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Chapter 18
"Oh, sir, the loftiest hopes on earth
Draw lots with meaner hopes: heroic breasts,
Breathing bad air, ran risk of pestilence;
Or, lacking lime-juice when they cross the Line,
May languish with the scurvy."
Some weeks passed after this conversation before the question of the chaplaincy
gathered any practical import for Lydgate, and without telling himself the reason,
he deferred the predetermination on which side he should give his vote. It would
really have been a matter of total indifference to him--that is to say, he would
have taken the more convenient side, and given his vote for the appointment of
Tyke without any hesitation--if he had not cared personally for Mr. Farebrother.
But his liking for the Vicar of St. Botolph's grew with growing acquaintanceship.
That, entering into Lydgate's position as a new-comer who had his own
professional objects to secure, Mr. Farebrother should have taken pains rather to
warn off than to obtain his interest, showed an unusual delicacy and generosity,
which Lydgate's nature was keenly alive to. It went along with other points of
conduct in Mr. Fare brother which were exceptionally fine, and made his
character resemble those southern landscapes which seem divided between
natural grandeur and social slovenliness. Very few men could have been as filial
and chivalrous as he was to the mother, aunt, and sister, whose dependence on
him had in many ways shaped his life rather uneasily for himself; few men who
feel the pressure of small needs are so nobly resolute not to dress up their
inevitably self-interested desires in a pretext of better motives. In these matters
he was conscious that his life would bear the closest scrutiny; and perhaps the
consciousness encouraged a little defiance towards the critical strictness of
persons whose celestial intimacies seemed not to improve their domestic
manners, and whose lofty aims were not needed to account for their actions.
Then, his preaching was ingenious and pithy, like the preaching of the English
Church in its robust age, and his sermons were delivered without book. People
outside his parish went to hear him; and, since to fill the church was always the
most difficult part of a clergyman's function, here was another ground for a
careless sense of superiority. Besides, he was a likable man: sweet-tempered,
ready-witted, frank, without grins of suppressed bitterness or other
conversational flavors which make half of us an affliction to our friends. Lydgate
liked him heartily, and wished for his friendship.
With this feeling uppermost, he continued to waive the question of the
chaplaincy, and to persuade himself that it was not only no proper business of
his, but likely enough never to vex him with a demand for his vote. Lydgate, at
Mr. Bulstrode's request, was laying down plans for the internal arrangements of
the new hospital, and the two were often in consultation. The banker was always
presupposing that he could count in general on Lydgate as a coadjutor, but made
no special recurrence to the coming decision between Tyke and Farebrother.
When the General Board of the Infirmary had met, however, and Lydgate had
notice that the question of the chaplaincy was thrown on a council of the directors