BOOK VI. THE WIDOW AND THE WIFE.
60. CHAPTER LX.
Will was in a defiant mood, his consciousness being deeply stung
with the thought that the people who looked at him probably knew
a fact tantamount to an accusation against him as a fellow with low
designs which were to be frustrated by a disposal of property.
Like most people who assert their freedom with regard to conventional
distinction, he was prepared to be sudden and quick at quarrel with any
one who might hint that he had personal reasons for that assertion--
that there was anything in his blood, his bearing, or his character
to which he gave the mask of an opinion. When he was under an
irritating impression of this kind he would go about for days with a
defiant look, the color changing in his transparent skin as if he were
on the qui vive, watching for something which he had to dart upon.
This expression was peculiarly noticeable in him at the sale,
and those who had only seen him in his moods of gentle oddity
or of bright enjoyment would have been struck with a contrast.
He was not sorry to have this occasion for appearing in public
before the Middlemarch tribes of Toller, Hackbutt, and the rest,
who looked down on him as an adventurer, and were in a state
of brutal ignorance about Dante--who sneered at his Polish blood,
and were themselves of a breed very much in need of crossing.
He stood in a conspicuous place not far from the auctioneer,
with a fore-finger in each side-pocket and his head thrown backward,
not caring to speak to anybody, though he had been cordially welcomed
as a connoissURE by Mr. Trumbull, who was enjoying the utmost
activity of his great faculties.
And surely among all men whose vocation requires them to exhibit
their powers of speech, the happiest is a prosperous provincial
auctioneer keenly alive to his own jokes and sensible of his
encyclopedic knowledge. Some saturnine, sour-blooded persons
might object to be constantly insisting on the merits of all
articles from boot-jacks to "Berghems;" but Mr. Borthrop Trumbull
had a kindly liquid in his veins; he was an admirer by nature,
and would have liked to have the universe under his hammer,
feeling that it would go at a higher figure for his recommendation.