Stage 3 (Journeyman): Middlemarch, chapter 2

Chapter 2: Getting married

Most of the neighbors at Middlemarch disapproved of Dorothea’s choice. They all whispered:

‘She is too young to know what she likes. Her guardian ought to interfere”

Mr.Brooke listened to these banal(1) gossips, but was too tolerant to interfere. Besides, Dorothea was a very headstrong girl – she had decided, and was most likely to stand by her decision, no matter what. In order to make herself more useful to her future husband, she had begun studying Greek. Mr.Casaubon was very patient and taught her for an hour every day, to the surprise of Mr.Brooke.

‘Well, but now, Casaubon, such deep studies, classics, mathematics, that kind of thing, are too taxing(2) for a woman—too taxing, you know.’ he would say.

Mr.Casaubon always evaded(3) the question, and instead would reply simply: ‘She wishes to help me and I appreciate it. I think she is a competent(4) woman.’

Not long after, Mr.Casaubon invited Dorothea to his house, which was soon to be hers. She examined the place with the utmost delight. Dorothea loved the way it exuded(5) a special kind of genteel(6), academic charm. After she had looked at the library, the dining hall and most of the indoor chambers, Dorothea and Mr.Casaubon walked hand in hand in his beautiful garden. Mr.Brooke followed not far behind.

‘And you would like to see the church, you know,’ said Mr. Brooke. ‘It is a droll(7) little church. And the village. It all lies in a nut-shell. By the way, it will suit you, Dorothea; for the cottages are like a row of almshouses(8)—little gardens, gilly-flowers(9), that sort of thing.’

‘Yes, please,’ said Dorothea, looking at Mr. Casaubon,‘I should like to see all that.’

And so they went to the village. Dorothea was charmed – it was so tranquil and relaxing. She had a nice talk with the curate(10), Mr.Tucker. Everybody, he assured her, was well off in Lowick: not a cottager in those double cottages at a low rent but kept a pig, and the strips of garden at the back were well tended.The small boys wore excellent corduroy(11), the girls went out as tidy servants, or did a little straw-plaiting at home. This set Dorothea’s heart at ease, though she was a bit disappointed that since everyone was well off and did not need any help, there was not much for her to do by way of charity.

‘You seem a little sad, Dorothea. I trust you are pleased with what you have seen.’ Mr.Casaubon asked,

‘I am feeling something which is perhaps foolish and wrong,’ answered Dorothea, with her usual openness—‘almost wishing that the people wanted more to be done for them here. I have known so few ways of making my life good for anything. Of course, my notions of usefulness must be narrow. I must learn new ways of helping people.’

‘That is well. Now, if you are not tired, we will take another way to the house than that by which we came.’

The reason behind Mr.Casaubon’s proposal was this: he wanted to show Dorothea the hundred-year-old yew tree, a family relic(12) which had stood in the Casaubon grounds for generations. It was grand and magnificently beautiful, a sort of beauty which touched Dorothea profoundly. What surprised Dorothea however, was not the tree itself, but the crouching figure that lay languidly(13) next to it. It was the outline of a man, an almost picturesque man, with his head bent over a sketchbook, one hand absent-mindedly stroking his mane of auburn(14) hair. He looked hardly older than Dorothea herself.

‘Dorothea, let me introduce to you my cousin, Mr.Ladislaw. Will, this is Miss Brooke.’said Mr.Casaubon.

Ladislaw stopped sketching and looked at Dorothea long and hard. However, he did not smile or even say a friendly word by way of greeting.

‘You are an artist, I see,’ said Mr. Brooke, taking up the sketch-book and turning it over in his unceremonious fashion.

‘No, I only sketch a little. There is nothing fit to be seen there,’ said young Ladislaw, coloring and turning away.

‘Well, good day to you sir.’ said Mr.Casaubon, and they all walked away, leaving young Ladislaw alone with his musings and his sketchbook.

‘That is very kind of you,’ said Dorothea, looking up at Mr. Casaubon with delight. ‘It is noble. After all, people may really have in them some vocation which is not quite plain to themselves, may they not?

Mr.Casaubon smiled: ‘Yes,certainly. Certainly,dear.’

So ended Dorothea’s first day at her future husband’s home. A week later, they got married quietly and head off for their honeymoon in Rome.


+ GLOSSARY

  1. banal(adj): dull or stale; commonplace; trite; lacking originality
  2. taxing(adj): physically or mentally demanding
  3. evade (v): avoid
  4. competent(adj): capable; qualified
  5. exude(v): to give off; to emit; to radiate
  6. genteel(adj): refined; polite; aristocratic; affecting refinement
  7. droll(Adj): amusing in a wry, subtle way
    Amusingly odd
  8. almshouse(n): a home for the poor, supported by charity or public funds
  9. gilly-flower(n): Any of several plants having fragrant flowers, especially the carnation, stock, or wallflower.
  10. curate (n): a member of the clergy engaged as assistant to a vicar, rector, or parish priest.
  11. corduroy (n): A durable cut-pile fabric, usually made of cotton, with vertical ribs
  12. relic (n): a custom or object that has been around for a very, very long time
  13. languidly (adv): Lacking energy or vitality; weakly
  14. auburn (Adj): Reddish-brown, said usually of the hair.

 

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