BOOK VII. TWO TEMPTATIONS.
68. CHAPTER LXVIII.
"What suit of grace hath Virtue to put on
If Vice shall wear as good, and do as well?
If Wrong, if Craft, if Indiscretion
Act as fair parts with ends as laudable?
Which all this mighty volume of events
The world, the universal map of deeds,
Strongly controls, and proves from all descents,
That the directest course still best succeeds.
For should not grave and learn'd Experience
That looks with the eyes of all the world beside,
And with all ages holds intelligence,
Go safer than Deceit without a guide!
That change of plan and shifting of interest which Bulstrode stated
or betrayed in his conversation with Lydgate, had been determined in him
by some severe experience which he had gone through since the epoch
of Mr. Larcher's sale, when Raffles had recognized Will Ladislaw,
and when the banker had in vain attempted an act of restitution
which might move Divine Providence to arrest painful consequences.
His certainty that Raffles, unless he were dead, would return to
Middlemarch before long, had been justified. On Christmas Eve he
had reappeared at The Shrubs. Bulstrode was at home to receive him,
and hinder his communication with the rest of the family, but he
could not altogether hinder the circumstances of the visit from
compromising himself and alarming his wife. Raffles proved more
unmanageable than he had shown himself to be in his former appearances,
his chronic state of mental restlessness, the growing effect
of habitual intemperance, quickly shaking off every impression
from what was said to him. He insisted on staying in the house,
and Bulstrode, weighing two sets of evils, felt that this was
at least not a worse alternative than his going into the town.
He kept him in his own room for the evening and saw him to bed,
Raffles all the while amusing himself with the annoyance he was
causing this decent and highly prosperous fellow-sinner, an amusement
which he facetiously expressed as sympathy with his friend's pleasure
in entertaining a man who had been serviceable to him, and who had
not had all his earnings. There was a cunning calculation under this
noisy joking--a cool resolve to extract something the handsomer
from Bulstrode as payment for release from this new application
of torture. But his cunning had a little overcast its mark.