THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS
ARTHUR MEE Editor and Founder of the Book of Knowledge
J. A. HAMMERTON Editor of Harmsworth's Universal Encyclopaedia
VOL. IV FICTION
Table of Contents
EBERS, GEORG An Egyptian Princess
EDGEWORTH, MARIE Belinda Castle Rackrent
ELIOT, GEORGE Adam Bede Felix Holt Romola Silas Marner The Mill on the Floss
FEUILLET, OCTAVE Romance of a Poor Young Man
FIELDING, HENRY Amelia Jonathan Wild Joseph Andrews Tom Jones
FLAMMARION, CAMILLE Urania
FOUQUE, DE LA MOTTE Undine
GABORIAU, EMILE File No. 113
GALT, JOHN Annals of the Parish
GASKELL, MRS. Cranford Mary Barton
GODWIN, WILLIAM Caleb Williams
GOETHE Sorrows of Young Werther Wilhelm Meister
GOLDSMITH, OLIVER Vicar of Wakefield
GONCOURT, EDMOND AND JULES DE Renee Mauperin
GRANT, JAMES Bothwell
A Complete Index of THE WORLD'S GREATEST BOOKS will be found at the end of Volume XX.
* * * * *
An Egyptian Princess
Georg Moritz Ebers, a great Orientalist and Egyptologist, was born in Berlin on March 1, 1837, received his first instruction at Keilhau in Thuringen, then attended a college at Quedlinburg, and finally took up the study of law at Goettingen University. In 1858, when his feet became lame, he abandoned this study, and took up philology and archaeology. After 1859 he devoted himself almost exclusively to Egyptology. Having recovered from his long illness, he visited the most important European museums, and in 1869 he travelled to Egypt, Nubia, and Arabia. On his return he took the chair of Egyptology at Leipzig University. He went back to Egypt in 1872, and discovered, besides many other important inscriptions, the famous papyrus which bears his name. "An Egyptian Princess" is his first important novel, written during his illness, and published in 1864. It has gone through numerous editions, and has been translated into most European languages. It was followed by several other similar works of fiction, of which "Serapis" achieved wide popularity. Ebers died on August 7, 1898.
I.—The Royal Bride
A cavalcade of dazzling splendour was moving along the high road towards Babylon. The embassy sent by Cambyses, the mighty King of the East, had accomplished its mission, and now Nitetis, the daughter of Amasis, King of Egypt, was on the way to meet her future spouse. At the head of the sumptuous escort were Bartja, Cambyses' handsome golden-haired younger brother; his kinsman Darius; Croesus, the dethroned King of Lydia, and his son Gyges; Prexaspes, the king's ambassador, and Zopyrus, the son of Megabyzus, a Persian noble.
A few miles before the gates of Babylon they perceived a troop of horsemen galloping towards them. Cambyses himself came to honour his bride. His pale face, framed by an immense black beard, expressed great power and unbounded pride. Deep pallor and bright colour flitted by turns across the face of Nitetis, as his fiery eyes fixed her with a piercing gaze. Then he waved a welcome, sprang from his horse, shook Croesus by the hand, and asked him to act as interpreter. "She is beautiful and pleases me well," said the king. And Nitetis, who had begun to learn the language of her new home on the long journey, blushed deeply and began softly in broken Persian, "Blessed be the gods, who have caused me to find favour in thine eyes."
Cambyses was delighted with her desire to win his approbation and with her industry and intellect, so different from the indolence and idleness of the Persian women in his harem. His wonder and satisfaction increased when, after recommending her to obey the orders of Boges, the eunuch, who was head over the house of women, she reminded him that she was a king's daughter, bound to obey the commands of her lord, but unable to bow to a venal servant.
Her pride found an echo in his own haughty disposition. "You have spoken well. A separate dwelling shall be appointed you. I, and no one else, will prescribe your rules of life and conduct. Tell me now, how my messengers pleased you and your countrymen?"
"Who could know the noble Croesus without loving him? Who could fail to admire the beauty of the young heroes, your friends, and especially of your handsome brother Bartja? The Egyptians have no love for strangers, but he won all hearts."
At these words the king's brows darkened, he struck his horse so that the creature reared, and then, turning it quickly round, he galloped towards Babylon. He decided in his mind to give Bartja the command of an expedition against the Tapuri, and to make him marry Rosana, the daughter of a Persian noble. He also determined to make Nitetis his real queen and adviser. She was to be to him what his mother Kassandane had been to Cyrus, his great father. Not even Phaedime, his favourite wife, had occupied such a position. And as for Bartja, "he had better take care," he murmured, "or he shall know the fate that awaits the man who dares to cross my path."
According to Persian custom a year had to pass before Nitetis could become Cambyses' lawful wife, but, conscious of his despotic power, he had decided to reduce this term to a few months. Meanwhile, he only saw the fair Egyptian in the presence of his blind mother or of his sister Atossa, both of whom became Nitetis' devoted friends. Meanwhile, Boges, the eunuch, sank in public estimation, since it was known that Cambyses had ceased to visit the harem, and he began to conspire with Phaedime as to the best way of ruining Nitetis, who had come to love Cambyses with ever growing passion.
The Egyptian princess's happiness was seriously disturbed by the arrival of a letter from her mother, which brought her naught but sad news. Her father, Amasis, had been struck with blindness on the very day she had reached Babylon; and her frail twin-sister Tachot, after falling into a violent fever, was wasting away for love of Bartja, whose beauty had captured her heart at the time of his mission in Sais. His name had been even on her lips in her delirium, and the only hope for her was to see him again.
Nitetis' whole happiness was destroyed in one moment. She wept and sighed, until she fell asleep from sheer exhaustion. When her maid Mandane came to put a last touch to her dress for the banquet, she found her sleeping, and as there was ample time she went out into the garden, where she met the eunuch Boges. He was the bearer of good news. Mandane had been brought up with the children of a Magian, one of whom was now the high-priest Oropastes. Love had sprung up between her and his handsome brother Gaumata; and Oropastes, who had ambitious schemes, had sent his brother to Rhagae and procured her a situation at court, so that they might forget one another. And now Gaumata had come and begged her to meet him next evening in the hanging gardens. Mandane consented after a hard struggle.
Boges hurried away with malicious pleasure in the near success of his scheme. He met one of the gardeners, whom he promised to bring some of the nobles to inspect a special kind of blue lily, in which the gardener took great pride. He then hurried to the harem, to make sure that the king's wives should look their best, and insisted upon Phaedime painting her face white, and putting on a simple, dark dress without ornament, except the chain given her by Cambyses on her marriage, to arouse the pity of the Achaemenidae, to which family she herself belonged.
The eunuch's cunning scheme succeeded but too well. At the end of the great banquet Bartja, to whom Cambyses had promised to grant a favour on his victorious return from the war, confessed to him his love for Sappho, a charming and cultured Greek maiden of noble descent, whom he wished to make his wife. Cambyses was delighted at this proof of the injustice of his jealous suspicions, and announced aloud that Bartja would in a few days depart to bring home a bride. At these words Nitetis, thinking of her poor sister's misery, fainted.
Cambyses sprang up pale as death; his lips trembled and his fist was clenched. Nitetis looked at him imploringly, but he commanded Boges to take the women back to their apartments. "Sleep well, Egyptian, and pray to the gods to give you the power of dissembling your feelings. Here, give me wine; but taste it well, for to-day, for the first time, I fear poison. Do you hear, Egyptian? Yes, all the poison, as well as the medicine, comes from Egypt."
Boges gave strict orders that nobody—not even the queen-mother or Croesus—was to have access to the hanging gardens, whither he had conducted Nitetis. Cambyses, meanwhile, continued the drinking bout, thinking the while of punishment for the false woman. Bartja could have had no share in her perfidy, or he would have killed him on the spot; but he would send him away. And Nitetis should be handed to Boges, to be made the servant of his concubines and thus to atone for her crimes.
When the king left the hall, Boges, who had slipped out before him, intercepted one of the gardener's boys with a letter for Prince Bartja. The boy refused to hand it over, as Nitetis had instructed him to hand it only to the prince; and on Cambyses' approach the boy fell on his knees, touching the ground with his forehead. Cambyses snatched the papyrus roll from his hand, and stamped furiously on the ground at seeing that the letter was written in Greek, which he could not read. He went to his own apartments, followed by Boges, whom he instructed to keep a strict watch over the Egyptian and the hanging gardens. "If a single human being or a message reach her without my knowledge, your life will be the forfeit."
Boges, pleading a burning fever, begged that Kandaules, the Lydian captain of eunuchs, who was true as gold and inflexibly severe, should relieve him on the morrow. On the king's consent, he begged furthermore that Oropastes, Croesus, and three other nobles should be allowed to witness the opening of the blue lily in the hanging gardens. Kandaules would see that they enter into no communication with the Egyptian.
"Kandaules must keep his eyes open, if he values his own life—go!"
The hunt was over, and Bartja, who had invited his bosom friends, Darius, Gyges, Zopyrus, and Croesus, to drink a parting-cup with him, sat with the first three in the bower of the royal gardens. They talked long of love, of their ambitions, of the influence of stars on human destinies, when Croesus rapidly approached the arbour. When he beheld Bartja, he stood transfixed, then whispered to him, "Unhappy boy, you are still here? Fly for your life! The whip-bearers are close on my heels."
"What do you mean?"
"Fly, I tell you, even if your visit to the hanging gardens was innocently meant. You know Cambyses' violent temper. You know his jealousy of you; and your visit to the Egyptian to-night...."
"My visit? I have never left this garden!"
"Don't add a lie to your offense. Save yourself, quickly."
"I speak the truth, and I shall remain."
"You are infatuated. We saw you in the hanging-gardens not an hour ago."
Bartja appealed to his friends, who confirmed on oath the truth of his assertion; and before Croesus could arrive at a solution of the mystery, the soldiers had arrived, led by an officer who had served under Bartja. He had orders to arrest everybody found in the suspect's company, but at the risk of his life urged Bartja to escape the king's fury. His men would blindly follow his command. But Bartja steadfastly refused. He was innocent, and knew that Cambyses, though hasty, was not unjust.
Two hours later Bartja and his friends stood before the king who had just recovered from an epileptic fit. A few hours earlier he would have killed Bartja with his own hands. Now he was ready to lend an ear to both sides. Boges first related that he was with the Achaemenidae, looking at the blue lily, and called Kandaules to inquire if everything was in order. On being told that Nitetis had not tasted food or drink all day, he sent Kandaules to fetch a physician. It was then that he saw Bartja by the princess's window. She herself came out of the sleep-room. Croesus called to Bartja, and the two figures disappeared behind a cypress. He went to search the house and found Nitetis lying unconscious on a couch. Hystaspes and the other nobles confirmed the eunuch's words, and even Croesus had to admit their substantial truth, but added that they must have been deceived by some remarkable likeness—at which Boges grew pale.
Bartja's friends were equally definite in their evidence for the accused. Cambyses looked first on the one, then on the other party of these strange witnesses. Then Bartja begged permission to speak.
"A son of Cyrus," he said, "would rather die than lie. I confess no judge was ever placed in so perplexing a position. But were the entire Persian nation to rise up against you, and swear that Cambyses had committed an evil deed, and you were to say, 'I did not commit it,' I, Bartja, would give all Persia the lie and exclaim, 'Ye are all false witnesses! A son of Cyrus cannot allow his mouth to deal in lies.' I swear to you that I am innocent. I have not once set foot in the hanging gardens since my return."
Cambyses' looks grew milder on hearing these words, and when Oropastes suggested that an evil spirit must have taken Bartja's form to ruin him, he nodded assent and stretched out his hand towards Bartja. At this moment a staff-bearer came in and gave the king a dagger found by a eunuch under Nitetis' window. Cambyses examined it, dashed the dagger violently to the ground, and shrieked, "This is your dagger! At last you are convicted, you liar! Ah, you are feeling in your girdle! You may well turn pale, your dagger is gone! Seize him, put on his fetters! He shall be strangled to-morrow! Away with you, you perjured villains! They shall all die to-morrow! And the Egyptian—at noon she shall be flogged through the streets. Then I'll——"
But here he was stopped by another fit of epilepsy, and sank down in convulsions.
The fate of the unfortunates was sealed when, afterwards, Cambyses made Croesus read to him Nitetis' Greek letter to Bartja.
"Nitetis, daughter of Amasis of Egypt, to Bartja, son of the great Cyrus.
"I have something important to tell you; I can tell it to no one but yourself. To-morrow I hope to meet you in your mother's rooms. It lies in your power to comfort a sad and loving heart, and to give it one happy moment before death. I repeat that I must see you soon."
Croesus, who tried to intercede on behalf of the condemned, was sentenced to share their fate. In his heart even he was now convinced of Bartja's guilt, and of the perjury of his own son and of Darius.
IV.—The Unexpected Witness
Nitetis had passed many a wretched hour since the great banquet. All day long she was kept in strict seclusion, and in the twilight Boges came to her to tell her jeeringly that her letter had fallen into the king's hand, and that its bearer had been executed. The princess swooned away, and Boges carried her to her sleeping-room, the door of which he barred carefully. When, later, Mandane left her lover Gaumata, the maid hurried into her mistress's room, found her in a faint, and used every remedy to restore her to consciousness.
Then Boges came with two eunuchs, loaded the princess's arms with fetters, and gave vent to his long-nourished spite, telling her of the awful fate that was in store for her. Nitetis resolved to swallow a poisonous ointment for the complexion directly the executioner should draw near her. Then, in spite of her fetters, she managed to write to Cambyses, to assure him once more of her love and to explain her innocence. "I commit this crime against myself, Cambyses, to save you from doing a disgraceful deed."
Meanwhile, Boges, after exciting Phaedime's curiosity by many vague hints, divulged to her the nature of his infamous scheme. When Gaumata had come to Babylon for the New Year's festival, Boges had discovered his remarkable likeness to Bartja. He knew of his love for Mandane, gained his confidence, and arranged the nocturnal meeting under Nitetis' bedroom window. In return he exacted the promise of the lover's immediate departure after the meeting. He helped him to escape through a trap-door. To get Bartja out of the way, he had induced a Greek merchant to dispatch a letter to the prince, asking him, in the name of her he loved best, to come alone in the evening to the first station outside the Euphrates gate. Unfortunately, the messenger managed the matter clumsily, and apparently gave the letter to Gaumata. But to counteract Bartja's proof of innocence, Boges had managed to get hold of his dagger, which was conclusive evidence. And now Nitetis was sentenced to be set astride upon an ass and led through the streets of Babylon. As for Gaumata, three men were lying in wait for him to throw him into the Euphrates before he could get back to Rhagae. Phaedime joined in Boges' laughter, and hung a heavy jewel-studded chain round his neck.
* * * * *
A few hours only were wanted for the time fixed for Nitetis' disgrace, and the streets of Babylon were thronged with a dense crowd of sightseers, when a small caravan approached the Bel gate. In the first carriage was a fine, handsome man of about fifty, of commanding aspect, and dressed as a Persian courtier. With difficulty the driver cleared a passage through the crowd. "Make way for us! The royal post has no time to lose, and I am driving some one who will make you repent every minute's delay." They arrived at the palace, and the stranger's insistence succeeded in gaining admission to the king. The Greek—for such the stranger had declared himself—affirmed that he could prove the condemned men's innocence.
"Call him in!" exclaimed Cambyses. "But if he wants to deceive me, let him remember that where the head of a son of Cyrus is about to fall, a Greek head has but very little chance." The Greek's calm and noble manner impressed Cambyses favourably, and his hostility was entirely overcome when the stranger revealed to him that he was Phanes, the famous commander of the Greek mercenaries in Egypt, and that he had come to offer his service to Cambyses.
Phanes now related how, on approaching Babylon by the royal post, just before midnight, they heard some cries of distress, and found three fierce-looking fellows dragging a youth towards the river; how with his Greek war-cry he had rushed on the murderers, slain one of them, and put the others to flight; and how he discovered—so he thought—the youth to be none other but Bartja, whom he had met at the Egyptian court.
They took him to the nearest station, bled him, and bound up his wounds. When he regained consciousness, he told them his name was Gaumata. Then he was seized by fever, during which he constantly spoke of the hanging gardens and of his Mandane.
"Set the prisoners free, my king. I will answer for it with my own head, that Bartja was not in the hanging gardens."
The king was surprised at this speech, but not angry. Phanes then advised him to send for Oropastes and Mandane, whose examination elicited the full truth. Boges, who was also sent for, had disappeared. Cambyses had all the prisoners set free, gave Phanes his hand to kiss—a rare honour—and, greater honour still, invited him to eat at the king's table. Then he went to the rooms of his mother, who had sent for him.
Nitetis had been carried insensible to the queen-mother's apartments. When she opened her eyes, her head was resting on the blind queen's lap, she felt Atossa's warm kisses on her forehead, and Cambyses was standing by her side. She gazed around, and smiled as she recognised them one by one. She raised herself with difficulty. "How could you believe such a thing of me, my king?" she asked. There was no reproach in her tone, but deep sadness; Cambyses replied, "Forgive me."
Nitetis then gave them the letter she had received from her mother, which would explain all, and begged them not to scorn her poor sister. "When an Egyptian girl once loves, she cannot forget. But I feel so frightened. The end must be near. That horrible man, Boges, read me the fearful sentence, and it was that which forced the poison into my hand."
The physician rushed forward. "I thought so! She has taken a poison which results in certain death. She is lost!"
On hearing this, the king exclaimed in anguish, "She shall live; it is my will! Summon all the physicians in Babylon. Assemble the priests. She is not to die! She must live! I am the king, and I command it!"
Nitetis opened her eyes as if endeavouring to obey her lord. She looked upon her lover, who was pressing his burning lips to her right hand. She murmured, with a smile, "Oh, this great happiness!" Then she closed her eyes and was seized with fever.
* * * * *
All efforts to save Nitetis' life were fruitless. Cambyses fell into the deepest gloom, and wanted action, war, to dispel his sad thoughts. Phanes gave him the pretext. As commander of the Greek mercenaries in Egypt, he had enjoyed Amasis' confidence. He alone, with the high-priest, shared Amasis' secret about the birth of Nitetus, who was not the daughter of Amasis, but of Hophra, his predecessor, whose throne Amasis had usurped. When, owing to the intrigues of Psamtik, Amasis' son, Phanes fell into disgrace and had to fly for his life, his little son was seized and cruelly murdered by his persecutors. Phanes had sworn revenge. He now persuaded Cambyses to wage war upon Egypt, and to claim Amasis' throne as the husband of Hophra's daughter.
The rest is known to all students of history—how Cambyses, with the help of Phanes, defeated Psamtik's host at Pelusium and took possession of the whole Egyptian Empire; how, given more and more to drink and fearful excesses, he set up a rule of untold terror, had his brother Bartja murdered in another fit of jealousy, and finally suffered defeat at the hands of the Ethiopians. They will also know how, on his death, Gaumata, the "pseudo-Smerdis" of the Greeks, was urged by his ambitious brother, Oropastes, to seize the throne by impersonating the dead Bartja; how, finally, the pretender was defeated and had to pay for his attempt with his life; and how Persia rose again to unity and greatness under the rule of the noble Darius, Bartja's faithful kinsman and friend.
* * * * *
Maria Edgeworth was born at Black Bourton, Oxfordshire, England, Jan. 1, 1767, and eleven years later her father removed to Ireland and settled on his own estate at Edgeworthstown. "Belinda," published in 1801, is Maria Edgeworth's one early example of a novel not placed in Irish surroundings, but dealing with fashionable life. Issued just a year after the appearance of her first Irish tale, "Castle Rackrent," it betrays entirely the influence of the novelist's autocratic and eccentric father, Richard Lovell Edgeworth, with whom the daughter had been previously collaborating. No one could be less suited than he to advise about fiction, yet to his daughter his advice was almost the equivalent of a command. The story is interesting as an example of literary workmanship outside of the scenes in which special success had been achieved. Miss Edgeworth died at Edgeworthstown on May 22, 1849.
I.—A Match-Maker's Handicap
Mrs. Stanhope, a well-bred woman, accomplished in the art of rising in the world, had, with but a small fortune, contrived to live in the highest company. She prided herself upon having established half a dozen nieces most happily—that is to say, upon having married them to men of fortunes far superior to their own. One niece still remained unmarried, Belinda Portman, of whom she determined to get rid with all convenient expedition; but finding that, owing to declining health, she could not go out with her as much as she wished, she succeeded in fastening her upon the fashionable Lady Delacour for a winter in London.
"Nothing, to my mind, can be more miserable than the situation of a poor girl who fails in her matrimonial expectations (as many do merely from not beginning to speculate in time)," she wrote from Bath. "She finds herself at five or six-and-thirty a burden to her friends, destitute of the means of rendering herself independent—for the girls I speak of never think of learning to play cards—de trop in society, yet obliged to hang upon all her acquaintances, who wish her in heaven, because she is unqualified to make the expected return for civilities, having no home—I mean no establishment, no house, etc.—fit for the reception of company of certain rank. My dearest Belinda, may this never be your case. I have sent your bracelet to you by Mr. Clarence Hervey, an acquaintance of Lady Delacour, an uncommonly pleasant young man, highly connected, a wit and a gallant, and having a fine independent fortune; so, my dear Belinda, I make it a point—look well when he is introduced to you, and remember that nobody can look well without taking some pains to please."
Belinda had been charmed by Lady Delacour, who was the most agreeable, the most fascinating person she had ever beheld; and to be a visitor at her house was a delightful privilege. But, a short time after her arrival, she began to see through the thin veil with which politeness covers domestic misery. Abroad, Lady Delacour appeared all spirit, life, and good humour; at home, listless, fretful, and melancholy, a prey to thoughts, seemingly, of the most painful nature.
The first time Belinda saw his lordship he was dead drunk in the arms of two footmen; his lady, who had just returned from Ranelagh, passed him on the stairs with the utmost contempt.
"Don't look so shocked and amazed, Belinda. Don't look so new, child. This funeral of my lord's intellects is to me a nightly ceremony; or," said her ladyship, looking at her watch and yawning, "I believe I should say a daily ceremony—six o'clock, I protest!"
The next morning Clarence Hervey called, and Belinda found him a most uncommonly pleasant young man. Lord Delacour was jealous of him; but although he would have started with horror at the idea of disturbing the peace of a family, in that family, he said, there was no peace to disturb. Consequently, he visited her ladyship every day, and every day viewed Belinda with increasing admiration, and with increasing dread of being taken in to marry a niece of that "catch-matchmaker," as Mrs. Stanhope was known amongst the men of his acquaintance.
Under the guise of a tragic muse—in which character Lady Delacour had pretended she was going to a masquerade—Belinda heard his true sentiments with regard to her.
"You don't believe I go to Lady Delacour's to look for a wife? Do you think I'm an idiot? Do you think I could be taken in by one of the Stanhope school?" he said to the facetious friends who rallied him on his attachment. "Do you think I don't see as plainly as any of you that Belinda Portman is a composition of art and affectation?"
"Melpomene, hast thou forgot thyself to warble?" asked Lady Delacour, tripping towards them as the comic muse.
"I am not very well," whispered Miss Portman. "Could we get away?"
"Do see if you can find any of my people!" cried Lady Delacour to Clarence Hervey, who had followed them downstairs.
"Lady Delacour, the comic muse!" exclaimed he. "I had thought——"
"No matter what you thought!" interrupted her ladyship. "Let my carriage draw up, and put this lady into it!" And he obeyed without uttering a syllable.
"Dry up your tears, keep on your mask, and elbow your way through the crowd," she said, when she had heard Belinda's story. "If you stop to be civil and 'hope I don't hurt ye,' you will be trod underfoot."
She insisted on driving to the Pantheon instead of going home, but to Belinda the night seemed long and dull. The masquerade had no charm to keep her thoughts from the conversation that had given her so much pain.
II.—Fashion and Fortitude
"How happy you are, Lady Delacour!" she said, when they got into the carriage to go home. "How happy to have such an amazing flow of spirits!"
And then she learnt the reason of her ladyship's strange unevenness of temper. She was dying of an incurable complaint, which she kept hidden from all the world except her maid, Marriott, who attended on her in a mysterious cabinet full of medicines and linen rags, the door of which she had hitherto kept locked.
"You are shocked, Belinda," said she, "but as yet you have seen nothing. Look here!" And baring one half of her bosom, she revealed a hideous spectacle.
"Am I humbled? Am I wretched enough?" she asked. "No matter. I will die as I have lived, the envy and admiration of the world. Promise—swear to me that you will never reveal what you have seen to-night!" And Belinda promised not only that, but to remain with her as long as ever she wished.
Belinda's quiet avoidance of Clarence Hervey made him begin to believe that she might not be "a compound of art and affectation," and he was mortified to find that, though she joined with ease and dignity in the general conversation with the others, her manner to him was grave and reserved. To divert her, he declared he was convinced he was as well able to manage a hoop as any woman in England, except Lady Delacour; accordingly he was dressed by Marriott, and made his entree with very composed assurance and grace, being introduced as the Countess de Pomenars to the purblind dowager, Lady Boucher, who had come to call. He managed his part well, speaking French and broken English, until Lady Delacour dexterously let down Belinda's beautiful tresses, and, calling the French lady to admire la belle chevelure, artfully let fall her comb.
Totally forgetting his hoop and his character, he stooped to pick it up, and lost his wager by knocking over a music-stand. He would have liked a lock of her hair, but she refused with a modest, graceful dignity; she was glad she had done so later when a tress of hair dropped from his pocket-book, and his confusion showed her he was extremely interested about the person to whom it belonged.
During her absence from the room Clarence entreated Lady Delacour to make his peace with her. She consented on condition that he found her a pair of horses from Tattersall's, on which Belinda, she said, had secretly set her heart. He was vexed to find Belinda had so little delicacy, and relapsed into his former opinion of Mrs. Stanhope's niece, addressing her with the air of a man of gallantry, who thought his peace had been cheaply made.
The horses ran away with Lady Delacour, injuring her ankle, and on her being brought home by Clarence, Lord Delacour wished to enter the locked cabinet for arque-busade. On being denied entrance, he seized the key, believing a lover of hers was concealed there, until Belinda sprang forward and took it from him, leaving them to believe what they would.
This circumstance was afterwards explained by Dr. X——, a mutual friend, and Hervey was so much charmed with Belinda that he would have gone to her at once—only that he had undertaken the reformation of Lady Delacour.
III.—An Unexpected Suitor
In the meantime, after spending a morning in tasting wines, and thinking that, although he had never learned to swim, some recollection he had of an essay on swimming would ensure his safety, he betted his friends a hundred guineas that he would swim to a certain point, and flinging himself into the Serpentine, would have drowned before their eyes but for the help of Mr. Percival. The breach caused by this affair induced Sir Philip Baddely, a gentleman who always supplied "each vacuity of sense" with an oath, to endeavour to cut him out by proposing to Belinda.
"Damme, you're ten times handsomer than the finest woman I ever saw, for, damme, I didn't know what it was to be in love then," he said, heaving an audible sigh. "I'll trouble you for Mrs. Stanhope's direction, Miss Portman; I believe, to do the thing in style, I ought to write to her before I speak to you."
Belinda looked at him in astonishment, and then, finding he was in earnest, assured him it was not in her power to encourage his addresses, although she was fully sensible of the honour he had done her.
"Confusion seize me!" cried he, starting up, "if it isn't the most extraordinary thing I ever heard! Is it to Sir Philip Baddely's fortune—L15,000 a year—you object, or to his family, or to his person? Oh, curse it!" said he, changing his tone, "you're only quizzing me to see how I should look—you do it too well, you little coquette!"
Belinda again assured him she was entirely in earnest, and that she was incapable of the sort of coquetry which he ascribed to her. To punish her for this rejection he spread the report of Hervey's entanglement with a beautiful girl named Virginia, whose picture he had sent to an exhibition. He also roused Lady Delacour's jealousy into the belief that Belinda meant to marry her husband, the viscount, after her death.
In her efforts to bring husband and wife together, Belinda had forgotten that jealousy could exist without love, and a letter from Mrs. Stanhope, exaggerating the scandalous reports in the hope of forcing her niece to marry Sir Philip Baddely, shocked her so much that when Lady Delacour quarrelled with her, she accepted an invitation from Lady Anne Percival, and went there at once.
There she became acquainted with Mr. Percival's ward, Augustus Vincent, a Creole, about two-and-twenty, tall and remarkably handsome, with striking manners and an engaging person, who fixed his favourable attention on her. The Percivals would have wished her to marry him, but she still thought too much of Clarence Hervey to consent, although she believed he had some engagement with the lovely Virginia.
IV.—Explanation and Reconciliation
Quite unexpectedly a summons came from Lady Delacour, and Belinda returned to her at once, to find her so seriously ill that she persuaded her at last to consent to an operation, and inform her husband of the dangerous disease from which she was suffering. He believed from her preamble that she was about to confess her love for another man; he tried to stop her with an emotion and energy he had never shown until now.
"I am not sufficiently master of myself. I once loved you too well to hear such a stroke. Say no more—trust me with no such secret! you have said enough—too much. I forgive you, that is all I can do; but we must part, Lady Delacour!" said he, breaking from her with agony expressed in his countenance.
"The man has a heart, a soul, I protest! You knew him better that I did, Miss Portman. Nay, you are not gone yet, my lord! You really love me, I find."
"No, no, no!" cried he vehemently. "Weak as you take me to be, Lady Delacour, I am incapable of loving a woman who has disgraced me, disgraced herself, her—" His utterance failed.
"Oh, Lady Delacour," cried Belinda, "how can you trifle in this manner?"
"I meant not," said her ladyship, "to trifle; I am satisfied. My lord, I can give you the most irrefragable proof that whatever may have been the apparent levity of my conduct, you have had no serious cause for jealousy. But the proof will shock, disgust you. Have you courage to know more? Then follow me."
He followed her. Belinda heard the boudoir door unlocked. In a few minutes they returned. Grief and horror and pity were painted on Lord Delacour's countenance as he passed hastily out of the room.
"My dearest friend, I have taken your advice; would to heaven I had taken it sooner!" said Lady Delacour. "I have revealed to Lord Delacour my real situation. Poor man, he was shocked beyond expression. The moment his foolish jealousy was extinguished, his love for me revived in full."
Lady Delacour awaited the operation with the utmost fortitude; but, to everyone's joy, it was found there was no necessity for it; she had been deceived by a villainous quack, who knew too well how to make a wound hideous and painful, and had continued her delusion for his own advantage.
Meanwhile, Belinda having permitted Mr. Vincent to address her, he was being given a fair trial whether he could win her love. They had heard reports of Clarence Hervey's speedy marriage with an heiress, Miss Hartley, and found them confirmed by a letter Lady Delacour received from him. Some years ago he had formed the romantic idea of educating a wife for himself, and having found a beautiful, artless girl in the New Forest, he had taken her under his care on the death of her grandmother.
She felt herself bound in honour and gratitude to him when her fortune changed, and she was acknowledged by her father, Mr. Hartley, who had long been searching for her, and who had traced her at last by the picture Clarence Hervey had caused to be exhibited.
With the utmost magnanimity, Hervey, although he saw a successful rival for Belinda's hand in Augustus Vincent, rescued him from ruin at the gaming-table, and induced him to promise never to gamble again.
"I was determined Belinda's husband should be my friend. I have succeeded beyond my hopes," he said.
But Vincent's love of play had decided Belinda at last. She refused him finally in a letter which she confessed she found difficult to write, but which she sent because she had promised she would not hold him in suspense once she had made her decision.
After this Virginia Hartley confessed to her attachment for one Captain Sunderland, and Clarence was free to avow his passion for Belinda.
"And what is Miss Portman to believe," cried one of Belinda's friends, "when she has seen you on the very eve of marriage with another lady?"
"The strongest merit I can plead with such a woman as Miss Portman," he replied, "is that I was ready to sacrifice my own happiness to a sense of duty."
* * * * *
"Castle Rackrent" was published anonymously in 1800. It was not only the first of Miss Edgeworth's novels,—it is in many respects her best work. Later came "The Absentee," "Belinda," "Helen," the "Tales of Fashionable Life," and the "Moral Tales." Sir Walter Scott wrote that reading these stories of Irish peasant life made him feel "that something might be tempted for my own country of the same kind as that which Miss Edgeworth so fortunately achieved for Ireland," something that would procure for his own countrymen "sympathy for their virtues and indulgence for their foibles." As a study of Irish fidelity in the person of Old Thady, the steward who tells the story of "Castle Rackrent," the book is a masterpiece.
I.—Sir Patrick and Sir Murtagh
Having, out of friendship for the family, undertaken to publish the memoirs of the Rackrent family, I think it my duty to say a few words concerning myself first. My real name is Thady Quirk, though in the family I've always been known as "Honest Thady"; afterwards, I remember to hear them calling me "Old Thady," and now I've come to "Poor Thady." To look at me you would hardly think poor Thady was the father of Attorney Quirk; he is a high gentleman, and having better than fifteen hundred a year, landed estate, looks down upon honest Thady. But I wash my hands of his doings, and as I lived so will I die, true and loyal to the family.
I ought to bless that day when Sir Tallyhoo Rackrent lost a fine hunter and his life, all in one day's hunt, for the estate came straight into the family, upon one condition, that Sir Patrick O'Shaughlin (whose driver my grandfather was) should, by Act of Parliament, take the surname and arms of Rackrent.
Now it was the world could see what was in Sir Patrick. He gave the finest entertainments ever was heard of in the country; not a man could stand after supper but Sir Patrick himself. He had his house, from one year's end to another, as full of company as it would hold; and this went on, I can't tell you how long.
But one year, on his birthday, just as the company rose to drink his health, he fell down in a sort of fit, and in the morning it was all over with poor Sir Patrick.
Never did any gentleman die more beloved by rich and poor. All the gentlemen in the three counties came to his funeral; and happy the man who could get but a sight of the hearse!
Just as they were passing through his own town the body was seized for debt! Little gain had the creditors!
First and foremost, they had the curses of the country, and Sir Murtagh, the new heir, refused to pay a shilling on account of the insult to his father's body; in which he was countenanced by all the gentlemen of property of his acquaintance. He did not take at all after the old gentleman. The cellars were never filled, and no open house; even the tenants were sent away without their whiskey. I was ashamed myself, but put it all down to my lady; she was of the family of the Skinflints. I must say, she made the best of wives, being a notable, stirring woman, and looking close to everything. 'Tis surprising how cheap my lady got things done! What with fear of driving for rent, and Sir Murtagh's lawsuits, the tenants were kept in such good order they never came near Castle Rackrent without a present of something or other—nothing too much or too little for my lady. And Sir Murtagh taught 'em all, as he said, the law of landlord and tenant. No man ever loved the law as he did.
Out of the forty-nine suits he had, he never lost one, but seventeen.
Though he and my lady were much of a mind in most things, there was a deal of sparring and jarring between them. In a dispute about an abatement one day, my lady would have the last word, and Sir Murtagh grew mad. I was within hearing—he spoke so loud, all the kitchen was out on the stairs. All on a sudden he stopped, and my lady, too. Sir Murtagh, in his passion, had broken a blood-vessel. My lady sent for five physicians; but Sir Murtagh died. She had a fine jointure settled upon her, and took herself away, to the great joy of the tenantry.
II.—Sir Kit and his Wife
Then the house was all hurry-scurry, preparing for my new master, Sir Murtagh's younger brother, a dashing young officer. He came before I knew where I was, with another spark with him, and horses and dogs, and servants, and harum-scarum called for everything, as if he were in a public-house. I walk slow, and hate a bustle, and if it had not been for my pipe and tobacco, should, I verily believe, have broke my heart for poor Sir Murtagh.
But one morning my new master caught sight of me. "And is that Old Thady?" says he. I loved him from that day to this, his voice was so like the family, and I never saw a finer figure of a man.
A fine life we should have led had he stayed among us, God bless him! But, the sporting season over, he grew tired of the place, and was off in a whirlwind to town. A circular letter came next post from the new agent to say he must remit L500 to the master at Bath within a fortnight—bad news for the poor tenants. Sir Kit Rackrent, my new master, left it all to the agent, and now not a week without a call for money. Rents must be paid to the day, and afore—old tenants turned out, anything for the ready penny.
The agent was always very civil to me, and took a deal of notice of my son Jason, who, though he be my son, was a good scholar from his birth, and a very cute lad. Seeing he was a good clerk, the agent gave him the rent accounts to copy, which he did for nothing at first, being always proud to serve the family.
By-and-by, a good farm fell vacant, and my son put in a proposal for it. Why not? The master, knowing no more of the land than a child unborn, wrote over, leaving it to the agent, and he must send over L200 by return post. So my son's proposal was just the thing, and he a good tenant, and he got a promise of abatement after the first year for advancing the half-year's rent to make up the L200, and my master was satisfied. The agent told us then, as a great secret, that Sir Kit was a little too fond of play.
At last, at Christmas, the agent wrote he could raise no more money, anyhow, and desired to resign the agency. My son, Jason, who had corresponded privately with Sir Kit, was requested to take over the accounts forthwith. His honour also condescended to tell us he was going to be married in a fortnight to the grandest heiress in England, and had immediate occasion for L200 for travelling expenses home to Castle Rackrent, where he intended to be early next month. We soon saw his marriage in the paper, and news came of him and his bride being in Dublin on their way home. We had bonfires all over the country, expecting them all day, and were just thinking of giving them up for the night, when the carriage came thundering up. I got the first sight of the bride, and greatly shocked I was, for she was little better than a blackamoor. "You're kindly welcome, my lady," I says; but neither spoke a word, nor did he so much as hand her up the steps.
I concluded she could not speak English, and was from foreign parts, so I left her to herself, and went down to the servants' hall to learn something about her. Sir Kit's own man told us, at last, that she might well be a great fortune, for she was a Jewess, by all accounts. I had never seen any of that tribe before, and could only gather that she could not abide pork nor sausages, and went neither to church nor mass. "Mercy upon his honour's poor soul," thought I. But when, after this, strange gentleman's servants came and began to talk about the bride, I took care to put the best foot foremost, and passed her for a nabob.
I saw plain enough, next morning, how things were between Sir Kit and his lady, though they went arm-in-arm to look at the building.
"Old Thady, how do you do?" says my master, just as he used to do, but I could see he was not well pleased, and my heart was in my mouth as I walked after them.
There were no balls, no dinners, no doings. Sir Kit's gentleman told me it was all my lady's fault, because she was so obstinate about the cross.
"What cross?" says I. "Is it about her being a heretic?"
"Oh, no such matter," says he. "My master does not mind about her heresies, but her diamond cross. She's thousands of English pounds concealed in her diamonds, which she as good as promised to give to my master before they married; but now she won't part with any of them, and must take the consequences."
One morning, his honour says to me, "Thady, buy me a pig," and that was the first breaking out of my lady's troubles when the sausages were ordered. My lady went down to the kitchen herself, and desired never more to see them on her table. The cook took her part, but the master made it a principle to have the sausages; so, for fear of her place, she gave in, and from that day forward, always sausages or pig-meat in one form or other went up to table; upon which my lady shut herself up in her own room, and my master turned the key in the door, and kept it ever after in his pocket. We none of us saw her, or heard her speak for seven years after; he carried her dinner in himself.
Then his honour had a deal of company, and was as gay and gallant as before he was married. The country, to be sure, talked and wondered, but nobody cared to ask impertinent questions, my master being a famous shot. His character was so well known that he lived in peace and quiet ever after, and was a great favourite with the ladies; so that, when he gave out that my lady was now skin and bone, and could not live through the winter, there were no less than three ladies at daggers drawn, as his gentleman swore, at the balls, for Sir Kit for their partner. I could not but think them bewitched, but it was not known how my lady's fortune was settled, nor how the estate was all mortgaged, and bonds out against him, for he was never cured of his gaming tricks; but that was the only fault he had, God bless him!
Then it was given out, by mistake, that my lady was dead, and the three ladies showed their brothers Sir Kit's letters, and claimed his promises. His honour said he was willing to meet any man who questioned his conduct, and the ladies must settle among themselves who was to be his second, while his first was alive, to his mortification and theirs. He met the first lady's brother, and shot him; next day called out the second, whose wooden leg stuck fast in the ploughed land, so Sir Kit, with great candour, fired over his head, whereupon they shook hands cordially, and went home together to dinner.
To establish his sister's reputation this gentleman went out as Sir Kit's second next day, when he met the last of his adversaries. He had just hit the toothpick out of his enemy's hand, when he received a ball in a vital part, and was brought home speechless in a hand-barrow. We got the key out of his pocket at once, and my son Jason ran to release her ladyship. She would not believe but that it was some new trick till she saw the men bringing Sir Kit up the avenue. There was no life in him, and he was "waked" the same night.
The country was all in an uproar about him, and his murderer would have been hanged surely, but he prudently withdrew to the Continent.
My lady got surprisingly well, and no sooner was it known that Sir Kit was dead than all the country came round in a body, as it were, to set her free. But she had taken an unaccountable prejudice against the country, and was not easy, but when she was packing up to leave us, I considered her quite as a foreigner, and no longer part of the family. Her diamond cross was at the bottom of it all; and it was a shame for her, being his wife, not to have given it up to him when he condescended to ask for it so often, especially when he made it no secret he had married her for her money.
The new heir, Sir Conolly, commonly called Sir Condy, was the most universally beloved man I ever saw or heard of. He was ever my white- headed boy, when he used to live in a small but slated house at the end of the avenue, before he went to college. He had little fortune of his own, and a deal of money was spent on his education. Many of the tenants secretly advanced him cash upon his promising bargains of leases, and lawful interest should he ever come into the estate. So that when he did succeed, he could not command a penny of his first year's income. My son Jason, who was now agent, explained matters to Sir Condy, who, not willing to take his affairs in his own hands, or even to look them in the face, gave my son a bargain of some acres at a reasonable rent to pay him for his many years' service in the family gratis.
There was a hunting-lodge convenient to my son's land that he had his eye upon, but Sir Condy talked of letting it to his friend Captain Moneygawl, with whom he had become very friendly, and whose sister, Miss Isabella, fell over head and ears in love with my master the first time he went there to dinner.
But Sir Condy was at a terrible nonplus, for he had no liking for Miss Isabella. To his mind, little Judy McQuirk, daughter to a sister's son of mine, was worth twenty of her. But her father had locked her in her room and forbidden her to think of him, which raised his spirit; and I could see him growing more and more in the mind to carry Miss Isabella off to Scotland, as she desired. And I had wished her joy, a week after, on her return with my poor master. Lucky for her she had a few thousands of her own, for her father would not give her a farthing. My master and my lady set out in great style, and it was reported that her father had undertaken to pay all Sir Condy's debts; and, of course, all the tradesmen gave him fresh credit, and everything went on smack smooth. I was proud to see Castle Rackrent again in all its glory. She went on as if she had a mint of money; and all Sir Condy asked—God bless him!—was to live in peace and quiet, and have his whiskey punch at night. But my lady's few thousands could not last for ever. Things in a twelve-month or so came to such a pass that there was no going on any longer.
Well, my son Jason put in a word about the lodge, and Sir Condy was fain to take the purchase-money to settle matters, for there were two writs come down against him to the sheriff, who was no friend of his. Then there came a general election, and Sir Condy was called upon by all his friends to stand candidate; they would do all the business, and it should not cost him a penny.
There was open house then at Castle Rackrent, and grand dinners, and all the gentlemen drinking success to Sir Condy till they were carried off. The election day came, and a glorious day it was. I thought I should have died with joy in the street when I saw my poor master chaired, and the crowd following him up and down. But a stranger man in the crowd gets me to introduce him to my son Jason, and little did I guess his meaning. He gets a list of my master's debts from him, and goes round and buys them up, and so got to be sole creditor over all, and must needs have an execution against the master's goods and furniture.
After the election shoals of people came from all parts, claiming to have obliged him with votes, and to remind him of promises he never made. Worst of all, the gentlemen who had managed everything and subscribed by hundreds very genteelly forgot to pay, and it was all left at my master's door. All he could do to content 'em was to take himself off to Dublin, where my lady had taken a house fitting for a member of parliament.
Soon my son Jason said, "Sir Condy must look out for another agent. If my lady had the Bank of Ireland to spend, it would all go in one winter."
I could scarcely believe my own old eyes when I saw my son's name joined in the custodian, that the villain who got the list of debts brought down in the spring; but he said it would make it easier for Sir Condy.
IV.—The Last of the Rackrents
When Sir Condy and his lady came down in June, he was pleased to take me aside to complain of my son and other matters; not one unkind word of my lady, but he wondered that her relations would do nothing for them in their great distress. He did not take anything long to heart; let it be as it might this night, it was all out of his head before he went to bed. Next morning my lady had a letter from her relations, and asked to be allowed to go back to them. He fell back as if he was shot, but after a minute said she had his full consent, for what could she do at Castle Rackrent with an execution coming down? Next morning she set off for Mount Juliet.
Then everything was seized by the gripers, my son Jason, to his shame be it spoken, among them. On the evening Sir Condy had appointed to settle all, when he sees the sight of bills and loads of papers on the table, he says to Jason, "Can't you now just sit down here and give me a clear view of the balance, you know, which is all I need be talking about? Thady, do just step out, and see they are bringing the things for the punch." When I came back Jason was pointing to the balance, a terrible sight for my poor master.
"A—h! Hold your hand!" cries my master. "Where in the wide world am I to find hundreds, let alone thousands?"
"There's but one way," says Jason. "Sure, can't you sell, though at a loss? Sure, you can sell, and I've a purchaser ready for you."
"Have you so?" says Sir Condy. Then, colouring up a good deal, he tells Jason of L500 a year he had settled upon my lady, at which Jason was indeed mad; but, with much ado, agreed to a compromise. "And how much am I going to sell? The lands of O'Shaughlin's town, and the lands of"—just reading to himself—"oh, murder, Jason! Surely you won't put this in—castle, stables, and appurtenances of Castle Rackrent?"
"Oh, murder!" says I. "This is too bad, Jason."
"Why so?" says Jason. "When it's all mine, and a great deal more, all lawfully mine, was I to push for it?"
But I took no heed, for I was grieved and sick at heart for my poor master, and couldn't but speak.
"Here's the punch," says Jason, for the door opened.
So my master starts up in his chair, and Jason uncorks the whiskey. Well, I was in great hopes when I saw him making the punch, and my master taking a glass; but Jason put it back when he saw him going to fill again, saying, "No, Sir Condy; let us settle all before we go deeper into the punch-bowl. You've only to sign," says Jason, putting the pen to him.
"Take all, and be content," said my master. So he signed, and the man who brought the punch witnessed, for I was crying like a child.
So I went out to the street door, and the neighbours' children left their play to come to see what ailed me; and I told them all. When they heard Sir Condy was going to leave Castle Rackrent for good and all, they set up such a whillaluh as brought all their parents round the doors in great anger against Jason. I was frightened, and went back to warn my son. He grew quite pale and asked Sir Condy what he'd best do.
"I'll tell you," says Sir Condy, laughing to see his fright. "Finish your glass first, then let's go to the window, and I'll tell them—or you shall, if you please—that I'm going to the lodge for change of air for my health, and by my own desire, for the rest of my days."
"Do so," says Jason, who never meant it to be so, but could not refuse at such a time.
So the very next day he sets off to the lodge, and I along with him. There was great bemoaning all through the town, which I stayed to witness. He was in his bed, and very low, when I got there, and complained of a great pain about his heart; but I, knowing the nature of him from a boy, took my pipe and began telling him how he was beloved and regretted in the country. And it did him a great deal of good to hear it.
There was a great horn at the lodge that used to belong to the celebrated Sir Patrick, who was reported to have drunk the full of it without stopping to draw breath, which no other man, afore or since, could do.
One night Sir Condy was drinking with the excise-man and the gauger, and wagered that he could do it. Says he, "Your hand is steadier than mine, Old Thady; fill you the horn for me." And so, wishing his honour success, I did. He swallowed it down and dropped like one shot. We put him to bed, and for five days the fever came and went, and came and went. On the sixth he says, knowing me very well, "I'm in a burning pain all withinside of me, Thady." I could not speak. "Brought to this by drink," says he. "Where are all the friends? Gone, hey? Ay, Sir Condy has been a fool all his days," said he, and died. He had but a very poor funeral, after all.
* * * * *
Mary Ann Evans ("George Eliot") was born Nov. 22, 1819, at South Farm, Arbury, Warwickshire, England, where her father was agent on the Newdigate estate. In her youth, she was adept at butter-making and similar rural work, but she found time to master Italian and German. Her first important literary work was the translation of Strauss's "Life of Jesus" in 1844, and shortly after her father's death in 1849 she was writing in the "Westminster Review." It was not until 1856 that George Eliot settled down to the writing of novels. "Scenes from Clerical Life" first appeared serially in "Blackwood's Magazine" during 1857 and 1858; "Adam Bede," the first and most popular of her long stories, in 1859. In May, 1880, eighteen months after the death of her friend George Henry Lewes (see PHILOSOPHY, Vol. XIV), George Eliot married Mr. J. W. Cross. She died on December 22 in the same year. With all her sense of humour there is a note of sadness in George Eliot's novels. She deals with ordinary, everyday people, and describes their joys and sorrows. In "Adam Bede," as in most of her work, the novelist drew from the ample stores of her early life in the Midlands, while the plot is unfolded with singular simplicity, purity, and power.
I.—The Two Brothers
In the roomy workshop of Mr. Jonathan Burge, carpenter and builder, in the village of Hayslope, on the eighteenth of June, 1799, five workmen were busy upon doors and window-frames.
The tallest of the five was a large-boned, muscular man, nearly six feet high. The sleeve rolled up above the elbow showed an arm that was likely to win the prize for feats of strength; yet the long, supple hand, with its broad finger tips, looked ready for works of skill. In his tall stalwartness Adam Bede was a Saxon, and justified his name. The face was large and roughly hewn, and when in repose had no other beauty than such as belongs to an expression of good-humoured, honest intelligence.
It is clear at a glance that the next workman is Adam's brother. He is nearly as tall; he has the same type of features. But Seth's broad shoulders have a slight stoop, and his glance, instead of being keen, is confiding and benignant.
The idle tramps always felt sure they could get a copper from Seth; they scarcely ever spoke to Adam.
At six o'clock the men stopped working, and went out. Seth lingered, and looked wistfully at Adam, as if he expected him to say something.
"Shalt go home before thee go'st to the preaching?" Adam asked.
"Nay, I shan't be home before going for ten. I'll happen see Dinah Morris safe home, if she's willing. There's nobody comes with her from Poyser's, thee know'st."
Adam set off home, and at a quarter to seven Seth was on the village green where the Methodists were preaching. The people drew nearer when Dinah Morris mounted the cart which served as a pulpit. There was a total absence of self-consciousness in her demeanour; she walked to the cart as simply as if she were going to market. There was no keenness in the eyes; they seemed rather to be shedding love than making observations. When Dinah spoke it was with a clear but not loud voice, and her sincere, unpremeditated eloquence held the attention of her audience without interruption.
When the service was over, Seth Bede walked by Dinah's side along the hedgerow path that skirted the pastures and corn-fields which lay between the village and the Hall Farm.
Seth could see an expression of unconscious placid gravity on her face—an expression that is most discouraging to a lover. He was timidly revolving something he wanted to say, and it was only when they were close to the yard-gates of the Hall Farm he had the courage to speak.
"It may happen you'll think me overbold to speak to you again after what you told me o' your thoughts. But it seems to me there's more texts for your marrying than ever you can find against it. St. Paul says, 'Two are better than one,' and that holds good with marriage as well as with other things. For we should be o' one heart and o' one mind, Dinah. I'd never be the husband to make a claim on you as could interfere with your doing the work God has fitted you for. I'd make a shift, and fend indoor and out, to give you more liberty—more than you can have now; for you've got to get your own living now, and I'm strong enough to work for us both."
When Seth had once begun to urge his suit, he went on earnestly and almost hurriedly. His voice trembled at the last sentence.
They had reached one of those narrow passes between two tall stones, which performed the office of a stile in Loamshire. And Dinah paused, and said, in her tender but calm notes, "Seth Bede, I thank you for your love towards me, and if I could think of any man as more than a Christian brother, I think it would be you. But my heart is not free to marry, or to think of making a home for myself in this world. God has called me to speak His word, and He has greatly owned my work."
They said farewell at the yard-gate, for Seth wouldn't enter the farmhouse, choosing rather to turn back along the fields through which he and Dinah had already passed. It was ten o'clock when he reached home, and he heard the sound of tools as he lifted the latch.
"Why, mother," said Seth, "how is it as father's working so late?"
"It's none o' thy feyther as is a-workin'; it's thy brother as does iverything, for there's niver nobody else i' th' way to do nothin'."
Lisbeth Bede was going on, for she was not at all afraid of Seth—who had never in his life spoken a harsh word to his mother—and usually poured into his ears all the querulousness which was repressed by the awe which mingled itself with her idolatrous love of Adam.
But Seth, with an anxious look, had passed into the workshop, and said, "Addy, how's this? What! Father's forgot the coffin?"
"Ay, lad, th' old tale; but I shall get it done," said Adam, looking up. "Why, what's the matter with thee—thee'st in trouble?"
Seth's eyes were red, and there was a look of deep depression on his mild face.
"Yes, Addy, but it's what must be borne, and can't be helped. Let me take my turn now, and do thee go to bed."
"No, lad; I'd rather go on, now I'm in harness. The coffin's promised to be ready at Brox'on by seven o'clock to-morrow morning. I'll call thee up at sunrise, to help me to carry it when it's done. Go and eat thy supper and shut the door, so as I mayn't hear mother's talk."
Adam worked throughout the night, thinking of his childhood and its happy days, and then of the days of sadness that came later when his father began to loiter at public-houses, and Lisbeth began to cry at home. He remembered well the night of shame and anguish when he first saw his father quite wild and foolish.
The two brothers set off in the early sunlight, carrying the long coffin on their shoulders. By six o'clock they had reached Broxton, and were on their way home.
When they were coming across the valley, and had entered the pasture through which the brook ran, Seth said suddenly, beginning to walk faster, "Why, what's that sticking against the willow?"
They both ran forward, and dragged the tall, heavy body out of the water; and then looked with mute awe at the glazed eyes—forgetting everything but that their father lay dead before them.
Adam's mind rushed back over the past in a flood of relenting and pity. Only a few hours ago, and the gray-haired father, of whom he had been thinking with a sort of hardness as certain to live to be a thorn in his side, was perhaps even then struggling with that watery death!
II.—The Hall Farm
It is a very fine old place of red brick, the Hall Farm—once the residence of a country squire, and the Hall.
Plenty of life there, though this is the drowsiest time of the year, just before hay-harvest; and it is the drowsiest time of the day, too, for it is half-past three by Mrs. Poyser's handsome eight-day clock.
Mrs. Poyser, a good-looking woman, not more than eight-and-thirty, of fair complexion and sandy hair, well shaped, light-footed, had just taken up her knitting, and was seated with her niece, Dinah Morris. Another motherless niece, Hetty Sorrel, a distractingly pretty girl of seventeen, was busy in the adjoining dairy.
"You look the image o' your aunt Judith, Dinah, when you sit a-sewing," said Mrs. Poyser. "I allays said that o' Judith, as she'd bear a pound weight any day to save anybody else carrying a ounce. And it made no difference in her, as I could see, when she took to the Methodists; only she talked a bit different, and wore a different sort o' cap. If you'd only come and live i' this country you might get married to some decent man, and there'd be plenty ready to have you, if you'd only leave off that preaching, as is ten times worse than anything your Aunt Judith ever did. And even if you'd marry Seth Bede, as is a poor, wool-gathering Methodist, and's never like to have a penny beforehand, I know your uncle 'ud help you with a pig, and very like a cow, for he's allays been good-natur'd to my kin, for all they're poor, and made 'em welcome to the house; and 'ud do for you, I'll be bound, as much as ever he'd do for Hetty, though she's his own niece."
The arrival of Mr. Irwine, the rector of Hayslope, and Captain Donnithorne, Squire Donnithorne's grandson and heir, interrupted Mrs. Poyser's flow of talk.
"I'll lay my life they're come to speak about your preaching on the Green, Dinah. It's you must answer 'em, for I'm dumb. I've said enough a'ready about your bringing such disgrace upo' your uncle's family. I wouldn't ha' minded if you'd been Mr. Poyser's own niece. Folks must put up wi' their own kin as they put up wi' their own noses; it's their own flesh and blood."
Mr. Irwine, however, was the last man to feel any annoyance at the Methodist preaching, and young Arthur Donnithorne's visit was merely an excuse for exchanging a few words with Hetty Sorrel.
The rector mentioned before he left that Thias Bede had been found drowned in the Willow Brook; and Dinah Morris at once decided that she might be of some comfort to the widow, and set out for the village.
As for Hetty Sorrel, she was thinking more of the looks Captain Donnithorne had cast at her than of Adam and his troubles. Bright, admiring glances from a handsome young gentleman—those were the warm rays that set poor Hetty's heart vibrating.
Hetty was quite used to the thought that people liked to look at her. She was aware that Mr. Craig, the gardener at Squire Donnithorne's, was over head-and-ears in love with her. She knew still better that Adam Bede—tall, upright, clever, brave Adam Bede—who carried such authority with all the people round about, and whom her uncle was always delighted to see of an evening, saying that "Adam knew a fine sight more o' the natur o' things than those as thought themselves his betters"—she knew that this Adam, who was often rather stern to other people, and not much given to run after the lassies, could be made to turn pale or red any day by a word or a look from her. Hetty's sphere of comparison was not large, but she couldn't help perceiving that Adam was "something like" a man; always knew what to say about things; knew, with only looking at it, the value of a chestnut-tree that was blown down, and why the damp came in the walls, and what they must do to stop the rats; and wrote a beautiful hand that you could read, and could do figures in his head—a degree of accomplishment totally unknown among the richest farmers of that country-side.
Hetty was quite certain her uncle wanted her to encourage Adam, and would be pleased for her to marry him. For the last three years—ever since he had superintended the building of the new barn—Adam had always been made welcome at the Hall Farm, and for the last two years at least Hetty had been in the habit of hearing her uncle say, "Adam Bede may be working for a wage now, but he'll be a master-man some day, as sure as I sit in this chair. Master Burge is in the right on't to want him to go partners and marry his daughter, if it's true what they say. The woman as marries him 'ull have a good take, be't Lady Day or Michaelmas," a remark which Mrs. Poyser always followed up with her cordial assent.
"Ah," she would say, "it's all very fine having a ready-made rich man, but may happen he'll be a ready-made fool; and it's no use filling your pocket full of money if you've got a hole in the corner. It'll do you no good to sit in a spring-cart o' your own if you've got a soft to drive you; he'll soon turn you over into the ditch."
But Hetty had never given Adam any steady encouragement. She liked to feel that this strong, keen-eyed man was in her power; but as to marrying Adam, that was a very different affair.
Hetty's dreams were all of luxuries. She thought if Adam had been rich, and could have given the things of her dreams—large, beautiful earrings and Nottingham lace and a carpeted parlour—she loved him well enough to marry him.
The last few weeks a new influence had come over Hetty; she had become aware that Mr. Arthur Donnithorne would take a good deal of trouble for the chance of seeing her. And Dinah Morris was away, preaching and working in a manufacturing town.
III.—Adam's First Love
Adam Bede, like many other men, thought the signs of love for another were signs of love towards himself. The time had come to him that summer, as he helped Hetty pick currants in the orchard of the Hall Farm, that a man can least forget in after-life—the time when he believes that the first woman he has ever loved is, at least, beginning to love him in return.
He was not wrong in thinking that a change had come over Hetty; the anxieties and fears of a first passion with which she was trembling had become stronger than vanity, and while Adam drew near to her she was absorbed in thinking and wondering about Arthur Donnithorne's possible return.
For the first time Hetty felt that there was something soothing to her in Adam's timid yet manly tenderness; she wanted to be treated lovingly. And Arthur was away from home; and, oh, it was very hard to bear the blank of absence. She was not afraid that Adam would tease her with love-making and flattering speeches; he had always been so reserved to her. She could enjoy without any fear the sense that this strong, brave man loved her and was near her. It never entered into her mind that Adam was pitiable, too, that Adam, too, must suffer one day.
It was from Adam that she found out that Captain Donnithorne would be back in a day or two, and this knowledge made her the more kindly disposed towards him. But for all the world Adam would not have spoken of his love to Hetty yet, till this commencing kindness towards him should have grown into unmistakable love. He did no more than pluck a rose for her, and walk back to the farm with her arm in his.
When Adam, after stopping a while to chat with the Poysers, had said good-night, Mr. Poyser remarked, "If you can catch Adam for a husband, Hetty, you'll ride i' your own spring-cart some day, I'll be your warrant."
Her uncle did not see the little toss of the head with which Hetty answered him. To ride in a spring-cart seemed a very miserable lot indeed to her now.
It was on August 18, when Adam, going home from some work he had been doing at one of the farms, passed through a grove of beeches, and saw, at the end of the avenue, about twenty yards before him, two figures. They were standing opposite to each other with clasped hands, and they separated with a start at a sharp bark from Adam Bede's dog. One hurried away through a gate out of the grove; the other, Arthur Donnithorne, looking flushed and excited, sauntered towards Adam. The young squire had been home for some weeks celebrating his twenty-first birthday, and he was leaving on the morrow to rejoin his regiment.
Hitherto there had been a cordial and sincere liking and a mutual esteem between the two young men; but now Adam stood as if petrified, and his amazement turned quickly to fierceness.
Arthur tried to pass the matter off lightly, as if it had been a chance meeting with Hetty; but Adam, who felt that he had been robbed treacherously by the man in whom he had trusted, would not so easily let him off. It came to blows, and Arthur sank under a well-planted blow of Adam's, as a steel rod is broken by an iron bar.
Before they separated, Arthur promised that he would write and tell Hetty there could be no further communication between them. And this promise he kept. Adam rested content with the assurance that nothing but an innocent flirtation had been stopped. As the days went by he found that the calm patience with which he had waited for Hetty's love had forsaken him since that night in the beech-grove. The agitations of jealousy had given a new restlessness to his passion.
Hetty, for her part, after the first misery caused by Arthur's letter, had turned into a mood of dull despair, and sought only for change. Why should she not marry Adam? She did not care what she did so that it made some change in her life.
So, in November, when Mr. Burge offered Adam a share in his business, Adam not only accepted it, but decided that the time had come to ask Hetty to marry him.
Hetty did not speak when Adam got out the question, but his face was very close to hers, and she put up her round cheek against his, like a kitten. She wanted to be caressed—she wanted to feel as if Arthur were with her again.
Adam only said after that, "I may tell your uncle and aunt, mayn't I, Hetty?" And she said "Yes."
The red firelight on the hearth at the Hall Farm shone on joyful faces that evening when Adam took the opportunity of telling Mr. and Mrs. Poyser that he saw his way to maintaining a wife now, and that Hetty had consented to have him.
There was a great deal of discussion before Adam went away about the possibility of his finding a house that would do for him to settle in.
"Well, well," said Mr. Poyser at last, "we needna fix everything to-night. You canna think o' getting married afore Easter. I'm not for long courtships, but there must be a bit o' time to make things comfortable."
This was in November.
Then in February came the full tragedy of Hetty Sorrel's life. She left home, and in a strange village, a child—Arthur Donnithorne's child—was born. Hetty left the baby in a wood, and returned to find it dead. Arrest and trial followed, and only at the last moment was the capital sentence commuted to transportation.
She died a few years later on her way home.
IV.—The Wife of Adam Bede
It was the autumn of 1801, and Dinah Morris was once more at the Hall Farm, only to leave it again for her work in the town. Mrs. Poyser noticed that Dinah, who never used to change colour, flushed when Adam said, "Why, I hoped Dinah was settled among us for life. I thought she'd given up the notion o' going back to her old country."
"Thought! Yes," said Mrs. Poyser; "and so would anybody else ha' thought as had got their right ends up'ards. But I suppose you must be a Methodist to know what a Methodist 'ull do. It's all guessing what the bats are flying after."
"Why, what have we done to you, Dinah, as you must go away from us?" said Mr. Poyser. "It's like breaking your word; for your aunt never had no thought but you'd make this your home."
"Nay, uncle," said Dinah, trying to be quite calm. "When I first came I said it was only for a time, as long as I could be of any comfort to my aunt."
"Well, an' who said you'd ever left off being a comfort to me?" said Mrs. Poyser. "If you didna mean to stay wi' me, you'd better never ha' come. Them as ha' never had a cushion don't miss it."
Dinah set off with Adam, for Lisbeth was ailing and wanted Dinah to sit with her a bit. On the way he reverted to her leaving the Hall Farm. "You know best, Dinah, but if it had been ordered so that you could ha' been my sister, and lived wi' us all our lives, I should ha' counted it the greatest blessing as could happen to us now."
Dinah made no answer, and they walked on in silence, until presently, crossing the stone stile, Adam saw her face, flushed, and with a look of suppressed agitation.
It struck him with surprise, and then he said, "I hope I've not hurt or displeased you by what I've said, Dinah; perhaps I was making too free. I've no wish different from what you see to be best; and I'm satisfied for you to live thirty miles off if you think it right."
Poor Adam! Thus do men blunder.
Lisbeth opened his eyes on the Sunday morning when Adam sat at home and read from his large pictured Bible.
For a long time his mother talked on about Dinah, and about how they were losing her when they might keep her, and Adam at last told her she must make up her mind that she would have to do without Dinah.
"Nay, but I canna ma' up my mind, when she's just cut out for thee; an' nought shall ma' me believe as God didna make her and send her here o' purpose for thee. What's it sinnify about her being a Methody? It 'ud happen wear out on her wi' marryin'."
Adam threw himself back in his chair and looked at his mother. He understood now what her talk had been aiming at, and tried to chase away the notion from her mind.
He was amazed at the way in which this new thought of Dinah's love had taken possession of him with an overmastering power that made all other feelings give way before the impetuous desire to know that the thought was true. He spoke to Seth, who said quite simply that he had long given up all thoughts of Dinah ever being his wife, and would rejoice in his brother's joy. But he could not tell whether Dinah was for marrying.
"Thee might'st ask her," Seth said presently. "She took no offence at me for asking, and thee'st more right than I had."
When Adam did ask, Dinah answered that her heart was strongly drawn towards him, but that she must wait for divine guidance. So she left the Hall Farm and went back to the town, and Adam waited,—and then went after her to get his answer.
"Adam," she said when they had met and walked some distance together, "it is the divine will. My soul is so knit to yours that it is but a divided life I live without you. And this moment, now you are with me, and I feel that our hearts are filled with the same love, I have a fullness of strength to bear and do our Heavenly Father's will that I had lost before."
Adam paused and looked into her sincere eyes.
"Then we'll never part any more, Dinah, till death parts us."
And they kissed each other with deep joy.
* * * * *
Felix Holt, the Radical
"Felix Holt, the Radical," was published in 1866. It has never been one of George Eliot's very popular books. There is less in it of her own life and experience than in most of her novels, less of the homely wit of agricultural England. The real value of the book is the picture it gives of the social and political life, and for this reason, it will always be read by those who want to know what English political methods and customs were like at the time of the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832. The character of Mr. Rufus Lyon, the independent minister, is an admirable study of the non-conformist of that period. Esther's renunciation of a brilliant fortune for a humbler lot with the man she loved and admired, was quite in accord with the teaching George Eliot inculcated all her life. The scene of the story is laid in the Midlands, and the action, covering about nine months, begins in 1832.
I.—The Minister's Daughter
The Rev. Rufus Lyon, Minister of the Independent Chapel, in the old-fashioned market town of Treby Magna, in the County of Loumshire, lived in a small house, adjoining the entry which led to the Chapel Yard.
He sat this morning, as usual, in a low upstairs room, called his study, which served also as a sleeping-room, and from time to time got up to walk about between the piles of old books which lay around him on the floor. His face looked old and worn, yet the curtain of hair that fell from his bald crown and hung about his neck retained much of its original auburn tint, and his large, brown short-sighted eyes were still clear and bright. At the first glance, everyone thought him a very odd-looking, rusty old man, and the free-school boys often hooted after him, and called him "Revelations." But he was too short-sighted and too absent from the world of small facts and petty impulses to notice those who tittered at him.
He was meditating on the text for his Sunday morning sermon, when old Lyddy, the minister's servant, opened the door to tell him that Mrs. Holt was wanting to see him. "She says she comes out of season, but she's in trouble."
The minister bade her send Mistress Holt up, and a tall elderly woman dressed in black entered.
Mrs. Holt, Mr. Lyon said to himself, is a woman who darkens counsel by words without knowledge, and angers the reason of the natural man; and he prayed for patience while his visitor rambled on concerning her late husband and her son Felix.
The minister made out that Felix objected to the sale of his father's quack medicines, Holt's Elixir and Cancer Cure, and wanted Mr. Lyon to talk to him.
"For after we'd been to chapel, he spoke better of you than he does of most: he said you was a fine old fellow, and an old-fashioned Puritan— he uses dreadful language, Mr. Lyon; but I saw he didn't mean you ill, for all that; he calls most folks' religion rottenness."
Mrs. Holt departed, and in the evening, when Mr. Lyon was in the sitting-room, Felix Holt knocked at the door.
The minister, accustomed to the respectable air of provincial townsmen, felt a slight shock, when his spectacles made clear to him the shaggy- headed, large-eyed, strong-limbed person of this questionable young man, without waistcoat or cravat.
Felix spoke loudly and brusquely when the minister mentioned the subject of Mrs. Holt's visit.
"As to those absurd medicines and gulling advertisements that my mother has been talking of to you, I've no more doubt about them than I have about pocket-picking. If I allowed the sale of those medicines to go on, and my mother to live out of the proceeds when I can keep her by the honest labour of hands, I've not the least doubt that I should be a rascal."
"I would fain inquire more particularly into your objection to these medicines," said Mr. Lyon gravely.
"My father was ignorant," said Felix, bluntly. "I know something about these things. I was 'prentice for five miserable years to a stupid brute of a country apothecary—my poor father left money for that—he thought nothing could be finer for me. No matter: I know that the Cathartic Pills may be as bad as poison to half the people who swallow them, and that the cancer cure might as well be bottled ditch-water. I can keep my mother, as well, nay, better, than she keeps herself. With my watch and clock cleaning, and teaching one or two little chaps that I've got to come to me, I can earn enough."
Mr. Lyon's suggestion that some situation might be obtained as clerk or assistant was brushed aside.
"Why should I want to get into the middle class because I have some learning? The most of the middle class are as ignorant as the working people about everything that doesn't belong to their own Brummagem life."
The entrance of Lyddy with the tea tray disturbed the conversation, but the minister, interested in his visitor, asked Felix to stay for a dish of tea, and Felix accepted.
"My daughter, who has been detained in giving a lesson in the French tongue, has doubtless returned now," said the minister. On the entrance of the young lady, Felix was conscious she was not the sort of person he had expected the minister's daughter to be, and the incongruity repelled him. There were things about her, her walk, the long neck and high crown of shining brown hair, that suggested a fine lady to him. A fine lady was always a sort of spun glass affair; but a fine lady as the daughter of this rusty old Puritan was especially offensive.
The discovery that Miss Lyon read Byron set Felix off on a tirade against the poet, and his works, and throughout the meal no agreement on any topic seemed possible between Esther and the guest.
Felix noted that Mr. Lyon was devoted to his daughter and stood in some fear of her.
"That is a singular young man, Esther," said the minister, when Felix had gone. "I discern in him a love for whatever things are honest and true, and I feel a great enlargement in his presence."
"I think he is very coarse and rude," said Esther, with a touch of temper. "But he speaks better English than most of our visitors. What is his occupation?"
"Watch and clock making, my dear."
Esther was disappointed, she thought he was something higher than that.
Felix on his side wondered how the queer old minister had a daughter so little in his own likeness. He decided that nothing should make him marry.
II.—The Election Riot
The return of Mr. Harold Transome, to Transome Court, after fifteen years' absence, and his adoption as Radical Candidate for the county created no little stir and excitement in Treby. It also assisted the growing intimacy between Mr. Lyon and Felix Holt, for though neither possessed votes in that memorable year 1832, they shared the same liberal sympathies. Perhaps the most delightful friendships are those in which there is much agreement, much disputation, and yet more personal liking; and the advent of the public-spirited, contradictory, yet affectionate Felix, into Treby life had made a welcome epoch to the minister.
Esther had not seen so much of their new acquaintance as her father had. But she had begun to find him amusing, though he always opposed and criticised her, and looked at her as if he never saw a single detail about her person. It seemed to Esther that he thought slightly of her. "But, rude and queer as he is, I cannot say there is anything vulgar about him," she said to herself.
One Sunday afternoon Felix Holt rapped at the door of Mr. Lyon's house, although he could hear the voice of the minister in the chapel.
Esther was in the kitchen alone, reading a French romance, and she opened the door and invited him in.
He scoffed at her book, and as the talk went on, upbraided her for her vanity. Finally he told her that he wanted her to change. "Of course, I am a brute to say so," he added. "I ought to say you are perfect. Another man would, perhaps; I can't bear to see you going the way of the foolish women who spoil men's lives."
Mortification and anger filled Esther's mind, and when Felix got up to say he was going, she returned his "good-bye" without even looking at him.
Only, when the door closed she burst into tears. She revolted against his assumption of superiority.... Did he love her one little bit, and was that the reason why he wanted her to change? But Esther was quite sure she could never love anyone who was so much of a pedagogue and a master.
Yet, a few weeks later, and Esther accepted willingly when Felix proposed a walk for the first time together. That same afternoon he told her that she was very beautiful, and that he would never be rich: he intended going away to some manufacturing town to lead the people to better things and this meant a life of poverty.
Something Esther said made Felix ask suddenly, "Can you imagine yourself choosing hardship as the better lot?"
"Yes, I can," she answered, flushing over neck and brow. They walked home very silently after that. Felix struggling as a firm man struggles with a temptation, Esther struggling as a woman struggles with the yearning for some expression of love.
On the day of the election a mob of miners, primed with liquor by an unscrupulous agent of Transome's, came into the town to hoot the Tory voters; and as the disturbance increased, Felix knowing that Mr. Lyon was away preaching went round to the minister's house to reassure Esther.
"I am so thankful to see you," she said eagerly. He mentioned that the magistrates and constables were coming and that the town would be quieter. His only fear was that drinking might inflame the mob again.
Again Felix told her of his renunciation of the ordinary hopes and ambitions of men, and at the same time tried to prove that he thought very highly of her. He wanted her to know that her love was dear to him, and he felt that they must not marry—to do so would be to ruin each other's lives.
When Felix went out into the streets in the afternoon, the crowd was larger and more mischievous. The constables were quite unable to cope with the mob, the polling booth was closed for the day, and the magistrates had sent to the neighbouring town of Duffield for the military.
There were proofs that the predominant will of the crowd was in favour of Transome for several shops were attacked and they were all of them "Tory shops."
Felix was soon hotly occupied trying to save a wretched publican named Spratt from the fury of the crowd. The man had been dragged out into the streets, and Felix had got as near him as he could when a young constable armed with a sabre rushed upon him. It was a choice of two evils, and quick as lightning Felix frustrated him, the constable fell undermost and Felix got his weapon. Tucker did not rise immediately, but Felix did not imagine that he was much hurt, and bidding the crowd follow him tried to lead them away from the town. He hoped that the soldiers would soon arrive, and felt confident that there would be no resistance to a military force.
Suddenly a cry was raised, "Let us go to Treby Manor," the residence of Sir Maximus Debarry, whose son was the Tory candidate.
From that moment Felix was powerless, and was carried along with the rush. All he could hope to do was to get to the front terrace of the house, and assure the inmates that the soldiers would arrive quickly. Just as he approached a large window he heard the horses of the troopers, and then came the words, "Halt! Fire!" Before he had time to move a bullet whizzed, and passed through Felix Holt's shoulder—the shoulder of the arm that bore the sabre.
Felix fell. The rioters ran confusedly, like terrified sheep.
It was a weary night for Felix, and the next day his wound was declared trivial, and he was lodged in Loumford Jail. There were three charges against him; that he had assaulted a constable, that he had committed manslaughter (Tucker was dead from spinal concussion), and that he had led a riotous onslaught on a dwelling house.
Four other men were arrested, one for theft, and three others for riot and assault.
A great change took place in the fortunes of Esther in the interval between the riot and the opening of the assizes. It was found that she, and not Harold Transome, was the rightful owner of the Transome estates. For Esther's real name was Bycliffe and not Lyon, and she was the step-daughter only of the minister. Mr. Lyon had found Esther's mother, a French woman of great beauty, in destitution—her husband, an Englishman, lying in some unknown prison. This Englishman was a Bycliffe—and heir to the Transome property, and on the proof of his death Mr. Lyon, knowing nothing of Bycliffe's family, married his widow, who, however, died while Esther was still a tiny child. Not till the time of the election did Esther learn that her real father was dead.
Mr. Transome's lawyer—Jermyn—was fully aware of the claim of the Bycliffes, but knew they were powerless without money to enforce the claim, and that Esther and her step-father alike were ignorant of all the facts. It was only when Harold Transome, on his return, quarrelled with Jermyn on the management of the estates, and, after the Election (which Transome lost) threatened him with a law-suit, that Jermyn turned round and told Harold the truth. At the same time, another lawyer, formerly in Jermyn's confidence, thought the more profitable course could be found in throwing Jermyn over, and wrote to Esther informing her of her inheritance.
Harold Transome decided to act openly. With his mother, he drove to the minister's house and Mrs. Transome persuaded Esther to come and stay at Transome Court. Both mother and son found Esther to their liking, and it appeared to Harold that marriage with Esther would be a happy conclusion to the divided claim to the property. He was rich, and the Transome (or Bycliffe) property was heavily encumbered.
The Transomes, Esther and Mr. Lyon all agreed that no law-suit over the property should take place.
But while Esther stayed at Transome Court she never forgot her friend in prison. Mr. Lyon had visited Felix, and Esther herself obtained an interview with him just before the assizes began.
She had grown conscious that Harold Transome was making love to her, that Mrs. Transome really desired her for a daughter-in-law, and it seemed to her as she waited with the minister in the cheerless prison room, that she stood at the first and last parting of the ways.
Soon the door opened, and Felix Holt entered.
"Miss Lyon—Esther!" and her hand was in his grasp. He was just the same—no, something inexpressibly better, because of the distance and separation, which made him like the return of morning.
"Take no heed of me, children," said Mr. Lyon. "I have some notes to make." And the old man sat down at a window with his back to them, writing with his head bent close to the paper.
Felix had heard of Esther's change of fortune and felt sure she would marry Harold Transome. It was only when the time for parting came that he could bring himself to say:
"I had a horrible struggle, Esther. But you see I was right. There was a fitting lot in reserve for you." Esther felt too miserable for tears to come. She looked helplessly at Felix for a moment, then took her hands from his, and turning away mutely, said, "Father, I am ready—there is no more to say."