BOOK I. MISS BROOKE.
3. CHAPTER III.
It was three o'clock in the beautiful breezy autumn day when Mr. Casaubon
drove off to his Rectory at Lowick, only five miles from Tipton;
and Dorothea, who had on her bonnet and shawl, hurried along the shrubbery
and across the park that she might wander through the bordering wood
with no other visible companionship than that of Monk, the Great
St. Bernard dog, who always took care of the young ladies in their walks.
There had risen before her the girl's vision of a possible future
for herself to which she looked forward with trembling hope, and she
wanted to wander on in that visionary future without interruption.
She walked briskly in the brisk air, the color rose in her cheeks,
and her straw bonnet (which our contemporaries might look at
with conjectural curiosity as at an obsolete form of basket)
fell a little backward. She would perhaps be hardly characterized
enough if it were omitted that she wore her brown hair flatly braided
and coiled behind so as to expose the outline of her head in a
daring manner at a time when public feeling required the meagreness
of nature to be dissimulated by tall barricades of frizzed curls
and bows, never surpassed by any great race except the Feejeean.
This was a trait of Miss Brooke's asceticism. But there was nothing
of an ascetic's expression in her bright full eyes, as she looked
before her, not consciously seeing, but absorbing into the intensity
of her mood, the solemn glory of the afternoon with its long swathes
of light between the far-off rows of limes, whose shadows touched each other.
All people, young or old (that is, all people in those ante-reform
times), would have thought her an interesting object if they had
referred the glow in her eyes and cheeks to the newly awakened ordinary
images of young love: the illusions of Chloe about Strephon have been
sufficiently consecrated in poetry, as the pathetic loveliness of all
spontaneous trust ought to be. Miss Pippin adoring young Pumpkin,
and dreaming along endless vistas of unwearying companionship,
was a little drama which never tired our fathers and mothers,
and had been put into all costumes. Let but Pumpkin have a
figure which would sustain the disadvantages of the shortwaisted
swallow-tail, and everybody felt it not only natural but necessary
to the perfection of womanhood, that a sweet girl should be at once
convinced of his virtue, his exceptional ability, and above all,
his perfect sincerity. But perhaps no persons then living--certainly
none in the neighborhood of Tipton--would have had a sympathetic
understanding for the dreams of a girl whose notions about marriage
took their color entirely from an exalted enthusiasm about the ends
of life, an enthusiasm which was lit chiefly by its own fire,
and included neither the niceties of the trousseau, the pattern
of plate, nor even the honors and sweet joys of the blooming matron.