BOOK VI. THE WIDOW AND THE WIFE.
60. CHAPTER LX.
Good phrases are surely, and ever were, very commendable.
A few days afterwards--it was already the end of August--there was an
occasion which caused some excitement in Middlemarch: the public, if
it chose, was to have the advantage of buying, under the distinguished
auspices of Mr. Borthrop Trumbull, the furniture, books, and pictures
which anybody might see by the handbills to be the best in every kind,
belonging to Edwin Larcher, Esq. This was not one of the sales indicating
the depression of trade; on the contrary, it was due to Mr. Larcher's
great success in the carrying business, which warranted his purchase of a
mansion near Riverston already furnished in high style by an illustrious
Spa physician--furnished indeed with such large framefuls of expensive
flesh-painting in the dining-room, that Mrs. Larcher was nervous until
reassured by finding the subjects to be Scriptural. Hence the fine
opportunity to purchasers which was well pointed out in the handbills
of Mr. Borthrop Trumbull, whose acquaintance with the history of art
enabled him to state that the hall furniture, to be sold without reserve,
comprised a piece of carving by a contemporary of Gibbons.
At Middlemarch in those times a large sale was regarded as a kind
of festival. There was a table spread with the best cold eatables,
as at a superior funeral; and facilities were offered for that
generous-drinking of cheerful glasses which might lead to generous
and cheerful bidding for undesirable articles. Mr. Larcher's sale
was the more attractive in the fine weather because the house stood
just at the end of the town, with a garden and stables attached,
in that pleasant issue from Middlemarch called the London Road,
which was also the road to the New Hospital and to Mr. Bulstrode's
retired residence, known as the Shrubs. In short, the auction was
as good as a fair, and drew all classes with leisure at command:
to some, who risked making bids in order simply to raise prices,
it was almost equal to betting at the races. The second day,
when the best furniture was to be sold, "everybody" was there;
even Mr. Thesiger, the rector of St. Peter's, had looked in for a
short time, wishing to buy the carved table, and had rubbed elbows
with Mr. Bambridge and Mr. Horrock. There was a wreath of Middlemarch
ladies accommodated with seats round the large table in the dining-room,
where Mr. Borthrop Trumbull was mounted with desk and hammer;
but the rows chiefly of masculine faces behind were often varied
by incomings and outgoings both from the door and the large bow-window
opening on to the lawn.