BOOK IV. THREE LOVE PROBLEMS.
34. CHAPTER XXXIV.
1st Gent. Such men as this are feathers, chips, and straws.
Carry no weight, no force.
2d Gent. But levity
Is causal too, and makes the sum of weight.
For power finds its place in lack of power;
Advance is cession, and the driven ship
May run aground because the helmsman's thought
Lacked force to balance opposites."
It was on a morning of May that Peter Featherstone was buried.
In the prosaic neighborhood of Middlemarch, May was not always warm
and sunny, and on this particular morning a chill wind was blowing
the blossoms from the surrounding gardens on to the green mounds
of Lowick churchyard. Swiftly moving clouds only now and then
allowed a gleam to light up any object, whether ugly or beautiful,
that happened to stand within its golden shower. In the churchyard
the objects were remarkably various, for there was a little country
crowd waiting to see the funeral. The news had spread that it
was to be a "big burying;" the old gentleman had left written
directions about everything and meant to have a funeral "beyond
his betters." This was true; for old Featherstone had not been
a Harpagon whose passions had all been devoured by the ever-lean
and ever-hungry passion of saving, and who would drive a bargain
with his undertaker beforehand. He loved money, but he also
loved to spend it in gratifying his peculiar tastes, and perhaps
he loved it best of all as a means of making others feel his
power more or less uncomfortably. If any one will here contend
that there must have been traits of goodness in old Featherstone,
I will not presume to deny this; but I must observe that goodness
is of a modest nature, easily discouraged, and when much privacy,
elbowed in early life by unabashed vices, is apt to retire into
extreme privacy, so that it is more easily believed in by those who
construct a selfish old gentleman theoretically, than by those who
form the narrower judgments based on his personal acquaintance.
In any case, he had been bent on having a handsome funeral, and on
having persons "bid" to it who would rather have stayed at home.
He had even desired that female relatives should follow him to
the grave, and poor sister Martha had taken a difficult journey
for this purpose from the Chalky Flats. She and Jane would have
been altogether cheered (in a tearful manner) by this sign that
a brother who disliked seeing them while he was living had been
prospectively fond of their presence when he should have become
a testator, if the sign had not been made equivocal by being extended
to Mrs. Vincy, whose expense in handsome crape seemed to imply
the most presumptuous hopes, aggravated by a bloom of complexion
which told pretty plainly that she was not a blood-relation,
but of that generally objectionable class called wife's kin.