Middlemarch, by George Eliot

Chapter 64

1st Gent. Where lies the power, there let the blame lie too.
2d Gent. Nay, power is relative; you cannot fright
The coming pest with border fortresses,
Or catch your carp with subtle argument.
All force is twain in one: cause is not cause
Unless effect be there; and action’s self
Must needs contain a passive. So command
Exists but with obedience.”

Even if Lydgate had been inclined to be quite open about his affairs, he knew that it would have hardly been in Mr. Farebrother’s power to give him the help he immediately wanted. With the year’s bills coming in from his tradesmen, with Dover’s threatening hold on his furniture, and with nothing to depend on but slow dribbling payments from patients who must not be offended — for the handsome fees he had had from Freshitt Hall and Lowick Manor had been easily absorbed — nothing less than a thousand pounds would have freed him from actual embarrassment, and left a residue which, according to the favorite phrase of hopefulness in such circumstances, would have given him “time to look about him.”

Naturally, the merry Christmas bringing the happy New Year, when fellow-citizens expect to be paid for the trouble and goods they have smilingly bestowed on their neighbors, had so tightened the pressure of sordid cares on Lydgate’s mind that it was hardly possible for him to think unbrokenly of any other subject, even the most habitual and soliciting. He was not an ill-tempered man; his intellectual activity, the ardent kindness of his heart, as well as his strong frame, would always, under tolerably easy conditions, have kept him above the petty uncontrolled susceptibilities which make bad temper. But he was now a prey to that worst irritation which arises not simply from annoyances, but from the second consciousness underlying those annoyances, of wasted energy and a degrading preoccupation, which was the reverse of all his former purposes. “THIS is what I am thinking of; and THAT is what I might have been thinking of,” was the bitter incessant murmur within him, making every difficulty a double goad to impatience.

Some gentlemen have made an amazing figure in literature by general discontent with the universe as a trap of dulness into which their great souls have fallen by mistake; but the sense of a stupendous self and an insignificant world may have its consolations. Lydgate’s discontent was much harder to bear: it was the sense that there was a grand existence in thought and effective action lying around him, while his self was being narrowed into the miserable isolation of egoistic fears, and vulgar anxieties for events that might allay such fears. His troubles will perhaps appear miserably sordid, and beneath the attention of lofty persons who can know nothing of debt except on a magnificent scale. Doubtless they were sordid; and for the majority, who are not lofty, there is no escape from sordidness but by being free from money-craving, with all its base hopes and temptations, its watching for death, its hinted requests. its horse-dealer’s desire to make bad work pass for good, its seeking for function which ought to be another’s, its compulsion often to long for Luck in the shape of a wide calamity.

It was because Lydgate writhed under the idea of getting his neck beneath this vile yoke that he had fallen into a bitter moody state which was continually widening Rosamond’s alienation from him. After the first disclosure about the bill of sale, he had made many efforts to draw her into sympathy with him about possible measures for narrowing their expenses, and with the threatening approach of Christmas his propositions grew more and more definite. “We two can do with only one servant, and live on very little,” he said, “and I shall manage with one horse.” For Lydgate, as we have seen, had begun to reason, with a more distinct vision, about the expenses of living, and any share of pride he had given to appearances of that sort was meagre compared with the pride which made him revolt from exposure as a debtor, or from asking men to help him with their money.

“Of course you can dismiss the other two servants, if you like,” said Rosamond; “but I should have thought it would be very injurious to your position for us to live in a poor way. You must expect your practice to be lowered.”

“My dear Rosamond, it is not a question of choice. We have begun too expensively. Peacock, you know, lived in a much smaller house than this. It is my fault: I ought to have known better, and I deserve a thrashing — if there were anybody who had a right to give it me — for bringing you into the necessity of living in a poorer way than you have been used to. But we married because we loved each other, I suppose. And that may help us to pull along till things get better. Come, dear, put down that work and come to me.”

He was really in chill gloom about her at that moment, but he dreaded a future without affection, and was determined to resist the oncoming of division between them. Rosamond obeyed him, and he took her on his knee, but in her secret soul she was utterly aloof from him. The poor thing saw only that the world was not ordered to her liking, and Lydgate was part of that world. But he held her waist with one hand and laid the other gently on both of hers; for this rather abrupt man had much tenderness in his manners towards women, seeming to have always present in his imagination the weakness of their frames and the delicate poise of their health both in body and mind. And he began again to speak persuasively.

“I find, now I look into things a little, Rosy, that it is wonderful what an amount of money slips away in our housekeeping. I suppose the servants are careless, and we have had a great many people coming. But there must be many in our rank who manage with much less: they must do with commoner things, I suppose, and look after the scraps. It seems, money goes but a little way in these matters, for Wrench has everything as plain as possible, and he has a very large practice.”

“Oh, if you think of living as the Wrenches do!” said Rosamond, with a little turn of her neck. “But I have heard you express your disgust at that way of living.”

“Yes, they have bad taste in everything — they make economy look ugly. We needn’t do that. I only meant that they avoid expenses, although Wrench has a capital practice.”

“Why should not you have a good practice, Tertius? Mr. Peacock had. You should be more careful not to offend people, and you should send out medicines as the others do. I am sure you began well, and you got several good houses. It cannot answer to be eccentric; you should think what will be generally liked,” said Rosamond, in a decided little tone of admonition.

Lydgate’s anger rose: he was prepared to be indulgent towards feminine weakness, but not towards feminine dictation. The shallowness of a waternixie’s soul may have a charm until she becomes didactic. But he controlled himself, and only said, with a touch of despotic firmness —

“What I am to do in my practice, Rosy, it is for me to judge. That is not the question between us. It is enough for you to know that our income is likely to be a very narrow one — hardly four hundred, perhaps less, for a long time to come, and we must try to re-arrange our lives in accordance with that fact.”

Rosamond was silent for a moment or two, looking before her, and then said, “My uncle Bulstrode ought to allow you a salary for the time you give to the Hospital: it is not right that you should work for nothing.”

“It was understood from the beginning that my services would be gratuitous. That, again, need not enter into our discussion. I have pointed out what is the only probability,” said Lydgate, impatiently. Then checking himself, he went on more quietly —

“I think I see one resource which would free us from a good deal of the present difficulty. I hear that young Ned Plymdale is going to be married to Miss Sophy Toller. They are rich, and it is not often that a good house is vacant in Middlemarch. I feel sure that they would be glad to take this house from us with most of our furniture, and they would be willing to pay handsomely for the lease. I can employ Trumbull to speak to Plymdale about it.”

Rosamond left her husband’s knee and walked slowly to the other end of the room; when she turned round and walked towards him it was evident that the tears had come, and that she was biting her under-lip and clasping her hands to keep herself from crying. Lydgate was wretched — shaken with anger and yet feeling that it would be unmanly to vent the anger just now.

“I am very sorry, Rosamond; I know this is painful.”

“I thought, at least, when I had borne to send the plate back and have that man taking an inventory of the furniture — I should have thought THAT would suffice.”

“I explained it to you at the time, dear. That was only a security and behind that Security there is a debt. And that debt must be paid within the next few months, else we shall have our furniture sold. If young Plymdale will take our house and most of our furniture, we shall be able to pay that debt, and some others too, and we shall be quit of a place too expensive for us. We might take a smaller house: Trumbull, I know, has a very decent one to let at thirty pounds a-year, and this is ninety.” Lydgate uttered this speech in the curt hammering way with which we usually try to nail down a vague mind to imperative facts. Tears rolled silently down Rosamond’s cheeks; she just pressed her handkerchief against them, and stood looking al; the large vase on the mantel-piece. It was a moment of more intense bitterness than she had ever felt before. At last she said, without hurry and with careful emphasis —

“I never could have believed that you would like to act in that way.”

“Like it?” burst out Lydgate, rising from his chair, thrusting his hands in his pockets and stalking away from the hearth; “it’s not a question of liking. Of course, I don’t like it; it’s the only thing I can do.” He wheeled round there, and turned towards her.

“I should have thought there were many other means than that,” said Rosamond. “Let us have a sale and leave Middlemarch altogether.”

“To do what? What is the use of my leaving my work in Middlemarch to go where I have none? We should be just as penniless elsewhere as we are here,” said Lydgate still more angrily.

“If we are to be in that position it will be entirely your own doing, Tertius,” said Rosamond, turning round to speak with the fullest conviction. “You will not behave as you ought to do to your own family. You offended Captain Lydgate. Sir Godwin was very kind to me when we were at Quallingham, and I am sure if you showed proper regard to him and told him your affairs, he would do anything for you. But rather than that, you like giving up our house and furniture to Mr. Ned Plymdale.”

There was something like fierceness in Lydgate’s eyes, as he answered with new violence, “Well, then, if you will have it so, I do like it. I admit that I like it better than making a fool of myself by going to beg where it’s of no use. Understand then, that it is what I LIKE TO DO.”

There was a tone in the last sentence which was equivalent to the clutch of his strong hand on Rosamond’s delicate arm. But for all that, his will was not a whit stronger than hers. She immediately walked out of the room in silence, but with an intense determination to hinder what Lydgate liked to do.

He went out of the house, but as his blood cooled he felt that the chief result of the discussion was a deposit of dread within him at the idea of opening with his wife in future subjects which might again urge him to violent speech. It was as if a fracture in delicate crystal had begun, and he was afraid of any movement that might mate it fatal. His marriage would be a mere piece of bitter irony if they could not go on loving each other. He had long ago made up his mind to what he thought was her negative character — her want of sensibility, which showed itself in disregard both of his specific wishes and of his general aims. The first great disappointment had been borne: the tender devotedness and docile adoration of the ideal wife must be renounced, and life must be taken up on a lower stage of expectation, as it is by men who have lost their limbs. But the real wife had not only her claims, she had still a hold on his heart, and it was his intense desire that the hold should remain strong. In marriage, the certainty, “She will never love me much,” is easier to bear than the fear, “I shall love her no more.” Hence, after that outburst, his inward effort was entirely to excuse her, and to blame the hard circumstances which were partly his fault. He tried that evening, by petting her, to heal the wound he had made in the morning, and it was not in Rosamond’s nature to be repellent or sulky; indeed, she welcomed the signs that her husband loved her and was under control. But this was something quite distinct from loving HIM. Lydgate would not have chosen soon to recur to the plan of parting with the house; he was resolved to carry it out, and say as little more about it as possible. But Rosamond herself touched on it at breakfast by saying, mildly —

“Have you spoken to Trumbull yet?”

“No,” said Lydgate, “but I shall call on him as I go by this morning. No time must be lost.” He took Rosamond’s question as a sign that she withdrew her inward opposition, and kissed her head caressingly when he got up to go away.

As soon as it was late enough to make a call, Rosamond went to Mrs. Plymdale, Mr. Ned’s mother, and entered with pretty congratulations into the of the coming marriage. Mrs. Plymdale’s maternal view was, that Rosamond might possibly now have retrospective glimpses of her own folly; and feeling the advantages to be at present all on the side of her son, was too kind a woman not to behave graciously.

“Yes, Ned is most happy, I must say. And Sophy Toller is all I could desire in a daughter-in-law. Of course her father is able to do something handsome for her — that is only what would be expected with a brewery like his. And the connection is everything we should desire. But that is not what I look at. She is such a very nice girl — no airs, no pretensions, though on a level with the first. I don’t mean with the titled aristocracy. I see very little good in people aiming out of their own sphere. I mean that Sophy is equal to the best in the town, and she is contented with that.”

“I have always thought her very agreeable,” said Rosamond.

“I look upon it as a reward for Ned, who never held his head too high, that he should have got into the very best connection,” continued Mrs. Plymdale, her native sharpness softened by a fervid sense that she was taking a correct view. “And such particular people as the Tollers are, they might have objected because some of our friends are not theirs. It is well known that your aunt Bulstrode and I have been intimate from our youth, and Mr. Plymdale has been always on Mr. Bulstrode’s side. And I myself prefer serious opinions. But the Tollers have welcomed Ned all the same.”

“I am sure he is a very deserving, well-principled young man,” said Rosamond, with a neat air of patronage in return for Mrs. Plymdale’s wholesome corrections.

“Oh, he has not the style of a captain in the army, or that sort of carriage as if everybody was beneath him, or that showy kind of talking, and singing, and intellectual talent. But I am thankful he has not. It is a poor preparation both for here and Hereafter.”

“Oh dear, yes; appearances have very little to do with happiness,” said Rosamond. “I think there is every prospect of their being a happy couple. What house will they take?”

“Oh, as for that, they must put up with what they can get. They have been looking at the house in St. Peter’s Place, next to Mr. Hackbutt’s; it belongs to him, and he is putting it nicely in repair. I suppose they are not likely to hear of a better. Indeed, I think Ned will decide the matter to-day.”

“I should think it is a nice house; I like St. Peter’s Place.”

“Well, it is near the Church, and a genteel situation. But the windows are narrow, and it is all ups and downs. You don’t happen to know of any other that would be at liberty?” said Mrs. Plymdale, fixing her round black eyes on Rosamond with the animation of a sudden thought in them.

“Oh no; I hear so little of those things.”

Rosamond had not foreseen that question and answer in setting out to pay her visit; she had simply meant to gather any information which would help her to avert the parting with her own house under circumstances thoroughly disagreeable to her. As to the untruth in her reply, she no more reflected on it than she did on the untruth there was in her saying that appearances had very little to do with happiness. Her object, she was convinced, was thoroughly justifiable: it was Lydgate whose intention was inexcusable; and there was a plan in her mind which, when she had carried it out fully, would prove how very false a step it would have been for him to have descended from his position.

She returned home by Mr. Borthrop Trumbull’s office, meaning to call there. It was the first time in her life that Rosamond had thought of doing anything in the form of business, but she felt equal to the occasion. That she should be obliged to do what she intensely disliked, was an idea which turned her quiet tenacity into active invention. Here was a case in which it could not be enough simply to disobey and be serenely, placidly obstinate: she must act according to her judgment, and she said to herself that her judgment was right —”indeed, if it had not been, she would not have wished to act on it.”

Mr. Trumbull was in the back-room of his office, and received Rosamond with his finest manners, not only because he had much sensibility to her charms, but because the good-natured fibre in him was stirred by his certainty that Lydgate was in difficulties, and that this uncommonly pretty woman — this young lady with the highest personal attractions — was likely to feel the pinch of trouble — to find herself involved in circumstances beyond her control. He begged her to do him the honor to take a seat, and stood before her trimming and comporting himself with an eager solicitude, which was chiefly benevolent. Rosamond’s first question was, whether her husband had called on Mr. Trumbull that morning, to speak about disposing of their house.

“Yes, ma’am, yes, he did; he did so,” said the good auctioneer, trying to throw something soothing into his iteration. “I was about to fulfil his order, if possible, this afternoon. He wished me not to procrastinate.”

“I called to tell you not to go any further, Mr. Trumbull; and I beg of you not to mention what has been said on the subject. Will you oblige me?”

“Certainly I will, Mrs. Lydgate, certainly. Confidence is sacred with me on business or any other topic. I am then to consider the commission withdrawn?” said Mr. Trumbull, adjusting the long ends of his blue cravat with both hands, and looking at Rosamond deferentially.

“Yes, if you please. I find that Mr. Ned Plymdale has taken a house — the one in St. Peter’s Place next to Mr. Hackbutt’s. Mr. Lydgate would be annoyed that his orders should be fulfilled uselessly. And besides that, there are other circumstances which render the proposal unnecessary.”

“Very good, Mrs. Lydgate, very good. I am at your commands, whenever you require any service of me,” said Mr. Trumbull, who felt pleasure in conjecturing that some new resources had been opened. “Rely on me, I beg. The affair shall go no further.”

That evening Lydgate was a little comforted by observing that Rosamond was more lively than she had usually been of late, and even seemed interested in doing what would please him without being asked. He thought, “If she will be happy and I can rub through, what does it all signify? It is only a narrow swamp that we have to pass in a long journey. If I can get my mind clear again, I shall do.”

He was so much cheered that he began to search for an account of experiments which he had long ago meant to look up, and had neglected out of that creeping self-despair which comes in the train of petty anxieties. He felt again some of the old delightful absorption in a far-reaching inquiry, while Rosamond played the quiet music which was as helpful to his meditation as the plash of an oar on the evening lake. It was rather late; he had pushed away all the books, and was looking at the fire with his hands clasped behind his head in forgetfulness of everything except the construction of a new controlling experiment, when Rosamond, who had left the piano and was leaning back in her chair watching him, said —

“Mr. Ned Plymdale has taken a house already.”

Lydgate, startled and jarred, looked up in silence for a moment, like a man who has been disturbed in his sleep. Then flushing with an unpleasant consciousness, he asked —

“How do you know?”

“I called at Mrs. Plymdale’s this morning, and she told me that he had taken the house in St. Peter’s Place, next to Mr. Hackbutt’s.”

Lydgate was silent. He drew his hands from behind his head and pressed them against the hair which was hanging, as it was apt to do, in a mass on his forehead, while he rested his elbows on his knees. He was feeling bitter disappointment, as if he had opened a door out of a suffocating place and had found it walled up; but he also felt sure that Rosamond was pleased with the cause of his disappointment. He preferred not looking at her and not speaking, until he had got over the first spasm of vexation. After all, he said in his bitterness, what can a woman care about so much as house and furniture? a husband without them is an absurdity. When he looked up and pushed his hair aside, his dark eyes had a miserable blank non-expectance of sympathy in them, but he only said, coolly —

“Perhaps some one else may turn up. I told Trumbull to be on the look-out if he failed with Plymdale.”

Rosamond made no remark. She trusted to the chance that nothing more would pass between her husband and the auctioneer until some issue should have justified her interference; at any rate, she had hindered the event which she immediately dreaded. After a pause, she said —

“How much money is it that those disagreeable people want?”

“What disagreeable people?”

“Those who took the list — and the others. I mean, how much money would satisfy them so that you need not be troubled any more?”

Lydgate surveyed her for a moment, as if he were looking for symptoms, and then said, “Oh, if I could have got six hundred from Plymdale for furniture and as premium, I might have managed. I could have paid off Dover, and given enough on account to the others to make them wait patiently, if we contracted our expenses.”

“But I mean how much should you want if we stayed in this house?”

“More than I am likely to get anywhere,” said Lydgate, with rather a grating sarcasm in his tone. It angered him to perceive that Rosamond’s mind was wandering over impracticable wishes instead of facing possible efforts.

“Why should you not mention the sum?” said Rosamond, with a mild indication that she did not like his manners.

“Well,” said Lydgate in a guessing tone, “it would take at least a thousand to set me at ease. But,” he added, incisively, “I have to consider what I shall do without it, not with it.”

Rosamond said no more.

But the next day she carried out her plan of writing to Sir Godwin Lydgate. Since the Captain’s visit, she had received a letter from him, and also one from Mrs. Mengan, his married sister, condoling with her on the loss of her baby, and expressing vaguely the hope that they should see her again at Quallingham. Lydgate had told her that this politeness meant nothing; but she was secretly convinced that any backwardness in Lydgate’s family towards him was due to his cold and contemptuous behavior, and she had answered the letters in her most charming manner, feeling some confidence that a specific invitation would follow. But there had been total silence. The Captain evidently was not a great penman, and Rosamond reflected that the sisters might have been abroad. However, the season was come for thinking of friends at home, and at any rate Sir Godwin, who had chucked her under the chin, and pronounced her to be like the celebrated beauty, Mrs. Croly, who had made a conquest of him in 1790, would be touched by any appeal from her, and would find it pleasant for her sake to behave as he ought to do towards his nephew. Rosamond was naively convinced of what an old gentleman ought to do to prevent her from suffering annoyance. And she wrote what she considered the most judicious letter possible — one which would strike Sir Godwin as a proof of her excellent sense — pointing out how desirable it was that Tertius should quit such a place as Middlemarch for one more fitted to his talents, how the unpleasant character of the inhabitants had hindered his professional success, and how in consequence he was in money difficulties, from which it would require a thousand pounds thoroughly to extricate him. She did not say that Tertius was unaware of her intention to write; for she had the idea that his supposed sanction of her letter would be in accordance with what she did say of his great regard for his uncle Godwin as the relative who had always been his best friend. Such was the force of Poor Rosamond’s tactics now she applied them to affairs.

This had happened before the party on New Year’s Day, and no answer had yet come from Sir Godwin. But on the morning of that day Lydgate had to learn that Rosamond had revoked his order to Borthrop Trumbull. Feeling it necessary that she should be gradually accustomed to the idea of their quitting the house in Lowick Gate, he overcame his reluctance to speak to her again on the subject, and when they were breakfasting said —

“I shall try to see Trumbull this morning, and tell him to. advertise the house in the ‘Pioneer’ and the ‘Trumpet.’ If the thing were advertised, some one might be inclined to take it who would not otherwise have thought of a change. In these country places many people go on in their old houses when their families are too large for them, for want of knowing where they can find another. And Trumbull seems to have got no bite at all.”

Rosamond knew that the inevitable moment was come. “I ordered Trumbull not to inquire further,” she said, with a careful calmness which was evidently defensive.

Lydgate stared at her in mute amazement. Only half an hour before he had been fastening up her plaits for her, and talking the “little language” of affection, which Rosamond, though not returning it, accepted as if she had been a serene and lovely image, now and then miraculously dimpling towards her votary. With such fibres still astir in him, the shock he received could not at once be distinctly anger; it was confused pain. He laid down the knife and fork with which he was carving, and throwing himself back in his chair, said at last, with a cool irony in his tone —

“May I ask when and why you did so?”

“When I knew that the Plymdales had taken a house, I called to tell him not to mention ours to them; and at the same time I told him not to let the affair go on any further. I knew that it would be very injurious to you if it were known that you wished to part with your house and furniture, and I had a very strong objection to it. I think that was reason enough.”

“It was of no consequence then that I had told you imperative reasons of another kind; of no consequence that I had come to a different conclusion, and given an order accordingly?” said Lydgate, bitingly, the thunder and lightning gathering about his brow and eyes.

The effect of any one’s anger on Rosamond had always been to make her shrink in cold dislike, and to become all the more calmly correct, in the conviction that she was not the person to misbehave whatever others might do. She replied —

“I think I had a perfect right to speak on a subject which concerns me at least as much as you.”

“Clearly — you had a right to speak, but only to me. You had no right to contradict my orders secretly, and treat me as if I were a fool,” said Lydgate, in the same tone as before. Then with some added scorn, “Is it possible to make you understand what the consequences will be? Is it of any use for me to tell you again why we must try to part with the house?”

“It is not necessary for you to tell me again,” said Rosamond, in a voice that fell and trickled like cold water-drops. “I remembered what you said. You spoke just as violently as you do now. But that does not alter my opinion that you ought to try every other means rather than take a step which is so painful to me. And as to advertising the house, I think it would be perfectly degrading to you.”

“And suppose I disregard your opinion as you disregard mine?”

“You can do so, of course. But I think you ought to have told me before we were married that you would place me in the worst position, rather than give up your own will.”

Lydgate did not speak, but tossed his head on one side, and twitched the corners of his mouth in despair. Rosamond, seeing that he was not looking at her, rose and set his cup of coffee before him; but he took no notice of it, and went on with an inward drama and argument, occasionally moving in his seat, resting one arm on the table, and rubbing his hand against his hair. There was a conflux of emotions and thoughts in him that would not let him either give thorough way to his anger or persevere with simple rigidity of resolve. Rosamond took advantage of his silence.

“When we were married everyone felt that your position was very high. I could not have imagined then that you would want to sell our furniture, and take a house in Bride Street, where the rooms are like cages. If we are to live in that way let us at least leave Middlemarch.”

“These would be very strong considerations,” said Lydgate, half ironically — still there was a withered paleness about his lips as he looked at his coffee, and did not drink —”these would be very strong considerations if I did not happen to be in debt.”

“Many persons must have been in debt in the same way, but if they are respectable, people trust them. I am sure I have heard papa say that the Torbits were in debt, and they went on very well It cannot be good to act rashly,” said Rosamond, with serene wisdom.

Lydgate sat paralyzed by opposing impulses: since no reasoning he could apply to Rosamond seemed likely to conquer her assent, he wanted to smash and grind some object on which he could at least produce an impression, or else to tell her brutally that he was master, and she must obey. But he not only dreaded the effect of such extremities on their mutual life — he had a growing dread of Rosamond’s quiet elusive obstinacy, which would not allow any assertion of power to be final; and again, she had touched him in a spot of keenest feeling by implying that she had been deluded with a false vision of happiness in marrying him. As to saying that he was master, it was not the fact. The very resolution to which he had wrought himself by dint of logic and honorable pride was beginning to relax under her torpedo contact. He swallowed half his cup of coffee, and then rose to go.

“I may at least request that you will not go to Trumbull at present — until it has been seen that there are no other means,” said Rosamond. Although she was not subject to much fear, she felt it safer not to betray that she had written to Sir Godwin. “Promise me that you will not go to him for a few weeks, or without telling me.”

Lydgate gave a short laugh. “I think it is I who should exact a promise that you will do nothing without telling me,” he said, turning his eyes sharply upon her, and then moving to the door.

“You remember that we are going to dine at papa’s,” said Rosamond, wishing that he should turn and make a more thorough concession to her. But he only said “Oh yes,” impatiently, and went away. She held it to be very odious in him that he did not think the painful propositions he had had to make to her were enough, without showing so unpleasant a temper. And when she put the moderate request that he would defer going to Trumbull again, it was cruel in him not to assure her of what he meant to do. She was convinced of her having acted in every way for the best; and each grating or angry speech of Lydgate’s served only as an addition to the register of offences in her mind. Poor Rosamond for months had begun to associate her husband with feelings of disappointment, and the terribly inflexible relation of marriage had lost its charm of encouraging delightful dreams. It had freed her from the disagreeables of her father’s house, but it had not given her everything that she had wished and hoped. The Lydgate with whom she had been in love had been a group of airy conditions for her, most of which had disappeared, while their place had been taken by every-day details which must be lived through slowly from hour to hour, not floated through with a rapid selection of favorable aspects. The habits of Lydgate’s profession, his home preoccupation with scientific subjects, which seemed to her almost like a morbid vampire’s taste, his peculiar views of things which had never entered into the dialogue of courtship — all these continually alienating influences, even without the fact of his having placed himself at a disadvantage in the town, and without that first shock of revelation about Dover’s debt, would have made his presence dull to her. There was another presence which ever since the early days of her marriage, until four months ago, had been an agreeable excitement, but that was gone: Rosamond would not confess to herself how much the consequent blank had to do with her utter ennui; and it seemed to her (perhaps she was right) that an invitation to Quallingham, and an opening for Lydgate to settle elsewhere than in Middlemarch — in London, or somewhere likely to be free from unpleasantness — would satisfy her quite well, and make her indifferent to the absence of Will Ladislaw, towards whom she felt some resentment for his exaltation of Mrs. Casaubon.

That was the state of things with Lydgate and Rosamond on the New Year’s Day when they dined at her father’s, she looking mildly neutral towards him in remembrance of his ill-tempered behavior at breakfast, and he carrying a much deeper effect from the inward conflict in which that morning scene was only one of many epochs. His flushed effort while talking to Mr. Farebrother — his effort after the cynical pretence that all ways of getting money are essentially the same, and that chance has an empire which reduces choice to a fool’s illusion — was but the symptom of a wavering resolve, a benumbed response to the old stimuli of enthusiasm.

What was he to do? He saw even more keenly than Rosamond did the dreariness of taking her into the small house in Bride Street, where she would have scanty furniture around her and discontent within: a life of privation and life with Rosamond were two images which had become more and more irreconcilable ever since the threat of privation had disclosed itself. But even if his resolves had forced the two images into combination, the useful preliminaries to that hard change were not visibly within reach. And though he had not given the promise which his wife had asked for, he did not go again to Trumbull. He even began to think of taking a rapid journey to the North and seeing Sir Godwin. He had once believed that nothing would urge him into making an application for money to his uncle, but he had not then known the full pressure of alternatives yet more disagreeable. He could not depend on the effect of a letter; it was only in an interview, however disagreeable this might be to himself, that he could give a thorough explanation and could test the effectiveness of kinship. No sooner had Lydgate begun to represent this step to himself as the easiest than there was a reaction of anger that he — he who had long ago determined to live aloof from such abject calculations, such self-interested anxiety about the inclinations and the pockets of men with whom he had been proud to have no aims in common — should have fallen not simply to their level, but to the level of soliciting them.

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Last updated Friday, March 14, 2014 at 21:42