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Middlemarch - George Eliot

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Miss Brooke
Miss Dorothea Brooke had the kind of beauty that looks even better in plain clothes. Her hands and wrists, in their plain sleeves, were like those of the Madonna in Italian paintings. Dorothea and her younger sister Celia lived with their uncle at Tipton Grange, a fine house near the town of Middlemarch. The Brookes were an old and respectable family. Both sisters dressed plainly because they considered ornamentation vulgar, but Dorothea's style of dress was also the result of religious feeling. She liked to read theological books and ask herself great questions about the purpose of life on earth.
Such a woman does not spend time thinking about the latest fashions.
The sisters had only recently moved into the area, so their neighbours were very interested in them. They thought that Dorothea was intelligent but Celia had more common sense. Dorothea read too many books and did strange things. Once she knelt down by a sick labourer in the street and prayed for him. The neighbours thought that men might hesitate to ask for Dorothea's hand in marriage, even though she was beautiful and charming and had seven hundred pounds a year of her own. They thought that she might spend all her husband's money on Christian charity or argue with him about politics or religion. No, the neighbours did not approve of Miss Dorothea Brooke. They preferred Celia, who looked so innocent and friendly. Poor Dorothea! She was much more innocent than Celia, but unfortunately our faces do not always reflect our characters.
Whenever a young man came to Tipton Grange, Dorothea thought that he must be in love with Celia. Sir James Chettam, for example, came frequently. Dorothea wondered whether Celia should marry him or not. She never thought that Sir James might want to marry Dorothea herself. If she had thought of it, it would have seemed ridiculous to her. She had no interest in a handsome friendly baronet, who always said 'Exactly' in reply to her comments, even when she had expressed uncertainty.
Dorothea had very childlike ideas about marriage. She dreamed of marrying a much older man — a scholar involved in some great work. The really delightful marriage, she thought, must be one where your husband was a sort of father and could teach you even Hebrew, if you wished it.
One day, Sir James was invited to dinner at Tipton Grange with another gentleman: the Reverend Edward Casaubon. Dorothea had never met Mr Casaubon before. He was known in the area as a great scholar who was writing a book on religious history.
Sir James and Mr Casaubon sat opposite Dorothea at the dinner table. The contrast between them was extreme. Sir James had a pink face and red hair. He was a typical young Englishman in excellent health. Mr Casaubon was tall and thin. His face was pale, and his hair was grey. Dorothea thought his manners were very dignified. He listened patiently as Mr Brooke talked foolishly. Dorothea was embarrassed by her uncle's foolish conversation.
'Books, now, yes! I have read many books on all different subjects!' said Mr Brooke.
'I am reading a very interesting book at the moment,' said Sir James. 'It is full of excellent modern ideas about farming. I will try to put them into practice on one of my farms. Do you think that is a good idea, Miss Brooke?'
'I think that's a great mistake,' said Mr Brooke. 'It'll cost you a lot of money. The old ways are best, you know. Just let your tenants do the farming the way they've always done it. Then you can spend your money on new hunting dogs!'
'The land supports us all, rich and poor,' said Dorothea. 'Surely it is better to spend money on farming than on sport.'
She spoke with great energy, which was unusual in a young lady. Mr Casaubon looked at her with more interest than before.
'Young ladies don't understand political economy,' said Mr Brooke, smiling at Mr Casaubon. 'Have you read much about political economy, Casaubon?'
'No,' replied Mr Casaubon. 'I have no time to read modern writers. My eyesight is weak, and I must use it for my work. I should find someone to read aloud to me in the evenings, but it must be someone with a good reading voice. My work is all about the ancient world. Sometimes I think my mind is like the ghost of an ancient, wandering about the world, trying to reconstruct it as it used to be. But I must be very careful of my eyesight.'
Dorothea thought that Mr Casaubon was the most interesting man she had ever met. To reconstruct a past world! What noble work!
'Do you like riding, Miss Brooke?' asked Sir James. He had seen Dorothea riding a few days before. The fresh air had made her eyes shine and her cheeks pink. She had looked very charming. 'If you do, I will send you a horse.'
'No, thank you,' said Dorothea. 'I intend to give up riding.'
Dorothea did not want to talk to Sir James; she wanted to listen to Mr Casaubon. However, Mr Casaubon was not speaking at the moment. Mr Brooke was telling him that he had many documents, but he never knew where to find them.
'Let me organise your documents for you, uncle,' said Dorothea.
Mr Casaubon smiled and said, 'You see, Mr Brooke, you have an excellent secretary in the house.'
'No,' said Mr Brooke. 'I won't let young ladies touch my documents. Young ladies are too flighty.'
When the two girls were in the drawing-room alone, Celia said, 'How very ugly Mr Casaubon is! He is so pale.'
'It is better to be pale than to be as pink as a cochon de laitl!' said Dorothea.
'Dodo!' cried Celia in surprise.
Dorothea was clearly angry. 'Celia, you look at human beings as if they were animals in clothes. You can't see the great soul in a man's face.'
'Does Mr Casaubon have a great soul?' asked Celia ironically.
'Yes,' said Dorothea. 'I think he does.'
Over the weeks that followed, Dorothea saw Mr Casaubon on several occasions. They had long conversations about his study — the Key to All Mythologies. Dorothea was convinced that he was an extraordinary man engaged in important research. When Mr Casaubon asked for her hand in marriage, she accepted him with gratitude. She felt that she was starting a new life full of real significance. 'With me at his side,' she thought, 'Mr Casaubon will be able to complete his life's work. I will read aloud to him, take notes for him, and comfort him when he's tired. I will learn how to live a great life, here — now — in England!'
When the neighbours heard of Dorothea's engagement, they were shocked. How could a lovely young woman marry a dry stick of a man over twice her age? Mrs Cadwallader, the vicar's wife, said that Dorothea had always been a strange girl. Sir James Chettam was deeply hurt and angry.
'The man has no red blood in his body!' he said to Mrs Cadwallader. 'He has no right to marry a lovely young girl!'
Mrs Cadwallader tried to comfort him. 'Don't worry, James,' she said. 'I think that Celia likes you,'
Sir James thought about Celia. She certainly was a charming and friendly young woman.
During his engagement, Mr Casaubon spent a lot of time at Tipton Grange. These visits made progress on his Key to All Mythologies difficult. He looked forward to getting married: then he could return to work as usual. Mr Casaubon was surprised at how little passion he felt in Dorothea's presence. Perhaps, he thought, there was something wrong with her. But he could see nothing wrong with her, so he concluded that the poets had exaggerated the force of passion.
On one grey but dry day in November, Dorothea drove to Lowick — Mr Casaubon's house — with her uncle and Celia. The house was of dark stone, and the windows were small. Old trees stood in the grounds around the house, so that very little sunlight reached the windows.
'Oh dear!' said Celia. 'Freshitt Hall is much better than this!' Freshitt Hall was Sir James's house, built of white stone, with a portico and a garden full of flowers.
Dorothea liked Lowick. She liked the dark library and the gentle colours of the carpets and curtains. This was her future home. She looked at it with a kind of reverence. She did not wish to change anything.
Upstairs, Dorothea chose her future bedroom. It was decorated in blues and greens and had a large window. Looking around the room, Dorothea saw some miniature portraits. 'Who are these ladies?' she asked.
'That is my mother,' said Mr Casaubon. 'And the other lady is her sister.'
'The sister is pretty,' said Celia, implying that Mr Casaubon's mother was not.
'You never told me you had an aunt,' said Dorothea.
'My Aunt Julia made an unfortunate marriage,' said Mr Casaubon. 'Shall we walk in the garden?'
As they walked through the garden, they saw a young man with brown curly hair. He was sitting on a bench, sketching an old tree.
'Who is that?' asked Mr Brooke.
'He is a relative of mine. In fact,' said Mr Casaubon to Dorothea, 'he is the grandson of my Aunt Julia, whose portrait you saw upstairs. Let me introduce you. This is my cousin Mr Ladislaw. Will, this is Miss Brooke.'
Mr Will Ladislaw had the same grey eyes and delicate nose that Dorothea had noticed in his grandmother's portrait. He did not smile. He looked rather discontented. They exchanged a little polite conversation, then Will sat down again and the others continued their walk. As soon as they were out of sight, Will laughed aloud. Partly it was their discussion of his sketch that amused him and partly it was the thought of his dry old cousin as the lover of that girl.
'What is your cousin's profession?' asked Mr Brooke, as they walked on.
'He refuses to choose a profession. He studied at Heidelberg. Now he wants to go abroad again «for the culture», he says. I'm afraid my cousin is a dilettante. He does not like hard work. I have tried to talk to him about it, but he won't listen.'
'Do you give him the money for his travels?' asked Mr Brooke.
'Yes. I agreed to pay for his education and help him get started in life.'
'That's very kind of you,' said Dorothea. 'It's noble. I think we should all help each other.'
A few days later, Will left for Europe. He did not say exactly where he was going, because he believed that genius needs freedom. He did not, however, understand a much more fundamental fact: that genius is the power to make or do not everything in general but something in particular.
Mr Lydgate
One day, Mr Casaubon said to Dorothea, 'I'm sorry that your sister won't accompany us on our wedding-journey to Rome. You will have many lonely hours, Dorothea. I shall have to spend a lot of time in the Vatican Library. I would feel more at liberty if you had a companion.'
The words 'I would feel more at liberty' irritated Dorothea. For the first time when speaking to Mr Casaubon, she blushed with annoyance. Some days earlier, Mr Casaubon had suggested that Celia accompany them. Dorothea had asked Celia, and Celia had refused. 'I have no wish to impede your work,' said
Dorothea. 'I will be perfectly content on my own. Please don't mention it again.'
She had spoken in anger, but then she feared that she was wrong. She put her hand on his and said, in a gentler voice, 'Don't be anxious about me.'
That evening there was a dinner party at Tipton Grange. As soon as Dorothea and Mr Casaubon were out of sight, the guests began to discuss them. 'Miss Brooke is a fine woman,' said Mr Standish, the lawyer. He seemed to be speaking to Mr Bulstrode the banker, but Mr Bulstrode did not reply. He was a very religious man and did not like to participate in this kind of conversation about women.
Mr Chicheley, a middle-aged bachelor, said, 'Yes, but I don't like that kind of woman. I like them blond, with a certain way of walking, and a long thin neck like a swan. I prefer the mayor's daughter to Miss Brooke. If I wanted to marry, I would marry Miss Vincy.'
'Well, ask her, then!' said Mr Standish, laughing. 'It seems that middle-aged lovers are fashionable these days!'
Not far away, Mrs Cadwallader and Lady Chettam — Sir James's mother — sat together and discussed Mr Casaubon. 'How old is he?' asked Lady Chettam.
'He's over forty-five and in poor health. Studious men are never in good health. And his studies are so very dry. Really, standing there beside James, he looks like a death's head,' continued Mrs Cadwallader. 'In a year from now, that girl will hate him. She thinks he is wonderful now, but soon she will feel very differently!'
'IOh dear, what a very animated conversation Miss Brooke is having with Mr Lydgate!' said Lady Chettam. 'He's the new doctor, isn't he? Do you know anything about him?'
'Mr Brooke, who knows his uncle, says that he is one of the Lydgates of Northumberland, a very good family. Doctors of that kind are not usually from good families. And apparently he studied in Paris! That's unusual too.'
Mr Standish and Mr Bulstrode were also discussing the new doctor. 'I am glad that Dr Lydgate has come to Middlemarch,' said Mr Bulstrode. 'He is very well educated and familiar with modern medicine. He is interested in reform of the medical profession. I will ask him to be the manager of the new hospital.'
'I liked old Dr Hicks,' said Mr Standish. 'He was a good old-fashioned doctor. This new fellow sounds dangerous to me. He will do all sorts of experiments. I won't pay him to experiment on me!'
Mr Lydgate left the party early. The only really interesting person he had spoken to all evening was Miss Brooke. She was young and beautiful, engaged to that dry old scholar, and interested in helping the poor: this was an unusual and intriguing combination of characteristics. 'She's kind-hearted and admirable,' he thought, 'but a little too earnest. Women like that are always asking questions, but they are too ignorant to understand the answers. Being married to such a woman must be exhausting, like coming home from work to teach a class in middle school. If one were married to a different kind of woman, coming home would be like going to paradise, with sweet laughs for bird-song and blue eyes for heaven.'
In fact, Lydgate was already fascinated by a young lady who was very different from Miss Brooke. He had known her as long as Mr Casaubon had known Dorothea, but Mr Lydgate and Mr Casaubon were very different men in very different situations. Lydgate did not think that he was in love, but he had said of Miss Rosamond Vincy, 'She is graceful, lovely and accomplished. She is exactly what a woman ought to be.'
If he had wanted to marry immediately, he would have married her. However, he did not plan to marry for several years. At twenty-seven years old, he was poor and ambitious. He wanted to make great advances in medical science, to be remembered as an innovator in his field. He did not want to earn a lot of money but rather to work for the greater good of medical science.
Lydgate's parents had died when he was only eighteen years old. His father, a military man, had left very little money to his three sons. When Tertius said that he wanted to become a doctor, his guardians did not object. He was one of those rare people who decide early what they want to do with their lives.
He had a true vocation for medicine, and he studied hard.
His special interest was in the nature of fevers. He had been profoundly influenced by Bichat, who had suggested — but not proved — that all the organs of the human body were made of one primitive tissue. While in Middlemarch, Lydgate intended to work as a doctor in the community by day and as a researcher by night. He intended to prove Bichat's theory of the primitive tissue. That was his plan: to do good small work for Middlemarch and great work for the world.
With such a plan for the future, he could not marry for several years to come. Yet he found Miss Rosamond Vincy very charming. She had a delicate graceful figure and pure blond hair. Everyone agreed that she was the flower of Miss Lemon's school, the best school for young ladies in the county. There she had learned all a young lady's accomplishments.
The Vincys were an old manufacturing family, and Rosamond's father Mr Vincy was the mayor of Middlemarch. Mr Vincy's sister was married to Mr Bulstrode, the banker and philanthropist. Although Mr Bulstrode was not from Middlemarch — in fact his origins were something of a mystery — he was clearly a gentleman. Mr Vincy had been pleased when his sister married Mr Bulstrode. Such alliances made the family more acceptable to the neighbourhood gentry.
Rosamond's refined education had made her feel that she was too good for the young men in her social circle. When she dreamed of love and marriage, she always dreamed of someone from far away — a handsome stranger, a man of talent. When Lydgate came to Middlemarch, Rosamond soon began to imagine him as her fascinating stranger. He was tall and handsome with dark eyes. His manners and speech were gentlemanly. People said he was from a very good family. When he was in the same room with her, she was conscious of being watched. She knew that he found her attractive, and so she lost interest in all the other young men who were trying to win her favour.
One evening, there was a party at the mayor's house. When Lydgate arrived, he immediately began talking to Rosamond.
'I hope you will sing this evening,' he said.
'Have you studied music?' asked Rosamond.
'No, but it delights me.'
Lydgate was fascinated by her infantile blondness, her delicacy and her grace. She seemed always to say the right thing.
'I'm afraid to sing in front of you,' she said. 'My voice is good enough for my Middlemarch neighbours, but you have heard the best singers in Paris. I have only once been to London.'
'What did you see in London?'
'Very little. That is why I'm afraid of you. I'm just a simple country girl.'
'An accomplished woman always knows more than we men, though her knowledge is of a different sort,' said Lydgate. 'I'm sure you could teach me a thousand things — as an exquisite bird could teach a bear, if there were a common language between them. Fortunately, there is a common language between men and women, so the bears can be taught.'
Rosamond blushed with pleasure. She turned her long neck a little and raised her hand to her lovely hair.
Lydgate had no idea that she was already dreaming of their wedding. She had no reason to postpone matrimony. She had no scientific studies to distract her from questions of love and marriage.
Lydgate spent many hours with Rosamond at various parties. Polite society in Middlemarch was a small world. A pleasing young man like Lydgate received many invitations, but the guests at these parties were always the same. He had no idea that people were beginning to talk about his attentions to Rosamond.
In fact, he did not much care what other people thought of him in general. For example, he had offended the Middlemarch doctors without knowing that he had done so. His opinions about the correct ways to cure illnesses were different from theirs. When he gave his opinions, he implied that theirs were wrong, as indeed he thought they were.
Another thing that made some of the Middlemarch men distrust Lydgate was his association with Bulstrode. Bulstrode had built a new hospital for charity patients. He wanted Lydgate to manage this hospital, and Lydgate was glad of the opportunity to do so. Lydgate was often seen talking to Bulstrode. The banker was not a popular man because he was not born in Middlemarch and, more importantly, because his severe religious views made him unpleasant company. He disapproved of drinking, dancing, music and almost all the pleasurable things in life. He called them sinful and was constantly asking people to stop doing them. Lydgate too was from another part of the country and, though he did not seem particularly religious, his sense of his own superiority had a similarly chilling effect.
One day, while showing Lydgate around the new hospital, Bulstrode said, 'I imagine you're thinking of getting married soon.'
'No. Not for a long time yet. I've too much work to do,' said Lydgate.
'In that case,' said Mr Bulstrode, 'perhaps you should be more careful about your attentions to young ladies. This is a small town, and people talk.'
The banker had spoken in a friendly manner, but his meaning was clear. The family had delegated him to protect his niece's reputation.
Lydgate was unpleasantly surprised. He stopped accepting invitations. From that day onwards, Lydgate stayed at home in the evenings, reading.
Rosamond noticed his absence from parties. Indeed, parties seemed intolerably dull to her without him. She lost her appetite. She could think of nothing but Lydgate. Ten days passed in this way, but to Rosamond those ten days seemed an eternity.
On the eleventh day, Lydgate came to the Vincys' house to leave some medicine for Rosamond's father. Mr Vincy was not in. The servant asked Lydgate if he wanted to leave the medicine with Miss Vincy.
'Yes,' said Lydgate, entering the house.
He had some vague idea of joking with her about his absence from Middlemarch parties. He wanted them to be friends. But, when he entered the drawing-room, she blushed so deeply that he felt a corresponding embarrassment. Instead of joking about his absence, he asked her, almost formally, to give the medicine to her father.
When he first walked in, Rosamond thought that her happiness was returning. But then, when she heard his formal tone, she was deeply hurt. She went pale and replied, coldly, 'Yes. I'll give it to him.'
Lydgate could think of nothing else to say. He looked at her lovely face and saw that her lips were trembling. At that moment she was as natural as she had been at five years old. The tears came into her eyes, and there was nothing she could do to stop them.
For Lydgate, that moment of naturalness changed flirtation into love. He was very warm-hearted and impulsive. He certainly did not want to hurt this lovely young woman. Her eyes seemed to him like blue flowers under water. 'What is the matter? Please, tell me!' he said.
Rosamond made her little confession, and he spoke words of gratitude and tenderness. When he left the house, half an hour later, he was engaged to be married to Rosamond Vincy.
A wedding-journey to Rome
Forty years ago, George IV was the king of England, the Duke of Wellington was Prime Minister, Mr Vincy was the Mayor of Middlemarch, and Mrs Casaubon, born Dorothea Brooke, went on her wedding-journey to Rome.
One day in December, Will Ladislaw was looking at the statues in the Vatican when his friend Naumann came up to him and said, 'Come and see this woman!' The two men went quickly and quietly down the corridor to another room where there was a beautiful marble statue of a Greek goddess. Standing near the statue was a lovely young woman dressed in plain grey clothes. She was not looking at the statue. Her large eyes were fixed dreamily on the sunlight coming through the window. Suddenly she noticed that she was being watched. Without looking at the two men, she turned and walked away.
'What a contrast!' said Naumann, when she was gone. 'There is antique beauty, pagan and sensual. And here is living beauty, full of the consciousness of Christian centuries! If I painted a picture of it, I would make her dress as a nun.'
'She's married to my cousin,' said Will. 'I didn't know that they were coming to Rome.'
'Do you mean that old man? I saw him with her earlier today. Go and visit them and introduce me to them. Maybe your cousin would like me to paint the lady's portrait.'
'I don't know if I shall visit them or not. And English ladies have better things to do than to model for you. If you painted her, you would only paint the outside. Language is a finer medium for representing women.'
'Yes, for those who can't paint!' said Naumann.
Will was offended and did not reply.
'I see,' said Naumann. 'You are in love with your great-aunt, and no one else can look at her! This is serious, my friend!'
'Don't joke about that lady, Naumann,' said Will, irritated. He suddenly felt that something had changed in his relation to her.
Two hours later, Dorothea was in her apartment in the Via Sistina. I am sorry to say that she was sobbing bitterly. Mr Casaubon was in the Vatican. She did not expect him to come back for several hours. Dorothea had now been five weeks in Rome. She had seen the great ruins and the glorious churches, but she found it all rather oppressive. She preferred to go out to the country to be alone with the earth and the sky.
During these first five weeks of marriage, her idea of Mr Casaubon and her relation to him had gradually changed. Mr Casaubon himself had not changed: he was exactly the same. Before they were married, she had thought of his learning as a noble search for truth; but now it seemed a dry and depressing activity. His mind had seemed to her like a fine building, high on a hill, with panoramic views and lots of fresh air; now it seemed like a labyrinth, full of dark corridors that led nowhere.
Whenever he suggested that she should see a building or a work of art, he said, 'Most people think it worth visiting.'
If Dorothea asked him, 'But what do you think?', he replied, 'It is very famous.'
There is nothing more depressing for a passionate young mind than this kind of response, in which years of knowledge seem to have produced a complete absence of interest or sympathy.
It seemed to her that Mr Casaubon had forgotten the purpose of his own work. He spent his time writing sarcastic comments about other men's theories of the solar deities, and in doing so he had become indifferent to the sunlight.
She might not have noticed these things so soon if he had been warm and loving towards her, but he was not. She had a warm heart. She longed for someone to love and serve. She wanted someone to hold her hands and listen to her thoughts and tell her his own thoughts in return. But Mr Casaubon was not like that. He spent his days working, and in the evenings he often seemed still to be thinking about his research. He had not found marriage to be a state of intense delight. Nevertheless, he intended to be a good husband, and hoped to make Dorothea happy.
That morning there had been an unpleasant scene between them. Dorothea had said to her husband, 'I hope you are satisfied with our time in Rome — I mean, as far as your studies are concerned.'
'Yes,' replied Mr Casaubon. 'I have made some interesting notes. They are not absolutely necessary to my study, but they are of interest. Fortunately, your company has prevented me from working too hard.'
'I'm very glad that my presence has made any difference to you,' said Dorothea. 'I hope that, when we get back to Lowick, I can be more useful to you.'
'Certainly, my dear,' said Mr Casaubon. 'I will need you to copy out and organise the notes I have made here.'
'Yes, your notes,' said Dorothea. 'And all those volumes of notes at Lowick. Don't you think that now may be the time to write your book? Will you decide what to include in the book and what to omit, so that the world can finally benefit from your vast knowledge? I will help you. I can be of no other use.' Dorothea ended with a sob and her eyes full of tears.
'My love,' replied Mr Casaubon. He seemed calm, even though her comment had hurt and shocked him deeply. 'I will know when the time has come to write my book. People who don't know what it is to work hard cannot understand true scholarship.'
'I realise that I cannot fully understand your work,' said Dorothea coldly. 'I simply wanted to be of use.'
Both were shocked by the situation. Each had been angry with the other. Neither of them felt able to say the gentle words that could restore tranquillity. Dorothea felt that all her efforts to participate in his life were coldly rejected. Mr Casaubon felt as if he had invited one of his critics into his home. Instead of comforting him when others criticised him, Dorothea was herself becoming critical.
When her servant Tantripp knocked on the door, Dorothea quickly dried her eyes. 'Come in,' she said. Tantripp entered and said that a young gentleman had come to visit. She gave Dorothea a card on which was written the name 'Mr Will Ladislaw'.
'Thank you,' said Dorothea. 'I'll come downstairs immediately.'
Will stood up as Dorothea entered the drawing-room. He could see that she had been crying. She came towards him, smiling in an open friendly way, and shook his hand. He was several years older than she, but at that moment he looked younger, for he blushed suddenly.
'I didn't know that you and Mr Casaubon were in Rome until this morning, when I saw you in the Vatican Museum,' he said. 'I hope you are both enjoying your time here.'
'Thank you. Mr Casaubon is not here at the moment — he is very busy — but he will be glad to hear that you called.'
'If you will allow me, I will call again tomorrow when Mr Casaubon is here,' said Will.
'He goes to read in the Vatican Library every day. He's usually away from breakfast to dinner. But I'm sure he'll invite you to have dinner with us.'
Will had never liked Mr Casaubon. Now he felt angry with him. That dry old pedant had got this adorable young woman to marry him, and now he was passing his honeymoon away from her. The thought filled Will with a sort of comic disgust: he didn't know whether to laugh or insult Mr Casaubon at the top of his voice.
Will smiled at Dorothea, and she smiled back. Will Ladislaw's smile was delightful. His face seemed full of light. 'Something amuses you?' asked Dorothea.
'Yes,' said Will, quickly finding an excuse for his smile. 'I'm thinking of the first time we met, when you criticised my poor sketch.'
'Criticised?' said Dorothea in surprise. 'I can't criticise art. I am too ignorant about it.'
'You said that you couldn't see the relation of my sketch to nature.'
'That was really my ignorance,' said Dorothea. 'I rarely see any beauty in pictures, even those that are considered very fine.'
Will realised that she was entirely sincere. 'I enjoy the paintings here very much,' he said. 'But I probably learned how to enjoy them gradually. And I paint a little myself. That helps me to appreciate them.'
'Do you intend to become a painter?' asked Dorothea. 'Mr Casaubon will be glad to hear that you have chosen a profession.'
'Oh no,' said Will. 'I've decided not to become a painter. I have some friends here who are German painters. They are brilliant fellows, but they look at life entirely from the point of view of painting. I don't want to do that.'
'Yes, I understand,' said Dorothea. 'So many things seem more necessary than paintings. But if you have artistic talent, perhaps you should take that as your guide.'
'I'm afraid I don't have enough talent,' said Will. Her simple honesty made him feel that he could say anything to her. 'And it is useless for me to try to become a great painter through hard work. If things don't come easily to me, I never get them.'
'I have heard Mr Casaubon say that he wishes you were more patient,' said Dorothea, gently. She was rather shocked at his way of taking all life as a holiday.
'Yes, I know Mr Casaubon's opinion. He and I differ.'
The contempt in his reply offended Dorothea. 'You're certainly different,' she said, proudly. 'I never thought of comparing you. Mr Casaubon's diligence is rare.'
Will saw that she was offended, but he did not like to hear her defending her husband. 'Yes,' he replied. 'That is why it's such a pity that it's wasted. If Mr Casaubon could read German, he would save himself a lot of trouble.'
'What do you mean?' asked Dorothea, surprised and anxious.
'I mean,' said Will, casually, 'that the Germans have already done a lot of the work he is trying to do.'
Will did not realise what pain his words caused her. The idea that all her husband's hard work might be useless filled her heart with pity and anxiety for him.
When he saw the effect of his words, Will felt rather ashamed. 'I think it's a great pity. I especially regret it because Mr Casaubon has been so generous to me.'
Dorothea looked up at him with tears in her eyes. 'I was at school at Lausanne, and there were German teachers there, but I didn't study German. How I wish I had! If I could read German now, I could be of use to him.'
Will began to see why Dorothea had married Mr Casaubon. She had imagined some romantic role for herself in this marriage. If Mr Casaubon had been a dragon that had carried her away, Will would have rescued her and declared his love for her. But the situation was more complicated than that.
At that moment, Mr Casaubon came through the door. He was unpleasantly surprised to see Will there with Dorothea, especially since both of them seemed agitated. However, he was, as always, calm and polite. As he stood beside his young cousin, Mr Casaubon looked even more faded than usual. Will gave an impression of sunny brightness. When he turned his head quickly, his hair seemed to radiate light. Mr Casaubon, on the contrary, stood rayless.
Dorothea did not notice the contrast, though she did see that her husband looked sad. She felt pity and tenderness for him. For the first time, she saw him as he actually was, not as her girlish dreams had made him.
Mr Casaubon invited Will to dinner the following day. Will accepted the invitation and, seeing that his cousin was tired, left immediately.
Dorothea sat beside Mr Casaubon and said, 'Forgive me for speaking as I did this morning. I was wrong. I fear that I hurt you.'
'I'm glad you feel that, my dear,' said Mr Casaubon.
'But do you forgive me?' asked Dorothea with a sob.
'Yes, my dear. Don't distress yourself.' He wanted to tell her that she should not have received young Ladislaw in his absence, but he did not want to criticise her at the moment of her penitence.
Mr and Mrs Casaubon arrived home from their wedding-journey in January. A light snow was falling. Lowick looked different to Dorothea now. In the grey winter light, it seemed dark and oppressive. During the first evening, she realised that, as mistress of Lowick, she had no duties. The servants did everything.
The morning after their arrival, Mr Casaubon got up early. He said he had slept badly and was not feeling well. Nevertheless, he went into his study to work immediately after breakfast. 'What shall I do?' Dorothea asked, and he replied, 'Whatever you like, my dear.' She felt as if she were in prison.
Back in her room, Dorothea looked at the miniature portrait of Mr Casaubon's Aunt Julia, who had made an unfortunate marriage. Was it only her family who thought that her marriage was a mistake, or did she herself regret it and cry about it in the silence of the night? Dorothea felt a new companionship with the portrait. It was the only object in the house that now seemed to have more interest and significance than it had possessed on her visit to Lowick nearly three months before. Julia was Will Ladislaw's grandmother. As Dorothea looked at the portrait, she imagined it changing gradually from a feminine face to a masculine one, full of light, which looked at her with great interest. Dorothea smiled at the portrait.
Just then Mr Brooke and Celia arrived. Dorothea ran downstairs to greet them.
'Hello, my dear!' cried Mr Brooke. 'You do look well! I'm sure you enjoyed Rome — happiness, frescoes, the antique! It's very pleasant to have you back. But Casaubon looks a little pale.'
Dorothea looked anxiously at her husband.
'You go off with Celia, my dear,' continued Mr Brooke. 'She has a great surprise for you, and she wants to tell you all about it.'
Dorothea and Celia went to the blue-green room together.
'Is Rome a nice place for a wedding-journey?' asked Celia, blushing.
'I don't think you would like it,' Dorothea replied, thinking, 'No one will ever know my opinion of a wedding-journey to Rome.'
'Mrs Cadwallader says that wedding-journeys are a mistake. She says you get tired of each other,' said Celia, blushing more deeply.
'Celia! Has anything happened? What is your great surprise?'
'Sir James has asked me to marry him!'
Dorothea took her sister's face in her hands and looked at her anxiously. Celia's face seemed more serious than it used to do. 'And are you happy?' she asked.
'Oh, I'm so glad. Sir James is a good, honourable man.'
One morning, a few weeks after her arrival at Lowick, Dorothea — but why always Dorothea? Is hers the only point of view from which to look at this marriage? I protest against all this interest in the young and beautiful. The old and ugly have feelings too. Mr Casaubon had done nothing wrong in getting married. When he met Dorothea, he thought she was the ideal wife for him. He did not ask himself if he was the ideal husband for Dorothea, but that was not Mr Casaubon's fault. Society never expects a man to ask if he is charming and handsome. He had hoped to make his wife happy and to find happiness himself.
The one great anxiety of Mr Casaubon's life was his Key to All Mythologies. The longer he worked on it, the more perfect — it seemed to him — the finished product had to be. He had published a few articles, and the critics had not liked them. The poor man had hoped to find comfort in marriage, but now he felt that Dorothea too was looking at his work critically. For that reason he did not want her to help him in the library, but she insisted, so that finally she joined him every morning to read aloud or copy notes.
One morning he said, 'Dorothea, here's a letter for you from Mr Ladislaw. He wrote to me as well.'
'Mr Ladislaw!' she said in surprise. 'I don't know what he wants to say to me, but I can imagine what he wrote to you.'
During one of their conversations in Rome, Will had told Dorothea that he intended to stop taking money from Mr Casaubon. He wanted to be independent. Dorothea admired him for his decision. In fact, Will wanted to be independent so that he need not feel ashamed of hating his benefactor and adoring his benefactor's wife.
'In his letter to me, he asks if he can come and stay with us. I'm sorry, Dorothea, but I will tell him that a visit is not convenient at present. I've too much work to do.'
They had not argued since that unpleasant morning in Rome. Their last argument had been so distressing that Dorothea had decided never to argue with him again. Nevertheless, when she spoke, her voice was angry. 'Why do you think I want him to visit, if you don't want it?'
'I don't wish to argue,' said Mr Casaubon. He started writing again, but his hand was trembling.
Dorothea too went back to work. Her hand did not tremble as she copied the notes. She was still angry with her husband. They had been working in silence for half an hour when Dorothea heard a book fall to the floor. Looking up, she saw Mr Casaubon with his hands on his heart, as if in pain. She leapt up and ran to his side.
'Can I help you, dear?' she said, her voice full of tenderness and anxiety. She led him to a large chair.
Just then, Sir James and Celia arrived. Sir James said, 'We must send for a doctor immediately! I can recommend Lydgate.
Do you want me to get him?'
Casaubon made a silent sign of approval. As he left the room, Sir James thought of how Dorothea looked, with her arms around her husband and that expression of deep sorrow on her face. 'Ah, what a noble creature she is!' he thought. He did not know that she felt shame and penitence as well as sorrow.
Mr Casaubon stayed in bed for the next few days. Lydgate came often. On the third day, he asked if he could speak to Dorothea alone. They went into the library together.
'Mrs Casaubon, your husband has a disease of the heart,' began Lydgate. He did not want to distress her, but he felt he should be honest. 'He might live another fifteen years, but only if we are very careful. He should avoid all unnecessary stress and anxiety. He should try to work less and get more exercise.'
'He would be miserable if he had to give up his work,' said Dorothea.
'I know,' Lydgate replied. 'But we must try to vary and moderate his occupations. There is no immediate danger of another attack, but, on the other hand, death is often sudden in these cases.'
There was silence for a few moments. Dorothea looked as if she had been turned to marble. Finally she spoke: 'Please help me,' she said; 'Tell me what I can do.'
'Well,' said Lydgate. 'Perhaps you can travel to Europe together. That might be good for his health.'
'Oh no!' said Dorothea, tears filling her eyes. 'He does not like travel.'
'I'm sorry to have caused you such pain,' said Lydgate. He suspected that there was some deep sadness in this marriage, and he wondered what it was.
'I'm glad that you have told me the truth,' replied Dorothea.
'I won't say anything to Mr Casaubon. I'll just tell him not to work too hard. Anxiety of any kind might make him worse.'
'Oh, you are a wise man, aren't you?' cried Dorothea, with a sob in her voice. 'You know all about life and death. Help me. Tell me what I can do. He has been working all his life. He cares about nothing else. And I care about nothing else -'
For years after, Lydgate remembered this appeal — this cry from one soul to another. But how could he help her? All he could do was say, 'Goodbye, Mrs Casaubon. I will come again tomorrow.'
That evening, Lydgate told Rosamond about his conversation with Mrs Casaubon. 'She seems to have a very strong feeling for her husband, even though he is a formal studious man almost thirty years older than she.'
'Of course she is devoted to her husband,' said Rosamond. Lydgate was delighted that she seemed to think that a woman necessarily loved her husband.
At that moment, Rosamond was thinking, 'If Mrs Casaubon's husband dies, she will be a very rich woman', but she said, 'Is she very handsome?'
'She certainly is handsome,' Lydgate replied, 'but I haven't thought about it.'
Left alone in the library, Dorothea noticed Will's letters lying on Mr Casaubon's desk. She thought, 'I must put them away, so that he doesn't see them when he comes back to the library.' Mr Brooke was at Lowick that day. Dorothea gave him Will's letter to Mr Casaubon and said, 'Please write to Mr Ladislaw, uncle, and tell him about Mr Casaubon's illness. Tell him that we are sorry he can't come to visit.'
'All right, my dear.' Mr Brooke read the letter and decided that Will was an excellent writer and a very clever young man.
Mr Brooke, who was a magistrate, was thinking of running for Parliament. Recently, he had bought one of the local newspapers as a vehicle for his ideas on Reform. I'll need a clever young man to help me,' he thought. 'Someone who can write good speeches and editorials. This young Ladislaw is just the type of fellow I need.' Although Mr Brooke began his letter with the intention of telling Will not to come to Middlemarch, he ended it by inviting him to stay at Tipton Grange. He did not tell Dorothea what he had written in his letter, because he did not think that it was important.
So, several weeks later, Will came to Middlemarch and stayed at Tipton Grange. At first Dorothea was anxious about what Mr Casaubon might think of Will being her uncle's guest, but Mr Casaubon said nothing. He had never liked Will, and now he disliked him even more.
Sometimes Mr Brooke brought Will to Lowick. For Dorothea, Will's company was like a window opened in the wall of her prison, letting in fresh air and sunshine. He listened to what she said, and his own conversation was lively and interesting.
But Will was dissatisfied. He wanted to see Dorothea alone. 'I will watch over her,' he said to himself. 'She will know that she has one slave in the world!' Dante and Beatrice did not see each other often; nor did Petrarch and Laura. But times had changed since then. Now it was better to have fewer sonnets and more conversation.
One morning, Will went to Lowick when Mr Casaubon was not there. The servant showed him into the library, where Dorothea was sitting alone. 'Mr Casaubon is out. He may not be back until dinner,' she said, as she shook his hand.
'I really came in the hope of seeing you alone,' said Will. 'I wanted to talk to you, as we did in Rome. It always makes a difference when other people are present.'
'Yes,' said Dorothea. 'I enjoyed our conversations in Rome. It seems strange to me how many things I said to you.'
'I remember them all,' said Will. He felt that she deserved to be perfectly loved. And I think his own feelings at that moment were perfect. He was completely happy just to be in her presence.
'I've been learning Latin and Greek,' said Dorothea. 'I can be of more use to Mr Casaubon now. But the scholar's life is a difficult one. His work makes him so tired.'
'If a man is capable of great thoughts, he'll have them before he is old and tired,' said Will. He saw in her face that he had said too much. 'But it's quite true that brilliant men sometimes make themselves ill by working too hard.'
'I used to think that, even when I was a little girl. I thought that I would like to help someone who was doing great work. That was what I wanted to do with my life.'
'But you must be careful of your own health,' said Will. 'You look pale. Do you spend too much time in the house? Mr Casaubon should get a secretary to help him.'
'I want to help him,' said Dorothea earnestly. 'If I didn't help him, I would have nothing to do. Please don't mention that again.'
'Certainly not, now that I know your feelings. But I've heard Mr Brooke and Sir James Chettam make the same suggestion.'
'Yes, they want me to ride horses and do the things that other women do,' she said, impatiently, 'but my mind has other wants. I thought you knew that.'
'Forgive me. At one time Mr Casaubon himself wanted a secretary. In fact, he asked me to be his secretary. But I was not good enough.'
'You didn't work hard enough?' asked Dorothea, smiling.
'No. But I have noticed that Mr Casaubon doesn't like anyone to know exactly what he is working on. He is too uncertain of himself. I know I didn't work hard enough, but the real reason he dislikes me is because I disagree with him.'
'Mr Casaubon paid for your education, even though he disliked you,' said Dorothea. 'That's admirable.'
'Yes. He has been honourable about that. My grandmother was disinherited because she married someone her family disliked. Her husband was a Polish refugee, a teacher. He had no money, but he was intelligent. He could speak many languages. My grandparents both died young. My father was very musical. He taught music for a living, but he never made much money from it. My mother was a rebel too, like my grandmother Julia: she ran away from home and became an actress. I don't remember much about my father, except what my mother told me. I remember when he was dying, and I was very hungry and had only a little bit of bread.'
'Ah! What a different life from mine!' said Dorothea. 'I have always had too much of everything. Tell me about it.'
'My father had written a letter to Mr Casaubon, and that was my last hungry day. My father died, but Mr Casaubon took care of my mother and I. Well, he has probably told you all this himself.'
'No,' said Dorothea. 'He never talks about his own honourable actions. You see, he's been very good to you, and now he's ill. Try not to dislike him.'
'I'll never complain about him again,' said Will. 'I'll never again do or say anything of which you disapprove.'
'That's very good of you,' said Dorothea, smiling. 'You make me feel like a queen. But soon you'll leave Middlemarch, and I won't be able to rule you any more.'
'I want to ask you about that. It's one of the reasons I wished to speak to you alone,' said Will. 'Mr Brooke has offered me a position as editor of his newspaper. If you don't think I should accept his offer, I'll say no. But, if you approve, I'll accept. I prefer to stay here than go away.'
'I think you should stay,' said Dorothea at once. At that moment, she saw no reason why she should say no.
'Then I will stay,' said Ladislaw.
But then Dorothea thought she had made a mistake. She remembered that her husband felt differently. She blushed deeply, angry with herself for having said something that opposed her husband's wishes. 'But my opinion isn't important,' she said. 'You should ask Mr Casaubon.'
He got up to leave. He wanted to ask her not to mention the subject to Mr Casaubon, but he was afraid to do so. She was so honest and sincere: he did not want her to change. And he was afraid that she might think less of him for asking it. So he just said goodbye and left the house.
At four o'clock, Mr Casaubon returned, looking happier than usual. 'I met Dr Spanning today, my dear, and he said some complimentary things about my article on the Egyptian Mysteries.'
'I'm very glad,' said Dorothea, delighted to see her husband smiling. 'It's a pity you weren't here earlier. Mr Ladislaw called. He mentioned that my uncle has offered him work as editor of his newspaper. Do you think he should accept the position?'
'Did Mr Ladislaw come to ask my opinion?' said Mr Casaubon. All the pleasure that had been in his face when he spoke of Dr Spanning was gone.
'No, but, when he mentioned my uncle's offer, he of course expected me to tell you about it.'
Mr Casaubon was silent.
The next morning, he wrote the following letter to Will:
Dear Mr Ladislaw
I hear that you have been offered a position on a Middlemarch newspaper. If you accept that offer, I will be offended. I have a high social position to maintain. Editing a newspaper is not, in my opinion, honourable and respectable work. If you accept the position, you will no longer ne welcome to call at Lowick.
Yours sincerely,
Edward Casaubon.
Mr Casaubon did not tell Dorothea about this letter.
Waiting for death
Alone in her room that day, Dorothea thought about Will's grandmother. She thought that Julia had been disinherited unjustly. The money she should have inherited had gone instead to Mr Casaubon. In the will Mr Casaubon had written after their marriage, all that money was left to Dorothea. 'This must be changed,' she thought. 'I will talk to my husband and tell him that he should give Mr Ladislaw an income now and leave half his fortune to Mr Ladislaw in his will.'
She was blind, you see, to many things that were obvious to others. She did not see that this suggestion might make her husband angry. She did not understand that her husband was jealous of Will. She saw nothing outside her own pure intention.
That night, as they lay in bed in the darkness, Mr Casaubon said, 'Dorothea, since you are awake, could you please light a candle and read aloud to me for a while?'
'May I talk to you, instead?' asked Dorothea.
'I've been thinking about money all day. I've always had too much. And in the future, I'll have more money than I should. I'll have money that should have gone to someone else.'
'What do you mean, my love?'
'I mean that you've been too generous to me in your will. I've been thinking of your Aunt Julia. She was left in poverty because she married a poor man. I'm sure you agree that she was unjustly disinherited. That was why you paid for Mr Ladislaw's education. But surely Mr Ladislaw should have more — he should have half the property you've left me in your will. And I think he should have an income now. It's wrong that he's poor while we're rich.'
'Has Mr Ladislaw spoken to you about this?' asked Mr Casaubon, coldly.
'No!' said Dorothea, earnestly. 'He only told me a little about his parents and grandparents. I've come to this conclusion on my own, and I must speak about it, because I'm the person who'll benefit from the injustice.'
'Dorothea, my love,' Mr Casaubon replied, in a quiet but angry voice, 'this is not the first time you have given your opinion about things you don't understand. You shouldn't interfere between me and Mr Ladislaw, and you shouldn't encourage him to say things to you that are critical of my behaviour.'
Poor Dorothea was full of conflicting emotions. She feared that her husband's anger might cause him to be ill again, but at the same time she felt the intensity of her own misery. 'How can I bear this nightmare of a life?' she thought, as she lay in the darkness, unable to go to sleep.
The next day Mr Casaubon received the following letter from Will:
Dear Mr Casaubon.
You have been very generous to me in the past, but I don't agree with you about the position Mr Brooke has offered me. It will not make me rich, but it is not dishonourable work. I have a right to live where I want and do the work I want to do. I am sorry if my answer displeases you.
Yours sincerely,
Will Ladislaw
Poor Mr Casaubon was disgusted and suspicious. He felt sure that young Ladislaw intended to make him angry and to turn Dorothea against him. It was clear that Will wanted to stay in Middlemarch so that he could be near Dorothea. Mr Casaubon did not suspect Dorothea of infidelity, but he knew that she liked Ladislaw and was influenced by what he said. Mr Casaubon still thought that Dorothea had asked her uncle to invite Ladislaw to Tipton Grange. He had been too proud to ask her about it, and he was still proud and silent. But he had forbidden Ladislaw to come to Lowick, and he was planning another way to frustrate his young cousin's plans.
Sir James Chettam was very worried about the management of Mr Brooke's farms. Celia had given birth to a son a few months before. Sir James felt it was now his responsibility to see that all the family's properties were well managed. Mr Brooke's farms were in a terrible condition. His farmers were very poor and discontented. Sir James felt that this was bad for the entire neighbourhood. 'Perhaps Dorothea can persuade him to do something about it,' thought the young baronet. So one day he took Dorothea through Mr Brooke's estate on her way home from visiting Celia at Freshitt Hall. He explained to Dorothea exactly what was wrong with the management of her uncle's farms, then he said, 'I'm afraid I must leave you at Tipton Grange, but the carriage I will come soon to take you back to Lowick.'
So Dorothea entered her uncle's house and found him sitting in the library with Will Ladislaw. Will had been very bored all afternoon, helping Mr Brooke to organise his documents. When Dorothea walked in, Will blushed and stood up. He felt as if he had received an electric shock.
'Hello, my dear,' said Mr Brooke. 'How nice to see you.'
Dorothea kissed her uncle and shook Will's hand. 'Uncle,' she said. 'Sir James has just been telling me about your farms. He hopes that you will spend some money to improve them and hire a new farm manager. Tipton could be such a happy place, if it were managed more efficiently.'
'Yes, my dear,' said Mr Brooke nervously, 'but I've no plans to do anything like that at present.'
'Sir James thinks you'll do it because you are running for Parliament. You say you want Reform and better lives for the common people. If you want to make things better, you should start with your own farms. Think of poor Kit Downes, who lives with his wife and seven children in a house with one bedroom the size of this table! Think of the Dagley family: their house is full of rats! That is one reason I never liked the paintings here at Tipton Grange, uncle. I used to come home from the village, which was so dirty and poor, to the drawing-room here, full of pictures of simpering rich people. It seemed to me an attempt to delight in what is false instead of caring about the hard truth of our neighbours' poverty.'
Dorothea spoke with great energy. Will was full of admiration for her, but he felt that she was suddenly distant from him. A man is rarely ashamed of feeling that he cannot love a woman as much when he sees a certain greatness in her. Most men feel that nature intended greatness for men.
'Yes, my dear,' replied Mr Brooke, 'but I don't agree about the paintings. The fine arts are very important.'
Just then a servant came in and told Mr Brooke that one of Dagley's sons had killed a rabbit.
'I'll come and talk to him,' said Mr Brooke, then, looking at Dorothea, he continued, 'I'll be gentle with him, don't worry, my dear, but the rabbits are mine. Dagley's son has no right to kill the rabbits.'
When Mr Brooke had left the room, Will said to Dorothea, 'May I speak to you? This could be my only opportunity.'
'What is it?' asked Dorothea, anxiously.
'Do you know that Mr Casaubon has forbidden me to come to Lowick?'
'No, I didn't know. I'm very sorry,' said Dorothea, thinking about the conversation with her husband in the darkness.
'He did so because he didn't want me to work for Mr Brooke, but I accepted the position anyway. He has no right to tell me how to live. There is nothing dishonourable about my work for Mr Brooke.'
'We had better not talk about it, since you and Mr Casaubon disagree,' said Dorothea.
'We'll never see each other now,' said Will.
'No. But I'll hear about you from my uncle.'
'I won't hear about you. No one will tell me what you are doing.'
'Oh, my life's very simple. I'm always at Lowick.'
'That's a terrible imprisonment!' cried Will, impetuously.
'No, don't think that,' said Dorothea. 'I've no desires for myself. I only wish I didn't have so much when others have so little. But I believe that if you desire what is perfectly good — even if you don't know what it is and can't accomplish it — you are part of the divine power against evil.'
'That is a beautiful mysticism -'
'Don't call it by a name. It is my religion. What's your religion? I mean, what belief helps you the most?'
'To love what is good and beautiful when I see it,' said Will. 'But I am a rebel: I don't feel obliged, as you do, to submit to what I don't like.'
Lydgate and Rosamond had been married. Soon after returning from the wedding-journey, Lydgate went to Lowick. Mr
Casaubon had never asked Lydgate or Dorothea how serious his illness was. He did not want their pity. But now he was anxious. He needed to know how much time he had left to complete his life's work — the Key to all Mythologies. And another thing troubled him even more deeply: if he died soon, Dorothea might marry Will Ladislaw. This possibility made him furious.
On the day of Lydgate's visit, Mr Casaubon was walking under the yew trees in his garden, thinking about his anger and the reasons for it. 'When I married Dorothea,' he reasoned to himself, 'I had to take care of her well-being in case I died. I've left her a lot of money and property in my will, but that won't secure her well-being. On the contrary, a rich young widow is exposed to danger. She'll be easy prey for any man who can win her affection. Will Ladislaw is such a man. He has no principles. He'll marry her for her fortune and to revenge himself on me. She already believes that half the money I've left her in my will is rightly his. He's inconsistent and immoral. If Dorothea married him, she wouldn't be happy. It's my duty to prevent her from marrying him.'
When Lydgate arrived, the servant took him to the garden. Lydgate saw Mr Casaubon walking, with his head bent forward, deep in thought. Lydgate thought that Mr Casaubon looked even older and thinner than he had two months before.
'Hello, Mr Lydgate,' said Mr Casaubon. 'Could we walk together here under the trees? I wish to discuss something 'important.'
'Certainly,' Lydgate replied.
'I've been working on a book for many years. This work, which has taken up most of my adult life, is very important to me. Indeed, I hope it will be an important contribution to my field of study as a whole. I might die before it is published. If so, I would like to leave it in such a state that it could be published after my death by — others.'
Here Mr Casaubon paused.
'You wish me to tell you how serious your illness is?' asked Lydgate, trying to help.
'Yes. I want to know the truth.'
'Then I will be perfectly honest with you, Mr Casaubon. You suffer from degeneration of the heart. Death is often sudden from this disease. On the other hand, you could live comfortably for another fifteen years.'
Mr Casaubon was grateful for Lydgate's plain speech. He knew it was intended as a sign of respect. 'Thank you, Mr Lydgate,' he said. 'I've just one more question. Did you tell Mrs Casaubon this?'
'Yes,' replied Lydgate. He wanted to explain why he had told Dorothea, but Mr Casaubon said began to talk about the weather.
Dorothea noticed that her husband was more thoughtful than usual. She decided to visit Mr Lydgate to ask him about his recent conversation with Mr Casaubon. But when Dorothea arrived at Lydgate's house, the servant told her that he was not in.
'Is Mrs Lydgate at home?' asked Dorothea. 'Could I speak to her for a few minutes?' She could hear music coming from an open window: a piano playing and a man's voice. Then the music stopped and the servant came back and asked Dorothea to follow her to the drawing-room.
Rosamond was very surprised and pleased to see Mrs Casaubon. She always liked to talk to the gentry and to feel that they accepted her. On her wedding-journey, she had met her husband's uncle Sir Godwin Lydgate, and he had been very nice to her. She was glad that today she was wearing one of her most elegant and fashionable dresses. Dorothea herself was dressed plainly in white.
'Hello, Mrs Lydgate,' said Dorothea, looking admiringly at Lydgate's lovely bride. 'I'm so sorry to interrupt you. I wish to talk to Mr Lydgate. Could you tell me where I can find him?'
Just then she noticed that Will Ladislaw was standing in the corner of the room. 'Oh! Hello,' she said. 'I did not expect to see you here.'
'My husband is at the new hospital,' said Rosamond.
'I could go and tell him that you wish to speak to him,' said Will eagerly, coming forward.
'No, thank you,' said Dorothea. 'I will go and speak to him there.
As the carriage drove off, Dorothea thought about her own behaviour. She had left the Lydgates' house very quickly. One reason was that she felt she should not talk to Wi
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