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Middlemarch

Chapter 9
1st Gent. An ancient land in ancient oracles
Is called "law-thirsty": all the struggle there
Was after order and a perfect rule.
Pray, where lie such lands now? . . .
2nd Gent. Why, where they lay of old--in human souls.
Mr. Casaubon's behavior about settlements was highly satisfactory to Mr.
Brooke, and the preliminaries of marriage rolled smoothly along, shortening the
weeks of courtship. The betrothed bride must see her future home, and dictate
any changes that she would like to have made there. A woman dictates before
marriage in order that she may have an appetite for submission afterwards. And
certainly, the mistakes that we male and female mortals make when we have our
own way might fairly raise some wonder that we are so fond of it.
On a gray but dry November morning Dorothea drove to Lowick in company with
her uncle and Celia. Mr. Casaubon's home was the manor-house. Close by,
visible from some parts of the garden, was the little church, with the old
parsonage opposite. In the beginning of his career, Mr. Casaubon had only held
the living, but the death of his brother had put him in possession of the manor
also. It had a small park, with a fine old oak here and there, and an avenue of
limes towards the southwest front, with a sunk fence between park and pleasure-
ground, so that from the drawing-room windows the glance swept uninterruptedly
along a slope of greensward till the limes ended in a level of corn and pastures,
which often seemed to melt into a lake under the setting sun. This was the happy
side of the house, for the south and east looked rather melancholy even under
the brightest morning. The grounds here were more confined, the flower-beds
showed no very careful tendance, and large clumps of trees, chiefly of sombre
yews, had risen high, not ten yards from the windows. The building, of greenish
stone, was in the old English style, not ugly, but small-windowed and
melancholy-looking: the sort of house that must have children, many flowers,
open windows, and little vistas of bright things, to make it seem a joyous home.
In this latter end of autumn, with a sparse remnant of yellow leaves falling slowly
athwart the dark evergreens in a stillness without sunshine, the house too had an
air of autumnal decline, and Mr. Casaubon, when he presented himself, had no
bloom that could be thrown into relief by that background.
"Oh dear!" Celia said to herself, "I am sure Freshitt Hall would have been
pleasanter than this." She thought of the white freestone, the pillared portico, and
the terrace full of flowers, Sir James smiling above them like a prince issuing
from his enchantment in a rose-bush, with a handkerchief swiftly metamorphosed
from the most delicately odorous petals--Sir James, who talked so agreeably,
always about things which had common-sense in them, and not about learning!
Celia had those light young feminine tastes which grave and weatherworn
gentlemen sometimes prefer in a wife; but happily Mr. Casaubon's bias had been
different, for he would have had no chance with Celia.
 
 
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