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Chapter 34
1st Gent. Such men as this are feathers, chips, and straws.
Carry no weight, no force.
2d Gent. But levity
Is causal too, and makes the sum of weight.
For power finds its place in lack of power;
Advance is cession, and the driven ship
May run aground because the helmsman's thought
Lacked force to balance opposites."
It was on a morning of May that Peter Featherstone was buried. In the prosaic
neighborhood of Middlemarch, May was not always warm and sunny, and on this
particular morning a chill wind was blowing the blossoms from the surrounding
gardens on to the green mounds of Lowick churchyard. Swiftly moving clouds
only now and then allowed a gleam to light up any object, whether ugly or
beautiful, that happened to stand within its golden shower. In the churchyard the
objects were remarkably various, for there was a little country crowd waiting to
see the funeral. The news had spread that it was to be a "big burying;" the old
gentleman had left written directions about everything and meant to have a
funeral "beyond his betters." This was true; for old Featherstone had not been a
Harpagon whose passions had all been devoured by the ever-lean and ever-
hungry passion of saving, and who would drive a bargain with his undertaker
beforehand. He loved money, but he also loved to spend it in gratifying his
peculiar tastes, and perhaps he loved it best of all as a means of making others
feel his power more or less uncomfortably. If any one will here contend that there
must have been traits of goodness in old Featherstone, I will not presume to
deny this; but I must observe that goodness is of a modest nature, easily
discouraged, and when much privacy, elbowed in early life by unabashed vices,
is apt to retire into extreme privacy, so that it is more easily believed in by those
who construct a selfish old gentleman theoretically, than by those who form the
narrower judgments based on his personal acquaintance. In any case, he had
been bent on having a handsome funeral, and on having persons "bid" to it who
would rather have stayed at home. He had even desired that female relatives
should follow him to the grave, and poor sister Martha had taken a difficult
journey for this purpose from the Chalky Flats. She and Jane would have been
altogether cheered (in a tearful manner) by this sign that a brother who disliked
seeing them while he was living had been prospectively fond of their presence
when he should have become a testator, if the sign had not been made equivocal
by being extended to Mrs. Vincy, whose expense in handsome crape seemed to
imply the most presumptuous hopes, aggravated by a bloom of complexion
which told pretty plainly that she was not a blood-relation, but of that generally
objectionable class called wife's kin.
We are all of us imaginative in some form or other, for images are the brood of
desire; and poor old Featherstone, who laughed much at the way in which others