Middlemarch

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Chapter1

I ?Since I can do no good because a woman, Reach constantly at something that i s near it. ?The Maid?s Tragedy: BEAUMO NT AND FLETCHER. Miss Brooke had that kind of beauty which seems to be thrown into relief by poor dr ess. Her hand and wrist were so finely formed that she cou ld wea r sleeves not less bare of style than those in which th e Blessed Virgin appeared to Italian painters; and her profile as well as her stature and bearing seemed to gain the more dignity from her plain garments, which by the side of provincial fashion gave her the impressiveness of a fine quotation from the Bible,?or from one of our elder poets ,?in a paragraph of to-day?s newspaper. She was usually spoken of as being r emarkably clever, but with the addition t hat he r sister Celia had more common-se nse. Nevert heless, Celia wore scarc ely more trimmings; a nd it was on ly to clo se o bservers that her dress differed fro m her sister? s, and had a shade of coquetry in its arrangements; for Miss Brooke?s plain dressing was due to mixed conditions, in most of which her sister shared. The pride of being ladies had something to do with it: the Brooke connections, though not exactly aristocratic, were unquestionably ?good:? if you inquired backward for a 7 of 1492 Middlem arch generation or two, you would not find any yard- measuring or parcel-tying forefathers?anything lower than an admiral or a clergym an; and there was even an ancestor discernible as a Puritan gentleman who served under Crom well, but afterwards conformed, and managed to come out of all politi cal tr oubles as the proprietor of a respectable family estate. Y oung women of such birth, living in a quiet countr y-house, and attending a village church hardly larger than a parlor, naturally regarded frippery as t he ambition of a huckster?s daughter. Then there was well-bred eco nomy, which in those days made show in dress the first item to be deducted from, when any margin was required for exp enses more distinctive of rank. Such reasons would hav e been enough to account for plain dress, quite apart from religious feeling; but in Miss Brooke?s case, religion alone would have det ermined it; and Celia mildly acquiesced in all her sister?s sentiments, only infusing them with that common-sense which is able to accept momentous doctr ines without any eccentric agitation. Dorothea knew many passages of Pascal? s Pensees and of Jeremy Taylor by heart; and to her the destinies of mankind, seen by the light of Christianity , made the solicitudes of femi nine fashion appear an occupation for Bedlam. She could not reconcile the 8 of 1492 Middlem arch anxieties of a spiritual life in volving eternal consequences, with a keen interest in gimp and artificial protr usions of drapery. Her mind was theoretic, and yearned by its nature after some lofty concepti on of the world which might frankl y include the parish of Tipton and her own rule of conduct there; she was enamoured of intensity and greatness, and rash in embracing whatever seemed to her to have those aspects; likely to seek martyrdom, to make retractation s, and then to incur martyrdom after all in a quarter where she had not sought it. Certainly suc h elements in the character of a marri ageable gi rl tended to interfere with her lot, and hinder it from being decided according to custom, by good looks, vanity, and merely canine affection. With al l this, she, the elder of the sisters, was not yet twenty, and they had both been educated, since they were about twelve yea rs old and had lost their parents, on plans at once narrow and promiscuous, first in an English family and afterwards in a Swiss family at Lausanne, their bachelor uncle and g uardian trying in thi s way to remedy the disadvantage s of their orphaned condition. It was hardly a year since th ey had come to li ve at Tipton Grange with their uncle, a man nearly sixty, of acquiescent temper, miscell aneous opinions, and uncertain 9 of 1492 Middlem arch vote. He had travelled in hi s young er years, and was held in this p art of the co unty to have contracted a too rambling habit of mind. Mr. Brooke?s conclusions were as difficult to predict as the weat her: it was only safe to say that he would act with benevole nt intentions, and that he would spend as little money as possible in carrying them out. For the most glutinously inde finite minds enclose some hard grains of habit; and a man has be en seen lax about all hi s own interests except the retentio n of his snuff-b ox, concerning which he was watchful, suspicious, and greed y of clutch. In Mr. Brooke the hereditary strain of Puritan energy was clearly in abeyance; but in h is niece Do rothea it glowed alike through faults and virtues, turning sometime s into impatience of her uncle?s talk or his way of ?letting things be? on his estate, and making her long all the more for the time when she would be of age and have some command of money for generous schemes. She was regarded as an heiress; for not only had the sisters seven hundred a-year each from their parents, but if Dorothea married and had a son, that son would inherit Mr. Brooke?s estate, presumably worth about three thousand a- year?a rent al which seemed we alth to provincial families, still discussing Mr. Peel?s late conduct on the Catholic 10 of 1492 Middlem arch question, innocent of futu re gold-fields, and of that gorgeous plutocracy w hich has so nobly exalted the necessities of genteel life. And how should Dor othea no t marry??a girl so handso me and with such prospects? Nothing could hinder it but her love of extremes, and her insistence on regulating life according to no tions which migh t cau se a wary man to hesita te bef ore he made her an offer, or even might lead her at last to refus e all offers. A young lady of some birth and fortune, w ho knelt suddenly down on a brick floor by the side of a sick labor er and prayed fervidly as if she thought herself living in the time of the Apostles?who had strange whi ms of fasting like a Papist, and of si tting up at nig ht to read old theologi cal books! Such a wife might awak en you some fine morning with a new scheme for the application of her inco me which would interfere with political economy and the keeping of saddle-horses: a man w ould na tural ly think twi ce before he risked himself in such fellowship. Women were expected to have weak opinions ; bu t the great saf eguard of society and of domestic life was, that opinions were not acted on. Sane people did what their neighbors did, so that if any lunatics were at l arge, one might know and avoid them. 11 of 1492 Middlem arch The rural opinion about the new young ladies, even among the cottagers, was genera lly in favor of Celia, as being so amiable and innocent-l ooking, while Miss Brooke?s large eyes seemed, like her religion, too unusual and striking. Poor Dorothea! compared with her, the innocent-l ooking Celia was knowing and worldly-wise; so much subtle r is a huma n mind th an the outsi de tissues which make a sort of blazonry or clock-face for it. Yet those who ap proached Dorothea, though prejudiced against her b y this alarmi ng hearsay, found that she had a charm unaccountably reconcilable with it. Most men thought her bewitching when she was on horseback. She loved t he fresh air and the various aspects of the country, and when her eyes and cheeks glowed with mingled pleasure she looked very little like a devotee. Riding was an indulge nce whic h she allowed herself in spite of con scientiou s qualms; she f elt that she enjoyed it in a pagan sensuous w ay, and always looked forward to renouncing it. She was open, ardent , and not in the least self- admiring; indeed, it was pretty to see how her imagination adorned her sister Celia wit h attractions altogether superior to her own, and if any gentleman ap peared to come to the Grange from some oth er motive than that of 12 of 1492 Middlem arch seeing Mr. Brooke, she conclude d that he must be in love with Celia: Sir James Chettam, for example, whom she constantly considered from Celia ?s point of view, inwardly debating whether it would be good for Celia to accept him. That he should be regard ed as a suitor to herself would have seemed to her a ridiculous irrelevance. Dorothea, with all her eagerness to k now the truths of life, retained very childlike ideas about marriage. Sh e felt sure that she would have accepted the judicious Hooker, if she had been born in time to save him from tha t wretched mistake he made in matrimony ; or John Milton when his blindness had come on; or any of the other great men whose odd habits it would hav e be en glorious piety to endure; but an amiabl e handsome baronet, who said ?Exactly? to her rema rks even when she expressed uncertainty, ?how coul d he affect her as a lover? The really deli ghtful marriage must be that where your husband was a sort of father, and could teach you even Hebrew, if you wished it. These peculiarities of Dorothea?s character caused Mr. Brooke to be all the more blamed in neighboring families for not securing some middle-aged lady as guide and compani on to his nieces. But he hi mself dreaded so much the sort of superior wo man likely to be available for such a 13 of 1492 Middlem arch position, that he allow ed hi mself to be dissuaded by Dorothea?s objections, and was in this case brave enough to defy the world?that is to say, Mrs. Cadwallader the Rector?s wife, and the small group of gentry with whom he visited in the northeast corner of Loamshire. So Miss Brooke presided in her uncle ?s household, and did not at all dislike her new authority, with the homage that belonged to it. Sir James C hettam was going to di ne at the Grange to- day with another gentleman whom the girls had never seen, and about whom Doroth ea felt some v enerating expectation. This was the Reverend Edward Casaubon, noted in the county as a man of profound learning, understood for many years to be eng aged on a gr eat work concerning religious history; als o as a m an of wealt h enough to give lustre to his piety, and having views of his own which were to be more clearl y ascertained on the publication of his book. His very name carried an impressiveness hardly to be measured without a precis e chronology of scholarshi p. Early in the day Dorothe a had returned from the infant school whi ch she had set going in the village, and was taking her usual place in the pretty sitting-ro om which divided the bedrooms of the sister s, bent on finishing a 14 of 1492 Middlem arch plan for some buildings (a kind of work which she delighted in), when Celia, who had been watching her with a hesita ting desire to propose something, sai d? ?Dorothea, dear, if you d on?t mind?if you are not very busy?suppose we looked at mamma?s jewels to-day , and divided them? It is exactly six month s to -day since uncle gave them to you, and you have not looked at them yet.? Celia?s face had the shad ow of a pouting expression in it, the full presence of the pout being kept back by an habitual awe of Dorothea and principle; two associated facts which might sh ow a mysterious electrici ty if you touched them incautiously. To her relief, Dorothea?s eyes were full of laughter as she looked up. ?What a wonderful little almanac you are, Celia! Is it six calendar or six lunar months?? ?It is the last day of September now, and it was the first of April when uncle gave them to you. You know, he said that he had forgotten them till then. I believe you have never thought of them since you locked them up in the cabinet here. ? ?Well, dear, we should nev er wear them, you know.? Dorothea sp oke in a full cordial tone, half caressing, half 15 of 1492 Middlem arch explanatory. She had her pencil in her hand, and was making tiny side-plans on a margin. Celia colored, and looke d very grave. ?I think, dear, we are wanting in respect to mamma?s memory, to put them by and take no notice of them. And,? she added, after hesitating a little, with a rising sob of mor tification, ?necklaces are quite us ual now; and Madame Poincon, who was stricter in some things even than you are, used to wear ornaments. And Christians generally?surely there are women in heaven now who wore jewels.? Celia was conscious of some mental st rength when she really applied herself to argument. ?You would like to wear them?? exclaimed Dorothea, an air of astonished discovery animating her whole person with a dramatic acti on which she had caught from that very Madame Poincon who wore the ornaments. ?Of course, then, let us have them out. Why did yo u not tell me before? But the keys, the keys!? She pressed her hand s against the sides of her head and seemed to despair of her memory. ?They are here,? said Celia, with whom this explanation had been lo ng meditated and prearranged. ?Pray open the large dra wer of the cabinet and get out the jewel-bo x.? 16 of 1492 Middlem arch The casket was soon op en before them, and the various jewels spread out, making a br ight parterre on the table. It was no grea t collection, but a few o f the ornaments were really of remarkable beauty, the finest that was obvious at first being a necklace of purple amethysts set in exquisite gold work, and a pearl cross with five brilliants in it. Dorothea i mmediately took up the necklace a nd fastened it round her sister?s neck, where it fitted almost as closely as a bracelet; but the circle su ited the Henrietta-Maria style of Celia?s head and neck, and she could see that it did, in the pier-glass opposite. ?There, Cel ia! you can we ar that with your Indian muslin. Bu t this cro ss you must wear with your dark dresses.? Celia was trying not to smile with pleasure. ?O Dodo, you must keep the cross yourself.? ?No, no, dear, no,? said Dorothea, putting up her hand with careless deprecation. ?Yes, indeed you must; it would suit you?in your black dress, now,? said Celia, insistingly. ?You MIGHT wear that.? ?Not for the world, not for the world. A cross is the last thing I would wear as a trinket.? Dorothea shuddered slightly. 17 of 1492 Middlem arch ?Then you will think it wicked in me to wear it,? said Celia, uneasily. ?No, dear, no,? said Dorothea, str oking her sister?s cheek. ?Souls have complexions too: what will suit one will not suit another.? ?But you might like to keep it for mamma?s sake.? ?No, I have other thi ngs of mamma?s? her sandal - wood box which I am so fond of?plenty of things. In fact, they ar e all yours, de ar. We need discuss them n o longer. There?take away your p roperty.? Celia felt a little hurt. There was a strong assump tion of superiority in this Purita nic toleratio n, hardly less trying to the blond flesh of an unenthusiastic sister than a Puritanic persecution. ?But how can I wear ornamen ts if you, who are the elder sister, will never wear them?? ?Nay, Celia, that is too much to ask , that I should wear trinkets to keep you in count enance . If I were to put on such a neck lace as that, I should feel as if I had been pirouetting. The world would go r ound with me, and I should not know how to walk.? Celia had unclasped the necklace and drawn it off. ?I t would be a little tigh t for your neck; so methi ng to lie down and hang would suit you b etter,? she said, with 18 of 1492 Middlem arch some sa tisf action. The complete unf itness o f the necklace from all points of view for Dorothea, made Celia happier in taking it. She was opening some ring-boxes, which disclosed a fine emerald with dia mo nds, and ju st then the sun passing beyond a cl oud se nt a bright gleam over the table. ?How very beautiful these gems are!? said Dor othea, under a new current of feeling, as sudden as the gleam. ?It is strange how deeply c olors seem to penetrate one, like scent I suppose that is the reason why gems are used as spiritual emb lems in the Reve lation of St. John. They look like fragments of heaven. I think that emerald is more beautiful than any of them.? ?And there is a bracelet to match it,? said Celia. ?We did not noti ce this at first.? ?They are lo vely,? said Dorothea, slipping the ring and bracelet on her finely turned finger and wrist, and holding them towar ds the window on a level with her eyes. All the while her thought was trying to justify her delight i n the colors by merging them in her mystic religious joy. ?You WOULD like those, Dorothea,? said Celia, rather falteringly, beginning to think with wonder that her sister showed some weakness, and also that emeralds would suit her own complexion even better than purple amethysts. 19 of 1492 Middlem arch ?You must keep that ring and bracelet?if nothing else. But see, these agates are very pretty a nd quiet.? ?Yes! I will keep these?this ring and bracelet,? said Dorothea. Then, letting her hand fall on the table , she said in another tone??Yet what miserable men find such things, and work at them, and sell them!? She paused again, and Celia thought th at her sister was going to renounce the ornaments, as i n consistency she ought to do. ?Yes, dear, I will keep these,? said Dorothea, decidedly. ?But take all the rest away, and the casket.? She took up her pencil wit hou t re moving the jewels, and still looking at them. She thought of often having them by her, to feed her ey e at these little fountains of pure color. ?Shall you wear them in company?? said Celia, who was watching he r with real curiosity as to what she would do. Dorothea glanced quickly at her sister. Across all her imaginative adornment of th ose whom she loved, there darted now and then a keen discernment, which was not without a scorching quality. If Miss Brooke ever attained perfect meekness, it would not be for lack of inward fire. ?Perhaps,? she said, rather haughtily. ?I cannot tell to what level I may sink.? 20 of 1492 Middlem arch Celia blushed, and was unhappy : she saw that she had offended her sister, and dared not say even anything pretty about the gift of the ornaments which she put back into the box and carried away. Dorothea too was unhappy, as she went on with her plan-drawing, questioning the purity of her own feeling and speech in the scene w hich had ended with that little explosion. Celia?s consciousness tol d her that she had not been at all in the wrong: it was quite natur al and justifiable that she should have asked that qu estion, and she repeated to herself that Dorothea was inconsiste nt: either she should have taken her full share of the jewels, or, after what she had said, she should have renounced them altogether. ?I am sure?at least, I tru st,? thought Celia, ?that the wearing of a necklace will not interfere with my prayers. And I do not see that I shoul d be bound by Dorothea?s opinions now we are going in to soci ety, though of course she herself ought to be bound by them. But D orothea is not always consistent.? Thus Celia, mutely bending over her tapestry, u ntil she heard her sister calling her. ?Here, Kitty, come and look at my plan; I shall think I am a great architect, if I have not got incompatible stairs and fireplaces.? 21 of 1492 Middlem arch As Celia bent over the paper, Dorothea put her cheek against her sister?s arm caressingly. Celia understood the action. Dor othea saw that she had been in the wrong, and Celia pardoned her. Since th ey could remember, there had been a mixture of criticism and a we in the attitude of Celia?s mind towards her elder sister. The younger had always worn a yoke; but is there any yoked creature without its private opinions? 22 of 1492 Middlem arch
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