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Chapter 41
"By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.
--Twelfth Night
The transactions referred to by Caleb Garth as having gone forward between Mr.
Bulstrode and Mr. Joshua Rigg Featherstone concerning the land attached to
Stone Court, had occasioned the interchange of a letter or two between these
Who shall tell what may be the effect of writing? If it happens to have been cut in
stone, though it lie face down-most for ages on a forsaken beach, or "rest quietly
under the drums and tramplings of many conquests," it may end by letting us into
the secret of usurpations and other scandals gossiped about long empires ago:--
this world being apparently a huge whispering-gallery. Such conditions are often
minutely represented in our petty lifetimes. As the stone which has been kicked
by generations of clowns may come by curious little links of effect under the eyes
of a scholar, through whose labors it may at last fix the date of invasions and
unlock religions, so a bit of ink and paper which has long been an innocent
wrapping or stop-gap may at last be laid open under the one pair of eyes which
have knowledge enough to turn it into the opening of a catastrophe. To Uriel
watching the progress of planetary history from the sun, the one result would be
just as much of a coincidence as the other.
Having made this rather lofty comparison I am less uneasy in calling attention to
the existence of low people by whose interference, however little we may like it,
the course of the world is very much determined. It would be well, certainly, if we
could help to reduce their number, and something might perhaps be done by not
lightly giving occasion to their existence. Socially speaking, Joshua Rigg would
have been generally pronounced a superfluity. But those who like Peter
Featherstone never had a copy of themselves demanded, are the very last to
wait for such a request either in prose or verse. The copy in this case bore more
of outside resemblance to the mother, in whose sex frog-features, accompanied
with fresh-colored cheeks and a well-rounded figure, are compatible with much
charm for a certain order of admirers. The result is sometimes a frog-faced male,
desirable, surely, to no order of intelligent beings. Especially when he is suddenly
brought into evidence to frustrate other people's expectations-- the very lowest
aspect in which a social superfluity can present himself.
But Mr. Rigg Featherstone's low characteristics were all of the sober, water-
drinking kind. From the earliest to the latest hour of the day he was always as
sleek, neat, and cool as the frog he resembled, and old Peter had secretly
chuckled over an offshoot almost more calculating, and far more imperturbable,
than himself. I will add that his finger-nails were scrupulously attended to, and
that he meant to marry a well-educated young lady (as yet unspecified) whose
person was good, and whose connections, in a solid middle-class way, were
undeniable. Thus his nails and modesty were comparable to those of most
gentlemen; though his ambition had been educated only by the opportunities of a