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Middlemarch

Chapter 35
"Non, je ne comprends pas de plus charmant plaisir
Que de voir d'heritiers une troupe affligee
Le maintien interdit, et la mine allongee,
Lire un long testament ou pales, etonnes
On leur laisse un bonsoir avec un pied de nez.
Pour voir au naturel leur tristesse profonde
Je reviendrais, je crois, expres de l'autre monde."
--REGNARD: Le Legataire Universel.
When the animals entered the Ark in pairs, one may imagine that allied species
made much private remark on each other, and were tempted to think that so
many forms feeding on the same store of fodder were eminently superfluous, as
tending to diminish the rations. (I fear the part played by the vultures on that
occasion would be too painful for art to represent, those birds being
disadvantageously naked about the gullet, and apparently without rites and
ceremonies.)
The same sort of temptation befell the Christian Carnivora who formed Peter
Featherstone's funeral procession; most of them having their minds bent on a
limited store which each would have liked to get the most of. The long-
recognized blood-relations and connections by marriage made already a goodly
number, which, multiplied by possibilities, presented a fine range for jealous
conjecture and pathetic hopefulness. Jealousy of the Vincys had created a
fellowship in hostility among all persons of the Featherstone blood, so that in the
absence of any decided indication that one of themselves was to have more than
the rest, the dread lest that long-legged Fred Vincy should have the land was
necessarily dominant, though it left abundant feeling and leisure for vaguer
jealousies, such as were entertained towards Mary Garth. Solomon found time to
reflect that Jonah was undeserving, and Jonah to abuse Solomon as greedy;
Jane, the elder sister, held that Martha's children ought not to expect so much as
the young Waules; and Martha, more lax on the subject of primogeniture, was
sorry to think that Jane was so "having." These nearest of kin were naturally
impressed with the unreasonableness of expectations in cousins and second
cousins, and used their arithmetic in reckoning the large sums that small legacies
might mount to, if there were too many of them. Two cousins were present to
hear the will, and a second cousin besides Mr. Trumbull. This second cousin was
a Middlemarch mercer of polite manners and superfluous aspirates. The two
cousins were elderly men from Brassing, one of them conscious of claims on the
score of inconvenient expense sustained by him in presents of oysters and other
eatables to his rich cousin Peter; the other entirely saturnine, leaning his hands
and chin on a stick, and conscious of claims based on no narrow performance
but on merit generally: both blameless citizens of Brassing, who wished that
Jonah Featherstone did not live there. The wit of a family is usually best received
among strangers.
 
 
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