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Chapter 33
--2 Henry VI.
That night after twelve o'clock Mary Garth relieved the watch in Mr.
Featherstone's room, and sat there alone through the small hours. She often
chose this task, in which she found some pleasure, notwithstanding the old man's
testiness whenever he demanded her attentions. There were intervals in which
she could sit perfectly still, enjoying the outer stillness and the subdued light. The
red fire with its gently audible movement seemed like a solemn existence calmly
independent of the petty passions, the imbecile desires, the straining after
worthless uncertainties, which were daily moving her contempt. Mary was fond of
her own thoughts, and could amuse herself well sitting in twilight with her hands
in her lap; for, having early had strong reason to believe that things were not
likely to be arranged for her peculiar satisfaction, she wasted no time in
astonishment and annoyance at that fact. And she had already come to take life
very much as a comedy in which she had a proud, nay, a generous resolution not
to act the mean or treacherous part. Mary might have become cynical if she had
not had parents whom she honored, and a well of affectionate gratitude within
her, which was all the fuller because she had learned to make no unreasonable
She sat to-night revolving, as she was wont, the scenes of the day, her lips often
curling with amusement at the oddities to which her fancy added fresh drollery:
people were so ridiculous with their illusions, carrying their fool's caps unawares,
thinking their own lies opaque while everybody else's were transparent, making
themselves exceptions to everything, as if when all the world looked yellow under
a lamp they alone were rosy. Yet there were some illusions under Mary's eyes
which were not quite comic to her. She was secretly convinced, though she had
no other grounds than her close observation of old Featherstone's nature, that in
spite of his fondness for having the Vincys about him, they were as likely to be
disappointed as any of the relations whom he kept at a distance. She had a good
deal of disdain for Mrs. Vincy's evident alarm lest she and Fred should be alone
together, but it did not hinder her from thinking anxiously of the way in which Fred
would be affected, if it should turn out that his uncle had left him as poor as ever.
She could make a butt of Fred when he was present, but she did not enjoy his
follies when he was absent.
Yet she liked her thoughts: a vigorous young mind not overbalanced by passion,
finds a good in making acquaintance with life, and watches its own powers with
interest. Mary had plenty of merriment within.
Her thought was not veined by any solemnity or pathos about the old man on the
bed: such sentiments are easier to affect than to feel about an aged creature
whose life is not visibly anything but a remnant of vices. She had always seen
the most disagreeable side of Mr. Featherstone. he was not proud of her, and
she was only useful to him. To be anxious about a soul that is always snapping