rome.
There are comparatively few paintings that I can really enjoy.
At first when I enter a room where the walls are covered with frescos,
or with rare pictures, I feel a kind of awe--like a child present
at great ceremonies where there are grand robes and processions;
I feel myself in the presence of some higher life than my own.
But when I begin to examine the pictures one by on the life goes
out of them, or else is something violent and strange to me.
It must be my own dulness. I am seeing so much all at once,
and not understanding half of it. That always makes one feel stupid.
It is painful to be told that anything is very fine and not be able
to feel that it is fine--something like being blind, while people
talk of the sky."
"Oh, there is a great deal in the feeling for art which must
be acquired," said Will. (It was impossible now to doubt the
directness of Dorothea's confession.) "Art is an old language
with a great many artificial affected styles, and sometimes
the chief pleasure one gets out of knowing them is the mere
sense of knowing. I enjoy the art of all sorts here immensely;
but I suppose if I could pick my enjoyment to pieces I should
find it made up of many different threads. There is something
in daubing a little one's self, and having an idea of the process."
"You mean perhaps to be a painter?" said Dorothea, with a new
direction of interest. "You mean to make painting your profession?
Mr. Casaubon will like to hear that you have chosen a profession."
"No, oh no," said Will, with some coldness. "I have quite made
up my mind against it. It is too one-sided a life. I have been
seeing a great deal of the German artists here: I travelled from
Frankfort with one of them. Some are fine, even brilliant fellows--
but I should not like to get into their way of looking at the world
entirely from the studio point of view."
"That I can understand," said Dorothea, cordially. "And in Rome
it seems as if there were so many things which are more wanted
in the world than pictures. But if you have a genius for painting,
would it not be right to take that as a guide? Perhaps you might
do better things than these--or different, so that there might not
be so many pictures almost all alike in the same place."
There was no mistaking this simplicity, and Will was won by it
into frankness. "A man must have a very rare genius to make changes
of that sort. I am afraid mine would not carry me even to the pitch
of doing well what has been done already, at least not so well
as to make it worth while. And I should never succeed in anything
by dint of drudgery. If things don't come easily to me I never get them."
"I have heard Mr. Casaubon say that he regrets your want of patience,"
said Dorothea, gently. She was rather shocked at this mode of taking
all life as a holiday.
"Yes, I know Mr. Casaubon's opinion. He and I differ."
The slight streak of contempt in this hasty reply offended Dorothea.
She was all the more susceptible about Mr. Casaubon because of her
"Certainly you differ," she said, rather proudly. "I did not
think of comparing you: such power of persevering devoted labor
as Mr. Casaubon's is not common."
Will saw that she was offended, but this only gave an additional impulse
to the new irritation of his latent dislike towards Mr. Casaubon.
It was too intolerable that Dorothea should be worshipping this husband:
such weakness in a woman is pleasant to no man but the husband
in question. Mortals are easily tempted to pinch the life out of
their neighbor's buzzing glory, and think that such killing is no murder.
"No, indeed," he answered, promptly. "And therefore it is a pity
that it should be thrown away, as so much English scholarship is,
for want of knowing what is being done by the rest of the world.
If Mr. Casaubon read German he would save himself a great deal
"I do not understand you," said Dorothea, startled and anxious.
"I merely mean," said Will, in an offhand way, "that the Germans
have taken the lead in historical inquiries, and they laugh at
results which are got by groping about in woods with a pocket-compass
while they have made good roads. When I was with Mr. Casaubon I
saw that he deafened himself in that direction: it was almost
against his will that he read a Latin treatise written by a German.
I was very sorry."
Will only thought of giving a good pinch that would annihilate
that vaunted laboriousness, and was unable to imagine the mode
in which Dorothea would be wounded. Young Mr. Ladislaw was not at
all deep himself in German writers; but very little achievement
is required in order to pity another man's shortcomings.
Poor Dorothea felt a pang at the thought that the labor of her
husband's life might be void, which left her no energy to spare
for the question whether this young relative who was so much
obliged to him ought not to have repressed his observation.
She did not even speak, but sat looking at her hands, absorbed in
the piteousness of that thought.
Will, however, having given that annihilating pinch, was rather ashamed,
imagining from Dorothea's silence that he had offended her still more;
and having also a conscience about plucking the tail-feathers
from a benefactor.
"I regretted it especially," he resumed, taking the usual course
from detraction to insincere eulogy, "because of my gratitude
and respect towards my cousin. It would not signify so much
in a man whose talents and character were less distinguished."
Dorothea raised her eyes, brighter than usual with excited feeling,
and said in her saddest recitative, "How I wish I had learned German
when I was at Lausanne! There were plenty of German teachers.
But now I can be of no use."
There was a new light, but still a mysterious light, for Will
in Dorothea's last words. The question how she had come to accept
Mr. Casaubon--which he had dismissed when he first saw her by saying
that she must be disagreeable in spite of appearances--was not now
to be answered on any such short and easy method. Whatever else
she might be, she was not disagreeable. She was not coldly clever
and indirectly satirical, but adorably simple and full of feeling.
She was an angel beguiled. It would be a unique delight to wait
and watch for the melodious fragments in which her heart and soul
came forth so directly and ingenuously. The AEolian harp again
came into his mind.
She must have made some original romance for herself in this marriage.
And if Mr. Casaubon had been a dragon who had carried her off to
his lair with his talons simply and without legal forms, it would
have been an unavoidable feat of heroism to release her and fall
at her feet. But he was something more unmanageable than a dragon:
he was a benefactor with collective society at his back, and he
was at that moment entering the room in all the unimpeachable
correctness of his demeanor, while Dorothea was looking animated
with a newly roused alarm and regret, and Will was looking animated
with his admiring speculation about her feelings.
Mr. Casaubon felt a surprise which was quite unmixed with pleasure,
but he did not swerve from his usual politeness of greeting,
when Will rose and explained his presence. Mr. Casaubon was less
happy than usual, and this perhaps made him look all the dimmer
and more faded; else, the effect might easily have been produced by
the contrast of his young cousin's appearance. The first impression
on seeing Will was one of sunny brightness, which added to the
uncertainty of his changing expression. Surely, his very features
changed their form, his jaw looked sometimes large and sometimes small;
and the little ripple in his nose was a preparation for metamorphosis.
When he turned his head quickly his hair seemed to shake out light,
and some persons thought they saw decided genius in this coruscation.
Mr. Casaubon, on the contrary, stood rayless.
As Dorothea's eyes were turned anxiously on her husband she was
perhaps not insensible to the contrast, but it was only mingled
with other causes in making her more conscious of that new alarm
on his behalf which was the first stirring of a pitying tenderness
fed by the realities of his lot and not by her own dreams.
Yet it was a source of greater freedom to her that Will was there;
his young equality was agreeable, and also perhaps his openness
to conviction. She felt an immense need of some one to speak to,
and she had never before seen any one who seemed so quick and pliable,
so likely to understand everything.
Mr. Casaubon gravely hoped that Will was passing his time profitably
as well as pleasantly in Rome--had thought his intention was to remain
in South Germany--but begged him to come and dine to-morrow, when he
could converse more at large: at present he was somewhat weary.
Ladislaw understood, and accepting the invitation immediately took
Dorothea's eyes followed her husband anxiously, while he sank down
wearily at the end of a sofa, and resting his elbow supported his head
and looked on the floor. A little flushed, and with bright eyes,
she seated herself beside him, and said--
"Forgive me for speaking so hastily to you this morning. I was wrong.
I fear I hurt you and made the day more burdensome."
"I am glad that you feel that, my dear," said Mr. Casaubon.
He spoke quietly and bowed his head a little, but there was still
an uneasy feeling in his eyes as he looked at her.
"But you do forgive me?" said Dorothea, with a quick sob. In her
need for some manifestation of feeling she was ready to exaggerate
her own fault. Would not love see returning penitence afar off,
and fall on its neck and kiss it?
"My dear Dorothea--`who with repentance is not satisfied, is not
of heaven nor earth:'--you do not think me worthy to be banished
by that severe sentence," said Mr. Casaubon, exerting himself
to make a strong statement, and also to smile faintly.
Dorothea was silent, but a tear which had come up with the sob
would insist on falling.
"You are excited, my dear.. And I also am feeling some unpleasant
consequences of too much mental disturbance," said Mr. Casaubon.
In fact, he had it in his thought to tell her that she ought not
to have received young Ladislaw in his absence: but he abstained,
partly from the sense that it would be ungracious to bring
a new complaint in the moment of her penitent acknowledgment,
partly because he wanted to avoid further agitation of himself
by speech, and partly because he was too proud to betray that jealousy
of disposition which was not so exhausted on his scholarly compeers
that there was none to spare in other directions. There is a sort
of jealousy which needs very little fire: it is hardly a passion,
but a blight bred in the cloudy, damp despondency of uneasy egoism.
"I think it is time for us to dress," he added, looking at his watch.
They both rose, and there was never any further allusion between them
to what had passed on this day.
But Dorothea remembered it to the last with the vividness with
which we all remember epochs in our experience when some dear
expectation dies, or some new motive is born. Today she had
begun to see that she had been under a wild illusion in expecting
a response to her feeling from Mr. Casaubon, and she had felt the
waking of a presentiment that there might be a sad consciousness
in his life which made as great a need on his side as on her own.
We are all of us born in moral stupidity, taking the world as
an udder to feed our supreme selves: Dorothea had early begun
to emerge from that stupidity, but yet it had been easier to her
to imagine how she would devote herself to Mr. Casaubon, and become
wise and strong in his strength and wisdom, than to conceive
with that distinctness which is no longer reflection but feeling--
an idea wrought back to the directness of sense, like the solidity
of objects--that he had an equivalent centre of self, whence the
lights and shadows must always fall with a certain difference.
"Nous causames longtemps; elle etait simple et bonne.
Ne sachant pas le mal, elle faisait le bien;
Des richesses du coeur elle me fit l'aumone,
Et tout en ecoutant comme le coeur se donne,
Sans oser y penser je lui donnai le mien;
Elle emporta ma vie, et n'en sut jamais rien."
--ALFRED DE MUSSET.
Will Ladislaw was delightfully agreeable at dinner the next day,
and gave no opportunity for Mr. Casaubon to show disapprobation.
On the contrary it seemed to Dorothea that Will had a happier way
of drawing her husband into conversation and of deferentially
listening to him than she had ever observed in any one before.
To be sure, the listeners about Tipton were not highly gifted!
Will talked a good deal himself, but what he said was thrown in with
such rapidity, and with such an unimportant air of saying something
by the way, that it seemed a gay little chime after the great bell.
If Will was not always perfect, this was certainly one of his good days.
He described touches of incident among the poor people in Rome,
only to be seen by one who could move about freely; he found
himself in agreement with Mr. Casaubon as to the unsound opinions
of Middleton concerning the relations of Judaism and Catholicism;
and passed easily to a half-enthusiastic half-playful picture
of the enjoyment he got out of the very miscellaneousness of Rome,
which made the mind flexible with constant comparison, and saved
you from seeing the world's ages as a set of box-like partitions
without vital connection. Mr. Casaubon's studies, Will observed,
had always been of too broad a kind for that, and he had perhaps
never felt any such sudden effect, but for himself he confessed
that Rome had given him quite a new sense of history as a whole:
the fragments stimulated his imagination and made him constructive.
Then occasionally, but not too often, he appealed to Dorothea,
and discussed what she said, as if her sentiment were an item
to be considered in the final judgment even of the Madonna di
Foligno or the Laocoon. A sense of contributing to form the world's
opinion makes conversation particularly cheerful; and Mr. Casaubon
too was not without his pride in his young wife, who spoke better
than most women, as indeed he had perceived in choosing her.
Since things were going on so pleasantly, Mr. Casaubon's statement
that his labors in the Library would be suspended for a couple of days,
and that after a brief renewal he should have no further reason
for staying in Rome, encouraged Will to urge that Mrs. Casaubon
should not go away without seeing a studio or two. Would not
Mr. Casaubon take her? That sort of thing ought not to be missed:
it was quite special: it was a form of life that grew like a small
fresh vegetation with its population of insects on huge fossils.
Will would be happy to conduct them--not to anything wearisome,
only to a few examples.
Mr. Casaubon, seeing Dorothea look earnestly towards him,
could not but ask her if she would be interested in such visits:
he was now at her service during the whole day; and it was agreed
that Will should come on the morrow and drive with them.
Will could not omit Thorwaldsen, a living celebrity about whom
even Mr. Casaubon inquired, but before the day was far advanced
he led the way to the studio of his friend Adolf Naumann,
whom he mentioned as one of the chief renovators of Christian art,
one of those who had not only revived but expanded that grand
conception of supreme events as mysteries at which the successive
ages were spectators, and in relation to which the great souls
of all periods became as it were contemporaries. Will added
that he had made himself Naumann's pupil for the nonce.
"I have been making some oil-sketches under him," said Will.
"I hate copying. I must put something of my own in. Naumann has
been painting the Saints drawing the Car of the Church, and I have
been making a sketch of Marlowe's Tamburlaine Driving the Conquered
Kings in his Chariot. I am not so ecclesiastical as Naumann,
and I sometimes twit him with his excess of meaning. But this time
I mean to outdo him in breadth of intention. I take Tamburlaine
in his chariot for the tremendous course of the world's physical
history lashing on the harnessed dynasties. In my opinion, that is
a good mythical interpretation." Will here looked at Mr. Casaubon,
who received this offhand treatment of symbolism very uneasily,
and bowed with a neutral air.
"The sketch must be very grand, if it conveys so much," said Dorothea.
"I should need some explanation even of the meaning you give.
Do you intend Tamburlaine to represent earthquakes and volcanoes?"
"Oh yes," said Will, laughing, "and migrations of races and
clearings of forests--and America and the steam-engine. Everything
you can imagine!"
"What a difficult kind of shorthand!" said Dorothea, smiling towards
her husband. "It would require all your knowledge to be able
to read it."
Mr. Casaubon blinked furtively at Will. He had a suspicion that he
was being laughed at. But it was not possible to include Dorothea
in the suspicion.
They found Naumann painting industriously, but no model was present;
his pictures were advantageously arranged, and his own plain vivacious
person set off by a dove-colored blouse and a maroon velvet cap,
so that everything was as fortunate as if he had expected the
beautiful young English lady exactly at that time.
The painter in his confident English gave little dissertations on his
finished and unfinished subjects, seeming to observe Mr. Casaubon
as much as he did Dorothea. Will burst in here and there with ardent
words of praise, marking out particular merits in his friend's work;
and Dorothea felt that she was getting quite new notions as to
the significance of Madonnas seated under inexplicable canopied
thrones with the simple country as a background, and of saints
with architectural models in their hands, or knives accidentally
wedged in their skulls. Some things which had seemed monstrous
to her were gathering intelligibility and even a natural meaning:
but all this was apparently a branch of knowledge in which
Mr. Casaubon had not interested himself.
"I think I would rather feel that painting is beautiful than
have to read it as an enigma; but I should learn to understand
these pictures sooner than yours with the very wide meaning,"
said Dorothea, speaking to Will.
"Don't speak of my painting before Naumann," said Will. "He will
tell you, it is all pfuscherei, which is his most opprobrious word!"
"Is that true?" said Dorothea, turning her sincere eyes on Naumann,
who made a slight grimace and said--
"Oh, he does not mean it seriously with painting. His walk must
be belles-lettres. That is wi-ide."
Naumann's pronunciation of the vowel seemed to stretch the
word satirically. Will did not half like it, but managed to laugh:
and Mr. Casaubon, while he felt some disgust at the artist's German
accent, began to entertain a little respect for his judicious severity.
The respect was not diminished when Naumann, after drawing Will
aside for a moment and looking, first at a large canvas, then at
Mr. Casaubon, came forward again and said--
"My friend Ladislaw thinks you will pardon me, sir, if I say
that a sketch of your head would be invaluable to me for the
St. Thomas Aquinas in my picture there. It is too much to ask;
but I so seldom see just what I want--the idealistic in the real."
"You astonish me greatly, sir," said Mr. Casaubon, his looks improved
with a glow of delight; "but if my poor physiognomy, which I have
been accustomed to regard as of the commonest order, can be of any
use to you in furnishing some traits for the angelical doctor,
I shall feel honored. That is to say, if the operation will not
be a lengthy one; and if Mrs. Casaubon will not object to the delay."
As for Dorothea, nothing could have pleased her more, unless it
had been a miraculous voice pronouncing Mr. Casaubon the wisest
and worthiest among the sons of men. In that case her tottering
faith would have become firm again.
Naumann's apparatus was at hand in wonderful completeness, and the
sketch went on at once as well as the conversation. Dorothea sat
down and subsided into calm silence, feeling happier than she had
done for a long while before. Every one about her seemed good,
and she said to herself that Rome, if she had only been less ignorant,
would have been full of beauty its sadness would have been winged
with hope. No nature could be less suspicious than hers:
when she was a child she believed in the gratitude of wasps and
the honorable susceptibility of sparrows, and was proportionately
indignant when their baseness was made manifest.
The adroit artist was asking Mr. Casaubon questions about
English polities, which brought long answers, and, Will meanwhile
had perched himself on some steps in the background overlooking all.
Presently Naumann said--"Now if I could lay this by for half
an hour and take it up again--come and look, Ladislaw--I think
it is perfect so far."
Will vented those adjuring interjections which imply that admiration
is too strong for syntax; and Naumann said in a tone of piteous regret--
"Ah--now--if I could but have had more--but you have other engagements--
I could not ask it--or even to come again to-morrow."
"Oh, let us stay!" said Dorothea. "We have nothing to do to-day except
go about, have we?" she added, looking entreatingly at Mr. Casaubon.
"It would be a pity not to make the head as good as possible."
"I am at your service, sir, in the matter," said Mr. Casaubon,
with polite condescension. "Having given up the interior of my
head to idleness, it is as well that the exterior should work
in this way."
"You are unspeakably good--now I am happy!" said Naumann, and then
went on in German to Will, pointing here and there to the sketch
as if he were considering that. Putting it aside for a moment,
he looked round vaguely, as if seeking some occupation for his visitors,
and afterwards turning to Mr. Casaubon, said--
"Perhaps the beautiful bride, the gracious lady, would not be
unwilling to let me fill up the time by trying to make a slight
sketch of her--not, of course, as you see, for that picture--
only as a single study."
Mr. Casaubon, bowing, doubted not that Mrs. Casaubon would oblige him,
and Dorothea said, at once, "Where shall I put myself?"
Naumann was all apologies in asking her to stand, and allow him to
adjust her attitude, to which she submitted without any of the affected
airs and laughs frequently thought necessary on such occasions,
when the painter said, "It is as Santa Clara that I want you to stand--
leaning so, with your cheek against your hand--so--looking at
that stool, please, so!"
Will was divided between the inclination to fall at the Saint's feet
and kiss her robe, and the temptation to knock Naumann down while he
was adjusting her arm. All this was impudence and desecration,
and he repented that he had brought her.
The artist was diligent, and Will recovering himself moved about
and occupied Mr. Casaubon as ingeniously as he could; but he did
not in the end prevent the time from seeming long to that gentleman,
as was clear from his expressing a fear that Mrs. Casaubon would
be tired. Naumann took the hint and said--
"Now, sir, if you can oblige me again; I will release the lady-wife."
So Mr. Casaubon's patience held out further, and when after all it
turned out that the head of Saint Thomas Aquinas would be more perfect
if another sitting could be had, it was granted for the morrow.
On the morrow Santa Clara too was retouched more than once.
The result of all was so far from displeasing to Mr. Casaubon,
that he arranged for the purchase of the picture in which Saint
Thomas Aquinas sat among the doctors of the Church in a disputation
too abstract to be represented, but listened to with more or less
attention by an audience above. The Santa Clara, which was spoken of
in the second place, Naumann declared himself to be dissatisfied with--
he could not, in conscience, engage to make a worthy picture of it;
so about the Santa Clara the arrangement was conditional.
I will not dwell on Naumann's jokes at the expense of Mr. Casaubon
that evening, or on his dithyrambs about Dorothea's charm, in all
which Will joined, but with a difference. No sooner did Naumann
mention any detail of Dorothea's beauty, than Will got exasperated
at his presumption: there was grossness in his choice of the most
ordinary words, and what business had he to talk of her lips?
She was not a woman to be spoken of as other women were. Will could
not say just what he thought, but he became irritable. And yet,
when after some resistance he had consented to take the Casaubons
to his friend's studio, he had been allured by the gratification
of his pride in being the person who could grant Naumann such an
opportunity of studying her loveliness--or rather her divineness,
for the ordinary phrases which might apply to mere bodily prettiness
were not applicable to her. (Certainly all Tipton and its neighborhood,
as well as Dorothea herself, would have been surprised at her beauty
being made so much of. In that part of the world Miss Brooke had
been only a "fine young woman.")
"Oblige me by letting the subject drop, Naumann. Mrs. Casaubon
is not to be talked of as if she were a model," said Will.
Naumann stared at him.
"Schon! I will talk of my Aquinas. The head is not a bad type,
after all. I dare say the great scholastic himself would have been
flattered to have his portrait asked for. Nothing like these
starchy doctors for vanity! It was as I thought: he cared much
less for her portrait than his own."
"He's a cursed white-blooded pedantic coxcomb," said Will,
with gnashing impetuosity. His obligations to Mr. Casaubon were
not known to his hearer, but Will himself was thinking of them,
and wishing that he could discharge them all by a check.
Naumann gave a shrug and said, "It is good they go away soon, my dear.
They are spoiling your fine temper."
All Will's hope and contrivance were now concentrated on seeing
Dorothea when she was alone. He only wanted her to take more
emphatic notice of him; he only wanted to be something more special
in her remembrance than he could yet believe himself likely to be.
He was rather impatient under that open ardent good-will, reach he
saw was her usual state of feeling. The remote worship of a woman
throned out of their reach plays a great part in men's lives,
but in most cases the worshipper longs for some queenly recognition,
some approving sign by which his soul's sovereign may cheer him without
descending from her high place. That was precisely what Will wanted.
But there were plenty of contradictions in his imaginative demands.
It was beautiful to see how Dorothea's eyes turned with wifely
anxiety and beseeching to Mr. Casaubon: she would have lost some
of her halo if she had been without that duteous preoccupation;
and yet at the next moment the husband's sandy absorption of such
nectar was too intolerable; and Will's longing to say damaging things
about him was perhaps not the less tormenting because he felt the
strongest reasons for restraining it.
Will had not been invited to dine the next day. Hence he persuaded
himself that he was bound to call, and that the only eligible time
was the middle of the day, when Mr. Casaubon would not be at home.
Dorothea, who had not been made aware that her former reception of
Will had displeased her husband, had no hesitation about seeing him,
especially as he might be come to pay a farewell visit. When he entered
she was looking at some cameos which she had been buying for Celia.
She greeted Will as if his visit were quite a matter of course,
and said at once, having a cameo bracelet in her hand--
"I am so glad you are come. Perhaps you understand all about cameos,
and can tell me if these are really good. I wished to have you
with us in choosing them, but Mr. Casaubon objected: he thought
there was not time. He will finish his work to-morrow, and we shall
go away in three days. I have been uneasy about these cameos.
Pray sit down and look at them."
"I am not particularly knowing, but there can be no great mistake
about these little Homeric bits: they are exquisitely neat.
And the color is fine: it will just suit you."
"Oh, they are for my sister, who has quite a different complexion.
You saw her with me at Lowick: she is light-haired and very pretty--
at least I think so. We were never so long away from each other in our
lives before. She is a great pet and never was naughty in her life.
I found out before I came away that she wanted me to buy her some cameos,
and I should be sorry for them not to be good--after their kind."
Dorothea added the last words with a smile.
"You seem not to care about cameos," said Will, seating himself at
some distance from her, and observing her while she closed the cases.
"No, frankly, I don't think them a great object in life," said Dorothea
"I fear you are a heretic about art generally. How is that? I should
have expected you to be very sensitive to the beautiful everywhere."
"I suppose I am dull about many things," said Dorothea, simply.
"I should like to make life beautiful--I mean everybody's life.
And then all this immense expense of art, that seems somehow to lie
outside life and make it no better for the world, pains one.
It spoils my enjoyment of anything when I am made to think that most
people are shut out from it."
"I call that the fanaticism of sympathy," said Will, impetuously.
"You might say the same of landscape, of poetry, of all refinement.
If you carried it out you ought to be miserable in your own goodness,
and turn evil that you might have no advantage over others.
The best piety is to enjoy--when you can. You are doing the most
then to save the earth's character as an agreeable planet.
And enjoyment radiates. It is of no use to try and take care of
all the world; that is being taken care of when you feel delight--
in art or in anything else. Would you turn all the youth of the
world into a tragic chorus, wailing and moralizing over misery?
I suspect that you have some false belief in the virtues of misery,
and want to make your life a martyrdom." Will had gone further than
he intended, and checked himself. But Dorothea's thought was not
taking just the same direction as his own, and she answered without any
"Indeed you mistake me. I am not a sad, melancholy creature. I am
never unhappy long together. I am angry and naughty--not like Celia:
I have a great outburst, and then all seems glorious again.
I cannot help believing in glorious things in a blind sort of way.
I should be quite willing to enjoy the art here, but there is
so much that I don't know the reason of--so much that seems to me
a consecration of ugliness rather than beauty. The painting and
sculpture may be wonderful, but the feeling is often low and brutal,
and sometimes even ridiculous. Here and there I see what takes me
at once as noble--something that I might compare with the Alban
Mountains or the sunset from the Pincian Hill; but that makes it
the greater pity that there is so little of the best kind among all
that mass of things over which men have toiled so."
"Of course there is always a great deal of poor work: the rarer
things want that soil to grow in."
"Oh dear," said Dorothea, taking up that thought into the chief current
of her anxiety; "I see it must be very difficult to do anything good.
I have often felt since I have been in Rome that most of our
lives would look much uglier and more bungling than the pictures,
if they could be put on the wall."
Dorothea parted her lips again as if she were going to say more,
but changed her mind and paused.
"You are too young--it is an anachronism for you to have such thoughts,"
said Will, energetically, with a quick shake of the head habitual to him.
"You talk as if you had never known any youth. It is monstrous--
as if you had had a vision of Hades in your childhood, like the boy
in the legend. You have been brought up in some of those horrible
notions that choose the sweetest women to devour--like Minotaurs
And now you will go and be shut up in that stone prison at Lowick:
you will be buried alive. It makes me savage to think of it!
I would rather never have seen you than think of you with such
Will again feared that he had gone too far; but the meaning we attach
to words depends on our feeling, and his tone of angry regret had so much
kindness in it for Dorothea's heart, which had always been giving out
ardor and had never been fed with much from the living beings around her,
that she felt a new sense of gratitude and answered with a gentle smile--
"It is very good of you to be anxious about me. It is because you
did not like Lowick yourself: you had set your heart on another
kind of life. But Lowick is my chosen home."
The last sentence was spoken with an almost solemn cadence, and Will
did not know what to say, since it would not be useful for him
to embrace her slippers, and tell her that he would die for her:
it was clear that she required nothing of the sort; and they were
both silent for a moment or two, when Dorothea began again with an
air of saying at last what had been in her mind beforehand.
"I wanted to ask you again about something you said the other day.
Perhaps it was half of it your lively way of speaking: I notice
that you like to put things strongly; I myself often exaggerate
when I speak hastily."
"What was it?" said Will, observing that she spoke with a timidity
quite new in her. "I have a hyperbolical tongue: it catches fire
as it goes. I dare say I shall have to retract."
"I mean what you said about the necessity of knowing German--I mean,
for the subjects that Mr. Casaubon is engaged in. I have been thinking
about it; and it seems to me that with Mr. Casaubon's learning he must
have before him the same materials as German scholars--has he not?"
Dorothea's timidity was due to an indistinct consciousness that she
was in the strange situation of consulting a third person about
the adequacy of Mr. Casaubon's learning.
"Not exactly the same materials," said Will, thinking that he
would be duly reserved. "He is not an Orientalist, you know.
He does not profess to have more than second-hand knowledge there."
"But there are very valuable books about antiquities which were written
a long while ago by scholars who knew nothing about these modern things;
and they are still used. Why should Mr. Casaubon's not be valuable,
like theirs?" said Dorothea, with more remonstrant energy.
She was impelled to have the argument aloud, which she had been
having in her own mind.
"That depends on the line of study taken," said Will, also getting
a tone of rejoinder. "The subject Mr. Casaubon has chosen is as
changing as chemistry: new discoveries are constantly making new
points of view. Who wants a system on the basis of the four elements,
or a book to refute Paracelsus? Do you not see that it is no use
now to be crawling a little way after men of the last century--
men like Bryant--and correcting their mistakes?--living in a lumber-room
and furbishing up broken-legged theories about Chus and Mizraim?"
"How can you bear to speak so lightly?" said Dorothea, with a look
between sorrow and anger. "If it were as you say, what could
be sadder than so much ardent labor all in vain? I wonder it does
not affect you more painfully, if you really think that a man
like Mr. Casaubon, of so much goodness, power, and learning,
should in any way fail in what has been the labor of his best years."
She was beginning to be shocked that she had got to such a point
of supposition, and indignant with Will for having led her to it.
"You questioned me about the matter of fact, not of feeling,"
said Will. "But if you wish to punish me for the fact, I submit.
I am not in a position to express my feeling toward Mr. Casaubon:
it would be at best a pensioner's eulogy."
"Pray excuse me," said Dorothea, coloring deeply. "I am aware,
as you say, that I am in fault in having introduced the subject.
Indeed, I am wrong altogether. Failure after long perseverance is
much grander than never to have a striving good enough to be called
"I quite agree with you," said Will, determined to change the situation--
"so much so that I have made up my mind not to run that risk of
never attaining a failure. Mr. Casaubon's generosity has perhaps
been dangerous to me, and I mean to renounce the liberty it has
given me. I mean to go back to England shortly and work my own way--
depend on nobody else than myself."
"That is fine--I respect that feeling," said Dorothea,
with returning kindness. "But Mr. Casaubon, I am sure, has never
thought of anything in the matter except what was most for your welfare."
"She has obstinacy and pride enough to serve instead of love, now she
has married him," said Will to himself. Aloud he said, rising--
"I shall not see you again."
"Oh, stay till Mr. Casaubon comes," said Dorothea, earnestly. "I am
so glad we met in Rome. I wanted to know you."?
"And I have made you angry," said Will. "I have made you think
ill of me."
"Oh no. My sister tells me I am always angry with people who do
not say just what I like. But I hope I am not given to think ill
of them. In the end I am usually obliged to think ill of myself.
for being so impatient."
"Still, you don't like me; I have made myself an unpleasant thought
"Not at all," said Dorothea, with the most open kindness.
"I like you very much."
Will was not quite contented, thinking that he would apparently have
been of more importance if he had been disliked. He said nothing,
but looked dull, not to say sulky.
"And I am quite interested to see what you will do," Dorothea went
on cheerfully. "I believe devoutly in a natural difference of vocation.
If it were not for that belief, I suppose I should be very narrow--
there are so many things, besides painting, that I am quite
ignorant of. You would hardly believe how little I have taken
in of music and literature, which you know so much of. I wonder
what your vocation will turn out to be: perhaps you will be a poet?"
"That depends. To be a poet is to have a soul so quick to discern
that no shade of quality escapes it, and so quick to feel,
that discernment is but a hand playing with finely ordered variety on
the chords of emotion--a soul in which knowledge passes instantaneously
into feeling, and feeling flashes back as a new organ of knowledge.
One may have that condition by fits only."
"But you leave out the poems," said Dorothea. "I think they are wanted
to complete the poet. I understand what you mean about knowledge
passing into feeling, for that seems to be just what I experience.
But I am sure I could never produce a poem."
"You _are_ a poem--and that is to be the best part of a poet--
what makes up the poet's consciousness in his best moods," said Will,
showing such originality as we all share with the morning and the
spring-time and other endless renewals.
"I am very glad to hear it," said Dorothea, laughing out her words
in a bird-like modulation, and looking at Will with playful gratitude
in her eyes. "What very kind things you say to me!"
"I wish I could ever do anything that would be what you call kind--
that I could ever be of the slightest service to you I fear I shall
never have the opportunity." Will spoke with fervor.
"Oh yes," said Dorothea, cordially. "It will come; and I shall
remember how well you wish me. I quite hoped that we should be friends
when I first saw you--because of your relationship to Mr. Casaubon."
There was a certain liquid brightness in her eyes, and Will was
conscious that his own were obeying a law of nature and filling too.
The allusion to Mr. Casaubon would have spoiled all if anything at
that moment could have spoiled the subduing power, the sweet dignity,
of her noble unsuspicious inexperience.
"And there is one thing even now that you can do," said Dorothea, rising
and walking a little way under the strength of a recurring impulse.
"Promise me that you will not again, to any one, speak of that subject--
I mean about Mr. Casaubon's writings--I mean in that kind of way.
It was I who led to it. It was my fault. But promise me."
She had returned from her brief pacing and stood opposite Will,
looking gravely at him.
"Certainly, I will promise you," said Will, reddening however.
If he never said a cutting word about Mr. Casaubon again and left
off receiving favors from him, it would clearly be permissible
to hate him the more. The poet must know how to hate, says Goethe;
and Will was at least ready with that accomplishment. He said that he
must go now without waiting for Mr. Casaubon, whom he would come
to take leave of at the last moment. Dorothea gave him her hand,
and they exchanged a simple "Good-by."
But going out of the porte cochere he met Mr. Casaubon,
and that gentleman, expressing the best wishes for his cousin,
politely waived the pleasure of any further leave-taking on the morrow,
which would be sufficiently crowded with the preparations for departure.
"I have something to tell you about our cousin Mr. Ladislaw,
which I think will heighten your opinion of him," said Dorothea
to her husband in the coarse of the evening. She had mentioned
immediately on his entering that Will had just gone away, and would
come again, but Mr. Casaubon had said, "I met him outside, and we
made our final adieux, I believe," saying this with the air and tone
by which we imply that any subject, whether private or public,
does not interest us enough to wish for a further remark upon it.
So Dorothea had waited.
"What is that, my love?" said Mr Casaubon (he always said "my love"
when his manner was the coldest).
"He has made up his mind to leave off wandering at once, and to give up
his dependence on your generosity. He means soon to go back to England,
and work his own way. I thought you would consider that a good sign,"
said Dorothea, with an appealing look into her husband's neutral face.
"Did he mention the precise order of occupation to which he would
"No. But he said that he felt the danger which lay for him
in your generosity. Of course he will write to you about it.
Do you not think better of him for his resolve?"
"I shall await his communication on the subject," said Mr. Casaubon.
"I told him I was sure that the thing you considered in all you did
for him was his own welfare. I remembered your goodness in what you
said about him when I first saw him at Lowick," said Dorothea,
putting her hand on her husband's.
"I had a duty towards him," said Mr. Casaubon, laying his other
hand on Dorothea's in conscientious acceptance of her caress,
but with a glance which he could not hinder from being uneasy.
"The young man, I confess, is not otherwise an object of interest to me,
nor need we, I think, discuss his future course, which it is not ours
to determine beyond the limits which I have sufficiently indicated."
Dorothea did not mention Will again.
WAITING FOR DEATH.
"Your horses of the Sun," he said,
"And first-rate whip Apollo!
Whate'er they be, I'll eat my head,
But I will beat them hollow."
Fred Vincy, we have seen, had a debt on his mind, and though no
such immaterial burthen could depress that buoyant-hearted young
gentleman for many hours together, there were circumstances connected
with this debt which made the thought of it unusually importunate.
The creditor was Mr. Bambridge a horse-dealer of the neighborhood,
whose company was much sought in Middlemarch by young men understood
to be "addicted to pleasure." During the vacations Fred had naturally
required more amusements than he had ready money for, and Mr. Bambridge
had been accommodating enough not only to trust him for the hire
of horses and the accidental expense of ruining a fine hunter,
but also to make a small advance by which he might be able to meet some
losses at billiards. The total debt was a hundred and sixty pounds.
Bambridge was in no alarm about his money, being sure that young
Vincy had backers; but he had required something to show for it,
and Fred had at first given a bill with his own signature.
Three months later he had renewed this bill with the signature
of Caleb Garth. On both occasions Fred had felt confident that he
should meet the bill himself, having ample funds at disposal in
his own hopefulness. You will hardly demand that his confidence
should have a basis in external facts; such confidence, we know,
is something less coarse and materialistic: it is a comfortable
disposition leading us to expect that the wisdom of providence or
the folly of our friends, the mysteries of luck or the still greater
mystery of our high individual value in the universe, will bring
about agreeable issues, such as are consistent with our good taste
in costume, and our general preference for the best style of thing.
Fred felt sure that he should have a present from his uncle,
that he should have a run of luck, that by dint of "swapping" he
should gradually metamorphose a horse worth forty pounds into a horse
that would fetch a hundred at any moment--"judgment" being always
equivalent to an unspecified sum in hard cash. And in any case,
even supposing negations which only a morbid distrust could imagine,
Fred had always (at that time) his father's pocket as a last resource,
so that his assets of hopefulness had a sort of gorgeous superfluity
about them. Of what might be the capacity of his father's pocket,
Fred had only a vague notion: was not trade elastic? And would not
the deficiencies of one year be made up for by the surplus of another?
The Vincys lived in an easy profuse way, not with any new ostentation,
but according to the family habits and traditions, so that the
children had no standard of economy, and the elder ones retained some
of their infantine notion that their father might pay for anything if
he would. Mr. Vincy himself had expensive Middlemarch habits--spent
money on coursing, on his cellar, and on dinner-giving, while mamma
had those running accounts with tradespeople, which give a cheerful
sense of getting everything one wants without any question of payment.
But it was in the nature of fathers, Fred knew, to bully one about
expenses: there was always a little storm over his extravagance if he
had to disclose a debt, and Fred disliked bad weather within doors. He
was too filial to be disrespectful to his father, and he bore the
thunder with the certainty that it was transient; but in the mean time
it was disagreeable to see his mother cry, and also to be obliged to
look sulky instead of having fun; for Fred was so good-tempered that
if he looked glum under scolding, it was chiefly for propriety's sake.
The easier course plainly, was to renew the bill with a friend's
signature. Why not? With the superfluous securities of hope at his
command, there was no reason why he should not have increased other
people's liabilities to any extent, but for the fact that men whose
names were good for anything were usually pessimists, indisposed to
believe that the universal order of things would necessarily be
agreeable to an agreeable young gentleman.
With a favor to ask we review our list of friends, do justice
to their more amiable qualities, forgive their little offenses,
and concerning each in turn, try to arrive at the conclusion that he
will be eager to oblige us, our own eagerness to be obliged being
as communicable as other warmth. Still there is always a certain
number who are dismissed as but moderately eager until the others
have refused; and it happened that Fred checked off all his friends
but one, on the ground that applying to them would be disagreeable;
being implicitly convinced that he at least (whatever might be
maintained about mankind generally) had a right to be free from
anything disagreeable. That he should ever fall into a thoroughly
unpleasant position--wear trousers shrunk with washing, eat cold mutton,
have to walk for want of a horse, or to "duck under" in any sort
of way--was an absurdity irreconcilable with those cheerful
intuitions implanted in him by nature. And Fred winced under the
idea of being looked down upon as wanting funds for small debts.
Thus it came to pass that the friend whom he chose to apply
to was at once the poorest and the kindest--namely, Caleb Garth.
The Garths were very fond of Fred, as he was of them; for when he
and Rosamond were little ones, and the Garths were better off,
the slight connection between the two families through
Mr. Featherstone's double marriage (the first to Mr. Garth's sister,
and the second to Mrs. Vincy's) had led to an acquaintance which
was carried on between the children rather than the parents:
the children drank tea together out of their toy teacups, and spent
whole days together in play. Mary was a little hoyden, and Fred
at six years old thought her the nicest girl in the world making
her his wife with a brass ring which he had cut from an umbrella.
Through all the stages of his education he had kept his affection
for the Garths, and his habit of going to their house as a second
home, though any intercourse between them and the elders of his
family had long ceased. Even when Caleb Garth was prosperous,
the Vincys were on condescending terms with him and his wife,
for there were nice distinctions of rank in Middlemarch; and though
old manufacturers could not any more than dukes be connected
with none but equals, they were conscious of an inherent social
superiority which was defined with great nicety in practice,
though hardly expressible theoretically. Since then Mr. Garth
had failed in the building business, which he had unfortunately
added to his other avocations of surveyor, valuer, and agent,
had conducted that business for a time entirely for the benefit of
his assignees, and had been living narrowly, exerting himself to the
utmost that he might after all pay twenty shillings in the pound.
He had now achieved this, and from all who did not think it
a bad precedent, his honorable exertions had won him due esteem;
but in no part of the world is genteel visiting founded on esteem,
in the absence of suitable furniture and complete dinner-service.
Mrs. Vincy had never been at her ease with Mrs. Garth, and frequently
spoke of her as a woman who had had to work for her bread--
meaning that Mrs. Garth had been a teacher before her marriage;
in which case an intimacy with Lindley Murray and Mangnall's Questions
was something like a draper's discrimination of calico trademarks,
or a courier's acquaintance with foreign countries: no woman
who was better off needed that sort of thing. And since Mary had
been keeping Mr. Featherstone's house, Mrs. Vincy's want of liking
for the Garths had been converted into something more positive,
by alarm lest Fred should engage himself to this plain girl,
whose parents "lived in such a small way." Fred, being aware of this,
never spoke at home of his visits to Mrs. Garth, which had of late
become more frequent, the increasing ardor of his affection
for Mary inclining him the more towards those who belonged to her.
Mr. Garth had a small office in the town, and to this Fred went
with his request. He obtained it without much difficulty,
for a large amount of painful experience had not sufficed to make
Caleb Garth cautious about his own affairs, or distrustful of his
fellow-men when they had not proved themselves untrustworthy;
and he had the highest opinion of Fred, was "sure the lad
would turn out well--an open affectionate fellow, with a good
bottom to his character--you might trust him for anything."
Such was Caleb's psychological argument. He was one of those
rare men who are rigid to themselves and indulgent to others.
He had a certain shame about his neighbors' errors, and never spoke
of them willingly; hence he was not likely to divert his mind
from the best mode of hardening timber and other ingenious devices
in order to preconceive those errors. If he had to blame any one,
it was necessary for him to move all the papers within his reach,
or describe various diagrams with his stick, or make calculations
with the odd money in his pocket, before he could begin; and he
would rather do other men's work than find fault with their doing.
I fear he was a bad disciplinarian.
When Fred stated the circumstances of his debt, his wish to meet it
without troubling his father, and the certainty that the money would
be forthcoming so as to cause no one any inconvenience, Caleb pushed
his spectacles upward, listened, looked into his favorite's clear
young eyes, and believed him, not distinguishing confidence about
the future from veracity about the past; but he felt that it was an
occasion for a friendly hint as to conduct, and that before giving
his signature he must give a rather strong admonition. Accordingly,
he took the paper and lowered his spectacles, measured the space at
his command, reached his pen and examined it, dipped it in the ink
and examined it again, then pushed the paper a little way from him,
lifted up his spectacles again, showed a deepened depression in the
outer angle of his bushy eyebrows, which gave his face a peculiar
mildness (pardon these details for once--you would have learned to
love them if you had known Caleb Garth), and said in a comfortable tone--
"It was a misfortune, eh, that breaking the horse's knees?
And then, these exchanges, they don't answer when you have 'cute
jockeys to deal with. You'll be wiser another time, my boy."
Whereupon Caleb drew down his spectacles, and proceeded to write
his signature with the care which he always gave to that performance;
for whatever he did in the way of business he did well.
He contemplated the large well-proportioned letters and final flourish,
with his head a trifle on one side for an instant, then handed it
to Fred, said "Good-by," and returned forthwith to his absorption
in a plan for Sir James Chettam's new farm-buildings.
Either because his interest in this work thrust the incident of
the signature from his memory, or for some reason of which Caleb
was more conscious, Mrs. Garth remained ignorant of the affair.
Since it occurred, a change had come over Fred's sky, which altered his
view of the distance, and was the reason why his uncle Featherstone's
present of money was of importance enough to make his color come
and go, first with a too definite expectation, and afterwards with a
proportionate disappointment. His failure in passing his examination,
had made his accumulation of college debts the more unpardonable
by his father, and there had been an unprecedented storm at home.
Mr. Vincy had sworn that if he had anything more of that sort to put
up with, Fred should turn out and get his living how he could;
and he had never yet quite recovered his good-humored tone to his son,
who had especially enraged him by saying at this stage of things
that he did not want to be a clergyman, and would rather not "go
on with that." Fred was conscious that he would have been yet more
severely dealt with if his family as well as himself had not secretly
regarded him as Mr. Featherstone's heir; that old gentleman's pride
in him, and apparent fondness for him, serving in the stead of more
exemplary conduct--just as when a youthful nobleman steals jewellery
we call the act kleptomania, speak of it with a philosophical smile,
and never think of his being sent to the house of correction as if he
were a ragged boy who had stolen turnips. In fact, tacit expectations
of what would be done for him by uncle Featherstone determined
the angle at which most people viewed Fred Vincy in Middlemarch;
and in his own consciousness, what uncle Featherstone would do for him
in an emergency, or what he would do simply as an incorporated luck,
formed always an immeasurable depth of aerial perspective. But that
present of bank-notes, once made, was measurable, and being applied
to the amount of the debt, showed a deficit which had still to be
filled up either by Fred's "judgment" or by luck in some other shape.
For that little episode of the alleged borrowing, in which he had
made his father the agent in getting the Bulstrode certificate,
was a new reason against going to his father for money towards meeting
his actual debt. Fred was keen enough to foresee that anger would
confuse distinctions, and that his denial of having borrowed expressly
on the strength of his uncle's will would be taken as a falsehood.
He had gone to his father and told him one vexatious affair,
and he had left another untold: in such cases the complete
revelation always produces the impression of a previous duplicity.
Now Fred piqued himself on keeping clear of lies, and even fibs;
he often shrugged his shoulders and made a significant grimace at
what he called Rosamond's fibs (it is only brothers who can associate
such ideas with a lovely girl); and rather than incur the accusation
of falsehood he would even incur some trouble and self-restraint.
It was under strong inward pressure of this kind that Fred had taken
the wise step of depositing the eighty pounds with his mother.
It was a pity that he had not at once given them to Mr. Garth;
but he meant to make the sum complete with another sixty, and with a
view to this, he had kept twenty pounds in his own pocket as a sort
of seed-corn, which, planted by judgment, and watered by luck,
might yield more than threefold--a very poor rate of multiplication
when the field is a young gentleman's infinite soul, with all the
numerals at command.
Fred was not a gambler: he had not that specific disease in which the
suspension of the whole nervous energy on a chance or risk becomes
as necessary as the dram to the drunkard; he had only the tendency
to that diffusive form of gambling which has no alcoholic intensity,
but is carried on with the healthiest chyle-fed blood, keeping up
a joyous imaginative activity which fashions events according
to desire, and having no fears about its own weather, only sees
the advantage there must be to others in going aboard with it.
Hopefulness has a pleasure in making a throw of any kind,
because the prospect of success is certain; and only a more generous
pleasure in offering as many as possible a share in the stake.
Fred liked play, especially billiards, as he liked hunting or riding
a steeple-chase; and he only liked it the better because he wanted
money and hoped to win. But the twenty pounds' worth of seed-corn
had been planted in vain in the seductive green plot--all of it at
least which had not been dispersed by the roadside--and Fred found
himself close upon the term of payment with no money at command
beyond the eighty pounds which he had deposited with his mother.
The broken-winded horse which he rode represented a present which
had been made to him a long while ago by his uncle Featherstone:
his father always allowed him to keep a horse, Mr. Vincy's own
habits making him regard this as a reasonable demand even for a son
who was rather exasperating. This horse, then, was Fred's property,
and in his anxiety to meet the imminent bill he determined to sacrifice
a possession without which life would certainly be worth little.
He made the resolution with a sense of heroism--heroism forced on him
by the dread of breaking his word to Mr. Garth, by his love for Mary
and awe of her opinion. He would start for Houndsley horse-fair
which was to be held the next morning, and--simply sell his horse,
bringing back the money by coach?--Well, the horse would hardly
fetch more than thirty pounds, and there was no knowing what
might happen; it would be folly to balk himself of luck beforehand.
It was a hundred to one that some good chance would fall in his way;
the longer he thought of it, the less possible it seemed that he
should not have a good chance, and the less reasonable that he should
not equip himself with the powder and shot for bringing it down.
He would ride to Houndsley with Bambridge and with Horrock "the vet,"
and without asking them anything expressly, he should virtually get
the benefit of their opinion. Before he set out, Fred got the eighty
pounds from his mother.
Most of those who saw Fred riding out of Middlemarch in company
with Bambridge and Horrock, on his way of course to Houndsley
horse-fair, thought that young Vincy was pleasure-seeking as usual;
and but for an unwonted consciousness of grave matters on hand,
he himself would have had a sense of dissipation, and of doing
what might be expected of a gay young fellow. Considering that Fred
was not at all coarse, that he rather looked down on the manners
and speech of young men who had not been to the university,
and that he had written stanzas as pastoral and unvoluptuous
as his flute-playing, his attraction towards Bambridge and Horrock
was an interesting fact which even the love of horse-flesh would
not wholly account for without that mysterious influence of Naming
which determinates so much of mortal choice. Under any other name
than "pleasure" the society of Messieurs Bambridge and Horrock must
certainly have been regarded as monotonous; and to arrive with them
at Houndsley on a drizzling afternoon, to get down at the Red Lion
in a street shaded with coal-dust, and dine in a room furnished with
a dirt-enamelled map of the county, a bad portrait of an anonymous
horse in a stable, His Majesty George the Fourth with legs and cravat,
and various leaden spittoons, might have seemed a hard business,
but for the sustaining power of nomenclature which determined
that the pursuit of these things was "gay."
In Mr. Horrock there was certainly an apparent unfathomableness
which offered play to the imagination. Costume, at a glance,
gave him a thrilling association with horses (enough to specify
the hat-brim which took the slightest upward angle just to escape
the suspicion of bending downwards), and nature had given him
a face which by dint of Mongolian eyes, and a nose, mouth, and chin
seeming to follow his hat-brim in a moderate inclination upwards,
gave the effect of a subdued unchangeable sceptical smile,
of all expressions the most tyrannous over a susceptible mind,
and, when accompanied by adequate silence, likely to create the
reputation of an invincible understanding, an infinite fund of humor--
too dry to flow, and probably in a state of immovable crust,--
and a critical judgment which, if you could ever be fortunate
enough to know it, would be _the_ thing and no other. It is
a physiognomy seen in all vocations, but perhaps it has never been
more powerful over the youth of England than in a judge of horses.
Mr. Horrock, at a question from Fred about his horse's fetlock,
turned sideways in his saddle, and watched the horse's action for the
space of three minutes, then turned forward, twitched his own bridle,
and remained silent with a profile neither more nor less sceptical
than it had been.
The part thus played in dialogue by Mr. Horrock was terribly effective.
A mixture of passions was excited in Fred--a mad desire to thrash
Horrock's opinion into utterance, restrained by anxiety to retain
the advantage of his friendship. There was always the chance that
Horrock might say something quite invaluable at the right moment.
Mr. Bambridge had more open manners, and appeared to give forth
his ideas without economy. He was loud, robust, and was sometimes
spoken of as being "given to indulgence"--chiefly in swearing,
drinking, and beating his wife. Some people who had lost by him
called him a vicious man; but he regarded horse-dealing as the finest
of the arts, and might have argued plausibly that it had nothing
to do with morality. He was undeniably a prosperous man, bore his
drinking better than others bore their moderation, and, on the whole,
flourished like the green bay-tree. But his range of conversation
was limited, and like the fine old tune, "Drops of brandy," gave you
after a while a sense of returning upon itself in a way that might
make weak heads dizzy. But a slight infusion of Mr. Bambridge was
felt to give tone and character to several circles in Middlemarch;
and he was a distinguished figure in the bar and billiard-room
at the Green Dragon. He knew some anecdotes about the heroes
of the turf, and various clever tricks of Marquesses and Viscounts
which seemed to prove that blood asserted its pre-eminence even
among black-legs; but the minute retentiveness of his memory was
chiefly shown about the horses he had himself bought and sold;
the number of miles they would trot you in no time without turning
a hair being, after the lapse of years, still a subject of passionate
asseveration, in which he would assist the imagination of his
hearers by solemnly swearing that they never saw anything like it.
In short, Mr. Bambridge was a man of pleasure and a gay companion.
Fred was subtle, and did not tell his friends that he was going
to Houndsley bent on selling his horse: he wished to get indirectly
at their genuine opinion of its value, not being aware that a
genuine opinion was the last thing likely to be extracted from
such eminent critics. It was not Mr. Bambridge's weakness to be
a gratuitous flatterer. He had never before been so much struck
with the fact that this unfortunate bay was a roarer to a degree
which required the roundest word for perdition to give you any idea of it.
"You made a bad hand at swapping when you went to anybody
but me, Vincy! Why, you never threw your leg across a finer
horse than that chestnut, and you gave him for this brute.
If you set him cantering, he goes on like twenty sawyers.
I never heard but one worse roarer in my life, and that was a roan:
it belonged to Pegwell, the corn-factor; he used to drive him in
his gig seven years ago, and he wanted me to take him, but I said,
`Thank you, Peg, I don't deal in wind-instruments.' That was what
I said. It went the round of the country, that joke did. But,
what the hell! the horse was a penny trumpet to that roarer of yours."
"Why, you said just now his was worse than mine," said Fred,
more irritable than usual.
"I said a lie, then," said Mr. Bambridge, emphatically. "There wasn't
a penny to choose between 'em."
Fred spurred his horse, and they trotted on a little way.
When they slackened again, Mr. Bambridge said--
"Not but what the roan was a better trotter than yours."
"I'm quite satisfied with his paces, I know," said Fred, who required
all the consciousness of being in gay company to support him;
"I say his trot is an uncommonly clean one, eh, Horrock?"
Mr. Horrock looked before him with as complete a neutrality as if he
had been a portrait by a great master.
Fred gave up the fallacious hope of getting a genuine opinion;
but on reflection he saw that Bambridge's depreciation and Horrock's
silence were both virtually encouraging, and indicated that they
thought better of the horse than they chose to say.
That very evening, indeed, before the fair had set in, Fred thought
he saw a favorable opening for disposing advantageously of his horse,
but an opening which made him congratulate himself on his
foresight in bringing with him his eighty pounds. A young farmer,
acquainted with Mr. Bambridge, came into the Red Lion, and entered
into conversation about parting with a hunter, which he introduced
at once as Diamond, implying that it was a public character.
For himself he only wanted a useful hack, which would draw upon occasion;
being about to marry and to give up hunting. The hunter was in
a friend's stable at some little distance; there was still time
for gentlemen to see it before dark. The friend's stable had to be
reached through a back street where you might as easily have been
poisoned without expense of drugs as in any grim street of that
unsanitary period. Fred was not fortified against disgust by brandy,
as his companions were, but the hope of having at last seen the horse
that would enable him to make money was exhilarating enough to lead
him over the same ground again the first thing in the morning.
He felt sure that if he did not come to a bargain with the farmer,
Bambridge would; for the stress of circumstances, Fred felt,
was sharpening his acuteness and endowing him with all the
constructive power of suspicion. Bambridge had run down Diamond
in a way that he never would have done (the horse being a friend's)
if he had not thought of buying it; every one who looked at
the animal--even Horrock--was evidently impressed with its merit.
To get all the advantage of being with men of this sort, you must
know how to draw your inferences, and not be a spoon who takes
things literally. The color of the horse was a dappled gray,
and Fred happened to know that Lord Medlicote's man was on the look-out
for just such a horse. After all his running down, Bambridge let
it out in the course of the evening, when the farmer was absent,
that he had seen worse horses go for eighty pounds. Of course he
contradicted himself twenty times over, but when you know what is
likely to be true you can test a man's admissions. And Fred could
not but reckon his own judgment of a horse as worth something.
The farmer had paused over Fred's respectable though broken-winded
steed long enough to show that he thought it worth consideration,
and it seemed probable that he would take it, with five-and-twenty
pounds in addition, as the equivalent of Diamond. In that case Fred,
when he had parted with his new horse for at least eighty pounds,
would be fifty-five pounds in pocket by the transaction, and would
have a hundred and thirty-five pounds towards meeting the bill;
so that the deficit temporarily thrown on Mr. Garth would at
the utmost be twenty-five pounds. By the time he was hurrying
on his clothes in the morning, he saw so clearly the importance
of not losing this rare chance, that if Bambridge and Horrock had
both dissuaded him, he would not have been deluded into a direct
interpretation of their purpose: he would have been aware that those
deep hands held something else than a young fellow's interest.
With regard to horses, distrust was your only clew. But scepticism,
as we know, can never be thoroughly applied, else life would come
to a standstill: something we must believe in and do, and whatever
that something may be called, it is virtually our own judgment,
even when it seems like the most slavish reliance on another.
Fred believed in the excellence of his bargain, and even before
the fair had well set in, had got possession of the dappled gray,
at the price of his old horse and thirty pounds in addition--only five
pounds more than he had expected to give.
But he felt a little worried and wearied, perhaps with mental debate,
and without waiting for the further gayeties of the horse-fair, he
set out alone on his fourteen miles' journey, meaning to take it
very quietly and keep his horse fresh.
"The offender's sorrow brings but small relief
To him who wears the strong offence's cross."
I am sorry to say that only the third day after the propitious
events at Houndsley Fred Vincy had fallen into worse spirits than he
had known in his life before. Not that he had been disappointed
as to the possible market for his horse, but that before the bargain
could be concluded with Lord Medlicote's man, this Diamond,
in which hope to the amount of eighty pounds had been invested,
had without the slightest warning exhibited in the stable a most
vicious energy in kicking, had just missed killing the groom,
and had ended in laming himself severely by catching his leg in
a rope that overhung the stable-board. There was no more redress
for this than for the discovery of bad temper after marriage--
which of course old companions were aware of before the ceremony.
For some reason or other, Fred had none of his usual elasticity
under this stroke of ill-fortune: he was simply aware that he
had only fifty pounds, that there was no chance of his getting
any more at present, and that the bill for a hundred and sixty
would be presented in five days. Even if he had applied to his
father on the plea that Mr. Garth should be saved from loss,
Fred felt smartingly that his father would angrily refuse to rescue
Mr. Garth from the consequence of what he would call encouraging
extravagance and deceit. He was so utterly downcast that he could
frame no other project than to go straight to Mr. Garth and tell
him the sad truth, carrying with him the fifty pounds, and getting
that sum at least safely out of his own hands. His father, being at
the warehouse, did not yet know of the accident: when he did,
he would storm about the vicious brute being brought into his stable;
and before meeting that lesser annoyance Fred wanted to get away
with all his courage to face the greater. He took his father's nag,
for he had made up his mind that when he had told Mr. Garth,
he would ride to Stone Court and confess all to Mary. In fact,
it is probable that but for Mary's existence and Fred's love for her,
his conscience would have been much less active both in previously
urging the debt on his thought and impelling him not to spare
himself after his usual fashion by deferring an unpleasant task,
but to act as directly and simply as he could. Even much stronger
mortals than Fred Vincy hold half their rectitude in the mind of the
being they love best. "The theatre of all my actions is fallen,"
said an antique personage when his chief friend was dead; and they
are fortunate who get a theatre where the audience demands their best.
Certainly it would have made a considerable difference to Fred at that
time if Mary Garth had had no decided notions as to what was admirable
Mr. Garth was not at the office, and Fred rode on to his house,
which was a little way outside the town--a homely place with an orchard
in front of it, a rambling, old-fashioned, half-timbered building,
which before the town had spread had been a farm-house, but was
now surrounded with the private gardens of the townsmen. We get
the fonder of our houses if they have a physiognomy of their own,
as our friends have. The Garth family, which was rather a large one,
for Mary had four brothers and one sister, were very fond of their
old house, from which all the best furniture had long been sold.
Fred liked it too, knowing it by heart even to the attic which smelt
deliciously of apples and quinces, and until to-day he had never come
to it without pleasant expectations; but his heart beat uneasily now
with the sense that he should probably have to make his confession before
Mrs. Garth, of whom he was rather more in awe than of her husband.
Not that she was inclined to sarcasm and to impulsive sallies,
as Mary was. In her present matronly age at least, Mrs. Garth
never committed herself by over-hasty speech; having, as she said,
borne the yoke in her youth, and learned self-control. She had that
rare sense which discerns what is unalterable, and submits to it
without murmuring. Adoring her husband's virtues, she had very early
made up her mind to his incapacity of minding his own interests,
and had met the consequences cheerfully. She had been magnanimous
enough to renounce all pride in teapots or children's frilling,
and had never poured any pathetic confidences into the ears
of her feminine neighbors concerning Mr. Garth's want of prudence
and the sums he might have had if he had been like other men.
Hence these fair neighbors thought her either proud or eccentric,
and sometimes spoke of her to their husbands as "your fine Mrs. Garth."
She was not without her criticism of them in return, being more
accurately instructed than most matrons in Middlemarch, and--where is
the blameless woman?--apt to be a little severe towards her own sex,
which in her opinion was framed to be entirely subordinate.
On the other hand, she was disproportionately indulgent towards
the failings of men, and was often heard to say that these
were natural. Also, it must be admitted that Mrs. Garth was a trifle
too emphatic in her resistance to what she held to be follies:
the passage from governess into housewife had wrought itself a
little too strongly into her consciousness, and she rarely forgot
that while her grammar and accent were above the town standard,
she wore a plain cap, cooked the family dinner, and darned all
the stockings. She had sometimes taken pupils in a peripatetic fashion,
making them follow her about in the kitchen with their book or slate.
She thought it good for them to see that she could make an excellent
lather while she corrected their blunders "without looking,"--
that a woman with her sleeves tucked up above her elbows might know
all about the Subjunctive Mood or the Torrid Zone--that, in short,
she might possess "education" and other good things ending in
"tion," and worthy to be pronounced emphatically, without being
a useless doll. When she made remarks to this edifying effect,
she had a firm little frown on her brow, which yet did not hinder
her face from looking benevolent, and her words which came forth
like a procession were uttered in a fervid agreeable contralto.
Certainly, the exemplary Mrs. Garth had her droll aspects, but her
character sustained her oddities, as a very fine wine sustains
a flavor of skin.
Towards Fred Vincy she had a motherly feeling, and had always been
disposed to excuse his errors, though she would probably not have
excused Mary for engaging herself to him, her daughter being included
in that more rigorous judgment which she applied to her own sex.
But this very fact of her exceptional indulgence towards him made it
the harder to Fred that he must now inevitably sink in her opinion.
And the circumstances of his visit turned out to be still more
unpleasant than he had expected; for Caleb Garth had gone out early
to look at some repairs not far off. Mrs. Garth at certain hours was
always in the kitchen, and this morning she was carrying on several
occupations at once there--making her pies at the well-scoured deal
table on one side of that airy room, observing Sally's movements
at the oven and dough-tub through an open door, and giving
lessons to her youngest boy and girl, who were standing opposite
to her at the table with their books and slates before them.
A tub and a clothes-horse at the other end of the kitchen indicated
an intermittent wash of small things also going on.
Mrs. Garth, with her sleeves turned above her elbows, deftly handling
her pastry--applying her rolling-pin and giving ornamental pinches,
while she expounded with grammatical fervor what were the right
views about the concord of verbs and pronouns with "nouns of
multitude or signifying many," was a sight agreeably amusing.
She was of the same curly-haired, square-faced type as Mary,
but handsomer, with more delicacy of feature, a pale skin,
a solid matronly figure, and a remarkable firmness of glance.
In her snowy-frilled cap she reminded one of that delightful
Frenchwoman whom we have all seen marketing, basket on arm.
Looking at the mother, you might hope that the daughter would become
like her, which is a prospective advantage equal to a dowry--the mother
too often standing behind the daughter like a malignant prophecy--
"Such as I am, she will shortly be."
"Now let us go through that once more," said Mrs. Garth,
pinching an apple-puff which seemed to distract Ben, an energetic
young male with a heavy brow, from due attention to the lesson.
"`Not without regard to the import of the word as conveying unity
or plurality of idea'--tell me again what that means, Ben."
(Mrs. Garth, like more celebrated educators, had her favorite
ancient paths, and in a general wreck of society would have tried
to hold her "Lindley Murray" above the waves.)
"Oh--it means--you must think what you mean," said Ben, rather peevishly.
"I hate grammar. What's the use of it?"
"To teach you to speak and write correctly, so that you can
be understood," said Mrs. Garth, with severe precision.
"Should you like to speak as old Job does?"
"Yes," said Ben, stoutly; "it's funnier. He says, `Yo goo'--
that's just as good as `You go.'"
"But he says, `A ship's in the garden,' instead of `a sheep,'"
said Letty, with an air of superiority. "You might think he meant
a ship off the sea."
"No, you mightn't, if you weren't silly," said Ben. "How could
a ship off the sea come there?"
"These things belong only to pronunciation, which is the least part
of grammar," said Mrs. Garth. "That apple-peel is to be eaten by
the pigs, Ben; if you eat it, I must give them your piece of pasty.
Job has only to speak about very plain things. How do you think
you would write or speak about anything more difficult, if you
knew no more of grammar than he does? You would use wrong words,
and put words in the wrong places, and instead of making people
understand you, they would turn away from you as a tiresome person.
What would you do then?"
"I shouldn't care, I should leave off," said Ben, with a sense
that this was an agreeable issue where grammar was concerned.
"I see you are getting tired and stupid, Ben," said Mrs. Garth,
accustomed to these obstructive arguments from her male offspring.
Having finished her pies, she moved towards the clothes-horse,
and said, "Come here and tell me the story I told you on Wednesday,
"I know! he was a farmer," said Ben.
"Now, Ben, he was a Roman--let _me_ tell," said Letty, using her
"You silly thing, he was a Roman farmer, and he was ploughing."
"Yes, but before that--that didn't come first--people wanted him,"
"Well, but you must say what sort of a man he was first,"
insisted Ben. "He was a wise man, like my father, and that made
the people want his advice. And he was a brave man, and could fight.
And so could my father--couldn't he, mother?"
"Now, Ben, let me tell the story straight on, as mother told it us,"
said Letty, frowning. "Please, mother, tell Ben not to speak."
"Letty, I am ashamed of you," said her mother, wringing out the
caps from the tub. "When your brother began, you ought to have
waited to see if he could not tell the story. How rude you look,
pushing and frowning, as if you wanted to conquer with your elbows!
Cincinnatus, I am sure, would have been sorry to see his daughter
behave so." (Mrs. Garth delivered this awful sentence with much
majesty of enunciation, and Letty felt that between repressed
volubility and general disesteem, that of the Romans inclusive,
life was already a painful affair.) "Now, Ben."
"Well--oh--well--why, there was a great deal of fighting, and they
were all blockheads, and--I can't tell it just how you told it--
but they wanted a man to be captain and king and everything--"
"Dictator, now," said Letty, with injured looks, and not without
a wish to make her mother repent.
"Very well, dictator!" said Ben, contemptuously. "But that isn't
a good word: he didn't tell them to write on slates."
"Come, come, Ben, you are not so ignorant as that," said Mrs. Garth,
carefully serious. "Hark, there is a knock at the door! Run, Letty,
and open it."
The knock was Fred's; and when Letty said that her father was not in
yet, but that her mother was in the kitchen, Fred had no alternative.
He could not depart from his usual practice of going to see
Mrs. Garth in the kitchen if she happened to be at work there.
He put his arm round Letty's neck silently, and led her into
the kitchen without his usual jokes and caresses.
Mrs. Garth was surprised to see Fred at this hour, but surprise
was not a feeling that she was given to express, and she only said,
quietly continuing her work--
"You, Fred, so early in the day? You look quite pale.
Has anything happened?"
"I want to speak to Mr. Garth," said Fred, not yet ready to say more--
"and to you also," he added, after a little pause, for he had no
doubt that Mrs. Garth knew everything about the bill, and he must
in the end speak of it before her, if not to her solely.
"Caleb will be in again in a few minutes," said Mrs. Garth, who imagined
some trouble between Fred and his father. "He is sure not to be long,
because he has some work at his desk that must be done this morning.
Do you mind staying with me, while I finish my matters here?"
"But we needn't go on about Cincinnatus, need we?" said Ben,
who had taken Fred's whip out of his hand, and was trying its
efficiency on the cat.
"No, go out now. But put that whip down. How very mean of you
to whip poor old Tortoise! Pray take the whip from him, Fred."
"Come, old boy, give it me," said Fred, putting out his hand.
"Will you let me ride on your horse to-day?" said Ben, rendering up
the whip, with an air of not being obliged to do it.
"Not to-day--another time. I am not riding my own horse."
"Shall you see Mary to-day?"
"Yes, I think so," said Fred, with an unpleasant twinge.