BOOK I. MISS BROOKE.
3. CHAPTER III.
It had now entered Dorothea's mind that Mr. Casaubon might wish
to make her his wife, and the idea that he would do so touched
her with a sort of reverential gratitude. How good of him--nay, it
would be almost as if a winged messenger had suddenly stood beside
her path and held out his hand towards her! For a long while she
had been oppressed by the indefiniteness which hung in her mind,
like a thick summer haze, over all her desire to made her life
greatly effective. What could she do, what ought she to do?--she,
hardly more than a budding woman, but yet with an active conscience
and a great mental need, not to be satisfied by a girlish instruction
comparable to the nibblings and judgments of a discursive mouse.
With some endowment of stupidity and conceit, she might have thought
that a Christian young lady of fortune should find her ideal of life
in village charities, patronage of the humbler clergy, the perusal
of "Female Scripture Characters," unfolding the private experience
of Sara under the Old Dispensation, and Dorcas under the New,
and the care of her soul over her embroidery in her own boudoir--with
a background of prospective marriage to a man who, if less strict
than herself, as being involved in affairs religiously inexplicable,
might be prayed for and seasonably exhorted. From such contentment poor
Dorothea was shut out. The intensity of her religious disposition,
the coercion it exercised over her life, was but one aspect of a
nature altogether ardent, theoretic, and intellectually consequent:
and with such a nature struggling in the bands of a narrow teaching,
hemmed in by a social life which seemed nothing but a labyrinth
of petty courses, a walled-in maze of small paths that led
no whither, the outcome was sure to strike others as at once
exaggeration and inconsistency. The thing which seemed to her best,
she wanted to justify by the completest knowledge; and not to live
in a pretended admission of rules which were never acted on.
Into this soul-hunger as yet all her youthful passion was poured;
the union which attracted her was one that would deliver her from her
girlish subjection to her own ignorance, and give her the freedom of
voluntary submission to a guide who would take her along the grandest path.