Middlemarch HTML version

Chapter 12
"He had more tow on his distaffe
Than Gerveis knew."
The ride to Stone Court, which Fred and Rosamond took the next morning, lay
through a pretty bit of midland landscape, almost all meadows and pastures, with
hedgerows still allowed to grow in bushy beauty and to spread out coral fruit for
the birds. Little details gave each field a particular physiognomy, dear to the eyes
that have looked on them from childhood: the pool in the corner where the
grasses were dank and trees leaned whisperingly; the great oak shadowing a
bare place in mid-pasture; the high bank where the ash-trees grew; the sudden
slope of the old marl-pit making a red background for the burdock; the huddled
roofs and ricks of the homestead without a traceable way of approach; the gray
gate and fences against the depths of the bordering wood; and the stray hovel,
its old, old thatch full of mossy hills and valleys with wondrous modulations of
light and shadow such as we travel far to see in later life, and see larger, but not
more beautiful. These are the things that make the gamut of joy in landscape to
midland-bred souls--the things they toddled among, or perhaps learned by heart
standing between their father's knees while he drove leisurely.
But the road, even the byroad, was excellent; for Lowick, as we have seen, was
not a parish of muddy lanes and poor tenants; and it was into Lowick parish that
Fred and Rosamond entered after a couple of miles' riding. Another mile would
bring them to Stone Court, and at the end of the first half, the house was already
visible, looking as if it had been arrested in its growth toward a stone mansion by
an unexpected budding of farm-buildings on its left flank, which had hindered it
from becoming anything more than the substantial dwelling of a gentleman
farmer. It was not the less agreeable an object in the distance for the cluster of
pinnacled corn-ricks which balanced the fine row of walnuts on the right.
Presently it was possible to discern something that might be a gig on the circular
drive before the front door.
"Dear me," said Rosamond, "I hope none of my uncle's horrible relations are
"They are, though. That is Mrs. Waule's gig--the last yellow gig left, I should
think. When I see Mrs. Waule in it, I understand how yellow can have been worn
for mourning. That gig seems to me more funereal than a hearse. But then Mrs.
Waule always has black crape on. How does she manage it, Rosy? Her friends
can't always be dying."
"I don't know at all. And she is not in the least evangelical," said Rosamond,
reflectively, as if that religious point of view would have fully accounted for
perpetual crape. "And, not poor," she added, after a moment's pause.
"No, by George! They are as rich as Jews, those Waules and Featherstones; I
mean, for people like them, who don't want to spend anything. And yet they hang
about my uncle like vultures, and are afraid of a farthing going away from their
side of the family. But I believe he hates them all."