BOOK II. OLD AND YOUNG.
16. CHAPTER XVI.
"All that in woman is adored
In thy fair self I find--
For the whole sex can but afford
The handsome and the kind."
--SIR CHARLES SEDLEY.
The question whether Mr. Tyke should be appointed as salaried
chaplain to the hospital was an exciting topic to the Middlemarchers;
and Lydgate heard it discussed in a way that threw much light
on the power exercised in the town by Mr. Bulstrode. The banker
was evidently a ruler, but there was an opposition party,
and even among his supporters there were some who allowed it to be
seen that their support was a compromise, and who frankly stated
their impression that the general scheme of things, and especially
the casualties of trade, required you to hold a candle to the devil.
Mr. Bulstrode's power was not due simply to his being a country banker,
who knew the financial secrets of most traders in the town and could
touch the springs of their credit; it was fortified by a beneficence
that was at once ready and severe--ready to confer obligations,
and severe in watching the result. He had gathered, as an industrious
man always at his post, a chief share in administering the town
charities, and his private charities were both minute and abundant.
He would take a great deal of pains about apprenticing Tegg the
shoemaker's son, and he would watch over Tegg's church-going; he would
defend Mrs. Strype the washerwoman against Stubbs's unjust exaction
on the score of her drying-ground, and he would himself-scrutinize
a calumny against Mrs. Strype. His private minor loans were numerous,
but he would inquire strictly into the circumstances both before
and after. In this way a man gathers a domain in his neighbors'
hope and fear as well as gratitude; and power, when once it has
got into that subtle region, propagates itself, spreading out
of all proportion to its external means. It was a principle with
Mr. Bulstrode to gain as much power as possible, that he might use
it for the glory of God. He went through a great deal of spiritual
conflict and inward argument in order to adjust his motives, and make
clear to himself what God's glory required. But, as we have seen,
his motives were not always rightly appreciated. There were many
crass minds in Middlemarch whose reflective scales could only weigh
things in the lump; and they had a strong suspicion that since
Mr. Bulstrode could not enjoy life in their fashion, eating and
drinking so little as he did, and worreting himself about everything,
he must have a sort of vampire's feast in the sense of mastery.