Middlemarch HTML version

Chapter 40
Wise in his daily work was he:
To fruits of diligence,
And not to faiths or polity,
He plied his utmost sense.
These perfect in their little parts,
Whose work is all their prize--
Without them how could laws, or arts,
Or towered cities rise?
In watching effects, if only of an electric battery, it is often necessary to change
our place and examine a particular mixture or group at some distance from the
point where the movement we are interested in was set up. The group I am
moving towards is at Caleb Garth's breakfast-table in the large parlor where the
maps and desk were: father, mother, and five of the children. Mary was just now
at home waiting for a situation, while Christy, the boy next to her, was getting
cheap learning and cheap fare in Scotland, having to his father's disappointment
taken to books instead of that sacred calling "business."
The letters had come--nine costly letters, for which the postman had been paid
three and twopence, and Mr. Garth was forgetting his tea and toast while he read
his letters and laid them open one above the other, sometimes swaying his head
slowly, sometimes screwing up his mouth in inward debate, but not forgetting to
cut off a large red seal unbroken, which Letty snatched up like an eager terrier.
The talk among the rest went on unrestrainedly, for nothing disturbed Caleb's
absorption except shaking the table when he was writing.
Two letters of the nine had been for Mary. After reading them, she had passed
them to her mother, and sat playing with her tea-spoon absently, till with a
sudden recollection she returned to her sewing, which she had kept on her lap
during breakfast.
"Oh, don't sew, Mary!" said Ben, pulling her arm down. "Make me a peacock with
this bread-crumb." He had been kneading a small mass for the purpose.
"No, no, Mischief!" said Mary, good-humoredly, while she pricked his hand lightly
with her needle. "Try and mould it yourself: you have seen me do it often enough.
I must get this sewing done. It is for Rosamond Vincy: she is to be married next
week, and she can't be married without this handkerchief." Mary ended merrily,
amused with the last notion.
"Why can't she, Mary?" said Letty, seriously interested in this mystery, and
pushing her head so close to her sister that Mary now turned the threatening
needle towards Letty's nose.
"Because this is one of a dozen, and without it there would only be eleven," said
Mary, with a grave air of explanation, so that Letty sank back with a sense of
"Have you made up your mind, my dear?" said Mrs. Garth, laying the letters